John Piper attacks President Trump: Biden and Trump are morally equivalent

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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I didn’t appreciate the seeming equivocation of morality and policy either, but I didn’t conclude that Piper supported Biden or was chastising anyone on either side. What I got is that Piper would abstain from voting for or endorsing any candidate for president.

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And by publishing the piece a week before an election, he will reduce Trump support among an audience of likely/possible Trump supporters. Which is exactly the effect he was pursuing.

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Don’t think anyone said John supported Biden (that is, other than by mounting a full scale attack on his only opponent). Concerning “chastising,” maybe “rebuke,” “condemn,” or “shame” would be better words. What I got was that, after the pushback he got from this crud, John had the editors add the footnote saying he would not vote for either President Trump or President Biden. So yes, now we know this, but who cares how John votes, really. The straw man arguments and equivocations intimidating the people of God were what I minded. Love,

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Actually, I think it was merely preening. My guess is John had no desire at all to see votes change. It was just a public morality play, and I’m guessing the audience he wanted to notice consisted of some combination of sjw friends and children.

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This kind of posturing and accusing should be beneath you. So when you publish a bad faith attack, based on a complete misunderstanding of a man’s argument, you are just “intimidating God’s people” (as you stated above), but when someone else publishes a piece pointing out Trump’s character flaws, it’s moral preening. Good grief.

Wow…so much to respond to. First of all, Piper is jumping into the Presidential race and (especially) attacking Trump by publishing a piece where he simply restates the view of Conservative Evangelicals, held by nearly everyone who wore that label as recently as five years ago. Now I realize such a view is old and outdated now, but you must forgive and unfashionable man like Piper for not keeping up with the latest trends. I guess I now know why “reluctant Trumpers” have lately fallen so silent on any of Trump’s flaws. Can’t have be seen as “punching Right”. Winning is important, and the election is right around the corner.

So the first paragraph is spent (I’m tempted to say wasted) reminding us that Piper, by writing this article, is aligning himself with Very Bad People, who have made similar arguments to justify their support for Biden and his pro death platform. Never mind the distinction that this is most certainly not what Piper is doing, and goes to great lengths to say so, repeatedly. Better to ignore all that and burn up word count name dropping all these guys who are utterly immaterial to the argument Piper is going to try to make. Burn up the first few paragraphs, and some people will be too bored to recognize that you go on to completely misrepresent and ignore his central argument. No matter. Onward…

Paragraph two reminds us, for the second time, that this is an “attack” on President Trump. Ok. Oh, and paragraph three warns us of how Piper is being “coy” by not using the President’s name (how sneaky of him) but that a “sixth grader” would be able to see who is being referred to. Yes, perhaps Piper is being coy, but perhaps he is wanting to make clear that his argument is about the importance of moral character in leaders in general rather than only in this particular instance. See, a lot of evangelical leaders made this exact same argument in 1998 (I know, I’ve read a few of them) but they included the name “Clinton” in them. We have since learned that Wayne Grudem did not mean the argument to apply generally to all leaders, only to Democratic leaders, presumably and especially leaders named “Clinton”.

“Piper condemns his fellow believers…” No. no he does not. This is a gross misrepresentation. In fact, I will call it what it is. It’s a lie. When I don’t even have to read as many words into Piper’s piece as I’ve gotten into yours to find him saying he is articulating a perspective that’s neglected, but a person “need not be sinning if you weigh matters differently”. Oh, so he isn’t condemning his fellow believers? At this point, I am tempted to say that even a sixth grader would be able to see he isn’t intending this as a condemnation of others, but I’m also wondering why I should take your article seriously at all, when you haven’t seen fit to take Piper’s piece seriously.

Your misrepresentations go on. In Piper’s piece, he says he is “baffled” at the way sins of character are treated as less important than issues of policy. In your retelling, he is “disappointed”, but that is not what Piper says, and over and over again he expresses rank puzzlement at the way character is glossed over in favor of policy.

