Popular Reformed theologian John Piper clarified his stance on whether the coronavirus is God’s judgment of sin and what the Bible says after a legal group called for an Army chaplain to be punished for sharing the minister's new book, Coronavirus and Christ.
In a 17-minute audio interview posted online Monday, the founder of DesiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota, responded to claims made by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation and its founder, Mikey Weinstein, in a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper last month.
Weinstein claimed that Piper’s new book “pushes the belief that the coronavirus is God’s judgment” and could even be judgment for homosexuality.
MRFF called for Senior Chaplain Col. Moon H. Kim, the command chaplain of U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys in South Korea, to be court-martialed for sharing a PDF copy of Piper’s new book with 35 other chaplains via email.
In the interview, Piper was asked if he thought Weinstein and MRFF’s criticism of his new book is fair.
“Well, Tony, some of it is. I think it would be fair to say that some of my views about what the Bible teaches, even rightly understood, the author of that letter hates. He hates what I think,” Piper said.
“‘They are,’ he says, ‘incendiary,’ ‘bigoted,’ ‘vulgar’ — not just because he misunderstands, but, in part, because he does understand, and that’s how he thinks and feels about some of what the Bible teaches.”
Piper went on to say that Romans 5:16 states that all death is the result of God’s judgment on the human race because sin entered the world. Piper further noted that God is “sovereign over the coronavirus, and sends it and ends it when He wills.”
Piper added that “homosexual intercourse is a sin” and “that the coronavirus is a call for repentance to all of us to bring our lives into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus.”
“I consider all of those views to be true because they are what the Bible teaches, and therefore, they’re very valuable to know,” Piper stressed. “So I think it’s not just that he misunderstands, but that he gets some things right in those quotes, and he just doesn’t like them.”
Piper said there are three areas where Weinstein seems to misrepresent his stance in either the letter to Esper or an earlier interview with The Christian Post.
“For example, when I say that ‘some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions,’ he assumes that I know who those people are, or at least what kind of people they are,” Piper said.
“But here’s what I write on page 72. ... The coronavirus is ... never a clear and simple punishment on any person. The most loving, spirit-filled Christian, whose sins are forgiven through Christ, may die of the coronavirus disease. But it is fitting that every one of us search our own heart to discern if our suffering is God’s judgment on the way we live.”
Piper explained that God “does judge people with sickness.”
“That’s very clear from 1 Corinthians 11:32, and there it’s even talking about Christians,” Piper said. “But John Piper or you or anybody else can’t determine from outside who is experiencing the coronavirus as a judgment in a punitive sense, and who’s experiencing it, say, as purification or who’s experiencing it for other reasons that God may have.”
Piper said his point is that God does many things for many reasons and people should “do sober-minded self-assessment to discern” what “God’s purposes are in all that happens to us.”
Piper also underlined that he is not saying “every person who engages in homosexual acts and who gets the coronavirus is being punished by God for those acts.”
“In Romans 1:27 the Bible says that living in homosexual behavior is sometimes punished by God with a ‘due penalty,’ which could be a disease, but not always,” Piper said. “And sometimes disease comes not as punishment, but as a merciful wake-up call that results in repentance and reconciliation and hope. God’s ways are simply more complex than the letter acknowledges.”
“I suspect though, Tony, that this clarification won’t even come close to satisfying the author of this letter since he considers it drivel and vulgar to even suggest that God controls this disease and would judge anyone with it,” Piper added.
Weinstein told CP that MRFF and the 22 Christian clients it's representing in the chaplain case do not have a misunderstanding of Piper's book. Weinstein doubled down on his disdain for Piper's Christian views.
"Piper’s despicable assertion of 'misunderstanding' is a wretched insult to those 22 Christian armed forces chaplains who desperately came to MRFF for civil rights advocacy help to engage this superior military officer," Weinstein added in an emailed response to CP.
"As for 'not liking' Piper’s declaration that the coronavirus is God’s judgment on sinners, and particularly for the 'sin' of 'homosexual intercourse,' [darn] right MRFF doesn’t like it! Nor should ANY thinking, compassionate and caring human being 'like' such blatant and brazen prejudice, bigotry and bullying!"
In the interview, Piper also responded to Weinstein’s claim in the letter that there is no “pastoral care and comfort” in Piper’s beliefs about the coronavirus.
“My response is Sir, no. You are profoundly wrong. We have the best news in the world for the hardest moments in the world — the best care, the best comfort,” Piper said. “The very heart of Christianity is that, through Christ, God rescues guilty sinners. That’s me and you and all of us. Through Christ, God rescues guilty sinners from his own wrath.”
Piper then cited Romans 5:9: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by [Christ’s] blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
“That’s what God sent Christ to do: rescue us from his own righteous punishment,” Piper added.