Prominent pastor and author John Piper has expressed strong opposition to Christians marrying those who do not share their faith in the Lord. In a blog post, Piper said that those who choose to marry non-believers are "acting in open defiance of the teaching of the apostles and of God".
Pastor Piper, who is known for his strict Calvinist theology, went on to question the faith of those who choose to willingly enter a marriage with someone who does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord, noting that it is an indication of "how deeply compromised the believer’s love for Christ is".
"How can the heart of a believer embrace Jesus as its supreme treasure and satisfaction, and reject the words of Jesus in order to be in the arms of one who has no faith and no true affection for the believer’s most treasured possession?" he asked. "It’s inconceivable to me."
Piper insisted that Christians who marry non-believers are cloaked with "layers of sin" and, further, that if the person chooses to willingly ignore the advice of pastors and elders who are warning them against the marriage, they should be excommunicated from their church community.
"The elders plead, they pray, they teach, and then, if all of that is rejected, you remove the believer from membership in the church, for moving ahead with the marriage," he said. "The aim of this removal is to sober the disobedient believer, wake them up, and win them to a repentant and obedient heart and restoration."
Piper went on to suggest people "do not take the Bible seriously" and that they are "baffled and angry by churches who take the Bible as seriously as I’m saying".
"Many professing Christians today would regard such excommunication as more hurtful than helpful," he added. "They call it intolerant; they even call it hateful. But that’s because they elevate their own wisdom above God’s wisdom."
Piper addressed what he suggested is a common objection to excommunication by the non-believer - that you "won’t be able to win them to Christ by putting them out of the church".
"The unbeliever will call you intolerant and hateful, claiming it won’t be redemptive but will be alienating. That’s what they are going to say. That’s what elders have to be prepared to hear," he said, before declaring that this is "emphatically not what the Bible teaches".
Through a period of "holy ostracism", Piper argued, referencing 2 Thessalonians 3:14–15 and 1 Corinthians 5:4–5, people can "be saved and restored".
"I have seen church discipline have that very effect in my ministry," he added. "Church leaders have to be prepared to be vilified by people who think they know better than the apostles how to love people."
Finally, Piper addressed what "restoration and repentance" could look like in such a situation, noting that, despite his disagreement with such a union, it "does not mean that the marriage is nullified".
"It really is a marriage — a marriage that should not have been entered into, but now, having been entered into, should not be broken; it should be sanctified," he said.
"And Paul is just as clear about the fact that a believer should not divorce an unbeliever as he is that they shouldn’t marry one (1 Corinthians 7:12). So, repentance of sin in marrying an unbeliever does not include divorcing the unbeliever."
Piper also suggested that, in response to the marriage decision, "there should be an authentic remorse and regret for disobedience" and "an acknowledgment and repentance that the heart was not right in putting man above Christ in the affections".
He added that there should also be "an apology and sorrow for spurning the counsel of God’s leaders in the church", before concluding that "all of these changes are possible while the marriage stays intact".
Not everyone agreed with Piper's sentiments, with one Twitter user commenting that the transcript of the pastor's answer was "quite literally one of the worst things I have ever read".
"I have benefited from things Piper has written & said in the past," he added, "but this HAS to be the worst".