In my biblical response to John Piper’s unfortunate piece on gun rights, I said that Piper’s view was an expression of the “pietist-humanist alliance.” (I have highlighted this unspoken alliance elsewhere in a bit more detail.) The very next day, the universe confirmed my assessment: the most liberal news outlet in the nation scooped up Piper’s article and ran it as an op-ed column. This, despite the fact that Piper’s article as nearly five times longer than their standard word-limit for op-eds. In other words, the liberals loved Piper’s view so much they made a radical exception to their own policy in order to share his contribution.
I shared this news with some friends and was preparing to write a follow up regarding the “pietist-humanist alliance” so clearly exhibited between Piper’s theological surrender of this issue to humanists and statists, and their eager acceptance of the gift. It was at that point I learned Gary North had recently posted one of his old newsletters from 1980 entitled “Humanism’s Chaplains.” The timing could not have been better.
That 1980 piece, as Gary relates (see below), used Martin Lloyd-Jones as a representative figure. I would have assumed Lloyd-Jones was a typical two-kingdoms-type on social action, but I had no idea just how extreme he was.
Well, here we are in 2015, and if you were to take Martin Lloyd-Jones’s name out of that piece and replaced it with John Piper, and if you replace the subject of the welfare state with gun rights, the 1980 article is just as descriptive and prophetic.
As I prepared to write my piece with this material, I saw that North had already done one. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I reproduce his in its entirety below, with his permission.
I hasten to add that Piper has written some great stuff which I admire and appreciate. I especially appreciate his Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. But on this issue, I hope he can come to see what tremendous damage he is doing, and in what tremendous danger he is asking Christians to place themselves and their vulnerable loved ones.
I hope that all Christian leaders who argue the Bible demands such an approach for Christians in the public square, or any area of life, will begin to see that they are merely capitulating to humanism and thereby implicitly sanctioning whatever the liberal humanists do. These Christian leaders are, as North notes, Chaplains for Humanism. On this issue, Piper has become their latest ordinee.
P.S.—As alliances go, opponents and enemies are not welcome to participate. As such, the Washington Post has not responded to my request for equal space.
Rev. John Piper: Unarmed Christians for Jesus!
By Gary North
The humanistic state needs chaplains. Its most effective chaplains in the United States are recruited from the ranks of the evangelical Protestants.
I wrote about this in 1980, although I used Great Britain’s leading evangelical as the model. I republished that essay earlier this month: “Humanism’s Chaplains.” The timing could not have been better.
John Piper, a widely respected Baptist theologian/pastor, recently wrote an article favoring unarmed Christians (and only Christians): “Should Christians Be Encouraged to Arm Themselves?” His answer was “no.” The Washington Post immediately picked it up, for good reason. The new headline: “John Piper: Why I disagree with Jerry Falwell Jr. on Christians and guns.” The Washington Post is, along with The New York Times, one of America’s two premier news outlets for liberal humanism. Inside the Washington Beltway, it is #1.
He begins the article as follows:
The issue is not primarily about when and if a Christian may ever use force in self-defense, or the defense of one’s family or friends.
On the contrary, this is exactly what the debate is about. Rev. Falwell understands this. The parents who send their children to Liberty University — the largest evangelical university in the world — also understand this.
“NEW TESTAMENT ONLY” CHRISTIANITY
Piper, a “New Testament only” theologian, does not bother to explain this passage: “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him” (Exodus 22:3, ESV). The language is too clear.
Then what of Jesus’ words?
And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough (Luke 22:35-38, KJV).
Well, Rev. Piper just doesn’t think they are to be taken literally. Rev. Falwell does.
I do not think that Jesus meant in Verse 36 that his disciples were to henceforth be an armed band of preachers ready to use violence to defend themselves from persecution. Jerry Falwell Jr. said in his clarifying remarks on Dec. 9: “It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:36. He told them if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it because he knew danger was coming, and he wanted them to defend themselves.”
What are Rev. Piper’s reasons? The usual refrain for theologians facing an inconvenient text: “It is all symbolic! It is all figurative! It cannot possibly mean what it obviously says!”
If that is the correct interpretation of this text, my question is, “Why did none of his disciples in the New Testament ever do that — or commend that?” The probable answer is that Jesus did not mean for them to think in terms of armed defense for the rest of their ministry. Jesus’s abrupt words, at the end of the paragraph, when the disciples produced two swords, were not, “Well, you need to get nine more.” He said, “It is enough!” or “That’s plenty!” This may well signify that the disciples have given a mistaken literal meaning to a figurative intention.
How does he know that none of his disciples ever did this? He implicitly adopts this argument: we are never told in any text that they did it. This is the argument from silence — generally speaking, the least convincing of all theological arguments . . . or non-theological arguments, for that matter.
