In What Jesus Demands from the World, Piper has gathered fifty of Jesus' commands from the four Gospels. Blending historical context, exegetical insights, and application, Piper concisely examines each demand. The result is an accessible introduction for seekers and new believers as well as meditative meat for mature Christians wanting to know Jesus better!
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Review 1 for What Jesus Demands from the World
WARNING: Book of Laws and False Gospel
Date:December 22, 2013
The Persistent Widow
A book could be written to refute the errors pertaining to divorce, (demands #40-42, pp.301-322) in John Piper's, "What Jesus Demands from the World". The premise of these demands is that all marriage is created by God and all divorce is sin. He erroneously teaches that because the New Covenant, the covenant between Christ and his church which is indissoluble only because it is guaranteed by God, is the pattern for human marriage and ALL marriages are also indissoluble. "And the point is that each marriage is "joined" in this way by God, because he tells us not to separate" (p.303.) Yet, through Piper's problematic doctrine, he ignores that God required the Israelites to divorce their foreign wives in Ezra 10. How is it then that Piper can accurately teach that God forbids divorce in ALL circumstances?
On page 301, the first sentence of his divorce discourse, he writes, "Jesus demands that husbands and wives be faithful to their marriages." What follows is a wooden hermeneutic that forces faithfulness to the marriage institution, devoid of concern for persons, exactly as the Pharisees did in their rigid interpretation of the Sabbath (Mark 2: 23-28). For example, he writes that the marriage is still to be considered intact even if one of the parties has abandoned the other, which means that the abandoned spouse is NOT free to remarry. On page 310, he writes, "The woman who is forsaken by a man who leaves to marry another is called by Jesus to display the holiness of her marriage vows and the nature of the marriage covenant by not marrying another." Again, Piper writes on page 311, "This would mean that remarriage is wrong not merely when a person is guilty in the process of divorce, but also when a person is innocent." He teaches divorce for every reason is defined as "illegitimately leaving a marriage" and a very grave sin:
"Marital sin is in the same category as lying and killing and stealing. If someone has lied, killed, stolen, or illegitimately left a marriage, the issue is not, can they be forgiven?" (p.320) However, according to this book, they will not be forgiven unless they acknowledge Piper's doctrine and repent of their sin. But if what Piper writes is true, that divorce, per se, is a sin, why is it not listed in at least one of the passages that specify heinous sin? (1 Cor. 5:9-11; 6:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:2-5)
Piper implies that if one does not repent of divorce and remarriage, that person has committed the unpardonable sin:
"The only unforgivable sin is the sin that we refuse to confess and forsake." (p. 320)
"So the issue is with divorce or remarriage. It should not keep anyone out of fellowship with the believers of Jesus any more than a past life of robbery. But there should be a heartfelt confession of the sin committed and a renouncing of it and an affirming of what is right, just as with all other sins of the past." (p. 321)
Page 321 teaches that if one is not convicted by Piper's "radical" teaching on divorce and remarriage, and repents for having divorced, regardless of the situation leading to the divorce, that person has comitted the unpardonable sin, (Piper cites Matt 12:31-32 and Mark 3:29 specifically.) Piper suggests that without satisfactory repentance for this 'sin', a divorced person should be kept out of Christian fellowship.
I think it is unconscionable for Piper to cause victims of domestic violence more trauma as they are suspected of not being a Christian, and to make them think that they have committed the unpardonable sin for seeking to divorce an abuser or adulterer. Likely, their abuser's tactics of denigration and criticism have already caused them doubt concerning their standing with God. In churches where Piper's legalistic doctrine is practiced, this secondary trauma is being rained down on abuse victims and many are being discliplined for not adhering to this doctrine.
