Would John Piper Excommunicate His Son?

"How does God hate you? Let me count the ways!"

Yes, he clearly would, as this interview at the Christian Post makes clear:

Should a pastor continue in ministry if one of his sons, arriving at a mature age, proves to be an unbeliever?

Well, as you know, that hits close to home. So maybe the best thing I can do is tell you the way the elders at Bethlehem managed this, because that’s me.

When that happened, I went to the elders and I said to them, “Here’s the situation. I think my son needs to be pursued by the elders as far as you can, and then he needs to be excommunicated if he doesn’t respond.” He was 19 years old.

I don’t know what’s more shocking, that Piper was ready to excommunicate his 19-year-old son, or that his son’s sin was that he was (is?) an “unbeliever.”

What’s happened to Piper is that he got caught up in his own biblical hermeneutic. The Bible says this:

I left you behind in Crete for this reason, that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you: someone who is blameless, married only once, whose children are believers, not accused of debauchery and not rebellious.

What’s an inerrantist pastor to do when one of his children turns out not to be a believer? Well, step down immediately, of course. Right? I’m sure that’s exactly what Piper said and did. Let’s go to the tape:

Now if you just absolutize that as “they must be believers” then not only would I have had to resign, but every pastor would have to resign until his children become believers…

Well the elders studied that through and they wrote a paper. It was just a two page thing that said that a pastor shouldn’t resign on account of an unbelieving adult child.

Well, well, well. Isn’t that interesting? It seems that the Bible doesn’t mean exactly what it says. It seems that the Bible has to be interpreted.

Surely in part two of the interview, Pastor Piper will explain how similar Bible verses that condemn homosexuality can be, er, interpreted.

  • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

    Yeah, I think his son Abraham (who blogs at 22 Words) fell from grace in his younger years, but then he cleaned up his act.

    • http://www.thestevechastain.com Steve Chastain

      “…then he cleaned up his act….”

      Oy vey!!

      • http://www.travismamone.net Travis Mamone

        No, wait, that didn’t come out right!!!!!

        What I meant to say was that Abraham later came back to Christianity. Here’s Abraham’s story: http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=859

        • Casey

          Thanks for posting this, Travis.

          It is refreshing to read Abraham Piper’s own take on his parents’ winsome and caring pursuit of him. Not to mention, he is an excellent writer (like father like son).

  • http://www.randybuist.com Randy Buist

    If Piper were a more honest Calvinist, then he would recognize covenant theology. In so doing, he wouldn’t’ have to accept an official “Age of Discernment” by which someone needs to accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God. This idea of 18 or 19 years of age is something created by conservative reformers over the past century…

    So, Piper not only fails to interpret the biblical text. He also fails to recognize the theology of John Calvin and other reformed theologians of the Reformation.

  • Charles

    May I point out that no one can be excommunicated from God’s family. God loves us all unconditionally.

    • Thresa Davis

      How did the idea of excommunicate even come from? What scripture was interpreted to mean excommunicate? I will have to do some research, but off the top of my head the closest one coming to mind goes something like … and when you leave that town shake the dust off your feet … ? Sad, very sad, when we get God all figured out, we trap ourselves in the same box we put Him in. as a result, God isn’t very BIG to us.

      • Casey

        Thresa,

        Matthew 18 would be a good place to start.

        I’m not speaking for Piper here, but my guess is that he would be the first to admit that he doesn’t have God all figured out. And from my exposure to Piper, his preaching on the “bigness” and “grandeur” of God is second-to-none.

        • Sean

          Yup. Matthew 18 is usually the verse to use. But when you think about how Jesus treated tax collectors and gentiles, I come away with a very different way to read that verse.

          Regardless of whether or not John Piper would say about having God “all figured out”, regardless of what he “preaches” on- his actions betray any words of humility he might say.

          • Casey

            Sean,

            Did you read the article posted by the Piper son in question? His name is Abraham and he has a much different opinion of his father and his father’s actions than you do. Nothing against you, but I’m siding with him on this one.

            Also, Piper’s actions, especially in this scenario, should show us all how incredibly humble he is. He is willing to lay his entire ministry in the hands of his fellow elders because of what he believes concerning scripture. He is willing to have his life “wrecked” [in the eyes of the world] because of his desire to remain obedient to Christ and holds the Word in such high esteem. That is true humility [and exactly what a godly father & pastor would do].

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              Casey, you’ve got your facts wrong.

              • http://matthewcurtisshedd.wordpress.com Matt S

                Why? Because he disagrees with your view? The fact is that Piper allowed the elders to study that passage and come to a conclusion about what that meant for his son and for himself. Piper would never say that passages should be read without interpretation. He, in fact, has devoted his entire life to interpreting those Scriptures.

                The fact that you disagree with the methodology that he uses to do so should not lead you to attack in this way. Perhaps if you critiqued the method in which he interprets Scripture this piece would have been better.

      • http://RyanJRoss.com Ryan J. Ross

        Also, 1 Corinthians 5′s “expel the immoral brother” comes to mind.

  • http://larryshallenberger.com Larry Shallenberger

    This is probably not the kindest blog post, at least in regards to Piper’s kids.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Larry, I assume you mean that Piper’s Q&A is the one that’s unkind.

      • Frank

        No he is talking about you Tony. This is why your “movement” is DOA. One day you guys may actually realize that.

        • http://scottpaeth.typepad.com Scott Paeth

          And furthermore, neener, neener, neener! Oh, I’m sorry, I was just channeling Frank’s mode of argument there for a second.

          • Frank

            Well done Scott! All your posts have the same power and relevance as this one. Keep up the consistent good work while ignoring the truth.

          • http://scottpaeth.typepad.com Scott Paeth

            Frank, one thing I can say for certain, if I want to know the truth, you’re the last place I’d go for authority on the issue. Though I see you’re sticking to your “neener, neener” strategy. So, points for consistency!

          • Frank

            Scott I get it. If Tony and his buddies have become irrelevant than what does that make sycophants like you? I know. It’s hard to face that.

          • Chad

            When did Tony become irrelevant? Why was I not informed sooner?

          • http://djword.blogspot.com Rick Bennett

            why would Franks spend so much time on a dead site full of dead people in a dead movement? Do they need you to declare them dead, or do you like to waste time talking to dead people?

          • Rich

            Rick, maybe Frank is trying to keep others from dying or perhaps bring some back to life with the Truth. With Christ, death is not the final word.

        • Sean

          You know what’s DOA? Neo-Calvinism. As big as John Piper’s church might be today, it’s going to be dead in fifty years, guaranteed. As will most Christian churches. And praise God for that, because once Christianity ceases to be the civil religion of the United States, we can perhaps start following Jesus.

          • Judah I.

            “Formal Christianity is often the greatest enemy of the pure faith.” (Lloyd-Jones)
            “Theology is second, not first; in its place it is a handmaid of religion, but it becomes a tyrant if put in first place.” (Oswald Chambers)
            May Calvinism decrease and Jesus increase!

      • http://larryshallenberger.com Larry Shallenberger

        I’m not a “fan” of Piper. But this conversation feels awkward to me. Perhaps unkind was too strong of a word.

        If I were one of Piper’s offspring and read this post, I’d be feeling a bit awkward.

        This isn’t a statement for or against what you do, Tony. Just not comfortable with this particular post. That’s all.

        • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

          Fair enough, Larry.

    • Andrew Mason

      I think that if we are honest with scripture, we may find that one of Piper’s biggest “faults” is that he elevates scripture (a literal and inerrant one at that) above people. It seems that, without knowing it, conservative evangelicalism (as much as I hate using labels) has taken on a hermeneutic and praxis much like that of a 1st century pharisee whose fervor is for the Law, and in their fervor, he/she rejects God’s people. When Jesus broke purity laws (touching a dead body, picking grain on the sabbath, being touched by an unclean woman, etc.), he was basically saying that people are more important than following the intricacies of the Law. As Jesus states so clearly in John 7, our life is found in God, not the law/scripture. If maintaining your relationship with your son is more important than maintaining a technicality in scripture, then do it. May we, as followers of the way, always choose a love that binds, not a love that causes separation. Let’s take scripture seriously and speak the truth when necessary, but let’s not be so zealous as to keep its intricacies at the expense of people and call it “unarguable, biblical truth.”

      • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com jasdye

        Well, to be fair, man was made for the Law, right?

        • Andrew Mason

          I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you are trying to say.

  • Rich

    Wow, Tony, you’ve become more and more rancid in your blogging, but now you’re just a plain ol’ jackass. Of course the Bible has to be interpreted, but it has to be interpreted CORRECTLY, genius.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Yo, Rich, as one jackass to another, how exactly does one interpret the Bible “correctly”? By weaseling out of passages that directly implicate oneself?

      • Rich

        Weasel out? The interpretation the elders came to seems pretty fair. As Piper pointed out, strictly and literally interpreting the text would disqualify a TON of pastors. That doesn’t seem likely to be God’s intent, so a better interpretation would be that the SPIRIT of the text be followed, which demands leaders who can manage their own home well. They are faithful to one wife, and they raise their kids well.

        You’re resorting to pathetic and low-blow attacks on Driscoll and Piper… your hate is showing. And it’s ugly. Hell hath no fury than an emergent scorned, apparently.

        • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

          Rich, I know what hate feels like. And this is not hate.

          Instead, I consider their hermeneutic pathetic.

          But I’m guessing you came here with your mind made up.

          • Rich

            Your own post refutes you. You claim that Piper is willing to weasel out of his hermeneutic, yet he does the very opposite of that when he’s willing to excommunicate his own son. He was also willing to step down if that was deemed appropriate. That would be the essence of being faithful to one’s hermeneutic, even when it is hard.

          • Chris

            Tony, you seem to have yours made up as well.

            Or do you countenance the idea that Piper could be right.

          • Rich

            Now Chris, don’t start applying Tony’s logic and rhetoric to him. He doesn’t like that.

        • Tracy

          I have no interest in entering the personal feud, but you do realize, it is an odd hermeneutic which says that if a text would disqualify “a ton of pastors” then it doesn’t need to be interpreted “strictly and literally.”

          And “doesn’t seem likely to be God’s intent”– okay, but then you realize a lot of us will have different ideas about “what does/doesn’t seem likely to be God’s intent.” However biting Tony’s words seem to you, I think his larger point is that we interpret, but deny our brothers and sisters the right to do the same. Some things seem obvious to you — but you aren’t prepared to accept thosethings which might seem “obvious” to me.

          And I just never understand — using the words “weasel-out” is hating, but
          calling someone’s words “pathetic” isn’t? We need a ref and a rule book — I just can’t keep up!

          • Jeremiah

            Oh SNAP!

        • Evelyn

          Ok. So, if I raise my kid to believe in a spaghetti monster and I can find a group of elders that agrees with me then it means I’ve done a good job.

        • http://www.thestevechastain.com Steve Chastain

          “….strictly and literally interpreting the text would disqualify a TON of pastors.”

          And that’s the point. If the interpretation doesn’t fit what you really want, you change the interpretation.

          “That doesn’t seem likely to be God’s intent…” – and you know that because…

        • http://djword.blogspot.com Rick Bennett

          if it is truth, who care if it disqualifies tons of pastors?

          • ken krug

            1TIM 3:4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

            5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
            having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly,Titus 1:6b
            Pastors might take more seriously their role as fathers and children might think twice before ruining their fathers ministry

      • http://devangelize.me Kate

        Allowing for interpretation pretty much makes the Bible flexible enough to fit the bias of anyone who reads it–at least as far as giving that person enough assurance that he/she is saved and is being sanctified. And this fluid truth is important! Otherwise, God wouldn’t seem so loving.

  • Evelyn

    Weird. I’m not sure what a “nonbeliever” is but perhaps John could consider non-theistic Christianity or Christian humanism.

  • http://www.faithautopsy.com Ben D.

    Rich… Just as, it seems likely, that God does not want to exclude and condemn millions of His LGBT children… Which should lead to a different interpretation. I’m pretty sure that was Tony’s point in the post. Not anger or hate, but a bit of irony to make the point.

    • Rich

      Ben, except God states in pretty clear terms that homosexual behavior is a sin, just as lying and all sorts of things are wrong. And, like those other sins, if one is unwilling to repent of it (or worse, claims it’s just dandy), one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God was pretty clear on this matter. Hopefully you can see the difference between faithfully reading between the lines of the above text and just ignoring all the Scripture that condemns homosex. 1 Corinthians 6:9 is pretty clear.

      Cue the “then why do we eat shellfish?” canard…

      • aaron

        Hm so if you are a liar and are unwilling to repent of it, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God? Sooooooo let me list some liars here who continue to lie despite being called out on it repeatably:
        Kent Hovind
        Ken Ham
        Tony Perkins
        James Dobson

        So, I am getting this right, that because the above people continue to lie without repenting, they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, correct?

        • Rich

          In what way do they lie?

          And yes, if anyone continues in unrepentant sin with a hardness toward repentance, hell awaits them. This includes myself. Jesus was pretty clear on this matter.

          • Deana Holmes

            Kent Hovind and Ken Ham lie about creationism. In fact, Ken Ham has turned creationism into a touchpoint of salvation. It’s no longer “Jesus Christ and him crucified” but you also have to believe in a seven-day creation. I can look up into the sky on a clear night and see galaxies where the light took two million years to get here. I can drive up to the Grand Canyon and see a river that carved through rock layers two billion years thick over a half-million years. I can also show you how Noah’s Ark could never happen with a fish tank, fresh water and salt water. Of course, fish would die and I don’t want to make the fish suffer just to prove the point that neither freshwater fish nor saltwater fish would survive in the brackish water of a worldwide flood.

            My point about this is that if Kent Hovind and Ken Ham are lying about things that are provably false, then what else are they lying about? I’d say they’re probably lying about knowing the way to salvation. And that, my friends, is why I’ll never darken the door of a church ever again, because I will not sit there and listen to pastors lie in the name of Jesus to support their own sociopolitical goals.

      • http://scottpaeth.typepad.com Scott Paeth

        Yes, because it’s a canard when you don’t agree with it. By the way, I love how slippery your responses are: “God states in pretty clear terms that homosexual behavior is a sin.” Well, Tony’s point is that “God states in pretty clear terms” that if your kid isn an unbeliever you aren’t qualified to be a pastor. The fact that this would “disqualify a ton of pastors” is as irrelevant to the argument as the claim that God’s “pretty clear condemnation” of homosexuality would disqualify a ton of people from loving marital relationships.

        So, argumentum ad absurdum: If your hermeneutic will lead to the absurd result that “a ton of pastors” would be disqualified from the ministry on the basis of a strict, literal interpretation of the Bible, and therefore, it must not mean what it clearly states, then by the same token, if your hermeneutic leads to the absurd result that thousands of gay and lesbian couples are excluded from full participation in the life of the church, it too must not mean what it (allegedly) clearly states.

        Problem solved all around. Piper gets to continue to be a pastor (of a sort, I suppose), and gay and lesbian couples get to get married and fully participate in the life of the church.

        • Jordan

          Bingo, bango, bongo!

          Or,

          Wham, baam, slam!

          This is the clearest articulation of the argument Tony’s making, I think.

        • Casey

          Scott,

          Care to interact with any careful exegesis or handling of the Titus passage in question? Tony’s premise about what “believing children” means in Titus isn’t as clear or as solid as you make it seem. It’d be good for you to provide some exegesis explaining why you find it to be so damning.

          Also, the whole “strict, literal interpretation” bit thrown around on this blog is becoming quite tiresome.

          • http://scottpaeth.typepad.com Scott Paeth

            Casey, the problem as I see it is even careful exegesis doesn’t really get you out of the bind. The subtle distinctions between being a believer vs. being faithful still leave the pastor in a position of being subject to the judgement of the church (and liable for losing his position) based on the behavior of his offspring. The problem is that it still leaves a pastor like Piper in a position of having to argue that the Bible doesn’t mean what it appears to say and that therefore it must actually say what I want it to mean.

            At core, and I’ve argued this elsewhere, this is at the heart of the problem for all Christians in understanding the relevance of the Bible to contemporary issues. It really can’t be directly applied, so there needs to be some set of interpretative lenses utilized, some hermeneutical choices made about what is and isn’t really at the heart of the gospel and central to our interpretation of it. But the choices, if we’re honest, are always CHOICES. We aren’t compelled by the internal dynamics of the Bible itself to positively affirm one and only one of them to be true.

