My Problem with John Piper’s “What The Recession is For”

I admire and dislike John Piper’s teachings in equal measure.  On the one hand, his theology is aberrant (and by aberrant I mean hypercalvinist), but on the other hand he has both impressive passion and insight.  For example, not today but last week his sermon was entitled, “What Is The Recession For?”  His ultimate answer, of course, was that it was to reveal the glory of God.  That’s his answer for everything.  Why is so-and-so going to hell?  To reveal God’s glory.  Why did 9/11 happen?  To reveal God’s glory.

Because Piper very specifically teaches that God has caused America’s economic recession.  It has nothing to do with the failures of economic policy, or the banking industry.  Those were just the means through which God mediated the recession.  In Piper’s schema, nobody has causal power except God.

All of which makes a mockery of a scriptural body that clearly gives responsibility to humans, and to that degree, Piper’s teachings always frustrate me.

On the other hand, the content of his sermon on the purpose of the recession was all fairly solid.  To cast it in my own theological light, I would put the five “purposes” of the recession like this.

What should the church do with the recession?
  1. Some sins that have been hidden in prosperity will be exposed.  We can repent and urge repentance in others.
  2. We can use this time of economic worry to realize how wealthy we in the west are, and develop empathy for and involve ourself in action on behalf of the truly poor in the world, for whom recession is not possible, because they have nothing to lose but their daily bread.
  3. We can relocate the roots of our joy in God’s grace, instead of our wealth and possessions.
  4. We can use this time to spread the gospel in new and less costly ways, perhaps teaching ourselves and others in the kingdom that frivolous spending was never necessary to begin with, but sacrifice was.
  5. We can exemplify the aspect of the early church that assured that nobody in the church was in need, again not through opulence, but through truly sacrificial sharing.

Of course, Piper phrased al of these as, “God sent the recession for this reason, and this reason, and this reason.”  But after some vetting, those are the understandings I came away with.   This is why John Piper frustrates me.  Because I know that he’s wrong, wrong, wrong, but he says things I value nevertheless.


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