On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration John Piper writes a penetrating article at Desiring God on how the new President is unqualified to lead. He points out his lack of leadership, his scandalous past that he drags with him into the White House among other issues. Yet there is a problem with John Piper’s article. How can he be spot on about Donald Trump and yet still defend C.J. Mahaney and say he is qualified to lead when he doesn’t met the qualifications of elder? This is going to be a rare time here at The Wondering Eagle where I look at both issues and also state that John Piper has a lot of truth in regards to the 45th President.
“My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.”
General Bernard Montgomery
“He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”
But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests,[g] a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light
1 Peter 2:9 NLT
At this blog I subscribe to a lot of articles and feeds to review and keep up with issues all over the spectrum. One of the feeds I get is Desiring God by John Piper. As you can tell its had an influence as I have written about it frequently. Last week I wrote about Marshall Segal’s article on how its a recipe for burnout. Most of the time when I read Desiring God I have a cringe in my stomach. But then I read an article from John Piper called, “How to Live Under an Unqualified President.” It was written and released on the eve of Donald Trumps’ swearing in as President of the United States. Those of you who do not know John Piper is probably the most influential Neo-Calvinist leader. For some in the movement he is the 67th book of the Bible. Those of you who know me are aware I am no fan of John Piper. Indeed, I have written about what I have given my mother when she was recovering from pancreatic cancer years ago. Plus I have also written about how John Piper’s teaching on God’s sovereignty makes the problem of evil worse. So I think you know I have a track record of deep concern about John Piper. Which is what stuns me because when I read his article on Donald Trump being unqualified to lead I found myself agreeing with John deeply. I chewed on this the last couple of days and I asked a couple of other people I know to read this article to get their thoughts. I then decided that I needed to weigh in and speak to this article. While this article from John is good, it has this one flaw in his reasoning that I need to explain below. Then I want to propose a question to the Christian blogging community that came about as I read this article. For John Piper’s article my comments will be in red, then I will switch back to black for the rest of the article.
Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there. This is important to say just now because not to see it and feel it will add to the collapsing vision of leadership that enabled him to be nominated and elected.
Not only that, but if we do not see and feel the nature and weight of this sorrow, we will not know how to pray for his presidency or speak as sojourners and exiles whose pattern of life is , not defined in heaven by the mood of the culture.
I agree with what John says here, and he comes out and hits hard. Not only does he ask if people realize what is happening, but he asks how will people pray for him if they do not comprehend the gravity of the situation unfolding?
Why Trump Is Unqualified
Donald Trump’s immoral behavior in the past, and his ongoing unwillingness to renounce it as evil, show that he is morally unfit to lead our nation. So was Hillary Clinton because she approves of killing unborn children. As of last April, Andy Naselli provided some of the facts about Trump’s immoral conduct:
- Trump has publicly bragged about committing adultery.
- Trump has mocked and disrespected women, the disabled, and even prisoners of war.
- Trump has acted like a con artist (for example, Trump University).
- Trump has acted like a demagogue, appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than rational arguments — notably in the debates.
- Trump has acted like one who is shamelessly proud. He has boasted, “Nobody reads the Bible more than me.” Yet he said that he has never asked God or others to forgive him for anything.
- “My main problem,” said Randy Alcorn, “is not that Donald Trump says what he thinks. . . . My problem is with what he actually thinks: especially his obsession with outward appearance, sexiness, superficiality, wealth, his own status and accomplishments, and his quickness to berate and insult people and seek revenge on his critics.”
Wayne Grudem, who finally advocated voting for Trump, wrote in October,
There is no morally good presidential candidate in this election. I previously called Donald Trump a “good candidate with flaws” and a “flawed candidate,” but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump’s moral character, and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election.
Then, in words that are almost beyond belief in a presidential candidate, the New York Times provided a transcript of Trump’s 2005 vile behaviors toward women (the shock value of which may be lost if you have not read his actual words). Note well: Trump has not, as far as I am aware, publicly renounced these behaviors as evil, but deflected the issue by talking only about the “language,” calling it “locker-room talk.” However, the main issue was not his talk. It was his immoral action asserted in the talk.
