Sacred Space: Why didn't John Piper Endorse the Marriage Amendment?

Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.

There is an intriguing article in the StarTribune entitled, “Key Minnesota Pastors opt out of Marriage Fight.” One of the main pastors mentioned is John Piper. Why, do you suppose, would John Piper, who is hardly one to hold back what he thinks, choose to remain silent regarding the marriage amendment that Minnesota will soon vote on? After all, the amendment seeks to define marriage as ‘between a man and woman only’. Why wouldn’t he throw his weight behind this legislation?

 

I cannot answer that question exactly, but I have a good idea of what he might be thinking. First, John Piper is a pastor, not a politician. As such, I think that he recognizes that it isn’t his job to tell people how to vote. I would be willing to bet that Pastor John has never endorsed a political candidate either. His job as a pastor, his responsibility to the church, is to teach what the Word of God teaches. That’s it. Pastor John has not been silent about the definition of marriage. He teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman for life.

Second, believe it or not, there are Christians out there who will not vote for this amendment who agree with the Bible’s definition of marriage. There are a number of reasons why they might do this. First, they might argue that we live in a democracy, not a theocracy. Christians do not vote to make Buddhism illegal. They do not vote to outlaw Wicca. Christians in America have been staunch defenders of religious liberty, why can this not extend to the realm of personal sexual choices? If an evangelical believes that being a Buddhist will result in eternal condemnation, yet defend someone’s right to that religion, why won’t they allow someone to choose a lifestyle they believe God finds abhorrent?

I am not saying here that I agree what that reasoning; I am simply pointing out that there are Christians who feel this way. Should the pastor divide the church and alienate genuine brothers and sisters over a matter of legislation like this? While most evangelicals will agree on the definition of marriage, many will disagree on the role of government in a democracy.  In such cases, the Christian ought to have the freedom to vote as a citizen who loves both God and neighbor.

Pastors are called upon to lead the flock of Jesus Christ, but a pastor does not lead as a dictator. Part of the responsibility of a pastor to the church is to help them grow up in Christ, and that means making decisions for oneself. Pastor John can tell his people what God says about marriage, but he cannot tell them how to live their lives as a citizen of the United States in every matter. He can teach them to love their neighbor, but he cannot be there to tell them how this will apply in every circumstance. He can teach them to respect and honor the President, but he cannot tell them how best to do that on every issue. He cannot go into the voting booth and pull the lever for them, and he shouldn’t, even if someone might let him. Everyone stands or falls before the Lord on their own.

Maybe Pastor John is just sad it has come to this, that we are having to vote on something that has been taken for granted for millenia. Maybe he is tired of politics and thinks the church ought to steer clear of them. Whatever his reasons might be, we aren’t currently privy to them. Pastor John has said what the Bible teaches us about marriage, but he isn’t telling us how he will vote on this amendment. And he doesn’t have to.

Update:

**Well, it appears that we no longer have to speculate. Pastor John has responded to the StarTribune article here. It’s worth a read. Also, as Amber mentioned in the comments, you can listen to the sermon that inspired the article here.**

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.

  • http://wefall2rise.wordpress.com/ Eric

    Brad, decent article. Here is John Pipers own words posted just today in regards to the issue of homosexuality and the Christian church today. His, is a pretty sobering article. I would rewrite your article to emphasize that what you have written is your opinion, rather than “guessing” what the root someones actions like John Pipers really are. I mean no offense- it was a decent opp and I only offer my humble advice/opinion in response. Thank you for your faithfulness in sharing Christ through this post.

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/there-is-no-demilitarized-zone-in-the-issue-of-homosexuality?md5=719b7013ad81b35c4df86b9092ec2b04

  • Amber

    Brad, did you listen to Piper’s sermon from last Sunday? He says pretty much what you’ve said here – that his job is not to direct peoples’ political actions, but rather direct them to God’s Word and have them make “application” themselves. It’s a stance I appreciate. This issue (homosexuality) and all the issues surrounding it are not simplistic or black and white ones (although many would believe or would like to believe they are) — what Piper does implicitly by not saying “This is exactly what you should do when it comes to this-or-that law or this-or-that-action” is force his church, and many believers in addition, to prayerfully and thoughtfully consider exactly how they, in their particular place and circumstance, should react and behave. Kudos to Piper, and to you Brad.

  • http://goodokbad.com/ Seth T. Hahne

    Eric, the article you linked doesn’t really talk about why Piper wouldn’t support (from the pulpit) an amendment that defines marriage as being strictly heterosexual.

    And Brad is pretty plain about his speculation about the reason behind Piper’s unwillingness to advise his congregation’s votes. “I cannot answer that question exactly, but I have a good idea of what he might be thinking.” He says “I think” a lot through the article and hedges with terms like “might.” Sounds like due diligence to me.

  • http://www.alienman.blogspot.com Brad Williams

    Eric,

    I’m putting up an addendum on the article that is Piper’s response to the StarTribune. Thanks!

    Amber,

    I’ve also included a link to Pastor John’s sermon that the StarTribune was covering.

  • http://www.quixoticiconoclast.blogspot.com Chris Todd

    I believe firmly that the Church should not legitimize homosexuality, because it is a sin. Having said that, the way to address homosexuality is not to pass laws against it. That’s easy and it makes Christians feel like they have done something. It’s a cop-out. It accomplishes nothing. If you want to address the issue of homosexuality, then do it the way Jesus would have done it. Make friends with a homosexual and listen to what he or she has to say. If you are a faithful witness to Jesus, and a good friend like he was, then perhaps you will see the results he saw -changed lives.

  • Christopher de Vidal

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