With a national election looming John Piper at Desiring God wrote a strong critique. And while Piper criticized both sides he strongly condemned American evangelicals who make Trumpism as an idol and worship it. In response many Christian nationalists lashed out at John Piper over what he said. This post looks at what John Piper said, the response and offers some feedback in the process.
Man’s mind is like a store of idolatry and superstition; so much so that if a man believes his own mind it is certain that he will forsake God and forge some idol in his own brain.
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:9 NIV
On October 22, 2020 a post at Desiring God lit up Twitter and social media. John Piper had written a response to the upcom
ing election over the choice between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden. What he wrote caught many people off guard but resulted in some people being appreciative, and those in Christian nationalism being deeply critical. Let’s look at what John Piper said and then let’s look at reactions and analyze the situation as well.
What John Piper Said in “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin”
At Desiring God John Piper published a post called, “Policies, Persons, and Paths of Ruin.” From the article it seems as if John Piper will be voting third party but he was harsh on Christians embracing Trumpism though he did not call it out by name. Piper explains that he is not trying to tell anyone to vote but then he points out something that hits you like a hammer.
“Actually, this is a long-overdue article attempting to explain why I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.
The reason I put those Greek words in parentheses is to give a graphic reminder that these are sins mentioned in the New Testament. To be more specific, they are sins that destroy people. They are not just deadly. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9).
They destroy persons (Acts 12:20–23). And through persons, they destroy nations (Jeremiah 48:29–31, 42).”
John Piper then says that it is a drastic mistake to only think of policies that come from a person and to not consider the person. Then he goes on to talk about how corruption comes from a person and corrupts nations. He then proceeds to talk about the connection of character between a ruler and their subjects.
This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.
This truth is not uniquely Christian: “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6). “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Whether you embrace that company in your house or on social media, it corrupts. There are sins that “lead people into more and more ungodliness” as “their talk [spreads] like gangrene” (2 Timothy 2:16–17).
There is a character connection between rulers and subjects. When the Bible describes a king by saying, “He sinned and made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:16), it does not mean he twisted their arm. It means his influence shaped the people. That’s the calling of a leader. Take the lead in giving shape to the character of your people. So it happens. For good or for ill.
John Piper continues and states that we all want to have just laws, judges and more. We all want to live free and be in happiness. But what happens when we compromise that value and the evangelical church is harmed?
“Freedom and life are precious. We all want to live and be free to pursue happiness. But if our freedoms, and even our lives, are threatened or taken, the essence of our identity in Christ, the certainty of our everlasting joy with Christ, and the holiness and love for which we have been saved by Christ — none of these is lost with the loss of life and freedom.
Therefore, Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.
The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.
I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring (eristikos).“
John then addresses the issue of abortion. He speaks about how he detests Roe vs. Wade. And the problems with Planned Parenthood. But when do you do when a man is so corrupt, so narcissistic and so evil? In that case he is pointing the nation to destruction. And Piper says the following. “It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.“
Then John Piper shifts the blog post to address pastors. If America collapses will pastors be able to say that they taught people effectively?
Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)?
Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?
Or as a pastor have you taught them and diverted their energies into politics and the concept of saving America? Then in the final section John Piper states that come election day he wants to be known as the person dedicated to Jesus and not dedicated to abortion or dedicated to death by arrogance. Read the entire article in, “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin.”
Evangelicals Who Agreed With John Piper’s Article and What They Are Saying
There are a number of evangelicals who reacted to John Piper’s article by tweeting their praise or affirmation. Look at some of the following tweets that were sent out recently.
Lydia Smith Thank you so much for this. From the other side of the world, baffled by a corrosively divided America and saddened by what seems to be the increasing politicisation of the church, I found this enormously encouraging.
Christen Nationalists Who Embrace Trump Lashed Out at John Piper
And then there were those in evangelicalism who criticized and attacked John Piper for what he wrote. Over at the Facebook page for Desiring God Christian nationalists who have made Donald Trump their Lord and Savior lashed out and called John Piper lost, a heretic, and didn’t understand why a Christian cold not embrace Trump. I snagged a few comments from he Facebook page to read.
