How I Process the Moral Failures of My Historical Heroes

John Piper | June 13, 2017

Editors’ note: John Piper—founder and teacher of, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, and TGC Council member—on how we process the moral failures of our historical heroes (such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther King Jr., and Martin Luther) even as we continue to learn from them.

Watch the seven-minute video (or listen below).

I'll say, before I even mention the specifics, how difficult I find this question. And I’ll maybe mention a couple of reasons. But here’s what we have in mind, Martin Luther and his virulent anti-Semitism. John Wesley was not your most attentive husband—neither was [George] Whitefield. Whitefield and Edwards both owned slaves. Edwards, one or two all of his life, probably. Martin Luther King Jr.—unfaithful to his wife repeatedly in his sexual misconduct. And, of course, the list could go on and on.

One of the reasons this is so difficult for me is because—if I just take that group right there—the sins are so different from person to person. The times and the morés and the expectations in which they lived were so different. The levels of consciousness about whether they were sinning—some believing they weren’t, some believing they were—are different in…

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