But you are more interested in ignoring what he actually said, in favor of gross oversimplification. Now having read Piper’s piece, and Wilson’s response, and David French’s affirmation (and boy, if there’s one thing that should condemn Piper’s article to the memory hole, it’s David French’s agreement with him) I can say that you and Wilson misunderstanding Piper may be more understandable than I would first assume. You are wrong in good company. But no, his point is not that he is “disappointed” in Trump voters (are you really so concerned about being scolded by Piper that you need to keep using this language? It is absent from Piper’s article, not only in word but in tone, but inserted by you…), it is that moral character is seen as unimportant in leadership. And of course, while stating you “get his point”, you utterly miss his point.

How do I know? Because two paragraphs later (after poorly summarizing Piper’s “entire argument”) you want to reiterate the distinction between Biden’s policy issues and Trump’s personal moral sins. One is policy, and one is personal, we are reminded. But that distinction is exactly what Piper is disagreeing with! You can disagree and argue that the personal sins of a leader have no impact on their people. Or you can argue that their personal sins have less impact than policy. But at least don’t waste our time by writing a (rather long) response to an article where you summarize Piper’s argument that poorly. This is Tim Hawkin’s “ADD Rock Songs, but for arguments.

“The President doesn’t support and speak in favor of adultery and pride”. First of all, to chase the red herring, yes, the President has done this regarding adultery in the past and he constantly extols the virtues of pride and arrogance. But the larger point that should not be missed is that a man does not need to wander around the nation shouting out his pride and adultery in order to normalize and support them as acceptable. This should not be that hard for Evangelicals to understand. Our moral character shapes everything we do. Our moral sins, unconfronted, serve to poison our best efforts. And we of all people should know that.

Which is more likely: That President Trump repents of his (very recent and politically convenient) conversion to pro-life policies? Or that Trump begins to openly repudiate the lifestyle he lived, of adultery and sexual wickedness? The one would just be a rejection of political expediency, the other would be the rejection of who he has always been.

“Who are all these Christians brothers Piper accuses…?” And then you prove that you are not one of them by pointing out that you still discipline members for these sins. Good. I am glad we have not fallen down the slope so far. I don’t know of anyone who has gone to that extreme of moral license. So does that mean that the support for Trump has not had a corrupting effect on us? You stated earlier that you agree with Trump’s sins are corrupting to our nation. Here is that actual issue Piper seems to be driving at, and which you are doing an excellent job of avoiding.

I cannot prevent Trump’s sins from corrupting the nation. He is our President, and not because a lot people voted for him. He is President because God is sovereign and has installed him as our President. But I am not as concerned about the corruption of the nation as I am the corruption of the church, and the corruption especially of me. And I’ll give a few examples. So we already know that white evangelicals have gone from being the group most likely to connect to personal morality with ability to lead, to being the group least likely to believe that personal moral failings affect our ability to lead well. That’s a big shift from just 2011. But I’m sure such an unbiblical and deadly view of the unimportance of moral character has nothing to do with the rise of President Trump.

There is a fascinating dynamic where everyone I speak to insists that support for Trump is not affecting them in this way. Others might be tempted to wink at sin to support a politician, but not them. And then they will go on to make arguments that demonstrate that they are indeed affected. As one person said to me, “we tried moral politicians in the past, look where it got us”. This same person had told me they would rather a Pence Presidency, but they will tolerate Trump. One of those comments is not true.

The subtext of so many of the arguments I’ve heard made for Trump come down to an often unspoken idea that moral virtue produces weakness. Since we know that moral corruption is personally deadly, we embrace virtue on a personal level. However, it would be a mistake to expect such virtue from our leaders. It would only make them powerless.

Now to present the best formulation of your argument that I can muster, I believe a man who doesn’t give a fig for reputation has a particular power, and it can absolutely be a form of courage and give a person the ability to do things that they could not do otherwise, things that need to be done. A man who cares too much what his church thinks of him will not be able to root out sin as he should, for instance. And we have had a long line of politicians who were (gasp) politicians, with all the vanity and weakness that this class is prone to. And yes, there were things Trump was able to accomplish that they could not. However, there are costs associated with that, and President Trump is walking exhibit of those costs.

