John Piper is a wuss

Back in August, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), during its Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, changed their church law to allow unrepentant, practicing homosexuals to be ordained as pastors.  Make no mistake: it is a tragedy when the largest Lutheran body in the United States chooses to depart from the clear teaching of Scripture, endorsing what God does not endorse.

Coincidentally–or maybe providentially–there was a freak tornado that ripped through Minneapolis on the exact same day and at the exact same time that the controversial decision was being made, damaging the very building where the Lutherans were meeting.  Was God angry?  Was this God’s temporal judgment–a warning of sorts–against the ELCA?  Good chance, as John Piper–a well known Calvinist Baptist pastor in Minneapolis–rightly pointed out in his blog.

And although Piper is accurate in his biblical interpretation and application on this one, there’s still something not right here.  He even correctly exhorts the Lutherans to turn “from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction.  Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture.  Turn back from distorting the grace of God into sensuality.”  Great.  Whoopee. But still, something is wrong.

And this is the problem: John Piper–and just about every other conservative evangelical leader in the United States, for that matter–is a wuss.  Certainly he wants to give the impression that he is opposing heresy and giving a stern warning to liberal Christians who distort the gospel message.  But what is he actually accomplishing?  Nothing.  Because from outside an organization, a critic can do nothing but gripe and grumble and make a public relations case against that organization.  If John Piper wanted to really make a difference in the universal church and combat heresy, he would affiliate his church with the ELCA.  Then he could take direct measures to remove the heretics he disagrees with.  If he really was concerned with the purity of the body of Christ, he would put his money where his mouth is: he would become Lutheran (or maybe a member of some other liberal, mainline denomination) and start cleaning house, reclaiming those organizations for Christ.  (You haven’t lived and you can’t be considered a reformer unless you have stood up at a presbytery meeting and articulated an orthodox, biblical position, only to be reviled as a mean-spirited person!)

But John Piper is not concerned with the purity of the church.  He’s ultimately concerned only with his own purity.  By safely sitting on his perch in the Minnesota Baptist Conference–safe from the stain of false teaching in other, defective denominations–he demonstrates that he’s only interested in keeping his own hands clean.  And that’s something I’ve noticed with many conservative Christians, especially those who have left mainline denominations for doctrinally and ethically pure bodies: they can’t stomach heresy, and they don’t have the guts to stand up to entrenched liberalism in the church.

But this isn’t just John Piper’s fault.  It’s part of our warped, heretical view of the church in the United States.  We see things from a capitalistic, denominational, and competition-based perspective, even though such a model doesn’t apply to the organic body of Christ.  In our hearts, we say, “If the ELCA or the UCC or the PCUSA are heretical, then we should ‘shop’ somewhere else, hoping they go out of business, kind of like shopping at Home Depot instead of Lowe’s.”  But it doesn’t work that way.  Our divisions, and how we accentuate our divisions, only weaken the church.  And our divisions–even over concerns for doctrinal purity, oddly enough–promote heresy.  Because by separating from each other we only insulate ourselves from the problems, cutting ourselves off from being a solution to the problem.

So I challenge my fellow conservative Christians.  Let’s stop pretending that we are on higher moral ground by separating from the liberal mainline denominations–the very bodies that need renewal.  And let’s start getting serious about making a difference in the universal church, even if it means getting our hands dirty in the process.

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7 thoughts on “John Piper is a wuss

  1. Ray, your point is well taken. However, before you start criticizing John Piper, you need to realize that he is in a denomination that is dealing with its’ own liberalism and which he is likely desiring and fighting to reform to or maintain biblical fidelity. The Baptist General Conference (BGC) is confronted with many unbiblical challenges, just as the ELCA. I hear of these BGC controversies quite regularly from another BGC pastor with whom I meet regularly.

  2. Duane,

    I guess I’m not trying to pick on John Piper only; blogging is a provocative genre, no? Hence the title of my post. I’m just tired of conservative Christians (Al Mohler is a frequent offender, too) making declarations from their safe, insulated worlds while countless people are being led astray by false teachers in mainline churches. WWPD? What would Paul do? Sit back and say, “It’s okay, as long as the gospel is being proclaimed in some churches”? I think not.

    Imagine what would happen if–by some act of divine intervention–we were able to merge the OPC, PCA, EPC, RPCNA, RCA, and CRC into one Reformed body. Liberalism would vaporize. My larger point was that our divisions only give life to heresy, whereas if we got together the heresy would be gone. Problem solved.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Ray

  3. Our divisions give life to heresy? How far do you take that back – why not contend for the faith within the Roman Catholic church? When does one shake the dust off their shoes and move on?

    • Dear “No Reformed Churches in NE Nebraska,”

      It is considered good blog etiquette to sign your comments; anonymity allows blind pot shots when we want to promote discussion.

      Anyway, while there are technically no RCA or CRC churches in our neck of the woods, I would take exception with your claim that there are NO Reformed churches, since my congregation would qualify as a theologically Reformed, politically presbyterian church. But that’s splitting hairs. 🙂

      And anyway, your comment about the RCC church gets to the meat of the matter: Our divisions are a problem on many levels. There are several good reasons why I am not RCC,* although I’ve had my opportunities. Some might argue that we can still have “unity” while being diced into various denominations, but that’s just justifying the situation we’re in and redefining what unity is. About the best statement of this kind of unity is acknowledging our divisions while claiming to represent traditions within the family of Christianity. And while we’re bursting assumptions, assuming that the RCC as it is today is the same as it always has been is not true; the RCC has reformed in response to the Protestant movement, rather than existing in isolation. Eastern Orthodoxy probably has a better claim for being ancient and isolated from the Western disputes.

      I believe that most of the early reformers had the right heart (to recapture the early movement of the church), but they didn’t foresee the sinful divisions that would multiply in the body of Christ. If I could magically change things, it would be to encourage the reformers to change the existing church of the the time, rather than start operating outside the existing forms.

      We Christians need to overcome our differences, Christian to Christian (rather than institutional ecumenism), and iron out our theological differences (which will mean we will all have to change) in order to attain true unity. Especially in America, our system of capitalistic, colonialistic denominationalism is inexcusable. Perhaps I will write another post to take up what the ideal vision of unity might be (here’s a hint: it isn’t that everyone becomes RCC, united under the pope’s leadership).

      Blessings!

      Ray

      * My problems with the RCC are where they have doubled down on obvious theological and liturgical innovations, rather than changing back. Examples would be: exalted mariology, pagan aristotelian trickery at the heart of the eucharist, and celibate clergy. All of that is nonsense that only blocks ecumenism.

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