Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pious Nonsense

I hesitate to write this post.  But I just can't seem to restrain myself.  As most of you know, I am a Presbyterian minister.  I'm not a pastor in the mainline liberal or progressive Presbyterian church.  That organization is scarcely identifiable as a Christian church any more.  I am a member of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). We broke off from the United Presbyterian church back in 1973 because of rampant unorthodoxy and modernist progressive social dogmatism in their seminaries.  But I digress.

All of that to say that I identify with a tradition of straight-taking, tough-minded Calvinists that do not view the world through rose-colored, liberal glasses.  We are the guys that gifted the fledgling USA with republican government, with its separation of powers and a graded system of courts.  King George III of England referred to the American Revolution as a “Presbyterian War.”  In 1776, the Prime Minister of England Horace Walpole, upon hearing the news of colonial rebellion, said, “Cousin America has run off with a Presbyterian parson!”  He was referring to the intellectual powerhouse behind the framers of the Constitution—John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and college professor.  The Presbyterian system  is a brutally honest approach to governing that arises from a keen sense of the propensity of governments—actually government officials—to go bad quickly.

Presbyterians are also "whole-Bible" Christians. We take the law of God seriously.  The God of the "Old Testament" is not some different, primitive, cruel deity, but the pre-incarnate Son of God.  Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh.  Regrettably, many American evangelicals consider themselves "New Testament" Christians.  And by that they often mean that they come close to being pacifists, believe that "love" is something new since Jesus, think that being heavenly means being above the things of this world like business, law, justice, and government. That's just too messy, they say—Old Testament stuff. We're too heavenly minded for all that. We'll leave the world to others.  Getting saved and going to heaven is all that really matters.  Stuff like that.

But we Presbyterians believe that the Kingdom of God includes all of life. That Jesus is king not just over individual Christians in their private religious lives, but he has authority over every dimension of human existence—individual, family, work, church, government, and more.  We like whiskey and use wine in communion, not wimpy grape juice.  We believe Christians are called to serve the world by being faithful in their vocations, whether they be soldiers, policeman, fathers, teachers, professors, plumbers, etc.  We also believe that humanity is fallen and the world is full of evil-minded people bent on self-centered domination of others.  We pray for divine justice against evildoers like abortionists and terrorists. We support civil magistrates when they minister the wrath of God against evildoers with lethal force and capital punishment (Romans 13).  We sing all 150 Psalms and that includes petitions that God would judge the wicked and deliver the oppressed (see Psalm 109, for example).

This is cask-strength, peaty Christianity and not some watered down, sentimental feminized brand of American Evangelical religion.  Presbyterians don't gather on Sunday for worship and act like a bunch of high school girls at a rock concert, swaying this way and that, and singing syrupy pop Christian jingles with lyrics like "Jesus is my boyfriend and I love him so much."  We sing Psalms and hymns.  When we gather for worship we kneel to confess our sins, stand to receive the forgiveness of sins, and then at the end face forward to receive our marching orders from our Commander about how we are to "overcome evil with good" in our daily lives and make disciples of all the nations.

So where am I going with all of this?  And what does this have to do with my shooting blog?  Well, this:



What do we say to this?  It's wrong on so many levels.  It's pitiful and painful to watch and listen to.  Piper has some good things to say about a lot of other theological issues. But on this issue he's talking pious nonsense and worse.  So what exactly is wrong with Piper's pious opinions here?  Let me write a list:
• his use of missionary martyrdom to draw conclusions about self-defense in non-missionary situations
• his thinking that it's just peachy for the government and the police to have all the guns
• his unbelievable notion that you don't want to kill someone unless you know they are going to heaven. News flash: the guys who are going to rape your daughter or threaten your life in your own home have forfeited their right to live.  Period.  God sorts out their future in the afterlife
• his womanly hesitation about defending his daughter with lethal force
• his ignorance of what is required when confronting an evil threat. The very idea that shooting a warning shot, or aiming at someone's leg, or hitting them with the gun is even remotely effective.
• his pretending he doesn't know what amendment that guarantees the right to bear arms
• his restricting the purpose of guns in the hands of private citizens to hunting
• his ignorant notion that the Supreme Court made some sort of novel ruling re: private citizens having the right to own guns in their home
• his acting like a weak woman and refusing to own up to the masculine duty of guarding and defending life with lethal force
Okay.  There.  I said what I needed to say.