You state late in your piece that Piper could have written a piece comparing the character of the two candidates, showing that there is really no difference between them. Sir, if you really believe such a bizarre thing, and then make that assertion without foundation, please put your money where your mouth is. You write that article. Show us how Biden is also prone to making comments about his granddaughter Natalie, just as Trump commented on Ivanka. Tell us of how Biden refuses to listen to anyone who disagrees with him about anything. About how Biden will go out of his way to torpedo long time allies, simply because they are not willing to cross ethical boundaries for him. Tell us of Biden’s boundless narcissism causing him to secretly buy his own portrait than brag about the purchase price. Biden has character flaws. Maybe you see them as the same as President Trump’s infantile insanity, but most people don’t. I doubt the article you envision would succeed in even being able to appear even handed in any way.

And by making that sort of ham handed and stupid moral equivalence, you ironically demonstrate Piper’s central concern: that embracing Trump would lead to a moral corruption where we are no longer able to make fine distinctions in moral categories.

I close with two things: a comment to Douglas Wilson, and my comment to a friend.

The comment:

What baffles me is that so many Christians seem to not consider the unrepentant boastfulness, unrepentant vulgarity and unrepentant factiousness to be be sins at all. I do think maybe the unrepentant porneia they’ll grant. To Piper’s list I might add, unrepentant contumely, unrepentant intemperance, unrepentant vindictiveness, and unrepentant dishonesty. It is one thing to choose the lesser of evils, if that’s what you think it is. It is another thing to respond, “Whot? That bothers you?!” when all the above is brought up as an issue. Well, it also bothers me that it does not bother you at all — you being whoever Christians are not bothered at all. This is where I am concerned for the church in America. Leaders we will never follow and movements we will never join are not the real danger to us. If you’ve got a Sunday School classroom full of gossipy old teetotalers the evil of drunkenness is not really what you need to lean into.
John

My comment:

Looks like it would have been better to have contacted Piper to find out if we had correctly understood him before blogging about it…

Not at all. Public pieces rightfully receive criticism in response. If we have to go to the writer privately before we criticize them, you owed this to me. For instance, “Hey Tim, is this what you meant?” But you didn’t wait to find out if you’d understood me correctly (BTW, you hadn’t) or ask me if you’d represented me fairly (BTW, you didn’t) before publishing your criticism because you needn’t do so, and in most cases shouldn’t even do so.

Here we have just your first paragraph, and really, it’s such a bad misrepresentation of those of us objecting to John’s bad faith attack on the President and his supporters that I will point out the errors here and leave it at that. Good faith readers will understand I would make similar criticisms of the long similar text you continue with below it.

But you don’t state the view. What is it? That sin in civil magistrates really matters and is corrosive to our national character and destructive to our nation?

I suspect that’s what you are implying, but then you declare we have turned from this truth, and this is a lie. I’ve said it again and again to my congregation, specifically about Donald Trump (for decades) and about President Trump since he’s been in office. I’ve compared him to Samson, in this regard. John is not simply restating this truth and being criticized for doing so. That you represent him in this way is yourself jumping on his straw man bandwagon.

No, again, you’re being as dishonest as John. Nowhere have I even hinted that the sin of a civil authority doesn’t matter in our national character and that we should not take it into account in our vote. This misrepresentation of all of us, but especially of me, is dishonest.

Who are these “reluctant Trumpers?” Certainly not me. I’m unembarrassed and firm in supporting our President for a second term in office.

And, as I said before, I’ve been anything but silent about his gross sins.

Again, you misrepresent us, and especially me. I love men who punch right, and really don’t like pastors who spend their leadership of the Church punching left. Judgment should begin in the house of God. What have I to do judging the world? Are we not to judge one another…

As I said earlier, I don’t believe John was trying to influence the vote by his piece, nor was I. I hope and have prayed to God asking Him to return our President to the White House, but my only concern in what I wrote responding to John’s crud was protecting the sheep from his browbeating and misrepresentation of them.

Now then moving on to your further comment…

Not at all, but rather a good faith criticism of a bad faith attack that was wrong in facts, wrong in thrust, rhetorically dishonest, and falsely accused brothers in Christ. All as I pointed out clearly in the piece.

You disagree and that’s fine. I’ve done my work and made what I think is a clear and good case. Love,

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You are comparing a forum, specifically set up to respond and interact with your piece, with a public article.

However, you are correct that I should have exhibited a more humble attitude in interacting with article. There are a number of claims in the article I wish you would have backed up in some way, instead of just leaving them as assertions, but I recognize that this is complicated issue. I need to give you the same grace I am asking you to give Piper. The fact you are not doing that shouldn’t change the fact I should still try to show it.

