Tag Archive: Kingdom of God

Evangelical John Piper Says God Changed His Mind About Executing Homosexuals

god does not change

According to Fundamentalist Calvinist John Piper, Old Testament commands concerning the execution of homosexuals no longer apply. According to Leviticus 20:13, homosexuality is punishable by death. God’s inerrant, infallible, never-changing Bible says:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

I find no ambiguity in this verse. Have sexual relations with someone of the same gender and God commands that you be put to death (Though technically, this verse does not mention lesbians). So then, how does Piper, a staunch believer in inerrancy, get around Leviticus 20:13? Piper states that things have changed, that the way God views homosexuality now is different from how he viewed it in the Old Testament. While homosexuality is still a sin, says Piper, the punishment for it has changed. In other words, God changed his mind. Rather than stoning homosexuals to death, God is content to wait until they die. Then he can fit them with a body that will withstand untold pain and suffering. Once fitted with a God-approved fire suit, God will then spend the next billion or so years torturing homosexuals in the Lake of Fire. Ah yes, the kinder, gentler, nicer God of the New Testament.

I would love to ask Piper if he would approve of homosexuals being sentenced to death. If U.S. law, mimicking the commands of God’s inerrant Word, allowed for the execution of those convicted of sodomy, would he support such a law? I suspect he would. According to Calvinists such as John Piper and Al Mohler, God is perfect, righteous, and just in all his ways. If this is so, then when God commanded Israel to kill homosexuals (and non-Jews, fornicators, and adulterers), his command is perfect, righteous, and just. Since I know how Piper views God, I can say with great confidence that he would have no problem with the U.S. legal code using the Bible’s laws, commands, and precepts as a foundation for regulating human behavior. Surely God’s law is superior to man’s law, right?

What prompted Piper’s post was a question from a podcast listener:

Dear Pastor John, I want to first thank you for the Ask Pastor John podcast and for your obedience and love for the Lord. One thing I have always struggled to communicate is the difference between the Old Testament Law and the fulfilled Law after Christ. I have many atheist friends who press me here, specifically when it comes to homosexuality. Why do we as Christians not believe practicing homosexuals should be killed for their sin if that is exactly the prescription in our Bibles in Leviticus 20:13? How would you answer this objection?”

Ah, those pesky verse-quoting atheists, using the Bible against Christians. According to Piper, these atheists really don’t understand the Bible, nor do they know how to interpret it properly. Piper writes:

This is huge and absolutely crucial. And we need an answer for it to those who ask. It is such a common response for somebody that has a smattering of knowledge or has just read that there are these verses in the Bible like that. And it is not difficult to answer this problem. It just takes a little willingness on the part of people to listen for a few minutes as we describe the nature of the Christian Bible.

Besides, what these atheists really need is not answers about God commanding the execution of homosexuals. Oh no, what they really need is — drum roll please — Jesus. Piper concludes his post with this:

So our overall aim in dealing with our critics who don’t know their Bibles is to direct them to Jesus, who is the goal of everything in the Bible and to try to help them see that God has been moving through history in different ways at different times to bring us into a relationship with Jesus for the salvation of our souls.

In other words, ignore their questions and point them to Jesus. Once they are saved, atheists will understand how to properly explain away Leviticus 20:13 and dozens of other verses which clearly show that the Christian God is a narcissistic, bloodthirsty psychopath.

Piper appeals to Matthew 5:17 as proof for his contention that there is a new God, with a new law, in town. Matthew 5:17 states:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

According to Piper, who is supposedly a theologian:

We see the first pointer of how things have changed dramatically in Matthew 5:17, where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” So all the Old Testament finds its completion and fulfillment in Jesus—and that is a basic truth that a person needs to understand. Everything in the Old Testament was pointing toward Jesus as the Son of God incarnate, dying and rising to save His people. And, therefore, in His person, in His ministry, the whole Old Testament reaches a climax and is dramatically altered.

Seems pretty straight forward. Jesus, by his death on the cross for the elect, fulfilled (satisfied, completed) the Old Testament. Thus, its laws, commands, and precepts are no longer binding today. Once Jesus died and rose again from the dead everything changed. Or so says John Piper.

