Friday, March 23, 2007

Propagating Piper Subversively

How many of you have ever read John Piper and thought, "Why have I never heard this preached before?"

Yes, I see your hand. And I see that hand near the back. And now another on my left . . .

My first exposure to Piper was Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which he co-edited with Wayne Grudem. Though excellent, this book may be the least traditionally Piperesque of anything he's written. My first exposure to the central idea he advocates, which I would characterize as the absolute necessity of a heart that possesses a deep affection for God, wasn't actually from anything Piper wrote at all. My eyes started to open when I was reading A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God about nine years ago.

My point is that the most effective way to propagate this idea that ought to be foundational to our faith may not be to cram Piper down the throat of everyone around you. Whether it's because of his overt Calvinism, his provocative language and style, his affiliation with the BGC, his charismatic tendencies, or his appreciation for Daniel Fuller, many people just aren't going to be willing to consider seriously and carefully the heart of his message. In my opinion, they resist to their own hurt, but perhaps we might be wise to look for ways to make an end run around that resistance.

Yesterday I found what might be one great example of that approach in Charles Bridges' The Christian Ministry (in addition, of course, to Tozer). Of a great many excellent reasons to read Bridges, I think the very best might be his chapter, "The Scriptural Preaching of the Gospel" (239-283). Of all his poignant statements in this chapter, this one might be the best:
Thus the doctrines of the Gospel not only explain the nature and obligation, but are themselves the principles--nay the only principles--of holiness. We must live every moment by faith; and as we live, we shall love--overcome the world--crucify sin--delight in the service of God. No mere precepts will extirpate the natural love of sin, or infuse this new bias in the heart. The doctrine of faith alone effects this mighty change, by exhibiting Christ as the source of life, and detailing all the exercises of holy practice, flowing from that life.
. . .
We must show Christian privilege to be a principle not of inactive indulgence--but of habitual devotion to God. It is, when the man of God is realizing his interest in an heavenly portion; when a sense of pardon is applied to his soul; when the seal of the Spirit is impressed upon his heart; when his soul is invigorated by "fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ"--then it is, that the grateful enquiry springs forth, --"What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?"(265-266)


Micah said...

Good call, thanks - and also thanks for giving me Tozer's The Pursuit of God back in the day. It has been a blessing over the years

Chris Anderson said...

I love the quote, Ben. Thanks. I'm finally realizing that the Gospel is not merely a message for lost men, but--as the core of every aspect of soteriology and Christian living--must also be perpetually proclaimed to believers. Sure, I would always have admitted as much in a theological discussion, but it's only recently becoming central in my thinking and preaching, I'm afraid. Call me a slow learner.

Not to be unnecessarily controversial, but would Piper take exception to the last sentence of the Bridges quote as "A Debtor's Ethic"? My understanding of "Future Grace" (which I have not read) makes me wonder.

Ben said...


E-mail me to tell me which Micah you are. I think I know, but I can't remember who all I've given that book to!


Amen to that!

I don't know how Piper would explain that passage, but I think it's safe to say he'd have to find a way since it's a direct quote from Psalm 116:12.

Chris Anderson said...

The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that this whole post was designed with the single objective of using the word "subversively."

Ben said...


You're the only one who understands me.

Chris Anderson said...

Which worries me.