Benjamin Corey Finds His Inner Thomas Jefferson

John Piper has his problems, but Corey’s objections to the retired pastor’s calculation of sin and punishment show he’s only been reading the Jefferson Bible, the one that cut out all the troubling bits:

Piper reminds me of something I’ve long believed: the Calvinist doctrine of God is far closer to Islam than Christianity. In a Christian doctrine of God, God is restrained in what he can do– for example, he cannot lie, he cannot deny himself, etc. However, Islamic theology, it is believed Allah can do “whatever he wills” which is the same position of Calvinism– God can do whatever God wants, and we have no right to question the morality of any of these actions.

But this isn’t the traditional position of Christianity, and this is where Calvinism steps outside of our tradition and becomes closer to other religions.

Piper’s answer, as he has done on other questions such as genocide of entire people groups, reveals a fundamental flaw in Calvinism: that an all-loving God perfectly revealed in the life and character of Jesus can be the author of acts that would be unspeakably evil if done by any other agent who possessed morality and a conscience.

Obviously, Corey has not read the Old Testament:

And Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you king over his people Israel; now therefore listen to the words of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I have noted what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the way when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:1-3 ESV)

But maybe Corey is one of those New Testament Christians. So I wonder what he thinks when he reads Jesus saying this?

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. . . .

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:16-22, 34-39 ESV)

Or does Corey think Jesus was John the Baptist for Mr. Rogers?

Rod Dreher noted recently the strange world of evangelical female celebrity and piety. In light Glennon Doyle Melton’s (whoever she is) decision to leave her husband of 14 years for a female soccer star, Dreher wondered what goes on among born-again women. According to the Chicago Tribune, Melton told her followers:

“My loves, here is the good news,” she writes. “You are allowed to think and feel WHATEVER YOU NEED OR WANT TO FEEL! … That is what I want to model now, because that is what I want for YOU: I want you to grow so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you. That you remember that you only live once, that this is not a dress rehearsal and so you must BE who you are.”

To which Dreher responded:

You are allowed to think and feel WHATEVER YOU NEED OR WANT TO FEEL! What theological codswallop. And yet, this kind of thing is celebrated by a lot of younger Evangelicals. Not even an attempt to base this in theological convictions; only self-worship.

Is this a female thing, this approach to mass Christianity, or is it general to our Christian pop culture today? Asking seriously.

Rod, read Corey. It’s an evangelical thing. Evangelicalism: blow it up.

15 thoughts on “Benjamin Corey Finds His Inner Thomas Jefferson

  1. How can people blow something up when they are still trying to write histories about evangelicalism in hopes of moving evangelicals in the right direction? Wouldn’t you first have to “blow up” the desire for “Reformed influence” in the evangelical world? Why let Leithart speak alone when you can send Mike Horton and Carl Truman along with him? It’s the best of both worlds—tendentious comparison of things evangelical with the confessionally already decided, but at the same time “I still need to be an evangelical in order to speak to evangelicals”.

    Luke 12: 13 Someone from the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 “Friend,” Jesus said to him, “who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?”

    Luke 21: 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you. They will hand you over to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of My name. 13 It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. 14 Therefore make up your minds NOT TO PREPARE ahead of time, 15 for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. 16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated

    The thing we cannot forget is that many “Reformed” people still claim to have been converted as “evangelicals”. They got “converted” as Arminians. Even though they are now attempting to convert fellow evangelicals into “covenantal” folks who presume their children to be Christians, they continue to be more nostalgic than repentant about the good old days with their Arminian parents. Sure, they were sectarians and maybe they didn’t read all that good Roman Catholic literature about “natural law”, but at least the folks didn’t bring politics into the church…..

    election is easy

    all you need to know is that you are a Christian

    and then you know you are elect

    all you need to know is that God loves you

    even if you disagree with God about who God is.

    In spite of that, because you know you believe in the God

    you believe in, you know you are a Christian

    if you must think about such things.

    I agree with Calvin that we shall not find proof of our election in ourselves. But neither can we find proof of our election in our having believed the gospel taught by “evangelicalism”. But those trying to convert evangelicals into “reformed” assure us, “While you are outside of God’s family, you may not hear about predestination at all, but once you are in the family, however, it makes the most perfect sense in the world.”

    Isn’t it ironic that most “evangelicals” still do not believe in (or even hear about) election? So what is it exactly about election that “makes the most perfect sense in the world”? Evangelicals teach that God knew ahead of time who to “elect” because God saw ahead of time who would “unite themselves to Jesus by faith”. If evangelicals are already Christians (and that’s the way many Reformed became Christians), do we really need Reformed people to teach us the family secret, even if the secret does “make the most perfect sense”?


  2. John Piper to Job—-” I would certainly say in my own life, the most painful and humbling disciplining from the Lord has regularly been though the pain and suffering and sometimes death of those I love…..what he must do in his confusion is stop fretting about whether his pornography was the direct cause of the miscarriage. He should stop fretting about that. He will never know for sure the answer to that question, short of some direct revelation…The lesson remains the same…”

    John Piper’s forward to Schreiner’s book on Justification by Faith Alone—Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, BUT. . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “REQUIRED of believers, but NOT FOR JUSTIFICATION ”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God…

    The puritan inferences. Not watching porn may prevent miscarriages, but it will not justify you before God. But being justified before God is insufficient “to attain heaven”. Christ’s death alone is not enough “to attain heaven”. Not watching porn is required. Not watching porn is the necessary evidence and fruit of justification. And if you ask, how many times, that is a bad sign that you even ask such a question.

