John Piper Takes Unfair Advantage of the Ebola Crisis

Twitter is complicated.

It is good for posting links to interesting articles, brief announcements of what’s happening in someone’s life, or sharing a thought on some topic or other. It’s tough to do these things in just 140 characters, but it can be done and some people do it well.

Others do it not so well, and when the person who mistweets has influence over a huge number of people who subscribe to the person’s tweets, it can be more than troublesome; it can be dangerous.

The Ebola of Unbelief?

Mr. Piper has over 667,000 people following his Twitter account. They want to hear what he has to say and glean wisdom from his thoughts. The problem with this tweet is that any wisdom it may have had gets lost in the ham-fisted way he capitalizes on the physical suffering of others in order to make his spiritual point.

I’m willing to assume Mr. Piper had in mind statements like these from Jesus:

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28.)

and,

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Mark 8:36-37.)

So yes, the soul is important. But if Mr. Piper is relying on passages like this for his tweet, he is mistaken. Those passages have nothing to do with human suffering. Rather, they are about self-preservation (Matthew 10) and greed (Mark 8), and to apply them or similar passages to the Ebola crisis is a sloppy way to read and teach on Scripture.

His tweet also minimizes the crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where the international response is failing to keep up with the spread of the disease, according to a recent BBC report. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization is quoted as saying:

“The disease is entrenched in the capitals, 70% of the people affected are definitely dying from this disease, and it is accelerating in almost all of the settings.”

The gravity of the crisis is captured in the statement from Joanna Liu, president of Medecins Sans Frontieres, who told the BBC reporter, “We’re not winning the battle.” The BBC report puts the total dead at close to 3900 people, including over 200 health care workers who were there to treat the sick.

People are dying and Mr. Piper decides it’s time to give a Sunday School lesson on the back of their misery.

Jesus and Suffering

Jesus never made light of human misery. He relieved the suffering that comes from sickness (Matthew 4:23-24) and ached in the face of death (John 11:32-36), and in no instance do we ever read of him telling someone, “I realize your body is sick, but you should focus on your soul instead.” Never once did Jesus belittle anyone’s suffering, never told them their suffering was of lesser importance than some spiritual point he wanted to make.

In fact, it appears from all Biblical accounts that Jesus gave equal dignity to a person’s present suffering and their life in eternity.

In other words, Jesus never promoted the gospel at the expense of someone’s misery. That’s because the good news of the gospel doesn’t profit from human suffering. It instead announces blessed relief.

Jesus said so.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21.)

That’s what Jesus said the gospel is about.

So let’s hear no more statements like “the Ebola of unbelief.” People are dying in Africa by the thousands and governments are unable to care for the sick and protect their populations from infection. When Mr. Piper co-opted their suffering for his own purposes he did nothing to advance the gospel. In fact, it brings ridicule on the cause of Christ.

And that’s because when Jesus cared for the sick he cared for both their body and soul. He did not elevate one over the other.

Those who are called by his name should do the same.

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119 Responses to John Piper Takes Unfair Advantage of the Ebola Crisis

  1. Beth Caplin says:

    Why give any more attention to the words of a man who believes that wives of abusive husbands should endure “some mistreatment for a season” to be made holy?

    • Elizabeth-Anne says:

      Hello Beth,
      I must in hushed tones admit I do not know who John Piper is, but based on the comment you just posted and the one Tim blogged about, he is not the kind of man I would be interested in listening to, and it would probably result in a knock out drag out fight if we ever met face to face. Mistreatment of women, men, children, animals or nature is unacceptable for a second, never mind a season. As a severe abuse survivor I bristled at his words.

      • Beth Caplin says:

        I’ve been abused as well. His comment was so hurtful and ignorant, I gave away the books I own that he wrote. His preaching is dangerous to the church.

        • Nelson says:

          Did Piper say that women should let their husbands abuse them ???

          He’s spoken a lot on suffering, and I’ve never heard that, and he’s spoken against racism more than any white preacher I’ve heard.

        • Nelson says:

          Ok, I just saw the video and I wouldn’t have said that “Endure the smack just one time and then get the church.”
          I know people would run with that and say I said “Women should just live in an abusive situation,” Which people are saying about him, but obviously he wasn’t saying that.
          He talked about the wife being smacked just one time & then going to the church. That’s far from living in a consistant abusive relationship.
          Does anybody call the police if their husband or wife smacks them one time ? Probably not, but I think women should because men should never hit a woman once. So I disagree with Piper even though he said tell the church when it happens once. The church isn’t the police. And he strangely seem to go from the husband seemingly to not being a christian to a guy who would listen to the church.
          As one poster said, he should probably stop doing tweets and short answers. Domestic abuse is a deep issue, and not a pick a question in the hat thing.

