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.

John Piper

“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.
  • 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.