This is pretty clear cut and straight forward. I agree with everything John Piper says here, and this contains a lot of truth. Yes Donald Trump is a bully. Yes he has boasted of sexual assault and yes he has mocked people with disabilities. John Piper in this situation just lays it out as he see it.
What Is Leadership?
As I understand the role of leadership in high public office, these impenitent and boasted acts of immorality disqualify a person from office. Here’s why.
1. A leader should lead. That is, he should set the pace, define the path, embody the vision, and inspire emulation. He himself should be what he is calling others to be. That is what it means to lead. Donald Trump is not such an embodiment of what we want the citizens of America to be. In important ways, he is the opposite.
2. A leader should be dependable, trustworthy, reliable. To invest someone with leadership is a trust. But Donald Trump treats language — the medium of truth — as a wax nose to be bent and molded to create a desired outcome, whether it corresponds to the truth or not. But where truth is treated with such indifference or contempt, the foundations of justice are crumbling. There is no recourse for the poor, if the powerful say that truth is what they say it is.
3. A leader should be a good example for our young people in matters of character and moral uprightness and civility. Few parents would say to their young people: strive to be like Donald Trump. That is a great sadness.
4. A leader should not model the success of immoral behavior, and thus further destigmatize and normalize evils which, if spread, will bring discredit and ruin to our nation. To reward Donald Trump’s immoral behavior with the presidency does just that — it says to our children, and to the world, that these evils are not that bad, and can be embraced with no great negative consequences.
5. A leader should be known for the virtues that make a republican form of government possible. Virtually all the founding fathers agreed that without a virtuous people, the rule of law and of representative self-government will not survive. Donald Trump’s character is not what they had in mind by “virtue.” It is, in significant ways, the opposite, and therefore his example contributes to the undermining of the republic.
Again not much I need to say here…John Piper continues to lay out an argument that says Donald Trump is unqualified to lead. Again this writer agrees with him hands down!
Christians Don’t Need Qualified Government
Because I regard these as qualifying marks of leadership in public office, I regard Donald Trump as not qualified for the presidency.
But today he will become president.
This is not surprising from a Christian point of view. The Christian faith was born, and has flourished, under regimes less qualified to lead than Donald Trump. The murderous Herod (Matthew 2:16) and the Christian-killing Nero (Tacitus, Annals XV.44) did not thwart the spread of a faith whose King and power and charter are not from this world (John 18:36). The movement that Jesus Christ unleashed in the world, when he died and rose again, does not depend on qualified human government for its existence or power.
The linking of the Christian church with the ruling political regime is not essential to the life and fruitfulness of Christian faith. On the contrary, such linking has more often proven to corrupt the essential spirit of Christ, who typically uses the weak things of the world to shame the strong (1 Corinthians 1:27), and whose life-saving weapons do not consist in media monopolies, commanding wealth, or civil laws.
Followers of Christ are not Americans first. Our first allegiance is to Jesus, and then to the God-inspired word of Scripture, the Bible. This is our charter, not the U.S. Constitution.
Again this section of the article has a lot of truth in it.
How Then, Under This President, Shall We Live?
2. Until God answers that prayer, recognize that God’s providence rules over the unrepentant kings of the earth (Daniel 2:37–38, 4:35; Psalms 47:9; 135:6). “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1). Therefore, God can restrain the pride and folly of secular leaders (Genesis 20:6). Just as with the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9), and the Persian Cyrus, God makes the rulers of the earth “fulfill all [his] purpose” (Isaiah 44:28).
3. Accordingly, let us go on to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and holy in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:2–4).
4. And as we pray, let us recognize that, even in unbelieving leaders who cannot do God-pleasing works of faith, there is the possibility of promoting “good” conduct, which is “good” in the sense of having the outward form of what genuine trust in Christ would do.
