Desiring God Enough?

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.

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174 thoughts on “Desiring God Enough?

  1. Darryl,

    First, I should say that I lean more in your direction regarding Piper’s/Edwards’s piety than many in the “young and restless” camp.

    That said, I think the draw of the Piper/Edwards theology is that it is NOT the vapid triviality of mainstream evangelical theology. For those of us raised on Sunday school hero tales and “true love waits” guilt trips, Piper’s grand vision of God and the passion that it inspires is a welcome, weighty departure from so much church-cum-marketing. Among evangelical celebrities, Piper was possibly the first to tell us it is God’s glory that matters most, not our happiness or self-won holiness. The beautiful reality of that message was given at the right time.

    I am hopeful that more who have been won away from plain vanilla evangelicalism by Piper will discover the covenantal structure of Scripture and REALLY get inspired by a fuller understanding of God’s Word. Until then, I’ll take Piper over what I was raised in anytime.

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  2. I actually don’t understand your objection here. It appears that you’re saying that Piper must be seeing things wrong, because when you read his words you begin to wonder whether you’re truly “experiencing God’s glory”. I’m not sure whether Piper uses that term, because it seems that whether we experience God’s glory is a moot point to Piper. Whether God is glorified in us is Piper’s theme; and if you’re urging yourself to glorify God MORE, you’re urging yourself in the right direction.

    Of course, if you’re urging yourself because you feel personal guilt, you’re not glorifying God; but at least you’re experiencing God’s law. Apply the Gospel as prescribed for relief of symptoms that include persistent burning. Side effects will include fear, trembling, the outworking of ordained good deeds, and conformance to the image of God’s Son.

    -Wm (not intended to treat any medical conditions. This offer may be limited. My levity should not be taken as Gospel.)

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  3. It’s a piety which throws us back into the law, isn’t it? It reminds me of J.I. Packer’s introduction to Owen’s “The Mortification of Sin,” where he recites that in his early days in the Christian life he ran into “higher life” types who were driving him nuts in their exhortations for self-examination. And Keswick types could point to Edwards as their spiritual grand-father. Blech.

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  4. Your post reflects the uneasiness I felt when I heard John Piper at the ETS meeting in Providence, RI. His emphasis, while appreciated by many, including myself, lacks a theology of the cross. His focus on the glory of God, which must be central, tends to swerve off into a “theology of glory,” with its emphais on our experience of that glory, rather than the hiddenness of God and His glory. A rootedness in confessional thinking would help of course and hopefully that will develop, especially in understanding the covenant of works and the function of the law.

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  5. Jeff is right. Given what most evangelicals were raised with, it’s theological food for the starving. Is Piper unproblematic? No. Is he any kind of end point for theological inquiry? Also no. But it’s a huge step in the right direction which for a lot of people winds up moving them in better and healthier directions than they came from.

    Bagging on Piper for not being confessional seems petty considering how vast an improvement he is over guys like Osteen and LaHaye. Let’s not go circular firing squad on this one.

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  6. From about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ. and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Cant. 2:1, used to be abundantly with me, I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lilly of the valleys. The words seemed to me, sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that would carry me away, in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise, than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things, would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.

    Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my father’s pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking up on the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, that I know not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together; it was a sweet, and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness.

    After this my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered; there seemed to be, as it were, a calm sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God’s excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds, and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, trees; in the water, and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for continuance; and in the day, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; formerly, nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, so to speak, at the first appearance of a thunder storm; and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God’s thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural to me to sing, or chant for my mediations; or, to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.

    I felt then great satisfaction, as to my good state; but that did not content me. I had vehement longings of soul after God and Christ, and after more holiness, wherewith my heart seemed to be full, and ready to break; which often brought to my mind the words of the Psalmist, Psal. 119:28. My soul breaketh for the longing it hath. I often felt a mourning and lamenting in my heart, that I had not turned to God sooner, that I might have had more time to grow in grace. My mind was greatly fixed on divine things; almost perpetually in the contemplation of them. I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God; and it was always my manner, at such times, to sing forth my contemplations. I was almost constantly in ejaculatory prayer, wherever I was. Prayer seemed to be natural to me, as the breath by which the inward burnings of my heart had vent. The delights which I now felt in the things of religion, were of an exceeding different kind from those before mentioned, that I had when a boy; and what I then had no more notion of, than one born blind has of pleasant and beautiful colors. They were of a more inward, pure, soul animating and refreshing nature. Those former delights never reached the heart; and did not arise from any sight of the divine excellency of the things of God; or any taste of the soul satisfying and life; giving good there is in them.

    –Jonathon Edwards

    I drove over to Aunt Flo’s to look for them and got caught in Sunday morning rush hour. It was Confirmation Sunday at Lake Wobegon Lutheran Church. Thirteen young people had their faith confirmed and were admitted to the circle of believers, thirteen dressed-up boys and girls at the altar rail in front of a crowd of every available relative. Pastor Ingqvist asked them all the deepest questions about the faith (questions that have troubled theologians for years), which these young people answered readily from memory before partaking of their first Communion. Later they lounged around on the front steps and asked each other, “Were you scared?” and said, “No, I really wasn’t, not as much as I thought I’d be,” and went home to eat chuck roast, and some of them had their first real cup of coffee. They found it to be a bitter, oily drink that makes you dizzy and sick to your stomach, but they were Lutherans now and that’s what Lutherans drink.

    –Garrison Keillor, Life among the Lutherans

    The Lutherans inspire me more to godly giddiness than the Edwardsians who depress me.

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  7. I had a similar reaction when I read Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life in 2006. There was a whole lot of law, and not much gospel.

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  8. I’ve always found Piper’s use of the terms “glory” and “satisfaction” ambigious and unhelpful in relation to each other. I’ve really tried having a go at it, but I’m still not exactly sure what he’s trying to say.

    What I do know, however, is that he doesn’t talk about God’s satisfaction with Christ’s work on our behalf nearly enough.

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  9. As one who tends toward morbid introspection on my own without any prodding from certain pietists (and I sort of identify as one) both ancient and modern, Dr. Hart’s questions resonate with me. I’ll read something by one of these guys and then I’ll be in a tailspin or a depression or both over whether I really desire God enough, whether I am really satisfied enough in Jesus, whether I am really seeking joy in Christ enough, etc. And then they’ll be other times where I’ll think, yeah, I am on the right track with this, I am definitely desiring God, etc. etc. But the problem with this pendulum swing is that it is based on my subjective perception of my feelings, actions, and thoughts.

    Perhaps I am misinterpreting and misreading some of these guys, but some of what they say can, given the right (or wrong) personality type, feel like the oppressive weight of the law instead of freedom in Christ. I’m not saying that’s their intention, or even that I am right in my reading of them. I respect and have learned much from such preachers and teachers and hope to be blessed by their ministries in the future.

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  10. But how can I be sufficiently interested [in God’s glory] if I need to check how deeply God’s glory goes into the depths of my soul?

    I don’t see the difficulty. The instruction to “Glorify God and enjoy him forever” does seem to guide man’s chief end as it relates to two separate objects. The Westminster Devines seemed to think that this degree of multi-tasking could be accomplished.

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  11. I propose a piety problem emerges the more Edwards or Piper or anyone presses for a formula of introspection. These always lead to Spirit management: pour this in with this and you will have an authentic desire for God. But I can never make the necessary interior arrangements that trip all the tumblers so the Spirit drops in. The Spirit invades. He is not managed.

    But neither must I look cynically at the Psalmist (42). His panting soul is not to be obscured from view. As his thirst for God is read to me, preached to me and sung by me the Spirit of the living God may grant the conviction that I am a dolt, hungering more for college basketball than God. But the Psalmist is already there isn’t he? He is already desperate for God. We can not learn from him how to become so, the divine preparation is hidden from us (lest we bottle it and sell it online). All we can do is ask, “Why is God so worthy of a saints’ desperation?” Pietistic reflection asks, “Am I desperate for God?” but it is ecclesiastical piety that answers (in preaching, public reading), “Why is God so worthy?”

    Without an outward and ordinary ecclesiastical piety I should never be so bold to venture inward. In such an environ I will always lead myself away from God and toward a mere imitation of those with zeal. Zeal for zeal is not the same as zeal for God.

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  12. NOW! This is a welcome post. Being contrary without being sarcastic is going to win you some YRR readers and you’ll be of greater influence to them!

    I ate Piper up after becoming a calvinist (YRR type). Now, I’d rather read something on Union with Christ than read Piper as it serves my soul 100 times more. I can leave Piper feeling depressed sometimes (well, oftentimes!)

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  13. I’m a confessionally Reformed who come down somewhere within shooting distance of Rev. Piper in this debate. I confess that I can’t quite work up or sustain the emotional stirrings that Dr. Piper and his followers do. He often sounds like he’s choking back a tear as he preaches, and I wish I’d hear more from him about resting in the finished work of Christ than about producing an emotional high over being satisfied in God.

    That said, I think that’s probably due more to some defect in my own rather staid emotional makeup, flat temperament, and deficiency in my piety than to any confessional principle. Most of my Reformed brothers seem a lot like me — the Reformed faith attracts a higher than average percentage of intellecutals and thinkers. The psalmists, however, can sound a lot like Piper in places, and Paul and the prophets can come close. We Reformed are always making sure the flag of our confessionalism is flying high as we do battle with the overly emotional, superficial, contentless piety of evangelicalism that we forget that love for God and zeal for his glory is a dominant theme in Scripture. The scriptures certainly exhort us to rest in Christ’s satisfaction of the Father’s wrath and justice, and Christ’s active obedience. And that quiets the soul. But the scriptures sure do express a lot of excitement, joy, and exhuberance over the facts of our salvation and communion with God. I wonder if it wouldn’t do us well to allow a tad more emotion, even expressed emotion, and a tad more satisfaction in God, than we do. I suggest that Piper and the many who resonate with him may be on to something that should cause us to look a second time at ourselves.

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  14. Dr. Hart, I’m typically on-board with your critiques, and yet, in the context of the quoted bit from Piper here, I don’t see this as necessarily pietistic at all.

    His use of the word “ought” doesn’t demand to be read as an imperative. He’s describing what is essentially the theology of worship shared by Reformed types down through the years, that the Sunday gathering of the church to collectively worship _should_ be (“ought” per Piper) one where, because of the congregants’ instruction about what, in fact, worship is, i.e. service from God to His people, via word and sacrament, to “hungry” people who realize the truth of the hymn’s words, “nothing in my hand I bring…” Hunger isn’t something we gin up in ourselves, and is an apt and thoroughly biblical metaphor for the motivation we should feel, if we understand just who God is to us in our worship. That’s the reason for the repeated food and drink signs throughout the bible, a table in the wilderness, water from a rock, streams in the desert, etc.

    Piper’s not describing an individualistic, personal piety at all. He’s simply describing the corporate experience of the congregation during worship as it should be described, as a movement of God to His people (as opposed to the other way around, which misunderstanding is so much a commonplace today).

    I really doubt that Piper would ever be caught dead teaching people they have to somehow screw up this sort of feeling in order for their Sunday service to be true worship, but that God’s people, when worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, likely will have some experience along these lines, more so if they understand God’s service to them, particulary _by_ His grace in the message of the gospel.

    Is he saying one’s worship is deficient if it doesn’t somehow produce a feeling of satisfaction or of glorying in Christ? I don’t think anything written here could be construed that way. As for your “spiritual torpor,” I think Jeffrey Beall & SSullivan above get the closest of your commenters so far, in addressing that question, particularly in each of their second paragraphs. I mean, if you’re asking, “is it just me, or…? It’s probably a safe bet to say, it’s not _all_ you…And like Piper says (“Worship is for the sake of magnifying God, not ourselves…”) it’s not primarily about us, but it is for and toward us that God calls us together in corporate worship.

    grace & peace,
    WTB

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  15. If we want to avoid all introspection, we’d do well to avoid Owens, Vol. 1-4 also, and the apostle Paul while we’re at it.

    “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

    “The Comforter gives a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal. This is his work, and he doth it effectually. To give a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections, that God in Jesus Christ loves him, delights in him, is well pleased with him, hath thoughts of tenderness and kindness towards him; to give, I say, a soul an overflowing sense hereof, is an inexpressible mercy.”

    John Owen, Works (Edinburgh, 1980), II:240.

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  16. You missed out the first part of the verse in Romans 5 – I don’t think it naturally lends itself to a religious affections type of reading, talking as it does about endurance in suffering.

    The easiest way to stop someone enjoying something seems to be to tell them that they should be enjoying it.

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  17. Chris, Owen in his quoted exposition of the verse obviously thought otherwise, as did the Westminster divines. The verse is one of the three pillars of assurance under the Westminster Confession of Faith. Commentators cite the verse as an example of religious affections and subjective, “heart” religion in Paul.

    I don’t think Piper or his fans ever quite argue that anyone “should be enjoying” God. Rather, as Bill Burns pointed out above, the burden of the Piper quote is that God’s people, when worshipping Him in spirit and in truth, likely will have a delight in God as they receive the grace he dispenses during worship through the means of grace. It’s an indicative, not an imperative. That seems demonstrably true to me.