        • John Allman says:

          Hi Beth

          The problem with the video below that you posted, “John Piper: Does a women [sic] submit to abuse?”, is with the too-broad question itself, which perhaps John was unwise to attempt to answer with such brevity. It’s not a simple “yes” or “no” question, and I’d have said that in his position, and either given a more thorough answer, or not added anything to that criticism of the question itself.

          Ecclesiastes 3 begins with a passage that appears to have been verse in the original Hebrew. The gist is that wisdom does not consist of having all the right principles and applying them blindly and automatically. Wisdom consists in being led by God, who can tell one (so-to-speak) to cast one’s nets on the other side of the boat from usual, and often does. There is a time to build and a time to demolish. There is a time for peace and a time for war. And so on. Secular ethicists refer to “situational ethics”, and this passage seems to be teaching that too, to some extent.

          As a survivor of intimate partner violence and emotional abuse myself (not from my late wife, I hasten to add, but in an immoral “common law marriage” I entered after I was widowed, of which sin I have repented), I have reached the conclusion that every abusive situation is unique. For the victim, there is a time to submit to a physical or verbal attack meekly, there is a time to stand up for oneself, there is a time to tell the church, and there is even a time to call the police.

          Would I have done anything differently, knowing what I have learnt since leaving the abusive relationship? Probably. At the time, I thought that submission on my part would mitigate the harm to my son and set him a godly example, as a result of my never using violence even in self-defence, or telling anyone what was happening in the home. I did not anticipate that by putting up with the problem as much as I did, I would simply make it easier for my intimate partner to be believed when she later falsely accused me of abusing her, leading to really devastating consequences for my son and for me down the line that I still trying to unpick. Yes, I should have told somebody when this was going on. But I understand why I didn’t, and why others don’t. The relationship between a mother and a father is important to a child, and worth “fighting” for, even when the “fighting” concerned consists in NOT fighting, i.e. not fighting back when attacked.

          Sometimes, I would run out of the door, to spare my son from witnessing his mother’s violence, or verbally abusive behaviour.

          In summary, there is no single easy answer to the question posed to John Piper. I think John Piper was too courageous for his own good even to attempt so brief an answer to so multi-faceted a question.

          Best wishes.

          John

        • Tim says:

          John, I am so sorry to hear of the abuse you suffered, and I would hope no one would ever criticize you for the choices you made in dealing with it the best way you knew how. I am also gladdened to hear that you are no longer facing it, and I hope you and your son and your former partner have all found healing, both emotional and physical as well as in your spiritual lives.

        • John Allman says:

          “John, I am so sorry to hear of the abuse you suffered, and I would hope no one would ever criticize you for the choices you made in dealing with it the best way you knew how. I am also gladdened to hear that you are no longer facing it, and I hope you and your son and your former partner have all found healing, both emotional and physical as well as in your spiritual lives.”

          Thank you.

          The trouble is that my son and I are facing something far, far worse now. I have not seen him since before last Christmas.

          This is a big topic, and this is probably not the right thread to discuss it.

    • Tim says:

      Only to ward others away, Beth. Too many people take what he says as “wisdom” merely on reputation.

    • Nelson says:

      He ok’d violence against women ?

      • Beth Caplin says:

        Note how Piper advocates going to the CHURCH to handle abusive situations — where many pastors have destructive attitudes like his — rather than calling the police.

        • Nelson says:

          He didn’t say never go to the police. He said if he smacked her one time. If she smacked him one time should he go to the police ?

          Either way, his advice was short , choppy, and unwise. I listened to 2 of his sermons today, but I don’t agree with everything he says. He was critized at the ‘Strange Fire Confernce’ at MacArthur’s church.
          I disagree with Piper on the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
          Reformed people don’t blindly follow preachers as those who swear by Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, or Charles Stanley.

        • Beth Caplin says:

          Being smacked one time is one too many.

        • Tim says:

          Exactly, Beth. Mr. Piper’s advice is dangerous.

  2. Sergius Martin-George says:

    Still “smh,” as they say in social media land.

  3. Elizabeth-Anne says:

    Tim,
    What pearls of wisdom you have imparted to start my Friday with.
    I could not agree more.
    Our souls may be what ultmately matter the most, but while we are here on earth we have an obligation to ourselves and others ( people we love and the world and nature at large ) to alleviate suffering as much as we can.

    I love how you think.

    • Tim says:

      When Jesus said we should treat others as we’d like to be treated, along with telling us that we are to love others as we love ourselves, he wasn’t getting all spiritual. He laid it out clearly in telling us to give water to the thirsty and visit the sick, etc. All these physical ministries have spiritual and eternal importance, of course, but that doesn’t detract from their present physical nature one iota.

  4. Jeannie says:

    You’re right, Tim: wrenching a serious humanitarian crisis into some kind of “Jesus Juke” is not wise or compassionate at all.

