Piper and Edwards On Election (the Presidential One, I Mean)

The 57th U.S. presidential election is bearing down hard on us. Well-funded propaganda warships are shelling us from every media outlet. Dire consequences are prophesied if the wrong vision for America is elected to power.

But here’s something that you haven’t seen on any yard sign, heard in any debate, or read in any party platform:

If we do not join God in advancing his aim for the universe, then we waste our lives and we oppose our Creator.

That’s a perspective-adjuster, isn’t it? Here’s another one:

All understandings of all things that do not take God into consideration are superficial understandings, since they do not reckon with… what really matters in the universe, namely God. We today in America can scarcely begin to feel how God-ignoring we have become because it is the very air we breathe. We breathe God-ignoring air.

The implication is startling. It means that virtually everything we’ve heard from the presidential campaigns is superficial and most of those involved in the political frenzy are wasting their lives by opposing God. Not all, but most.

The quotes above are John Piper’s from a message titled, “A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later” (meaning after Edwards’s birth).

Jonathan Edwards died in 1758, before the United States existed. But, oh, how we need his vision of God today! Edwards wore the lenses of Scripture and he saw God everywhere and in everything and therefore understood what makes the human heart happy:

The enjoyment of God is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.

Isn’t that good? If that’s true, then here’s how Edwards says we should live:

Therefore it becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven, as it becomes us to make the seeking of our highest end and proper good, the whole work of our lives; to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labour for, or set our hearts on, any thing else, but that which is our proper end, and true happiness?1

That’s exactly what God asks in Isaiah 55:2: “Why do you…labor for that which does not satisfy?”

Regarding the election, the question is have you ever been satisfied by what political powers have promised?

Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t important issues at stake in the election. We should vote. We should be concerned for and pray for governing authorities (1 Timothy 2:2). And to the degree that we discern God’s call on us to advance his aims in the universe through them we should participate in government and/or campaigns.

But we must keep things in proper perspective. The “work of our lives” is not advancing a superficial political vision for America. Our most vital work is to become God-entranced people who advance the gospel around the globe. We are to seek satisfaction in the Substance, the Sun, the Ocean. We are to ask, seek, and knock (Luke 11:9) until the reality of “Christ is all” (Colossians 3:11) takes a firm hold on our hearts and our minds are renewed (Romans 12:2) and we are abiding in Jesus (John 15:5).

So, as we approach the election and endure the media blitz and listen to urgent, fervent debate and analysis, let’s remember what really matters and where true peace (John 16:33), true prosperity (Romans 9:23), and true happiness (Psalm 16:11) come from.


1 The Edwards quotes are from: Jonathan Edwards, “The Christian Pilgrim,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, ed. Edward Hickman, 2 vols. (1834; reprint, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 2:244.

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Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.