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  18. Thanks for clarifying my point, SS. Just for the record, since it seems necessary to say so here, I’m not a Piper “fan.” Matter o’ fact, I’m Presbyterian and happily so, but Piper is not preaching any sort of pietism in that quote, at least no more so than Calvin himself advocated “pietas” in his own Institutes, or for that matter, no more despair-inducing than this, from the WLC:

    Q. 160. What is required of those that hear the word preached?
    A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the Scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the Word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

    Or this:

    “I call “piety” that reverence joined with the love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces.” – Institutes, 1.2.1

    Fault Piper for his teary-eyed, wear-his-heart-on-his-sleeve style, his trafficking with questionable fellows like Chan and Warren, his membership in questionable coalitions, or for his baptistic beliefs (if you feel the need and justification for doing so), but he’s not guilty (at least in what’s quoted here) of anything that Calvin and the Westminster Divines aren’t also guilty of teaching.

    Personally, I’m praying for us all, myself the most, that “knowledge of His benefits” induces in me and my own congregation a hunger and thirst for the kind of glorious worship Piper describes. It’d surely beat what passes for worship (even at my own local assembly, and especially my own worship _at_ my own) most of my Sundays.

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  19. I was raised Presbyterian and have been to John Piper’s church several times and heard him preach. Two years ago I became Lutheran and have never had a more satisfying experience than receiving the true body and blood every Sunday. To me, the Reformed view of the Sacraments as symbolic and representational leaves a void that human emotionalism strives to fill rather than resting in what God has already accomplished fully. Also, the plain message of the Gospel, that Jesus suffered and died for me, though I need to hear it constantly over and over, moves me more than reading about someone else’s contemplative emotional high ever will. It is simple message that can be conveyed in a few words, and if I end up old and completely senile, at least I can hope to remember that I was baptized.

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  20. I think Piper would deny that he is saying….”one’s worship is deficient if it doesn’t somehow produce a feeling of satisfaction or of glorying in Christ?” However, I do believe the over all tone of Piper’s general teachings and the sense one gets after letting those teachings sink in lends itself to that need to do more, to feel more. If that is true the question is, how Biblical is that?

    Mr. Hart has given words to something I have noticed for a long time in my PCA church. I have often wondered why it is that the PCA (among others) seems more influenced by Piper or an Anabaptist type like Tim Keller than it is by our historic confessional teachings and perspectives. I say this not to mock or be sarcastic either, just stating a fact At least at my PCA church, the biggest influences as far as well known teachers are Tim Keller and John Piper. I too think Piper is a good guy and basically way better than typical evangelical Olsteen types, but I think the point among Presbyterians who care about Presbyterian standards is…..What has happened to our Presbyterian distinctives? Why have they been pretty much hijacked (no matter how good the motives or “results” are) by this “doing/being the gospel” and this “have I really done enough” hyper introspection? Why is it that these very questions are often considered “unnecessary controversies” ?

    I don’t have all the answers, but I do always feel after being around Piper disciples or reading /listening to Piper that I am not doing enough, have not surrendered all, have not given (worked enough) for Christ. I want to do more in service of my Lord and praise be His name I am growing, but I am most thankful for the confessional ministers and ministries out there who at days end have me looking to Christ and not myself or them. Hence forth serving Him out of gratitude.

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  21. Obviously I can’t speak for others who have read the comments in this thread, but they have been excellent not just about Piper’s emphases but more so about the piety and outlook his evangelical theology typifies. I may simply vastly over simplifying Piper, but having read a number of his books I sense he deliberately or otherwise fosters emotion as a a central factor in denoting one’s spiritual health. This may not be his aim or intention, but numerous passages in his books show this. So basically, if I don’t desire God as he describes, then I may be at fault.

    Piper is part of a very well meaning hub of theologians and teachers like CJ Mahaney and other ‘Reformed calvinists’ whose theology has emotion or desire as they prefer to call it not just as a rightful and integral part of Christian discipleship but, like I have written, as very much the key litmus test of one’s Christian life. Piper’s preaching does make me unsettled – his emotional pleas and tone somehow make me feel guilty if I am not moved by such emotion. Perhaps I am the so called typical ‘reserved Brit’ who finds much emotion in sermons can seem like a form of well meaning manipulation.

    Is Piper sound theologically? I have no doubt he aims for that with great sincerity, as well as the rest of those in his church. But with hindsight looking back at what seems to be his major theme of desiring God and his affirmation of influential others like Rick Warrren, then I see him more like so many of our evangelical peers and historical figures like George Whitefield. By this I mean their good intentions are expressed in ways which have fault lines with potentially very misguided out workings in churches and lives which do not critique them. To substantiate this, here in a typical UK evangelical church where the influence of these men I have mentioned is respected and their writings and ministry has an impact, it is common for the activity of God to be often primarily related to how His sensed or felt ‘presence’ is supposedly manifest in the lives of Christians and the church corporately. Please folks correct me if I am wrong, but this in blunt terms is a deeply flawed and unbalanced way of thinking and practise which has it’s roots in the teaching of our evangelical and charismatic peers. And it is odd that Reformed seminaries have Jonathan Edwards, upon whose shoulders Piper stands, as a model of Reformed thinking and theology.

    This thread about Piper strikes at the heart of where Reformed theology in it’s original context has been modified, skewed, and subtly changed into a modern hybrid which does have an undue emphasis on “What I am doing?” and “How are my feelings?” I understand how others under the teaching of John Piper and others like him have been helped, but they should continue to evaluate and think through (as I am sure many of them have done) the unease and issues expressed in this thread and elsewhere surrounding such men.

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  22. I guess I’ll be somewhat in the minority here, but I think your concerns about Piper are justified, Darryl. T. D. Bozeman argues persuasively that it was “puritan” pietism and legalism that motivated what he calls an “antinomian backlash” in the early seventeenth century.

    I think the more Reformed churches practice pietism and legalism, the less surprised we should be to see our members leave for Lutheranism (which is what the “imputative” antinomians – a la David Como – were trying desperately to be).

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  23. What can stir my “affections” toward God, if not the clear proclamation of Christ and Him crucified for my sins? If I look inward, I see sin and unbelief. I need the external Word of grace put in my ears, if my heart is ever going to be stirred in love towards God. Telling me to exult in the glory of God, or to glorify Him by being most satisfied in Him is nothing but the Law (good though it is). Apart from the Gospel, it either makes me despair, or I deceive myself into thinking I’m more spiritual than I am – a Pharisee of imagined strong affections for the glory of God. One more thing: are we talking about the “naked” glory of God, the kind that consumes sinners? Or are we talking about the glory of God’s grace to us in Christ? I think some of Piper’s teaching slides towards a theology of glory, rather than a theology of the Cross. Then again, I may be a Lutheran sympathizer…

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  24. “Chris, Owen in his quoted exposition of the verse obviously thought otherwise, as did the Westminster divines. The verse is one of the three pillars of assurance under the Westminster Confession of Faith. Commentators cite the verse as an example of religious affections and subjective, “heart” religion in Paul.”

    I cannot comment directly on Owen – however the verse in Romans states a fact, it doesn’t necessarily draw a direct line between that fact and an emotional state. WCF XVIII carefully balances things out with qualifiers like: “This infallible assurance does not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it”. I think there is a problem with taking the Owen quote without qualifiers and making it normative. That might not be what is intended, but it seems to be the message that people take away from such teaching.

    “It’d surely beat what passes for worship (even at my own local assembly, and especially my own worship _at_ my own) most of my Sundays.”

    It would also be great to have heaven on earth right now.

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  25. Chris,
    I think your instinctive reaction to downplay any subjective in the scripture is my own knee-jerk first reaction as well, but I don’t think it is valid with much of scripture, and it doesn’t work here. The Romans quote is rightly interpreted by Owen if all Reformed commentators are right. The verse affirms tha the Spirit, in his role as the “Comforter,” gives “a sweet and plentiful evidence and persuasion of the love of God to us, such as the soul is taken, delighted, satiated withal.” As Owen notes, the Spirit, working with and through the means of grace, “gives a poor sinful soul a comfortable persuasion, affecting it throughout, in all its faculties and affections …” We have to be careful that our confessinal grid doesn’t become a blinker that blinds us to the clear teaching of scripture, and here there is a statement of fact that the Spirit produces a subjective, heartfelt assurance in the whole person, including the affections. Owen is in line with other Reformed commentators.

    We Reformed confessionalists have a knee-jerk discomfort with the subjective, and we need to be on gaurd that we don’t become guilty of being overly defensive, overly reactive to the emotional excesses of some, including, yes, perhaps Dr. Piper.

    As I say, Piper stresses not exhortation to desiring God, but a statement of fact that the soul will delight in God. That is the clear teaching of Scripture. Now he may stress that way too much, but his overstress of the subjective shouldn’t cause us to understress it either.

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  26. Darryl,

    I came to a “more reformed” (I’m a Baptist) understanding of the Christian faith beginning with the preaching of John Piper. I have gradually found myself more and more attracted to Michael Horton’s, R. Scott Clark’s, and your writings.

    Throughout my life, all I have known is the sort of subjective piety to which your post refers. Can you point me to some positive examples of the kind of Reformed piety (books, theologians, etc) you would espouse/practice?

    Thanks.

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  27. Dr. Hart,

    First of all, “With Reverence and Awe” is the best book I’ve read on worship and surpasses anything I’ve read by John Piper on the subject (and I’m a Baptist minister). Secondly, it is interesting to note that no one less than John Newton commented in his day about concerns he had with the introspective element in the writings of the New England divines, not the least of which was Edwards. History is a great teacher.

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  28. Dr. Hart,

    I’m new to your blog and I’ve enjoyed and been challenge in my thinking by your writings. I’ll afford my 2 mites about Piper. It won’t be much and it’s a collection of my personal thoughts.

    Piper convinced me of the Calvinistic doctrines of the Reformation. He showed me that they are not just dispassionate words on a page, but they go to the heart of understanding God himself. It was the end of almost 4 years of struggle to comprehend Calvinism and come to a heart-felt understand that God is truly in control of all things and my salvation was completely worked outside of me.

    I do understand why many end in self-loathing after reading his works. I myself end up there from time to time. Here’s what I think: It may be because he is shooting more for an ideal that may not be possible until the next life. I also think because he and I probably have the same temperaments, we have more of a struggle with depression and morbid self-examination because our Christian lives don’t measure up to what we see in Scripture.

    Finally, one of my good friends says, “I like John Piper, but sometimes he seems to forget the God likes us.” (Us obviously referring to Christians.)

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  29. Thank you for speaking to this topic. My introduction to the Reformed faith essentially followed this trajectory: John Calvin’s role in the Reformation (as a strictly historical interest in college) directly to Jonathan Edwards as THE theologian-philosopher extraordinaire for the Reformed faith (as an introduction to the Reformed faith itself). Clearly a giant chasm to leap historically, and not the best way to deal with a systematic-historical development of categories and concepts. The emphasis on the latter came to me through a prominent presbyterian. And the same led me to John MacArthur on the radio. So much of what is being said here can be said of MacArthur. It was through him and said presbyterian that I was introduced to the Puritans. IMO, Piper is taking (has taken?) MacArthur’s place as the baptist door to presbyterianism.

    In my 14 years of experience since, the overwhelming majority of recommendations by presbyterians (layfolk, elders, pastors) has been for Edwards and Piper (starting with Piper’s “Future Grace” and Edwards’s “Religious Affections”). I had no idea the magisterial reformers had piety until I came across the likes of you Dr. Hart (and Horton, Clark, etc.). It all too often seems that the magisterial reformers were simply just godly men highly skilled in doctrinal recovery. But, piety? Oh, that wasn’t reformed until the Puritans came along and then Edwards put the icing on top, maybe with some help from Whitefield.

    Lest one think I am anti-puritan/Edwards. No. My point is just that learning the Puritans in isolation from their forebears in the Reformation makes for strange bed-fellows. Why are pietistic presbyterians in America so gushy over reformed baptists, yet seemingly so pained to point to the continental reformed (prior to the Nadie Reformatie) for examples of piety reformed/presbyterian style?

    I have been lurking here for awhile. I just wanted to say thanks Dr. Hart for speaking to these issues. It is very encouraging.

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  30. SSullivan, you said:

    I’m a confessionally Reformed who come down somewhere within shooting distance of Rev. Piper in this debate. I confess that I can’t quite work up or sustain the emotional stirrings that Dr. Piper and his followers do. He often sounds like he’s choking back a tear as he preaches, and I wish I’d hear more from him about resting in the finished work of Christ than about producing an emotional high over being satisfied in God.

    That said, I think that’s probably due more to some defect in my own rather staid emotional makeup, flat temperament, and deficiency in my piety than to any confessional principle.

    First, I wonder why you ascribe something defective to staid emotional makeup and flat temperament. The larger and more extroverted evangelical tradition in America equates sociability with spirituality, which may be how contemptible things called “Fellowship Hall” were invented. But corresponding to that social outlook is one that tends to deride an introverted personal disposition that esteems comportment over expression. The upshot is that those of us with such makeups seem to accept the premise that we are somehow defective, which I find sad and at times not a little angering. See, we can do emotion, too.