    • Tim says:

      Precisely. Jesus juking someone’s suffering stinks.

      • Nelson says:

        Luke 13:1–5

        Repent or Perish

        13 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, q“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they SUFFERED (hmmm, Jesus actually used the word suffered, I guess people see what they want to see.) in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

        • Tim says:

          Yes, thank you Nelson. You’ve brought up that passage close to a dozen times, many of which I’ve had to delete for being merely repetitive of other comments you’ve left.

          Jesus was talking about the false doctrine of identifying sinners by their suffering and righteous people by their blessing. It was a common doctrine in his day, but a false one. That passage is nowhere near the insensitive way Mr. Piper used human suffering.

          And please don’t accuse people here of only seeing what they want to see. It’s not true, it’s a weak argument on your part, and it does nothing to advance the discussion here.

  5. Adam Shields says:

    Certainly not something new from Piper. I have been reading Marilynne Robinson’s new book Lila while has an awful lot to say about what we as Christians can say about suffering. I wish more of our response was like Robinson’s and less like Piper’s. He seems to want to either Jesus Juke (as Jeannie says) or blame others for their own suffering. Both of which seem questionable coming from a well regarded pastor as he is.

    • Tim says:

      I’d love to hear more of your take on Robinson’s view on ministering to the suffering, Adam. Care to elaborate a bit in a follow-up comment?

      • Adam Shields says:

        Still working on the book, but I think that her position is basically the one that NT Wright laid out in his recent book of essays. That we really can’t explain why things happen, all we can do is be with them and try to comfort them as they happen.

        If you have read Robinson’s earlier Gilead, Lila is John Ames’ wife. Her life up until this point has been all about suffering. And John Ames, a pastor who is not unacquainted with suffering himself, does not have any answers for her. His standard pastoral answers just won’t do for a person that has suffered and been abused as she has.

        So he listens and tries to love her in spite of her mistrust of him (there is a hint of Gomer in the story.)

        I guess what I have her from Robinson (and NT Wright) at this point is that we need to acknowledge the reality of the pain and suffering around us. Then we need to live with those that are suffering, not trying to force them into some theological position about suffering. And whenever we can, we need to work to end suffering both as broadly and as directly as we can.

        We will not end suffering, there is some divine purpose in it that we cannot understand this side of Heaven. So all of our attempts to give easy answers are no better than Job’s friends.

        • Tim says:

          Those three points in your second-to-last paragraph are pure gold for those seeking guidance on how to deal with suffering. They are gospel-soaked and completely in line with both Old Testament and New Testament writings.

        • Adam Shields says:

          The thing is that Piper knows all three of them and I am sure he has written about them many times. But still he keeps saying dumb stuff like this.

        • Bronwyn Lea says:

          “we need to live with those that are suffering, not trying to force them into some theological position about suffering.” Yes, and amen.

          Thanks for a very well-worded post, Tim.

        • Lisa Pearce says:

          Thank you for so eloquently putting words to a frustration that I’ve been unable to fully describe for a long time. Suffering is suffering, It is immediate, it consumes the mind and it puts an end to hope. Self-righteous patronizing does nothing to stop pain, ease heartache or give answers to the real suffering in people’s lives here and now. Be it physical or emotional or both. Physically being there for someone is worth more than nice words and cliche answers. I particularly like what you say about forcing people into a theological position about suffering. No one’s suffering is an opportunity to present yourself as the ‘more faithful and more knowledgeable’ person by trying to give answers to something we actually don’t understand ourselves.

          We should refrain from assuming that suffering is a sign that the person is somehow inferior, or is being punished and is supposed to learn something from the situation. No one should diminish suffering by giving flippant ‘one size fits all’ responses. Such a response only tells the sufferer that you believe their suffering is their own fault, the result of their own weakness or lack of faith. This is just simply not true.

        • Tim says:

          It starts to resemble Job’s friends when it’s done that way, Lisa. Comfort in the presence is so much more valuable than words stabbing at rationalizing what has happened to a person.

    • Nelson says:

      That’s a complete distortion of Piper’s ministry. He has had Todd Beamer’s wife at his conference speaking on suffering. He has had african american scholars talking about ethnic suffering. He has spoken on suffering & pain more than any pastor I’ve known.

      • Tim says:

        He may talk about it, Nelson, but much of what he says is wrong,especially when it comes to the relationship between women and men. He lets his patriarchal philosophy trump his duty to care for the people of God.

        • Nelson says:

          You know, it sounds that way from his short video. I wonder how things are done at his church.
          I believe a man should be the head of the house, but if he hits a woman it is something illegal.
          I’m sure Piper’s opinion is rooted in the generation he grew up in, and just like he changed from being a racist southerner as a teenager, he needs to change from that hyper-patriatrical view you’re talking about.

