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Posts Tagged ‘John Piper’

I have, over the past couple years, had some exposure to Open Theists.  To be fair I have never read their books or heard their speeches.  My friends who are interested in converting to Open Theism tell me their understanding of the theology.  My two main concerns are these: first, that the reason Open Theism is attractive is because God as described by the Bible is unattractive and so unacceptable to them; and second, that while Open Theists may find some verses that support their theory, their theory disregards and occasionally contradicts other passages of Scripture.  So before you convert to Open Theism, don’t you think you should be very familiar with the whole Bible, even those obscure God-revealing passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes and Acts (I’ve started a list) that point to God’s sovereignty and comprehensive omniscience? Conveniently, God did not set us in the world interpreting the Bible – or even books about the Bible – by ourselves.  So even if I am not acquainted with a relevant passage of Scripture, it is likely that one of my concerned and involved friends will be.  I appreciate that.

In fact, in every case I can remember where my friends found it necessary to point out where the Bible contradicted my ideas, I came away respecting them much more, willing to listen to anything they have to say much more, and considerably humbler in my own handling of the topics of God and the Bible.  General observation would declare that I have a ways to go in the field of humility, so I am welcoming further interference by God’s Word-wielding friends.  That is one of the reasons Open Theism has become a fixture of tension-perspective in my studying.  My friends have been led by their investigation of the theory into bringing up parts of the Bible and God’s character that are rarely examined, parts I find comfortable to ignore.

Anyway, the other month someone mentioned NT Wright, and in the back of my mind I remembered reading that his theology was weird, but that was before I’d ever really heard of Open Theism, and something said maybe NT Wright was one of the original Open Theists.  I Googled his name and Open Theism and not much came up, so I was wrong, but then I was wondering what his deal was.

Two weeks ago a friend mentioned he was reading an article by NT Wright about the authority of Scripture.  Wow.  It’s so hard to explain that these are all connected in my mind, these topics, but trust me.  I am, as far as the “five points” go, a Calvinist.  And I discovered when I admitted I was a Calvinist that I had been a Calvinist all along.  Because Calvinists are those people who believe that God is smarter, wiser, and better than we are, so they submit to Him.  Submitting to Him is usually manifest, to these intellectual theologians, by submitting to the written Word of God, the “inerrant Scriptures”.  Sola Scriptura is the Latin phrase for one of the (again, five) pillars of the reformation.  Anyway, Calvinists almost always subscribe to Sola Scriptura (except for the CJ Mahaney, Sovereign Grace crowd) and I am a Calvinist, and Open Theists don’t agree with the Five Points much at all, so NT Wright arguing against the authority of Scripture is associated with Open Theism.  There.

Anyway, I’m interested in the “sola” part of Scriptura, having run around a bit with that Sovereign Grace crowd but having depended my whole life on the revelation of God being complete in the Bible.  So I went over to NT Wright’s article myself (online for free) and read it. Obviously most of the theologians I read would be skeptical of a Christian leader who sidesteps the authority of Scripture, so maybe, I thought, that was the questionable thing I had heard about him years ago.  The article is long, transcribed from a speech, but I skimmed and paid more attention to interesting parts.  Essentially his thesis is that the Bible was not written to be a law, so it is not set to be our authority.

Mostly the Bible is narrative, accounts of God’s ways, of God’s character.  The Bible is true, but how authoritative is it that once upon a time a prophet cured poisoned water by throwing flour in it?  Is it more authoritative that once upon a time a prophet told the Church to collect money weekly to have it ready to give to the poor when the messengers came for it?  Or is it authoritative that the apostles commanded the Roman Christians to submit to governing authorities?  Are the promises for us?  Are the commands?  Instructions?  Reasoning?  And, my goodness! Have you ever noticed how the apostles interpreted Scripture!  We don’t do it like them at all!

