John Piper and I sing a different theological song, so I naturally assumed we’re in political disharmony. After all, the chancellor of Minneapolis’s Bethlehem College and Seminary is as Calvinist as they come. Not only does he agree with the 16th-century Reformer’s take on predestination, he relishes it. I’m an Arminian, which means I mostly agree with 17th-century Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius. He walked back from Calvinism’s determinism and tried to restore the teaching of most early church theologians. John Wesley popularized his theology a century later.
I thought Piper would invoke the God-is-in-control mantra visa-a-vis the serial tweeter now in the White House. Like I said, mea culpa; or, as CS Lewis once confessed: “Porcus sum” (“I am a pig”). I should have known better. Calvin’s followers developed political sophistication over the centuries, including provisions for jettisoning unjust rulers (landing in mildewed dungeons at the word of off-with-your-head monarchs will do that to you).
Piper is not Trumpian, nor is he a hater. We see that in his public prayer for the president on inauguration day. He prayed with sober realism. He prayed for him, not against him, with both eyes open. His prayer, perhaps unintentionally, recognized the validity of all the peaceful protests.
Witness his prayer’s first few paragraphs:
Father in heaven, we ask now that your name would be hallowed in this moment, in this room, and in this ministry; that your name would be hallowed in Washington, and hallowed by Donald Trump and his family, his cabinet, the congress; that your kingdom would come, that your will would be done there.
To that end Lord, we ask that you would bring Donald Trump out of darkness and into light. Give him a spirit of brokenness and humility. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). I pray that you would break his heart, give him humility, show him what it feels like to be penitent and to admit he’s done wrong — to confess he was wrong, ask forgiveness from you, and ask for forgiveness from the people that he’s wounded or people that he’s set a bad example for. He needs to be given the gift of faith and humility and repentance, and I pray that you would give it to him.
Piper was both honest and loving; both frank and kind. He also issued a much-needed plea for the American church:
I ask that the church would not rely on government and would not rely on a Trump presidency. I pray for evangelical leaders not to celebrate Donald Trump’s presidency with no apparent qualification, no tears, no brokenness, no sadness that he set such an awful example for this land.
Open the eyes, I pray, of evangelical leaders who seem so triumphalist in this moment as to think their way has been brought about and now good things are coming because we can lean on the arm of the flesh the way so many seem to give the indication. Grant that there would be a rising tide leaning upon the Holy Spirit, leaning upon the word of God; that there would be a countercultural dependence upon prayer, rather than the dependence of a power in high places.
Grant that there would be a burden for spiritual awakening, a burden for sharing the gospel, a burden for building healthy, strong, biblical churches in the land, a burden for taking the gospel to the nations of the world. Lord, don’t let us exhaust our energies fretting about the little molehill of this presidency when we have a Himalayan Mountain range of blessings in Christ Jesus. Grant that we would operate out of the fullness of Christ in doing many good deeds in this land. Grant that the church would be purified, and all the corruption and all the worldliness would be removed so that the world would stand up and say, “That’s a strange people. That’s a different people. That’s a godly, humble, servant-like, sacrificial, loving people,” rather than just, “That’s just Republican. That’s just what the world is” …
… Make us willing, O God, to submit ourselves to the lordship of Jesus, not the lordship to any man who leads. We ask for your help. We humble ourselves under your mighty hand. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
The entire prayer is found here.
Piper prayed for the president because that’s what followers of Jesus do (“we pray for kings and all those in authority,”1 Timothy 2:2). We want, or should want, his welfare — if, for no other reason, than the welfare of billions hinges on it.
So I’ll take Piper’s cue. I’ll pray Trump will repent; I pray he’ll confess; I pray God will soften him and mold him into the image of the compassionate ruler in Psalm 72. I’ll pray for the transformation of Donald Trump. I’ll pray all those things as I resist almost everything he stands for.