    Second, if one wants a confessional principle in order to give more encouragement to his disposition, how about doing all things in a good and decent order? All things certainly includes council/session meetings and stated worship, but doesn’t that also include personal piety and general living?

    P.S. For an extended introverted jab at extroverts see this classic Atlantic article by Jonathon Rauch, which deliciously concludes (insert “confessionalist” for “introvert” and “extroversion” for “desiring God”):

    Are introverts arrogant? Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain. We tend to think before talking, whereas extroverts tend to think by talking, which is why their meetings never last less than six hours. “Introverts,” writes a perceptive fellow named Thomas P. Crouser, in an online review of a recent book called Why Should Extroverts Make All the Money? (I’m not making that up, either), “are driven to distraction by the semi-internal dialogue extroverts tend to conduct. Introverts don’t outwardly complain, instead roll their eyes and silently curse the darkness.” Just so.

    The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books—written, no doubt, by extroverts—regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts’ Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say “I’m an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/

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  31. “We have to be careful that our confessinal grid doesn’t become a blinker that blinds us to the clear teaching of scripture, and here there is a statement of fact that the Spirit produces a subjective, heartfelt assurance in the whole person, including the affections. Owen is in line with other Reformed commentators.”

    I wasn’t saying he wasn’t in line with other reformed commentators, or even that his understanding of that particular verse was out of line – merely noting that was incomplete if it didn’t include qualifiers and was made to be normative. I don’t think it’s unfair to note that some of the Puritans had a tendency towards introspection.

    I wouldn’t want someone who was worrying that they didn’t desire God enough to then conclude that the Spirit wasn’t working in them.

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  32. Zrim,
    LOL. I identify with what you say, as an introvert. Unfortunately, pastors don’t last long in ministry unless they find a way to present as an extrovert. We are perceived as unloving, brooding, moody, unfriendly, unspiritual, not fun, etc. Life is easier for extroverts since in American culture of today breezy familiarity, small talk, loud, talkative, emotive … is the norm that makes us deviant. It’s hard to identify any calling today where an introvert can succeed, other than perhaps the academy, engineering, and accounting. But my accounting congregats say they’re expected to be “outgoing” and be big business developers too. That’s all off topic, but a hearty amen from this corner on your observations.

    The Reformed churches I know tend to be filled with more introverts, readers, thinkers, etc. They are quiet, and the churches can be percieved as “unfriendly” because introverts express friendliness in a different way than extroverts.

    I will say, as an introvert and thinker, that I’m aware that because I’m used to being on the defense in a world of extroverts and congregatns who expect me to emote more, when I hear Piper describe the Christian as desiring God with his heart, my first reaction is anger and protest. Another emotive extrovert wanting to change me. Can’t he see that I don’t need to emote like him and I’m doing just fine, thank you. But on reflection, I think my knee-jerk opposition is over-reaction. I have to confess that, in my heart of hearts, I’m much too comfortable in the world of ideas, spinning theological webs and parsing Greek verbs. All necessary work for my calling, but not sufficient for true piety. In sem, they warned us to not become disembodied brains. All theology but no heart devotion. I think that advice is especially needed for introverts and bookesh people like me. I have to confess that I don’t spend enough time in devotions on my knees desiring God, and that does not reflect well on me nor please God. The psalmist panted for God because he was in communion with God. I need to hear that and take time away from reading theology and parsing Greek verbs and spend some time in prayer and communion with God. And so, in small doses, Piper is good for me to remind me to open my heart and not only my mind.

    You probably don’t have that struggle.

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  33. Chris E. – re: “It would also be great to have heaven on earth right now.”

    Those who heed the scriptural admonition to “not forsake the gathering together” get regular practice and some would say, a taste in the here and now, however pitiful and poor by comparison.

    Do I ever still shake my head at how authors and ministers, even ones in my own assembly can make indicatives sound like imperatives? Yes. Do I ever feel like I don’t desire God (pun intended), even after reading and hearing said ministers and authors (including the aforementioned likes of WLC 160 or Calvin 1.2.1)? Yes. I’m still gonna pray for ’em, and I’m still gonna pray that our corporate worship, our corporate ‘pietas,” our “love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces,” increases as the day of its consummation approaches.

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  34. We seem to be in a time in history where excessive subjectivism is the norm, and the objective is the rarer. But isn’t it the objective work of the Gospel and Christ that runs throughout Scripture? It is difficult – nay, impossible – to quantify the subjective. I tend to agree with Dr Hart and the posters who sympathize with his position. The cahse of the subjective can leave one weary. This isn’t new, of course – the first and second great awakenings have been criticized rightly on the emphasis of the subjective. I would ask the pietist the following question: if person “x” is on this board, though not a pietist, person “x” is still concerned for Christ, or they wouldn’t be on here. If you are a pietist, and say that person “x” must be a pietist or they are not concerned enough for Christ, isn’t that a sort of legalism in and of itself? In other words, when is enough, enough? And isn’t concern for Christ enough? I use the word ‘concern” but that could be exchanged with any word (care, love, interest). Don’t get me wrong – there will be some who have more of an extroverted personality than others who will seem to exude more piety. But that’s just a result of how different we are all, isn’t it? By the way, we know that Paul talked about zeal not according to knowledge, and he wasn’t all that nuts about it. Just sayin’.

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  35. SS, a good friend of mine is a PCA pastor and is about as extroverted as I am introverted. But his ministry is marked by an ecclesiastical expression that is decidedly skeptical and suspicious of what one seems to find in Piper’s. So, obviously, not all of this is explained by temperamental factors, but the parallels to theology, piety and practice are intriguing.

    (But, you’re right, I don’t have to spend any time parsing Greek so I don’t have that problem. Not only am I introverted but I am also left-brained. They can bill biblical Greek a “language” all they want, but it’s really a spatial-mathemetical skill.)

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  36. Scooter: “Here’s what I think: It may be because he is shooting more for an ideal that may not be possible until the next life”

    I think that’s a great point. It could be part of the over-realized eschatology we see so much from Baptists (whether Reformed or otherwise).

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  37. “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” DGH
    hunger and thirst unless they have God. (God’s Passion for His Glory, pp. 40-41)” Piper

    I will give you a shot at an answer. Evangelicals are attracted to this kind of piety because it is a self-centered (absorbed in self) pseudo-sacrifice of self. It is a kind of romanticized dying to self that is narcissistic.

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  38. wm t., ah yes, as long as I’m glorifying God MORE, and doing so without guilt — that is not going to turn me in on myself? I understand your desire to defend Piper. But I don’t see your explanation as supplying great relief or clarity.

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  39. K, it’s not a question of multi-tasking. That’s what everyone does in their vocations. It’s a question of enjoying. What happens if we glorify God and it doesn’t feel enjoyable?

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  40. John A., can we really consider the worthiness of God apart from our own unworthiness as sinners or apart from the ministry of Christ? It does seem to me that Christ could be more central to Piper’s understanding of God’s glory.

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  41. WTB, but if you read the intro. that Piper writes to Edwards, it is pretty personal and about his own encounter with Edwards over the course of his life. I think you read a lot into Piper. I do sense that he is saying something valuable about the god-centered nature of worship. But it is not far from the believer’s experience. In fact, they are always together. Which again leaves me in a position similar to after reading Edwards — do I have the right affections and enough of them?

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  42. Bill, but the difference between Edwards, Piper, and Calvin isn’t the heart or the affections. No one is saying that affections or love aren’t part of Christian devotion. The question for me is what is enough love or affection? I do not get a sense in Edwards or Piper that a little love and affection is sufficient. Instead, it seems that such affections have to be ratcheted up to a certain threshold to qualify as authentic. But if the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains, why can’t a little love in a cool soul be sufficiently warm to enjoy God? In other words, where’s the encouragement for those who are not spiritually hot blooded?

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  43. E. Burns, one short answer to your question about what happened — the First Great Awakening when the Tennents inserted affectionate piety into the American Presbyterian mix. We’ve never been the same since.

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  44. Jim Upchurch, one place to start might with with the new volume on the pastoral ministry by Bucer (published, if you can believe it, by Banner of Truth). It is striking how different its tone is from Baxter.

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  45. I’m also very grateful for this post. Dr. Hart, your reaction to reading Edwards was the same one I had, namely, “do I have the right affections and enough of them?” I had finished reading him just before going to my membership interview with the elders of the church, and had basically convinced myself that I was unregenerate. I voiced my concern to one of the elders that I didn’t love Christ enough. He told me exactly what I needed to hear, “Nate, salvation is by grace.” What a relief!

    Thanks again.

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  46. This is a fascinating question. I have to say that I found the thesis of Piper’s “Desiring God” to be informative and liberating; but I don’t like listening to Piper’s sermons, and I couldn’t finish Edwards’ “Religious Affections”, while I devoured every word of his “Freedom of the Will”.

    The reason I found “Desiring God” liberating is that I felt it was an antidote to the [Kantian?] philosophy that one should never do good for the sake of reward. Piper points out that delighting in the beloved is part of the result of love. It’s also liberating in the sense that it points out that the Psalms of delight aren’t commandments; rather, they’re exclamations of men delighting in God. We don’t always have to make the same exclamations (the Psalmists didn’t always!), but the point is that one shouldn’t read them as commands we must obey when they’re actually exclamations we are free to imitate.

    -Wm

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  47. Great post, Darryl. Mega-dittos from DC.

    I think one of the most interesting questions in this chain is whether Piper is a terminus or a gateway drug to confessionally-Reformed Word and Sacrament worship and ministry. I’m sure a lot of both happens, but I’d love it if anyone had any data or broader evidence of whither the converts to Piper.

    The key here is theology of cross vs. glory, as many have already said. YRR folks are fundamentally still evangelical in the sense that they’re still glory-seekers and enthusiasts… that’s why evangelicals like it. Added depth without abandoning enthusiasm. And too many people think “reformed” is just the glory side of the Reformation. It’s not, at least not in the 16th century.

    You can preach Christ, and not preach the cross. You can preach the doctrines of grace, and not preach the cross. For all the good that Piper does and says, the baseline is still glory.

    I confess to tearing up when I preach too, but the key question is when. It is always the cross that gets me. And Sarah, I’m glad you found a home in Lutheranism, but the Reformed view of the sacraments is not “representational and symbolic.” That’s bad Zwinglianism, and there’s too much of it in our circles.

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  48. is it theological food for the starving, or simply a higher-octane version of the conversion experience

    Probably some of both. Continuing the food metaphor, call it an appetizer: it’s a taste of the real thing, and nutritious for all that, but you wouldn’t want to stick to it exclusively, nor remain there very long.

    But I’d much rather spend my time criticizing Rob Bell and his ilk than John Piper. Reading too much Piper will, at worst, lead to a less than optimal understanding of Christian piety. Bell is a first-class ticket to heresy.

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  49. I always thought it was telling that Piper “felt” compelled to write a sequel to Desiring God: When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight For Joy. I haven’t read the latter, but the title sounds like a prescription for more law. I’m curious if anyone has read the book.

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  50. I see far less need to discuss Rob Bell the danger there is far more obvious.

    To you anyway. Bell etc. have a bigger audience than Piper, so there’s plenty of people who don’t see that. Here’s my analysis: if you don’t find Piper helpful, you can always read something else. But plenty of people do find Piper helpful, and I don’t see there being much danger in that. If someone stumbles across Piper, the worst that happens is someone is exposed to Reformed theology with perhaps too great an emphasis on the subjective. It’s not perfect, but I’ll take it.

    On the other hand, if they stumble across Bell, they can easily wind up becoming completely heterodox without ever knowing it.

    So yes, the danger is greater, but if you think that this makes it obvious, you’ve spent too much time in the ghetto.

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  51. I always thought it was telling that Piper “felt” compelled to write a sequel to Desiring God

    Of course he did. Piper is a star author of two publishing houses. Between 1980 and 1999, he published thirteen books. Between 2000 and 2010 he published thirty-nine, three times as many in half as long. He’s made himself and his publishers a pretty penny.

    Anyone with an agent will tell you about the pressure to get the next project out the door, and in today’s publishing market there’s a huge incentive to churn reliable authors (“brands” if you will) as there is a perceived lower risk.

    I don’t fault Piper for this at all. Everybody’s gotta make a living, and he’s found a far less objectionable way of doing this than many. But it makes approaching much of his portfolio as serious, academic theology a bit incongruous.

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  52. “Between 1980 and 1999, he published thirteen books. Between 2000 and 2010 he published thirty-nine, three times as many in half as long. He’s made himself and his publishers a pretty penny.”

    It’s possible to critique his approach apart from critiquing his motives – and afaict all royalties on his books go back into desiringgod, he doesn’t personally make money from them.

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  53. I’m not into the idea that it is put forward by Piper – I personally think his charismatic leanings tend to get the better of him at times, though I’d at home with Edwards. That said, I’m not down with this weird fear of introspection that comes about in reformed circles. Morbid introspection is a poison to the soul – on that, I trust we can disagree. However, taking time out to fight against complacency and taking spiritual things for granted isn’t the same as morbid introspection.