        • Nelson says:

          And I totally disagree with you; most of what he says is very excellent. If you don’t believe in the sovereignty of God in suffering, as in Joseph’s case, then you’d disagree.

          I think his teaching on suffering is excellent, and thoughtful.
          I wouldn’t be surprised if you could pick 1 or 2 things out that are questionable.
          I went to a japanese church in which some of the members were interned during ww2. Piper’s teaching on suffering speaks very warmly towards that.

        • Nelson says:

          And he let’s women speak on the topic, not just Todd Beamer’s wife.

          http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/by-topic/suffering

          I disagree with him on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but his sermons on suffering I find to be very biblical in general, but I also disagree with trying to make the church make an abusive non believer husband behave. He was wrong.

  6. Laura Droege says:

    It’s not a metaphor that is either accurate or compassionate. It really doesn’t make sense, even from a strictly literary view, to equate a physical sickness with a spiritual condition, any more than it does to (for example) say that you’re feeling “so bipolar” today because you’re moody. Nope, inaccurate and inappropriate, doesn’t work. Metaphors are tricky, but I really expect an accomplished writer and communicator like Piper to understand that and communicate accordingly. Not compassionate.

    • Tim says:

      Right. As a metaphor it is inept and inapt. I keep wondering if he has staff who write his tweets thinking they sound like something he’d say. If so, he needs new ghost writers.

      • Laura Droege says:

        I’ll volunteer, provided I can correct the theological issues I see with his tweets!

        • Tim says:

          You’d be a much needed asset for him, Laura.

        • Nelson says:

          Do you even believe the bible ???

        • Adam Shields says:

          Are You just trying to troll this post Nelson?

        • Tim says:

          He’s criticizing a number of other posts I’ve written on the bad doctrine that Mr. Piper espouses. I think he’s more a Piper apologist, Adam.

          I have had to delete a number of his comments that are verbatim repeats of points he’s already made, though. I’m hoping I won’t have to block him, as some I’ve also had to remind him of the comment policy here (linked at the top of this page) more than once.

        • Tim says:

          Nelson, if you’ve read Laura’s blog you would know that she loves Jesus and reads God’s word with respect and reverence for our Lord.

          Your question here is flippant, out of line, and uncalled for in response to Laura’s comment. They violate the comment policy of this blog, linked at the top of this page. If you want to engage constructively, please do so, but please stop posting comments like this.

        • Laura Droege says:

          I know that Tim’s already replied, Nelson. But, yes, I do believe the Bible, love God, and I’ve even read the Bible through several times. Thank you for asking. I’m not sure anyone’s asked me that particular question in a while. 🙂

          Incidentally, I’ve read and enjoyed some of Piper’s teaching in the past. (His book Don’t Waste Your LIfe was influential on me at a key point in my adult life.) I think he has some valuable things to say, but he’s also strayed into some dangerous ground with certain topics. So I’m not a Piper-basher, in case you were wondering.

    • Nelson says:

      Jesus said fear not about the body but God who can cast into hell, and he spoke about the tower that fell on people and said repent less you likewise perish. Was Jesus being mean, or did he actually care about people’s souls more than what man could do to the body (Herod’s massacre also), and the tower. And those things had just happened.

      • Tim says:

        Nelson, I addressed those passages in the body of the post: Jesus was not talking about human suffering.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Jesus said fear not about the body but God who can cast into hell…

        “And if I rack him ’til he die, what of it? For I shall have Saved His Soul.”
        — “The Inquisitor”, Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

  7. Rev. Carlene Appel says:

    Beth is right. For me, it’s like the verbal faux pas of our Vice President that keeps late night comedians supplied with fresh material-to a point. We expect Biden to continue doing stuff like asking paralyzed guys to stand and saying jobs is a 3 letter word. This Ebola thing would be something one expects out of Piper, no surprises from the voice of CBMW. But that’s where it ends. At least we get a laugh out of the the VP, not so with Piper. Tweets like that speak of a pretty sick puppy in need of Jesus’ redemption in his heart.

    • Tim says:

      Good points, Carlene. Mr. Piper makes these comments publically, not just in the sense of some preacher in a Sunday morning sermon but on social media hoping to influence the public generally. He needs to stop, and the Church needs to speak against his errant public speech.

    • Nelson says:

      That’s an extreme view on Piper’s tweet. Such a pharisee.
      Was Jesus wrong in this –

      Jesus said fear not about the body but God who can cast into hell, and he spoke about the tower that fell on people and said repent less you likewise perish. Was Jesus being mean, or did he actually care about people’s souls more than what man could do to the body (Herod’s massacre also), and the tower. And those things had just happened.

      • Tim says:

        As I’ve mentioned before, Nelson, you are repeating yourself in the comments. (And now I’m repeating myself in pointing this out again.)