To be sure, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and “whatever is not from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), because when human conduct is not rooted in reliance on God, it is part of the very rebellion that ruins the world. Nevertheless, the apostle Peter teaches that even unbelieving rulers are sent by God “to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good” (1 Peter 2:14). So, even though this “good” is not from faith, and therefore does not please God as the fruit of faith, yet it has the form of the conduct that would come from faith.
5. Therefore, even though it is not the main concern of the Christian church, and may not lead to salvation and eternal life, let us also pray and work this lesser “good,” as well as the ultimate good of faith in Jesus Christ, and the genuine love for people that glorifies our Father in heaven (1 Peter 2:12), who called us “out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
6. Above all, let us commend to everyone, with every sacrifice necessary, “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4), and, if God wills, let us gather with more and more people, from every ethnicity and every class, into healthy, holy, humble, biblically faithful churches.
Let us worship together in beautiful diversity and harmony with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12:28) the one true and living triune God. And let us love each other “earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22), and keep ourselves “unstained from the world” (James 1:27), so that the church becomes a beautiful alternative to “the corruption that is in the world” (2 Peter 1:4).
7. And let us work with all our might (1 Corinthians 15:10) and with overflowing joy (2 Corinthians 8:2) to take the greatest news to the peoples of the world, who have no access to the saving truth that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from eternal death (1 Timothy 1:15), and give them everlasting joy with God (1 Peter 3:18; Psalm 16:11).
Let us not exhaust ourselves bemoaning a Trump presidency. There are peoples whose privileges of prosperity and possibility are vastly inferior to ours. Having been so loved by God to receive the gospel, we are debtors to them (Romans 1:14). Do not think of the molehill of moral and social disadvantages of a Trump presidency. Think of the Himalayan mountain range of blessings we have in Christ. Let this put fire in our bones for what matters most: the salvation of the world.
When I read article I was blown away. I usually disagree with John Piper but I find this article artiulate and spot on. John Piper is correct in that Donald Trump is unqualified for the Presidency. In this article Piper correctly states the reasons why. Yes, Donald Trump is a bully. Yes he is rude, and yes he has boasted of sexual assault. After he was elected Bill Maher of the atheist community said that “evangelicals have showed their hypocrisy in supporting a thrice married pussy grabber.” That criticim hits home when you look at the numbers of evangelicals who supportted Donald Trump. After all what does it say when evangelicals main candidate inspires people to commit sexual assault and grab female genitals? James Dobson is all about raising boys, but in supporting Donald Trump who boasts of sexual assault is James Dobson also want to inspire rape? Is that the agenda of Focus on the Family? In addition I found it profoundly disturbing when I learned the cult like similarities between Donald Trump voters and his supporters and questionable religious groups. Does the existance and support of Donald Trump help explain why Mark Driscoll is back and preaching in Arizona?
I would say that what John Piper has written has only been reinforced by the scandals that keep coming with Donald Trump. The most serious one is the dossier by former MI-6 agent Christopher Steele. In that dossier the allegations are profoundly disturbing. They include Donald Trump who allegedly enjoyed being urinated on by Russian prostitues in a Moscow Ritz Carrolton. What makes these allegations so troubling is the strong and solid reputation of Christopher Steele. After all he allegedly has a long established reputation with western intelligence agencies, is an expert on Russia culture and also was the FBI source for the FIFA corruption scandal. When you think of what allegedly happened in a hotel in Moscow, makes you wonder what is going to happen in the Lincoln bedroom? Keep in mind that as time progresses more scandals will likely emerge, and that will give John Piper’s article even more credibility. But we have to remember that a number of Neo-Calvinists were vocal in their opposition to Donald Trump. Russell Moore was prolific in his articles against Donald Trump and Joe Carter from The Gospel Coalition also pushed back hard. I wrote about the issue with Russell Moore and the SBC’s ERLC last month. This strong push back I view as encouraging. John Piper’s article contains a lot of wisdom. It is welcome and very much needed today. And I hope people will comprehend it as well.
What About C.J. Mahaney? Why is he Fit to Lead?
As encouraging as John Piper’s article is here is the problem. Its a large, glaring and major problem. Why does John Piper still believe C.J. Mahaney is fit to lead? C.J. Mahaney is the disgraced leader of Sovereign Grace Churches. C.J. Mahaney led a neo-Calvinist empire of about 100 churches once known as Sovereign Grace Ministries. Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg at one point was the center of the movement. Then it came out that he had allegedly employed blackmail on his ministry partner Larry Tomczak. Larry’s son had allegedly committed a sex crime, and C.J. Mahaney used it to blackmail his ministry partner and “close friend.” Then he fled Covenant Life Church and took refuge at Mark Dever’s Capitol Hill Baptist Church. He fled the “dearest place on earth” and avoided church discipline, which he was ruthless about in Sovereign Grace. He then fled again to Louisville, Kentucky to plant a church which today is in the Louisville Marriot reaching the “lost.” He is really suffering for the “Gospel” in a posh, and comfy hotel in Louisville. In the process of all this I want to say that C.J. Mahaney decimated his denomination with over 40 churches that have left. He has been embroiled in a lawsuit involving allegations about covering up child sex abuse, that I believe will one day continue. And in addition, just like Donald Trump, C.J. Mahaney can be crude. For example there was the time that C.J. boasted of demanding sex from his pregnant wife who was sick with morning sickness. Now that sounds like something that would come from Donald Trump does it not? Despite all these issues C.J. Mahaney still continues to lead Sovereign Grace. Even as other Sovereign Grace pastors get canned for corruption he still leads. Mahaney illustrates how rank has its privilege and how when you are corrupt, if you control the purse you can still continue in “ministry.” Mahaney taught at T4G this past April in Louisville, Kentucky in which he compared himself to Job. It was absolutely pathetic for a man to alleged engage in criminal activity and then claim that he was being “persecuted.” If anything C.J. Mahaney creates his own problems.
Despite all this corruption and all these issues John Piper still supports C.J. Mahaney. After all C.J. Mahaney and John Piper preached together at the 2016 Sovereign Grace Churches Pastor’s Conference which was held at the Indianapolis Marriot East. You can read more about this in Todd Wilhelm’s article. Furthermore you have this piece of work (C.J. Mahaney) interviewing John Piper which happened recently. It was when Piper spoke about how corporate worship saved their marriage. However in addition to John Piper here is the other problem. How can Neo-Calvinists who speak out about Donald Trump and his abuse then in turn rally around the wagons and defend C.J. Mahaney. Does that make sense? How can Joe Carter or others who speak about Donald Trump then continue to support C.J. Mahaney. I do not get that at all.
An Honest Open Question that Deserves to be Asked about Blogs like The Wartburg Watch and Others
Here is a question that popped up in my mind that I must ask in all fairness. I believe above all else it is important to be fair. I have been sharply critical of John Piper over the past few years. This article forced me to ask the question of myself, what do you do when someone you disagree with states something that is spot on, or they are correct? It would be easy for me to dismiss it and move on and continue to criticize John Piper, yet is that fair? Is that right? Is that how a Christian should act? What bothers me and what I would caution other Christian bloggers who I respect is that we should be able to single out and encourage others when they are correct. What would happen if John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever or others say something that is correct? Or if they admit their error and seek to address it? Will the blogging community that The Wartburg Watch is a part of miss that fact because they can be so critical? Or would they dismiss it altogether? Take the situation I have struggled with in regards to the false accusation from Andrew White. What if Andrew suddenly reached out to me and said, “Dave let’s talk about what happened” and I dismiss his effort to reach out as being too little, too late? I found myself grappling with this question as I read John Piper’s article. You are not going to see me often say, and write that I agree with John Piper. Yet I believe that above all one should be fair, considerate and be able to address issues like this. If the Christian blogging community dismisses articles or efforts like this one then in many ways I would propose we would make the same mistakes that The Gospel Coalition makes. And that is what I want to avoid. Above all I want to be fair, balanced, and open to evaluate the evidence. Its how we should be I would propose. If I am wrong then I invite criticism. Thanks guys and please know that I love you!