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Is Abraham Piper’s Sin Spectacular?

Posted by admin in April 22nd, 2021
Published in Uncategorized

John Piper’s son is making quite a stir these days. Abraham Piper has gone full-blown, hate-filled atheist and taken his anger and rage to social media. His TikTok posts last week were nothing short of sacrilege. He got 15 million views on his posts and has over three million followers. He’s outrageous – in the true sense of the word. He mocks Christianity–evangelicalism specifically.

I feel badly for John Piper. I’ve never had children, but I know what it’s like for a loved one to walk away from Christianity. It’s heartbreaking and there isn’t a word big enough to describe the grief. I don’t wish that on anyone. But if you’ve ever read my blogs, you know that I am not a fan of John Piper.

John Piper’s theology is not only dangerous, but grossly deformed. Unfortunately, he wields much influence over Christians today. I flinched recently when a youth pastor proclaimed his devotion and love for all things John Piper from the pulpit; another young church leader buying into Piperian theology. Not good.

What’s wrong with John Piper?

I first noticed a problem with Piper about 20 years ago when I read Let the Nations Be Glad (1999, Baker). There was an egotism about Piper’s god that didn’t fit the God I know and understand from the Bible. I refuted (as often as possible) his key statement, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t.” Piper makes God out to be an insecure, attention-starved, egomaniac that just wants the entire human race to worship Him.

The truth is, missions exist because Jesus told His followers, including us, to go and make disciples. That’s why missions exist. We are to obey Jesus and find the perishing and care for the lost and rescue them with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Missions exist because God loves people and knows that they are only set free from sin and bondage by Jesus. Missions exist to answer the question of a dying world, “What must I do to be saved?”

God is not egocentric; He simply loves the human race. Why else would He send His only Son, blameless and holy, to die in our place?  Piper gives a long, drawn-out, explanation for worship being God’s sole purpose in creating man. I strongly disagree with his thesis. And Piper’s view of God in Let the Nations Be Glad, completely misses the communion aspect of the Trinity and God’s longing to have communion with His children. God doesn’t exist for worship; God doesn’t live for praise; God has no needs. God created us for fellowship. The Trinitarian God has commanded us to go into all the world because of love—His love for us and His desire to have communion with humankind.

And do I need to explain all that is wrong with Piper’s term “Christian Hedonism?” (A term coined in his 1986 book, Desiring God). In Christian Hedonism, as defined by Piper, the pursuit of pleasure and ultimate joy in life is to be satisfied in God. Only when a believer is satisfied in God will God be glorified.

Piper thinks he has taken a humanistic term from ethics and philosophy and turned it on its ear to cleverly make it fit in a biblical perspective. However, if you look closely, you’ll see that his entire idea wholly revolves around a humanistic outlook on Christian living.

According to Piper, a Christian Hedonist’s goal for life is to receive spiritual pleasure by serving God. Sure, there’s joy experienced by serving God, but there are two different ends here: A Christian Hedonist would serve God for the purpose of having joy, or experiencing pleasure. To them, this fulfills God’s plan for their lives and ultimately glorifies Him. A Christian non-Hedonist serves God out of obedience regardless of any joy or spiritual pleasure experienced along the way and he obeys out of a deep commitment to serve and honor God no matter what.

I believe Christian Hedonism is a direct violation of the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). When a person accepts Christ, he embarks on a journey to die to himself, “I’m crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live…” (Galatians 2:20).

And Piper’s statement, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” is not a true statement. I know it sounds super cool and super groovy, but God is not glorified only by our satisfaction in Him, but our obedience to Him in the face of profound dissatisfaction. God is glorified by our obedience to His Word and our love for our neighbor, regardless of how we feel. This denotes sacrifice and sometimes heartbreak. Hedonism shies away from those two things because it is contrary to a life of spiritual pleasure and satisfaction.

Christian Hedonism is a selfish ideology that misplaces the truth of God’s Word to fit a humanistic way of life. To live for God and to give Him the “most” glory is to be a sacrifice. Romans 12:1-2 is clear on this. We are to be a living sacrifice for the Heavenly Father by renewing our minds and not conforming to this world. This brings glory to God.

Piper also teaches a hyper-Calvinism that declares certain people are predestined to be saved and others are not. But my final and complete parting with Piper took place in 2013, when he published his book Spectacular Sins (Crossway). This book is not only badly written, but his logic utterly fails and his premise is dumbfounding, if not simply horrific.