        Also, I already addressed your point about Jesus’ words: he wasn’t talking about human suffering.

        • Nelson says:

          Herod massacring people, a tower falling on people, and not fearing those who can destroy the body. What planet are you on ???
          Of course he was talking about suffering.
          I’ll leave you & your self righteous little liberal click to yourselves.

          I grew up in foster care & children’s homes & I really can’t do anything about all I’ve suffered, but knowing my citizenship is in heaven means everything.
          You guys are being hyper sentimental & are caring about the body more than the soul. Have a great day.

        • Tim says:

          Nelson, you’re right that there is suffering involved in all of this, and I am sorry to hear of the suffering you’ve gone through in your life. What a blessing that you now belong to Christ and look forward to the end of all suffering in his kingdom.

          On another note: As I’ve mentioned before, constructive engagement is welcomed.Your repeated attacks in the comments here – particularly the ones directed at other commenters- are starting to hijack the thread in a mean way. That’s inconsistent with this blog’s comment policy. Please restrict your critical comments to ideas. Too often you reduce yourself to calling people names or questioning their intelligence or (even worse) their salvation.

  8. Tim, what if Piper had said, “The cancer of unbelief”?

    • Tim says:

      Or the virus, or the whatever. Sickness as a metaphor for sin is age-old. But he called for prayer and action for Ebola – specific disease he mentions by name which is presently running rampant as it ravages entire nations of people – and then appropriated it for his spiritual lesson.

      As I said in the post above, I can’t imagine Jesus ever using such a figure of speech.

  9. Jeremy M. says:

    Why can’t he just stop at being compassionate and say let’s pray for those contracting Ebola and leave it at that? Not only does Jesus not do what Piper does here, I wonder if it is really too dualistic of a stance. I mean after all we are a people of the resurrection, where bodies do matter. It isn’t that our bodies don’t matter and only our soul does. They seem to be rather bound up together after all and I’m a bit suspicious of those who try to divide them too neatly.

    • Tim says:

      I wondered about both those points too, Jeremy. Why didn’t he stop at compassion, and why does he divide body and soul in a way completely contrary to the teaching of scripture? He’s supposed to know better.

      • Nelson says:

        Fear not him who can destroy your body, but Him who can cast your soul into hell. Jesus CLEARLY teaches the dif between body & soul.

        • Tim says:

          Jesus actually said to fear him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. (Matthew 10:28.) It’s an interesting combination, and it’s straight from Jesus.

    • Julie Anne says:

      I don’t think he can stop at being compassion – it’s too wrapped up in his theology. He proves this time and again with his words and his tweets. This is why I believe he said that women should put up with their husband’s smacking them for a season. For him t’s not about physical abuse, but it’s about spiritual suffering for righteousness sake. Add this to his permanence view of marriage (he doesn’t believe divorce is ok for any reason), and you have a very sad picture for abused women in his church.

      • Tim says:

        The way that he talks about Ebola victims and women suffering abuse, it seems to me he’s advocating a works-based righteousness, Julie Anne. “You are righteous in your suffering. refuse to suffer and you reject righteousness.”

        • Julie Anne says:

          Exactly. And he’s not the only one perpetuating this garbage. The huge problem I have with this (as you know) is abuse and especially women in abusive marriages and the effects on the children. The church has done a poor job of defending women who are being emotionally/spiritually/physically abused by their husbands and what I typically see is blame put on the wives for daring to leave the covenant of marriage, rather than blame being put on perpetrator. Women are told it is better to suffer. Ugh – this really gets to me, Tim.

        • Tim says:

          It minimizes the suffering of the Ebola patient and shifts the blame to the domestic violence victim. In doing so, rather than magnify the Lord Mr. Piper ends up taking the focus off our Savior.

        • Julie Anne says:

          Thank you for posting on this important topic, Tim. It really could have life/death consequences (physically for an abuse victim and also spiritually). To feel that you must suffer for Christ – as a requirement – -makes God to be an angry God. Some might abandon their faith with this false view of God because it’s too much to bear.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The way that he talks about Ebola victims and women suffering abuse, it seems to me he’s advocating a works-based righteousness, Julie Anne. “You are righteous in your suffering. refuse to suffer and you reject righteousness.”
          Does this ManaGAWD himself “suffer”, or does he show his Righteousness through his God-given prosperity and fame and riches (big house, megachurch, armorbearers, CELEBRITY status, private jet, etc)?

        • Tim says:

          I do not question whether Mr. Piper suffers for his faith in Christ. He may, and in ways I could never imagine and perhaps find a heavy burden.

