Is Piper Reading Coates?

John Piper tells us never to give up in the pursuit of improved race relations:

No lesson in the pursuit of racial and ethnic diversity and harmony has been more forceful than the lesson that it is easy to get so wounded and so tired that you decide to quit. This is true of every race and every ethnicity in whatever struggle they face. The most hopeless temptation is to give up—to say that there are other important things to work on (which is true), and I will let someone else worry about racial issues.

The main reason for the temptation to quit pursuing is that whatever strategy you try, you will be criticized by somebody. You didn’t say the right thing, or you didn’t say it in the right way, or you should have said it a long time ago, or you shouldn’t say anything but get off your backside and do something, or, or, or. Just when you think you have made your best effort to do something healing, someone will point out the flaw in it. And when you try to talk about doing better, there are few things more maddening than to be told, “You just don’t get it.” Oh, how our back gets up, and we feel the power of self-pity rising in our hearts and want to say, “Okay, I’ve tried. I’ve done my best. See you later.” And there ends our foray into racial harmony.

My plea is: never quit. Change. Step back. Get another strategy. Start over. But never quit.

While Piper thinks there’s hope, Ta-Nehisi Coates doesn’t (as summarized by Thomas Chatterton Williams):

It’s not just black kids in tough neighbourhoods who are hapless automatons. In Coates’s view, no one has agency. The young black shooter doesn’t have to think too hard about what he might do because ‘the galaxy was playing with loaded dice.’ What’s alarming, though no doubt comforting to his white readership, is that in this analysis whites aren’t individual actors either. When an irritable white woman leaving an Upper West Side cinema pushes the young, ‘dawdling’ Samori and impatiently screams, ‘Come on!’ Coates, who is a tall, imposingly built man, erupts:

There was the reaction of any parent when a stranger lays a hand on the body of his or her child. And there was my own insecurity in my ability to protect your black body … I was only aware that someone had invoked their right over the body of my son. I turned and spoke to this woman, and my words were hot with all of the moment and all of my history. She shrunk back, shocked. A white man standing nearby spoke up in her defence. I experienced this as his attempt to rescue the damsel from the beast. He had made no such attempt on behalf of my son. And he was now supported by other white people in the assembling crowd. The man came closer. He grew louder. I pushed him away. He said: ‘I could have you arrested!’ I did not care. I told him this, and the desire to do much more was hot in my throat.

Coates sees this woman not as a morally fallible person with her own neuroses, but as a force of nature, she is ‘the comet’ in his scheme. It doesn’t occur to him that she may not be an avatar of white supremacy but just a nasty person who would have been as likely to push a blonde child or a Chinese one. Coates doesn’t realise that his disproportionate reaction – ‘my words were hot with all of the moment and all of my history’ – is bound to be seen as objectionable to those ‘standing nearby’. And it doesn’t strike him that as long as black people have to be handled with infantilising care – for fear of dredging up barely submerged ancestral pain – we’ll never be equal or free.

Whom do you believe? The white pastor or the black author? The earnest New Calvinist or the recipient of the MacArthur genius award? (Odd how Coates sounds far more deterministic than the Calvinist pastor? But just because it’s depressing doesn’t mean it’s false.)

7 thoughts on “Is Piper Reading Coates?

  1. “The main reason for the temptation to quit pursuing is that whatever strategy you try, you will be criticized by somebody.”

    Quite right. And that somebody is me. The Racial Reconciliation Industrial Complex is a huge spin-off of the Gospel-Centered Industrial Complex. The market is ripe for books, conferences, seminars, lectures, sermons, manifestos, podcasts, professorships (tenure track, of course), dissertations, and diversity training. Your Old Hidebound Reformed Seminaries will have to incorporate new Racial Reconciliation Studies Departments. Think of all the money that will have to be raised and spent in the pursuit of racial holiness.

    If this is too cynical then please think of all the Christian Public Intellectuals who will hone their métier on Race Studies and Christendom. Christians haven’t had new Thought Leaders in decades. Who will speak prophetically? Who will speak truth to white supremacy and white power? Who? Who? Who?

    It is truly amazing how a small handful of people associated with a publishing house and its blog have managed to create something like Racial Reconciliation. They created it Ex nihilo. It is an idée fixe of white, urban, well-off, expensively educated, cosmopolitan Christians to believe that blacks are waiting to be reconciled before some type of racial healing and harmony can take place.

    I want my Ol’ Timey Religion back, please.


  2. dgh—Coates sounds far more deterministic than the “Calvinist” pastor

    Piper agrees with Gaffin’s math. Since God has two wills, then God has 100 percent agency and man also has 100 percent agency.

    Calvin: “But Paul teaches us (continues Georgius) that God would have all men to be saved. It follows, therefore, according to his understanding of that passage, either that God is disappointed in His wishes, or that all men without exception must be saved. If he should reply that God wills all men to be saved on His part, or as far as He is concerned, seeing that salvation is, nevertheless, left to the free will of each individual, “I, in return, ask him why, if such be the case, God did not command the Gospel to be preached indiscriminately from the beginning of the world? why he suffered so many generations of men to wander for so many ages in all the darkness of death? ”

    Piper promotes “a desire of God that is frustrated.” He adds, “in part” . This God is at odds with Himself. This God cannot make up His mind. Does God, or does God not, desire to save Esau? With His sovereign will of non-election no. With His fervent will of love and love’s desire, yes.

    D. Broughton Knox— Were it not true that Christ had died for all men, it would not be possible to extend a universal offer; for the offer, if it is to be a true offer, must rest on true and adequate grounds, which cannot be less than the death of Christ for those to whom the offer is being made (468).

    To “every person on the planet,” John Piper preaches, “God loves you, and he offers you in Christ the fullest possible redemption in everlasting, all-satisfying fellowship with himself” (665, From Heaven He Came).“Jesus sincerely desires all to be saved, yet he does not always act to bring all to salvation.”, “God desires the salvation of the lost, but he does not save all of them.”

    “Many benefits accrue to the non-elect from the redemptive work of Christ,” and chief among the benefits is “the free offer of the gospel.” That is, Christ died for all in certain respects, including God’s making to all humans an offer of salvation that is grounded in a sincere desire of God for the salvation of all. This leaves the world with the impression that the efficacy of the cross with regard to their salvation depends upon their agency to accept God’s proposal. The evangelical account of God’s love makes a mockery of God’s love. God offers salvation to all, desiring to save all. But at the same time, God decrees not to save all, so that God’s universal love actually increases the punishment of many. There was no works principle before the fall, it’s assumed, and no law, since grace for all before the fall is assumed. So “attempted grace” becomes the basis for future judgment.

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them.”


  3. I listened to Loury’s interview on the Sam Harris podcast last night. L is undoubtedly smart but his tendency to ramble is irritating.
    Also, Losing My Cool is arriving tomorrow. Thanks for the heads-up.


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