John Piper’s ambiguous words this week missed the point.
The Pastor, author and respected teacher posted a raw shakedown of the U.S Elections, saying both Trump, and Biden are an ill wind that will reap no national good.
Therefore, Piper wrote, vote as you will, but as for me ‘I won’t be endorsing the devastation.’
Piper was right to assert his allegiance to Christ over party, platform and policy. He was right to question the superficial protestations about Christian faith which seem permanently glued to the Trump presidency.
Piper was half-right to assume that for Christians the choice in this election is between Government, and Jesus Christ.
On one side there’s a party as far from Christ on the issues of civil liberties, classical liberal freedoms, life, and livelihood, as any Western political party has ever been this side of Germany in the 1930s.
On the other is an incumbent President, who’s been consistently harassed, attacked, falsely accused, and maligned, by the latter group simply for having the power they want.
Look at the political, and theological trends which accept appeasement as the only strategy to deal with slow toxins poisoning Western societies, of apathy, and of blind tolerance, of redefinition, the language of “resetting”, of administering to the world a false doctrine that considers “niceness” a crucial Christian trait.
Eternity News exemplifies the point. Both their articles, “John piper says character trumps policy when it comes to Trump,” and “Beyond John Piper, More Christian ‘How To’ Votes,” show a heavy lean in favor of Piper’s apparent denouncement of Donald Trump, while giving only a whisper to Piper’s equal response to Joe Biden.
Buoyed by Piper’s comments, and an apparent excitement at possible divisions within the Evangelical camp, Eternity News seems to have been working the “Trump isn’t nice, so don’t vote for him” card, hard.
Niceness is faulty yardstick.
The devil, for example, is prone to make himself look “nice.” As Paul, talking about false Apostles, wrote: ‘for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.’ (2 Cor.11:14)
Good isn’t always nice. “Niceness” is nearly always a trait of malevolence.
An “ethic of niceness” is a false doctrine. It’s what the late feminist and political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain meant when she directed cautionary words against reducing the Gospel to universal benevolence:
‘Christianity is not an exalted or mystical form of utilitarianism. Jesus preached no doctrine of universal benevolence. He showed anger and issued condemnations. These dimensions of Christ’s life and words tend to be overlooked nowadays as Christians concentrate on God’s love rather than God’s justice. That love is sometimes reduced to a diffuse benignity that is then enjoined on believers. For Christians living in historic time and before the end of time, the pervasiveness of conflict must be faced. One may aspire to perfection, but living perfectly is not possible. To believe one is without sin is to commit the sin of pride and to become ever more boastful in the conviction that a human being can sustain a perfectionist ethic.’ [i]
Presidents may serve well, but they’ll never be Jesus Christ. If that’s what John is looking for this side of the Parousia, he’s going to be in constant retreat, taking a good portion of the church with him.
Piper is right that ‘bad company corrupts good character’ (1 Cor.15:33), but all-in-all his words are problematic. They encourage Trump’s enemies to read Piper’s concerns about “character” through the lens of this “niceness” false doctrine.
Despite his protests to the contrary, Piper’s “no” to the 2020 election is not just an abandonment of his civic duty. Considering how high the stakes are, his “no” is tantamount to moral abdication.
As Charlie Kirk pointed out in his own flawed brief response, John Piper doesn’t know Donald Trump personally, yet here he is making judgements on him, and those who do know him.
John misses the point. Beyond a flawed citizen President taking on powerful, career politicians, lay the greater conflict of truth vs. falsehood.
In the context of the Church, if we fail to bring a confession of Jesus Christ up against the clear, and present false doctrines woven into the current Democrat platform, we’ve failed, not only in our civic duty, but as Christians.
[i] Elshtain, J. 2008, Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed. (p. 100-101)
First published on Caldron Pool, 1st November 2020
©Rod Lampard, 2020.