            It’s ultimately a matter of discernment rooted in our growing understanding of God’s working in the world, and this is always bound to seem arbitrary to someone standing in a different place. So to them, this looks like simply an imposition of one’s own point of view onto the Bible, but they fail to recognize themselves to be engaged in the same kind of thing, or that despite our differences, we’re basically involved in the same project. So instead we get nasty condemnations of me, Tony, and others who are simply trying to point out that the whole process of reading the Bible and applying to Christian life is simply much messier than many conservative evangelicals are willing to readily admit.

      • http://simotasia.com/words Collin Simula

        It’s also worth noting that in 1 Corinthians 6:9 it say’s “inherit,” not “enter.” Regardless of what you may or may not think about LGBT, there is nothing there that says they are not welcome within the Kingdom.

        But maybe you’ll just tell me that’s a dumb argument.

        • http://simotasia.com/words Collin Simula

          (that comment was for Rich)

        • Rich

          Collin, what would you say is the difference between “inherit” and “enter”?

          • http://simotasia.com/words Collin Simula

            I mean I understand this is a dumb semantics argument, but “inherit” implies ownership. “Enter” implies location. I am at my office right now, I “entered” it, but I do not own it, nor will I ever inherit it. But I am in it, I take part in it, I do my business in it. This analogy, and this semantics argument breaks down REAL fast, but I just hate when people read 1 Cor 6 and automatically say “no gays allowed in the Kingdom!” when it clearly does not say that.

          • Rich

            So what do you think 1 Corinth. 6:9 is saying then? Fine, you don’t like how it’s been historically read… fair enough. What is your alternative? Clearly, homosexuality isn’t a positive thing based on that text, I think it’s fair to say.

      • Sean

        Er, except that God states pretty clearly that pastors shouldn’t have unbelieving children…. Except that that can’t be God’s intent… because… you know… then John Piper would be out of a job.

        But those few passages used against gays are, you know, really clear and they don’t apply to John Piper, or other straight, white males, so therefore we’re going to interpret those in a way that hurts people as much as possible.

  • TJJ

    Your point Tony is a good one, and well taken. There is interpretation and nuance in all translation and exegesis of scripture, and there is a tendency (temptation) to be literalistic and black/white when it suits us, and to not be and to be more willing to “blur the lines” when it does not.

    So yeah, Piper is “busted” on that b/c people will do this yet deny that they are, but yet they will accuse others of it.

    That is what Piper and his church did there. So yeah, they are “busted” o

  • aaron

    How to interpret the bible, evangelical style: (please note that this is only for rich white straight american males, the only people who really interpret the bible correctly. See the ETS.)

    If it says something that would put my personal butt in danger or cause undue hardship on myself or my family, (such as hurt me financially) it must be interpreted metaphorically (“in the spirit of the text”).

    If it says something that I can use to defend the status quo, oppress or abuse minorities, be they immigrants, gays, or women, it must be literal. In fact, the gospel itself hinges upon obeying such commands.

    • Rich

      Don’t forget the thousands of black pastors and women who agree with those “rich white straight american males”…

      • Laura

        Rich, your counter-argument, which essentially amounts to “other folks besides white males agree” is nothing more than statement that popularity of a view = its (the viewpoint’s) “rightness”. In other words, multiple people believe it, thusly it shouldn’t be examined or questioned. Which is an incredibly weak defense of a weak application of theological principles in relation to other human beings.

        • Rich

          Laura, that wasn’t my point. The point was that Aaron falsely claimed that only rich white guys believe this stuff. When the truth is that poor black women also believe it, and lots of people in between.

          • Laura

            Of course it was your point. You were trying to de-legitimize Aaron’s stance by indicating that others share that set of views. Therefore, that set of views is widely held, and cannot be questioned.

            Again, come better prepared.

          • Rich

            Oh, now you know what I meant, Laura? How gracious of you to put words and meaning into my mouth. You might want to try reading and comprehending before you comment again. Just a thought.

          • Laura

            Oh–so now you *do* admit that I know what you meant all along, by wording your first question to me as you did. Nice slip-up. Be honest the first time around next time, OK?

          • Rich

            Nevermind Laura, you’re absolutely impossible.

          • Laura

            I’m only impossible to you–not to God. :)

        • Frank

          So then I assume that you feel the same way when flawed polls tell us that the majority of American support SSM?

          • Laura

            Frank, same-sex marriage has nothing to do with whether or not a minister decides to excommunicate or disown his son. Please stay on topic.

          • Rich

            Laura, you might want to try reading Tony’s original post. He tied the homosexuality debate into this post. Please learn what the topic is before you come and make yourself look like a fool.

          • Laura

            Frank, same-sex marriage makes no appearance in either Tony’s column or Aaron’s post.

            Rich, that comprehension thing you mentioned to me, Rich? Might want to look into that, yourself, because the only appearance of the topic of homosexuality is in the final sentence of Tony’s post. The contents of Tony’s post are ovewhelmingly about Piper’s self-justification for excommunication.

            Despite the fact that Tony mentions homosexuality at the close of his piece and Aaron mentions minorities (including gays) has nothing to do with whether or not Piper is/was justified in applying excommunication to his son. The simple fact that theological and philosophical stances underlie both positions (pro-excommunication and pro-shunning of LGBTQ) for some is important to note.

            But not as important as to justify the levels of idiocy and dodging culpability for your own viewpoints that you and Frank go through, as you continually try to win others back for Christ by shaming and chastising. If either of you were interested in truth, justice, salvation of others, you wouldn’t use badgering and crappy argument construction as your M.O.

          • Rich

            Thanks Pot… er, I mean Laura, for calling out the black kettles. Absolutely brilliant. Where did you learn your “skill” for debate? 3rd grade recess?

  • darthsidious

    ‘As Piper pointed out, strictly and literally interpreting the text would disqualify a TON of pastors. That doesn’t seem likely to be God’s intent, so a better interpretation would be that the SPIRIT of the text be followed, which demands leaders who can manage their own home well.’

    Does it make sense that God’s intent is not likely to ‘disqualify a TON of pastors’, but IS somehow likely to condemn all homosexuals to eternal damnation?

    If disqualifying a lot of pastors from service is somehow TOO LUDICROUS to believe that God could intend to do that it demands an ‘interpretation’ of the scripture, how is the issue of eternal conscious hell NOT too ludicrous?

    • http://tolkienista.wordpress.com Tolkienista

      Amen, Senator Palpatine.

      Any time an inerrantist prefaces their attempt to weasel around the words that make inerrantism difficult to pursue with “this doesn’t seem likely to be God’s intent,” it means that they have already made up their mind and are now just interpreting for the sake of their own help. They’re basing their “inerrantist” scriptural interpretations on their “subjective” judgment, which is what they LOVE to accuse non-inerrantists of doing whenever the shoe’s on the other foot.

      To call them Pharisees would be a bigoted injustice to the great, robust Pharasaical tradition.

  • http://www.21centkid.tumblr.com Devin

    Most conservative Presbyterian pastors step down if their kid turns out to be an unbeliever.

  • Matthew

    I get this sense that, translated into latin, the banter in this blog feed would read like a transcript from the Council of Niecea. And the picture chosen makes Piper look like a moose.

    • Chuck

      Please don’t so insult the moose.

  • Cherie

    I’m not a theologian or scholar, but it appears to me that Piper doesn’t play by his own rules. He continues to exclude women from leadership positions and gays altogether using very similar passages. Maybe his elders need to write “just a two page thing” explaining how they’ve misinterpreted scripture that is used to exclude others from the church.

