Friday, February 17, 2012

Examining John Piper

Christian Piatt writes an article result reacting to what Piper said about Christianity and gender
I really want to give John Piper the benefit of the doubt. Given that he’s a minister in the Baptist tradition, it doesn’t surprise me when he only refers to God as “he” or when he talks about the man’s role as spiritual head of the household. I grew up Baptist, so I’ve heard it all before.
But he goes too far with it. Way too far. And given the breadth of his influence, his message serves to normalize the marginalization of half (slightly more than, in fact) the world’s population. While I expect he believes he is fulfilling a divine call in sharing his message, I believe I’m serving a similar call in holding him to account.
It is interesting that he starts with some comments about authority. He knows Piper has clout. That many evangelical pastors choose to give him teaching authority. He knows Piper feels called to speak for God but he feels the same call. So what has happened here? God is being taken out of the picture. We have a debate where both sides claim a divine call. But one of them must be wrong.

Piatt states this and moves on. He knows that if he can get people to see the divine authority question as a draw then he can win. He has the culture on his side on this. People living in modern society will find his ideas about the roles of men and women easier to accept that Piper's ideas. So it is a good debate tactic. Get the question of divine authority off the table. 

But if divine authority can be finessed then what chance do we have at arriving at truth? All we have is human opinion. Fallible leaders that have been immersed in our culture, immersed in sin, and immersed in human tradition. One of these leaders may have been given the grace to see God's truth clearly but how do we know which one? We don't.

We will come to agree with one and disagree with the other. Guess what? The vast majority of the time we will agree with the side that matches what we would have said anyway. Person A is telling us we are right. Person B is telling us we are wrong. It is human nature to be more sympathetic to person A because we like to be told we are right. So the process that was supposed to be us hear God's word and obeying it now becomes us convincing ourselves that God must agree with our opinion. 

Can the Holy Spirit intervene and make someone realize that he is wrong and person B is really speaking for God? Sure. Does it happen often? No. Most of the time people's thinking goes along predictable paths. We think we are above it. That our mind can set aside the influences of sin, society, and human tradition. It is spiritual pride. We don't really grasp the significance of our own fallibility.

It reminds me of the typical atheist argument. If God exists He would make His presence obvious and would make obedience easy. Here we have a similar assumption. God exists so He will make His will obvious and not let me embrace serious error unknowingly. The trouble is you are telling God how things should work. He has chosen to be hidden in plain sight so He is obvious to some and invisible to others. It gives us a choice whether to believe and obey or deny there is anything there. But if He gives us the bible and allows us to choose whether to believe it or not then why would He not give us leadership with divine authority and let us choose whether to believe it or not?

As a protestant I could see the atheist was pursuing his own version of good and blaming any God that might exist for not making the right thing clear enough. I didn't see that I was pursuing my own version of good as well. Sure it was formed by scripture. Still the pressure was on God to make things clear to me. I was not going to go out and find a more complete source of His word. Something that could guide me on issues like the role of women in the church that seem to have no strong consensus of what is biblical. Just like I would tell the atheist that if you honestly looked for God you would find Him in the person of Jesus. I can now tell protestants that if you honestly look for an answer to the divine authority stalemate you will find God working powerfully through the Catholic Church.

Anyway, this is getting long so I won't comment on the rest of the article.

1 comment:

  1. Great comparison in this regard to atheists and Protestants.