Well yes, that is a somewhat ameliorating factor, but my post you are criticizing is as public as John’s original, and it’s my post you are reacting to—not some private article. The main point, though, is that no one should think that the requirement of Matthew 18, that we go to a man privately, applies to very public errors published, for instance, online. This is one of the most frequent mistakes Christians make in the online world and it can’t be clarified often enough.

Thank you for your kindness in criticizing my piece and expressing that you have had goodwill towards me in doing so. I believe it and have the same commitment to you, dear brother. Arguments are good. Love,

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Someone else who has come out in support of President Trump, and disagreed with John Piper: Wayne Grudem. Interesting.

Grudem argued stridently for Trump in 2016, so I don’t find that at all surprising personally.

I’ve been reading Calvin’s sermons on the Pastoral Epistles devotionally, and I came across this very appropriate passage today.

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… and also Albert Mohler has come out in support of President Trump. In 2016, it was (I gather) a different matter.

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Yes, Mohler stated in ‘16 that if he supported Trump, he would have to come out and publicly apologize to Bill Clinton for his support for his impeachment. He was quite a loud opponent to Trump back then.

He has yet to offer an apology to Clinton.

My first text was written too quickly, and too sloppily, and frankly probably should have been a personal message to you, Pastor Bayly, rather than a public posting. When I stated that Piper should have been approached privately, it was not that this is required by Matthew 18, but just that it builds credibility with an audience to be certain you have understood the view you are critiquing before proceeding with a critique. And your point that I could have done the same is spot on. You may not feel I needed to do so, I think it would have been appropriate:)

Your guess as to the view of Conservatives that Piper is advancing (and I was defending) is partially correct. Yes, corruption in civil magistrates corrupts a nation. However, I was not intending to assert that you don’t agree with that part of the argument. The inference that conservatives have drawn from this corrupting influence of leaders is that conservatives should not support or vote for leaders who are publicly morally corrupt. (And lest you think I am reading into Piper’s piece my own notions, he alludes to this himself when he says that he will vote for a nonchristian “assuming there is enough overlap between biblical uprightness and the visible outworking of his character and convictions.”)

The reason should not even need to be stated. It is not only do we risk confusing our witness and lending our name to an unworthy cause. It is also that our vote tempts us to embrace partisan attitudes that turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing of the one we have voted for. There is a sunk cost now, and we are hesitant to speak out as boldly as we would have.

Regarding the first point, I got a funny illustration of how that works with a friend who is now an ardent Trump supporter. He mentioned the race in NC, where Cal Cunningham was caught in an affair but that revelation hasn’t dampened his poll numbers at all. My friend snidely commented that the polls have stayed strong, in spite of 81% of people claiming to believe that adultery is wrong. That proved to him that these people actually didn’t see adultery as that big of a deal. I just remarked mildly that perhaps they thought the policy issues were more important.

If you are continuing to speak out against President Trump’s sins with exactly the same vehemence as before his Presidency and pro life appointments, bless you. However, I am fairly new to reading your articles and I have yet to read one that takes much of a critical view of Trump. In the very article we are discussing, you quickly pivoted from the moral character of Trump to asserting (with no specific allegations) that actually Joe Biden is every bit as immoral as President Trump. Doing that sort of pivot is a form of defense. You would agree if I did that over abortion. You would see that I was minimizing abortion by immediately pivoting to character. But not only that, the assertion is not reasonable. I should not need to belabor the point by citing anecdotes, there are hundreds of them. I would not vote for Biden based on his policy positions and support of the death cult, but outside of policy, his moral character is not comparable to Trump’s. If you add in all the allegations from infowars and breitbart, and dismiss any Trump allegations that hasn’t been independently verified by three people who have never met, you might be able to see it that way, but not approaching the two candidates honestly, not in a million years.

Regarding partisan blindness, President Trump says and does things regularly that if they were done or said by a Democratic President, we would be arguing they proved him unfit to lead. They would be front page Epoch Times and nonstop coverage at every Conservative outlet. But because Trump has delivered on policy, Conservative’s whole attitude towards the President’s behavior is one of dismissal, cherry-picking, and deflection. A comparison with Biden, favorable or otherwise, is beside the point. A man who acts as he acts should not be holding the office he is holding. And were he a Pro-Death Democrat, Albert Mohler and Wayne Grudem and Robert Jeffress and Douglas Wilson would all agree about that. And in some of those cases, we know because they have said as much themselves. Albert Mohler specifically connected his opposition to Bill Clinton in ‘98 to his opposition to Trump in ‘16. But now honesty has been set aside for political expediency.

We make fun of “socialists” supporting Bernie, with his three houses. I agree. He sure doesn’t appear to practice what he preaches, and if I were a socialist, I would find it hard to reconcile myself to vote for a man like that. And this isn’t an isolated incident. Partisan press loves to dunk on the feminists for supporting Clinton, or Biden, or environmentalists supporting the jet set candidate. There is a reason why most people look at that and see hypocrisy.

And yet support for Trump isn’t a sign of of the same sort of inconsistency? Don’t keep getting hung up on “but you are saying I don’t believe character matters and that’s a lie!”. That’s not what I am arguing. It’s never been what I have argued. I am saying the position of the vast majority of Conservatives for 50 years was that decency and morality were table stakes for a politician to earn our vote. To argue now that a modicum of virtue and character are desirable, or important, but not absolutely necessary to earn our vote, let alone endorsement (in Mohler’s case) is a radical departure from, even a repudiation of, the view Conservatives have held for years. Let’s not pretend differently.

Dear Martin,

Thanks for the argument. I’ll respond with your points inline, in italics:

Piper should have been approached privately …it builds credibility with an audience to be certain you have understood the view you are critiquing before proceeding with a critique.

What John wrote wasn’t difficult to understand. It was embarrassing for him and intimidating to Christians who look up to him for his otherwise good work. I believe he needed a rebuke and they needed a defense. Although I don’t believe it is good, generally, to enter into private communications before responding publicly to public pieces, even if I did, I wouldn’t have tried with John because I know how he runs his life and communications.

Your guess as to the view of Conservatives that Piper is advancing (and I was defending) is partially correct.

John doesn’t speak to conservatives, but Christians. He is a father of the Church and as such has built up a considerable influence which must be watched to see it doesn’t harm the flock God has placed under other fathers. In my view, his piece was harmful to sheep who know I respect him.

Yes, corruption in civil magistrates corrupts a nation. However, I was not intending to assert that you don’t agree with that part of the argument.

Right. That was what John was asserting. Not against me, personally, but against fellow believers who vote for President Trump. Had John written a piece explaining this in more depth than people usually think about it, that piece would have been maybe helpful—as long as it wasn’t so uncharitable to fellow believers and sectarian in opposing our sitting president so vehemently.

The inference that conservatives have drawn from this corrupting influence of leaders is that conservatives should not support or vote for leaders who are publicly morally corrupt. (And lest you think I am reading into Piper’s piece my own notions, he alludes to this himself when he says that he will vote for a nonchristian “assuming there is enough overlap between biblical uprightness and the visible outworking of his character and convictions.”)

This statement doesn’t begin to connect for me since I don’t believe in voting on the basis of whether or not someone running for office is or is not a Christian. This kind of consideration strikes me as naive but precisely the sort of naïveté I’d expect of John.

The reason should not even need to be stated. It is not only do we risk confusing our witness and lending our name to an unworthy cause.

But John connects his name to unworthy causes all the time when he hangs and speaks with and holds membership among a celebrity pool of Christian leaders who oppose Scripture’s doctrines of creation, Hell, sexuality, church authority, the sacraments, and on it goes. The Christian celebrities pontificating on whom Christians should and shouldn’t vote for are regularly demonstrating in their own leadership of the Church Herself the very sort of “confusing our witness” and “lending our name to an unworthy cause” that is said to be the concern of John and his friends in the public square.

I could get more specific about this, but consider the old Baylyblog and present Warhorn as my/our attempt to deal with this scandal. Were I, for instance, to hold the same position and expectations as John in how clean we can convince ourselves the candidates that get our vote are, I would be much more concerned about Wayne Grudem publishing under Zondervan than Wayne Grudem voting for President Trump. (And I’ve told Wayne I think he is wrong in this).