    I fail to see how being cross-centred somehow excludes taking responsibility for walking in the light of being cross-centred.

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  54. Joseph, to the extent that much of secular media had dubbed Bell the next Billy Graham, I’m not so sure he is as negligible as you suggest. Ryan Davidson worries about a heterodox influence, and that may be, but if the secular media is right then that means broad evangelicalism still prevails over Reformed confessionalism. And sorry, Ryan, but whatever the problems of Bell’s heterodoxy, Piper’s Reformed evangelicalism is of little help to the confessionally Reformed project, unless you think that the Old Schoolers rejoiced over the imperfect reality of the New Schoolers.

    On another note, Rob Bell’s church is in my backyard (more namedropping, dgh, but I can’t help myself). All I know is that their float in the Fourth of July parade is pretty obnoxious in both conception and practice. And those “Love Wins” bumper stickers only rub it in.

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  55. Ryan,

    I’m sure there’s a financial upside to Piper (or his ministry or his publisher) pumping out more and more books. I’m suggesting that Piper may have realized that “Desiring God” drove enough of his readers into a funk that he had to following up with a book addressing the reality that I think Dr. Hart’s talking about that most people don’t desire God the way Piper imagines.

    On a separate note, would anyone else agree that the influence of this Piper-esque or Edwardsian piety in the Reformed world can be seen in the way many Reformed churches practice communion? Where I came from, we only had communion 4 times a year, and every occasion required a week or two of solemn preparation/introspection to determine if we were truly sorry for our sins to participate in the supper. Most of the focus was on us, not on the bread and the wine.

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  56. Ryan, When I pastored, I had an experience when two elders came to me one week and said “I’m going to have to pass on the Lord’s Supper this week” supposedly due to some sin throughout the week. At the time (pre-Presby) I thought it was commendable. Now I think it was way too imbalanced.

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  57. I finally must go on record at getting more than a little weary of Darryl Hart’s “Professional Crank” routine. Mr. Hart, you seem to downplay (I almost wrote “despise”) anything that smells faintly experiential. At Old Life, I read tons of criticism of feelings, emotions, and the “glory story,” but very few affirmations of the ecstasies of the Christian heart enjoying God.

    I trust that my personal Confessional Reformed credentials are as solid as yours. I cut my theological eye-teeth forty years ago on the teaching of Dr. Morton Smith at RTS, the writings of the Reformers, and the warm, experiential Calvinism propagated by The Banner of Truth. I have always striven to wed the objective truths of the Gospel with a thirst for deep, personal, experience of the Triune God.

    Certainly there are dangers in Piper’s approach. Of course an emphasis on experience can lead to self-centered, guilt-inducing subjectivism. But I’m equally aware the trap of a cold, unfeeling rationalism. In fact, I’ve been subject to both extremes in my sixty-three years, so I know whereof I speak.

    I have believed for some time that Old Life is in danger of becoming the go-to place for the “supercilious sneer.” I may be the one at fault, but on no other Reformed website am I more often angered than edified.

    –Frank Aderholdt, PCA Ruling Elder, Hattiesburg, MS

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  58. “I’m sure there’s a financial upside to Piper (or his ministry or his publisher) pumping out more and more books. I’m suggesting that Piper may have realized that “Desiring God” drove enough of his readers into a funk that he had to following up with a book addressing the reality that I think Dr. Hart’s talking about that most people don’t desire God the way Piper imagines.

    That seems as helpful of a criticism as the claim that Martin Luther’s teachings led to Christians believing that they had the right to sin all the time. (I just saw this claim in a Roman Catholic encyclopedia of heresies.) Yes, certainly some heretics did justify their refusal to repent on Luther’s teaching; but they ignored his teaching in order to do so.

    On a separate note, would anyone else agree that the influence of this Piper-esque or Edwardsian piety in the Reformed world can be seen in the way many Reformed churches practice communion? Where I came from, we only had communion 4 times a year, and every occasion required a week or two of solemn preparation/introspection to determine if we were truly sorry for our sins to participate in the supper. Most of the focus was on us, not on the bread and the wine.

    YES! This grieves me deeply. Communion is almost never celebrated at FAR too many churches. I’m not sure that it’s because of anything related to Piper (I don’t see anything akin to that nonsense in his regular teaching), but I do see it in the pietism from which most of modern evangelicalism has sprung. Piper may have contributed, but modern evangelicalism is far more at fault.

    -Wm

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  59. Todd, yes. Kudos to Dr. Piper for setting aside time for his wife and for repentance. It takes a strong, godly man to admit to pride and publicly aplogize. The temptation to overwork and to work for the wrong motives (public affirmation) is the constant struggle of pastors. The family is the first to suffer.

    Here is an example of a little “introspection,” a little examination of the heart, being biblically sound, salutary, and beneficial. We all could benefit from a little self-examination of our heart and mortificaiton of our pride now and then. Sometimes, we confessionally Reformed, who eschew self-examination as “morbid introspection,” are covering over the log of pride in our eye as we point out all the splinters in th eyes of evangelicals and experiential Calvinists.

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  60. SSullivan.

    Yes, kudos for his honesty. But the reality of life often is a bit different than our written words about God and spirituality. This is especially true unfortunately with public figures. No one is suggesting a little examination of the heart is wrong. But when I listen to Piper and read Edwards, I do examine my heart, and feel only guilt and dispair. I can’t live up. You can read “Religious Affections” for hours before Edwards even mentions justifying faith. The gospel does move the hearts of all true believers, even more than talk of passion, glory, etc… And I don’t see where it is less than pure motives for loving God for what he has done for us compared to who he is in himself, as I have heard Piper say. We love him because he first loved us.

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  61. “I’m not down with this weird fear of introspection that comes about in reformed circles. Morbid introspection is a poison to the soul – on that, I trust we can disagree. However, taking time out to fight against complacency and taking spiritual things for granted isn’t the same as morbid introspection.”

    I think that’s fine as far as it goes – but not taking spiritual things for granted and being in an emotional state of excitement about spiritual things – the latter can wax and wane depending on all sorts of factors including personality. Introspection can be okay as long as the it’s end is looking back at Christ.

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  62. Piper’s Reformed evangelicalism is of little help to the confessionally Reformed project, unless you think that the Old Schoolers rejoiced over the imperfect reality of the New Schoolers.

    Sure it is. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face, which seems to be a pretty common move in Old School Presbyterianism. The people for whom John Piper is their first experience with anything approximating real theology aren’t thinking about this the way you’re thinking about it. They’re just looking for something that feeds their faith. And once they start down that road, it’s really easy to get them to look at more substantive sources. Piper name checks confessional documents and major theologians all the time. It gets people interested, which is a good and useful thing.

    And criticizing people’s first exposure to more substantive Christian writing, writing which while not perfect remains entirely orthodox, is a terrible way of nurturing that interest. What’s far less useful to the confessional Reformed tradition than Piper is people who insist that no one can play ball until they’ve completely worked out their theology.

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  63. Ryan, I’m all for gateway drugs but I can’t say that I’ve seen many Reformed evangelicals (or evangelically Reformed) translated into Reformed confessionalists. I mean, it’s a nice theory and all, but I just don’t see it pan out much. And I’m not insisting someone “can’t play ball,” I’m saying there’s a much better ball game going on in lesser known diamonds where at least nobody is speculating on providence when tornado’s hit synods. Or doing a Bayly impersonation on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O68MByaMVdM

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  64. I can’t say that I’ve seen many Reformed evangelicals (or evangelically Reformed) translated into Reformed confessionalists.

    And? I’d still rather see evangelicals become Reformed than not. Would I prefer that they continue on their journey? Sure. Are they better off than they were? Yes.

    Personally, I have seen this shift a number of times. Here’s the thing: if they’ve got the temperament to read the good stuff, Piper can be a great way of getting them started. If they were never going to do that anyway, Piper will at least leave them better off than they were. Just because Piper ain’t Vos doesn’t mean that he’s on par with Joel Osteen.

    I’ll never understand this obsession with trash talking people who are doing good work when said work leaves even a modicum of room for improvement. Yes, there are lines beyond which criticism becomes obligatory, but if you’re drawing that line at Piper, I would submit that as Exhibit A as to why you aren’t seeing more people become more confessional.

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  65. Ryan, Agreed that Piper is better than Osteen, but that doesn’t make Piper beyond criticism. That’s polemics. And without polemics, there would never have been a Reformation, nor would we see the exodus we’re seeing now from evangelicalism to Piper. As to Exhibit A, are you suggesting that because we draw lines, we’re responsible for them avoiding confessionalism? I suggest the opposite – that drawing the lines is part of what attracts folks to confessionalism. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be a need for confessionalism, and they’d stay with Piper and Co. One of things I’ve noticed today is that it’s cool to be irenic rather than polemic. Not there’s a place for irenicism, but there’s equally a place for polemics. And while we are glad that they are moving in the right direction, we’d like to encourage them not to remain on the “entrance ramp” but move onto the Reformed highway towards confessionalism. Otherwise, why should they?

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  66. Ryan, I’m not saying Piper is on par with Osteen. I’m saying there are three relatively distinctive camps: broad evangelicalism (Osteen), Reformed evangelicalism (Piper) and Reformed confessionalism. I can hear BEs speaking optimistically about the usefulness of Piper to get confesionalists all the way to evangelicalism like you do in getting evangelicals all the way to confessionalism: “I’d still rather see Reformed become evangelicals than not. Would I prefer that they continue on their journey? Sure. Are they better off than they were? Yes. Personally, I have seen this shift a number of times. Here’s the thing: if they’ve got the temperament to read the good stuff, Piper can be a great way of getting them started. If they were never going to do that anyway, Piper will at least leave them better off than they were. Just because Piper ain’t Hinn doesn’t mean that he’s on par with John Calvin.”).

    But I hear other, albeit fewer evangelicals being more skeptical, what with all that predestinarian-five-pointism. Funny how a confessionalist can have more in common with a skeptical evangelical than an optimistic confessionalist sometimes. The tick I’ll never grasp is the one for a big tent.

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  67. I suggest the opposite – that drawing the lines is part of what attracts folks to confessionalism.

    Who said anything about not drawing lines? I’ve said on numerous occasions in this very thread that I think Piper is problematic. But what you would characterize as “polemic” I tend to see as a tendency to undervalue the consequences of friendly fire. Piper may not be an Old School Presbyterian or indeed a Presbyterian of any sort, but I still recognize him as being fundamentally on my side in ways that a lot of other people aren’t. The kind of sniping that Zrim seems to like may be emotionally satisfying for people of a certain temperament, but it’s ultimately bad for everyone. It’s bad for the people who engage in it (just like any other kind of pissing contest/turf war), bad for the targets of criticism (doesn’t give them a fair shake), and bad for the audience (generally makes arguments predicated on justified but undisclosed reasoning).

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  68. Todd,
    I agree with your stress on the objective as the dominant note. Gospel is what believers need as much as unbelievers. And gospel sanctifies as well as justifies. But we need to not let our theological precepts deform scripture. Rather, scripture must norm our theology. And scripture makes clear that believers need law as well as gospel. Paul’s imperatives flow from gospel indicatives, but they are imperatives and they are to be obeyed. Obedience and mortification require a certain amount of self-examination of ourselves to conform our conduct, speech, motives, and heart to the law. Calvin err, in my judgment, when we insist on indicatives only with no imperatives on the rationale that preaching law is morbid introspection.

    How much self-examination and imperatives are too much is a judgment call, but none is not enough. Piper goes overboard. Let us not go to the other extreme. Reformed confessionalists are too often running to embrace the extreme. Yes, yes, yes, Piper doesn’t mention faith enough, and has too much law. Yes. But the antidote is to have the correct balance of law and gospel, not to run to the polar extreme of only indicatives. That deforms the scriptures as much as too much imperatives.

    Also, the psalmists express adoration for God not only for his mighty deeds of redemption, but for who he is. So, yes, a Christian is to love God for who he is and what he has done.

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  69. SSullivan,

    Since we agree that Piper tends to go too far then I’m not sure where the disagreement is. That’s really all we are saying. You’d have to give me examples of what you label “extreme” in the other direction to understand your concerns. I don’t know any “only indicatives” preachers so I’m not sure what you have in mind.

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  70. Piper may not be an Old School Presbyterian or indeed a Presbyterian of any sort, but I still recognize him as being fundamentally on my side in ways that a lot of other people aren’t. The kind of sniping that Zrim seems to like may be emotionally satisfying for people of a certain temperament, but it’s ultimately bad for everyone.

    Ryan, I’m assuming like me you’re Reformed/Presbyterian in soteriology, sacramentology and ecclesiology (as in the three marks). Piper is then close to you in really only one of those marks. Granted, that’s an important mark. But is one mark really enough to say he’s fundamentally on your side in ways that a lot of other people aren’t? But, look, what you call sniping I consider taking seriously what we confess as the three marks. Maybe you don’t regard Reformed theology, piety and practice the way we confess them?

    And I get that you want to show some confessionalists for being too narrow for any spiritual good, but it has always seemed to me that the best forms of ecumenism and religious tolerance come from those who draw the hard confessional lines, while religious bigotry seems to thrive amongst those who don’t. So what do you mean when you say Piper is fundamentally on your side in ways that a lot of other people aren’t? Is this some bland religious statement? Are “other people” non-religionists? Can you say the same thing about the Pope?

