John Piper: What Kind of Baptist are you?

Or, why I don’t call myself a Calvinist any more.

It is disturbing thing to Piper, that a man should follow a woman. It is disturbing that women should fight to defend men. It is disturbing that contemporary feminists would seek to deny nature.

In Piper’s interpretation of the human psyche, he identifies some kind of natural “hard wiring” which inclines men to take risks on behalf of women:

God created man first in order to say that man bears a primary burden for protection, provision, and leadership.

He cites contemporary research to point out that this truth is not merely confessional, but biological. Feminists then are not only in opposition to organised religion, but to nature itself.

So what about the research which contradicts these opinions? What about science which seems to imply genetic causes of homosexual desire? Or findings which indicate the evolution of humanity from a common ancestor with apes? I experience an intense, innate desire for material goods and the existential security consumption provides. Is this God’s natural way too?

What I see in this article is an abysmal engagement with contemporary thought. It is self-refuting since in one instance it affirms “what we all know”, namely:

Men aren’t hard-wired to follow women, period. They are hard-wired to get in front of their women—between them and the bullets..

Yet in the next, calls people to dispense with their natural desire for equality and fairness (which are the origins of the Feminist movement).

So accoring to their natural desires, men are protectors and relate to women as provider and nourisher.

It is no surprise then that for a woman to walk out onto the battlefield is repulsive to Piper.

Yet he does not begin to attack the issue of war itself. It is a given that men go to war with men, just as much as it is a given that men lead women and that nation-states are how we ought to organise human society.

For, that is the cause of war. The defence of the nation-state from the aggression of other groups or nation-states. I would like to see John Piper attempt to justify this economic arrangement beyond the basic pragmatism of it. It certainly is not Biblical. The predominant government there are autonomous city-states overarched by huge empires.

Men are not hardwired to follow women. Apparently. But they are hard wired to march out to war to defend the amoral nation-state which just happened to be the place they were born.

I’m starting to think there’s something crossed in the wires. There is certainly something crossed in Piper’s hermeneutics. One moment denying aspects of culture, the next moment affirming with apparently arbitrary methodology.

I submit that the reader of culture return to Jesus as The Man for us. Jesus is perfectly human, and his acts as an individual and a community-former might offer a vision for the church as she seeks to be an outpost of reborn humanity in this dying world.

The formation of the tradition he and I share is precisely in this kind of engagement with Scripture. Believing it to be the true hope for the world, they began to attempt to live out all they saw in it, even when it set them at odds with all their culture “knew” about the way it ought to be.

And, for those who see this as my enevitable deviation from predestination, I do not think I chose to be a Christian. But I certainly CAN choose not to be part of this train-wreck neo-Calvinist movement.

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16 Comments

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  1. I started having issues with Piper long before he started attacking other people or publicly criticising them rather than just sharing Jesus. Undoubtedly, Piper has some very interesting and some helpful things to say but would totally affirm your comment:
    “I submit that the reader of culture return to Jesus as The Man for us.”
    When and why would we ever do anything else?

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    • I think lots of influential teachers end up this way. Their prophetic proclamations of Jesus become twisted with their grand visions for society which are justified not by Jesus, but by the fact of their fame.

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  2. Forget contemporary thought, scientific evidence or John Piper. Isn’t the ONLY important thing what God himself through his word says about the role and gender of men and women? Isn’t that the ONLY truth we should be looking at and running our lives on?

    PS: delighted to hear you aren’t a calvanist any more

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    • I consider it unwise to reject the wisdom of well-researched ideas. So science, history, sociology, journalism and all the rest provide me as a Christian thinker with a great wealth of ideas to draw on and digest.

      So I’m not going to read, say, a Marxist critique of class and decide that it’s not worth taking seriously because it doesn’t fit with my reading of the Bible.

      That would be to repeat the error of which I have accused Piper.

      And you really ought to read the ending of this article before declaring how glad you are.

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  3. Did read to the end! that comment was tongue in cheek (although I can but hope you see the light one day!)

    Am not sure I see evidence our Lord took into consideration science, history, sociology, journalism or any other human ideology floating around the Roman Empire at the turn of the first century ad (or to be policitally correct ace) before declaring himself THE WAY and THE TRUTH and THE LIFE.