It is my conviction that the Church herself is sabotaging Christian witness and lending Her name to unworthy causes all the time in the way we preach and administer the sacraments and sing and pray and podcast and confabulate and sell books and gag Scripture… Silence about adultery is the way we do business, which is to say make money. And since it’s the church that is John’s bailiwick and mine, it’s the church where John’s and my integrity in opposing pride and greed and adultery should be tested before we’re allowed to preen ourselves over our high moral standards in the public square.

It is also that our vote tempts us to embrace partisan attitudes that turn a blind eye to the wrongdoing of the one we have voted for.

We have two parties. The platform of one promotes the wholesale slaughter of babies in our nation and around the world. The platform of the other opposes the wholesale slaughter of babies in our nation and around the world. Let’s just take that specific matter, shall we? You know, Hitler and the Jews, Stalin and the kalaks, Mao and his entire populace. The wholesale slaughter these civil authorities presided over is maybe how we judge these men’s influence on their nation’s character?

We have similar bloodshed in our nation today, yet it is this candidate right now who has shown more mettle in standing against this obscenity smearing our national character than any other president in my lifetime. But it is also right now that John publicly attacks that man for being pro-death. Billions of babies being slaughtered and here is some pastor wringing his hands over the man’s factiousness, labelling it just as pro-“death” as abortion?

It beggars belief, but when I say so, I’m accused of not being concerned about the man’s factiousness, greed, or pride.

So you see, speaking only for myself, I’m not in the least embarrassed to a partisan opposing the first and supporting the second party, and I consider the Christian celebrity writing a partisan piece against the second because a specific candidate is greedy and proud (and used to be immoral) to be nothing other than the most transparent obfuscation.

There is a sunk cost now, and we are hesitant to speak out as boldly as we would have.

Not at all. John has boldly condemned fellow Christians and our President and I’ve boldly condemned John.

If it is the preaching of pastors you are referring to, I couldn’t be in more agreement, but that problem has been across the church for many decades, now, and isn’t even slightly to be attributed to pastors or their flocks voting for President Trump. (Or, for that matter, any other candidate through the years.)

Regarding the first point, I got a funny illustration of how that works with a friend who is now an ardent Trump supporter. He mentioned the race in NC, where Cal Cunningham was caught in an affair but that revelation hasn’t dampened his poll numbers at all. My friend snidely commented that the polls have stayed strong, in spite of 81% of people claiming to believe that adultery is wrong. That proved to him that these people actually didn’t see adultery as that big of a deal. I just remarked mildly that perhaps they thought the policy issues were more important.

Don’t know anything about that situation, but again, is Samson not in the Hall of Faith and was he not immoral and did God Himself not put Samson into the leadership of his nation as their top civil authority?

Honestly, brother, the superficiality of the moral calculus of Evangelicals such as John disturbs me greatly. John believes all remarriage after divorce is adultery. Think about that. Carefully. Does he vote for divorced men?

Of course he does. So now, what do we say about him? That he’s a hypocrite?

No, we say we ourselves don’t agree with John (nor did his church and fellow pastors), but even if we did agree, divorces are of different weights of sin on each side, there are innocent parties, we don’t know the circumstances, and adulterous remarrriage is of a different character of adultery than President Clinton’s adultery in the Oval Office. For one thing, it lasted a very short time whereas the men in John’s former congregation who remarried continued in their adultery (hopefully) for years and decades.

I could go on, but I’ll conclude by stating that, even if I agreed with John that President Trump is more factious than those attacking him so relentlessly from prior to his inauguration throughout the past four years, and even if I thought that pride and deceit trump Treblinka, the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, and Planned Parenthood in promoting death in a nation, and even if I agreed that President Trump today is sexually immoral and unrepentant for his past sexual immoralities, I’d still never have shamed my fellow Christians the way he did. It was inexcusable in the fact of it, but what was the motive?

There is where we really must go when we receive such bad leadership from one of our celebrities.

I’ll close with something my Dad published in December 1961, fifty-nine years ago:

Soon after the end of World War II, I was in Europe for a Christian student camp. In the cabin for which I was responsible were six or seven German students, all of whom had served in Hitler’s army.