      • Jeremy M. says:

        Honestly, I’d say that it isn’t even fundamentally about spiritual suffering for righteousness sake. It often seems that it is more about being right in your theology (i.e. divorce is bad or eternal destiny is more important than physical health) than about caring about people and loving them in more ways than just telling the truth (at least according to whomever is doing the telling).

        Now part of all that maybe does connect to the idea of spiritual suffering for righteousness sake. Under the framework of being right in belief any suffering you do experience in following the truth is worth it and being right is more important than how you feel about or what you go through because of it. I would agree that this is a dangerous line of rhetoric especially in cases of abuse and cases like this where illness and tragedy are used simply as a springboard to talking about sin or whatever.

      • Nelson says:

        What is wrong with theology. Everyone is a theologian.

        • Jeremy M. says:

          I don’t think I said anything about there being anything wrong with theology. As you say we are all theologians to some degree and have to land somewhere. Of course that’s not to say all theology is created equal or that even having correct theology on some issues leads to right living.

          A tweet like this puts forward a belief that our spiritual life is much more important than physical reality. I don’t like all the implications of that and think that Piper is a bit off base on his theology at least in that tweet. It is more a leftover of Gnosticism than a Christian viewpoint in my opinion. In seeming to hold that opinion so strongly, Piper appears to minimize physical suffering. I could think of other ways he could have tweeted something that didn’t minimize the physical suffering even if he still wanted the spiritual component in the mix. So it is not his having a theology in general that is bad, it is more that this statement seems rather inconsiderate to those dealing with Ebola and of a questionable theological basis.

          I’ll comment on your other comment here as well. I apologize for bring up the whole abuse thing if Tim said somewhere else to not engage with it. I didn’t see that and just mentioned it. It seemed to fit better with your Bible verse since illness isn’t typically something that men do to the body intentionally, but still my bad if I used it when it was deemed out of bounds. Of course at the same time it didn’t add that much to my point, so if you wanted to engage something the rest of the comment was more substantive.

          With that I’ll probably be done commenting in reply to you unless you provide something a bit more than one sentence jabs that don’t really engage what I’m saying. I have little interest in just bashing John Piper. I think the tweet was in poor taste and is unfortunately not the first tweet of his that I’ve thought that of and I think that stems from his particular theology. It doesn’t mean that all he teaches is incorrect, but neither does it mean everyone should just acquiesce every time that he says something when they disagree or think it harmful.

        • Tim says:

          It reminded me of gnosticism as well, Jeremy.

        • Tim says:

          I completely agree, Nelson. And every statement is a theological statement whether the person saying it realizes that or not. There is no way to say something or do something that is not relative to God, since he created all of us and everything else.

    • Nelson says:

      Actually, Jesus says Don’t fear what men can do to the body, and those who the tower fell on, but fear God who can cast into hell.

      • Jeremy M. says:

        Yes but then does that mean domestic abuse is fine? Or is this more focused on persecution for following Jesus? Jesus also talks about how we’ll be known by him by giving people a cup of water and healed many people’s physical bodies.

        I don’t see Jesus telling those who needed healed don’t worry about your illness or disability just worry about your spiritual illness. He saved that imagry for those who were healthy or would focus on both. I think both aspects (importance of physical and spiritual vitality) are true and we can’t focus on one at the detriment of the other.

        • Tim says:

          Exactly, Jeremy. It’s bad exegesis to say that these passages mean Jesus never said physical suffering is not worth being concerned about. Thanks for helping to clarify this.

        • Nelson says:

          See, you are doing what Tim told me not to do. You’re bringing up his video on abuse with his ebola tweet.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Actually, Jesus says Don’t fear what men can do to the body, and those who the tower fell on, but fear God who can cast into hell.

        Exact Same Bible Bullet, fifth time and counting.
        (Not counting how many Tim’s deleted.)
        Save your typing fingers; from now on, just cut-and-paste the chapter-and-verse zip codes.

  10. Rick says:

    A great mercy Piper could offer the church (and the world) would be to close his Twitter account.

    • Tim says:

      Or hire a professional and independent editor?

      • Rick says:

        I think the 140 character limit in an invitation to careless, less than well-thought out comments. Similar to things I am tempted to say in the moment when my self-censoring filters are not fully functional. I am always amazed at the number of tweets that get deleted by their authors; the modern psalmist could certainly pray, as in Psalm 141:3, “O Lord, set a guard over my tweets.” The immediacy of Twitter, along with the temptation toward self-importance that having a mega-number of followers may engender, is a potent combination with as much potential for harm as good.

      • Rick says:

        I do not know much about Piper’s wife, but generally my wife is the best editor I have, unsparingly objective and wise–and right.

    • Nelson says:

      Oh brother, talk about turning a mole hill into a mountain. People who don’t like the gospel would run crazy with this.
      I don’t think it was wise, but I’m sure we’ve all made this type of mistake. Piper has spoken on suffering in a compassionate way more than anyone I’ve ever heard. He had Todd Beamer’s wife & black scholars at his conference speaking on suffering.

