More Thoughts on John Piper, God, And “Dexter”

John piperDoes pastor and theologian John Piper worship a different God than the one I do? That was the question I unpacked a couple posts back when I suggested that, based on some comments made by Piper, the God he worshiped looked more like the T.V. serial killer Dexter than Jesus.

As vexed as I was by the statements made by Piper such as,

“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.  God gives life and he takes life.  Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die. So everyday God is taking life.  He will take 50,000 lives today.”

I still had this bad feeling inside about suggesting we worshiped “different Gods”.  I have always been one who strived to pull the Body of Christ together despite theological differences.  I don’t care so much about opposing ideas on baptism, communion, or eschatology;  show me somebody who loves Jesus and I’ll show you someone I share the Lord’s Table with.

Then I received an e-mail from a friend about the post:

I have been pondering on this idea of how Piper
worships a different God…

I think this is a really tricky one… I guess he appears a different God
(because so harsh/horrible/ungood), but I hope it is the same one… because
I used to be quite conservative…, and I have
old friends who still like Piper.

And I think if we start saying that people with beliefs we find hard have a
different God, then we’d have to start writing off a good chunk of the
historical church. I am sure that is not what you meant, but I think it is a
somewhat perilous trajectory

He’s right!  It is a perilous trajectory…

Dividing the Body

During the 2012 American presidential election I remember being bothered that whenever President Obama would mention his Christian faith, many in the evangelical community would question, “Well, what God is he talking about?” and suggest that it was a “different God.”

I remember thinking how dangerous it is to divide the Body of Christ; to break the communion of the Lord’s Table with another person who claims Jesus as King.  Now I was doing the exact same thing!

I shared with another friend (yes this post solicited some e-mails) how I try to avoid singling out Christian leaders by name preferring to be more general when critiquing elements within the church.  But something stirred up in me when I saw that video of Piper saying how it may please God to slaughter women and children.

It would never please God!

And the last thing the world needs to hear is a respected minister of the Gospel revealing God as a cold heartless monster who is, nevertheless, capable of random acts of compassion on occasion.

As I suggested…When Piper describes God’s nature it looks more like Dexter than Jesus.

So although I would have to say Piper is my brother in Christ, I feel I must take issue with him in this area:

John Piper says: “It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.”

jesus-with-children-2309-234x300

Jesus says: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom.” Matt 10:13

John Piper says: God gives life and he takes life. 

Jesus says: “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!” (Luke 9:60 in a parable on how his disciples are supposed to act)

John Piper says: Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.”

Jesus says: “Put your sword back where it belongs. All who use swords are destroyed by swords.” Matt 26:52

John Piper says: “He (God) will take 50,000 lives today.”

Jesus says: “The thief (Satan) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

 

Can We Know What God is REALLY Like?

Admittedly the Bible does have some conflicting verses which challenge the “goodness” of God. But Jesus came to clean up ALL those misconceptions.

Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.

John 17: 25-26

We never really knew God.  The Old Testament writers never really knew God.  Jesus came to make God known to us.  Jesus and the Father are One so when we see how Jesus treats humanity, we know how God in heaven treats humanity.  (John 14: 8-11)

Replacing “God” with “Jesus” in John Piper’s statements reveal them for the absurdity they are:

“It’s right for Jesus to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases.  Jesus gives life and he takes life.  Everybody who dies, dies because Jesus wills that they die. So everyday Jesus is taking life.  Jesus will take 50,000 lives today.”

dexter1

To paraphrase and tweak Brian Zahnd’s quote from the last post:

God is not like Dexter!  God has never been like Dexter.  There has never been a time when God was like Dexter.  We haven’t always known that…

…but now we do!

 

6 comments

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  • Steve, this post really piqued my interest…as involved with a VERY conservative Christian group in college, we would read Sinners in the Hands…, learn about TULIP, about Calvinism, and other very dogmatic belief systems. There really wasn’t much dialogue about the flip side of the coin….ie Armenianism, social gospel, etc. I thank you for bringing this to the forefront of folks’ thinking. It’s not that we worship a different God, but perhaps those who believe a certain doctrine believe that “their way is the best?” I just wanted to share, and some of the comments from Piper made the hair on my neck stand straight up, just as it did back in college…thank you for shedding some light on this perspective. God bless, Matt

    • Steve

      Reply

      Thanks for the comment Matt. The language used in Reformed Theology (TULIP etc.) never really sat well with me before and even less so now. I think certain tools may at times be helpful but I think it is to limiting in its understanding of God to make it as foundational in people’s faith as it has become in some segments of the church.

  • Joe

    Reply

    I agree with the person that pointed out that questioning if Piper worships a different God is a ‘perilous trajectory.’ Demonizing other positions is not what Jesus would do. And although I am not a Calvinist and don’t agree with Piper there is some precedent for his position. “…the anger of God rose against them, and he killed the strongest of them and laid low the young men of Israel.” Psalm 78:31

    • Steve

      Reply

      Joe,

      As I pointed out though, that is the Psalmist’s writing about his perception of God. Like in the post, let’s just put Jesus in that Psalm, “…the anger of Jesus rose against them, and he killed the strongest of them and laid low the young men of Israel.” Doesn’t sound “right” anymore. Can we picture Jesus who told Peter to put away his sword to suddenly grab it himself and stab the attackers around him?
      When a Bible writer’s perception of God seems at odds with the the revelation of God through Jesus…I take the Jesus revelation!

  • George Dougherty

    Reply

    I do generally love me some Piper. I fall more toward the absolute sovereignty view of reformed theology than Armenianism. In this case though, I agree wholeheartedly Steve and I can’t quite comprehend where Piper is coming from. My theology falls more on the side of God chooses not to intervene in creating a present utopia allowing us to deal with the consequences of our sin nature, rather than God actively pursuing and relishing the activities Piper mentions. Even Old Testament judgements were foreshadowing the eventual final just judgement after a long period of restraint and calls for repentance. God did not relish or enjoy the slaughter of rebellious people as I read it. He enacted judgement from his Holy nature against often sadistic and abhorrent cultural practices. There again, foreshadowing the judgement to come for those that reject Christ. I see it all as rationally simultaneous in its justice, righteousness, holiness and being undesired on the part of God.

    • Steve

      Reply

      Thanks George…I wouldn’t disagree that God isn’t absolutely sovereign. It’s just that by his very nature he allows people to be self defining…even when that self definition works against his will. He can take the “control stick” of our lives out of our hands any time he wishes and force his will…but our ability to respond to him freely would be lost. Something that, as a Father, he wouldn’t do. Which begs the question of the limits of absolute sovereignty, and if there are limits…is it absolute? 🙂

      The idea that Old Testament “wrath” is a foreshadowing of final judgement is something I need to examine more

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