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  71. @ Zrim –

    Re: “Ryan, I’m assuming like me you’re Reformed/Presbyterian in soteriology, sacramentology and ecclesiology (as in the three marks). Piper is then close to you in really only one of those marks. Granted, that’s an important mark. But is one mark really enough to say he’s fundamentally on your side in ways that a lot of other people aren’t?”

    First, you can assume the same things about me, but you don’t have to, because I’m telling you myself directly. But can you define “other people” in _your_ question above, and secondly, yes. It _is_ enough (regardless), unless you’re talking about unregenerate people, even if, and particulrly so, if the particular other people (i.e. regenerate people) attend “church” in Compaq Center. Just because they’re currently sitting under Piper, or Heaven help ’em, Joel Osteen, doesn’t indicate anything about their election.

    All of this is also to miss the point of the OP. Nothing in that quoted text can categorically be demonstrated as preaching a pietism like was originally implied. All it shows is that it can be construed as such.

    But ultimately, it strikes me the same as trying to require the mostly non-Christian society at large to repudiate the abortion culture based on convictions rooted in Christian ethics and wondering why they don’t. What I mean by that is a point you and many others have already made multiple times in the comments yourselves. Piper is a Reformed Baptist who’s heavily influenced by writers like Jonathan Edwards. Faulting him for not sharing the same critical opinions of Edwards as Presbyterians, and particularly confessionally-oriented ones at that seems a bit unrealistic, to say the least.

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  72. Zrim, you do broad Evangelicalism wrong to pretend it’s synonomous with Osteen. Osteen doesn’t preach the Gospel at all; he preaches prosperity, wealth, and ego-stroking, and in a very ignorant manner. A pastor who preaches the Gospel, as Piper does, is playing on the right team, even if he’s dead wrong in his preaching of the sacraments or (for the sake of argument) his approach to piety.
    You may be right to prefer that all Baptists were Presbyterians; but they ain’t. You’d do better to call the false teachers to task not for being bad Presbyterians, but for being wolves in sheep’s clothing. People aren’t damned to hell for eternity because they’re too pietistic; they’re damned because they’re sinners who never repented of their sins and received the forgiveness of Christ due to their unbelief.
    And Piper, for all his faults and virtues, is NOT a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He preaches the true Gospel of Christ crucified and risen, of repentance and forgiveness found through faith in Him alone.

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  73. Bill, the distinctions I’m driving at don’t have as much to do with a mere critical opinion of JE but rather a sacramental and ecclesiastical theology and practice. Reformed confessionalists may or may not share a certain opinion of JE, but what really binds are the three marks. So if a man holds to one of the three I fail to see how he is fundamentally on the side of the one who confesses all three. I might have more in common with Piper than the Pope, but is that the same as saying Piper and I are fundamentally on the same side? The Pope and I both baptize children whereas Piper doesn’t and so have more in common with each other than either does with Piper, but I hardly think that means the Pope and I are fundamentally on the same side.

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  74. wm, your comment would make more sense to me if I had equated Piper with broad evangelicalism. But I didn’t, I identified him with Reformed evangelicalism. I think there is a difference, such as you point out, even if there can be some overlap between the two just like Reformed evangelicalism can overlap with Reformed confessionalism.

    Even so, it does seem to me better to be critical of those who would assume the term “Reformed” as opposed to those who don’t. Osteen is just being a very good broad evangelical, just like Warren or Graham. Would that Reformed confessionalists were as good at their tradition as the Osteens and Warrens are at theirs.

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  75. I’m fully aware that Piper is a Reformed Baptist. There are worse things to be, as it turns out. Does he belong in NAPARC. Of course not. But he has much more in common with NAPARC churches than most of the rest of the Baptist tradition, to say nothing of the non-denominational types.

    I guess, at root, I just think that Piper is wrong about some things that you’re allowed to be wrong about while remaining orthodox. I don’t think that the congregational form of government or believer’s baptism are the best readings of Scripture, but neither do I think they’re heretical. And let’s face it: Piper spends way less time talking about things with which confessional Reformed types necessarily disagree than he does about things with which there is some fundamental agreement.

    I have to say though, your move to attack my Reformed bona fides is pretty off-putting. Seems like most of this conversation is you basically playing the more-Reformed-than-thou card on everybody. Screw that.

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  76. Ryan, I don’t think the baord is attacking anyone personally. Rather, it is a discussion about objectives of what it is to being Reformed and/or confessional. And as R Scott Clark points out, just because someone says they’re Reformed doesn’t make it so. Take for example the term “Reformed Baptist”. No one in the 17th century would have used such a term. Particular Baptist, maybe. The definitions and the lines thereof have blurred especially during this century to the point of objection which I think is perfectly legitimate to point out. I think most of us would affirm that a baptistic view affects ecclesiology and sacramentology (not to mention over-realized eschatology) which profoundly affects the whole mindset. No one is calling them heretical – but I would hardly call them confessional or even Reformed. A term means something. Just sayin’.

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  77. Rather, it is a discussion about objectives of what it is to being Reformed and/or confessional.

    No, it isn’t. Maybe some people want to have that conversation, and maybe that’s a conversation worth having, but that isn’t the subject of the post or the conversation it’s produced. The subject is whether a particular tendency in John Piper’s work is problematic and if so, what is to be thought about it.

    Zrim has used my defense of Piper to question whether I believe in Reformed theology enough. And I’m not supposed to take that personally? I mean, I don’t, because this is the internet, and I don’t know him from Adam. But come on, now.

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  78. Ryan, I’m not questioning your Reformed bona fides (since I don’t know you from Adam either). I am actually questioning Piper’s. You mentioned friendly fire above. Sorry, but if you want to defend Piper then you might have to be prepared to take some on the chin.

    But what continues to puzzle me is baptismal sacramental latitudinarianism. Since when in the Reformed world has departing from paedobaptism been tolerable to remain orthodox? Assuming those things which we confess matter, the Heidelberg Catechism condemns the Romish Mass in Q/A 80 and the Belgic Confession 34 condemns the Anabaptist error. I mean, “…you’re allowed to be wrong about while remaining orthodox. I don’t think that…believer’s baptism [is] the best readings of Scripture” sure sounds weak-wristed compared to “For that reason we detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with a single baptism once received and also condemn the baptism of the children of believers. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children.” But I guess that’s because I’m a meanie-head.

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  79. No Baptist is Reformed. They can be Calvinistic, but not Reformed if the meaning of “Reformed” is defined by the confessions and historical norms. A “Reformed Baptist” would object to so narrow a definition because the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity are not his standard. He would argue that we Reformed confessionalists don’t get a monopoly on defining what is “Reformed.” I think our rejoinder is we’re not claiming a monopoly, but the meaning is historically articulated. The meaning of that word as it has been used since the Reformation is associated with the distinctives set forth in the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity — including paedobaptism.

    With that said, I think our duty of charity is to let Calvinist Baptists have their word “Reformed” if it makes them happy. That’s a basic courtesy to let people name themselves. But we have to reserve the right to teach our own that “Reformed” is a tradition that excludes Baptists.

    It’s not worth the trouble to attack Dr. Piper for his baptistic beliefs and exaggerated emphasis on “desiring God.” We won’t persuade him, and we only look churlish and uncharitable. If you want to perusaude his disciples, a better strategy is to be positive, not negative. Focus more on teaching his disciples what confessionally Reformed means. We don’t need to use Dr. Piper’s name at all. Leave him alone. Teach the positive truth, and leave the polemics to a bare minimum. Pelemics directed against Calvinistic Baptists are counterproductive.

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  80. SSullivan

    You might go back and read Darryl’s opening paragraph where he calls Piper basically theologically sound, earnest and sincere. That is hardly an attack, or polemics. Darryl is only suggesting a weakness many of us have seen in his writings. That is what we normally do with published material. We evaluate it for strengths and weaknesses. Is Piper beyond this evaluation because of his fame or influence?

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  81. I have lots of Calvinistic Baptists on the ReformedCast podcast which I am weekly host, and they have alot to offer – at least the more theologically astute ones do. James White and Richard Barcellos among others. I count them as brothers and since they appear on ReformedCast I guess I allow more latitude than my previous posts suggest. But I’m dealing with the realities of the so-called Reformed world being a wide tent, and it’s hard to keep a weekly podcast going while excluding the CBs. So perhaps I have an inconsistency going on somewhere. But I view the podcast as a common kingdom activity and non-ecclesiastical either way you look at it. And I can appreciate them to a degree. I came from that village, and was a former pastor of a non-Reformed Baptist church (SBC). But there is also an underbelly of hyper-shepherding and legalism that has dominated the RBs for years, and to be away from that scene, and in a PCA church, is frankly refreshing. I’m sure we all have our war stories on that front. Most of us who are confessional and Presby / Reformed weren’t always that way.

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  82. SSullivan, like Todd says, I don’t think anyone is attacking. My own point was more to point out the difference between a more ecclesiastical piety versus and experiential piety.

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  83. No Baptist is Reformed. They can be Calvinistic, but not Reformed if the meaning of “Reformed” is defined by the confessions and historical norms.

    The Lutherans agree with the Baptists on this point, and against the Presbyterians (to use the formal names). And calling a Baptist a “Calvinist” may be faithful to the modern sense of the word (and inoffensive), but it’s rather strange to hear that Calvin should only be identified with five points that he didn’t particularly emphasize (but he did teach, of course), rather than his entire teaching.

    With that said, if I had the power to change anything, I’d gladly adopt “Particular Baptist” for myself, if it would remove cause for offense from my Reformed brethren; unfortunately, the history of that name goes a little deeper than I can help, even if it doesn’t go as deep as the Presbyterian memory does.

    IMO the most unarguably grievous error of Anabaptists isn’t believer baptism; historically it’s uneducated and unordained preachers. I have to suspect that this error continues to bear fruit to this day — although I suppose I’m just bitter about the insanely anti-mind state of evangelicalism today.

    -Wm

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  84. Side comment: Scott, I can’t get your ReformedCast to load in my podcast reader — it looks like the RSS is malformatted in some way.

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  85. Scott, the difference, I think, between an ecclesiastical piety and an experiential one is that the first is more mediated and the second is much more immediate. God is experienced on the day he has ordained through the means he has ordained in the contemplations and rituals of Word and sacrament. Ecclesiastical piety, then, expresses faith by attending to the routine and ordinary means of grace; it also places an accent on the spiritual benefits of obedience to church authority, and the creedal-confessional-catechetical aspects of nurturing Christian faith and obedience. Experiential piety can be relatively antagonistic toward ecclesiastical piety so described. It places the accent on the more subjective and interior life; it seems more or less marked by quest for the “nude God” and sees the trappings of ecclesiastical as ways to actually retard Christian spirituality instead of embody it.

    Perhaps the best resource I can think at the moment that sets forth the case for ecclesiastical piety over against an experiential one is a book entitled “Recovering Mother Kirk: The Case for Reformed Liturgy.” I can’t recall the author’s name, but I think his initials were borrowed by John Piper to name his “Desiring God” ministry. Another is “With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship.”

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  86. Premise 1: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
    Premise 2: When one is fully glorifying God, one will also be fully enjoying God, and vise-versa.
    Premise 3: One cannot fully enjoy God, without desiring God.
    Conclusion: One cannot glorify God without desiring God.

    I think the above line of thought may be the logic of some in the “Desiring God” camp. Indeed – not only in the “Desiring God” camp – I heard something very similar to Premise 2 from TK at Redeemer NYC last Sunday.

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  87. Is the conclusion above an implicit denial of Calvinism? I’m not one to accuse others of affirming the implications of their views, but “good and necessary consequence” may have something to say about that.

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  88. Joseph, I don’t know about an implicit denial of Calvinism, but I wonder how can one do something “fully” in a semi-eschateological state?

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  89. Zrim, Thanks for the primer above. re; your last comment, I think the over-realized eschatology of Baptists (both non-Reformed and Calvinistic) has more to do with the discussion than most want to think about. The Holiness movement is a case in point. The ordinary, drab, and every-day is the enemy and must be stamped out. Someone’s conversion is even questioned if it wasn’t a “crisis” conversion. So everything is ratcheted up. That doesn’t comport well with paedobaptism either, and I for one think it is related. I haven’t seen any books written on that though, so maybe it’s my paranoia…

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  90. Zrim, to be most charitable toward that formulation (which btw I don’t hold to), I suppose an already-not-yet understanding would have to be inferred. As for the denial of Calvinism, in the most ultimate sense, don’t all things (even those not desiring God) bring glory to God?

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  91. Joseph, it’s clear to me that even mediocre faith glorifies God. What isn’t as obvious to me is how a theology of glory “denies Calvinism.” It might be better to say it opposes a theology of the cross.