Taking Piper’s position at face value, this means that none of the Old Testament’s laws are in force, including the Ten Commandments. So, Bro. Piper. Are the Ten Commandments applicable to today?  Let the shuck and jive begin. In a post titled, Are Christians Under the Ten Commandments?, Piper wrote:

No. The Bible says we’re not under the law.
….
So, our approach towards ethics is different. We don’t ask the question, “Am I under the law?” We are under grace. The law is already fulfilled perfectly by Jesus. We are in Jesus and as far justification goes, God sees it as completed for you, one-hundred percent. He says, “You’ve trusted my Son. You’ve been grafted in him. You are in Christ Jesus and he fulfilled the law perfectly. He covered all your sins.” God sees you in and through Christ, therefore, as far as final judgment goes God is 100% for you. That is settled and nothing is going to change it.
….
Love God and do as you please is not bad advice, if you’re bent on holiness. If you’re bent on love the ten commandments are really important. You should hang them on your wall and you should measure your life by them, but in a very different way than when you were under them, because they have been kept for you.

No, the Christian is NOT under the law, says Piper, but if he really, really, really, I mean really loves the Evangelical God, he will keep the Ten Commandments. Sure sounds like the Ten Commandments are binding and in force.

Like all Evangelicals who resort to playing the Bible gymnastics game, Piper uses Matthew 5:17 in a way that makes it say something other than what it actually says. Why didn’t Piper quote the relevant verses after verse 17? You know, to give a bit of context. Here is what Matthew 5:17-19 says:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

No wonder Piper didn’t quote verses 18 and 19. These verses undo and contradict the point he was trying to make. Well, let me, an atheist theologian, educate Piper and others of his ilk, about this passage of Scripture.

First, the gospel of Matthew was written 40 to 70 years after the death of Jesus. This means it was written at least four decades after Jesus, according to John Piper, established the New Covenant through his atoning death and resurrection from the dead. Why would the author of Matthew write about whether the Old Testament law had been fulfilled? Surely, two to four generations after Jesus died. Christians would by then KNOW the Old Testament was no longer in force?

Second, does this passage really say that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament and that it is no longer binding? Verse 17 says yes, but verses 18 and 19 say no. Verse 18 states unambiguously that the law of God (the Old Testament) is in force until “all be fulfilled.” The fulfillment here is not the Old Testament or even the death and resurrection of Jesus. The text states that the Old Testament is in force until heaven and earth pass away. This passing away is described in 2 Peter 3:10-12:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Go outside and look up. Are you standing on earth? Is heaven (the sky) still above you? Okay, maybe you didn’t have to go outside to know this. Evidently John Piper needs to spend more time outside. Matthew 5:17-19 is quite clear: until heaven and earth pass away, the law of God is still in force. In fact, the Bible says that every jot and tittle of God’s law is valid and binding. This means that every minute detail of God’s law applies to New Testament Christians: from the execution of homosexuals to not eating certain foods such as pork and shellfish.

I am sure someone will suggest, hoping to rescue Piper from the sea of contradiction, that the law that is now binding is the New Covenant (New Testament). Here’s the problem with this attempted end run around the text. At the time of the writing of this text, Christians had not yet completely collated the canon of Scripture. Thus, at best, all early Christians had was a partial book of God’s laws. It makes more sense, especially when considering that most early Christians were Jews and Christianity was considered a subset of Judaism, that the word law in Matthew 5:17-19 refers to some or all of the Old Testament.

Verse 19 is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible. Well, difficult for Fundamentalists such as John Piper. Believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God requires Evangelicals to harmonize the Biblical text. There are no mistakes, errors, misstatements, contradictions, or bad writing days.  According to a normative reading of verse 19, there are two classes of people who will enter the kingdom of God: those who break the laws of God and teach others to do the same and those who keep the law of God and instruct others to do the same. So then, there will be deliberate lawbreakers in Heaven, those who not only disobey God, but also teach others to follow in their footsteps?

The Apostle Paul, a man known to pen quite a few contradictions himself, disagrees with the writer of Matthew. According to Paul’s gospel (a gospel that is quite different from Jesus’),  breakers of God’s law will NOT enter the kingdom of heaven:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:19-21,24)

Of course, Paul, ever the jokester, writes in other epistles that no one will enter the kingdom of God by keeping the law of God. Paul, Paul, Paul, what are we going to do with you?

Don’t you just love playing the Dueling Bible Verses Game®? I have long believed that the Bible can be used to prove virtually any belief. The various Christian sects have fought internecine wars for centuries over whose interpretation of the Bible is correct. I have come to the conclusion that all of them are right.  The Arminian, Calvinist, cessationist, non-cessationist, and every other theological name Christians give to their one-hundred-percent-pure interpretations of the perfect Word of God, are all correct!

