I’m seeing quite a lot of Facebook discussion on the article “Key Minnesota pastors opt out of marriage fight” about John Piper “opting out” of the discussion on same-sex marriage. And I’ve seen a quick rush to judgment against Piper based on this article.
Here’s a good rule of thumb to remember: when, as in this Star Tribune article, someone in the media talks about Christians or Christianity, don’t immediately assume the picture he's painting is accurate, particularly when his description supports the general political goals of said media. In fact, one probably ought to assume the opposite until it can be confirmed.
Social media is a great tool for spreading the truth quickly, but it’s just as efficient at spreading partial truths and falsehoods, so we need to carry the weight of this power carefully and deliberately. Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to quick reactions, but we have to resist that temptation. Charity and caution ought to guide us. (Most of us have had to learn this lesson the hard way, so I hope to spare you this!)
If you’ve found a person to be generally trustworthy in the past, it’s a good idea to give him (or her) the benefit of the doubt and take some time to confirm the story before publicly condemning him. It’s easier to join in the discussion later if it turns out to be true than it is to take back what you’ve said prematurely. Social media spreads ideas so quickly that you can never gather them all up again, even if you want to.
Piper has responded to the Star Tribune article with “What the Star-Tribune Got Right—and Wrong,” and I would encourage everyone to read his sermon from last Sunday, which was on the topic of same-sex marriage. I honestly don’t understand how a reporter could interpret that sermon as “opting out."
From Piper’s post:
I didn’t opt out. I opted in. What is at stake more than anything else is the meaning of marriage and how important it is for the common good and for the glory of Christ. That was the main burden of the message. Marriage is the sexual and covenantal union of a man and a woman pledging life-long allegiance to each other as husband and wife. There is no such thing as so-called same-sex “marriage.” That is clear in God’s word….
The aim of point 7 [in the sermon] was to help our people know how to vote on the marriage amendment. The question for all of us is, Which of our beliefs about what is good for the common good should be put into constitutional law? I gave four guidelines. The aim of those guidelines was not to discourage our people from “taking a stand” but to help them take an intelligent one.
The aim of point 8 was that over the long haul Christians will take clearer, stronger, more effective stands for justice and righteousness and the common good if pastors and preachers speak powerfully and faithfully and biblically to the moral and spiritual and ethical and theological issues surrounding political issues, rather than advocating particular candidates and laws.
This also happens to be the position of Stand to Reason. Our goal is to train you to think clearly about issues in the culture (and right now, the issue where our culture is challenging the Christian worldview happens to be homosexuality and same-sex marriage, and so we must address it, whether or not we’d rather discuss other topics). We’ll analyze each issue rigorously, and you’ll know our position on each subject, but you won’t hear us explicitly telling you to vote for specific candidates or propositions.
Like Piper, I don’t see this as a failure on our part. Training you to apply the Christian worldview to all of your decisions is a worthy endeavor that matches our goal as an educational organization. If all we did was to weigh in on legislation here and there, telling you how to vote, you might not take the time to fully understand the issues, and you wouldn’t be empowered to make wise decisions on your own.