The diversionary tactics of Desiring God Ministries...

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dianaephesus2.jpgThe words of the heathen poet (Juvenal) are very true: “What shame can she, who wears a helmet, show, Her sex deserting?”

- John Calvin

Despite the fact that it has been shared over 10,000 times, it is easy to see the problems with the recent Desiring God piece promoting rebellion against God's Creation Order of sexuality. It's not quite so easy to see what Desiring God was trying to accomplish with this piece. Partly that is because of the editor's note that precedes the piece, reassuring readers that Desiring God hasn't gone soft. It's also hard to understand the piece because many of us don't realize its larger context—namely, the intense blowback Desiring God and John Piper received in connection with their teaching on sexuality.

First, the editor's note...

Christians disagree about whether men and women should engage in sports whose aim is to wound or hurt the other person. This is true for both men’s and women’s sports. When women are involved, the issues are compounded by the question of how God has designed for women to express their womanhood. We affirm the humility praised in this article, but would want our readers to think deeply, carefully, and biblically about the wider moral issues of the sport of ultimate fighting.

Contrary to what a sincere reader might want to think, this note is no helpful warning, but only makes things worse. What the editor is actually doing is denying that God's Creation Order of sexuality matters in our consideration of men across the nation entertaining themselves by watching women beat each other to a blood pulp. Instead of condemning this Godless rebellion against God's sexual order, the note seeks to divert readers from being concerned about this degraded violation of God's Creation Order to being concerned, instead, about the question of whether ultimate fighting itself is problematic. The first sentence diverts readers' concern from sexuality to fighting—to men and women "wounding" and "hurting" each other.

The second sentence completes the diversion: whatever concern is proper "is true for both men's and women's sports." 

And Desiring God's third sentence:

When women are involved, the issues are compounded by the question of how God has designed for women to express their womanhood.

Ah, now we're being allowed to return to first things, right? God's Creation Order of sexuality matters after all, doesn't it? And at least to complementarians, the sentence sounds nice and we might be tempted to let Desiring God off the hook. But what does the sentence actually say?

It says that the "issues are compounded" by sexuality. In other words, sexuality is still no primary concern. This is seen again in Desiring God's closing sentence urging readers to "think deeply, carefully, and biblically," but about what? About ultimate fighting! Readers are not urged to think about God's Creation Order of sexuality and the implications of His commands for what we do or don't pursue in life, what we do or don't entertain ourselves with. Sexuality is not the primary issue. 

Desiring God's editorial statement is meant to get readers to take their eyes off the ball. They want us to think about UFC—not the fact that they are lauding the "humility" of a woman who is so incredibly immodest that she is willing to take money to kick other women in the head. Think about that for a minute. Pastor Viramontes, a Christian pastor, publicly praises the humility of his friend, Holly Holm, who as it turns out regularly takes off most of her clothes and enters the ring so that we can watch her punch, kick, and smash other women—a sin Ms. Holm is so very good at that her most recent opponent was knocked unconscious and needed to see a plastic surgeon the day after Ms. Holm tore her apart.

I recognize there are issues worth debating concerning sports and entertainment. Christians should ask whether watching mixed martial arts fighting honors God and is "of faith." We should ask whether violent sports are ever a permissible form of entertainment. In their note, the editors from Desiring God are trying to get us to think about these other questions, and in almost another context that might be helpful.

But if Scripture's teaching on sexuality has any meaning whatsoever, how can we possibly talk about Holly Holm's humility? Contrary to the words of pastor Viramontes, Holly did not kneel down "in concern next to her defeated and humiliated opponent." In fact, Holly, a woman, knelt down in order to give her unconscious opponent, another woman, three more blows to the head. And the fact that this was a woman destroying another woman is only a secondary consideration?

But let's move on to Desiring God's second diversionary tactic: how is it possible that just a couple months after John Piper was faithfully teaching God's created order of sexuality and its application to the civil realm (not just the home and church), Desiring God now diverts our attention from this terribly egregious example of rejecting God's Creation Order of sexuality by asking us to turn our attention to sports and violence?

Their diversion of our attention away from the meaning of womanhood might have something to do with the fact that Piper received huge blowback for daring to speak blasphemies against the great feminist goddess of America.

When the lynch mob gathers, there are several ways of responding. Take the Apostle Paul, for instance: as the echoes died away in Ephesus, Paul didn't buy an idol, hold it up in front of the mob, and speak of the godly character of the man who made it, following that commendation with a slight warning against gluttony during idol worship. Had he responded in this way, the believers in Ephesus would have been aghast.

Desiring God can't have it both ways. Holding up Ms. Holm as a godly example for us in November is exactly the opposite of what Pastor Piper taught us in August. If so, need it be said that placating God's enemies never works. Did Pastor Piper and his web editors learn nothing from Governor Pence's efforts to placate Tim Cook and Angie's List during the RFRA debacle?

Throwing them a bone won't satisfy God's enemies, nor will it help God's sheep who, facing conflicting messages, become harassed and helpless—like sheep without a shepherd.

Joseph and his wife, Heidi, have five children, Tate, Eliza Jane, Moses, Fiona and Annabel. He graduated from Vanderbilt University and Clearnote Pastors College. He is currently planting Christ Church in Cincinnati with several other families.