God: The Decider
Popular theologian and preacher John Piper, a Calvinistic Baptist, professes image of God that I call “The Decider.” Here’s Piper, playing defense for his genocidal deity:
It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.
God is taking life every day. He will take 50,000 lives today. Life is in God’s hand. God decides when your last heartbeat will be, and whether it ends through cancer or a bullet wound. God governs.
So God is God! He rules and governs everything. And everything he does is just and right and good. God owes us nothing.
If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92.
You had me at “It’s right for God to slaughter.” Notice that Piper’s God does not simply allow every loss of life: each death results because God decides, wills, governs. It’s all good and part of the plan because, hey, it’s God, and by definition the almighty can do no wrong. God gives life, takes it away, and we should thank our
lucky stars God for whatever time we’re blessed with.
Piper’s careful to say that God doesn’t just arbitrarily give us mortals the moral authority to kill people as we see fit; there are “times and seasons for when he shares his authority to take and give life.” Nowadays is not the time for slaughtering men, women, children, and livestock because “the church today is not Israel, and we are not a political entity.” Good to know.
In fairness to Piper, we should note what he’s not saying: the terrorist bomber has a divinely-stamped license to kill. But the terrorist may believe otherwise. In either vision, God’s hands are busy pressing the detonator. According to Piper, God takes life and does no wrong when the suicide bomber murders people. God’s there, taking life in the human deed, but he’s blameless, without fault, ’cause he’s God and that’s how he rolls.
Biblical scholar Peter Enns has a helpful rundown of the scriptural problems with Piper’s God. I find this image both horrible and fascinating, but I’m not surprised to see a pastor in the 21st century going full steam with this approach to God’s omnipotence. Our history continues to be that of a blood-lustful species, even if we’ve made attempts to legitimize our violent impulses into forms acceptable to our modern sensibilities. Piper’s image of God offends these, but it’s not exactly out of line with our nature. Not that I believe in this image, mind you. If this is God, you can call me an atheist.