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John Piper Says People Are “Ugly” Because of Sin and Satan

john piper

Recently, Evangelical Calvinist John Piper answered the following question:

Pastor John, why did God make some people ugly and unattractive? How can I accept the fact that God, though capable of making me beautiful or at least average looking, chose to create me in an unattractive manner? As an unattractive person myself, I can say life is tough for us. Our opinions and ideas are most often sidelined. We have it tough in offices and schools and colleges. I can’t express in words how difficult it is to be confident.

This is straining my relationship with God. Clearly, in the Bible there are some features described as examples of beauty. I count dozens of verses in the Bible that speak of physical beauty.

….

Now I know God is concerned about what we do with our bodies. And he cares about our bodies. So why does he make some of us so unattractive?

Piper replied:

Ugliness and disfigurement have their roots in the origin of human sin. Now listen carefully, because this could be so easily misunderstood: the roots are not in a person’s particular personal sin, but the origin of human sin in Adam and Eve, which infected the whole human race. In his wisdom, God decreed that there would be physical manifestations of the horrors and outrage of sin against God. This does not mean that everyone’s disability or everyone’s disease or everyone’s disfigurement is because of their own sin.

….

So, the point is that Romans 8 gives a global explanation for why there is such a thing in the world as ugliness and every form of physical misery. God brought the physical world, the bodily world, into sync, into correspondence, with the moral world. He made physical ugliness and misery correspond to moral ugliness and misery, even in some of the most godly people on the planet. Every bodily or material burden in the world should point us to the burden of sin. Every ugliness should point to the ugliness of sin and Satan.

Satan is a real secondary cause under God. He is immediately responsible for many physical horrors. Jesus said that in Luke 13:11–16. There was a woman bent over for eighteen years. So picture her: she’s probably walking at a ninety-degree angle, with horrible scoliosis. And Jesus says, “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed?” (Luke 13:16). So, all physical ugliness and deformity and misery points to the moral ugliness and deformity of sin and Satan.

According to Piper, physical “ugliness” is caused by inner “ugliness” — sin. Piper tries and fails to distinguish between Adamic sin and personal sin. People are “ugly” due to the sin nature all humans inherit from Adam, not because of any particular sin they have committed. However, it is impossible to separate a skunk from its smell. Sinners sin, so it stands to reason, according to Piper’s Calvinistic theology, that individual ugliness is a direct result of personal sin.

Piper also says that human “ugliness” is also caused by Satan. Note carefully what Piper says: “Satan is a real secondary cause under God.” Under God . . . Piper, a loyal, devoted member of the John Calvin Fan Club®, believes the God of the Bible is the supreme ruler over all things. Nothing happens apart from his purpose, plan, and will. Satan/Lucifer is a fallen angel who tried to overthrow God’s rule, a created being under the absolute control of God. This means that everything Satan does is decreed or permitted by God. (Read the book of Job if you doubt Satan is under God’s authority, rule, and control.) Thus, if you are ugly, it’s the Devil’s fault. Or your fault. Not God’s fault, of course. God controls everything, but he must never be held accountable for his actions. God is the playground bully who steals everyone’s lunch money and beats them senseless, but when called out on his behavior, he says, “who, me? It’s their fault, not mine.”

Piper’s God is a disgusting being, and so is he. What kind of person looks at the debility and suffering of others and says to them, “Hey, it’s your fault. Don’t blame God.”

I find it interesting that Piper never defines “ugliness” or “beauty.” It is evident the person who sent Piper the question is talking about his or her physical appearance. Is there more of a subjective standard by which to judge ourselves and others than physical appearance? How do we determine who is ugly and who is beautiful? And why do such vain, superficial judgments matter? Even the Bible says, “man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” Some of the most attractive people in the world have ugly hearts (minds). Piper is one such person, as are countless other Fundamentalist preachers. Think of all the hate mail I have received over the years from Evangelical Christians — hateful, nasty, judgmental emails and social media messages. I have no doubt that some of these Evangelicals are “beautiful” people, however their behavior suggests they have ugly hearts.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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22 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Piper wants to make it clear that one’s disfigurement is not necessarily their own fault but i the result of Eve and Adam/collective sin. This is the Christian sickness on display, the viral idea that humankind is inherently evil, born bad. Once you accept this nonsense you have invested in your own self-harm…. Harm to others must follow in exactly the pattern Piper displays here: It may not be your fault personally that you suffer disease/disfigurement but it is all of us (including you) who killed dear sweet Jesus. Christ died for you, because of you. This is the viral heart of evangelical fundamentalism. God is a monster indeed, wholly invented of course, the ultimate bogeyman.

  2. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    First, I feel for this person who thinks they are ugly.

