Friday, March 14, 2014

John Piper and Modern Evangelicalism’s Misplaced Pursuit of Racial Economics in Christ's Church




(Edited Mar 2014)

In my view, John Piper is the quintessential modern baby boomer Evangelical; basically put, he is a neo-Calvinist/Charismatic (light). And his efforts toward novelty and proprietorship with regard to predicating unique or ostentatious views on theological/ecclesiastical and social matters is not atypical of the baby boomer Christian. He follows a somewhat easily anticipated trend for those who fall within his demographic. And while the title includes modern Evangelicalism more broadly, John Piper will be the representative case, particularly because he is received so extensively, very often with tepid or no qualification, by Evangelicals. 

For someone born in the second half of the 1940’s and who grew up in a segregated south during his childhood which encompassed a culture of expressed racial prejudices, John Piper is precisely the kind of person who is ideal for the white racial guilt syndrome; something I have observed has followed him into his faith and now haunts him, it seems, these latter days.

Unfortunately, brother Piper’s attempt(s) to capture and dispel the demon(s) of racialism or racism (I have an upcoming article or racism, what it is and is not, etc.) has arrested his assumed good senses regarding the nature of race or anthropology and the unique spiritual construct of the church which transcends racial properties and their products or by-products. It seems he has become theologically and ecclesiastically consummately lost in this venture of racial economics.

The Recent Rise and Dominance of the Humanistic Doctrine of Social Egalitarianism as a Morality

Over the last seventy-five years there has been the advancement of a new morality with regard to race, ethnicity and culture. It is not one found in the Bible though many men and women proof-text the Bible to support this doctrine. Thus, it is not a moral code which is borne from the Bible. Rather it is a humanist value commonly referred to as the brotherhood of man which comes out of human opinion and philosophy, apart from the boundaries of Scripture.

The Origin of the Species. I believe our current humanism can trace its modern genesis to the consequences of Darwin’s work which resulted in a pivotal shift in our world view. Darwin did not necessarily intend on many of the by-products and uses of his claims, (many claims of which now have been debunked by microbiology and genetic research) but that is a moot point, it had its affect. And even before this, from the period of what is known as The Reformation and the Enlightenment, heavy strains of humanistic concepts began to flow within the collective of the West. 

While never finding a coalescence, still the de-Godding of our world view by various philosophers (all the way back, of course, to the Greek codifiers) and scientists slowly crept along, building momentum, as the West advanced in its civilization. However, by a vast majority, views of morality, government, sexuality and ethics all remained either Christian or at least Biblically referenced in the Western consciousness. This remained so until the nineteenth century and the arrival of Darwin’s, The Origin of the Species, which proved to be the point in Western civilization at which all those who wished to move away from a biblical narrative of creation, morality, ethics and social order and so on, did so based on what they claimed was objective and concrete enlightenment which proved that things were not as God said.

In a matter of decades, there was a transition from a world view on the basis of Holy Writ to that of nature. Our beginning and all of which followed, was the result of natural selection. There was no cause outside of ourselves, outside of nature, which resulted in our being. The broad acceptance of this was catastrophic to say the least, and over time changed the modern world more dramatically than some of its greatest wars.

The Humanist Manifesto – Moving ahead a few decades, to the first one-third of the 20th century (which also brought us the Scopes Trial) we come to The Humanist Manifesto published in 1933 (with a second in 1973 and what some consider a third in 2003). It reflects an ideology which one can identify rather confidently as an emboldened by-product of the new naturalist world view given to us by Darwin. Unfortunately, some of what is found in this manifesto, as I have observed - at least in principle - is present in Piper’s efforts and Evangelicalism’s efforts regarding racial economics in the last few decades and demonstratively in the last fifteen years. 

Take a look at just four of the fifteen statements of The Humanist Manifesto (1933) and think about what you are seeing in the church today in its monumental effort to accommodate new ideas (with regard to the first one, which is the seventh of the fifteen, Tim Keller comes to mind) link here:

SEVENTH: Religion consists of those actions, purposes, and experiences which are humanly significant. Nothing human is alien to the religious. It includes labor, art, science, philosophy, love, friendship, recreation--all that is in its degree expressive of intelligently satisfying human living. The distinction between the sacred and the secular can no longer be maintained.


