Tuesday, May 03, 2011

John Piper on Osama's Death

I don't agree with everything that John Piper says about this, but I found his comments thought-provoking and - more importantly - Biblically focused. His comments stand in remarkable contrast (in my mind at least) to the comments of Prof. Horton, which I discussed earlier today.

For example, I would disagree with Piper's claim that God has emotions, or that our emotional conflicts make us "God-like," but I found his following comment insightful:
My suggestion is that the death and misery of the unrepentant is in and of itself not a pleasure to God. God is not a sadist. He is not malicious or bloodthirsty. The death and suffering considered for itself alone is not his delight.

Rather, when a rebellious, wicked, unbelieving person is judged, what God has pleasure in is the exaltation of truth and righteousness, and the vindication of his own honor and glory.
- TurretinFan


wtanksley said...

I often have a moment of nervousness when someone criticizes Piper; his doctrine is generally admirable (and many incorrectly criticize him for that), but some of the points he makes are poorly made, and some of his teaching (at best) fails to address the pietism common among his followers.

In this case, I think Piper did a good job, and even Piper's attribution of "emotions" to God should not be seen as some kind of attribution of (for example) a limbic system to God, but rather as using an English summary word to condense the Biblical language attributing "laughing", "nose flare", and other language which in humans would be driven by emotions; as well as specifically emotional words like "pleasure" and "grieve".

Unlike some of Pipers other teaching, I think the culturally likely misunderstandings of this term are minimal, while the benefit is considerable.

donsands said...

Good thoughts from Pastor Piper. God surely can be grieved. God can sing over His loved ones.

Jesus said, "The father loves Me because I lay down My life for the sheep."
Surely the Father loves Jesus even if He didn't give His life. This is a good look at the heart of God, and how His eternal love can swell, and surely He can be grieved as well. Adam surely caused Yahweh to grieve.

Does God grieve over Osama? No, I don't believe so. He killed this wicked man for sure. God's wrath is a scary thing to behold.

Jason Landless said...

Odd that you do not take Dr. Piper to task for his same application of the same verse that I quoted only yesterday.

My conclusions were much the same as his: exaltation in justice is quite compatible with sorrow over the death of the wicked and their sinful course. God certainly sorrows over sinner's death, and Dr. Piper explains how both can be true, which of course strikes me as the biblical view. Yet you said my application of the passage was a "misunderstanding" of the Scriptures.

In relation to justice: we are now told that Osama bin Laden was unarmed when his house was raided, and was summarily shot above the left-eye. As has been pointed out by others, that is sailing close to political murder and revenge, not self-defense, or indeed, justice. Even Hitler's gang of villains were tried at Nuremberg by court of law.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Landless:

I don't think your and Piper's positions are the same, even though they do have some similarities.

I am, however, quite willing to apply my criticism of your explanation of the verse to Piper, if Piper says the same thing you did.


Ken said...

God doesn't have emotions?

Genesis 6:6; Eph. 4:30 grief, sadness, sorrow

Psalm 2 - anger

all through OT - "the anger of the Lord was kindled . . ."

love, joy, etc. all through the Bible

I pretty much found myself agreeing with all that Piper wrote in this article.

(though I do disagree with him sometimes, not much though.)

His decision to invite Rick Warren last fall, and then not at least critique his video sermon was at the least not very discerning.

It is still a great mystery as to how and why he could not know of Warren's saying contradictory things to different audiences.

I hope he will explain more later.

Turretinfan said...


Yes, I'm aware of comments like that. Also there are comments like "the arm of the Lord" and "the Lord saw" that might be taken literally to suggest body parts.

Nevertheless, we deny that God has parts or passions, treating those descriptions as anthropomorphic or anthropopathic.


wtanksley said...

Turretinfan, the point of the phrase "without passions" is not to state that God does not experience anything like emotion, but rather to state that God is not caused to experience emotion by anything happening to him -- God is never _passive_ in anything He experiences.

Thus, God does not experience emotions as we do, in that our emotions come from outside our control and affect our control. Can we even SAY that God has emotions at all? I don't see how we can justly forbid it, since the Bible clearly attributes to God attributes which we experience as emotions. At the same time, we should question whenever we see language used that appears to attribute to God more emotion than is clearly ascribed to Him by His own revelation.

In spite of Piper's opening paragraph, where he uses the generic term "emotions", the rest of his essay is consistent in using only Biblical terms. I think this particular essay is on safe ground... But it's right for you to ask the question about it.


Turretinfan said...


I have no desire to be contentious about the matter. My main point in citing the article was to point out that I like Piper's approach of being Biblical, even if I disagree with him at some points.


Ken said...

Thanks for some interaction on the issue of the "Impassibility of God". That is an area that I think the Reformed confessions were not diligent enough in balancing the issue. (seemingly basing that doctrine only on a certain understanding of Acts 14:11, 15)

I like Phil Johnson’s article, below, “God without mood –swings”. That’s a good title. If that is what the Reformed Confessions mean by “Impassibility”, then I agree. God's emotions are not "out of control" like ours sometimes are.

So, I think he does a good job of pointing out the “complexity” of the issue, which is what Piper seems to be getting at, that God's emotions are complex.


This issue is important in dealing with Muslims, it seems to me, because they say:

“God is not hurt or harmed or His power or glory or holiness is not lessened by Him being about to forgive without a sacrifice of blood-shed (death). Allah just chooses to forgive.”

How would you answer the Muslim’s issue?

In what sense is the Muslim view that “God just chooses to forgive” – in what sense is God’s holiness and glory denigrated and insulted and “harmed” ? Why is God angry everyday with the wicked? (Psalm 7:11) Why do sinners suffer forever and forever in torment in hell in the presence of the Lamb (Rev. 14:10), where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched?” (Mark 9:48)

This, I think, is where the issue of “God’s emotions” is very important to consider. Phil Johnson did a good job of discussing the issue and the balance.

Furthermore, it is easy to see the physical descriptions of God as “anthropomorphic” – the ears of the Lord, the eyes of the Lord, the hand of the Lord, etc. – yes, because God is Spirit and not physical. (John 4:23-24)

It is not so easy to dismiss the Scriptures that describe God’s emotions as anthropomorphic, because they are not physical, and since we are created in the image of God, and that is not a physical thing, it is an internal, invisible, soul-spirit thing, then in some sense, the “image of God” within us, must include emotions.

I think that is why Piper phrased it the way he did, “that God’s emotions are complex” – he is indicating, it seems to me, what Phil Johnson wrote, but without devoting space to that issue, because he was focusing on the two issues of God’s delight in justice and His not being a sadist also.

Ken said...

oops - typo

Muslims say:

“God is not hurt or harmed or His power or glory or holiness is not lessened by Him being about to forgive without a sacrifice of blood-shed (death). Allah just chooses to forgive.”

should have been:

“God is not hurt or harmed or His power or glory or holiness is not lessened by Him being able to forgive without a sacrifice of blood-shed (death). Allah just chooses to forgive.”