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  92. Zrim, I agree with your thought about mediocre faith. Yet, where appropriate already-not-yet qualification is made, I don’t understand your comment about how a theology of glory “opposes a theology of the cross.” Does this go back to the concern that some might say there is no amount of mediocre faith so small that it will not be accompanied by some desire for God himself, for God’s glory, and some desire to enjoy him? And the concern is that such thinking results in the Christian looking inside himself to see if he has the requisite desires? It seems similar pit falls are present in those who look to their faith, rather than to Christ (i.e., faith in their faith instead of faith in Christ). Indeed, RC Sproul in his assurance lessons encourages believes who are struggling with assurance to answer whether or not they love the biblical Jesus even a little bit because, according to Sproul, the NT says that that is impossible unless they had been regenerated. Thus, the inward gaze is not a problem relegated to Calvinistic Baptist types. Yet, what should the encouragement be to those struggling with assurance?

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  93. I agree with your thought about mediocre faith. Yet, where appropriate already-not-yet qualification is made, I don’t understand your comment about how a theology of glory “opposes a theology of the cross.”

    Joseph, it seems to me that speech about doing something “fully” just doesn’t comport with a semi-eschatelogical condition. And simply making an already-not-yet qualification doesn’t help. That just seems like paying a ceremonial theology of the cross toll so one can buzz around at high speeds the freeway of a theology of glory (taking away with one hand what one given with the other, and all that).

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  94. How is desiring God (the conclusion from the 3 premises above, indeed that whole formulation) a denial of Calvinism? Premise one is of course the answer to question one of the shorter catechism.

    This discussion has gone from rightly criticising a tendency in Piper and those like him to focus too much on how we feel and how our emotions relate to God, to pretty much saying that one’s feelings towards God can be totally indifferent because what matters is that one is a member of a congregation in good standing.

    Perhaps the word “fully” shouldn’t be put into the formulation, but without that word what is there to criticise? What is wrong with the premise that glorifying God means enjoying Him? How else do we glorify God, fundamentally? We don’t glorify Him by obeying His commands, because we can’t obey His commands: Jesus glorified God by obeying His commands and living a perfect life.

    You might say we glorfiy God by worshipping Him, but then is it worship if we don’t enjoy it? Are we honestly saying that one can hate going to church, detest joining with fellow Christians and spit out words of worship because they stick in their throat and that’s ok so long as they’re doing it in a church which correctly administers the sacraments and holds to the Reformed confessions? Come on. There’s also the fact that our worship is only acceptable to God because of the Holy Spirit’s pleading on our behalf, so our worship on its own doesn’t even glorify God.

    This is the other extreme that a previous commenter mentioned (to which, bizarrely, someone asked how can one go to the other extreme?). The other extreme being, of course, a “faith” which is purely intellectual, cold and barren.

    Piper’s basic point in Desiring God was to correct a culture in Christianity where people were going to church because it was the done thing. Piper was saying: that’s not good enough. One has to want to go to church for God and God only; one has to enjoy meeting with fellow Christians and worshipping together. One actually has to have love for the Lord and not just an intellectual notion of “God”.

    This love doesn’t have to manifest itself in arm waving, foot tapping, or dancing. (And I’m quite happy to say that dancing shouldn’t be happening in a worship service.) One doesn’t have to tear up and break down during every hymn to show one has fervour for God. I completely agree that the emotional incontinence of Britain and America has drastically warped our worship. But there should still be genuine love and joy for God in our lives and in our worship.

    Agreed: zeal for zeal is not the same as zeal for God. But zeal for God is zeal and zeal is not lifeless or indifferent or cold.

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  95. Alexander, if the biblical analogy is marriage then perhaps it can be used to make the point. Is it marriage when we don’t enjoy it? Is it not love when spouses come home to each other day after day and meet their mutual obligations, regardless of whether it feels good, because that’s just what husbands and wives do?

    The point you seem to want to make about religious experience seems very much to mirror something generally true about our time which assumes that a thing’s final value can and should be measured by subjective, personal enjoyment. But to be quite frank, yes, it is most assuredly worship if we don’t enjoy it. Your suggestion that it isn’t seems very much like saying one’s marriage is dubious if personal enjoyment isn’t constantly pulsating. That’s not at all to suggest something derisive about personal enjoyment. But it is to say that one way to construct feeble notions of marriage is to conjure up expectations that will simply never be met, as well as foster deep personal doubt when those fairly adolescent expectations aren’t met. I thought it was all about nurturing assurance?

    If that doesn’t work, consider the cross. That doesn’t seem to entail a whole lot of personal enjoyment. Yet it was the embodiment of love. In fact, it seems like a love marked more by duty than personal enjoyment. If love marked by duty saved us then why should our response be love marked by personal enjoyment?

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  96. “Is it marriage when we don’t enjoy it?”

    I think that’s a fine rebuttal — yes, I admit it is still marriage.

    But does our life have anything to do with the fruit of the Spirit, or fulfilling the First commandment, if we don’t? If we see nothing of that in our life… and if we know it would be a good thing to do it… It seems to me that the WRONG response is to claim “oh, I don’t need that”; the right thing to do is repent and accept forgiveness for what truly IS a violation of the First Commandment.

    On the other hand, I actually didn’t see “Desiring God” as saying that I was a bad Christian when I wasn’t feeling desire. Rather the opposite — I saw him as saying that the desire was part of the gift of God as part of salvation, that it wasn’t just selfishness… That wanting myself to be fulfilled in God is GOOD. Perhaps I read it in the wrong context, though — I was thinking of Kant and C.S.Lewis while I read it; Kant as the error that Piper was correcting, and Lewis as someone else who’d said something similar.

    -Wm

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  97. Wm, “Desiring God” may exist to say that wanting oneself to be fulfilled in God (whatever that means) is good. But speaking of fruits of the Spirit, it seems to me that something like “OldLife” exists to champion fruits of like faithfulness, long-suffering and self-control (self-expression isn’t a fruit) and the virtues of habit, routine, sobriety and doing all things in a good and decent order. How those have less to do with fulfilling the first commandment is a riddle to me.

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  98. Zrim, that’s a riddle I never posed. The problem isn’t sobriety and order; the problem is the statement that a Christian should consider it adequate to live without loving the Lord with your God with your whole person.
    A Christian isn’t saved by desiring God, but a Christian is saved in order to desire and be fulfilled in God.
    -Wm

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  99. But, Wm, neither has it been stated that “a Christian should consider it adequate to live without loving the Lord with your God with your whole person.” (And contra Alexander, neither has it been suggested that “one can hate going to church, detest joining with fellow Christians and spit out words of worship because they stick in their throat…”)

    What has been suggested is that doing something “fully” or “wholly” doesn’t really comport with either being similtaneously a saint and sinner or having a semi-eschateological condition. Indeed, I’ll see your point that it is inadequate to live without loving God and neighbor with our whole person and raise you the fact that it is sinful. But how any o fthat means semi-eschatelogical creatures are supposed to live as if they are glorified is mystifying.

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  100. But the point of Piper’s Desiring God is precisely that we should want to rejoice in God. The entire point of this discussion has been whether he’s right in saying that. If he’s wrong in saying that (as some here seem to believe), then I must conclude that it is WRONG to say that we should want to rejoice in God.

    “Indeed, I’ll see your point that it is inadequate to live without loving God and neighbor with our whole person and raise you the fact that it is sinful.”

    Actually, I’ve already made that play by saying that one should repent and accept forgiveness for it; but the fact that it’s a sin doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell people to avoid it! Far less should we tell people that they shouldn’t rejoice to receive some partial freedom from it as a gift from God.

    Seriously, the more you post the more confused I am about your objection to Piper’s book.

    I’m not sure how to read your argument from eschatology. Who is claiming to do anything “fully” or “wholly”? Are you simply responding to the text of the Commandment rather than Piper? If so, please consider that all the New Testament authors quote the Law similarly. If you’re responding to Piper, I might point out that nobody that I know of has ever taken his book to mean that one must enjoy perfectly in order to enjoy at all. And anyone who thinks Piper is teaching that we must enjoy God on our own effort has never listened to Piper even ONCE (and has never thought about what it means to enjoy anything).

    -Wm

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  101. Wm, I’m not responding so much to Piper’s book as I am to its champions here. And the call seems to be we should want to rejoice in and desire God. And it seems to hang a lot weight on WLC 1. But the older Reformed conception is that the Christian life isn’t as much about desiring God as it is about obeying God. And it hangs that idea on WLC 98-148 and the entire third section of the Heidelberg Catechism.

    And even when the call is to obey God in the semi-eschatological age it also isn’t to do so perfectly but as those still more sinful than not. After spelling out the law of God, Heidelberg immediately asks in Question 114: “But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?” And it answers, “No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God.” Similarly, WLC 149 asks, “Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?” And it answers, “No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but does daily break them in thought, word, and deed.”

    But when the call is to desire God it seems to have the rather strong implication that it be done with something closer to perfection than approximation, whatever the formal qualifications of its proponents to the contrary. As it is, while desiring God may be Piper’s point, the overwhelming implication of those formulations which articulate what it means to have a Reformed piety, if they mean much to those who confess them, is that obedience to God is the point.

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  102. Zrim, first, let me point out that WLC 99 requires the full performance of every duty; and WLC 104 includes a specific duty to desire God. Therefore the WLC includes a duty to desire God, even if we skip over WLC 1, which you tell me to ignore because it’s merely about the chief purpose for which God created man (sarcasm intended).

    Second, nobody here is Wesleyan/”Holiness”; we’re all at least reformed Baptists, and most of us are Reformed. Nobody’s said that perfection is a requisite part of desire for God except yourself; everyone else denies having done so, as you yourself admit but reject for no obvious reason. There’s nothing you’ve cited about anyone, whether a participant in this discussion or Piper, that indicates even indirectly that perfection is what they meant.

    Finally, when we instruct people to desire God, we are following Christ’s command in Matt 5:19. Even if desiring God were a minor detail of the Law (and I believe it’s the center of all righteousness, per Heb 11:6) our instruction to others to fulfill it would still be praised by Christ, so long as we didn’t instruct anyone to disobey another part of the Law.

    None of this is to dismiss the centrality of grace: one of the things we haven’t discussed is where this desire for God comes from. Piper makes no bones about the fact that our desire for God is a gift from God.

    -Wm

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  103. Wm, I appreciate sarcasm, but I’m not saying to ignore WLC 1. And it seems to me WLC 99 is pedagogical and must be read in conjunction with 149 in order to avoid perfectionism. So when you cite 99 to make your point without tempering it with something like 149 it does seem to suggest latent perfectionism.

    You say that the center of all righteousness is to desire God. But how can an inward work be the implication of a covenant of works which was about outward performance? I’m not saying that desiring God is negligible. It’s clearly an aspect of Christian obedience. I understand that inward affection and outward obedience are necessarily tied. But the push to desire God seems like an over-emphasis on inward affection, perhaps an over-corrective on a real or perceived over-emphasis on outward obedience. And as high a view of grace as I have, I’m skeptical about how invoking the centrality of grace helps any sort of over-emphasis be it on inward affection or outward obedience.

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  104. Zrim, I apologize for presuming on your appreciation; thank you for taking my inappropriately snide comment in a charitable way.

    Regarding perfection: There’s a difference between perfectionism and perfection. We are commanded to be perfect; perfectionism is a sin, since it puts us in the place of God and shows ingratitude for what he’s actually done in our life. This doesn’t imply that we should try to be perfect; it means that we should depend on God, who alone is perfect. Because we depend on God, because we have faith, we will “work out our salvation”, with the working and even the willing being produced not by our efforts, but by God working within us. (I’m sure you know all that; I’m showing how it connects with what I’m saying.)

    Regarding perfectionism: again, please cite your evidence that I or anyone else here (or Piper) has said anything that smacks of perfectionism. Don’t make unevidenced charges of serious sins. The only evidence you’ve hinted at is our statements that desire is good; that alone isn’t evidence of perfectionism, any more than your desire for the Church to teach correct doctrine is perfectionism (it isn’t).

    In case you’re wondering, I affirm WLC 149, but I deny that it can be read to weaken anything else in WLC — in particular, it does not weaken the demands of WLC 99. The Law is PERFECT, and WLC 149 should make us fall begging for mercy and forgiveness at the feet of Christ Who fulfilled it perfectly and is our Mercy Seat before the Father. (Caveat: I’m citing WLC rather than Scripture, but we agree that WLC accurately reflects Scripture.)

    I’m heartened to see your clear emphasis on both inward affection and outward obedience at the end of your message. But in your sentence you indicate that inward and outward are in conflict; I deny this. Rather, without grace (through faith alone) our every effort at inward or outward godliness is only sin (as WLC 149 indicates). In contrast, with faith (by grace alone) every inward or outward obedience is holy and pleasing to God, whether balanced or imbalanced. We should demand no perfectionistic balance before yielding to what we know to be good — and here we see how demands of balance are perfectionism in its true form, and such perfectionism leads one to a denial of the Law rather than an affirmation of grace.

    At the same time, I admit and concur that teaching can be in error by falsely disparaging part of the Law. So I recognize that historically many teachers have actually denied that outward obedience is fully required by the Law, and I repudiate them, and I intend to repudiate any such teaching you bring forward, and will repudiate any teacher you can show regularly teaches such. I also admit that many mystics pretend to be teaching inward holiness, and I hope you recognize that they are actually not teaching any kind of inward conformity with the Law at all (any more than demanding that everyone speaks in tongues at church is teaching outwards conformity with the Law).