    God’s word is true, every word is flawless, God is the ONLY truth we should ever base our lives upon – everything we read or hear or are taught should be weighed up in the light of God’s Word and if it disagrees with Gods Word – guess which was we should lean. science, history, sociology, journalism can all be proved to be shifting sand – changing from one generation to another – whereas the word of God remains the word of God. Can you really put your trust in shifting sand? Do you really need anything to “compliment” God’s word or does Gods word tell us that God’s word is sufficient?

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    • God is the author and perfect or of the faith, the maker of heaven and earth and father to all humanity. So he is sufficient for all our needs.

      But that is not true of the Bible. Our scriptures are a true account of the Word of God, Jesus. It is he the church leans on, not the Bible. The Bible, like John the Baptist, only testifies to the light. It is not the light.

      So to make the leap from “the Bible says X” to “we should do X” is a little wrong footed in my opinion. You are then giving the Bible an authority it wasn’t intended to have. This actually dethrones the living God and sets up human words as an idol.

      And in following the leading of this living God, many Christians have spent their lives studying and writing to expand our knowledge of the world through various disciplines. The university system of this country was created by the church, and heaven knows how proud Catholics are that one of their own came up with the scientific method!

      So to say that scripture is somehow a rival to all these ideas and disciplines is to really misunderstand what Scripture is. It is the rule of our faith and final authority for the church. It forms the church to be the people of God and reveals the way of The Lord to us. I see a great openness to where that might take us, where God might lead.

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  4. Arggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg

    your argument is not supported by the Bible – the Bible makes it very clear what it considers itself to be. It set’s itself up a great deal higher than you are setting it up – is it lying? The Bible is not just a human book with human words that gives some hints and tips on how to be a good Christian. If Jesus himself used ONLY the words of scripture to refute satan and all his attacks – what makes you think you need more than the words of scripture.. If Jesus just said IT IS WRITTEN and had enough faith in the written word (which after all is HIMSELF in writing) what makes you think it’s not enough for you?

    What bits of how to live the Christian life are missing then? Why do we need to go elsewhere to discover what being a Christian is all about? When the bible calls itself sufficient for us – is it lying. When Jesus talks about sowing The word – is he talking about anything other than sowing scripture? Do you believe that quite apart from Jesus leaving us His words through scripture – we are to search in other places – like Marx – a atheist who denied the very existence fo God – to find the words of Jesus? Do you really think he has made it that difficult for us?

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    • Paul of Tarsus wrote to his disciple Timothy saying:

      “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17.

      Of course he was referring to the Old Testament and believed that it held within it the wisdom and ethicial foundation of the Church. I do not think it too much of a stretch to claim this is also true of the New Testament. Yet 2 Tim 3:15 adds that Timothy’s knowledge of scripture is only saving (or effectual) through faith in Jesus.

      Indeed I see in Paul a strong emphasis on this role of Jesus as resurrected Son of God leading the Church.

      So for the NT writers Jesus is the one to be followed, not the Bible per se. Otherwise Paul would have remained a Pharisee. Thus this is the tradition handed down through the ages. We look to those whose lives have resembled Jesus (called saints in some traditions) for inspiration and guidance through their efforts to obey Jesus in a new situation.

      Our faith is not a matter of believing and praying so much as understanding and doing. We’d better be confident that what we are doing is truly the work of God and not a mere coverup for colonial oppression and British economic expansion (as has been claimed against 17-19th century missionaries).

      Jesus is the incarnate word of God. He is incarnate in first century palestine. He understood his culture and times and his method and message were right for it. Yet his Gospel still goes forth to the poor today since he is not dead but alive, by the Spirit through the Church. This Gospel remains relevant precisely because Christians are skilled in discerning the culture and context into which they are preaching.

      It is as though a new virus has spread through the country and the doctors renew their knowledge in order to effectively treat the latest mutation.

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  5. I think we can both totally agree it isn’t a stretch to include the new testament – seeing as Peter I believe called Paul’s writings scripture!

    Am I to assume from this and your previous comment that you would include Marx in your list of “those whose lives have resembled Jesus”

    How did the New Testament saints check they were on the right track? By checking back to scripture – we have all heard of the bereans. I truly believe even if we today only had the Old testament we would be able to find everything we needed – we have been blessed beyond measure with the new testament too.

    So if it was necessary for a) Jesus to rely on the written scriptures (which after all HE wrote) and b) it was advisable and acceptable for new testament saints to check everything they heard against that which was called scripture and c) given today that we both agree and accept that the new testament is now included in this canon we call scripture and that the church has never (apart from the misguidings of catholic popes, and instigaters of cults such as the mormons and the jehovahs witnesses) declared any other writings to be equal to scripture (and given that there are as we know some writings of even Paul that God deemed to be too much of Paul and not enough of him and didn’t get included in scripture)

    how am I to understand that apparently it is now acceptable and ok to make value judgements and decisions on what being a follower of Jesus is all about and what my Lord would have me look like and be like to the world by looking at many and various writings and documents that God did not make allowance to be included in scripture.

