Clarification Of My Last Post About John Piper From the Resurgence Conference

The last post I wrote with my mind being in a daze and spilling over with ideas and thoughts. Not to mention spotty internet access and a tight schedule.

I had mentioned that what often irritates people about Piper is his sureness. That when he preaches or teaches he does so with confidence and boldness. This bugs people and even if they cannot quite put their finger on it, it seems to emotively not sit well with them. This has left many to label him “extreme” “dogmatic” or other words like that. I think this speaks to a larger issue we currently face in our churches, and even more so in our seminaries.

We have made the grave mistake to think that confidence must automatically be arrogance, and that uncertainty is humility. The last one I have seen over and over again in my time in seminary. Rarely does someone speak confidently about their beliefs, this can even include the professors. Usually they will couch their convictions in the form of a question or use some luke-warm qualifier. It is as if they do actually speak confidently of what they believe, they are are worried they will be seen as narrow-minded, and the last thing you want to be in an academic setting is narrow-minded and or dogmatic. Ironically, I think that it is often this false humility masquerading in uncertainty that can be the most arrogant, just in more implicit and tacit ways.

I am not advocating that any of us be confident in ourselves nor am I suggesting that any of us act as if we have it all figured out all the time, but what I am promoting is that we have confidence in our Bible and Jesus. There must be some things that we are rock solid sure of and ready to die for. There must be convictions that fuel our lives and ministry, and sustain us in times of sorrow and suffering. If not Christianity can drift into the realm of philosophical speculation, that has not tangible, life changing bearing on our lives and cities. It may be trendy to loom in the questions, but the realities of life need people with passion and a deep abiding love for Jesus and what the Church can be…


5 Responses

  1. Well said, Ryan. Don’t forget that disagreement is viewed as dissent, and displaying talent as self-glorification. I’m sure we could go on. Funny as immature. Unorthodox as disrespectful. Such are the reasons that the road out of ministry is paved with gold and shines in the sun like a vision of the streets of heaven.

    Don’t be that typical small-minded guy when it comes your turn as a ministry leader. I know you won’t.

  2. Thanks for the words of wisdom Adam. We really live in an upside down world.

  3. It’s the same sureness that my elders used to say an unbaptized person was going to hell. It was the same sureness that led the crusades and the spanish inquisition. It was the same sureness that made me cringe when Driscoll said a diminished view of preaching leads to a diminished view of Jesus (see the conference promo video). I understand the point he’s making, but disagree with his logic. (if I’m not mistaken, Paul urged his readers to desire the gift of tongues over every other gift. Using the same logic, a diminished view of tongues leads to a diminished view of Jesus). I love about 95% of what Piper and Driscoll say. But they say 100% with the same “sureness”. I just don’t beleive they have it all figured of. I, for one and maybe the only one, like when a teacher/preacher says, “this is what I think. This is how I interpret the bible. But others see it this way. What do you think?” It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that my youth minister used this approach and I realized I needed to form my own faith around what I believed, not just what my parents believed.

    False humility aside, I want to limit the number of things I’m “sure” on to the basics and learn to live and squirm in the rest of life, the grey area. I believe this is where Jesus did his best work.

  4. Awesome, Jake. I think you nailed it about sureness, even in the hands of very respectable folk like JP and MD, but even more so the followers of both. That’s what kills me about the new generation of believers – they denounce their elders for their outdated dogmatism with a ferocious dogmatism of their own that would make their elders proud.

    Oh, for the record, I for one am very glad the Crusades happened. I think they get a bad rap in contemporary history, of which they are undeserving.

  5. “I, for one and maybe the only one, like when a teacher/preacher says, “this is what I think. This is how I interpret the bible. But others see it this way. What do you think?””

    – There are many good and bad things about this statement. –

    Good: It teaches people to have a humble hermeneutic
    Good: It encourages a dialouge for biblical interpretation among Christians
    Good: Not claiming a monopoly on God’s truth is always a good thing

    Note on my Bad Thoughts – I believe the following are UNINTENTIONAL results

    Bad: It discredits the clarity of scripture (creating a cluster-@#$% of differing Biblical Interpretations) – note- the clarity of scripture for the hearer of the sermon is a paramount objective of the pastor
    Bad: Not all scripture would fall into the category of needing to say this.
    Bad: It can be an excuse for not studying the scripture enough (and this is most likely the reality)
    Bad: Pastor’s have enough hermeneutic tools available to them to, at the very least, give the possible interpretations while highlighting the most likely viable interpretation
    Bad: Often, when pastors say this they have erroneously confused “interpretation” with “application”. A better way to say that statement is, “This is how I think we should apply this to our lives”

    There is a philosophical argument here as well, namely the epistemology regarding the purpose and form of the sermon. If the purpose is to proclaim the truth of scripture, then there is no excuse for the pastor to say things like this. Since he’s paid to do this, he should earn his paycheck by studying the text enough to give a clarifying statement as to the most likely interpretation, allowing application to be the “what it means to me” point.

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