    Contrary to your claim, the covenant of the Law is not about outward performance; read WLC 99. If you are not convinced, read the 10 commandments, and note that not only does the Law demand loving God with your WHOLE being, inward and outward; if that doesn’t persuade you, note that the Law explicitly forbids both theft AND, distinctly, coveting. Christ, when reading the forbidding of adultery, notes that it also forbid lusting; he wasn’t giving a new commandment, but simply reading the old commandment in context.

    I think it’s fair (and gracious, in this context) of you to say that emphasizing desire is about correction of overemphasis; but I have to point out that at least for Piper and myself, the overemphasis being corrected is not one of outward obedience (I don’t recall EVER seeing that “corrected” against), but rather one of the half-Kantian morality that says no good deed is truly good if it gives a reward to the doer.

    -Wm

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  105. I affirm WLC 149, but I deny that it can be read to weaken anything else in WLC — in particular, it does not weaken the demands of WLC 99. The Law is PERFECT, and WLC 149 should make us fall begging for mercy and forgiveness at the feet of Christ Who fulfilled it perfectly and is our Mercy Seat before the Father. (Caveat: I’m citing WLC rather than Scripture, but we agree that WLC accurately reflects Scripture.)

    Wm, I’m not saying 149 weakens the demands of 99, or put another way, that the rigorous demands for perfection are in any way diminished. I’m saying it tamps down any human impulse to think even justified-but-not-yet-glorified sinners can meet those demands.

    I’m not clear on how you get that “inward and outward are in conflict” from my saying “I understand that inward affection and outward obedience are necessarily tied.” In light of that, you’re right to suggest that it is insufficient to say that “the covenant of works was about outward performance” (me). By the same token, though, it is just as insufficient to say that “the covenant of the Law is not about outward performance” (you). It is indeed about both. But the worry that some of us have, I think, is that the Piperian push to desire God is a way to exalt inward affection the way others exalt outward obedience. So even if Piperians are be trying to correct “a half-Kantian morality that says no good deed is truly good if it gives a reward to the doer” instead of an exaltation of outward obedience it still has the effect of exalting inward affection. This instead of nurturing humiliation, the kind WLC 149 and HC 114 seem to be after. It reminds me of how some try to correct ubiquitous anti- or a-sabbatarianism and end up pushing a legalist or hyper sabbatarianism. To both I want to say, I get it, inward affection and Sabbath keeping are obedience, but while the Christian life is all about obedience it is an obedience born of grace and necessarily basted in gratitude. In other words, love and duty are not mutually exclusive. And so I don’t think it’s too off the mark to ask those who seek both a relentless desire to relax a bit.

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  106. Zrim, your question regarding “how [I] get that” is answered in the quote in your same sentence — it’s from when you claimed that “the covenant of works was about outward performance” in order to argue against Piper. I’m surprised you can quote it and merely admit it is “insufficient”. It’s entirely wrong in its explicit statement, and used in an argument that hinges on its exact point of error.

    Piper is no more teaching against humiliation than you were when you spoke in favor of the Three Marks. It’s a non sequitur, a diversion, to claim that he MIGHT be — unless you can point to where he IS. He doesn’t teach “against humiliation”; he teaches humiliation as the grounds of desiring God, since God is great and we are not.

    As a side comment, I finally found (I think) where you got the idea that Piper is teaching something about a perfect desire — it’s from one of the comments on this thread, where someone posting against Piper made a brief three-point summary of Piper’s teachings, and used the words “fully desire”. That’s simply not from Piper.

    -Wm

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  107. Wm, the covenantal language of “Do this and live” seems to suggest outward performance, so I’m not sure how it is entirely wrong to say that the covenant of works was about outward performance. I’m admitting it is insufficient to suggest it was only about outward performance, but to say it’s entirely wrong seems pretty ambitious. And I’m not saying that Piper is teaching against humiliation. I’m saying the desire dogma doesn’t seem to do much for humiliation.

    Even so, I think what makes desiring so attractive to evangelicals is that it appeals to their default setting of unmediated and direct relating to God, as in personal relationship with God. The older Reformed category is a mediated one, as in faith in Christ. I know, Piper isn’t teaching Gnosticism, but the emphasis on relationship gets in the way of that category which was the material principle of the Reformation, namely faith. And that is what I think makes it so unattractive to confessionalists.

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  108. Zrim: trying to be a bit too clever. It may be marriage even when we don’t enjoy it at certain points; when the daily routine takes its toll. It’s still marriage because the love between the husband and wife is bigger than the daily routine and it’s bigger than any “bad patch” they may be going through. It is not marriage if it’s just going through the motions, and that is the distinction we’re talking about here.

    Piper says that going through the motions isn’t acceptable. And people can believe they are saved because they’ve been going to church all their life but not be regenerated and thus are only going through the motions. The problem with Piper, and what the main point of criticism has been in this discussion, is that he doesn’t seem to allow for the bad patches; for the periods where it’s a grind and one is having to force oneself to go to church. Of course there are times when its hard, when one doesn’t wake up on a Sunday just itching to get to church. That’s ok because, if that person is regenerated, they have genuine love for God and genuine joy in God, whether that joy is exuberant or peaceful.

    There is nothing wrong with a calm, peaceful, reserved joy, just as there is nothing wrong with a marriage which goes through hard times and which isn’t a whirlwind romance every day; but there still has to be real, genuine joy just as there has to be love in a marriage.

    Also you seem to have a very simplistic, shallow understanding of the word enjoyment, similar to that of those who advocate modern worship. Enjoyment doesn’t have to mean waving your arms around: that’s the whole point. Joy is something that touches deep into one’s heart. That’s why joy can be exuberant or it can be calm, because it’s about how the heart responds.

    You mention the Cross not being enjoyable, well duh! But the reason God sacrificed His Son, and the reason Christ submitted Himself, is because of the love of God for His people, and the love of Christ for His people and His Father. That love transcended the moment on the Cross. So it wasn’t fun, but absolutely Christ and His Father derived joy from the work that Christ accomplished on the Cross.

    And if your point is that we’re talking about the use of the words “fully” or “wholly” then you’ve perpetuated an argument for nothing. But that’s not your point. It’s disingenuous to say that your complaint is merely with the use of these words.

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  109. Alexander, comparing your two posts I guess I’m not sure what it is you mean to say. You seem at once critical and sympathetic to Piper’s heart religion. But whenever I encounter it, it seems long on considering staid piety a problem and exuberant piety a solution. By and large, it just never resonates with my own experience in faith, even though there are plenty of agreeable points made along the way.

    One thing you seem consistent in saying is that going through the proverbial motions is anathema. I may be shallow in my understanding of the word “enjoyment,” but I also have to confess that I don’t well understand this bias against motions. Unless it’s the sort that thinks it can manufacture sponteity (I once taught at a Pentecostal school where they bribed the kids with Tootsie Rolls if they’d just raise their hands in worship. They’d be the first to recoil at the idea of bribing a kid to learn his catechism.) Most of life is motion, and sometimes motion gets the heart going. Sometimes motions are all a person has. Maybe you can cut motion a break?

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  110. I merely wish to make the point that whilst there is a lot to be worried about in the subjectivism that Piper leads to, there is truth to his central thesis that true faith is more than going through the motions. The motions of faith are essential, I agree. The elements of worship nourish us and support our faith when we doubt. But these elements or motions only have meaning if participated in with faith: this is why we reject the sacramentalism of the Mass and contend that communion only avails those who approach the table in faith. The same applies to all the elements of worship: unless we have faith they do not benefit us. So we cannot say that participation in worship is enough. It may be enough on this side of Heaven as far as we are concerned in terms of accepting persons as members of a congregation, but it’s not enough for salvation.

    So Piper asks: what does the faith necessary to make these elements efficacious look like? I believe he looks too much inside and advocates a dangerous subjectivism, but we should be able to agree that joy and desire for God- however these may express themselves- are a natural result of faith. I’m not saying the degree of these is the test of whether our faith is sincere, but I believe they should at least be present.

    And some degree of introspection is required: we are, after all, meant to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling are we not?

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  111. Alexander, it’s clear to me that motions are meaningless without faith. What isn’t so clear is how Piper has a way of making this especially obvious. In fact, the older Reformed seem much clearer about it. But it seems to me that one of the implications of saying “participation in worship is not enough” is not that faith is key to truly animating worship but desire. Or put another way, desire becomes the category instead of faith, which I think is actually a significant shift. Another implication seems to be that worship—the kind God calls us to one day in six in Word and sacrament—is malleable, such that it can be done on other days and in other ways, or put another neo-Calvinist-y way, “All of life as worship”:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/all-of-life-as-worship

    Again, I’ve nothing against joy and desire, but I’d rather follow the older categories and emphasize that intead of desire faith results in justification.

    Re introspection, I think it depends on what one means by it. Certainly American religionists would do very well to seriously reflect and contemplate faith much more than they do. But to dive into themselves and gaze at their spiritual navels seems like a different matter altogether. And, to be honest, I see Piperism nurturing way more of the latter than the former.

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  112. Alexander, I agree that Piper’s central thesis is biblical. The psalmist pants for God. Scripture describes the believer in relationship with God as having an emotional component and deeply satisfying experience. Scripture talks about love for God, and love is related in Scripture to obedience. That love has an affective compoent. Piper harps on the subjective out of proportion to the greater weight of Scripture, but we dare not write it out or we would need to take sizzars to the Bible.

    Zrim, we Reformed over-react against even a drop of the subjective. Faith results in justification, but it also results in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, faith itself, traditionally, is defined to have three elements, one of which has historically been understood to have an affective element. This is not “introspective navel gazing,” it is part of what faith is and does, according to Scripture. I fully understand your reacting against the subjective in a culture that is awash in feelings and a church that takes its cue from the culture. But it won’t do to write out the subjective and castigate it as “navel gazing” in a pejoritive way. Whenever we Reformed are in full over-reaction mode, the charge of navel gazing cannot be far away.

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  113. SSullivan, I am taking a skeptical view of how the subjective is understood in some quarters, but I’m not sure a fair reading of anything I’ve said would be that I’m “writing out the subjective.” In fact, I’m as bothered by the abiding intellectualism in our Reformed and Presbyterian circles as I am by the experientialism.

    It’s interesting. When Reformed confessionalists demur on the high estimation of philosophy the Reformed logicians suspect an abiding anti-intellectualism. When they demur on the high estimation of affectation (i.e. experientalism or emotionalism) the Reformed experimentalists suspect an abiding Sandemanianism. But we like logic and experience, we just want them in their rightful place.

    As an example, I like to tell my pietsists I don’t have a personal testimony, I have a personal history (and I’d be more than glad to discuss it). The difference seems to be between interpreting what it means to be human spiritually or creationally.

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  114. Zrim, I believe we are in agreement. We should just be careful about phrases: agreed that saying participation is not enough can lead to dangerous conclusions. However so can saying participation is enough. I have agreed with most everything you have said. I only interjected because I was concerned about where I perceived the logic could lead.

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  115. Wm, the covenantal language of “Do this and live” seems to suggest outward performance, so I’m not sure how it is entirely wrong to say that the covenant of works was about outward performance.

    “Do not covet” does not suggest outward performance — if it had, “do not steal” would be redundant. It’s therefore entirely wrong to say that it’s ONLY about outwards performance.

    I’m admitting it is insufficient to suggest it was only about outward performance, but to say it’s entirely wrong seems pretty ambitious.

    I’m not sure what place that distinction serves in this discussion.

    And I’m not saying that Piper is teaching against humiliation. I’m saying the desire dogma doesn’t seem to do much for humiliation.

    Dogma? Do you mean “that which may not be denied on pain of anathema”? I’m pretty sure nobody’s taught one of THOSE; certainly nobody whose name has been mentioned in this discussion. But we’re talking about the Desiring God doctrine, which is the teaching that God is one whom we should desire above all else, and that it is right and proper to seek to do good in hopes of being rewarded by Him. This utterly contradicts the Kantian argument that unless one acts without hope of reward one is NOT doing good; it also contradicts that argument because it makes the source of goodness NOT the deed, but rather the goal of the deed. I could say, in a nutshell, that if your goal was God, your deed is good (but that nutshell is dangerous, because humans lie to themselves about what their goal is, and deceive themselves about what God has forbidden.

    Even so, I think what makes desiring so attractive to evangelicals is that it appeals to their default setting of unmediated and direct relating to God, as in personal relationship with God.

    The rest of your post (part of which I quote above) shows that you have no idea what Piper’s “Desiring God” teaching actually is. It’s not about building a gooey feeling in your heart to God, and it’s not about accepting some unmediated heart-to-heart with God. That teaching isn’t present in Desiring God that I recall; and it’s certainly absent from the core of the teaching.

    (I’ll add that I agree entirely with your discussion of mediated versus unmediated. I like how you say it, too.)