  • Mollycar

    I am not sure how to react to this. On one hand scripture does address the importance of the family life of leaders, on the other hand rebellion, unbelief among children can be a transient phase. I would be uncomfortable with a situation where the children of leaders had the burden of wrecking their parents careers by not believing or not performing. In my situation my husband who used to be in full time ministry has not gone to church regularly for 12 years. All 3 of my children stopped going to church. The oldest became a dad at 20. My older daughter married a non Christian. I was the only person in my family attending church for 4 years During this time I was and continue to be in charge of Children’s ministry. I tried repeatedly to resign but my pastor wouldn’t hear of it. He was convinced that God would move. In the last few years my son came back to the Lord and his wife got saved and they are committed Christians. My daughter returned to the Lord and her husband got saved, both are now working in a bible school. My youngest daughter got saved at 19 and is now a bible school student. God is wonderful!! I think my Pastor would have been right to accept my resignation however his support was invaluable. His faith helped to build mine.

    • Frank

      I love that the Prodigal Son story is still being written and told! There is still hope for Tony and his crew.

    • http://late-emerger.blogspot.com Andrew

      The grace of God is very great! The problem comes when we try to limit it to people who resemble us, or people with whose failings we can empathise. God’s grace is MUCH wider than that. I think this is the point of Jay Bakker’s rather fine book.

      • Rich

        God’s grace is not limited at all. God only demands that it be accepted on HIS terms, not ours.

        • Ethan

          By definition, that would be a limit.

          • Frank

            Technically from a human perspective. God is not limited by us but we are certainly limited by God. That’s why He’s God and we are not despite those here that believe the contrary.

          • Rich

            Well said, Frank.

  • http://curtisbronzan.com Curtis Bronzan

    What hermeneutic is at work in these comments back and forth? They will know we are Christians by our… what was it, again? How depressing.

    • Frank

      True but Tony seems to be stuck on criticizing others while ignoring his own planks. Every week its the same nonsense. One day he may actually grow up.

      • rick

        I have 3 and 4 year old kids who argue like you do Frank. When they are confronted with something, their first response is, “yeah but she did [fill in the blank]!”

        When confronted with “They will know we are Christians by our love” your response was eerily similar. You even went so far as to accuse another of “ignoring his own planks.” Dear heavens, can you sense the irony?

        What is it that you hope to accomplish by lurking here daily?

        • Frank

          Rick you must spend time with some very smart and wise 4 year olds!

          There is nothing ironic about a sinner who accepts and identifies their sins and then points out the sins of others. According to your logic no one should say anything to anyone about their flaws. You should read that verse more carefully.

  • Jonathan

    I think Tony has effectively refuted all those conservative scholars who think that the Bible doesn’t require interpretation. Good work Tony!

    The problem is that no such scholars exist. Of course all (reasonable) conservatives agree that the Bible is interpreted. Don’t be absurd.

    By the way, you could have done this a lot more easily. Jesus says he’s the living water, but he doesn’t actually mean he’s H2O! Therefore, the bible doesn’t mean exactly what it is, therefore conservatives are wrong and therefore men should have sex with other men! Hurrah for straw-men!

    • Curtis

      What about all those conservative scholars who think that the Bible’s statements about homosexuality doesn’t require interpretation.

      Certainly, they exist.

      Has Tony effectively refuted them, or not? If not, why not?

      • Jonathan

        Curtis,
        I’m really unaware of any conservative scholar who thinks that the Bible’s statements about homosexuality are not interpreted. They’ll usually make claims like “let scripture interpret scripture” or even “the holy spirit interprets scripture,” but I’ve never heard anyone claim that no interpretation takes place. If you can find me some quotes by (again, reputable; there are cranks all over the place) Christian scholars who are, like Susan Sontag, “against interpretation,” I’ll gladly withdraw my claim.

    • Rich

      Shh, Jonathan, don’t point out that the emperor has no clothes. It might start a riot among the inmates.

  • Luke Allison

    I think it’s a mistake to paint a caricature of anyone. Whether or not you’re doing that with Piper is a matter of…er….interpretation.

    Tony, have you written anything laying out your hermeneutic, or could you give us some kind of post defining it better? I’m definitely more on your side than the Reformed folks, but it would be interesting to hear your interpretive perspective more fully. If you’ve written articles, books, etc, about this, please let me know.

    I’m finding two things out the longer I live:
    1. No one can actively live out “hate the sin, love the sinner” (which is an unbiblical concept anyway and worthy of deconstruction) in a practical, relational sense. This leads to rejection and abuse, or just plain avoidance of those in the GLBT community.
    2. When this happens, there are those who respond accordingly, in the prophetic and counter-cultural spirit of Jesus, and embrace this community unabashedly in turn.

    I for one am certain there is a third way somewhere in there, for those who aren’t comfortable with your particular hermeneutic. I’m not sure what it is, but I think it exists. Much like the skunk ape.

  • Casey

    Tony, do you attempt to do any exegesis before writing blog posts like this? I’m not meaning to be condescending in tone, just honestly curious. You can poke fun at folks like Piper and his exegetical method, which he makes clear to all, but appear to not have one of your own. If you do have one, it isn’t easily discerned.

    Here are some thoughts on the Titus passage. The word in question is pistos, which can mean either “faithful” or “believing.” While “believing” is the more common meaning of the two, there are instances in the Pastorals where pistos means “faithful” (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 2 Tim. 2:2, 13). As always, context must be the determining factor. The context of Titus 1:6, in turn, includes both the larger context of the teaching of the Pastorals and the immediately following phrase “not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.”

    (1)In the Pastorals it would be unusual if the author had two separate standards, a more lenient one in 1 Tim 3:4 (obedient) and a more stringent one in Titus 1:6 (believing). This creates a presumption of reading pistos in Titus 1:6 as conveying the sense “faithful” or “obedient” in keeping with the requirement stated in 1 Tim 3:4. This would also create a contrast between the mention of “not open to the charge of being…disobedient” later in Titus 1:6.

    (2) What does the meaning of the words “wild” and “disobedient” in the immediately following context contribute to a better understanding of the word pistos in Titus 1:6? It should be noted that the two other NT instances of “wild” in Eph 5:18 and 1 Pet 4:4 relate to orgies of drunkenness, and the two other instances of “disobedient” refer to outright rebellion (Titus 1:10; 1 Tim 1:9). This suggests that what is in view is not occasional disobedience but deep-seated rebellion against parental authority.

    It is a sound exegetical conclusion to draw from the above evidence that (most likely) the word pistos in Titus 1:6 is to be understood as conveying the sense “faithful” or “obedient” but not “believing” in the sense that only men whose children are born-again believers are eligible to serve in positions of church leadership. Anyone chosen as an elder in the church, which entails the exercise of authority in the congregation (e.g., 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 3:4; 5:17; Heb 13:17), must properly exercise authority at home, with his children responding in obedient and submission.

    With that exegetical foundation in place, there are sound reasons that would incline someone who believed in the objective authority (and intelligibility) of the word of God to see Paul as referring to the submission and obedience of an elder’s children, and not to their salvation.

    1) 1 Tim 3:5 explicitly connects the elder’s qualifications with his managerial skills in verse 4. Generally obedient behavior does not require miraculous intervention. Salvific faith, however, cannot be produced as a result of good housekeeping. While a godly home is often conducive to belief, it does not produce it. If we insist that a child’s salvation is fundamentally connected to the managerial skills of the father, we have inadvertently assigned an unbiblical role to human action.

    2) Even the best pastoral managers have unbelievers within their church or under their sphere of influence (Gal 1:6!). The logical consequent of this would mean that one can manage the larger household (his church) well, even though not everyone in it is a believer. If this is so, then it seems that one can manage the smaller household (his family) well, even though not all within it believe.

    3) Insisting that having believing children is a prerequisite to eldership leads to some uncomfortable questions (see Rich’s comment above about a “TON of pastors”). What do we make of an elder who has a number of believing children—but one who is not? If most of his children are believers, is he not a good manager of his household? Or, does the one unbelieving child call into question his overall managerial ability? If it does, then why did any of his children turn out to be believers?

    4) All of the requirements for eldership that are listed in this passage (being married once, being temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, a good teacher, not a drunkard, not a lover of money, and not a recent convert) are actions of personal responsibility. We would expect the requirement regarding his children to be in the same category. Requiring that his children have genuine saving faith is to require personal responsibility for the salvation of another, something I don’t see taught in Scripture.