    After all – had it had been God’s plan that we included all these writings he would have told us and made provision for it.

    And in your definiton – I think you should definintely be checking against the Koran at the very least seeing as how that is claimed to be the third part of scripture.

    A NEW virus? what would that be then? As far as I can see any problem in the world is the same old problem since the fall and it links back to the same old culprit who still operates in the same old way – and I don’t need any new teachings to tell me how to deal with him.

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    • 1. No, I would not include Marx as some kind of saint. He was a historian and economist. He did a great work in highlighting some aspects of class opression and the collusion of organised religion with such opressive regimes. I will use his methodology to evaluate the world and my actions in it, since this can be very useful for determining the impact of particularly where I spend money. Many Christians have made extensive use of Marx with interesting results though.

      2. I am not arguing for some kind of arbitrary appropriation of secular progressivism as a scheme for the church, as I suspect you think I am. I am merely attempting to account for the subjective nature of what I claim as truth or goodness. My culture and upbringing are not morally neutral. It is influenced by a great variety of voices, some are probably good and many obstensably wicked. So for me to be an effective and authentic disciple, I must become aware of that which I am, by virtue of my context, ignorant of. As I increasingly discern the cracks and seams, so to speak, in the culture, I am given clarity to see the purposes of God in that context.

      Otherwise I risk only really supporting a system which may be evil, that I did not realise. This is precisely why Theology exists in the Christian Church.

      And I am certainly not going to apologise for desiring wisdom and knowledge, and allowing that knowledge to shape me. Good grief.

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  6. Many Christians have made extensive use of Marx with interesting results though. ……….. Just because Christians have made extensie use of Marx doesn’t make it right! And one is either for God or against God – and I would never seek to engage with anyone who is against God in allowing it to affect my view of the world.

    subjective nature of what I claim as truth ……. do you really believe God’s truth is subjective? Once again I think you are at odds with the Word of God if this is your belief. If you cannot believe that God’s truth is real absolute unquestionable accurate and the Only truth – then how can you be assured of your salvation, his love for you or indeed anything else past present or future that he promises you – (or perhaps sadly you aren’t secure in your salvation?) Jesus said I am THE truth not A Truth

    So for me to be an effective and authentic disciple, I must become aware of that which I am, by virtue of my context, ……… but since you became a Christian you are no longer whatever you were – and thus you are not “of” this world any more – you are “in” it but only an Ambassador to it – so what you once were – or your background and culture is no longer relevant – the only thing that can tell you who you are and what you are is the Mirror of the Word of God – you are a new creation.

    Otherwise I risk only really supporting a system which may be evil, that I did not realise. This is precisely why Theology exists in the Christian Church. …….. the only thing that is going to tell me whether a system is evil is the Word of God – all physical ideas are indeed subjective.

    And I am certainly not going to apologise for desiring wisdom and knowledge, and allowing that knowledge to shape me. Good grief. …….. my husband just read this and his instant statement was …. sounds like Ian has just eaten the forbidden fruit!

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  7. Thanks for this Ian. This whole thread is entirely interesting, although I cannot remember what the first point was. Never mind.

    The overall picture I get is one of Scripture as absolutely literal versus Scripture as something we interpret.

    My opinion is that we all have a worldview, whether we are ‘saved’ or ‘not saved’. This may change when we are ‘saved’ but that makes it no less a worldview. To suggest that this worldview is only influenced by God strikes me as foolish. There are many things in this world which inevitably shape and define us. To ignore those and assume they have no effect is surely worse than acknowledging them, examining them and then making a choice about whether or not to keep them. This is why the most recent post which mentions how important it is to be self aware is relevant to this conversation. To ignore the lens through which you view the world means that you can only see the world in certain colours, when in fact there are probably many more colours to see.

    So, when considering what the Bible says I think it is important to have an understanding of our personal worldview. I think it is then important to consider the worldview at the time, and to draw from this the intention of the writer’s words. (I should say here I do not believe that Jesus wrote the Old Testament or the New Testament, though I do believe he inspired it strongly.) Once the writer’s intention is understood, then we can begin to try to work out God’s intentions for the meaning. This is a difficult and arduous task, and I think reading the Word of God often can only help with this.

    I think it is also true that in the original Greek there is no word for ‘the’ or ‘a’ so Jesus might well have been saying he was ‘a way’. I say this merely to be provocative, and to cause some thinking. I was told this a long time ago so it would be worth verifying. It made me think about my faith, and I got to the other side more strongly affirming Christ as the way, the truth and the life. As we walk with him may we grow in love for God, for one another and for those Jesus calls our neighbours.

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  8. Really? Really? The Word of God – repeatedly concisively and conclusively from Genesis to Revelation declares itself to be the Word of God and instructs its read to use it only and exlusively in learning about God and his son Jesus and learning what it means to be saved and to follow Jesus.

    This article comes up with irrefutable evidence from scripture (including Jesus himself) of how scripture should be viewed and used.

    https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1450-the-bible-word-of-god-or-mere-words-of-men

    Their conclusions is:

    A consideration of these texts and numerous others of like import, reveal several fundamental truths. The New Testament recognizes a certain body of literature as “the word of God.” Implicit in this expression is the fact that the message has been conveyed by means of words, and that its origin is divine. The doctrine of verbal inspiration could not have been enunciated more precisely. When this teaching is rejected, it is the result of liberal bias, not factual investigation.

    The following may be an old quote – but it survives the test of time and is the only way that anyone will ever correctly understand and use the word of God.

    Never compare this book with other books. Comparisons are dangerous. Never think or never say that this book contains the word of God it is the word of God. It is supernatural in origin. Eternal in duration. Inexpressible in value, Infinite in scope, regenereative in power, infallible in authority, universal in interest, personal in applicataion, inspired in totality. Read it through write it down pray it in work it out and pass it on.

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  9. Really. Though I pretty much agree with you, it’s just I am more cautious in my approach as I try to think it through carefully.

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    • To follow on from Jonny, I would expand to explain that in my view, it is unwise to assume that “I”, or at least my thinking mind, has direct access to the true intention of any Biblical text.

      So theologically yes, I agree with those assertions about the Bible. But I am certainly not eager to exclaim, after reading a passage, that I know what it means for my life as a Christian.

      I should point out that my efforts to do this with the Psalms has often resulted in scathing criticism from you, rather begging the question of how on earth you arrive at your conclusions about the what the Bible says. I attempt to read, pray, understand and comprehend. I assume you do something similar, yet my interpretation is always wrong.

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  10. Absolutely delighted to hear that you both would put 100% weight on the bible – not sure Ian I would ever have guessed that – especially from comments like God is sufficient for my needs …. that is not true of the bible?

    If I pick up on things you say about psalms etc it’s because what you say doesn’t seem to fit the whole counsel of God – I can’t read the psalms (or indeed any of the old covenant writings (including words of Jesus) without reading and applying them in the light of the new covenant. I no longer (in fact to be precise as a gentile I never was) under obedience to the old covenant – so if I read old covenant instructions and comments – like create in me a new heart and put a right spirit in me – I can say thank you Lord that you have created in me a new heart and put a right spirit in me. And i can just continue to praise and thank and worship him for what’s he’s done – rather than begging him still to do something. It would just be ridiculous of me to ask God to do something he has already done and if his word tells me he’s already done it and this is confirmed by the Holy Spirit in my spirit then I believe and behave (and praise) accordingly. It’s like when the minister does an “altar call” at the end of a service – I know beyond a shadow of a doubt he is not speaking to me because I have already responded to the call to Romans 10 v 9 and don’t need to respond again – even though other words he has said in his sermon have spoken to me. It’s simple really.

    However I am truly delighted to read that you are in agreement with the bible – and as for asserting that a thinking mind has direct access to the true intention of the text – I totally agree – that’s why I never rely on my thinking mind and sit ask and wait for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth. Revelation truth is just so amazing it’s like someone has wiped a dirty window clean or torn away a black blanket and let the sun come blazing through. And you wonder why on earth you never saw that that way before. And then you can’t understand why everyone else can’t see something so simple. And if I don’t receive revelation truth on that section at that I leave it knowing that I probably am not quite in the right place to understand yet – or I need some other knowledge in some other area first and again just pray in tongues or in english and await when he chooses to reveal that truth to me. Works every time – he is just such an amazing and awesome God.

    I look forward to reading some future blogs on just how amazing and awesome he and his word are – I am sure that will be really edifiying for all the Christians who read your site.

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