Several of these young Germans had come from Christian homes. One night we were talking about the war, and they told of refusing to take dancing lessons because their parents had taught them that dancing was wrong. This decision had meant sacrifice, they said, since social dancing was required of officer candidates and they had thus missed out on promotion.

I remember my feeling of surprise. Christians were the same everywhere—they weren’t afraid to speak out, even against Hitler, when it came to social dancing.


During the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Jerusalem Post Weekly reported a courtroom clash between counsel Dr. Robert Servatius and prosecution witness Dr. Salo Baron, Jewish historian at Columbia U.

“The theme of this debate could be summed up as predestination versus moral choice. Dr. Servatius’ questions and answers posed the problem: how can you blame a man who is swept forward by the onrushing tide of history? This is destiny. The end result of the Nazi extermination program was not the liquidation of Jewry, but its revival in a free and flourishing state. Why punish a man who was only an instrument of this historical destiny?

"Dr. Baron answered that each man has a moral responsibility to himself, to mankind and to God, and even the most fervent Christian believers in predestination believed firmly that criminals should be punished on this earth. It was the duty of each man [in the Nazi state] to look into his heart and decide that he could break away from the madness which enveloped a hysterical and insane mass movement.”

Eternity Magazine, December, 1961

With appreciation for your kind and firm argument, dear brother; warmly in Christ,

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Dear Pastor Bayly,

Thanks so much for your extended interaction on this issue. I don’t intend to needlessly prolong a debate which will most likely change few of any minds, but I did want to point out one misunderstanding.

I had not understood Piper (and I certainly am not) arguing that we should vote only for Christians. The conviction (far from unique to Piper or myself) is simply that just as a pro Life platform is a requirement to earn his vote, so is a measure of competence, character, and moral virtue. President Trump does not come close to meeting that measure. In response, Piper is simply saying what large numbers of serious and thoughtful Christian leaders were saying in 2016. It’s not original in any way.

As far as the need for purity in the church, I agree. I just don’t understand why the same principles don’t apply to my political witness as well as theological. Just because Grudem is inconsistent in his choice of a publisher doesn’t change his inconsistency in political theology. I am not a single issue voter, single issue voting is pragmatically flawed and vulnerable in various ways. However, there is no need to belabor a point that is unlikely to result in either of us being convinced.

Coming back to the issue of requiring virtue in political leaders, there are those like Mohler who are utterly repudiating their earlier position. Mohler was one who argued forcefully for refusing to compromise and vote for a morally reprobate candidate, no matter what political gains might result. He now agrees with you, and has stated he will be voting for Republican candidates for the rest of his life, regardless of the quality of the candidate. I realize you were not those opposing President Trump on moral grounds in ‘16. Many of us were. If I were convinced that this argument for requiring moral virtue in leadership was flawed, I would gladly adjust my position. I simply found your attack on Piper baffling, as if he were suddenly arguing for something strange and new, and you then characterized his irenic tone as if it were some extreme attack that would wound and confuse believers. I couldn’t disagree more strongly.

I have appreciated Warhorn media and your writings. I also appreciate the willingness to engage transparently.

Thanks again for your time.

In Christ,

Martin

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Dear Martin,

Thank you to you, also. To clarify, I wasn’t accusing John of being “extreme.” Just vehemently partisan in opposing the Republican candidate. Remember, the President’s sins don’t just kill people (abortion), but they send people to Hell—which is why John shames simple Christians for supporting their president with their vote. That you view his tone as irenic seems the neverending theme of Christian discussion today, but I deny it. This is how today’s celebrities and academics in general dress up their vehement condemnations, and I think it misleading and unmanly. My guess is that everyone who likes John Piper’s tone when he writes and speaks would condemn most of Scripture for its tone were they unaware it WAS Scripture. For the record (and I’m sure you’ll not be surprised) I think in the second debate, our President’s tone was honest punching and the (former) Vice President’s was abysmal, particularly when he leaned forward and looked into the camera assuring women how very sincere he was. In the end, I think our difference is that we don’t agree on moral equivalence and aren’t nearly at the same place about the nature of sin and immorality, maybe in ourselves, but surely in political candidates and civil authorities. And those differences are probably Biblical and theological, in the final analysis. Hope we can meet sometime. Love,

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