    • Curtis

      Exegesis can similarly be applied to any passage in Scripture that addresses or alludes to homosexuality. Depending on the exegesis you follow, one can conclude that gay marriage is permissible to God. I think that was Tony’s point. If we are allowed to follow an interpretation of Scripture to lead to a particular conclusion about the qualifications for church leadership, isn’t there also room to explore interpretations of Scripture that support gay marriage?

      • Frank

        No because they don’t exist. I am happy to study any passage you believe states that God condones and/or blesses homosexual unions.

        I think what is there is the exact opposite. I am talking about homosexual behavior not feelings or attractions for the record.

      • Casey

        Curtis,

        Are you willing to make a distinction between good exegesis and poor exegesis? I think there is clearly evidences of good exegesis available in many commentaries/sermons/books/(even blogs!) today. But there is also some incredibly poor exegesis. Church history is riddled with the struggles of the faithful against poor and heretical understandings of the scriptures. Not all exegesis is created equal in God’s sight.

        Do you hold an exegetical alternative to the Titus passage I referred to above? If so, please share it. I’m all about the multiplicity of perspectives.

        • Curtis

          Your reading of the Titus passage sounds good to me.

          I can also share some interpretations of key passages of Scripture that would support gay marriage, if you like.

          But arguing the distinction between good exegesis and poor exegesis within the context of the Emerging Church Movement is a bit beside the point. Participants of the ECM would quickly argue that there no clear distinction between good exegesis and poor exegesis, all there really is is conversation, which we are engaging in now. From that conversation with each other, truth arises. That is what we are experiencing now.

          • Frank

            In other words there is nothing in scripture that shows that God condones and blesses homosexual unions but I can write a thesis filled with humanist, secular and emotional reasoning why I think God should.

          • Frank

            And btw all you guys do is have conversations with no results. But hey have fun talking with each other!

          • Curtis

            If you feel Casey’s exegesis is nothing more than humanist, secular and emotional reasoning, and has no sound basis in Scripture, you are entitled to that opinion. But it also would be fair to ask you to defend your accusations.

            By the way, we have fun talking with you too.

          • Frank

            So in other words Curtis you have nothing. That’s what I thought.

          • Curtis

            When ideas fail, why do personal attacks have to follow?

          • Frank

            Curtis you said you could put forth a biblical interpretation that would support SSM yet you haven’t done it. Let’s see it or just move along. It’s not a personal attack it’s an observation that you have put forth nothing despite claiming that you could.

          • Casey

            Curtis,

            I would not be opposed to your offering some exegetical work to support gay marriage. In fact, would encourage it you to do the exegetical work and share it here.

            Part of my continued presence in the comments section on this blog is to present an exegetically rigorous defense of the gospel handed down to the apostles and recorded for us in Scripture. I hope you don’t see it as a stagnant voice but one that is actually attempting to deal with the issues Tony raises, while at the same time working ” to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

            The ECM cannot distinguish good exegesis from poor exegesis because so many involved in it have disregarded the authority of scriptures and replaced it with whatever suits their fancy. If Jesus own attitude toward the scriptures were this cavalier, I would have no problem with that approach. But it wasn’t. He cared about good exegesis, so much so that the first thing he did with his disciples after his resurrection “open their minds so that they could understand the scriptures” (Lk 24.45).

            “Conversation” alone doesn’t bring truth into focus if Christ’s own witness, recorded for you and for me in the scriptures and illumined by the Holy Spirit, isn’t what is ultimately determinative.

          • Curtis

            Those seeking a biblical view of gay marriage may want to consider “A faith-based case for marriage equity”. http://blog.nj.com/njv_guest_blog/2012/02/on_gay_marriage_nj_should_not.html

            I would invite you to place comments about that interpretation on that blog, since they are a bit beyond the scope of this post.

            Paul often cautioned his church of the danger of relying on human wisdom when reading Scripture. He warns us to not become “captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition”.

            Those who seek an absolute understanding of Scripture through human wisdom are the ones with a cavalier attitude toward Scripture. God calls us to humility as we daily wrestle with the rich subtleties and ambiguity of God’s word.

          • Frank

            Curtis do you have anything else that does not depend on secular, humanist and emotional reasoning but solely relies on scripture where God condones and blesses homosexual unions?

          • Curtis

            No interpretation of Scripture relies solely on Scripture. Casey’s essay above does not rely solely on Scripture. In my quick reading of the essay “A faith-based case for marriage equality,” I count references to at least 18 specific Scriptural passages. If that is not enough for you, there are other similar essays out there. But I’m not going to do your homework for you.

          • Frank

            Curtis if that article is the basis of your entire argument it failed.

          • Curtis

            Did you read the article? It is based on Scripture. My argument is based on Scripture.

          • Frank

            I didn’t see any scripture in that article. Can you cite what books/verses were quoted? Maybe I am blind.

            One has to only look at this statement to see that the article is a fallacy:

            “Many in the Jewish tradition reflect on the principle referred to as b’tselem elohim — the understanding articulated in the first chapter of the book of Genesis that all human beings are created in God’s image — and come to realize that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people express something of God’s nature as surely as heterosexuals do.”

            Once again where is the scriptural support for this statement? Nonexistent.

            Fail, big time!

          • Scot Miller

            Frank, I think the relevant passage from Curtis’s letter is:

            In the face of disagreement about the meaning of holy texts, many in the Christian tradition have turned for guidance to the example of Jesus, whose movement was open to the most marginalized people in his society, and ask why we should not follow his example.

            And since he didn’t feel the need to include chapter and verse, let me suggest that you remember the passages where Jesus invites his followers to “follow me” (see, e.g., Matthew 4:19; 9:9; Mark 1:17; 8:34; Luke 5:27; 9:23; John 10:27; 12:26; 21:19

          • Curtis

            Thanks, Scot. I really wasn’t in the mood to do someone else’s work for them. But I have a feeling it won’t really matter. I appreciate your effort, though.

          • Frank

            Thanks Scot but no scripture was actually posted in that article.

            Jesus also said:

            Matt 19:5&6

            “And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

            Marriage = one man and one woman from the mouth of Jesus.

            So no there is no case to be made scripturally for SSM.

    • Phil Miller

      That’s all well and good, and I don’t really disagree with this interpretation. I think from the context, it seems pretty clear that Paul’s point is that if a person can’t manage to have his children respect him, how can he expect the local congregation to respect him? But the thing that’s weird is that Piper’s first impulse seems to go against this common sense interpretation:

      When that happened, I went to the elders and I said to them, “Here’s the situation. I think my son needs to be pursued by the elders as far as you can, and then he needs to be excommunicated if he doesn’t respond.” He was 19 years old.

      And so for I forget how many months they did this. Maybe six months or so. And I said, “I am willing to step back and go on a leave of absence, or resign, or whatever you think appropriate in this situation.” They never faced this before with any theological thoroughness.

      So for those months they were pursuing him, talking with him. He was working for one of the elders at the time, and they had some conversations. And we were studying the issue, because it says in Titus 1:5-6 that the children of elders should be pista (faithful). Tekna is the neuter word for “children” in Greek, and pista agrees with it. So it is “faithful children.”

      Also, Piper throws this tidbit in at the end which I find hilariously ironic:

      How can you manage the flock if you can’t manage your household? And good management doesn’t mean perfect outcome. It didn’t for God, and it doesn’t for us.

      Is Piper channeling Greg Boyd?!? Haha!

  • Andy Gilmour

    Tony, I think you need to tone down some of your rhetoric.
    You’re labeling of different interpretive conclusions as ‘pathetic’ is not really helpful as it has the effect of insisting that you are always correct. I agree with you on much, including dissatisfaction with Piper and Biblicists. I happen to disagree with your conclusions on LGBT issues in scripture. Does this make my interpretation ‘correct’ at some points and ‘pathetic at others. Or are we simply allowed to come to different interpretive conclusions, whilst attempting strongly to maintain unity?

    • Curtis

      With all due respect, I’m not sure we need to totally bridle our feelings. I’ve been called much worse things that “pathetic” by my wife, and we still are able to maintain perfect unity and respect with each other.

      And the end of the day, we can ask for respect. But that doesn’t mean we should never let our feelings show.