Piper cites the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007, as God’s will and explains it to his 11-year-old daughter as part of her bedtime devotions. God not only allowed the bridge to collapse, according to Piper, but He ordained it for His purposes. Piper tells his daughter that God caused the death of over a dozen people and inflicted the life-altering injuries on hundreds more for His purposes.

Piper wrote, “We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha and Noël and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed ‘Please don’t let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved.’ When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her, I said, ‘You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people blame God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That’s what ‘blame’ means — accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.’ Talitha said, ‘With his pinky.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.’

“Talitha said, ‘Maybe he let it fall because he wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.’ ‘Yes, Talitha,’ I said, ‘I am sure that is one of the reasons God let the bridge fall.’”

If you think this is a normal conversation for a Christian parent to have with his child after a national disaster, you’re wrong. That conversation with little Talitha was both spiritually and theologically unsound and here’s why.

Investigators were able to find the reason for the collapse of the bridge. Contractors used the wrong size gusset plates. These plates were too thin and they tore along a line of rivets. The original designer of the bridge had required thicker gusset plates 40 years before the bridge collapsed, but the builders didn’t want to have the special gusset plates made (time and money) and went with the industry standard and as a result they simple wore out. So, why did the bridge collapse? Because of man’s sin. Because the builders tried to save money and time instead of obeying the designer.

We live in a world with natural laws and natural order. God put the laws of nature into place. There are consequences to our actions when we defy those laws. God didn’t design evil. God didn’t create man to sin. God designed free will so that when people do turn to Him and embrace Him, they are doing so willingly, freely, and out of love and a deep sense of gratitude. Free will put those gusset plates in place, not God.

And the nightmare theology Piper comes up with in Spectacular Sins makes my hair stand on end. Piper writes, “The Apostle Paul’s antidote for wimpy Christians is weighty doctrine. . . everything that exists—including evil—is ordained by a holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly. We don’t make God. He makes us. We don’t decide what he is going to be like. He decides what he is going to be like. He decides what we are going to be like. He created the universe, and it has the meaning he gives it, not the meaning we give it. If we give it a meaning different from his, we are fools. . .”

We don’t decide what we are going to be like? And BOOM! There goes free will.

So why? Why do people flock to Piper? Why is he so influential? How does he have such a following? Because Piper gives people a reason for evil. Piper gives an explanation for why bad things happen to good people.

Have a problem with evil? Make God the author of evil and your problem is solved. Then all you have to say is, “God must have willed it!” or “Well, God’s will was done!” Sounds like a Muslim response if you ask me. God’s will is not done when evil occurs. His will is never in abortions, or rape, or murder, or lying or cheating! God’s will is not done in sin. Sin is NEVER God’s will! EVER. God works in spite of those things, but He is not the author of such things. God has promised to turn evil things for our good. God has the power and ability to take the worse things in our lives and use them for our good and His glory. But He does not WILL that sin takes place or that people disobey or that bridge builders skimp on the designer’s plan.

 

It’s a hideous theology and it is the exact type of theology that creates atheists like Abraham Piper.

Several years ago, Paul Vitz wrote the book Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (1999/2013, Ignatius). Vitz, a professor of psychology at NYU, rigorously researched the family life, backgrounds, and childhoods of the world’s top atheists: Nietzsche, Stalin, Hitler, Voltaire, David Hume, and even Madelyn Murray O’Hare. One by one, Vitz unpacks these atheists’ childhoods and explains how legalism and a fatalistic Christianity, along with a negligent father, played a vital role in the intellectual formation of these individuals to hate their fathers and thus hate God.

(It seems that Abraham Piper hates his Dad. Also, his brother, Barnabas, wrote a book on the difficulties of growing up with John Piper as a father – not just being a preacher’s kid, but Piper’s lack of engagement with his children. Barnabas writes, “I wish he could have had a conversation with us instead of always preaching, teaching, and lecturing. I knew everything about Christianity. I could answer every question and give you the correct theological response on every issue, but I had no personal relationship with Jesus. It wasn’t until after I graduated from college that I learned of God’s grace and a loving compassionate Savior.” Barnabas tells pastors, “Don’t preach. Converse. Your kids hear enough sermons but really want to talk with you. Don’t pray. Talk to God. Your kids need to see and hear what it means to connect to God, not speak formally to a distant deity. Spend time with your children.”)

