A response to John Piper on the election
I respect and admire author and pastor John Piper, but his recent column “pondering the implications of the 2020 election” has not persuaded me against voting for Donald Trump next week. As I read it, his argument is that the ungodly traits in a president’s character are more deadly for a nation than any ungodly policies because they breed ungodly traits in the citizenry. And God has said that those who practice any of a multitude of sins “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” So because a nation’s leader greatly influences its citizens, if he exhibits one or more of these sins he is in effect leading them to hell.
“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.”
—Just to note at the outset here, if we have saving faith in Jesus Christ, no sin of ours will consign us to hell. But if we are habitually and unrepentantly sinning, that’s evidence that we are not saved. What will save a citizenry from destruction is the Gospel of Jesus Christ which the Church is charged with promulgating.—
Piper begins his “long-overdue article” by making a distinction between the deadliness of 1) sins he obviously, though without naming him, ascribes to President Trump, i.e. ”unrepentant sexual immorality…boastfulness…vulgarity…factiousness,” and 2) “policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach,” which Trump’s opponent would implement. He claims that the former are deadlier than the latter because, “[t]hey lead to eternal destruction.”
A few thoughts on Piper’s argument:
- Abortion is akin to child sacrifice. Endorsing baby-killing is not deadlier than boastfulness? Piper says, “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.” He says this to indict the president, but if it applies to him it sticks like glue to abortion-defending Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
- There’s no evidence that Trump is currently engaging in sexual immorality, and for all we know he may have genuinely repented of it. But Biden and Harris heartily endorse sexually immoral behavior that those who engage in it are not only unrepentant of but promote and parade.
- Lying is also on a biblical list of sins which lead to destruction, and Biden has a long history of it.
- It is unfair to lay all the factiousness and “strife-stirring” at Trump’s feet. The left has been vigorously, loudly, and unfairly opposed to him from the get-go and he has been responding to them. Sure, it would be better if his responses were more measured and respectful instead of mocking and rude. But I would bet money on the likelihood that Biden, Harris, and many other Democrats are merely more measured in what they reveal publicly, while in private they similarly scorn and mock their opponents.
- Piper argues that, “flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness…are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures.” But what about the nation-corrupting influence of a government that sanctions baby-killing, sexually immoral behavior, and violent destruction? Millions of women, who otherwise wouldn’t have, took themselves to an abortionist to kill their child because the left-leaning courts and culture told them they could. Children are declaring themselves the opposite sex and young people engaging in homosexual behavior because the culture is telling them if that’s how they feel then they should. Malcontents are destroying property and causing chaos in major cities emboldened by the left, but if Biden and Harris were clearly and unequivocally in support of the police and law and order and would tell them to stop it, most of them would.
- God’s judgments on nations and leaders that Pastor Piper cites to support his argument were not prompted by mere arrogance or boastfulness. They were the just penalty of exalting oneself against God or rejecting his rightful and total sovereignty in worshiping other gods. “Moab shall be destroyed and be no longer a people, because he magnified himself against the LORD.” – Jeremiah 48:42 Despite what some of his haters claim, Donald Trump has not put himself in the place of God but has instead publicly recognized our nation’s dependence on him by calling for us to join him in seeking his help through prayer.
- And I think it’s important to keep in mind that the US government is more than just one man. The president is aided by his vice-president, staff, and cabinet, and Congress and the Supreme Court are involved in governing as well. If the president bears a responsibility in influencing the culture, to one degree or another they do also. Our second-in-command Mike Pence is a God-fearing, humble, respectful and respectable man. Joe Biden’s running mate Kamala Harris, who given Biden’s age and apparent deteriorating mental condition would likely have more power and influence than Pence currently does if Biden wins, even perhaps to becoming president herself before his term ends, is pretentious, arrogant, and deceptive. If she presents a more polished and polite persona, it’s only to hide a “deadly” character no less destructive than Trump’s.
- Piper says it’s false that, “policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person.” He believes that as Christians our primary responsibility is to promote and encourage godly behavior. But don’t we also have a responsibility to seek the good of our neighbors, and nation? A vote for Trump is a vote against a government that Christian conservatives like me see as dangerous and detrimental to the well-being of our country and its citizens. Our choice in this election is not do I vote for the rude, boastful man or not vote for him. It’s do I want him and his administration in power or do I want his opponents in power to enact policies that will have negative consequences for me and my neighbor.
- Piper cites 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company ruins good morals,” and says, “It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.” But I think he, like others have, is failing to distinguish between embracing, emulating, or “treating lightly” President Trump’s boorish behavior and voting for him in spite of it. Instead of simply declaring his behavior disqualifying for leadership, thereby consigning us to “policies and laws that [don’t] protect life and freedom,” we can promote godliness and faith in Jesus by calling out the president for his “deadly behavior” while still recognizing and allowing him to continue the good work he is doing.
