Like Button

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Losing Sight of the Goal

Perhaps you've heard about the kerfuffle around John Piper recently. Minnesota has a marriage amendment coming up on the ballot. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis read, "Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight". Piper responded in his blog with "What the Star-Tribune Got Right -- And Wrong". Stand To Reason, a Christian apologetics organization, stood up for Piper while many and loud voices took him to task, sometimes angrily. Few appear to care that Piper was in the middle of a preaching series on holding marriage in honor and preached a sermon just this month on "Thinking Biblically about So-Called Same-Sex Marriage". There is no doubt, you see, about what Piper believes on the subject. But he isn't telling his congregation to vote on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment that will allow the voters to define marriage as it has always been defined -- the union of a man and a woman. No, Piper isn't telling them how to vote ... but he is certainly telling them what is true.

My first response to the Piper story was disagreement with Piper. Not take a stand? What's up with that??! The more I read about Piper's position, however, the better I understood. But what really straightened me out was neither the Star Tribune nor Piper's own response, but a commentary on the question from another blogger. This blogger was upset about Piper's stand. While Piper held that his job was to preach the truth of the Word, this blogger argued, "If Piper really opposed gay marriage, then he would support the marriage amendment, and he would persuade people in his state – not just his choir and congregation – using arguments and evidence that people in his state find convincing." His position is that if we genuinely care about this subject, we need "to care about what non-Christians find convincing." And that's when I realized the position this blogger and so many others were taking.

I am not, here, arguing the merits of Piper's position or even the blogger's position. I am not even here arguing about the underlying topic -- whether or not marriage ought to be defined in the legal system or whether or not it should be reworked to include "gay marriage". I'm talking here about the bottom line idea, the position that so many detractors are holding. Here it is. Christians, if they are to engage the world, need to engage the world in the world's way. That's the position. And that's a mistake.

There are multiple forms of this notion here. The (repeated) suggestion here is that we can only save marriage if we vote properly. The (repeated) suggestion is that other Christians in other countries (Canada and Denmark came up repeatedly) failed to vote properly and marriage fell. The idea is that we are the bottom-line defense of all things moral and must push it through in legislation because our salvation (not eternal, of course, but temporal) is found in politics and reason. That's the whole basis here. God is not going to defend His own concept of marriage. We have to. God is not going to intervene in the stream of human events. We have to. And, in fact, a major concern of all Christians must be the retaining of a "moral society" by political and legislative means . We need to make bad people into good people by force of law. That will make our world a better world. And that's not true.

Christians are required to be engaged in the Gospel. We are so commanded. We are required to be praying and specifically for governments. We are so commanded. Christians are to be representatives of Christ in our world. We are so commanded. And Christians ought to be engaged in their societies to include voting and such when we are so allowed. But we must never become deists, believing that we are the ones responsible to maintain a godly world and we are the ones capable of providing the necessary arguments to change hearts or even minds. We must never assume that, in the final analysis, God has taken a "hands-off" approach and left it up to us. This view is our doom. If left to ourselves as Christians we will fail at that which God calls us to do. No, we work "because it is God who is at work in you" and we live a "Christ in you" existence and we serve as a form of worship, but God works all things after the counsel of His will and when we get that turned around, we replace God with our arguments, politics, and legislation. It's called "idolatry". It is a failed strategy. Changed hearts, not better laws, make changed lives. Renewed minds, not proper argumentation on the level of sinful humans, make transformed lives. And a moral society by means of law only makes a more comfortable-but-damned people. Yes, moral laws are good, but that is not our focus, nor is God wringing His hands, relying on us to get it done. We must not lose sight of that.

For anyone interested in Piper's view, here is his response to the Star Tribune article and this counterpoint ran in the Star Tribune. And, as a side note of interest, when the first piece ran, people complained that the pastor wasn't taking a stand and when the second piece ran, people complained that the pastor was taking a stand. In keeping with "Losing sight of the goal", another goal that is not ours is acceptance.

No comments: