- The truth of Romans 5:16 that not only some death, but all death—including yours, Tony, and mine—is the result of God’s judgment on the human race because sin entered the world.
- That God is sovereign over the coronavirus, and sends it and ends it when he wills.
- That homosexual intercourse is a sin.
- That the coronavirus is a call for repentance to all of us—all of us—to bring our lives into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus.
I think the author of that letter considers all of those views as wrong, and that’s putting it mildly. I mean, his language is very colorful. I consider all of those views to be true because they are what the Bible teaches, and therefore, they’re very valuable to know. So, I think it’s not just that he misunderstands, but that he gets some things right in those quotes, and he just doesn’t like them. Period.
Q: Yeah. And obviously there are places where the author of this letter gets your meaning wrong. Take us through those areas.
Piper: Well, I see at least three things that the letter and the interview with one of the news outlets gets wrong about the book. For example, when I say that “some people will be infected with the coronavirus as a specific judgment from God because of their sinful attitudes and actions” (Coronavirus and Christ, 69), he assumes that I know who those people are, or at least what kind of people they are. But here’s what I write on page 72. And if anybody wants to just check it out, pages 69–72 are the real ones he’s after, and you can go look. But here’s what I say in the summing up of that little chapter.
The coronavirus is . . . never a clear and simple punishment on any person. The most loving, Spirit-filled Christian, whose sins are forgiven through Christ, may die of the coronavirus disease. But it is fitting that every one of us search our own heart to discern if our suffering is God’s judgment on the way we live.
In other words, God does judge people with sickness. That’s very clear from 1 Corinthians 11:32, and there it’s even talking about Christians. But John Piper or you or anybody else can’t determine from outside who is experiencing the coronavirus as judgment in a punitive sense, and who’s experiencing it, say, as purification, or who’s experiencing it for other reasons that God may have. My point was that God does do all of these things, and all of us should do sober-minded self-assessment to discern — as well as we can — what God’s purposes are in all that happens to us. And I take the Bible, the Christian Scriptures, as the main guide in these things. The author of this letter apparently doesn’t, and there’s the big canyon between our worldviews.
Q: Yeah, that’s a really important point. You said there were three misunderstandings. It seems that one of those obviously is the question of homosexuality.
Piper: Right. You could say, probably, that that issue is a specific instance of the first misunderstanding. As far as I can see, the author of that letter wants to say that Piper thinks every person who engages in homosexual acts and who gets the coronavirus is being punished by God for those acts. And my response is “Well, no, it’s not that simple.”
For sure, in Romans 1:27 the Bible says that living in homosexual behavior is sometimes punished by God with a “due penalty,” which could be a disease, but not always. And sometimes disease comes not as punishment, but as a merciful wake-up call that results in repentance and reconciliation and hope. God’s ways are simply more complex than the letter acknowledges.
So, I say again, from page 72, “The coronavirus . . . is never a clear and simple punishment on any person.” It may be punishment; it may not be. And our prayer should be that all of us experience our suffering as redemptive, not punitive.
I suspect though, Tony, that this clarification won’t even come close to satisfying the author of this letter, since he considers it drivel and vulgar to even suggest that God controls this disease and would judge anyone with it.
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.