John Piper says he’s “baffled” by Christians like me who plan to vote for Donald Trump, though he doesn’t condemn us for it. Just says he doesn’t see what we apparently do. I hope I’ve helped those who agree with him see some of those things. And those who agree with me feel more confident casting their vote to reelect one flawed human being and deny power to another.
Yes! Thank you, Caroline, for your well-reasoned and timely response. I also thought Piper was (uncharacteristically) way off base.
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Thank you for saying what I wanted to say.
And thank you for saying that. 🙂
I am with you here. I admire Piper greatly, but I think he’s falling into the trap that many evangelicals have fallen into, which is emphasizing Trump’s faults so much that the problems with the Democratic Party look smaller by comparison. The Democratic Party, by and large, now promotes abortion and no longer believes in religious liberty. The DP is also full of people who believe in cancel culture. These things aren’t true of every Democrat, but the party as a whole has moved in these directions.
I left the left i 2016. I saw these trends happening, and it’s only gotten worse since then.
The 2020 election isn’t a contest between a “good but misguided man” and a buffoon who just wants to enrich himself. The choice is between two visions of America. As a Christian, I can’t in good conscience vote for Joe Biden. I don’t disagree with him on everything, but I disagree with him on enough.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I agree with you, and am glad you “left the left.” I’m seeing a lot of that lately and I suspect it just took a few brave ones to come out and say that they had to get others to follow suit.
It’s going to be a very interesting election week. I sure have been praying about it.
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Me too. This is the first election that I can remember where I am actually afraid there could be violence in the streets if Trump wins. I am fortunate to live in a red state, but it can happen anywhere.
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I think the issue is differentiating governmental leaders vs. clergy. Many people and Christians don’t seem to note that the Bible teaches us all authorities are put in place for our protection, and to punish wrong doers. That is the MAIN goal of government. They are not there to be charity cases and preachers. Their primary function is to wield their God-given authority to exercise the law and secure the country against evil and harm. This is what I think many Caucasian Americans do not really differentiate enough because they tend to have lived comfortably and forget that they are relatively safe NOT because their leaders have been morally sufficient but because God has placed authority in their hands to carry out a law that is built upon the integrity God has laid down in the law and how He defines a nation. Hence, while the character of a president is of utmost importance when the law is enforced, their character is essentially useless if the law is being distorted and they have no intentional to rule the land based on the integrity of the law itself. This is the greatest difference between Trump and Biden. Trump seems to uphold the law as it is. Biden and the democrats seeks to destroy the rule of God over these earth. In comparison, Trump’s failings are of minute in impact. The issue here we all really need to come to grips of is the issue I think many evangelical and other Christians can fall easily into – and that is the issue of pursuit and effort on personal holiness over the overall will of God and seeking a personal relationship with Him that is based on a day-to-day walk that is fully alive. People need to quit robotically try to be holy, and understand that they or others will not be wholly perfect any day soon. They have misplaced the priorities of holiness itself vs. God. What is the greatest commandment? It is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Why? Why is not simply “to strive to be Christ 100% ?” Well, because that IS the end cause. Holiness is NOT the end cause of God. Loving HIM is the END goal. Holiness is an attribute of God. But it is not achieved by personal effort. It is simply the outcome or fruit of our abiding in Him. Hence, this emphasis on sins and lack of holiness without talk of relationship with God is useless and futile. And the idea that an unsaved person can be holy is foolishness. God must be placed first. We must uphold what He says first in our lives and we begin to know Him and willingly obey Him because we love and trust Him. But no one is suddenly holy – it is begotten by means of walking with God. We know Trump is not mature believer ( don’t even know if he is saved). But we are not here to find the holiest person to be a pastor nor choir director. If we were honest, none of us can really hold up a candle to sainthood in our own conduct and speech in private – don’t forget God looks at the heart. I know I am unfit to be a missionary in many ways but God did send me and changed me in many ways. The more mature I become the more sins I see in myself. I am convinced that those who are convinced they are holy are either robotically living in submission without understanding or they truly are filled by the Holy Spirit most of the time. We can say neither Trump or Biden are these cases. Before God, are they not both sinners? So why are we suddenly comparing people’s characters without reference to salvation or will of God. The truth is perhaps neither of them are saved. If that is the case, what the business of ours to judge who is better or worst in terms of holiness when you have two dirty rags? It is meaningless. The issue of government must be considered in terms of God’s will in regards to what is being executed and whether God’s law of protection is being upheld. It has nothing to do with the person, but God’s sovereignty. Did David not sleep with Bethsheiba and murder her wife. Why did God allow David to remain king but rejected Saul for making sacrifices too soon before His prophet