As a former neo-Reformed acolyte I purchased an ESV Study Bible the day it came out; in fact I purchased two, one for my wife and one for myself (and I told her she had to read it). On second thought I wouldn’t let her read it and put it in a glass case on the coffee table instead. But back to our story, ordering the ESV Study Bible from Crossway Publishing meant they had the key to my heart: my email address. And lately, they’ve been utilizing it. To ask for money. Again and again. If only they realized I a missional church planter (which means I’m actually not being funded by a mega church or pressing the play button for some other, older and hipper white dude’s sermons to be played) and PhD student maybe they’d feel sorry for me and leave me alone?
Why are they asking for money? Because by the judgment of God, Crossway was flooded on April 18th, covering the first floor with two feet of water. The extensive damage will take five-six months to repair. If they can get the money to fix it.
The patience of our kind and loving Father was tested by the patriarchy, theological exclusivism, and dismal picture of God painted by many of their books. Time had run out just as it did for those in Noah’s day. A flood of not so biblical proportions was God’s decided judgment. Out of white hot anger, our vengeful God decided that the presses needed to be stopped (or at least slowed down for awhile). The world needed a break from the repression of women. From hearing about God’s impatience and pettiness towards humanity. From the bounded theological categories that paint most of Christianity as either heretical or at the very least heterodox. From the stifling and stultifying voice that prevented seekers from searching and the doubting from exploring new frontiers.
It was time for God to act. For God to confirm, that hey Crossway, you make me out to be a crotchety old dude (like David Fitch) who is sitting around waiting to explode, so maybe I will be that crotchety old dude sitting around waiting to explode. I’ll confirm what you are teaching about me but it won’t be easy. I’ll do it in spite of the fact that it would mean mothers and fathers might lose their jobs and subsequently their families lose their homes and sustenance. Despite the fact that the impact of lost jobs would affect the greater community. That the biblical materials printed at Crossway would be delayed and the Word of God would be withheld from the hands of those who desperately need it. And even in light of the fact that I’ll be viewed as petty as Carrie Underwood and her key and Louisville slugger. God likes country music right? Someone has to…
Back To Reality
The above is my attempt at satire. Sadly, this attempt in some ways reflects what many people, including myself, see John Piper doing when it comes to almost every world and American tragedy: pronouncing in an emphatic way that God’s judgment has come to an area for this or that reason. Sometimes he is even so bold as to say specifically why the judgment came. God apparently picked up the Batphone and dialed Piper directly. (On a semi-related note, Pat Robertson seems to be the only other guy with access to a Batphone; not exactly the company I’d want to keep…)
Oddly enough I haven’t heard Piper relate the flood at Crossway to the judgment of God. Seems kind of odd doesn’t it? Seems like maybe he is hedging a bit on his judgment theology when it hits too close to home? Maybe God only conveniently judges those groups or peoples that disagree with Piper’s positions? I’d love to think the last statement wasn’t true, but the implications of his actions seem to be so clear.
I believe again, as was the case when Piper turned cartwheels with the biblical text to show that men can be taught by women in written but not verbal form, we see an underlying agenda revealed. We all have one. Often it is concealed and sadly many Christians use Scripture and theology to co-opt their own political agenda and pass it off as God’s will and decree. That’s what I see going on here with Piper. Because of some sort of deep seeded insecurity to accept and relate well to other positions, he feels the need to batter them with the ram of God’s wrath. It is a subtle or not so subtle way of maintaining an entrenched standing of power. This is clear in the case of judgment theology and even more clear when patriarchy and power grabbing is revealed by inconsistent manifestations of the hierarchical, complementarian position. In both cases if the biblical text can’t clearly be shown to be driving the statements, their must be something else at work.
My agenda here? To show the absurdity and double standards of Piper’s judgment theology. To reveal it for what it is. To challenge the notion that we can arbitrarily, as Piper does, assign the judgment of God to natural disasters.
And to finally say that God is love. The simplicity of John 3:16 paints a beautifully succinct statement of God’s love for the world. Not simply for some sub-category called the elect. Yes, there is a wrathful aspect of God revealed in Scripture, but we can’t let it be the most powerful image of God that we take from the narrative or give to the world and we must always read it as an aspect of God’s love. No, the singular most important message revealed in Scripture is the life and work of Jesus Christ. A life and work that clearly reveals that God is first and foremost love.