    • Scot Miller

      I think Tony’s labeling Piper’s approach to (or interpretation of) the Bible “pathetic,” not so much the particular conclusions Piper draws. In fact, I think Tony would be willing to praise Piper as consistent if he not only asked to excommunicate his son but also submitted his resignation as pastor. At least Piper would be treating all of scripture in the same way and not conveniently re-interpreting troublesome passages in his favor.

      • Andy Gilmour

        I suspect if Piper had excommunicated his son and resigned, rather than praising his consistency people (and I include myself) would see it as further evidence of him ‘losing it’. It is easy for those of us who don’t like his interpretive method to lambast him for deviating from it on this occasion. Perhaps we should see it as a sign of hope that he may reconsider other opinions. (I know this may be wishful thinking, but we can hope). I also wonder if anyone can truly claim to maintaining a consistent interpretative method on all subjects. Even if we claim we do.

        • Curtis

          I didn’t sense any lambasting of Piper, only lambasting of his and his church’s methods.

          I don’t know of any participant in the Emerging Church Movement who would claim that they maintain a consistent interpretative method on all subjects. The Emerging Church embraces the fact that there may be a variety of interpretations that are equally valid at some levels. It is usually the Evangelical Movement that concerns itself with consistency of interpretive method across subjects, which is probably why Tony felt compelled to point out the apparent inconsistency in this case.

      • Scot Miller

        Let me revise my comment. Instead of saying that Piper is inconsistent for “conveniently re-interpreting troublesome passages in his favor,” I’ll assume that his interpretation of Titus is right and the “plain reading” of the Bible is wrong…. or rather, Titus 1:5-6 requires the kind of careful interpretation that Piper and his elders gave it. By opening up the door to interpreting scripture as he does, he opens the possibility that other scriptures (about slavery, infanticide, and… dare I say it… homosexuality) also need to be re-interpreted in a careful but different way. He would only be inconsistent if he somehow forbade or rejected alternative interpretations of homosexuality in the Bible that minimized the negative judgment about homosexuality but maximized the idea of grace and acceptance. Since scripture demands interpretation, we can’t be absolutists in our interpretations, but only make provisional judgments. We all can make interpretive mistakes. The question is, when it comes to homosexuality, is it better to err on the side of condemnation and judgment or the side of grace, acceptance, and forgiveness?

        • Frank

          There is ample support throughout the bible that God does not condone nor bless homosexual behavior while there is none to the contrary.

          • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

            Frank, you’re doing it again. Consider this your yellow card.

          • Frank

            But Pa I have been good! The are other people here who are posting just as much. You just don’t like what I say.

            • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

              You’ve got a point.

              G’night, John Boy.

          • Rich

            Frank, watch out or you might get excommunicated from this blog.

        • Casey

          Scot,

          Yes, we can all make interpretive mistakes. But that doesn’t mean we all have to commit logical fallacies in our reasoning. You shouldn’t have to resort to false dichotomies of the either/or variety in order to make a point. But even in the midst of that fallacy you raise an interesting point about judgment.

          If the scriptures teach contrary to homosexual inclinations and practices, then where does the judgment fit in? You seem to imply that all who find homosexuality contrary of God’s glorious purpose for those created in His image are standing over gays/lesbians/etc. with judgment and condemnation. You seem blind to any other alternative.

          Let me propose one…
          1) What are the consequences if we do not recognize Christ as the Lord of the creation, and as the Lord of the new creation? In Romans 1, Paul warns against the most fundamental confusion that can afflict a man –worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator.

          2) This brings us to sin. Sin of course brings judgment. Christ brings every work into judgment. He evaluates it, and renders judgment on the basis of His holy character (Rom 2:6). God renders to each man according to his deeds. And we learn in Romans that certain sins are themselves judgment: sins do not just bring judgment; the Bible describes certain sins as judgment. The refusal to honor God as God, and the refusal to bring Him thanks, result in a fearful judgment. Is homosexual behavior to be judged by God as sin? Or is it the judgment of God already laid upon said sinful men? Or both?

          3) This is where we must not overemphasize judgment, as though it were the entire story. Christ will judge, but that judgment is in the context of His saving mission, which will be accomplished. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Christ did not have to become Incarnate in order to damn sinners. If that were the central point, He could have saved Himself a lot of hassle. Christ became a man in order to restore and save the heavens and the earth, and the nations of men within that created order. Christ is the Lord of Creation, certainly, but He is a saving Lord, one who delivers. Because He is the Lord of the new creation, the nations of men will not have to be saved from Jesus Christ. Rather, because this is His office, they will be saved by Jesus Christ.

          4) But now we are getting into the nitty gritty of confession and repentance, mercy and forgiveness, and we can save this for another time…

          • Scot Miller

            I wasn’t trying to present a false dilemma, but merely trying to point out that there are alternative plausible interpretative frameworks which make sense of scripture. Since the debate seems to be between those who think homosexuality is a sin and those that don’t, I was just trying to reflect that divide. Unless you know of some third way (maybe homosexuality’s a sin, but God doesn’t care about it anymore, or it’s a perfectly fine morally defensible practice that can still keep you out of heaven?), I stand by my alternatives. Hence, no false dilemma.

            The problem isn’t that one side is being “biblical” and the other isn’t: they problem is that both sides actually think they’ve got the true meaning of scripture captured in their interpretation (or at least, they have more of the meaning than the “other” side does). You seem to think that the Bible contains one unequivocal message about homosexuality; I’m not so sure that the message is equally uniform. Moreover, you seem to believe that the Bible’s rejection of homosexuality is a timeless divine truth, revealing something about Christ as head of the new creation. I’m not so sure that the biblical message about homosexuality is anymore a timeless account about the human condition and homosexuality than the Bible is about slavery.

            While your reading of scripture (points 1-4) is certainly plausible, I don’t buy it because I think it comes into conflict with the larger gospel message about forgiveness, acceptance, and grace. (Moreover, the moral argument against homosexuality is incredibly weak: at best, people appeal to the divine command theory [God says it's wrong, so it's wrong} or natural law [whatever is natural is good, and homosexuality is unnatural]. But that’s a different subject…). Given the larger gospel message, and given the historically conditioned accounts of homosexuality in the Bible, I feel compelled to reject the condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible, just as the abolitionists rejected the tolerance for slavery in the Bible. Of course, I may be mistaken; but I’d rather be mistaken by embracing homosexuals in the name of Christ than condemning them in the name of Christ.

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  • http://www.thestevechastain.com Steve Chastain

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

    Holier than thou hypocrites bore the heaven out of me.

  • Nathan

    I’m so attracted to the “life” proclaimed by those who disagree with Tony. It makes me want to give my heart to Jesus. The moral clarity is refreshing and the ability to self justify like Piper is so wonderful. Its clear I’d get the best of all worlds. Fire insurance from hell, disdain for my perceived enemies and the proclamation of the Gospel of my own righteousness. And the cherry on top is that amorphous thing called the Holy Spirit can step aside to the particular obsessive directions of John Piper.

    • Frank

      Nathan nothing happens in a vacuum. Tony and his crew has been spouting nonsense for years. Like a dog that returns to its vomit….

      So rebuke is right and warranted.

  • Rich

    “… the proclamation of the Gospel of my own righteousness.”

    Actually, that’s what you find from Tony and his ilk, Nathan. Real righteousness comes from Christ, a righteousness imparted to us through faith, repenting of our own filthy rags (including any good we’ve done apart from Him). It’s due to His work on the Cross, where He paid the penalty for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. It’s NOT a Rob Bell-esque flimsy hippy righteousness that we earn because God accepts everyone no matter how debauched they may be and how hard their heart.

    • Curtis

      Real righteousness comes from Christ, a righteousness imparted to us through faith, repenting of our own filthy rags (including any good we’ve done apart from Him)… It’s NOT a Rob Bell-esque flimsy hippy righteousness that we earn because God accepts everyone no matter how debauched they may be and how hard their heart.

      If that were the requirement for righteousness, I have to admit personally, I would not qualify. I rely purely on God’s unbounded forgiveness, and nothing more.

    • Luke Allison

      “It’s NOT a Rob Bell-esque flimsy hippy righteousness that we earn because God accepts everyone no matter how debauched they may be and how hard their heart.”

      Does that really do you some good, brother? What in the world makes you think anybody on this particular blog will listen to this sort of statement?

