Theologian John Piper used the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make a point about questions of racial diversity within the Church and to list how the apostles in biblical times handled the discussion of sin toward early churches – and to connect "Calvinist racism" to King's "alleged adultery."
In his blog post, "Calvinist Racism and King's Alleged Adultery – A Connection?" Piper writes, "The fact that I can use the term 'Calvinist racism' should make it clear that 'King's alleged adultery' does not exclude him from heroic standing in the cause of civil rights, any more than 'Calvinist racism' excludes me from loving Calvinism – and King.
"But there is a connection. It goes like this: Don't use a leader's sin to determine the truth of his ideas. Not King's. Not the Calvinist's. Not the Arminian's. And so on."
Piper wrote that he is pleading with readers to think and speak carefully about the relationship between racial harmony and right doctrine.
"Few things give rise to imprecise rhetoric like the issue of race. It's understandable, but damaging," the current chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minn., states. "I'm thinking of rhetoric from white and black and Asian and Latino. I am sure I myself have fallen short of what I am pleading for here."
To illustrate his concern about the relationship between right doctrine and racial diversity, he writes, for example, "what if someone says, 'Churches that claim to have right doctrine, but have all one color of people on Sunday morning, are not really orthodox'? 'Heteropraxy belies orthodoxy,' they say. 'You will know them by their fruits' (Matthew 7:15)."
Piper makes the point that in place of the rhetoric that "makes de facto homogeneity the litmus paper of orthodoxy … we determine orthodoxy by what's taught in the Bible, and we determine sin by what's out of sync with the truth."
He argues that this leaves room in the church for true doctrine to coexist with sin. "If it can't, then the only orthodox churches are perfect churches," he writes.
The apostles criticized sin in the churches "not first by telling them their doctrine was defective, but by telling them they were acting as if they didn't know their doctrine," Piper said.
"Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" (1 Corinthians 6:1–2).
"Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?" (1 Corinthians 6:15).
"Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?" (James 4:4).
"I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel" (Galatians 2:14).
Piper adds, "This is how the apostles criticized sin in the churches: They were acting out of sync with the truth. But when it came to determining truth, the issue was: what do the apostles teach: 'The things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized' (1 Corinthians 14:37–38)."
He concludes that if Christians are going to criticize the racial failures of a church or a theological camp that they should be careful with their rhetoric, and "do it the way the apostles did it."
"As much as we can, let's defend the truth by pointing to what the apostles taught, and let's call out sin by pointing to the inconsistencies between what we say we believe and what we do," he writes.
Discussion about Piper's blog post came swiftly Monday. "Godly Sojourner" responding to the post on Facebook wrote, "Equating Calvinism's racist history with MLK's adultery is not quite apples to apples with what the article is attempting to say/accomplish.
"The link between the theology of Calvinism which has inherently led some (NOT ALL Calvinist) to racist notions is well documented and somewhat straightforward and clear. Consider the Boer's of South Africa," Sojourner continued. "What can't be substantiated in the same way, would be MLK's supposed liberal theology (which is a gross oversimplification, but that's a side note), and his adultery. For those of us who've read a lot of King and listened to many of his sermons in no way can his theology be broadly placed in a liberal envelope."
John Piper's full blog post - click here.