    Second, why can’t Christians come to terms with the idea that their concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity is completely incompatible with any bad or evil in the world? A truly omnimax deity would by necessity prevent any bad or evil, and if it didn’t, that would negate some of the deity’s omni nature. Blaming the humans or Satan is a poor diversion for the holes in Christianity’s story. If you read the Old Testament, the deity actually owns up to creating good and evil – it doesn’t claim to be an all-good deity, and the humans praising it are obviously doing so to gain its favor, to try to prevent it from having one of its notorious meltdowns. Where did this notion that the deity represented in the Bible is always good all the time when the Bible itself doesn’t come close to supporting that notion?

  3. Avatar
    GeoffT

    Piper is stupid and he is ignorant. I say these as compliments to him, because the alternative, that he is being maliciously exploitative, is even worse.

    Why are people ugly? (and I’m avoiding philosophical discussions of eyes of beholder etc.). Well actually this is the wrong way of looking at it. More to the point is why do we perceive things as attractive, or beautiful, or ugly, or repulsive in the first place. There’s an underlying reason that has nothing to do with God, and it’s simply evolution. Peacocks attract mates via their exotic plumages, as do many birds, and the whole of the animal kingdom is replete with these kinds of property and behaviour, including animals that attract partners by performing complex dances. Even insects go to extreme lengths (including allowing themselves to be eaten!). The fact is that every species exists for no better reason than to survive, and to to reproduce. These are the most basic instincts. To improve the prospects of reproduction it’s important to appear as attractive as possible to the other sex, and this is why we have notions of beauty, and why we shudder, and can be repulsed, by ugliness. It’s not fair being ugly, and we have lots of ways of dealing with it, from makeup to plastic surgery, to convincing each other that it’s our ‘innerselves’ that is important.

    Ultimately beauty and ugliness are entirely perceptions based on countless thousands of years of evolution. We’ve learned to handle them and deal with them in civilised ways, even becoming accepting of them. Pretending that God has a direct role to play is an insult, both to the god referred to and to the person making the claim.

    • Avatar
      John

      Well said! Along with many others here. This makes me think of something I heard a while back along the line of, if you take a god out of the equation, life on this planet makes a whole lot more sense.

  4. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Let’s see…Sin comes from ugliness. It may not be one’s own sin, but a result of Sin (with a capital S). Or is it…There must be a sin lurking somewhere in that ugly person.

    OK, then. God punishes the world for its sins through natural disasters. Haiti has experienced some of the worst earthquakes and hurricanes. Though it hasn’t passed “sinful” laws like marriage equality, the United States and Europe have. But, still, there must be something the Haitians are gulty of….

    Makes sense to me. (Sarcasm intended,)

  5. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    The person who describes being ugly, they may not be aware that genetics plays the dominant role with one’s appearance,along with what they do or don’t eat. Usually,if you had unattractive parents( I did) you get your traits from parents, grandparents and even great– grandparents. This person, who has obviously faced discrimination in society, starting in childhood, needs plastic surgery,if they can afford it. But, many ministers will tell you that it would be vanity to get your looks improved. Why tolerate deformities if you don’t have to ?? I hope they go to a doctor soon. If I could afford to, I’d do in a New York minute !

  6. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    I wonder if the letter writer has self-esteem or body issues that might be distorting their view of themselves. I knew two women who had been sexually abused as children. One of them had so much plastic surgery done on herself that she struggled monetarily. The other had problems with her weight and thought she was ugly. But both of them actually were attractive women. And what exactly is this “ugliness” they talk about? A bulbous nose? Bad acne? (I’m almost certain that this is a “she.” Men don’t have this problem anywhere near as often as women.) It would be nice to know a little more.
    Isn’t the Messiah supposed to be unattractive, by the way? In Isaiah 53 there is a verse that says,”He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” So, a more imaginative preacher could say that the letter writer is conforming to Christ’s suffering in the beauty department as well as being misunderstood and rejected, but will ultimately triumph ‘cause, y’know, resurrection and all that.

  7. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Take a gander at Piper. He’s actually an ugly person. He resembles a monkey,like a capuchin. Talk about clueless,lol! 🤣🤣Really,though, I can understand why having odd features could make someone unhappy with their looks. He had no space for comments on his blog, or I’d have suggested to the questioner that they realize that they inherited their problems,God didn’t ” create” them that way. This is what happens when parents have unprotected sex ! I wish genetic counseling was routine for all patients. But it’s fairly new. That said, find the money to make corrections and they will feel better. And think twice or more, before having kids of their own.

    • Avatar
      BJW

      I’ve noticed that pastors who talk about how a woman is supposed to stay beautiful for her man tend to be overweight and/or old with wrinkles. Hey, I have all of those but I am a woman who knows her husband loves her for all of who she is. Okay, I’ll admit I was hot once upon a time (many decades ago!) but what matters is our spirit. These pastor dudes are actually pretty sickening.

  8. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Thanks, Karina Gal. I got a good laugh from the poem. I never heard of Larkin before. I sure it applies to Piper’s blog, lol. It’s 1: 28 am, Cali time and I had to see what was on the blog here.

  9. Avatar
    Dave

    Piper is a particularly obnoxious arrogant sort of Christian who seems to epitomize so much of what is wrong with religion. One look at his Wikipedia page will make your head swim. He picks and chooses the worst parts of Christianity to create a Piperist cult which doesn’t tolerate other interpretations of scripture. I have a relative who has been sucked into the Piper cult and has turned into an arrogant and judgmental prick who has alienated both Christians and non believers in his sphere. Piper’s son has run in the other direction and it’s worth checking out his blog for his point of view.

    • Avatar
      Kel

      Hi Dave,

      I think a lot of Calvinists – at least those I came to know – seem to correlate “offensiveness” with truth. The more “difficult” or “counter-intuitive” a particular doctrine is to the modern ears, the bigger the chance of its being true. After all, the Gospel offends. One person I knew once launched an attack on a best-selling book by a well-known pastor on the grounds of its being popular. Popular equals catering to the sensibilities of the unbelieving world.

      Mind you, these people also think that too much empathy is sin. So what you interpret as being arrogant, they interpret as standing for the truth in opposition to falsehood. I know that I will lose all the friendships I made with people from the churches I used to go to – they all love Piper – since I’ve changed my views on a few important theological and social issues. Their first love will always be (the Calvinist) Jesus and to him belong all their allegiance. To hell (quite literally) with the others. Same goes with my relationship with my family. Ironically, Jesus did say that he came to bring sword and not peace, after all. There have been days when I wish I had never encountered this brand of theology to begin with.

      • Avatar
        BJW

        Kel, I hear what you are saying about Calvinists and empathy. But I also believe they enjoy being assholes and calling it righteous. I mean, don’t all of us want to smite our enemies? Seriously though, while I am opposed to fundies and evangelicals and what they espouse, especially a love of authoritarianism and Christian theocracy, I do have people I care about who believe these things. And I will stay close to them until they push me away, because I love them. OTOH, I’m not real interested in making new relationships with people who believe these things. I think the world would be better if all the controlling authoritarian people on the planet vanished, but I can’t wish them ill*…even while they gloat over me going to a non-existent hell.

        *Okay, I can wish that they have to live with a world where everyone is more accepting of each other person’s differences in race, creed, religion, etc etc, and I don’t care if it makes them upset. But as long as they live there is a chance they could become better people.

  10. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Wow- Piper’s son had fled the fold- would you happen to know what the blog is called ? I do remember that Piper’s wife had either left him, or was going to because of his oppressive ways. But then again, by his own admission, Piper had been marinated in Southern culture, and he’s not out of character at all here,lol.😁Thank you for this info,Dave.

  11. Avatar
    Dave

    Yulya, I should have said to look for Abraham Piper on TikTok or YouTube. His irreverence is a welcome change from his father’s pompous assery

  12. Avatar
    Davie From Glasgow

    Just reading a few of the comments above reminded me that, away from the extremes of deformity, ‘physical attractiveness’ is generally far, far more cultural than genetic. This idea that your lot in life is all down to your genes is a bit dangerous and CAN lead people to the worst of human horrors such as Incelism and its ilk.

  13. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I looked up Abraham Piper on Til Tok. He was ex- communicated from his father’s church a few years back. Quite interesting. I think he’s embarrassed by his father. Rick Joyner is another hard- core right winger,all five of his grown children vote Democrat. Though the Dems can use a lot of improvement themselves. They do care about their father, but again, they’re embarrassed by his ways.

  14. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    I’ll have to disagree with you, Bruce, on one point here: I don’t see John Piper, or most Evangelical preachers, as “attractive people, either inside or out. I do feel sorry for the writer of that letter to Piper, since Piper’s answer just seems to make things worse. Some sort of free-floating makes random people ugly? Not necessarily your own sin, though. Why would a loving god do that?

    What makes a person beautiful has to be one of the most subjective judgements possible. It varies wildly from culture to culture, all over the world, and is often the result of physical manipulation of the body to meet cultural expectations. For example, in China, until fairly recent times, bound feet–broken in childhood and forced to fit into tiny shoes–were considered beautiful, and the feet of ordinary people, who could not afford to lose the labor of a woman unable to work, were ugly. In other cultures, bound feet were regarded as hideous, cruel deformations.

    What does God have to do with cultural choices–especially John Piper’s god?

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Bruce Gerencser