And here are some of the comments off the Desiring God page on Facebook.
Nate Amack Extremely disappointing and frankly a shocking perspective by a man I have respected for years. What a sad day.
Ed Mary Dunn Muddying the waters so that you feel better about why someone can vote against a pro-life candidate with a strong stance for Christian values is baffling and saddening. Please include the Holy Spirit into an article like this. The Vice President is a huge difference maker. Don’t give up on the right side because you don’t like someone…remember you are influencing a lot of people.
Marla Strother Are you kidding me???? I would wholeheartedly agree that Donald Trump has arrogance issues, etc, and that he needs repentance as we all do! I would also say that the policies of the Democrats are rooted in evil and lies, which can only do harm to our country, families, and world! I pray for our very fallible President, and that he would be convicted of his pride and arrogance, etc, and become a sold-out Christian man! He is like a military general who is trying to lead us . I strongly suspect that these four years have greatly affected his belief that he is only in this position because God has put him there.! I would agree that he doesn’t come across that way sometimes. It does seem that he is genuinely frightened by what will happen to the country under Biden/Harris leadership. Our enemies must be salivating at this point. May God have mercy on our souls, and on our country!
Evelyn Van Sloten I am disappointed with this article from someone I deeply respect. The election is about so much more than a man. Both candidates leave much to be desired in their personal lives. One however has done much for the church, liberty and the unborn. We are voting for policy, law and order over the man. Thankful that God rules and will determine the leader for the next 4 years.
Daniel Klaehn By way of reminder, John Piper, whom I love in the Lord and admire greatly, also said he cried (for joy) when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008. Not sure that those eight years were representative of or pleasing to the Lord.
Titus DeFord I find it astounding that a pastor will compare the actual death of babies and policies diminishing the life supporting rights of Americans to the somehow death causing attitude of the president. Get outta here. He’s not a Christian, so why should I hold him accountable to standards laid out for members of the church? Or a failure to follow the book of proverbs. Unless he’s saying dont vote for non Christians. Which is irresponsible. We dont always get a good choice. But we are given a choice. Trump 2020. With a clear conscience and with no problems explaining my choice to non believers.
Jenn Carlson So if the anti-Christ comes and says all the right things, is a smooth-talking, “kind” person, we should definitely follow him because words are worth more than actions? I’ve never been more disgusted with something Piper has written. What a naive, simplistic position on deeply complex, pivotal issues.
LeeAnn Runnion Knapp Let us not forget the lefts stance on worship in California. They allow riots, but Christians aren’t allowed to gather to worship. This will be our future if we are not careful.
Connie Hopp Perhaps articles like this will cause more Christians not to vote since neither candidate is qualified. I know what I am voting for. It’s a no brainer. I don’t want to be led “gently” over a cliff. I am for acknowledging and fearing God and his Word, freedom to gather and worship, law and order, pro life, individual responsibility, marriage as God designed it; one man and one woman. Since we have taken God and prayer out of school and half the kids live in one parent broken homes and people now trust/look to government instead of God to provide, we have been in a steady decline. Let’s get back to our founding principles, not the socialist way.
Shelly W. Weeks Wow, I’m stunned to read this and don’t believe we are even close to the same perspective. Wow, just wow. This makes me sad. I’m praying discernment for you.
Analysis and Considering the Consistency of John Piper
One thing to remember from this article is that John Piper for the most part is very consistent. He has stated that Donald Trump does not have character to lead in January of 2017 and this blog wrote about that several years ago. You can read that article in, “How can John Piper be Correct on Donald Trump Being UnQualified for the Presidency, and Yet Believe C.J. Mahaney is Fit to Lead?” In January of 2018 at Desiring God John Piper wrote about why he detested politics and he didn’t care how America turned out, all he wanted to do is preach the Gospel and plant churches. You can read that article here. So for me this stance by John Piper is not a surprise. In this area Piper has credibility as he has not flip flopped. He is not Al Mohler who has done a 180 on Donald Trump. Consider what Mohler wrote in the Washington Post in 2016 decrying evangelicals attaching themselves to Trump.
