There is no shortage of articles that attempt to sooth the conscience of Biden voters from major evangelical figures. But some are more impactful than others and John Piper of Desiring God would be one of those cases. But the quality of work John Piper does is reconciling his arguments with Scripture is the quality you would expect out of The Gospel Coalition or Christianity Today. However, this is not obvious because John Piper is smarter than Big Eva counterparts elsewhere. He goes to the original Greek. He cites Scripture well when stating the essential doctrines of Christianity. But the arguments put forth on voting lack Scriptural support, and this is masked by his explanation of essential Christian doctrine. Thus, we’ll see that this is a curtain that hides horrendously unbiblical arguments.
The name of the article is Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin. John Piper begins by stating that this is as close to an answer on how he’ll vote as he will give.
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).
The first major criticism I have is John Piper is equating sins here. Sin encompasses our attitudes, motivations, and actions. Hatred is an attitude. Murder is an action. Both are sins but they are not equal in their offense to a holy God. God prescribed death penalty for murder but not hatred, covetousness, bearing false witness, etc. From Scripture we can reasonably gather that murder is a more severe sin than others. In Scripture we see repeated instances of the progression of sin. David and Baathsheeba started out with sloth, then lust, and climaxed with murder. Cain had preexisting sin that led to envying his brother that escalated to murder. No one starts off with child porn on their laptops. This is how sin works, but John Piper is trying to equate sin to make an argument other than any sin means we are deserving of eternal damnation.
But while equating the sins of murder and arrogance, John Piper is arguing that all sins are equal, but some sins are more equal than others. The sins that are more equal are the sins that he attributes to President Donald Trump. He acts as though Trump is the only one in politics, running for President, who commits these sins unrepentantly.
This leads me to another observation. John Piper is quite cowardly in his writing here. He is unwilling to name Donald Trump yet goes to great lengths to make statements on the sins he commits and the impact he has on culture. This is despicable behavior. Christians should not be speaking in code on such matters. Let our yes be yes and our no be no. There is no good reason not to name names. It is cowardice. Piper continues:
Forgiveness through Christ is always possible where there is repentance and childlike trust in Jesus. But where humble repentance is absent, the sins condemn.
To which you may say, “So what? Rejecting Jesus as Lord also leads to death, but you are willing to vote for a non-Christian, aren’t you?” I am, assuming there is enough overlap between biblical uprightness and the visible outworking of his character and convictions.
My point so far is simply to raise the stakes of what is outwardly modeled in leadership, so that Christians are given pause. It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.
This is where you see teachings of Christianity mask an unbiblical argument, but it will progress from here. Piper is beginning to lay a case that rulers impact the morality of people, which is true.
In fact, I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person.
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.
In the last five years we have seen Cultural Marxism infiltrate every institution. Where has John Piper been on that fight. I know where Donald Trump has been on the issue of Critical Race Theory.
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.
The argument here is biblical in a sense, but John Piper shows no work, provides no evidence for this application to be made today about President Donald Trump. Is our society more vulgar because of Trump? More boastful? How about facticious? Perhaps these sins have increased, but how is this attributable to Trump. Show me the evidence. But John Piper doesn’t name names despite the male pronouns and the context of what he is writing mean that we all know who he is talking about.
Moreover, the most blatant examples of total depravity in America come from Donald Trump’s opposition. Donald Trump did not cause Democrat leadership to embrace transgenderism and the child abuse and pedophilia that inherently comes with it. Trump is not advocating decriminalizing pederasty like the homosexual agenda out in California. He is not shouting his abortion. He is not rioting and burning buildings. Where is the evidence that Trump has proliferated in our culture the sins John Piper accuses him of?
Is it not baffling, then, that so many Christians seem to be sure that they are saving human lives and freedoms by treating as minimal the destructive effects of the spreading gangrene of high-profile, high-handed, culture-shaping sin?
This point has a special relevance for Christians.
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.
This is a truism. No Christians are arguing that we lose our salvation if the ChiComs take over. That is not the point.
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.
John Piper is trivializing freedom by measuring it up with salvation. But the debate is not American vs salvation in Christ. Rather, this is about work. When writing about how it is immoral to vote for Joe Biden, wrote about how our political works are inseparable from our other works. Christians should strive to good deeds because faith without works is dead. This includes politics. And supporting evil policies is an evil deed. As Christians we should also be the best citizens a nation could ask for. Therefore in accordance with James 2, we should not support evil policies which are far more deadly than reprobate leaders in and of themselves.
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).
How do they know this? Seriously! Where do they get the sure knowledge that judges, laws, and policies are less destructive than boastful factiousness in high places?
Since there is no reason to believe Trump is a Christian, let me concede that he has “bad character” for the sake of argument, but I will maintain that he has good policies. Show me an instance in Scripture where the evil policies of a ruler with good character are less deadly than the good policies of a ruler with bad character. The Bible has no shortage of reprobate rulers. The Pharaoh who knew Joseph put Joseph in charge. Cyrus is regarded as a friend to the Jews. In contrast, David’s census caused a plague that killed 70000 people. (That dwarfs the fear bug if you adjust for population.) That was deadly. The murder of Uriah was a government order. Evil policies are far deadlier than bad character because actions have greater impact than our attitudes and motivation.
There is a massive mountain for John Piper to climb and that is abortion. Here’s what he has to say:
Where does the wickedness of defending child-killing come from? It comes from hearts of self-absorbed arrogance and boasting (James 4:1–2). It comes from hearts that are insubordinate to God. In other words, it comes from the very character that so many Christian leaders are treating as comparatively innocuous, because they think Roe and SCOTUS and Planned Parenthood are more pivotal, more decisive, battlegrounds.
I think Roe is an evil decision. I think Planned Parenthood is a code name for baby-killing and (historically at least) ethnic cleansing. And I think it is baffling and presumptuous to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride.
We measure abortions deaths in the tens of millions. If abortion was included, it would be one of the leading causes of death in America. Do some math, John Piper. He also completely undermines his argument on the impact of Trump’s character on the nation. If self-absorbed arrogance and boastfulness is what lead to abortion, then Trump is not making the culture more self-absorbed or boastful. At most he would be a reflection of our culture. John Piper’s argument on Trump falls apart here.
When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine.
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.
It is also naive to say that Trump has not been “effectively pro-life.” this shows that John Piper is not calling balls and strikes. He’s Orange Man Bad. Trump, as President cannot be as effective as the Republicans at the state level in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Missouri, but as far as Presidents go, he has done more than any other President.
Piper then gives a note to pastors where he writes about the necessity of not prior. It’s a lot of basic Christianity that cites Scripture, but ends with this:
Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?
Again, faith without works is dead and politics is part of our works. How is it loving to your neighbor to invite despotism? John Piper is soothing the conscience of people who will vote for evil policies that are far deadlier than any character concerns of Donald Trump. If we are concerned for the decay of our culture, why would we hand the country over to the crowd outside of Lot’s house?
Piper concludes with truisms that Christians will not dispute. But the nonsensical arguments that he is making to sooth the conscience of Biden voters cannot hide behind agreeable statements. This ties back into the cowardice of not naming Trump, that he hides his real arguments behind ecumenical doctrine and does not back them up with Scripture or accurate apply them to the context in which he is writing.