    Even though there is therefore already now no condemnation for those who have by faith united themselves to Jesus, this is not the final word when it comes to “attaining heaven”. Lutherans might be right about justification, but when it comes to the last day, those really united to Christ do not watch porn.

    (By Faith But Also By Sight) Richard Gaffin : “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…” p 110


  3. I wonder what Corey thinks Jesus was celebrating at passover? The ones not passed over were invited to be more mindful?


  4. In the comments section Corey writes:

    “I see many actions in the OT that are attributed to God– actions that would be considered morally evil, such as genocide, killing babies, etc. Since I know what the exact representation of God looks like (Jesus) I must then confess that the actions attributed to God in these parts of the OT were not really actions God did. They were simply actions people *thought* God did, which makes sense for people in the Bronze Age. We can still confess that Scripture is inspired and useful, while also recognizing that before God came in the flesh, those before us were still trying to understand what he was really like, and they didn’t always hit the mark when they attributed certain actions or characteristics to him. Many will disagree with this hermeneutic, but I believe having a high Christology and doctrine of God demands we begin with Jesus and let him be the ultimate example of God’s nature and character.”


  5. Still, the one who calls himself Calvinist can’t answer a simple superstitious question but instead seems to indulge it. As you say, he has his problems.


  6. Darryl,

    Well, if your dislike of Calvinism stems from a denial of inerrancy, be better to simply state that at the outset. I would assume most evangelical arminians would not want to go there. Though with Zrim, Piper’s attempt at reading divine providence is almost as alarming as Corey’s dislike of divine providence.


  7. Question for Corey,

    Why not also think the NT is simply a record of things that people thought God did? Why would that be even less likely. It’s still the ancient world, you know. Just like the Bronze Age, the first-century peoples didn’t have computers either, so clearly we know better.

    Do these people have any self-awareness?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Zrim says …. a simple superstitious question….

    Jesus (to Corey, et us al): Who has been God’s counselor and whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him.


  9. Ali, follow the balls.

    The whole thing begins with Piper being asked:

    “Pastor John, did God cause, or would God cause, my wife to miscarry our child because I have a struggle with lust and pornography? I have a lot of guilt right now, and I don’t know how to think about God’s discipline and punishment for my sin. I’m very confused, please help.”

    To which Piper replies (paraphrased): Hmm, dunno, maybe but probably not, but you’ll never really know for sure so maybe best to stop wondering.

    Someone caught in the horns of superstition won’t be helped by a superstitious answer. He needs an unqualified dismissal of his superstition, otherwise he’ll keep going back to his superstition which will continue to only harass him.


  10. still same question mark Zrim, superstition? , superstitious answer? dismissal of superstition?
    wondering how you would answer the guy’s question.


  11. Ali, the situation is providential and it’s superstitious to try and read into providence (see Belgic 13). The miscarriage is no more attributable to a father’s porn than terrorist attacks are attributable to gay pride parades; the former is attributable only medically, the former politically. The guilt is superstitiously misplaced. It should align with the porn, not the miscarriage which should only align with grief. It’s also superstitious for believers because it’s a form or works-righteousness, as if God deals with us directly for good or bad works instead of through Christ who has vanquished our punishment. I see none of that in Piper’s alleged Calvnist answer. Is he really a Calvinist? Maybe the serious doubt should be his instead of the husband’s.


  12. Luke 10: 17 The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. 19 Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. 20 However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”, God’s Judgments? A Review Article, by Darryl Hart

    God’s Judgments: Interpreting History and the Christian Faith, by Steven J. Keillor.
    “Was 9/11 an instance of divine judgment upon the United States? This is a question that Stephen Keillor, an independent historian and fellow at the MacLaurin Institute, thinks has tremendous significance, even if Protestants of all stripes are reluctant to answer in the affirmative. It is obviously important to the way that Christian historians, like Keillor himself, interpret America’s past. But whether historians are capable of discerning God’s designs in history is small potatoes compared to what assessments of 9/11 may reveal about the current fecklessness of American Christians. Unless they can say that events like the attack on the World Trade Center are instances of God’s judgment on the nations, Keillor argues, Christians DO NOT TAKE SERIOUSLY God’s righteous designs”.

    “Keillor himself is coy about whether 9/11 itself was a manifestation of divine judgment. He writes that it was “possibly God’s judgment on us for our materialism, for our cultural exports seducing others into immorality, and our use of terrorist guerrilla units against the Soviets” (59). But the meaning of 9/11 itself is less consequential to Keillor than his contention that the idea of judgment itself has largely disappeared from American Christians’ understanding of God and salvation. He believes that the predominance of WORLD-VIEW THINKING among EVANGELICALS, the idea of understanding Christianity as an intellectually coherent way of looking at the world, has put a gag-rule on interpreting events like 9/11 as judgments of God. (This is one of many contentious claims in a self-consciously contentious book, a claim that could have been eliminated if only to stay on point about divine judgment and the believer’s ability to discern it.)”


  13. Sure. Corey is wrong concerning Calvinism. Even so, I’d argue that he’s largely right with respect to Piper. Calvinist fundamentalism of the Piper-TGC variety isn’t a whole lot different from Islam. After all, the doctrine of inerrancy is little more than an application of Islamic hermeneutics onto a Christian text. Like it or not, Pete Enns reads the Bible in a far more Christian way than guys like Piper.


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