8 comments:

  1. "we kneel to confess our sins" unless we buy a church with pews too close together and refuse to spread them out, making Psalm 95 a petition against the Elders.

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  2. When you say "womanly" hesitation, I hope you understand that a mother will defend her daughter's life. That includes using a gun and that includes doing what it takes to ensure the threat ends. I understand what you are saying, but, just saying.

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  3. I agree. "Womanly" is probably not the best adjective to use. This is an example of the feminization of the ministry in America. But I mean no disrespect to women, especially faithful wives and mothers, even teachers who are fiercely protective of their children. The book to read on the gelding of the ministry is Anne Douglas's masterpiece The Feminization of American Culture.

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  4. It's a shame that you feel the need to write so arrogantly because your attitude devalues your words and thoughts on this issue.

    Piper is neither "womanly" or "pious." He simply has a differing opinion. Considering it's not a heretical view of an essential theological matter, why bash him for it with adjectives that don't fit?

    Do you really think calling a guy who says he would defend his daughter "womanly" is accurate? I wish you would think in the deep end of the pool there.

    Do you really think insulting a guy who says he doesn't wish to kill anyone because it may send them to hell by calling him "pious" is accurate? I don't agree with Piper, but I'm honest enough to see that he's coming from a position of love for his fellow man, not piousness.

    Would that you have as much love for Piper as he does for his fellow man.

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    1. I can see where my critique may come across as arrogant. And maybe it is. I need to think about it some more. As for the adjective "womanly," I've already conceded that it's probably not the best word. "Effeminate" would have been a better choice. There are plenty of women that are fiercely protective of their children, even to the point of using lethal force. As they should be. But as I said in an earlier comment, Christianity in America has been gelded and there is indeed a problem of feminization in the ranks of the ministry. Anne Douglas's book is a must read.

      I'm not insulting Piper. That's not my intention. I'm critiquing his wishy-washy position on this subject. He's the one who put this out on the web for everyone to see and hear. He's not above criticism.

      Yes, I do think that there's a good deal of pietism on display here. I don't know what else to call it. You say it's "love." But in the kind of self-defense situations that we are talking about someone who threatens the life of my wife or children or any other innocent person forfeits his right to life, let alone love. The question then is: Do I love those in my charge enough to protect them from this threat to their life? The question is not: is this person who has invaded my home ready to meet his Maker? Ready or not, he's meeting Him. You see, I believe Piper's pietism—his romantic, sentimental, sub-biblical religiosity—is clouding his judgment.

      Yes, this post is probably too harsh. The tone reflects the anger I feel when I watch stuff like this. It seems like lately my wife and I have seen effeminate Christian ministers interviewed more and more on TV. Its hard to put your finger on how exactly they are "effeminate." But there's something about this affected, pious way of talking that irks me. Trying too hard to look caring and sensitive. My wife just moans and says, "Turn the TV off." Paul tells us to "act like men, be strong" (1 Cor. 16:13). When ministers adopt this simpering, mealy-mouthed persona, I want to scream. Sometimes I do.

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  5. >>I don't agree with Piper, but I'm honest enough to see that he's coming from a position of love for his fellow man, not piousness.

    >>Would that you have as much love for Piper as he does for his fellow man.

    What does it mean biblically to love our fellow man? Nance and Wilson give a good definition in their book *Introductory Logic for Christian & Home Schools*.

    “[S]ome people believe that Jesus’ command to love your enemies is an absurd requirement because they are defining love to mean ‘believe the other person to be a nice person,’ when in fact they know their enemies to be quite wicked and depraved. But biblically, love means ‘to treat the other person lawfully from the heart,’ which is to be our behavior toward all men.”

    Quoted on http://www.rodneychrisman.com/2012/03/18/a-biblical-definition-of-love/.

    Piper desires the salvation of unbelievers, but if they are wickedly seeking the harm or life of another person the question should be how do we act lawfully towards them, especially if the person they are attacking is someone we have an duty to protect.

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  6. Speaking truth is love. This includes saying hard things and, therefore, withholding truth is hatred and mean. Thanks, Jeffrey, for reminding us that love and justice are inextricably joined and require that we defend our families and ourselves with deadly force, when necessary.

    Chris

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