      It seems as if you’ve effectively hedged yourself off from anybody who doesn’t conform to your particular understanding of what the narrative arc of the Bible is teaching.

      Do you do this because you care about Tony Jones and his community? Do you do this because you care about the honor of John Piper? Do you maybe see yourself as the watchman of Ezekiel 33, making sure people are at least warned of impending doom so that there’s no blood on your hands?

      I’m trying to figure out what motivates a person like you to keep coming back and doing what you do. Help me out here.

      • Frank

        Luke, the blind will continue to follow the blind unless someone helps them see.

        • Luke Allison

          Frank, is that REALLY what you’re doing? Really?

          Because using your same biblical metaphor, I could say that it’s also hard to see when your eyes have been battered shut. Or I could say that your understanding of the biblical narrative is myopic and therefore also in danger of missing some cliffs.

          I know that you believe that your tribe’s interpretation is the one that has the power to truly open up hearts and spark saving faith a la Romans ten. I suspect that your theology would say that it doesn’t matter how you say it or in what spirit, it’s the message which creates life (or something to that effect).

          Here’s my question: what if I don’t agree with you?

          • Frank

            God gives us free will to either accept or reject His word.

          • Luke Allison

            What if I don’t believe in free will?

  • Nathan

    Thanks for the lesson in basic soteriology. What you did is called the Jesus juke. If you people really believed it then I think you’d be a ton more humble and long suffering. Since you clearly understand that your sin put Christ on a Cross just as much as the sin you perceive here and feel so called to rebuke.

    T isn’t accountable to you, you clearly don’t desire relationship with him, so why why would your calls to repentance make him want to be reconciled to you if believe he is so far from God?

    So, despite all your grasp if the basics of Protestant constructions of imputed righteousness, the only apparent reason you would need to come here and rebuke like some self appointed popes is to remind yourself of your own goodness. It’s clear you feel quite satisfied and justified.

    .

    • Frank

      If that’s what makes you comfortable you can believe what you like. At least you are consistent.

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  • AE

    In order to put an end to the uncharitable drivel, the article by Abraham Piper found on http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=859

    “At first I pretended that my reasoning was high-minded and philosophical. But really I just wanted to drink gallons of cheap sangria and sleep around. Four years of this and I was strung out, stupefied and generally pretty low. Especially when I was sober or alone.

    My parents, who are strong believers and who raised their kids as well as any parents I’ve ever seen, were brokenhearted and baffled. (See sidebar story below.) I’m sure they were wondering why the child they tried to raise right was such a ridiculous screw-up now. But God was in control….

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      AE,
      1) you don’t get to repost someone else’s blog post in the comments on mine. I edited it.
      2) That article is from 2007 — I think some things have changed since then…

      • AE

        I don’t expect to get any mileage out of this conversation or your blog. Since you stand outside of evangelicalism, it’s obvious that there’s just criticism and questioning for the sake of being publicly provacative, which is about all we can expect of our post-modernists, anyway.

        • Jay

          AE,
          You just flushed your whole argument down the toilet with that response, judge much? (post-modernists)

          • AE

            Well, you’re right, and I should have known better than to even comment on here at all, as Tony Jones and I have basically nothing in common regarding the Christian faith.

  • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

    Sorry, too many comments to read them all. Great post Tony.

  • Ken

    I’m not seeing how excommunicating the son solves the pastor’s problem. He still has a non-believing child, doesn’t he? Or is excommunication to be taken in the sense of the Soviet “un-person,” so that the son doesn’t count as a human being any more?

  • Skanksta

    Frank March 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm
    Curtis do you have anything else that does not depend on secular, humanist and emotional reasoning but solely relies on scripture where God condones and blesses homosexual unions?

    How’s about this then…
    Luke 13:23-24
    Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
    Matthew 7:13-14
    Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    Then there is this..
    Luke 17:34
    I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.

    Chances of salvation dramatically and statistically improve to 50% by sleeping with another man. ;)

  • Monica

    As a former evangelical(and a life-long black woman) this entire discussion amuses and yet enrages me.

    Amusing:

    Someone called another poster Palpatine. Another used the council of Nicea. Maybe I’m just a bible geek…but it was funny.

    Enraging:
    Someone using the arguement “black people agree with us too…so we’re right.”

    Just because you can have minorities “vouch” for a movement, belief, or even political standing doesn’t give you or anyone else a pass.

    I liken it to a person walking up to me using Ebonics. It’s okay because_____ does it!

    No, it’s not okay. It becomes glaringly obvious that you’re operating from a place of privlage. So your reasoning behind your belief is completely different from say…my mother. For her, she clung to her faith because it was literally all she had. And it grew with her. It was not a hobby or a method to feel superior to another.

    Same thing for my friend Bethany. She clung to her faith through really troubling times. The same for my best friend Amy.

    Honestly, they are why I even talk to American Christians still.

    But moments like this, as I read the comments…I remember why I walked away. It’s not the imperfection. I grasp that. But it’s the thinly failed glee some have to toss others into hell.

    Instead of loving god, doing justice, and walking humbly….it’s become the America’s Top Model of theology where you have to prove how right you are. Or throw passive-aggressive lobs.

    It’s disheartening and disgusting, honestly. The church I grew up in was all about bringing heaven to earth by loving,respecting, and helping people. The natural assumption was if you showed love..and really freaking meant it…then they will come of their own time. It’s not from breaking through their reasoning. Or scaring them. But letting each person know they are loved.

    But, it appears that the love is abusive and conditional. There is more posturing than anything. And John Piper is proof of that.

    Also, I see the futility in saying if your kid rebels…step down and no one is stepping down. No one takes it seriously enough. But I also see that what a person’s child does shoud really be no one’s business. To coo and mutter bless their hearts instead of helping the parent or kid is just gossip flinging. It’s not a prayer request. And it won’t make tem repent sooner. Not from the heart at least. But it does shame them.

    Maybe it’s because I was honest to say I couldn’t do it anymore. Maybe it was my undiagnosed depression. Maybe it’s just because it’s wedsday and church is tonight. But really…guys

    Those who are calling tony and his blog dead, lay off. That is as close to being Christlike as a rabid bulldog is a proper method of transportation.

    I’m not a fan girl. I’m just a woman who was burned by the same behavior.

    And you know the worse part? I’ll have folks clicking their tongues and saying I’m bitter.

    *shrugs*

    Oh well

    • M

      I hear some excellent points in the comment above. I find this article and conversation disturbing. No one can be responsible for someone’s salvation, instead parents are responsible to teach their children about Christ, pray for their children, and love them unconditionally, living a godly life to support their teaching. I have a huge problem when pastors get judged on the basis of their adult children’s choices. The spirit of this verse is more about an elder having servant leadership in their own home as a priority before ministry, and much about rearing children who do not disrupt the ministry by constant rebellion. Cross-referenced and in context/linguistically it does not necessarily mean all ministers’ kids must be saved, but that ministers should be balanced and willing to step down if their young kids begin to rebel to a point of being out of control. It’s a great check and balance for a control-freak pastor because it points out that the work of salvation is not up to the leader, and that there are huge responsibilities that go hand in hand with leadership. I dislike this black and white thinking that ignores the nuances of language, and I am disgusted by some of the comments on here about race. This is a tough issue, but instead of tearing Piper apart, I think we should each look more to ourselves on this one. From what I’m reading, being right is more important to a lot of people on this thread than the things that matter to Christ.

  • http://www.edenlifemag.com Moyo

    There’s no reason for him to resign because his son is/was an unbeliever. His son has his own free will also. God commands that we train up a child in His ways, the decision is left for each individual to make.

    Judas was a sellout among the 12- These were Jesus’ foundation apostles. Does this make Jesus any less of the Christ? Not at all!

    He has a responsibility to keep praying for his son. As a matter of fact at this age all he can do is advice his son. The son is old enough to make his own decisions and that must be respected.

  • Pingback: When John Piper Almost Resigned: “Interpretation” Saved the Day | The Wartburg Watch

  • Angela

    The viewpoint expressed in this post seems pretty hypocritical to me. John Piper is a target for you, but why not all the other pastors in the country whose children don’t believer. Why aren’t you going after them to? Seems like an isolated witch hunt. Enforce your belief to all it applies to, or be quiet.

