A Brief Reflection on John Piper’s Recent Article concerning the Presidential Election47
Most of you are aware that I regard John Piper as one of my dearest friends. We’ve known each other for over 35 years and I’ve had the privilege of sitting on the board of Desiring God and partnering with John in the advance of what we call Christian Hedonism. He has also exerted a tremendous, life-shaping influence on me theologically.
What follows is not designed to disagree with the substance of what he wrote in his article. You can read the article here. Rather, I want to make what I believe is an important contribution to what John wrote that I hope will help people as they make their decision on November 3.
Here is a brief summary of what John wrote.
He is baffled “that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.”
The reason John put those Greek words in parentheses “is to give a graphic reminder that these are sins mentioned in the New Testament. To be more specific, they are sins that destroy people. They are not just deadly. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9). They destroy persons (Acts 12:20-23). And through persons, they destroy nations (Jeremiah 48:29-31, 42). It is not a small thing to treat lightly a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death.”
John goes on to say that “it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person.
This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society.
Therefore, Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.
The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.”
John concludes with this: “I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring (eristikos).”
I trust from these few statements that you get the gist of what John is saying. And let me say it clearly: I largely agree with him. I have often been tempted to write about the egregious and ungodly behavior and speech of our President, but have resisted doing so. I’m very careful to guard against endorsing certain candidates for public office. I noticed that after John’s original article he tweeted that he intends to vote for neither Biden nor Trump. I am giving serious consideration to joining him in that approach. I cannot in good conscience endorse either man. I’ve heard all the arguments that not voting for either candidate is counter-productive and irresponsible. I won’t take the time here to respond, as I certainly understand why many would take that view.
But here is what I want to say about John’s article on the importance of character in a candidate, or in the average man or woman. Bad character, destructive character, does not always manifest itself in bombastic speech and overt arrogance. Moral deficiencies in a person are, sadly, often hidden, but not for that reason any less destructive both personally and nationally. A person can be soft-spoken, courteous, and guarded in their speech while at the same time be as wicked and dangerous as the loud-mouthed jerk.
Let me be even more specific.
I am passionately pro-life and an energetic advocate of traditional marriage (between one man and one woman). I oppose socialist economic policies and I believe in religious liberty and a strong national defense, among other issues of importance.
So, what’s my point? Simply this. For a person to support, endorse, and encourage the torture, dismemberment, and wholesale slaughter of precious babies in the womb is a clear and unmistakable indication of a wretched moral character. There is something fundamentally flawed in any human soul that would contend women should have the legal right to kill their babies. This is as grievous a flaw (perhaps even more so) than any of the character deficiencies we see in our President.
For a person to support, endorse, and encourage sexual perversion is a clear and unmistakable indication of a wretched moral character. Our nation is progressively sliding down a path toward the destruction of the biblical model of what a marriage is, what a family is, and what constitutes biblical sexual morality. No, we aren’t sliding down the path, we’re there already. The Supreme Court decision to legitimize so-called same-sex marriage testifies to that fact. The fact that there are multiple parades in our country that celebrate pride in that sort of sexual misconduct that the Bible says ought to evoke shame is another indication of how far we have fallen. And for a person to run a campaign for President that endorses such reprehensible conduct is itself a clear sign of serious moral, philosophical, and theological flaws in one’s soul.
It is not loving to endorse and encourage behavior in a person that puts his/her soul in danger of eternal damnation.
For a person to support and encourage 10-year-old children to make up their own minds about what gender they wish to be is horribly destructive of any semblance of responsible parenting and puts the souls of these precious young people in serious jeopardy. What does it say about the quality of character in a presidential candidate that he would endorse such behavior? It doesn’t matter if he said it in a soft and gentle voice, void of vulgarity or profanity, perhaps even with a tear in his eye. To advocate for such an approach to life is inherently dangerous both to individual persons and a nation at large.
I could continue to cite examples of statements, policies, and positions that a candidate might endorse that are reflections of a serious flaw in character, indeed, a warped character, but I trust that you can understand the point I’m making.
I’m not equipped or wise enough to know which is worse for a nation: an overtly prideful, lustful, vulgar, profane Narcissist, or a quiet and gentlemanly advocate of abortion, homosexuality, who would suppress religious liberties and promote socialist economic policies. Both are evil. And does it not say something about the wretched condition of our country that such men are the best that the United States of America can put forth as candidates for President? Can we not do better than this?
So, in conclusion, I agree with John that character counts, indeed, counts massively. I agree that the unbiblical and immoral qualities that we see in one person can be destructive, just as can the policies of a person who by all outward appearances seems to be winsome and kind. It is a terrible indictment of our failed political system and the misguided beliefs of so many people that this has left us with what I believe is an untenable choice to make on November 3.
On the eve of the election in 2016 I stood before the congregation at Bridgeway and lamented the fact that we were faced with a decision between two equally unqualified, morally degenerate candidates. There is a very real sense in which the same scenario now plays out in 2020. May God give us wisdom to know what to do, and how to vote.