came. Are we still too slow to understand that it is because one is God’s elect by faith, one is people’s elect without faith. Hence, one stands justified by faith and receives forgiveness (although not without a great deal of discipline and consequences), is one is nullified and incapable because he was not elected by God. In fact, if God wills, he can even elect a non-believing leader (King Neb) who He desire to convert to Christ through placing believers in his hands. Thus, for a believer, we must stop thinking like the people of the world as if the votes are personal preferences. We must understand God’s will, and observe the times. What could God be doing in a time like this? Didn’t God use Joseph in even Pharaoah’s kingdom so as to deliver Israel from the famine? Remember God answers prayers and He disciplines. What are some major trends in the world and the U.S. right now that we all have been seeking God for? What is His heart regarding them and the world? We all need to know Him and love Him, and not decide on things like the world, which is to pick favorites and compare merits. In God’s kingdom there is no merits other than that produced by faith. In my view, the leader of this country must uphold God’s law as a fundamental requirement. Grace is not the primary concern for government, for grace cannot exist without having the law in place. Grace should be ministered through believers in the society. It is not for the public office of the government on this earth – though the individuals could exercise it. It must not be ministered into the law to replace the law. The law exposes sin and put down boundaries to show what is allowed and what it not. It protects society from harm. Pastors must not make election an issue of choosing who is holier. The verdict – no one is holy. So let us choose one who is God’s choice not ours. Let us choose one that upholds the law is the God. Sure – I agree with John Piper that holiness is important for believers, and were all the candidates Christians and we were in a church, I would chose the one who displays more fruit. But we are not a church with the government. Stop demanding and expecting idols of purity (yes people do make political figures into idols and this is wrong, and many Christians on both sides do this). Understand that none of us are pure in God’s sigh anyway. The issue here is God will provide the person and equip them. So we just have to see who is actually DOING the right things by the law. This clearly is Donald Trump. He comes against abortion, terrorism, abuse, crimes and he does not support lgbt agenda. Wherever he is in terms of maturity or personal holiness, we can see his purpose is aimed at protection, and upholding the ethical/moral laws of the land as the forefathers. He may not be the best in history, but he is not leading the whole country to think child-sacrifice is okay. He is for God and not against Him. But however Biden is (even if he were gentle and sweet in person, what good is he if he does not upload God’s law? Stop paying attention to people. We need to pay attention to God. Our enemy is not flesh and blood, but the forces of evil behind them. It is the false teachings and false ideologies behind the people or groups that we wage war against. It is not the people. This is the problem – too many Christians in this country are obsessed with sweetness and gentleness and looks. If It seems that they’d wholeheartedly choose Donald Trump if he fit their image of holiness. But they don’t stop to consider is really a country delivered by the holiness
of one man? Does his personality decide the fate of God’s nation? If so, who is Christ Jesus to us. Is God dead, because it sure seems one’s personal qualities is all it takes to turn a whole country? This reveals a tendency towards idolatry of man. This is where I think Pastor Piper is utterly wrong. He and many Christians need to understand God can use a rock to rule a nation if He wanted and He totally can. Not joking here. All He needs is not someone’s holiness, but their faith. After all He built his church on Peter – the one who boasted too much at first. But God gave him righteousness because he believed God. The problem right now is not Donald Trump – it is the believers in this country that needs repentance. They have gone and seek man’s honor and personal faiths in their own merits, not God. They don’t know God or seek Him. If they did, they may find that Jesus can use whoever follows after Him and upholds Him even if they were at first foolish and dumb. All this to say, should we not look atWHO is BEHIND these candidates, instead of the appearances of man? Who is the One who hates child sacrifice and wants to stop violent crimes in this country, and who is the one who desires we put our resources and energy in gay marriage and climate change. Do we know God’s law and His character? Wha does He want?
I am saddened by the deception that is among believers who have shallow vision and despise prophecy (when people speak discernment and truth of the times to us we must test it and consider whether it is form God, but we must not despise true prophecy from the Spirit and the Body of Christ). Everyone is working so hard at doing lots of things and filling their days with lots of “Christian” programs. But if we are not seeking after God, and just teaching powerless and lukewarm faith – is not all of this useless and only serve to distract us from true discipleship. Those who have not prayed and voted for Trump has truly not fulfilled their duty to God in my view – their stubbornness may require this country to endure much more discipline from God. But some of us are still praying the election result will not be honored and that God will bear with us and give us undeserved grace to revert the result. Many times I worry the country cannot take another 4 years of liberalism ideology butchering the faith of upcoming generation. I hope and pray that many believers would pray now still and not give up. Perhaps the Lord will yet repent on the foolishness of us who did not formerly wake up and keep watch.
A lot of good word here. Thanks for reading and commenting.