I have nothing personal against John Piper. I believe him to be basically sound theologically, though I wish he were a confessional Reformed Protestant. And his earnestness is truly impressive. I do not sense that he is faking what he says or preaches.
Maybe that is why, a Nathaniel Kahn’s aunt says in My Architect, “I don’t get his numbah.” Piper is well known for admiring Jonathan Edwards, and for nurturing a Calvinist constituency among young evangelicals who sing praise songs. That could be a welcome development, except when you read the fine print.
I am currently working on a chapter for a volume on Edwards and have the assignment of covering the recent recovery of Edwardsian theology and piety. In the chapter are sections on John Gerstner, Richard Lovelace, Iain Murray, and — of course — Piper. I need to admit that Edwards leaves me a little cold, which is obviously the opposite of the desired effect. The introspection that reading works like Religious Affections cultivates is not one that lets this sinner feel very good about his progress in mortification of the self.
But for some reason, Edwards’ odd combination of theocentric vision and preoccupation with the inner recesses of the heart resonates– strike that, enthralls — Piper. Still, even the Minneapolis pastor’s best efforts to appropriate Edwards for contemporary believers misses the mark of my weary soul. Here’s is an example from Piper’s reprint of Edwards’ The End for Which God Created the World:
The essence of authentic, corporate worship is the collective experience of heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, or a trembling that we do not have it and a great longing for it. Worship is for the sake of magnifying God, not ourselves, and God is magni?ed in us when we are satis?ed in him. Therefore, the unchanging essence of worship (not the outward forms which do change) is heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, the trembling when we do not have it and the longing for it.
The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though he needed anything (Acts 7:25), but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God. And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment. We ought to come hungry for God. We should come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. (God’s Passion for His Glory, pp. 40-41)
As I have indicated, I find this hard to understand since it sounds like worship is about God but then I read this and start to wonder if I am experiencing God’s glory. And if I am not, then I am in trouble because I am not sufficiently interested in God’s glory. But how can I be sufficiently interested if I need to check how deeply God’s glory goes into the depths of my soul?
I am not writing this sarcastically. I am seriously curious why this kind of piety is attractive to so many evangelicals. And if someone can give me e-counsel about my spiritual torpor, then we should all give a big thanks to God’s providential care in raising up Bill Gates.