I have no doubt that an Evangelical or five will likely point out that my exegesis is wrong. They will quote verse after verse, massaging and shaping them to fit their peculiar theological system of belief. But, try as they might to make sense of an incoherent book, all their contortions will do is cause more inconsistencies and contradictions. It is, contrary to thousands of Evangelicals books that say otherwise, impossible to make the Bible internally consistent. The best that Evangelicals can do is obfuscate, explain away, or stutter when confronted with verses that do not fit their particular theological paradigm.

Note

Leviticus 20 also commands the execution of people for all sorts of sex crimes.

Heaven and Hell, The Carrot and the Stick

carrot and stick

The two tools most often used by Evangelical preachers to keep people in the pews are:

  • The threat of God’s judgment
  • The threat of hell

As with Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Evangelical preachers warn parishioners of the judgment to come and the hell that awaits anyone who does not repent of their sins and become a follower of Jesus.

Here’s what Edwards had to say:

…The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment…

While few Evangelical preachers can turn a word and speak as eloquently as Edwards, their message is still the same: judgment and hell awaits those who do not repent of their sins and follow after Jesus.

Preachers often use what I call the carrot and stick approach. Every person has a choice to make about where they spend eternity. While Calvinists and Arminians argue endlessly over whether we really are free to choose, saving faith does require an act of volition. Every person must choose between heaven and hell. Become a follower of Jesus and heaven, the carrot awaits when you die. Reject Jesus, his salvific work on the cross and his death-defying resurrection from the dead, then hell, the stick, awaits you when you die.

Evangelical preachers impress on those under the sound of their voice that it is important to make a decision for Christ NOW! The Bible says in the last part of II Corinthians 6:2:

…behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.

According to Evangelical preachers, none of us has the promise of tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 states:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Evangelical preachers are like Larry the Cable Guy. Git ‘er Done! Today, right now, don’t delay.

Some preachers spice up their sermons with illustrations of people who died suddenly or who died after hearing and rejecting the preacher’s warning about God’s judgment and hell. These stories, true or not, are meant to elicit an immediate response. When I was a preacher, my goal was to press every person who heard my sermon to make a decision. I was of the opinion that there was no such thing as a neutral position. Once a person heard the gospel, heard my sermon, they had a choice to make. Heaven or hell, which will it be?

A regular reader of this blog sent me a Franklin Graham quote that I think will help illustrate what I am trying to say in this post:

“Death is serious, eternal business. Once our physical hearts beat for the last time, we will instantly find ourselves either in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His splendor, or in the pit of Hell away from His presence.”

There’s the carrot and the stick. Heaven or hell; choose now while your heart is still beating. The moment your heart stops beating, your eternal destiny is settled.

Think for a moment about what Graham said here about the heart stopping. So, if a person’s heart stops, his eternal destiny is settled? What if his heart is restarted using a defibrillator? Does this mean his eternal destiny is not really settled and he gets another chance to decide, heaven or hell? For those people who have heart transplants, does that mean that they need to decide again?

The bigger problem with Graham’s statement is that it is bad theology. According to orthodox Christian theology, when people die, they do not go to heaven or hell. Instead, they go to the grave and will remain there until the resurrection of the dead. Grandma is not up in Heaven running around, nor is she peering over the portals of Heaven watching her grandchildren play. Neither is Christopher Hitchens in hell, being tormented day and night for daring to mock the thrice holy God. They are dead, lying in the grave, awaiting the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.

After the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment will take place and every person will be sent to his or her eternal destiny. And even here, many Evangelical preachers, including Graham, get it wrong. Christians will not spend eternity in Heaven. Instead, they will spend it in the kingdom of God. Hitchens and the rest of us reprobates? We will not spend eternity in hell. Instead we will spend it in the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:11-15 makes this quite clear:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

and Revelation 21:1-8:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And here an even more interesting point. Isn’t our eternal destiny is settled by repenting of our sins and following after Jesus? These texts state that everyone is judged by their works, that it is works that determine whether Grandma, Hitchens, or anyone else goes to heaven or hell.

I wish Evangelical preachers would get together and figure out exactly where it is we are all going when we die. I wish they would  determine if it is really up to me to decide? With so much confusion and lack of theological precision, how is a poor, lost atheist such as I am, supposed to determine in what hotel to make my final reservation?

The purpose of this post is to show how confusing and contradictory Evangelical preachers and their theology can be. If they are not precise and clear, can mere untrained, unwashed Philistines such as we are have any hope of finding THE Way, Truth, and Life?

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