By Bryan Fischer
Follow me on Twitter: @BryanJFischer, on Facebook at “Focal Point”
I have great admiration for Rev. John Piper. He’s an outstanding Bible teacher and author, whose sermons and writings have been an inspiration to many.
This is what makes his refusal to endorse Minnesota’s marriage amendment puzzling and disappointing. And his resistance to publicly supporting the amendment illustrates why we are losing the culture war.
Piper delivered a strong and biblical based sermon to his congregation on June 16, saying in his introductory remarks that he was delivering the sermon “in relation to the proposed Marriage Amendment in Minnesota.”
After laying out a clear biblical case for marriage, and, with regard to his parishioners choice about voting for or against the amendment, gave them “a few thoughts to help you with that question.”
These guidelines included reminding them that the recognition of same-sex marriage would put same-sex parenting on the same moral plane as father-mother parenting, would “send ripple effects of dysfunction and destruction in every direction,” and would be a “mind-boggling innovation” since “no society in the history of the world has ever defined marriage as between people of the same sex.”
Then inexplicably, he immediately refused to endorse the marriage amendment itself, because such an endorsement would have involved him in “political activism” and would result in the “politicizing of the church.”
In other words, the message of the church is just for people in the pews. His view apparently is that pastors have nothing to say to the public square, no words of wisdom to the larger culture about marriage and family. Scriptural truth is not true for all people in all places and at all times and for all cultures, it is just for people huddled together inside the safe confines of their places of worship.
Pastors, in his view, apparently should never provide counsel on matters of public policy either for their own congregations or for society at large.
Os Guinness rightly refers to this as “The Private-Zoo Factor.” Christianity has been caged inside the four walls of the church, chained by its pastors to pulpits so it no longer roams the wilds of our culture looking to engage and defeat the enemy of our souls.
Culture thus is abandoned and forsaken by the church, left defenseless and without direction and counsel from those who have a divine responsibility to stand for truth not just behind their pulpits where it is safe but in the public square where the bullets fly. This is why the church is ignored and even trampled by the culture at large. As Jesus said, once the salt “loses its saltiness...it is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).
One blogger made a feeble effort to defend Rev. Piper’s retreat into cultural irrelevance by saying that “anyone who thinks that Piper’s position on the amendment is unclear...is being unfair” since “[s]upport for the amendment is the necessary implication of the sermon.”
Well, if such support is “necessary,” why in the world would Piper refuse to say so?
And if his message was “unclear,” why in the world did Piper have to write an entirely separate blog to clarify the confusion he himself created?
In Piper’s blog, attacking what he believed to be an unfair article in the Star-Tribune, he admitted in the second line of his piece that the paper got this part right: “I did not give a public endorsement for any legislation...”
Rev. Piper is an enormously influential leader. His words carry weight across the entire state of Minnesota. His lack of clarity here has hurt the cause of marriage because he is guilty of shrinking back when he stood have stepped proudly and boldly forward.
His words clearly have created uncertainty in the minds of many Christians who have the same respect for Piper that I do. If the amendment expresses almost verbatim Piper’s own conviction about marriage, what on earth would keep him from urging values voters to support it?
It would be worth asking Piper if he thinks he would have taken the same tack if his congregation had had the opportunity to vote on ending the Holocaust. Would he truly have believed that to urge them to vote to bring it to an end and save the lives of innocent Jews would have been an inappropriate display of “political activism?”
Does he really believe that he would have refused to urge his parishioners to vote to abolish slavery if they had the chance? What about a vote to end abortion?
A simple statement in support of the amendment is all it would have taken. It would hardly represent a lethal plunge into “political activism” for Rev. Piper to say, “I endorse the Minnesota marriage amendment.” Six words is all it would have taken for him to speak truth to power and to the public. Six words he could not bring himself to say.
Rev. Piper, for whom I have the utmost regard, illustrates here why we are losing our culture to the forces of moral darkness. As Jesus said, the church is the “light of the world,” not just the light of the people who sit in its pews. If the pastors of the church will not declare the truth to a dying world, who will?
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)