  • Rich

    Piper discusses the excommunication below… http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article_print.html?id=95950

  • http://www.christineascheller.com cas

    Hi Tony, I thought you’d like to know that this post was the inspiration for a question I asked Piper when I interviewed him this week for Christianity Today:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/marchweb-only/john-piper-racism-reconciliation.html?start=3

    So thanks.

    FYI, Piper and his team were observably surprised to learn that The Christian Post had taken an excerpts from an old sermon and published them as a guest column (not an interview).

    Piper’s son wrote about this time in his life here:

    http://www.billygraham.org/articlepage.asp?articleid=859

  • http://www.christineascheller.com cas

    I guess I should have read the comments before I posted. Piper’s assistant said the sermon that the Christian Post lifted was 10 years old. He may have been estimating, but since Piper told me this story has a happy ending, I assume the Decision article is an accurate reflection of Abraham’s perspective.

  • http://thefutureforward.com Nick hoag

    A little late to the show here, but I agree whole-heartedly Tony. The bible doesn’t mean what it says…it means what it means.

  • Ben Clark

    Erm… if someone is in membership of a church and then comes out and decides to say publicly they are no longer a believer, how can you do anything but excommunicate (withdrawn membership)? Even if its your son? if someone doesn’t believe in Jesus they are not a Christian? I say well done JP for having integrity. Even in a heart wrenching time like this.

    And besides this all had the best possible outcome, as eventually he returned to Jesus right? We forget the true point of Excommunication is to try and bring the person back to faith isn’t it. Fudging over the gospel by saying” staying church it really doesn’t matter if you believe or not” just makes it all look pointless.

    JP did the God loving and Son loving thing and was ultimately proved right by his sons words. He was glad in the end to have a gospel loving father!

  • Mattw

    Youre a douche. This is bitter, spiteful, and nasty. Not sure what you get out of writing crap like this but hope you consider your motives.
    -Matt

  • Jason

    Oh come on. Now you’re just picking fights. Clearly the verse is referring to minors, not adult children. You know that, John Piper knows that, we all know that.

    And if you think John Piper takes every word of the Bible literally, well, I find that shockingly ignorant. Or willfully disingenuous.

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  • Jim

    It appears you are trying to mislead when you say “What’s an inerrantist pastor to do…” You imply John Piper is a strict literalist, but according to what I’ve read of his and other discussions on the topic (see http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/further-thoughts-on-why-inerrancy-is-problematic/), he seems to believe the Bible is inerrant as to it’s purpose and not that it should be read strictly literally. In other words, when Jesus says, “I am the vine you are the branches” he doesn’t think Jesus was sprouting leaves. You are clearly educated and so should know “inerrancy” is a loaded word.

  • Jim

    Wow, talk about taking things out of context and only giving us enough information about the topic to promote your own ideas.
    By the way.. All of this worked. Piper’s son is a Christian now.

  • david

    there’s a certain reason why i won’t trust the author of the blog:

    he’s using piper’s fallibility as a human to call into question the very clear teaching of the bible that homosexuality is sin.

    that issue with piper’s child is a very very difficult verse to interpret, while the issue of homosexuality is actually very very clear.

    for the blogger to use a difficult situation and an even more difficult verse to interpret to suddenly attempt to challenge clear biblical teaching on homosexuality is actually quite a pathetic attempt to try to argue for homosexuality.

  • Joe Bigliogo

    If Piper’s son is an atheist, why should he give a crap if he is excommunicated? Logically one would expect he’d probably welcome excommunication. I know I would. Thankfully I don’t have a douche bag pastor like Piper as a father and nothing gives me greater pleasure than when a religious zealot’s kids turn atheist.

  • Sarah

    http://www.firstboynton.com/2012/04/04/let-them-come-home-john-and-abraham-piper/ Here is Abraham Piper’s writings on his excommunication, for all of us to read and form our own opinions…

  • J L

    “It seems that the Bible doesn’t mean exactly what it says. It seems that the Bible has to be interpreted.”
    Even a literalist, inerrantist, or face-value interpretation is still an interpretation. Just sayin’.

  • Greg Barron

    Here’s a suggestion….go read the link to Abraham’s testimony from the 3rd comment submitted. I think after reading it you will quickly not care what anyone else has said. There is more wisdom and helpful writing there than anything I have read in these comments. As usual virtually every blog the comments I read devolve into arguing and name calling and everything else after about the 10 th comment.

  • http://www.keyword-power.com Lamar Carnes

    To have such a absolute view that a Pastor has to resign his calling and ministry if a child is not saved and a unbeliever is absolutely unbiblical and not only that unreasonable to the core. To hold against a father or a mother the “sins” of their children also is untenable in any situation. I, as well as Biblical examples, know we have to discipline our children and that is the bottom line period!~ If they continue in disobedience they have to be disciplined also by the Church if they are at a proper age, and are considered members, but if they are NOT saved and just a member of the Pastor’s family, nothing but strong disciplline of the parent toward the child is required. Certainly it is a challenge, a problem, a sorrow and sadness for all who know of the problem. But to hold a soul and his or her sins and problems against the parent reflects a lack of understanding about the entire matter of salvation and redemption. ONLY GOD CAN SAVE A PERSON AND CALL THAT PERSON UNTO HIMSELF. IT IS NOT IN THE POWER OR ABILITY OF THE CHILD TO FORCE HIS WAY INTO THE KINGDOM AND PRESENT HIMSELF AS A SAVED PERSON TO OTHERS OUTWARDLY. If that is the case, and it is, God doesn’t save all of a Pastor’s families children. Many times He does. But many times there seems to be always one wayward child who is not saved. That should never be used as a criteria of calling or dismissing a Pastor. In fact, it also displays a lack of understanding regarding the qualifications of a Pastor as indicated by Paul in his epistles. I would recommend the entire subject be studied again by going to the Greek and also by listening to the Church fathers on the subject. Actually, if this is to be taken “literally” and “legally” then NO Pastor would ever be around for very long at all. For NONE are fitting that model. All Pastor’s have errant children as they grow up and mature. Many are saved later in life but some are never saved. In relation to this take the case of Jacob and Esau, children of Isaac. Should Isaac be disqualified because of what GOD ordained? Or what about Isaac and Ishmael? Should Abraham be considered sinning and disqualified as being an example of faith because of God’s ordained position on these two boys? I don’t any would think so at all. Neither should we be disqualified from the pulpit if God chooses to allow one of our children to be a reprobate! that is harsh and unloving and unkind approaches to the person in the pulpit to say the least!

  • http://GoodReportMinistries.com Van

    John Piper has an unbelieving son? So what’s the big problem? As some of you may know, Piper is an avowed Calvinist and Calvinists (of Piper’s stripe) believe that God has predetermined some of humanity to be saved and most of humanity to be consigned to eternal conscious torture–”hell.” Therefore, according to this ‘written on stone’ doctrine, Piper must acquiesce to the selective will of God in this matter. No use to pray for his son; it’s already decided. And according to T-U-L-I-P It’s a done-deal.

  • http://GrittyGrace.com Martha Brady

    i think you have a weird view of excommunication. the only members of a church are to be those who are believers. if a person is moving in a direction that is shows they are not believers and are confronted one on one about it and do not want to change/repent (often done over time). excommunication is putting a word to something that is obvious.

    i’ve heard this story from his son’s side. at no time did piper walk away from his son personally. in fact, his son praises his dad for it. he just states that he was in a totally rebellious state of mind and was a jerk. he couldn’t blame anything on his parents!

    i’ve read a number of things lately that are so critical of piper and i don’t understand the criticism. i find him to be one of the most pastoral men of a large church out there! he is honest, opens himself up to cricism in ways he doesn’t need to when he publicly repents of sins and attitudes he has been convicted of.

    maybe it is because i am closer to his age. i understand where he has come from. he is trying to be faithful to GOD’s word and it seems to be that many, what i would deem to be lesser people are willing and ready to criticize.

    i would be cautious personally. he has proved that he, unlike many visible church leaders, is accountable to his church leadership.

    i have found it is much easier to be a critic than it is to move on a live our lives…especially in this day of blogs and tweets and other electronic media.
    so sad:(

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