We rarely run an interview in two separate issues, but it’s worth making an exception for theologian John Piper, who this spring concluded 33 years in the pulpit of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He has authored 50-plus books and has many more in mind during his nonretirement retirement. I interviewed him in front of students at Bethlehem College and Seminary; we ran the first part in our Aug. 24 issue.
When you read the last five chapters of Judges with its refrain about having no king in Israel, so everyone does what is right in his own eyes: Does that seem like modern America? “Everyone does what is right in his own eyes” sounds very much like modern skepticism or relativism or postmodernism, in that we have abandoned absolutes and right and wrong. Without faithful representatives of King Jesus in the churches, people will do their own thing.
What do you think the United States will look like in 10 or 20 years? I’m not optimistic, but I do believe in the absolute sovereignty of God who could be pleased in the eleventh hour of our self-destruction to move like a tornado through this land and cause people to wake up and say, “We’ve been insane.” It’s insane to kill babies. It’s insane to define marriage as two men having long-term sex with each other. God could move through our culture and cause people to say, “We’ve been in a fog, under a darkness, so that we couldn’t see you don’t kill babies and you don’t call that marriage.” That could happen. I will pray until I’m dead that it will happen.
If it doesn’t? I will reflect on Romans 1 where Paul projects the implications of people living against nature: receiving the penalty in their own bodies. We are going to wake up after this marriage fiasco in 10, 15, or 20 years, and the fruit of it will be absolutely devastating for children, for all the legal implications we haven’t thought of, for thousands of people who tried their best to manage their undesired same-sex orientation and didn’t get any help from the leaders of their land. Who knows what will follow in terms of polygamy and other kinds of sex once you have said a woman who wants a baby not to exist has the right to make it not exist, and you have the right to call “marriage” whatever you want to call it. Then there are no philosophical roadblocks to taking lives at lots of other times and calling lots of other things marriage.
‘We are going to wake up after this marriage fiasco
in 10, 15, or 20 years, and the fruit of it will be
absolutely devastating for children.’
— John Piper
It’s extremely politically incorrect for you to say these things. Political correctness means there is a way to talk that will prove least offensive to the cultural elite, or whoever you happen to be talking to with the authority and power to shut you down. I know Jesus hates that because Matthew told the story of the Sadducees who came to Him and asked, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus replied that they should first tell Him if the baptism of John was from heaven or from man? The Sadducees discussed His challenge and concluded if they say it’s from man, the crowd will stone them, but if they say it’s from heaven Jesus will ask why they didn’t believe him.
So they said something politically correct? They replied, “We don’t know,” and Jesus refused to answer them. Jesus won’t talk to people like that. I don’t like to be put in a position where Jesus won’t talk to me. Therefore I abominate political correctness. I abominate calculating your words so that you get acceptance by sacrificing truth.
One of those most politically incorrect things today is capital punishment: How do you analyze the debate biblically? The only warrant against capital punishment from a biblical standpoint is that your country has gotten to a point where you cannot apply the law justly. If you discern for whatever reason that 10 black men and 10 white men have committed similar crimes and maybe these black men are put to death and none of these white men are, you might have a situation where you’d say, “We’re not going to kill anymore because something is deeply, deeply wrong with the system.”
But you defend the biblical principle? Biblically I think the taking of a human life from Genesis 9 is based squarely on the dignity of humanity and not the minimizing of human worth. That’s the argument in the Bible, and I don’t think anything about that argument changes with the coming of Jesus. You didn’t become less in the image of God. My killing of you didn’t become less heinous because of that.
What do you say to Bethlehem College and Seminary graduates who want to go where the greatest need is, whether it’s here in America or at frontier missions? Most of us don’t make our decisions about life calling by a rational calculation of where the greatest need is. That’s partly because it’s impossible to discern where the greatest need is, and partly because you can’t know what the ripple effect of your life is going to be whenever you invest it somewhere else. What if you invest your life at Point A and the effect was that a person was converted who had a greater impact on Point C than if you went to Point C? I tried to figure this out for my life. I never could. I’m just not God.
How should Bethlehem College and Seminary students discern where they should go and what they should do? We learn about missions and the great need of unreached peoples. We learn about the brokenness of people in wealthy America. We learn about our gifts. We learn from a church that is watching us and confirming or not confirming various gifts in our lives. We learn as we read the Bible to see God’s heart regarding various issues. We take all five of those learnings, put them in a pot—and when the smoke comes up then you follow where it blows.
You decide by ... By what’s burning in your heart. I pray that each graduate will have a different and appropriate burning—and they’ll follow the burning. It may be a simple church in a rural town in Minnesota or it may be the most scary place in Pakistan—and you have no idea which one of those will have the greatest impact. What God wants from us is a love for holiness, a love for people, a love for obedience.
Watch Marvin Olasky's complete interview with John Piper:
Listen to Marvin Olasky's interview with John Piper on The World and Everything in It: