Barnabas Piper works for Lifeway Christian Resources, pens a column for World Magazine, and is the author of the recently released The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity. He's also the youngest son of the highly influential John Piper, an experience which he wrestles with and reflects upon in his book. In the second part of this interview Piper discusses his father's complementarian views, his own thoughts on female leadership in church, platform, and being the subject of a famous pastor's stories.
CP: How is Barnabas Piper's faith different than John Piper's faith?
Piper: I think at the fundamental level, they're very similar. I think my dad is a much more intense person. He's more intense than just about anybody and so for him there is an explicit faith expression in just about everything he says or does. There's not a lot of small talk and just sort of light-hearted fun. I love to think and to learn and engage deep subjects, but I love silliness and comedies and watching sports and things that are more pure entertainment. For me, I see an expression of faith in those things and I think conscientiously about how those things mesh with the Christian life, but for me it's a more 1-1 correlation between expression of faith and expression of glorifying God in whatever you are doing. For me it's more a general lifestyle guideline of "Is this something that generally reflects well on God?"
Around the peripherals, we don't have the exact same viewpoints on how all of those viewpoints play out in the church or in culture either. Like most younger generations, I'm less strident on certain things. Every generation looks at their parents and says they're too conservative. I would tend to be like that in certain areas. Not necessarily in the core beliefs but in the expression of them.
CP: Can you give an example?
Piper: My dad and Wayne Grudem wrote a book called Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and it's sort of the go-to complementation text for roles of men and women. I hold that issue much more loosely than he does in terms of the overall significance of it in the life of the church and the health of a marriage.
CP: Would you be comfortable in attending a church with female pastoral leadership?
Piper: That question right there is the one I would say I have yet to answer for myself. That's the one where I'm sorting through things right now. There are complementarians who would be uncomfortable with a woman doing anything in a worship leading context whether it was leading worship or giving announcements on a Sunday morning. That stuff seems kind of silly to me.
I've been to conferences where Christine Caine. Christine Caine doesn't just speak, Christine Caine preaches. She's a phenomenal preacher. So is there a difference between the local body, this core body, and a conference say like Catalyst? I think there is but I would be hard-pressed to give a firm argument on that. That's the level where I'm just sorting through these things in my head. To answer your question, I don't really know if I would or not.
CP: Speaking of female pastors, I have a friend whose mother is a pastor. His father and the kids attended a different church. Would you ever suggest that for the pastor and his or her family?
Piper: I think that's a poor idea. The local church is a body. When Paul describes the body of Christ, he's not just talking about the global church. He's talking about individual churches. That's where this plays out in terms of each member of the body needing each other member. The person in ministry needs the support of their family. They need a spouse who standing there with them, not as eye candy or like an arm rest, but somebody whose shoulder they can cry on or whom they can vent to or seek wisdom from or who can pray with them. Now I'm sure someone can say that they can do that without being part of the church, but then it's a little like praying with a stranger. You're kind of describing a situation, if they don't know the people involved there's not the same level of care.
I think it's really bad for the kids. As much difficulty as it is to be a pastor's kid, I think you are adding a layer of dysfunction by saying the alternative to being a pastor's kid is ... to go somewhere else. That seems like that's far more problems than [solutions].
CP: In your book, you talk a lot about parents feeling like they can't confess things to their kids. Many families are also like that. How do parents be honest with their kids even though they might feel like they are indirectly condoning something by mentioning that failure?
Piper: In every parenting situation, your goal as a parent is to figure out the right time to do something with your kid. If your child is six-years-old, you don't confess deep dark secrets to them. You have to figure out a time of emotional and spiritual readiness. Now, the flipside of it is that you're never you're going to feel that you're ready, especially if it involves something sinful that you did when you were their age, like you smoked pot or whatever the case may be. That might be something you have a hard time telling them.
The first thing is, you don't do that in a black and white way. "At 10, we'll do this. At 12, we'll do this." Or just a blanket: "We just tell our kids everything." Kids are not prepared for that. My daughter is eight and so I have to be aware if she's having a hard time at school, what are things I should tell her, what are the things that might overwhelm her? That's a tough thing for any parent.
I think it's far worse as a parent to have your kids find out from one of your siblings your "stuff" or they find out through the grapevine. In a church context, grapevine [gossip or chatter] happens all the time. [For example,] "Your dad did what in a meeting?" Just like it is in any relationship, if you have done something that has an effect on somebody else, it's much healthier to go to them to say, "Hey I just wanted you to know, this happened at the meeting and I lost my temper and I'm really sorry."
If you have a younger kid, it might look exactly like that: "Sometimes I have a really hard time being patient with others and sometimes I get a lot angrier than I should. You've seen that." You kind of lay it out with younger children. But your kids are going to find out. Kids are more aware of their parents' weaknesses than anyone else. So not confessing, just creates a culture of "you have weaknesses and we don't talk about them. You make mistakes and we don't talk about them. You have a temper problem and we don't talk about it."