Vitz’s book gives clear examples and details how rigid Calvinism and absent fathers created some of the world’s most famous atheists. Vitz spoke at an IICS* conference when the book first came out in 2000. I attended every session. Here’s what keeps coming back to mind. Vitz says that 90 percent of the top leading atheists, alive and dead, came from Christian homes. That’s shocking, but here’s what is even MORE shocking: more than half of those came from strict, hyper-Calvinist homes. Daryl discussed this with his mentor and long-time friend Norm Geisler. Geisler had been reading autobiographies of leading atheists. Geisler, who called himself a “Calminian,” found that the majority of these atheist were raised in strict Presbyterian homes that believed in predetermination—exactly what Vitz had referred to.

So, what has this got to do with Abraham Piper’s atheism and his hatred of Christianity? A lot. My theory is that Abraham sees a god who causes bridges to collapse in order for people to fear him. I would have a difficult time following a god that preplanned the Fall, ordained Joseph’s betrayal, and predestined Judas to betray Christ (all of which Piper claims in Spectacular Sins).

It would be impossible for me to serve a god that predestine some for salvation and others for hell. This is a god who sanctions sin and who damns infants and puts cancer on the mother of three who didn’t survive. THIS is not the God of the Bible. THIS is not the God of redemption. THIS is not the God who wishes that NONE should perish and opens the Gift of Salvation to any and to all who ask of Him. Men’s desire to wrap up everything in a neat theological package has done just the opposite of its intent and purpose. Instead of bringing order to our world, this type of theology has broken out into chaos—just ask poor Abraham Piper.

Atheism becomes an option when hopelessness takes over and it becomes easier to believe God doesn’t exist rather than believe God sanctions sin and evil.

Maybe I’m wrong, but it does seem quite hopeless to believe in a god that orchestrates evil, plans “spectacular sins” and predestines innocent babies to hell—all of which today’s hyper-Calvinists and Piper followers believe.

So, taking from Vitz and Geisler, it’s easy to understand why John Piper’s son is a radical atheist. Does Piper Senior believe that his son’s atheism was predestined by God? To be consistent, he’d have to, but to me, Abraham Piper’s sin is not spectacular, it’s just heartbreaking. Peace.

 

*The International Institute for Christian Studies

 

 

 

6 users Responded In This Post

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mygif
57298. norm said,
April 23rd, 2021 at 10:30 am

Long I have suspected that the fatalism of Calvinism is why a few Calvinists I know have left the faith altogether. My sister has four sons, three of which are far from the Lord, two of them are very far from the Lord, and one them espouses atheism.
I often wonder why she asks me to pray for them. I do. But if God has already ordained them to destruction, then why does she ask me to pray? This line of thinking leads to the question, why witness to others? And that leads to ultimate departure.
How refreshing it is to hear your bold proclamations about bad theology. Actually, there is no such thing as bad theology. There is biblical theology, and the rest is the fallen imaginings of men.

Thank you!

mygif
57299. admin said,
April 23rd, 2021 at 11:27 am

Mr. Norm, that is a powerful statement! “Actually there is no such thing as bad theology. There is biblical theology, and the rest is the fallen imaginings of men.” If you don’t mind, I’m using that as often as I can, whenever possible. Thank you for your encouraging words, but most importantly, thank you for helping me articulate this truth. Blessings brother!

mygif
57300. norm said,
April 23rd, 2021 at 1:34 pm

My pleasure. God gave the the brain that articulated that, so it is His. I’m sure He won’t mind if you use it.

mygif
57301. norm said,
April 23rd, 2021 at 1:40 pm

As a grader for my English Comp prof in college, I am ashamed. And so would she be.

Actually, there is no such thing as bad theology. There is biblical theology, and the rest ARE the fallen imaginings of men.

mygif
57302. admin said,
April 23rd, 2021 at 3:29 pm

Excellent.

mygif
57325. norm said,
April 24th, 2021 at 7:22 am

I shared your article with a friend who is prominent in Southern Baptist life. His response below.

painful to read

might also explain why some Calvinists have rejected Christ after being superstars:

Josh Harris: https://www.newsweek.com/josh-harris-not-christian-dating-1451553
Dave Gass: https://www.christianpost.com/news/after-40-years-megachurch-pastor-slams-christianity-and-quits-deacon-claims-he-had-affair.html

wonder whether this helps explain why so many YRR/TGC stars have fallen so spectacularly:

— Mark Driscoll
— Darrin Patrick
— R.C. Sproul, Jr.
— David Sills
— Christian George
— Alvin Reid

I seem to be missing some names.
But, the list is long enough to make the point.

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