EIGHTH: Religious Humanism considers the complete realization of human personality to be the end of man's life and seeks its development and fulfillment in the here and now. This is the explanation of the humanist's social passion.


NINTH: In the place of the old attitudes involved in worship and prayer the humanist finds his religious emotions expressed in a heightened sense of personal life and in a cooperative effort to promote social well-being.


THIRTEENTH: Religious humanism maintains that all associations and institutions exist for the fulfillment of human life. The intelligent evaluation, transformation, control, and direction of such associations and institutions with a view to the enhancement of human life is the purpose and program of humanism. Certainly religious institutions, their ritualistic forms, ecclesiastical methods, and communal activities must be reconstituted as rapidly as experience allows, in order to function effectively in the modern world.

The goal of humanism is social equality, equanimity and harmony. And that does not sound bad but it is at the expense of the many personal properties given to us (our person that is) by God. It denies special emphasis on our national identity, cultural identity, family/genetic identity, and personal property rights and so on. And these are all values which find their origin in Scripture (dogmas if you will) that when transferred into a naturalistic or humanistic world view, become relative, debatable and malleable.

But notice, also, what it assigns to the church, Christ's body, "a cooperative effort to promote social well-being". The reconstitution of the church (religious efforts) is social harmony, not spiritual reconciliation and spiritual edification. And it more than appears this humanist agenda  as been adopted by many ministers and is bearing its tares in the church.

A New Social/Racial Morality – Paramount in all of this is that it is through humanism (and particularly Darwin’s naturalism and the manifestos which have bled through and now saturate both secular and religious institutions), we - this present day society - have been given a new morality never before accepted as a divine morality, which now, as I said, has so infiltrated our world that the church and its teachers treat it as if it is divine in origin. That morality, of course, is a social morality of equality, sameness, and de-emphasis of person, family and nation and a social structure built from principles of humanism but now, transposed onto our theology and ecclesiastical practice.

No More Qualitative Differences – if you look at the language of humanism, it opposes strong nation/state building which was instituted by God as the means by which a people could organize themselves, protect themselves and prosper. Further and greater, it does not allow for the observation and/or affirmation of qualitative differences between various people groups by race, ethnicity, cultural or national identification.

Now one might say, “wait a minute, didn’t Darwin advocate the fitness of races and species and through naturalism, savage races would be replaced by advanced ones”? Yes, Darwin said many things but those things which do not fit a desired humanistic moral narrative for modern and post-modern social engineers have been discarded. Darwin was a scientist first, the implications of what he believed were not alarming to him, they were just facts of nature. But to the social engineers who have philosophical agendas, such things must be washed away while other portions were and are selectively elevated.

Understand, no one really cares about Darwin anymore or his theories which are untenable for the most part. He is simply an idol to philosophy and science’s liberation from God. Those things which Darwin said at one time which are no longer politically correct have been dispossessed of any value while his main premise, naturalism, has been advanced with new dressing

And if you are not sure from reading The Humanist Manifesto (1933) regarding the distaste for nationalism and human divisions, look what The Humanist Manifest II (1973) asserts, link here:

TWELFTH: We deplore the division of humankind on nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move toward the building of a world community in which all sectors of the human family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world law and a world order based upon transnational federal government. This would appreciate cultural pluralism and diversity...For the first time in human history, no part of humankind can be isolated from any other. Each person's future is in some way linked to all. We thus reaffirm a commitment to the building of world community, at the same time recognizing that this commits us to some hard choices.

The ultimate view of humanism is the doctrine of the brotherhood of man. It asserts that we are all linked in a manner so inextricably indivisible that we must be busy building a world community instead of proprietary families, neighborhoods and nations and states. This is a naïve utopian dream that if it could occur, would have occurred, in history. But it cannot and will not because it requires the suppression of too many divine principles in opting for a naturalistic/humanistic world view which ultimately leads to severe stress in individuals, groups and the society as a whole as they are forced to live in denial of so many racial, ethnic and cultural realities.

Qualitative Differences between People Groups – As noted above, humanism seeks to force together unlike people under the banner of the brotherhood of man. Unfortunately, this view denies the unique properties of people groups which ultimately are genetic.

From our genetics we get our personalities and our aptitudes. This is how God designed us. Now, within our upbringing the hope is that those inherent qualities are enhanced by a strong morality, ethic and education as well as, for the Christian, spiritual/theological tutelage. On the other, personal genetic assets can be hindered and/or misdirected through poor moral instruction and enforcement, a lack of ethics, sub-standard education and an absence of spiritual guidance (or a very weak one).

Thus, the consummation of people existing is inevitably going to be like-kind and like-minded people forming groups. And those groups are historically (I would argue biblically) primarily genetically based simply by way of the design of God in family formation and from there, tribal formation, and from there the formation of states/nations. Out of these groups we then can discover collective profiles with regard to capacity for learning and capacity for cultural advancement which includes scientific innovation, medical discoveries and engineering in all sciences and so on. Additionally, we may find collective profiles with regard to malevolent behavior or altruism. All of these help us determine the collective “quality” of a group. For many Christians this is scary territory.

Why is it Scary? I suspect the fear stems from the predominant humanistic thinking in our culture which has taught us that identifying qualitative differences between people and then acting on that knowledge is immoral, hence a sin. Most people alive have lived during an era when the thinking and doctrines of the naturalism and The Humanist Manifesto have come to dominate their world. Thus, they have been reared believing it is moral breach, hence, a sin, to have racial awareness, racial preference(s) and racial profiles. Such things are a sin against the brotherhood of man. And no one wants to be left out and treated like a Neanderthal, worse guilty of new sins, eh? 

Today’s Acceleration of Homosexual Normalization – Nothing could exists as an example better than the current situation in the United States and in the world in general with respect to the super-intense pace at which society has both normalized homosexuality and demonized its objection to the point that even Christians lecture one another regarding mythologies like “homophobia”. This comes directly from The Humanist Manifesto II (1973), link here:

SIXTH: In the area of sexuality, we believe that intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct…The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered "evil." Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire. We wish to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in which humans are not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy, sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged. Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing awareness and sexual maturity.

Moral education? You mean humanistic programming of humanistic morality. These claims by humanism aren’t simply suggestions, these are moralities which they originally sought to integrate into the thinking of the world, at large, with the goal of changing the attitudes, thus, actions of the world.  And it seems to me, they have succeeded in a grand fashion. 

I want to encourage you to go and read all three of the manifestos. They affirm and re-affirm humanistic doctrines that you will suddenly recognize being contained in much of what is being taught and practiced in the church.

Does this Mean Humanism is Always Wrong?

Clearly I have not made the suggestion that humanism doctrine is always wrong. However, as Christians we do not live by humanism, we live by the doctrines of the Bible. If humanism reflects something in the Bible then good for them but we still do not partner with humanism because they happen to agree, wittingly or unwittingly, with the Bible. As they say, a broken clock is right twice a day (military time aside). 

The Imperilment. There is a precarious intellectual appeal of humanism. That is, when it is right or when it does seek to express its conscience, it is seemingly something which (at least on paper) sounds altruistic, sacrificial and for the common good of all. There is an underlying ethic and thoughtfulness that seems to be present in their articulations and efforts. Such an attraction for the Christian is an egotistical one because again, these are determinations made in a space divorced from the discipline of viewing life through God's Word.

God does not forbid us from thinking, from using our rational minds to observe and advance our understanding of the world around us which we generally call science (whether it be social sciences, biological sciences or political sciences and so on). However, the Christian’s frame of reference must, at all times, be a divine or biblical one. Humanism's propositions are not vetted by God's Word and their conclusions are not derived from theologically based formulas.

With all of this in mind as the groundwork - that is the new order created by naturalism and humanism with its emphasis on the equality of man, his equal sharing in all things and his equal standing among all others and so on - I want to move to John Piper and modern Evangelicalism (again, using Piper as its representative). 

John Piper/Evangelicalism

If we compare principle number thirteen (please scroll up to review it) from The Humanist Manifesto (1933) to that of what I see as the more recent pursuit of John Piper and modern Evangelicals, what comes into focus is the weighty presence of humanistic thinking with regard to the brotherhood of man and the necessity of social egalitarianism. Further, in comparing the principle and some of Piper's and Evangelicalism's efforts and statements, it appears to me that the humanist doctrine which teaches that ecclesiastical institutions and their doctrines are to be adapted as a medium for anthropological or human affirmation (as opposed to the historical understanding and function of the church which is the affirmation of God, his gospel to the world through the Christ and our unique spiritual identification) is almost precisely what Piper and the body Evangelical are now doing.

An excellent model of Piper demonstrating and Evangelicals receiving, what I believe to be his and their grave error regarding the pursuit of racial economics, comes from Piper speaking at Westminster Theological Seminary on New Calvinism and the New Community, link here (begin at the 10:40 time mark). The quote is frankly, dumbfounding:

“Since I love to talk about what is biblical and true and beautiful and glorious and precious and sweet, this is my topic. Third, racial and ethnic diversity and harmony are not overly addressed in our churches and are *central to the aim of the blood work of Christ in ransoming a people for God and a bride for himself”.

(*In my earlier edition, I reflected a lack of clarity on precisely how "central to the aim" was being stated by Piper but subsequently Piper published this portion as his website which cleared up the unclear audio of his presentation. This does not change the general objection, rather, enhances it. The bloodwork of Christ does not have in view anthropological reconciliation, harmony or diversity, even remotely, rather it has in view spiritual reconciliation, harmony and diversity. Piper remains divorced from orthodoxy on the matter.)

I am not sure if Mr. Piper has ever genuinely comprehended what God made clear in Paul's letter to the Galatians because his claim that "racial and ethnic diversity and harmony...are central to the aim of the blood work of Christ” is about as far from Galatians and specifically Galatians 3:28, as one can get. It is in the complete opposite direction: 

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

John Piper, and unfortunately many groups in modern Evangelicalism, simply do not get the consequences and implications of Galatians, it appears. It is as if Piper and the collective have all said, “Yeah, that is well and good but we have racial/ethnic conflict going on and we need reconciliation”. He and those in agreement with Piper are completely ignoring the construct.

Paying Attention 

Do you really think Paul was so stupid, nay, God himself, to intend the assertion here that the racial, ethnic and cultural properties of Jews and Gentiles were removed as if no one any longer, in any real contexts, possesses these, not to mention our genders? No! But in the body of Christ they are not central or even consequential to anything spiritual. The race, ethnicity and culture of the church is all Christ! Piper completely not only misses this but in missing this is attempting to send the church into an errant and damaging pursuit of racial reconciliation when it isn't called to that in the least.

If the church has racial conflicts then the problem is not finding a way to bring racial harmony because in doing so it is denouncing the supremacy of Christ in the church. In other words, we now have an anthropocentric theology and ecclesiastical system instead of a Christocentric theology and ecclesiastical system. The church isn't and wasn't formed to affirm your anthropological person, who you are in the flesh, but who you are in Christ! 

Worse yet, John Piper claims, in great challenge to the arguments of Scripture, that, “racial and ethnic diversity and harmony" are the "central aim of the blood work of Christ”. Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

I hate to use the exaggerated “what” but this is absolute heresy and for Westminster to tolerate this tells me (and should tell you), how far Evangelicalism has gone off the farm. No, no and no again. Christ made a new people, without reference to our anthropological properties. 

First, to diversity. God tells us about diversity in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where, in chapter twelve, we are given a bit of a treatise on diversity which ends up revealing that diversity in the body of Christ is to be view in a spiritual context and with respect to our gifts. As the Scriptures state, we are a new species or order (2 Corinthians 5:17), and specifically a spiritual one. Thus, consistent with this overarching theme of who we (believers) are as a people, when diversity is referenced it is done so in a spiritual context, with regard to spiritual giftings and not with regard to our flesh.

