What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Is it Just Me, or Is This Really Tasteless?

A friend of mine forwarded to me these introductory comments made by Pastor John Piper in a chapter in a book he co-edited with Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ:

There is a connection between the beheadings of Jack Hensley and Eugene Armstrong and Nick Berg and Paul Johnson and perhaps Kenneth Bigley, and this book, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.

I look at them and I see their hands and their eyes. And I think of my hands and my eyes and my death and my faith. And then I hear the words of Jesus put it all in perspective, and in relation to sex.

"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

In other words, there is something far more important than to keep your eye or your hand—or your head—namely, to receive eternal life and not to perish in hell. And Jesus links it with the war that we are waging not in Iraq but in our hearts. And the issue is sexual desire and what we do with it.

Everywhere you look in the world, it seems, there are reminders that life is war. We are not playing games. Heaven and hell, Jesus says, are in the balance.

When I read this, it just creeped me out. Is it just me, or is this really tasteless?

Comments (12)

Yeah. Why did he have to connect it to those guys? I mean, what's the point supposed to be? "Hoorah! Now they'll never have to worry about lust again!" Perhaps if you have a problem with looking at women with lust, you should go to Iraq and get yourself kidnaped and beheaded?

Looks to me like a desperate attempt to capture the audience's attention with a contemporary reference, only it turned out to be really, really forced.

Uh--it's not just you.

It seems to me that this connection misses Christ's point entirely. It's tacky. It's unpleasant. It's incredibly unfeeling. And it won't win any converts. This is one of those ill-thought-out statements that Christian-bashers love to pounce on.

And they will. Believe me, they will.

Maybe he was slightly drunk when he thought of it? One of those stream-of-consciousness things that seem profound when you're asleep or nearly asleep or a little bit out of it...but aren't. Only he doesn't seem to have evaluated it in the cold light of day before putting it in print.

And then I hear the words of Jesus put it all in perspective, and in relation to sex.

One of the most abrupt, amateurish, hamhanded transitions I've ever read. To paraphrase Lydia: really, really [really] forced.

If I recall events correctly, Nick Berg had his head cut off not for harboring lust in his heart, but for being an American; and not by his own hand, but by those of murderers. Furthermore, hands and eyes are different than heads: trying to cut off the latter would be suicidally fatal. And so the Pastor's analogy is actually anti-Christian.

Before accusing anyone of substance abuse, allow at least someone to argue fairly in defense. The comparison is such that sexuality is more than just a matter of life and death (as in external war), but of heaven and hell (internal war); a rhetorical combination of meiosis and auxesis and argument a fortiori.

"The comparison is such that sexuality is more than just a matter of life and death (as in external war), but of heaven and hell (internal war); a rhetorical combination of meiosis and auxesis and argument a fortiori."

No one is quibbling about the rhetorical form of the argument. What some here are suggesting is that its substance seems in bad taste. For example, if I were to argue:

!. If Mrs. Smith is wears a red hat, then she's a whore
2. Mrs. Smith wears a red hat.
Therefore, Mrs. Smith is a whore

If Mr. Smith punches me in the nose for saying this after his wife wears a red hat, it is no defense for me to say, "But I was just offering a modus ponens." He would likely reply, "Modus Ponens this!," and whack me again.

Your example presents an argument in bad taste because it easily suggests a disgraceful, literal interpretation. But Piper isn't putting a red hat on anyone; William Luse did that. Admittedly the comparison is unclear--Piper doesn't explain the connection entirely. Unclear things always invite false conjecture. But why shouldn't I go the other way?

KW, I don't disagree. My point was to merely say that your appealing to forms of discourse does not touch on the substance of the discourse.

It is definitely tasteless. I haven't read the full context, but I expect it is also confusing.

KW, I think the confusion goes farther than that. How would an a fortiori begin? "If it's legitimate to behead captives in literal war, how much the more in spiritual warfare of the heart..." But that won't work. Because it isn't legitimate to behead captives in literal war. The people who did that were bad guys.

I think the passage is just plain confused, period. Mixed up associations of ideas.

I do not know about being weirded out but I just do not get the connection. It is odd. Piper is usually a clear thinker. He needs to go back to reading and explaining Jonathan Edwards. That is a connection he is good at.

I wouldn't call it really tasteless, though it is tasteless. Piper was not trying to be rude or crude or insulting, which is what calling someone a whore is. He was trying to convey a sense of the seriousness of the issue. He did succeed in that sense, but could have done it in a less ham-handed way.

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