John Piper and Allahu Akbar

A friend brought these remarks of John Piper to my attention and asked me to respond. I’ve already posted a blog on the topic of God and Genocide, but here are a few thoughts.

I understand that the disciples of John Calvin feel obligated to defend their ism at all costs, but my, what a cost it is when it requires impugning the character of God! God is revealed in Jesus, not genocide. The perfect image of God is Christ, not Calvin’s ism.

What I see here is the distortion of God to supreme and capricious Will in order to make a certain theological system work. As if the landmark verses of the New Testament read…

In the beginning was the Will, and the Will was with God, and the Will was God.

Now abide these three: faith, hope, and will, and the greatest of these is will.

God is will.

Once you reduce all that exists or occurs to God’s will, you have moved out of the Judeo-Christian understanding of God into Voluntarism or even Pantheism. Was Nietzsche right? Is everything ultimately about the Will to Power? In the kind of absolute determinism that John Piper espouses there is no authentic being, no genuine freedom, only the sheer will of God. Which begs a question: Is human drama (and everything else) nothing more than a movie playing in God’s head? Is what we know as life nothing more than God’s dream…or nightmare

Or perhaps it begs a more provocative question…

When the suicide bomber (to use Piper’s example) shouts Allahu Akbar! (God is great!) and detonates his bomb, does John Piper say, “You’ve got a point there”?

But what I really want to say is this…

If your theological system does not allow you to condemn genocide as always morally wrong, please pitch it and embrace the revelation of God found in Jesus Christ! Don’t begin your theology with Greek philosophical categories, begin with Jesus. And the moment your theology of God begins to not resemble Jesus, retrace your steps until you’ve found your mistake. Jesus is the doctrine of God. God didn’t give us a theological system — he gave us Jesus!

And don’t let the Old Testament work you into a corner. You don’t need to defend the Old Testament to the extent that you find it necessary to justify genocide. God forbid! We can simply say this…

The Old Testament is the inspired telling of the story of Israel coming to know their God. Along the way assumptions were made and they didn’t get everything right. Keep reading the Bible until you come to Jesus and then center your reading of all Scripture in the light of Christ.

And finally…

If we make the horrifying claim that God sometimes commands or condones genocide, we deserve all the scorn and ridicule thoughtful skeptics and critics will rightfully heap upon us.

In an age when we are imperiled by a lethal mix of nuclear weapons, terrorism, and fundamentalist religion, anything less than a clear denunciation of all violence in the name of God is egregiously irresponsible.

God is not a murderer.
God does not command murder.
God does not condone murder.

God is like Jesus.
God has always been like Jesus.
There has never been a time when God was not like Jesus.
We haven’t always known this—
But now we do.