The best Scriptural argument from silence regarding weapons is the fact that the man who had been robbed by thieves and left at the side of the road is not said to have carried a sword. The good Samaritan then picked him up and delivered him to an inn-keeper until he convalesced. I think it is reasonable to conclude that he was unarmed, possibly because his theology of self-defense was close to Rev. Piper’s. But I admit that this is a weak argument, however plausible, although not nearly so weak as Rev. Piper’s.
He then offers nine arguments for why Christians should remain complacent sheep in a world of wolves. It is significant that in all but one, he refuses to address the issue of self-defense against criminals. All of the biblical references have to do with persecution based on state coercion.
There is one exception. He knows it is the largest caliber weapon in the arsenal of gun rights advocates: Can you morally intervene to kill an assailant when he threatens your wife? He says no, you may not.
A natural instinct is to boil this issue down to the question: “Can I shoot my wife’s assailant?”
Notice, he calls this a natural instinct. In other words, this question and its cocked-and-locked answer are not the product of practical Christian theology, millennia of social theory regarding men as defenders of women, and training in the use of handguns.
He offers seven arguments against this “natural instinct.” They all boil down to this: “Sorry, honey, but I am limited to calling 9-11 on my cellphone. But since it’s an iPhone 6, I’ll let Siri do it.”
I am exaggerating. But I am exaggerating the wrong way. He is more muddle-headed than my exaggeration indicates. Maybe you should not call the police. After all, you may have the wrong attitude. He writes:
I realize that even to call the police when threatened — which, in general, it seems right to do in view of Romans 13:1–4 — may come from a heart that is out of step with the mind of Christ. If one’s heart is controlled mainly by fear, or anger, or revenge, that sinful disposition may be expressed by using the police as well as taking up arms yourself.
In short, better a raped wife — or a dead one — than a bad attitude.
This is what passes for rigorous and practical theology in “New Testament only” circles.
I assume that you are of a different opinion. You want to inflict pain on the assailant before he inflicts pain on innocent people — namely, your wife and you. You are spiritually short-sighted, he thinks. He writes:
This instinct is understandable. But it seems to me that the New Testament resists this kind of ethical reduction, and does not satisfy our demand for a yes or no on that question. We don’t like this kind of ambiguity, but I can’t escape it.”
He can’t escape it because he is soft-headed. He justifies his soft-headedness by invoking his role as a soft-hearted lover of Jesus.
There is, as I have tried to show, a pervasive thrust in the New Testament pushing us toward blessing and doing good to those who hate, curse and abuse us (Luke 6:27–28). And there is no direct dealing with the situation of using lethal force to save family and friend, except in regards to police and military.
So, the state — and only the state — is allowed to threaten violence. There is no legitimate concept of an armed citizenry. That is a lot of Second Amendment nonsense. It has no biblical standing.
Christians must take the lead on this, he thinks. They must disarm themselves first. They must become role models. Meanwhile, they must become willing victims of evil-doers.
My father was an FBI agent. Early in his life as a Christian, he asked his pastor if it was right for him to shoot someone who was armed and threatening immediate violence. His pastor gave him the best spiritual counsel I have ever heard on this matter. “Shoot him. He’s going to hell anyway.” (The pastor was Milo Jamison, the first Presbyterian pastor in the fundamentalist controversy to be thrown out of the northern Presbyterian Church for orthodoxy. There was no trial. They simply erased his name from the local presbytery’s records. That was in 1933.)
This kind of clear-cut spiritual counsel is much too black and white for Rev. Piper.
Our primary aim in life is to show that Christ is more precious than life. So when presented with this threat to my wife or daughter or friend, my heart should incline toward doing good in a way that would accomplish this great aim. There are hundreds of variables in every crisis that might affect how that happens.
You may have heard the phrase, “He is too spiritually minded to be of any earthly good.” That would seem to apply to Rev. Piper. But, ultimately, any definition of spirituality that is of no earthly good is a bad definition. It is bad theology. It is the theology that humanistic power-seekers want Christians to adopt. “The state will protect you. You must not protect yourselves.” The primary function of humanism’s recommended spirituality is to disarm the faithful in the face of the corrupt. It hands over history to the enemies of God and to indecent men. The Washington Post is on board 100%.
I live in the inner city of Minneapolis, and I would personally counsel a Christian not to have a firearm available for such circumstances.
This is Rev. Piper’s version of Jimmy Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy. “The Crips thank you. The Bloods thank you. And Jesus thanks you.”
I do not know what I would do before this situation presents itself with all its innumerable variations of factors. And I would be very slow to condemn a person who chose differently from me.
I have spent over 50 years hearing arguments like his on the supposed illegitimacy of using of lethal force in self-defense, although never so silly as his arguments are. If this is too quick to condemn bad theological arguments, I stand condemned.
Back to the first point, it seems to me that the New Testament does not aim to make this clear for us.
On the contrary, it is quite clear to those of us who are not advocates of “New Testament only” Christianity.
In a world of wolves, unarmed sheep are desirable morsels. Armed sheep raise the risk of being a predator.
Or, in one phrase: “Shoot the bastard. He is going to hell anyway.”