    -Wm

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  116. Zrim posted this: “http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/all-of-life-as-worship”

    This makes me say: you’re right, this message is annoying. At every point in it I find myself wanting to interrupt the sermon to speak out against the obvious Evangelical misunderstanding. Piper cannot be ignorant of how Evangelicals will read this message, even though the message itself contains nothing objectionable. He must know that they’ll read “open to God’s will” as meaning “watching for some subtle cue that will let us not have to make decisions or think on our own”.

    And he says nothing to contradict that.

    How annoying.

    -Wm

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  117. So, Wm, if the all-of-life stuff has that unmediated tinge to it that reels in the typical evangelical then how can I be so off the reservation to suggest that the desiring God doctrine might have more of the same?

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  118. My point was to admit that I agree with you (because of the incontrovertible evidence presented) and offer evidence for how (i.e. in what manner) you’re right.

    Piper’s sermon there is irresponsible in failing to correct the very serious and systemic error of Evangelical mysticism. Is he a mysticist, though? I actually haven’t listened to his sermons in a long time (so I don’t recall), but I skimmed Desiring God more recently. In my skimming I saw that he doesn’t appear to be a mystic; he actually seems to contradict it (something this sermon does NOT do, and really should).

    “Desiring God” is not about emotions. It IS about will, as understood by Edwards (with whom you’d disagree on some points — but do you disagree on his anthropology with respect to personal will?). It’s not about a direct contact with God in this age (although there certainly is some implication of being able to know God by experience in the next). I do think you’d disagree with Piper’s lack of mention of the sacraments, and I respect that — but I would think your answer would be that someone “desiring God” would therefore desire God’s sacraments, not that anyone should simply experience no desire.

    Have you read any part of Desiring God? I would think the first chapter would be enough; perhaps the first two to connect the dots. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/desiring-god (that’s it online).

    -Wm

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  119. Dr. Hart,

    Here is a link of John Piper interviewing Rick Warren on Doctrine http://bit.ly/jsZBxf
    It first appeared a week or so ago for a few days and then was jerked down now only to reappear again here and on the DGM site today. The link above is from Warren’s site you can download the video, the mp3 or a pdf transcript [which I did this time] , The DGM version only allows you view it through their flash player.

    Just finished reading your book “Seeking a Better Country”, one incredible read… I plan to review it soon on my blog. I ordered “Between the Times” from the OPC on Wednesday, I’m looking forward to reading that book.

    God Bless
    Joe

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  120. It’s very likely that Warren has read Edwards; he’s well known to be a rapid reader, and he takes on focused reading projects from a single author at a time. I don’t get the impression that he retains a lot of information, but perhaps there are other reasons for his sermonic errors. As we all have experienced, it’s easy to miss important things because we approach reading from the wrong perspective.

    I remember one quote wherein he claimed to be a “Kuyper-Calvinist.” Clearly, he was more interested in making a pun than in identifying a precise theological position (he was riffing off the term “hypercalvinist”), but he was making that claim based on his own reading of Kuyper.

    -Wm

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  121. Dr. Hart,

    I believe he has read Edwards, he also said he read the works of Karl Barth in 2010 too. The problem is no matter how orthodox he claims to be. It doesn’t reflect in his sermons or the ministry of Saddleback Church or the Purpose Driven Network.

    I believe what we are seeing here [with Warren], Warren is throwing out a lot of trial balloons trying to find his next multimillion dollar gimmick.

    He’s using Piper here for this “Orthodox” makeover so he can perhaps tap into the YYR crowd.
    He has renamed and hipped up his own conferences by featuring the Next Gen of these Purpose/Seeker Driven folks. [ie. Perry Noble, Steven Furtick, etc]
    He has embraced Emerging/Missional folks [which he helped start through the Leadership Network].
    He has partnered with the cultist Dr. Oz with his Daniel’s Plan.
    He unveiled his “Decade of Destiny” that was Prosperity Gospel lite at the end of 2010.

    Warren has always been Clinton/chameleon like, he knows his audience and can adapt, whether be a pseudo-calvinist [here], or with Larry King, or Muslims.

    I’ve never really gotten Piper, even when I was a Southern Baptist. I always thought of him as more charismatic than Baptist.

    I need to finish watching this before I can comment on the interview though. I watched the first twenty minutes or so, when it was first posted.

    A friend told me that it was back up again, I thought I’d let you know about it, in case it disappeared again.

    Apparently, there was a dispute between Warren’s folks and DGM folks on who was going to post this interview. DGM folks cried foul when Warren’s folks beat them to cyberspace. After all it was John Piper interviewing Rick Warren. Now both “ministries” have posted this interview. I guess peace in the Middle East is next.

    God Bless
    Joe

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  122. I listened to the interview and Piper has only one problem with Warren doctrinally which they were able to clear up without any problem. What’s up with that? Piper had 20 pages of notes from Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life and could only find one minor problem with it. Where is Piper coming from? They had no discussion about the sacraments at all. They did not talk about the contemporary worship service and if the worship service follows the biblical patterns of worship. It was mostly about Piper praising Warren for how othodox he was doctrinally. They did go through some elements of justification and sanctification but Piper made Warren look like they agreed on all points regarding these doctrines. It was a very elementary discussion which avoided any controversy like a plague. Warren came out looking like a TULIP Calvinists who did not like to call himself a Calvinist because of the negative implications implied in the name Calvinist. Warren wished that more Calvinists were as gracious as they were committed to the doctrines of grace like he was. They ended their discussion with reveling in how they had avoided sexual temptation over the years and how faithful they had been in regards to how they hadled the amounts of money that had flowed into their ministries. It turned out to be a difinite mutual admiration society. I was dissapointed, I thought Piper would try to press more controversy into the discussion but that seemed to be the last thing he wanted to do. I don’t get it.

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  123. I wonder how a David Wells, D.G. Hart or Scott Clark would have structured the interview and what type of questions they would asked Rick Warren. I think the discussion would have gone a lot differently.

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  124. Yeazel, thank you for the summary. Sounds like Piper didn’t listen to what Warren said in his address at Desiring God last time.

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  125. I think Joe is right about Piper in stating he is more charismatic than anything else. That is why he is drawn to Edwards. His emphasis is on the extraordinary rather than the ordinary means of grace. Warren leans in that direction to, from what I could gather. They both seem desirous of building a front against the confessionalists who are the most vocal against them. This is a “being open to the moving of the Holy Spirit” thing more than anything else. They do not want to limit the working of the Holy Spirit to Word and Sacrament. I bet that is the main issue here.

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  126. John – Good Summary of the interview

    Wm – True, all you needed to know about Warren was in that message @ the DGNC. That message was full of Bible verse twisting and the isogeting of texts, it had pelagian overtones, he used paraphrase versions of the Bible [as his norm], and yet another reduction of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. Instead of repeating what I already written before about this message, those that are interested can read it here. http://wp.me/pKzBo-cl

    A couple of inconsistencies I want to point out from this interview

    PDL came out in 2002 & Warren read the Works of Edwards in 2009 [which Piper states in the “Why I invited them” promo in 2010], there couldn’t be much of a chance of an Edwardian influence in the PDL and Glory of God statements in PDL, unless Saddleback has the use of Doc Brown’s DeLorean. I know he was just following Piper’s lead here, but still, kinda of some revisionist history here?

    Warren said here, that he was preaching in High School @ the age of 16 and that he preached over 100 revivals by the age of 20.

    Previously Warren has told the story many times, that he received the call to preach and the call to go into ministry at the age of 19, that he skipped his college classes and drove over 350 miles to hear Dr. W.A. Criswell preach, he went up after the message was over to shake the hand of Dr. Criswell and Dr. Criswell prayed over him. Warren made it sound like Dr. Criswell passed some kind of mantle to him that day.

    Truth – I was member of FBC-Dallas for 12 years, during the end of Dr. Criswell’s ministry there. Dr. Criswell did this regularly [praying over young men called to ministry]. Dr. Criswell started The Criswell College because he had a soft spot in his heart for young men going into ministry. While he was alive and could get donations for the College, the tuition there was only slightly higher than the Dallas Community College system then. I know I went there a couple of semesters in the early 1990’s.

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  127. The troubling thing here, it is true that Piper has a huge influence on the YRR crowd, but he may have a larger influence on other Baptists and the Bible Church folks. Folks that use these conferences, these networks and these celebrity preachers for their primary sources for spiritual guidance and spiritual growth.

    Piper has used his conferences to anoint and reboot the image of folks.

    Piper has transformed Mark Driscoll from the Emergent Church’s cussing Pastor to one of the leaders of the YRR crowd and the Emerging/Missional movement.

    Piper transformed Matt Chandler from a former student minister at his first pastorate [who wasn’t even known in SBC circles in Dallas before Piper] to a Multi-site Rancher, with 3 campuses [two of them megachurch size]

    Piper has pronounced that Doug Wilson’s theology is fine and the rest of the Reformed world is wrong.

    Now this makeover for Rick Warren.

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  128. Joe, thank you — that was the most complete written review of Warren’s message that I’ve seen; and to top it off, you linked to Rosebrough’s MP3 review, which is probably the best possible review for those with enough free time (since you get to hear Warren’s full speech in context). I’m going to point to your review to anyone who wants to know why Warren is a problem.

    I don’t agree with your reasons for antipathy to Piper (although I also don’t care for his sermons). Federal Vision is a problem within Presbyterianism; if it’s a heresy as a whole, it hasn’t been shown so, and anyhow Lutheranism has more extreme versions of just about every FV doctrine, and Lutheranism is orthodox. Based on my hearing FV sermons, there certainly are heretics in their camp; but Douglas Wilson doesn’t seem to be one of them. If he is, he’s incredibly subtle, to the point that I don’t blame anyone for associating with him.

    Warren is NOT subtle, though; and it’s only gotten worse.

    (As a side point, can you point me to a discernment site or report that attempts to explain why FV is a heresy, as opposed to not being Presbyterian? I’m not a Presbyterian myself, so the latter is rather beside the point for me.)

    -Wm

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  129. Wm,

    Unfortunately, best source on Wilson and FV I knew of died when Dr. R. Scott Clark closed & deleted the Heidel Blog. Dr. Clark wrote thoroughly on this and posted many resources on the FV issues. I’ll look though… Though it hardly a just a Presbyterian thing, Most of the NAPARC denominations and the major Reformed Seminaries have written statements against the FV and many have reissued statements on Justification because of the FV and the New Perspectives on Paul.

    Dr. Hart be able to point you to something.

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  130. Joe, thank you very much. I’m watching the RSS for this comment, so this would be a fine way to let me see your recommendation.

    -Wm

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  131. wm t., Warren claims to have read all 22 volumes of the Yale works. I don’t mean to challenge his veracity, but I know Ph.D.’s in American religious history (namely, me about whom it always is) have cracked maybe three of those volumes. This seems far fetched. And would you really wear a Hawaian shirt in the pulpit after reading Edwards?

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  132. Joe, the best critiques and exchanges over FV that I have seen was the on-line discussion at Deregnochristi.org several years ago. Wilson and Leithart posted but so did critics. I don’t know if the site is still going or if the exchanges were archived. But you might want to check. Otherwise, the best critique of FV soteriology is the OPC report on justification, along with Guy Waters.

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  133. Darryl,

    I am assuming that second post was directed at me instead of Joe. Yes, it was like watching Oprah interviewing Katie- it was sickingly sweet and overly sentimental and flowery. Act like the male gender at least. Piper was brooding like the Holy Spirit was whispering sweet nothings into his ears. It was quite comical. There must have been something in it for both of them. I still am miffed and puzzled by it all.

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  134. He claimed to read all 22 volumes? That IS a big claim. I recall that a lot of Edward’s works were extracted from things like napkins, since he spent a lot of time writing when he had no money; I would think that such reading would be a doctoral project in itself. Like claiming to have produced a historically credible chronological ordering of the Koran. 🙂 Okay, maybe not that bad. I was impressed with myself for having read through every word of Edward’s exhaustive logic in “Freedom of the Will”, and I went in agreeing with his basic point. I can’t imagine going through that kind of thing with more than a few volumes.

    You’re right; I don’t buy his claim either. And now I have to wonder, more than ever, if there was NOTHING more to Warren’s claim to be “Kuyper-Calvinist” than an educated pun.

    -Wm

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  135. Wm,

    Here are some resources on FV from Dr. Clark’s WS-Cal page and OPC

    Kinda of an intro on the FV http://clark.wscal.edu/tuning.php

    List of many resources on FV here http://clark.wscal.edu/fvnpp.php [though are broken links that leads to heidel blog and pages on WS-Cal’s old site here]

    Mike Horton on the NPP and FV http://www.spindleworks.com/library/CR/horton.htm
    I sure Dr. Horton was written more for and in Modern Reformation, the archives links only work for subscribers.

    THE NINE POINTS OF SYNOD SCHEREVILLE [URCNA on the FV] http://clark.wscal.edu/fvnpp.php

    The OPC’s Report on Justification http://opc.org/GA/JustificationBook.pdf

    Yes, [thanks Dr. Hart] Guy Waters has written some very useful things on the FV & NPP

    God Bless
    Joe

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  136. Psalm 73:25
    Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

    Psalm 63:1
    [ My Soul Thirsts for You ] [ A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. ] O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

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