Did He Read Religious Affections Too Many Times?

Tim Challies explains the come-to-Calvinism moment for the young and restless when John Piper spoke:

So why and how has Piper caught the attention of this generation? I think we can sum it up in one word: authenticity. The college students attending those early Passion conferences, they’re a mix. They’re the last of Gen-X and the very first of the Millenials. A generation that, above all, values authenticity. This rising generation wants genuine, authentic faith and they’ve grown weary of preachers who water down their messages in a desperate attempt to be relevant. In Piper, that rising generation has found their authentic preacher. They’ve found someone who really, really believes what he’s saying and who is not going to pander to them in any way at all. And they honor that. They can’t listen to Piper and be unaffected by his passion. From his unglamorous clothes to his sweeping hand gestures to his dramatic facial expressions, to his booming voice. Students know that Piper truly sees the glory of God and just can’t help but declare it. Even if they don’t know what they believe, they sure know what he believes. And it is contagious. His authenticity is the bridge to his theology. Students are first drawn by his authentic passion, then they’re captivated by his view of God. So when Piper takes the stage toward the end of that rainy day at the conference, hundreds of young people have made sure to shuffle back from the porta potties to their seats. They’re now leaning forward expectantly. They’re ready to hear his passion again. But even they could not have expected what happened next.

Has he not ever seen actors play roles authentically? Since when is passion a mark of being genuine? And why would anyone think they know — I mean epistemologically know — what John Piper believes because of his clothes or body movements? As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, men look on the outside of a person but God sees the heart. That implies that only God knows for sure whether John Piper is authentic; for those in his church who hold him accountable and his family, they may have a better read on the sincerity of the pastor. But in a big crowd you think you know the state of the speaker? I bet even Jonathan Edwards would caution against that kind of gullibility.

Challies may not know it but he is doing exactly what Philadelphia fans did with Mike Schmidt. The all-star third baseman was not emotional. He was stoical. And the fans thought he didn’t care, that Schmidt was simply going through the motions. When Pete Rose arrived and played in his gung ho way, the fans jumped on the emotional bandwagon. Schmidt was the high strung thoroughbred to Rose’s siss-boom-bah hustle.

And no one knows whether Rose cared about winning more than Schmidt. Not even their hair dressers.


15 thoughts on “Did He Read Religious Affections Too Many Times?

  1. Very good post. Passion is not a good indicator of sincerity, and sincerity is not a good indicator of truth. I’m not saying Piper isn’t sincere – I certainly believe he is. But passion shouldn’t be the marker for authenticity.


  2. Post:
    -They’ve found someone who really, really believes what he’s saying and who is not going to pander to them in any way at all.
    -Students know that Piper truly sees the glory of God and just can’t help but declare it.
    -Even if they don’t know what they believe, they sure know what he believes.

    Think his long record and testimony is pretty consistent, thus the above statements.

    Anyway, here is THE ‘passionate’ one, thankfully for us. Imagine if he was ho-hum, whatever, about us or anything.
    And there is only one reasonable response.

    -Isaiah 9:6For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The ZEAL of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.
    -John 2: 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.”


  3. ‘Course, Schmidt’s in the hall of fame; Rose never will be. There’s always another side to everything, emotional fans or not. Heibels, anyone?


  4. Piper was a very important on-ramp to the Reformed/Presbyterian highway, inspired a lot of disaffected Evangelicals and Baptists to seek something else.

    If you want to stay on the on-ramp for the rest of your life there’s nothing wrong with that…

    Rose will get in posthumously.


  5. Millennials value authenticity? Ha. That’s a huge joke. They spend all their time on social media crafting false “perfect” versions of themselves. How is that in any way authentic?

    And as for Piper, as Maddie Ross said in True Grit, “Who knows what’s in a man’s heart?” Well, besides wickedness.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m ‘out of my league’ talking about baseball/diamond-analogies……..but, I can say that initially I was drawn to some of Piper’s writings, but then became troubled by his theological positions. The ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ ideas, and his embrace of Charismatic Theology, Pietism, hearing an internal voice – not to mention Jonathan Edwards meditations! ‘Shivers’!

    All of the above is like setting collected lint from the dryer on fire – it will burn quickly with a flash,then it is gone – up in smoke. That describes my experience with charismatic theology. And that is where the New Calvinists are, the Pietists, those who assume the Gospel, and emphasize Sanctification like the Gospel Reformation Network and Embers To A Flame, who have even good folk caught in the middle. All of these deny that they are teaching merit-based salvation, but what happens to the sheep (and the shepherd) when so so very much is said about achieving victory over sin and constantly thinking about, striving, striving, and more striving, with your accountability partner (and your small group) to earn rewards in heaven, because sanctification is 100% God’s Work and 100% Your Work?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Piper is attractive because. — like Trump — a part of him just does not seem to care what people think. And he helps people connect with great names form the past. But along with Crossway he also represents the huge advance of ‘packaging’ in Evangelicalism, whether it be to cultivate appearances of relevancy, hipness, or normalcy. In ways both good and more human he actually reminds me of Francis Schaeffer. Either of which I prefer to the overly-woke voices that TGC and CT have become.


  8. Kentos, I’m not sure that’s the right name of the highway. It looks more Dominionist than Reformed. The New Calvinists love divine sovereignty. But if you look at Collin Hansen’s book, they are ambivalent about at least 2 of the 5 points (and we haven’t even gotten to sacraments, worship, and polity).


  9. Curt, “When we portray groups as a monolith in order to discredit them, guess what that is called?”

    The Left.

    Workers and Capitalists. No monolith there.


  10. Good piece Dr. Hart. Bryan nails it. > It is total BS that mellinnials are “authentic”. This is all their own self aggrandized / self important crap hand crafted by mellinnials themselves. No generation that addicted (heck they created it- modern social media) to the narcissism that is modern social media should be allowed to get away with such gross false self assertions.

    As far as Piper goes- He is the face and the theology of the majority of the so call “Reformed resurgence”. Dr. Hart is correct, it’s all more Dominionist than it is Reformed. No surprise at all that a guy like Tim Challies adores Piper. Not that me of all people hits on every exact “reformed” ideal, but when it comes to Piper types, NO thank you! I would have always taken Dr. Mike Horton or Dr. RC Sproul any day of the week over Piper. Though I’m not a huge Keller fan, heck I would take him over Piper anytime as well.


  11. D.G.
    Are you having trouble distinguishing verbs and nouns? Or is your struggle with projection?

    It is called authoritarianism and no group, whether the group is conservative, liberal, or leftist, has a monopoly on authoritarianism.


  12. I think this blog post prooves Edwards’ point in Religious Affections. Perhaps this blog should be retitled “Grumblings of a Disaffected Old Light.”


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