John Piper, Christian Parenting, Glorious, Hell, Anxiety
At John Piper’s Desiring God website, they feature Ask John series in which listeners send their questions to John Piper for response. The following question came from a dad named Michael who asked John Piper the following:
A question from Michael:
“Pastor John, how can I talk to my 6-year-old son about hell? When any loved one has died who has also been a Christian, I have told him they have gone to heaven. But if somebody dies who is not a Christian I do not want to lie and say they have gone to heaven, but I do not know how to teach him about hell. He has extreme anxiety about death and I am afraid talking about hell may make him more anxious. He also gets very upset when he makes any kind of mistake or when I have to correct him. I do not want him to worry that if he disobeys that he will be sent to hell. How in the world can I teach him this?”
Ok, first of all, if you go to the web page with this article, there is a picture of a group of people standing around a scorching hot fire. Why would this image be used? This image alone clues you into the direction Piper is going: he wants you to focus on hell, that it is real, it’s a place of burning and eternal torment.
From Michael’s question above, please take note that he shares that his child has extreme anxiety about death. He’s very clear about that. This is not normal anxiety. Michael says his child gets upset when he makes a mistake. Parents, do your kids get very upset when they make a mistake? My kids have never been “extreme” over mistakes they have made, or been so concerned about hell. What about your children? Is this normal? It doesn’t seem normal to me. I, too, would be concerned like Michael. This child needs special care and compassion.
Now we move on to Piper’s response:
Let me start by turning the tables and saying, we should be one hundred times more concerned about a 6-year-old who has no fear of death and hell than we are about a child who fears death and hell.
Piper minimizes the father’s concern here. He seems to be saying, “thankfully your child doesn’t have the other, more serious problem.” That is just not helpful.
One of the reasons we may not feel that is because when a child has no fear, we tend to go along as though all is well. He’s such a happy little fellow, and she’s such a cheerful little girl. When a child has anxieties, nightmares, fears, then all of our parental instincts and mind go into gear, and action, because we want to help them, not realizing perhaps that the child with no fear needs even more help from parental vigilance and concern than the child with much fear.
Again, Piper misses the dad, and addresses another issue the dad did not even address. Do you get the idea that Michael’s concern went over Piper’s head? The series should be called, John Piper Answers His Own Questions.
Then Piper tries to convince Michael that his “problem” is really a good one to have in the big scheme of things.
God does not intend for his children to experience hell as an end, but to experience the warning of hell as a means of clarifying and establishing these five great realities. This is true for a 6-year-old and it’s true for a 60-year-old. Look at this moment, Michael, in the child’s life as a golden opportunity for teaching him many wonderful things. Hell is simply the backdrop against which those things will now become gloriously real.
Piper then lists the 5 realities. As I read through the five realities, I tried to see how Piper directly addressed Michael’s concerns. He didn’t. Instead, he used Michael’s concerns as a jumping off point to promote his own doctrinal beliefs about hell and how glorious hell is when you are a Christian. The word glorious annoys me now. It was used 5 times in the short article. Blech. I hate it when good words are ruined.
So, essentially Piper is saying we should not be concerned about a 6-yr old who is expressing extreme anxiety about death. Michael’s child is better off suffering extreme anxiety and getting very upset when he makes mistakes. I guess Michael should be counting his blessings. Clue to Michael: next time don’t ask Piper. Ask a licensed therapist how to deal appropriately with child anxiety.
Basically this is the same suck-it-up-Buttercup response we see from Piper when tragedy strikes – you know, when he’s grateful for tornados and their destruction, etc. Remember, all of this is God-ordained. God is Sovereign and is in charge of every molecule. Who are we to complain about our child suffering from extreme anxiety? I guess I might as well ignore all of my children who cry or who fail at something. God’s got it under control. So much for parenting.
I fail to see how Piper gave this worried dad practical guidelines to help his child with his current challenges. It would be very confusing to be a parent under Piper’s teachings. It would make me think that meeting my child’s needs or addressing their fears and anxiety might be wrong. My head hurts. My heart hurts thinking about children whose emotional needs are abandoned because of doctrine/teaching like this.
Jesus cared about suffering children, and so should we. Good grief, this is so simple.