A few days ago, the ministry of Christian author and pastor John Piper tweeted this:
John Piper: “God is not a passive observer in our lives while sinners and Satan beat us up. God rules them, and they unwittingly fulfill his wise and loving purposes of discipline in our lives.” https://t.co/XDaG6x63Zg
— Desiring God (@desiringGod) August 23, 2018
The quote is from a piece Piper published in 1997, which contains insights like this:
… God is disciplining us; he is teaching us and correcting us and transforming us. In other words, God has a purpose and a design in what is happening to us. God is the ultimate doer here. Verse 6 goes so far as to say, “[God] scourges every son whom he receives.” Who is scourging? Who is whipping?… God is. God is not a passive observer in our lives while sinners and Satan beat us up. He rules over sinners and Satan, and they unwittingly, and with no less fault or guilt, fulfill his wise and loving purposes of discipline in our lives.
In other words, everything is so pre-ordained that even the worst things that happen in our lives are just part of God’s Master Plan. Mass shootings? Car accidents? Childhood cancer? God just made Satan do it.
So deal with it.
That negative sentiment remains popular in Piper’s theology, known as Calvinism: humans are depraved and evil, so much so that Jesus died a violent death on the cross on our behalf. Only God is good. And that’s why he hurts us. Because he loves us.
That “advice” wouldn’t be helpful or welcome if you were speaking to someone in an abusive relationship, and it shouldn’t be acceptable here. It also explains why abuse is so common in conservative churches: when people are being mistreated, they are conditioned to believe they deserve it. That’s also why so much abuse in churches goes unreported.
Life brings enough suffering as it is, without God having to dole it out himself. What we need are people taking responsibility for their own actions and learning from them, at least when they are the cause, not blaming others or chalking it up to God.
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