“That political instinct is what leads to the current crisis. This year, the Republican nominee is, in terms of character, the personification of what evangelicals have preached (and voted) against. Married three times, flaunting Christian sexual mores, building his fortune and his persona on the Playboy lifestyle, under any normal circumstances Trump would be the realization of evangelical nightmares, not the carrier of evangelical hopes.
But when Trump claimed the Republican nomination, evangelicals faced a new and very awkward situation. Some evangelical leaders adopted a “never Trump” position early in the primaries. I am among those who see evangelical support for Trump as a horrifying embarrassment — a price for possible political gain that is simply unthinkable and too high to pay.
Nevertheless, I know very well many of the evangelical leaders who found a way to support Trump, and many are close friends. The leaders I have in mind are principled men and women of Christian character and conviction.”
You can read the entire article in, “Donald Trump has created an excruciating moment for evangelicals.” Then consider Al Mohler coming around and embracing Donald Trump this past year. Mohler embraced Trump because of abortion, gay rights and other issues. You can read about this in the Louisville Courier-Journal in, “Evangelical leader who once denounced Trump embraces him now. Is it political opportunism?” Mohler is a politician and an opportunist. And that is why this blog has no respect for him whatsoever. Another person who has flip flopped on Trump has been Wayne Grudem. For me its very damning when the go to guy on “sound doctrine” flipped flopped on Trump and then defends him blindly. You can see how Grudem called for Trump to withdraw in 2016, and then later on defend him and still does so today.
John Piper does not have to deal with that problem as he has been consistent in this area. This blog disagrees with him deeply and has written about the problems of Neo-Calvinist theology and for a taste of that you can go here, here and here to see some of those points of contention. In the view of this blog the strongest selling point on Calvinism is their avoidance of politics. Calvinists just want to preach the Gospel and plant churches. That is all they want to do. It is the traditional Arminin side in Baptist culture that has embraced the culture wars along with politics and mixed it with faith. They are in my view deeply lost but these past four years have been unlike anything I have seen previously. Trumpism has become an idol for many Americans. And its affected missionary work, churches, friendships, and families. I think of the friendships I have lost because I was in the 18% group of evangelicals in 2016 who rejected Trump. These past few years have been a defining time for myself. Chief among them why I could not be an evangelical. I pushed back from my last church because I saw Christian nationalism start to creep in, and I have lost relationships as well. In some cases relationships I never thought would be lost were indeed lost.
In the 1930’s many Christians in Germany made a Faustian bargain with the Nazis. Upset over abortion, acceptance of homosexuality, and morality in Weimar culture many Christians – to Bonhoeffer’s dismay – supported the Nazis. And the Nazis gave the Christians what they wanted in outlawing those issues. The trade off was 6 million Jews who were killed in concretion camps across Europe. Christians in Germany bear some of that responsibility for the deaths of the Jews. Today’s evangelicals who support Trump in the view of this blog are no different than the Christians who supported Nazi control in Germany. Todays evangelicals have traded away their faith and they have lost the opportunities to preach to people like me who have pushed back from faith. It has been a shock, and even in 2016 I did not see this coming at all. So as much as this blog disagrees with John Piper it understands what Piper is saying and agrees with him. Life is complicated and very gray and that is why I could find agreement with Piper on this issue. What I am waiting for is to see the response by Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas. Even in the middle of a pandemic, I would buy a ticket, grab some popcorn, bring my face mask and attend in person to watch John Piper tear down Robert Jeffress for his extolling and blind devotion to Donald Trump and the idol he has made him. And as of this writing Donald Trump has not called out John Piper. If you recall Trump criticized Christianity Today in December of 2019 through Twitter. As of today that has not happened with Piper, but this blog will continue to monitor this issue.