      • Tim says:

        I think you’re starting to repeat yourself here, Nelson. Thanks for taking the time to contribute to the discussion, though!

      • John Allman says:

        Hi Nelson

        I don’t think that it is appropriate to say that this speaker is making a mountain out of a mole hill, because this video is basically nothing more than a personal testimony. You can disagree with a sermon or a book, but you can’t really argue with a testimony.

        He’s telling one aspect of his life story, his “journey”. If we’d been on similar journeys, we might well have chosen to tell our similar stories very in a very different style from that in which this speaker chose to tell his own unique story. But to say that he’s making a mountain out of a molehill is to forget that he is simply telling his own personal, unique story, in his own words, placing as little or as much emphasis on this or that part of his story, including his shame for his sin and joy at God’s grace, as he it felt right to place.

        I did feel sad for the mother of the adopted daughter though.

        I am a white Englishman. My late wife was a black South African. As you can imagine we would have had, we had had plenty of conversations on the topic covered in this testimony. Needless to say, when we first met, we had already both reached similar conclusions to those that Mr Piper reached, on which I admit he did sermonise a bit, though, with my background, and my ignorance as to why there seem to be so many people who don’t like John Piper, I was able to out up with that very easily.

        John

  11. Nelson says:

    Yes, yes, let us GIVE & PRAY & RISK (our lives) in the the battle against ebola.

    Everyone is forgetting that part.
    I agree, I don’t like the contents either, but there’s a lot of hyper critizism here.
    Piper has been very compassionate. He has preached on suffering more than any preacher I know. He’s preached against racism a lot too. Check out his youtube vid ‘Bloodlines’.
    Hmmmm, where was all this outrage when Jerry Falwell called Desmond Tutu a phoney, when BobJones univ discriminated for years. Piper makes a metaphor about the importance of saving the soul over the body, which may or may not have been the best thing to do, but I got his point, and some have a heart attack.

    • Tim says:

      I spoke out about Falwell and Bob Jones too back in the day, Nelson. As for Piper, his tweet is a public misstatement of the gospel that takes the focus off Jesus.

  12. Hester says:

    I didn’t know I could catch atheism from contact with a non-Christian’s bodily fluids.

    /snark/

  13. Pingback: Pick of the Clicks 10/11/2014 | bronwyn's corner

  14. Nelson says:

    Oh, I saw you guys bashing up on Piper in another post, so that’s what you do. I got it now.

    • Tim says:

      Nelson, I don’t bash people. I do bash ideas that are contrary to the gospel of Christ, though.

    • Rick says:

      Nelson, look up Piper’s tweets regarding the highway bridge collapse in Minn., about Rob Bell, (Eugene Peterson’s response is priceless), and now this one, among many. When one assumes an authority to comment on circumstances, issues and people as Piper does, he should assume that pushback will come–his followers as well.

      I am hopeful that someday Piper will embrace the truth of the gospel, that the curse of sin has been broken, not just for men, but for women as well–and we will hear the voice of women, not just in the context of testimony but in the context of teaching with equal stature and respect for their calling as men.

  15. Ruth says:

    Nelson, we are not all ‘guys’, many of us are women, and we do not bash anyone in word or deed, more often we are the bashees.
    I have to say, in response to your comment, that Tim is unfailingly polite and fair- minded, his posts are well-considered and informative.
    You have been allowed to post and repost, and it is our right to have different opinions, and to share them courteously.
    I do not countenance, ever, even one hit, slap, smack or belt from a man to a women in any circumstances, that is my belief, and my truely manly husband has never raised so much as a little finger to me.
    He has The dignity and God given manners that preclude that sort of bullying. Christ did not allow anyone to touch the woman taken in adultery ( where was the male perpetrator one wonders, was he brought out for stoning? ).
    He spoke gently and lovingly to Mary of Magdalen at the grave, He spent time with Mary and Martha, and allowed Martha to express her distress with out hitting her! Why then does a human male believe he has a greater right than Christ?
    Whether you believe God created male to dominate and female to subordinate, or not, physical violence is not Biblical in The Name of Christ.
    Ebola is a disease of the body, sin a disease of the soul, Piper seems to me although entitled, cruel to equate the two. Will my asthma and diabetes and blood disorder be equated to sin? I trust and believe in a far more amazing and wonderful Creation than that!

  16. dpersson7 says:

    I appreciate this post. Speaking as one who tried for many years to live my life according to Piper’s theology. All it did for me was distort God into an angry tyrant, instead of a loving Father. Rather than being helped so that I could help others, I just spent all of my time beating myself up for how I reacted to difficult circumstances. Once I realized that I could turn to God in midst of my struggles, that he invites us to come to him, not to bash us over the head for our sin, but to help us I started to change.