In essence, Piper has added human works to the Gospel of God's forgiveness. Any sin not confessed (especially the `sin' of remarriage) will lead, according his teaching on page 320, to damnation. This is the same error that was rampant in the pre-reformation church, refuted in Article XI, The Apology of the Augsburg Confession, concerning the naming of all sins as necessary for forgiveness. That section of the Apology addresses the situation when some 'added their own ideas", to what constituted sin and created "instruments of torture"-exactly as Piper does. Piper also states that we merit grace by contriteness, and this error was also refuted in The Apology, Article XIIa. But to make matters worse, Piper is laboring to bind others' consciences to what he has concluded is sin, that which the Holy Spirit and the Word has not condemned: divorcing for abuse, abandonment or adultery. This is like the pre-reformation church torturing the consciences of Christians for eating meat on Friday; however, Piper's laws are hasher. Not eating meat on Friday is much easier than trying to raise godly children in the presence of a psychopathic abuser or struggling financially after one's spouse has left them. He is truly tying up heavy burdens for God's people. (Matt. 23:4)
Piper unbiblically teaches that one must follow this book's doctrine as "a test for his (Jesus') lordship over our lives" (p. 322), and to disagree with Piper's divorce teaching is reason to suspect that one is not a Christian. Pertaining to his decree that the divorced must remain unmarried, Piper writes, "The point is that the grace (or faithfulness in singleness and marriage) is the mark of a disciple... That is-whether you have ears to hear or whether you have grace to receive this call to radical respect for marriage-is the mark of being a follower of Jesus." (Page 318) He teaches that anyone divorced must follow his doctrine and live a life of forced celibacy to please Jesus, even if their former spouse has since remarried! (The fact that forced celibacy is against nature and does nothing to curb sinful desires was an error of the pre-reformation church and refuted in The Apology, Article XXIII.) Christ himself teaches that celibacy is a gift that not everyone is given in Matthew 19:11.
In a previous review I wrote pertaining to Piper's book, "This Momentary Marriage" comments followed that discussed the impracticability and lack of empathy contained in his doctrine. Also discussed was that church discipline was lacking in the outworking of Piper's doctrine and the damage that churches cause abuse victims by following his 'no divorce ever' position and his teaching that the church body must confront the divorced or those considering divorce to "preserve the solid framework of the marriage covenant ... through the tough love of obedience" (p. 306). You won't find justice or mercy here either-only laws. In fact, although Moses delivered the perfect law, Piper states that Jesus came to deliver an even tougher law, through the Gospel, that we must keep. "Jesus is raising the standard of his disciples above what Moses allowed." (p. 304.) "His aim was that the standard of his followers would be higher than what the law allowed." (p. 306.) "Jesus set a higher standard for marital faithfulness than Moses or the Jewish teachers of his day." (p. 307.) Herein is the the proof that Piper teaches a false gospel of works-righteousness. The true Gospel is a proclamation of forgiveness of sin due to the merits of Christ. Piper's gospel is a list of impossible works, destined to cause Christians to despair and create hypocrites out of those who think they can keep them perfectly.
As C. F.W. Walther wrote in his book, "Law and Gospel", pertaining to the Catholic Church's Council of Trent declaration that Christ is our redeemer AND lawgiver:
"This decree overthrows the Christian religion completely. If Christ came into the world to bring us new laws, then we could practically say that He might as well as stayed in heaven. Moses has already given us such a perfect law that we were not able to keep that. Now, if Christ had given us additional laws, that would have to drive us to despair." (p. 80)
Walther's teaching on the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) in contrast to Piper's false interpretation:
"The Messiah will introduce no such doctrine. He writes His Law directly into the heart, so that a person living under Him is a law unto himself. He is not coerced by a force from without but is urged from within. These words state the reason for the proceeding statement. They are a summary of the Gospel of Christ: forgiveness of sin by the free grace of God, for the sake of Jesus Christ" (p. 82.)
Divorce undertaken because of abuse, adultery or desertion is NOT sinful. Abuse, adultery and desertion are sins indeed; but is is not sinful to divorce a spouse who indulges in these sins.
Besides Piper's false gospel, much more could be written about Piper not referring to the historical context in which Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about divorce, Piper's not considering Paul's position on divorce, and Piper's peculiar view that Jesus' adultery exception clause was referring to adultery during the betrothal period only-not during the marriage. I highly recommend that Piper's dangerous teachings be reevaluated in the light of the Gospel and repudiated. For a true biblical understanding of this topic, I suggest Barbara Roberts' Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion, Jeff Crippen's A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church , Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions -- A Reader's Edition of the Book of Concord and C. F. W. Walther's Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible.