James White, John Piper, and Christian aggression | Two camps

cowboyI once received a message about a post from James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. His post entitled ‘I Beg to Differ, Brother Piper,’ in every sense of Dr. White’s style, speaks for itself. He articulates his point and clarifies his intention is only to speak briefly on the matter. He expresses his brief opinion about John Piper’s statements about Guns and Martyrdom following the Supreme Court ruling on guns in the homes of Americans.

Summarily, John Piper’s post considered the sacrifice made by the missionaries to the Auca (Waudoni) Indians in Ecuador in 1956. The missionaries Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Nate Saint lost their lives attempting to reach an otherwise unreached people. Although these men met physical death that day they could have easily averted it with the side arms in their possession, right? Had these men simply chosen to fire their weapons in defense of their lives they may well still be here today, and there would be no story to tell regarding this matter. (Guns and Martyrdom: John Piper)

I would like to begin by looking at the sentiments expressed by Dr. White, and as he invokes the right to disagreement in lieu of Christian liberty, so shall I. Dr. White states that his intention behind the blog was not to start a blog war, and this is not an attempt to awaken a sleeping dog. I just want to touch on the topic as it is often a response that mirrors those I encounter from other Christians as well.

Dr. White says that he cannot agree with John Piper’s prototypical man breaking into his home  as being similar to the heathen who carries a spear and lives in a remote land. While illustrating his disagreement he takes Piper’s potential intruder and makes him a “meth-laden gang member seeking to rob, rape, and murder.” This is a logical assumption in many cases, as we know intruders come with many motives, and meth addiction definitely could be one of them. Dr. White says,

In the second place, I don’t believe a Christian is a martyr if they fall prey to the random, drug-induced violence of a gang member or criminal. There is a difference between being a victim because you did not take the proper precautions and being a martyr because you purposefully expose yourself to danger and even death in the service of the gospel.

Now, on the surface this does not seem to impose much threat to a typical Christian worldview. Unfortunately, this statement propagates the view that a person who is Christian can only qualify as a martyr when persecution or affliction occurs within the context of preaching the gospel, or doing missions work. I concede to the view that dying while falling prey to an unsuspecting attacker or disastrous consequence would not qualify a believer as a ‘martyr’ but I do feel that this situation is insufficient to stand as justification for arming or defending one’s family or self with a weapon during the time that you are not ‘proclaiming’ the Gospel.

John Piper states that his view of a would be attacker into his home holds the same stature as the tribesmen who attacked the missionaries with their spears and killed them. He believes that they too are not prepared for eternity and should receive the same consideration a Christian missionary would give any islander or savage who is lost and blind to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Piper’s words,

Here’s the connection. The missionaries had guns when they were speared to death. One of them shot the gun into the air, it appears, as he was killed, rather than shooting the natives. They had agreed to do this. The reason was simple and staggeringly Christlike: The natives are not ready for heaven. We are.

I leave you with this question. What differentiates what James White says,

The gang member in the streets of Phoenix has every possible opportunity to do good, to obey the gospel, to work and abide by the law. But he chooses, purposefully and knowingly, to do otherwise. He chooses to enter into my home, threatening the lives of my family. And he comes armed.

And what Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ writes,

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. (Rom 1:20-21)

And the end result of what Dr. White’s position creates is that those who are native to a civilized concrete jungle are exempt from the treatment given to those who are native to remote locales where the proclamation of God solely resides in the testimony of creation, which in fact will incriminate any who are not able to receive a spoken Gospel message, or witness a Christian who embodies the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ? Does the ‘meth-laden gang member’ receive a different version of Christian love because he lives in a Christianized Western context?

I would suggest to those sharing the position of Dr. White that the purposeful and knowing wrongdoer is equal to the heathen who carries a spear to skewer a passive missionary. The ability to obey the gospel, work and abide by laws, and do good is not unfulfilled in the action of the individual, but the lack thereof is a direct result of man’s depravity, just like the man who carries a spear to murder an innocent Christian missionary.

James White’s article references the story about binding the strong man in Mt. 12:28-29 as proof for his position. Please read my post concerning that passage to learn what is inherently wrong with White’s use of this verse.

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I love writing about books, theology, and the Kingdom of God. I also enjoy viewing my vocation through a biblical lens. It is here at Seeking A Kingdom that I aim to hash out my thoughts on all these things.

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