Graham: Did John Piper Wrongly Compare the Sins of the Left with the Sins of the Right?

A friend, Wyatt Graham, wrote this excellent article on his blog, https://wyattgraham.com/did-john-piper-wrongly-compare-the-sins-of-the-left-with-the-sins-of-right Check it out:

“John Piper recently explained that he will not vote for an egregiously immoral leader. Of the two main political parties in the USA, he finds neither presidential candidate viable. So he has decided to write-in his vote.

Some however disagreed with his approach because they felt that the pro-choice actions of democrats amount to much greater evil than the arrogance and deceit of the republican president. The accusation amounts to this: Piper compares apples to oranges or equivocates on the seriousness of sin. 

He does not. The objection betrays a misunderstanding of what sin is and does. It further implicitly undercuts the metaphysical reality of sin. If that sounds too abstract, it is not. Let me explain in order to make this response concrete. 

Sin Corrupts

The Bible describes sin as a corrupting influence that leads to death. In Scripture, the corruption of sin moves from father to child (to third and fourth generation), from leader to people. Proverbs 29:12 says, “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.” If the leader listens to evil, he corrupts his officials or at least chooses evil officials. 

John MacArthur explains:  

It is not appropriate for someone in high levels of leadership responsibility to lie. A known liar, a known deceiver, a known hypocrite, one who can go on an Easter Sunday with a Bible in hand, ostensibly to worship the resurrected Christ in a church, and then return to the White House for an illicit sexual relationship, that’s hypocrisy of the worst kind. This is a pattern of deception lifelong. And such a person does not attract around him honest people. So what you eventually have, according to Scripture, is corruption everywhere in association with that deceiver.

MacArthur hits the nail on the head. A bad leader, a liar, corrupts everyone around him. A bad egg spoils the bunch. Bad company corrupts good morals. 

Sin as Corruption

What does this corruption mean? Well, Christians do not believe evil or sin has substantial existence. Since God created everything and declared it very good (Gen 1:31), there is no room for evil to be a created thing. It has no created substance. So what is it? Sin corrupts good, breaks it down, and destroys it. It runs away from God who is Life into Death. Which is why sin leads to death in Scripture. And that is why Jesus restores life to us (resurrection) after dealing with sin (cross). 

So everything good can be corrected, except God. We commit sin by corrupting the good (when desire, for example, turns to lust). It is evil That is what evil is. Sadly, human nature—our being—was created very good, but we have denied our nature and become less than what should be. 

All of this was obvious to Christians throughout most of our history. Now, however, a number of cultural influences have made these ideas feel less plausible. We do not really believe there is a real thing called human nature. Human nature is just a phrase to classify people, right? 

Well, Christians have said, no. Human natures are real, substantial things. They exist and can be perfected or corrupted. As a whole, sin no longer seems real to us since we are no longer realists. Sin does not corrupt natures, we think, because natures don’t really exist (just abstract laws). So sin means breaking a rule or doing some bad action. 

It certainly does mean that. But it also entails the corruption of our natures, the deleterious destructive activity of bringing us into non-being as Athanasius argues. 

Sin’s Corruption Illustrated

Given that this is so (even if formally we affirm natures), we still struggle to understand how bad “character” can lead to deleterious, damaging effects. If sin or evil merely means acts that we do and not the corrupting influence of sin on other natures, then that may make sense.

A great illustration of this is the power of the ring in Lord of the Rings. The corrupting influence of evil, on natures, and on societies can have such far-reaching and destructive effects. The king of Rohan affects the entire nation. The nine wring-raiths become wisps of ethereal beings, losing their substance. Gollum loses himself. The balrog becomes darkness and fire. 

Evil in Lord of the Rings deprives and corrupts. And that corruption brings about great harm in Middle Earth. The same is true in real life. The ideology of Natzi Germany or ancient Persia led to wars and killing and suffering and evil. 

Much of this plausibly happened due to the corrupting influence of sin of leaders, and through them, to the people. More could be said, but I hope that  I am making the point more clearly now. 

Sin according to John Piper 

John Piper has lived in Jonathan Edwards and other earlier theologians. He knows Christian theology deeply and has deeply been affected by this vision of God (as Jake Meador has observed). 

Piper knows the real and corrupting and damaging and vicious effects of sin on people. And so when he writes:

This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.

He is right. And so he can affirm: “There is a character connection between rulers and subjects.”

If sin is real and if natures can corrupt and if corrupt natures (and so people) do great harm to society both metaphysically and physically, then Piper’s argument has great weight. There was a time when evangelicals valued souls as much as bodies. Both body and soul, matter and spirit have great significance and correlate deeply and inseparably. 

Piper sees sin and depth of evil in both the left and the right. From the perspective of orthodox Christianity, he is right. The challenges to his article betray a lack of a theological awareness of how sin corrupts hearts and peoples. 

Piper thus consistently opposes both pro-choice actions (abortion) and the corrupting influence of arrogance and deceit. Here, he is remarkably consistent in his Christian confession. He actually believes sin matters—and that sin greatly affects how people govern and nations act.”

-Wyatt Graham, https://wyattgraham.com/did-john-piper-wrongly-compare-the-sins-of-the-left-with-the-sins-of-right/

How to Question God

By Wyatt Graham

“Mary and Zechariah share much on common in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel. Both are visited by the angel Gabriel. Both receive blessed news from him. Both learn they will have a child through miraculous or out of the ordinary means—Zechariah and Elizabeth are greatly advanced in years (1:7, 18) as the narrative constantly reminds us, while Mary is a virgin as the narrative also reminds us. Both children fulfill a significant Old Testament prophecy (John = Elijah and Jesus = Davidic Messiah). Both question God’s message from Gabriel.

At this point, a chasm of difference arises. One the one hand, because of Zechariah questions how he can have a child, he is silenced until God fulfills his word.  On the other hand, when Mary questions how she can have a child, she is re-assured that God will work through his Spirit to make it happen.

What’s the deal? Is God arbitrary in how he treats his people? Not at all. Listen to these questions:

ZECHARIAH

After Gabriel told him his wife would bear a son named John who will come in the spirit and the power of Elijah, Zechariah said, “ “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years” (Lk 1:18). Now, this is a rather odd response for a number of reasons. First, Zechariah was a man of God (1:6). Second, he was burning incense in the temple of the Lord alone, probably near the holy of holies (1:9). This is a significant role as he was close to God. Third, a divine and famous messenger from God is speaking to him (1:11, 19). For all these reasons, one would think Zechariah would immediately believe on account of the miraculous nature of the events transpiring.

Not only that, but if he (and his wife) was “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” (1:6), then he would know that Sarah was barren and her body was old when she gave birth to Isaac. He would have known that Isaac’s wife Rachel was barren but God blessed her with a child. He would have known that Hannah was barren until God opened her womb and she bore Samuel. In truth, the theme of Miraculous pregnancies or of God opening the womb of the extremely old or of the extremely barren in order to bring about a child of promise was prevalent in the Old Testament. How could Zechariah miss this?

In my opinion, I don’t think Zechariah missed either the miraculous nature of the events around him or the Old Testament examples of miraculous births. It was simply a case of unbelief. Gabriel declares that Zechariah will be unable to speak, “because you did not believe my words” (1:19).

MARY

So what about Mary? Gabriel visits her in another unlikely manner, revealing an even greater fulfillment through her seed—the divine, spirit filled Son of God who will fulfill all the Davidic promises and redeem Israel will come through her! Like Zechariah, she also questions God’s messenger and says, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (1:34). The big difference here is that her question is not one of unbelief but of misunderstanding. She does not understand how she should obey orbelieve this message from God.

She might not understand how this will happen, since she is only betrothed and not married to Joseph, the descendent of David (1:27). If her child is a son of David, would she need to have him through Joseph a descendent of David? But what did the angel mean, then, when he said, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (1:31)? For these reasons, Mary asks in order to clarify or to better understand how she should believe. Gabriel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (1:35).

In this way, both Zechariah and Mary question God. While one questions God in unbelief, the other questions God to believe.

HOW TO QUESTION GOD

Belief seeks understanding when it turns to God in ignorance or misunderstanding. On the other hand, unbelief asserts that something is impossible and turns to God only in skepticism. It is right to question God when you do not understand something; but it is wrong to question that God will do what he says. He is faithful to do what he has promised. You may not know how this will happen but be assured that it will happen. Seek understanding and do not think you understand what is and what is not impossible with God.

Ask in order to understand–not because you already do understand.”

-Wyatt Graham, http://thecripplegate.com/how-to-question-god/

Overcoming Stagnation

http://thecripplegate.com/overcoming-spiritual-stagnation/

A dark room that reeks of the musty smell that accompanies rot. Alone here, your mind wanders nowhere yet everywhere at the same time. A feeling of dread, loneliness or something wriggles through your bones. A sucking feeling in your gut tips you off that you are hungry but you are not sure. It might just be anxiety. All of this happened because of a keen experience of separation from God. A sort of spiritual anxiety. The Puritans described this feeling with the phrase, “the dark night of the soul.” They knew well about the malady of spiritual depression.

Spiritual stagnation is a problem that will bombard everyone at one point or another. Depression, fears and anxiety gush out, because we feel “separated” from God, from grace. We feel alone, sinful, dirty and unloved—or perhaps unloving.

Part of reason spiritual depression occurs, I am convinced, is because we have a wrong view of Biblical Change. We go to God and ask for ways to overcome our problems, our worries. We look to ourselves and our problems and then to God’s word for helps to our problems. Being lost in our issues, we seek help from God.

Not to throw out the baby with the bath water, one should admit a mixture of good and bad rises in this recipe. The good comes when we seek God in our distress. The bad comes about when we try to find the right “trick” to overcome spiritual depression. These tricks are sometimes hidden under the guise of “practicality” or “practical helps” in Scripture.

Sometimes, however, reading the Bible in order to attain “practical” helps or seeking only what is “practical” (a very popular word these days) becomes an Achilles heal for spiritual athletes. That which promises hope results in further disappointment. These aids crush the runner’s sternum causing a desperate gasps for air instead of the promised jolt of energy so-called practicality promises.

Please do not misunderstood what is being said. The Bible speaks in many practical ways. When it speaks in this way, a believer should take this practical help.

Here is what I mean. While it may be appropriate in some places to find wisdom for life (cf. Proverbs) and many moral lessons might be learned from Scripture (cf. 1 Cor 10:611), this really is not the primary way in which we grow into the image of Christ. This is not the way that God typically pulls us up from mire and washes us clean as he ushers us into spiritual contentment.

Growth in grace and feelings of intimacy with God come about by beholding the glory of God as one sees Christ in the word through the Spirit. The following three propositions aim to show how believers both grow in godliness and feel secure in God’s grace. 

First, people change by beholding God’s glory. Today, the reason Israel remains without internal transformation is because they read God’s word with a veil over their eyes (2 Cor 3:14). For believers, however, Paul writes that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). In other words, it is through “beholding the glory of the lord” that believers are “transformed” from glory to glory. Glory changes people. 

Second, beholding God’s glory means to behold Christ who fully reveals God. Paul continues to explain in 2 Corinthians 4:6, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In short, God’s glory shines from the face of Christ. This is because Jesus revealed God in his incarnation (cf. John 1:1418).

Third, to change by beholding God’s glory through Christ means one must be entranced by the word of God. Since Christ has ascended to heaven, the way to see glory shining from his face is through his word. Thus, Hebrews 1:2–3a says, “but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The radiance of God’s glory spoke to us in these last days. And this radiance is Jesus Christ whose words must dwell in our hearts (cf. Col 3:16). The way to access God’s glory is to meet Christ through his word, the Scripture, as the Spirit unites us to the Son through our meditation on it (cf. John 16:13–14).

What this means “practically” is that we must study God’s word to see what it says apart from seeking the so-called “practical” lessons. This does not mean we should not learn practical lessons. Surely we should. It simply means we read Scripture to see the glory of God in the face of Christ primarily. This may be the primary way you overcome your spiritual slump. It is through moving away from the grocery list of do’s and do not’s and moving toward a deep understanding of God’s word.

The direction I want to push this is into studying the Old Testament. Since Jesus fulfills the entire Old Testament (Matt 5:17–20), an oft-neglected way to observe God’s glorious plan of redemption and thus behold the Glory of God is by reading the Old Testament. It is here that the unfolding plan of God may be understood; by understanding God’s Scripture, one better comprehends the meaning of Christ’s work. In this way, Christ’s face shines on us through the Old Testament.

It is a sad occurrence that so many Christians read only the New Testament when God’s glorious plan of redemption that finds fulfillment in Christ is dramatically observed in the Old Testament.

To put it simply, stop reading Scripture to solve your problems and start reading Scripture to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ; and as you understand Scripture through the Spirit, you will begin to grow out of your problems. You will transform from level of glory to another and regain that containment and feeling of security Christians are promised in the Lord. And for me, reading especially the Old Testament helps to grow spiritually.

-Wyatt Graham, http://thecripplegate.com/overcoming-spiritual-stagnation/

The Best Method to Kill Sin

Wyatt Graham gives us needed clarity on fighting the war with sin.

“Sin blows devastation into our path. Hating sin, we brandish our weapons to scrap with it. What’s more, we create steps, implement programs, use accountability partners, and start content blockers on the internet among a multitude of other means to kill sin.

This is practical, reasonable, pragmatic, and manifestly wrong. I know many people who fight sin with every method under the sun, yet fail to subdue their foe. Finally, they abjure their spiritual tug-of-war against sin.

What gives? No method, plan, system, steps, persons, helps, accountability partners or anything of that sort will quench your vainglory, your proclivity to wickedness.  James 1:21 provides a simple way to snuff out sin….”

See full post at:

http://wagraham.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/want-to-kill-sin-put-away-the-methods-and-pick-up-the-gospel/