It says nothing, absolutely nothing, about our anthropological differences which are not, in the least, in view. They are anecdotal and inconsequential but not because they are not real but because in the construct of the body of Christ, they do not have value plus or minus, with respect to our relationship with Christ and our spiritual fellowship within the body which is all about Christ, his doctrine and his Spirit and God the Father. 

Second and of greater alarm. Piper claims the central aim of the blood work of Christ is “racial harmony” as well? I am sorry but this is simply muddled nonsense. Christ’s central aim was our reconciliation to God through the atoning work of Christ, the God man. It is true that further included in the atonement and its reconciling power is our being brought into the body of Christ which was pre-planned in eternity past.  I have no dispute with that but just adding that in at the tail of an absolutely flagrant doctrinal departure does not make the error palatable in the least (I encourage you to watch the whole video at the link. Remember, error is almost always mixed with truth. It is hidden in or behind orthodoxy.).

Conclusion

If I had five-thousand hours to document the errors of the modern Evangelical's pursuit of racial economics in the body of Christ, none of that time would be wasted and I would still only touch the surface. And this chase for racial economics by Evangelicals is not lessening, it is only becoming rampant as humanism continues its influence in our schools of theology in the hearts and minds of influential Bible teachers and theologians.

No better example exists in my mind than John Piper, of what I just described. Even the most basic of doctrines and the most basic demands of sound exegesis with their implications are seemingly tossed aside for a racial economic philosophy he seems determined to impose upon the church with the aid of many of his peers and acolytes.

As noted in the earlier portion of this post, I gave a traceable route for the infiltration of the humanistic doctrine from the Greeks to its explosion in the last seventy-five years. None of this can or will be found in the Scriptures. Its claim of divine morality is more than dubious, it is dishonestly extrapolated either from general texts and applied ex cathedra by Evangelical/Protestant Popes or it comes from exegetically adulterated texts.

Stopping short of assigning motives, frankly this gives the odor of an ego-investment and ego-endeavor of the first order. If there ever was, or now is, a subject in which a man can imagine himself not only faultless, but one in which he will win the approbation of much of the world, as well even imagine his crusade is supremely righteous, it is one in which a theological aristocrat attempts to speak up for a social minority.

Everything about this has built in social and ego rewards. It is the sacred cow to be made more sacred and ourselves more righteous for worshiping at its altar.

Oddly, none of this is present in Scripture as even a tertiary matter. But its predominance in Western thinking and subsequently, "Christian America" is observable from the moon, yet, it seems to oblivious to those who have been drafted into its army.

And lest you think I am asserting freedom to do anything without boundaries with regard to our behavior toward fellow human beings, I forward no such nonsense. There are principles which we can identify and apply in Scripture, far more precise ones which are clear numerators for such contexts. But this is not specifically about that and I have used your time enough already without creating an essay inside an essay.

The body of Christ is a spiritual body, not a physical or anthropological one. If or when a body of believers has racial issues, it is because Christ is not preeminent, not because someone hasn’t learned to appreciate the race, ethnicity or culture of another.

Thus, when we come together as believers there isn’t racial, ethnic or cultural harmony because it isn’t about our race, ethnicity or culture, it is about Christ’s race which is spiritual, his ethnicity, which is divine and his culture which is “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. And this takes place in the body of Christ, alone, because outside of the body of Christ, no such spiritual construct is intended by God to function. That is when anthropological properties are relevant.

John Piper and those who share his view, in my opinion and on this matter, are setting a template for the church which is based on humanism and a corrupted use of Scripture to forward that agenda. I do not anticipate a waking up of these Evangelical neo-crusaders, it seems they are long past being convinced otherwise. However, my hope is to help those who are willing to consider this matter more thoroughly and consider how they might protect their acre of God's community from crusading humanistic doctrines masked as divine edicts and imperatives.

No comments: