On John Piper and Abuse

With all due respect to John Piper for the good things he’s done (and there are many…so be quiet all of you who’d say I am just trying to be nice. The Bible is replete with flawed characters…)

“If it’s not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.”- John Piper

This is more than disconcerting. I highlight it not to be polarizing, but as a pastoral teaching moment – because his is supposed to be a pastoral teaching moment. This is not just theologically and pastorally wrong, it is potentially dangerous. As an ordained minister and a therapist, I’ve seen abused women subjected to this kind of twisted theology – which somehow misses the significant theology of victimization in Scripture. Read my friend Justin Holcomb’s Rid of My Disgrace for more on this.

Even more, I’d dare say this comes under the category of “false gospel.” Yes, I said that about Piper. False Gospel. If the Gospel is good news to the poor, release to the captive, and freedom for the oppressed, then Piper is someway, somehow minimizing sin’s awful destruction to the human soul. He might have a lot to say about a theology of justification, but the Pharisees had the right answers, too.

Piper – yes, Piper – is minimizing sin and cheapening the Gospel. He’s bought into a modernist theology of individual sin, not corporate or structural sin (which is clearly the biblical model). And in so doing, he’s guilty both of bad theology and, even worse, of paving a path of credibility for the abusive husband who says, “Sweetie, I’m praying that you’d learn to submit.”

Now, I’m not even going to begin to address the deep, deep problems with Piper’s theology of submission.

I represent a large group of men who’ve appreciated Piper’s better contributions. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of writing off everything he’s done as garbage, though I’ve written before of my frustrations with him. I was a complementarian for many years. A combination of my study of Scripture in its (missional) context, my study of theology (particularly, the problematic Trinitarian theology/heresy which undergirds much complementarian thought), and my experiences as a pastor and therapist with abused women (and gifted women!) changed my mind…but not without careful thought. However, I want pastors to know that this counsel is dangerous.

It’s dangerous, even though he says some things that sound right. Beware of sounding orthodox, but promoting something quite unorthodox (translated – not able to glorify God).

It’s dangerous, even though he seems to ‘righteously’ affirm the importance of the church. Yes to getting the church involved. Unless the church leaders buy into this false Gospel.

It’s dangerous, even though I think many of you might feel, as I do, that he’s trying to be pastorally sensitive, of all things!

Pastors, especially…I want you to know there is another way. Another way to counsel people in this horrid situation.

Abuse and slavery are a part of our heritage as God’s people. We are victims. And God didn’t ever say, “Take another slap on the face.”

Just ask Pharaoh.

As it turns out, God is very much about rescuing his Bride from abusers.
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* I want to thank Dr. Theresa Latini for this important reminder in our chapel message today at @westernsem

* Please sign this important statement – http://netgrace.org/wp-content/uploads/Public-Statement-Concerning-Sexual-Abuse-in-the-Church1.pdf