    • Tim says:

      Exactly. That bad doctrine turns people away from our loving heavenly Father. I am so glad you found that you could rest in who God truly is despite the bad teaching you heard early on.

      • Ruth says:

        So true Tim! When God reveals love and eager forgiveness, a large burden of guilt goes west ( or east ). We just have to keep that in mind, if Christ paid the penalty for us, why would we keep trying to pay up ourselves? Satans influence, bad teaching, an inability to accept grace, more bad teaching…. the suffering comes to all of us….if Christ suffered , why shouldn’t we. Yes, I did come from a ‘fess up til it hurts’ background until we moved churches, but those very early years do influence us a lot.
        Oh and Pipers ideas about wifely submission, or begging off when it comes to sexual devience in a husband is horrendous in my eyes. His video defies logical and biblical sense totally…..ugh.
        Great discussion with some real eye-openers in the varied comments, certainly much food for thought, even the revealing of Pipers ideas, as I had only read bits on the Junia site, and now I know who not to bother with his sad ideas.

      • Nelson says:

        You’re probably right, some people get turned away if they hear what he said about submission in the midst of abuse. His focus is the gospel, and that’s why there has been so much converts to his church, including those one would think wouldn’t go to his church, like ex, yes ex homosexuals.

        1000’s have been converted to Christ through his ministry, but he’s wrong about his advice.

        • Ruth says:

          Nelson, I’m truly sorry you have been through very tough times. It isn’t that we don’t care, it’s just that a debate has become heated. I apologize for the intensity of my posts to you, and pray you find peace and healing from your pain, no wonder you feel strongly about suffering and, I think, looking for comfort and answers. I am praying for you because it hurts to read the pain in your comments. Blessings to you Nelson from Jesus.
          I think ‘guys’ is used much less in Australia than elsewhere, so being called one is odd to me, but then I’m a bit old for ‘chick’ or ‘bird’, too, so let’s forget that, I can be included in that generic term feminine equalist though I am!
          You are a brother in Christ, therefore we love you, conversations are run by Tim’s rules, as they should be, as this is his responsibility and blog. 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          When Mike Warnke was exposed as a total fraud, didn’t his fanboys strike back with the defense “He Saved Lots of Souls! How many Souls have YOU Saved? HUH? HUH? HUH?”?

          Money Talks, and Souls(TM) are just Christianese Currency for cash-in on J-Day.

        • Tim says:

          I remember listening to Warnke’s comedy albums. All of his stories sounded like he’d really lived through them, and that’s how he marketed his wares. I don’t know if he was motivated by album sales and concert tickets, or by a desire to evangelize. Rationalizing his tactics based on results is not helpful, though, as you point out, HUG.

  17. Lisa Pearce says:

    Hi Tim,
    Thank you again for bringing a sound perspective. I absolutely believe in the power of prayer. But I don’t believe in the power of ‘wishing a blessing’ on someone without actually doing something yourself to bring about that blessing. The world is calling the Ebola crisis an African crisis and blames the dire situation on everything from failed states to ignorance and (let’s face it, this is what some people think) on many Africans being non-Christians and therefore not being civilized. Can any perspective be more callous, patronizing or more untrue?

    If Mr Piper calls unbelief a disease like Ebola, he clearly holds a number of misconceptions about the nature of the disease, and about himself being superior to ‘those people’ because he imagines himself to be a believer. Does he imagine that Ebola is a punishment on unbelievers? Does he imagine that there are no believers in Ebola-stricken lands? Such a worldview speaks volumes about a patronizing cultural view that only Christians are ‘worthy’. Does he believe that people who get and die from Ebola are all unbelievers? Even if he called it the ‘cancer of unbelief’ (as another blogger asked), it would have meant that Mr Piper believes that unbelief is something that happens to some and not to others, and there is very little anyone can do to prevent it from happening to you. Or perhaps he believes it to be like HIV where your unbelief is the consequence of your actions. Either way, this is a strange and shallow comparison to make.

    Yes there are many governance and historical political and religious contributors to the rise of Ebola, but that doesn’t make it any less of a human tragedy. I hope that your post reminds people to put away sugar-coated responses to real-life suffering, and remember that Christ walked among the lepers and dirty people. He healed the repugnant and the least in society. Let us who are lucky enough to live in countries that have the resources and capabilities to deal with deadly diseases not diminish the suffering of others with condescending and spiritually immature words.

    • Tim says:

      It’s the ministry of Jesus himself that I think was really lost in that tweet, Lisa. As you say, he walked with and brought healing to the suffering, as well as speaking to their spiritual need to turn to him as well.

  18. Pingback: Why Ebola should not be a metaphor for unbelief | Laura Droege's blog

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