While still pondering these things, I was babysitting for a friend who is ordained in the Presbyterian Church.  Thus his house is full of Calvin, Sproul, Piper, and Grudem.  He is also an inner-city church planter, so he has numerous books that are borderline Emergent, books about “missional” living and “incarnational” ministry, the messy life books like Blue Like Jazz and semi-mystical works of early Christian authors like Augustine.  Every time I am at their house, I scan their bookshelves.  On this occasion, after the two little boys were in bed I picked up an issue of RC Sproul’s Tabletalk Magazine to read in the quiet evening ahead.  The subject was NT Wright’s doctrine of justification.  I discovered that this was the subject on which I had heard warnings against NT Wright.  For the purpose of this blog, I will not here describe or refute the “new Paul” ideas NT Wright has proposed.  (Piper wrote a whole book on it. Download as PDF at this link.)  Because while I was edified by Reformed teachers talking about justification, substitutionary atonement, etc. the most interesting article was the last one.

The final article in that edition of Tabletalk Magazine was not directly related to NT Wright at all.  It was a review, a recommendation for John Newton’s “On Controversy,” a letter of Christian wisdom written to a friend about to confront another man about a matter of disagreement.  I have been learning a lot lately about meekness and confrontation and debate, challenged to listen more and pray more and bite my tongue more.  This article reaffirmed that and pushed me farther.  There remains value in discussion, in communicating disagreement or different perspectives, especially when there is mutual respect and interest not to be seen as the winner, the correct one, but in having everyone know the truth.  We should not pretend unity by avoiding difficult subjects.  In fact we ought to have more in mind than mere consensus.

I have a friend who is a poet, who is burdened about the division in the Church and about the way Christians have boiled the Word of God down to a list of rules.  He wrote a poem about that and much more that I want to finish with, but you have to go read it at his blog.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Books Read in 2009!

Ahhh!  Is it 2009 already!  I guess it would have to be, but I’m really not prepared for 2009.  I liked 2008 – as a number – much better.  Funny, because I would prefer 9 the digit to 8.

Ok here is what I have read so far (and I’ve told you everything, but not all together):

10 Most Common Objections to Christianity by Alex McFarland (This is a book that our high school girls small group went through this fall.  It was a really good defense of the Bible and the existence of God.  We got a basic course in apologetics through it.  The appendix for small groups in the back was a great help.  My one reservation is the weakness of his chapter on evolution – but only in the area of the age of the earth.  If I were a skeptic, I don’t think I would be flattened by all of the points in this book, but some of them are pretty convincing!)

Desiring God by John Piper (Read this book.  Don’t get turned off by the term “Christian hedonism.”  Christian is an important modifier.  God calls you to enjoy Him, for life in Him and through Him to be all about relationship.  Get some good teaching on some great verses to help you put it into practice!)

Coming to Grips with Genesis by Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury (see full review)

The Empty Cradle by Philip Longman (see full review)

Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (see full review)

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict is In by Dr. Jason Lisle and Tim Chaffey (see full review)

The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (A quick read, unusual for this author, this book is a how-to on finding God’s will for your life, emphasizing faith in the sovereign plan of God.  Using the illustration of the father-son teams of weavers who make the wedding saris of India, Dr. Zacharias talks about the perfection of the Father’s plan even when we don’t see the design emerging yet.  One of his favorite topics is the Trinity: “unity and diversity in community”, and he uses it to communicate the love of God for us His children.  The second half of the book, comparable to other reformed works on the purpose of a Christian’s life, focuses on worship as a way of life.  In this book the Anglican roots of the author emerge more than in anything I have read or heard of his, as he revels in the imagery and tradition of the church as it pertains to worship.  The best part about this book to me was the quotes, which I can hear Ravi reciting in his crisp Indian-accented English.  I wish I could live in his library, because I have no doubt that this Christian apologist owns copies of the cherished volumes he quotes. )

Persuasion by Jane Austen (Yes, I read it again.  And it is still wonderful, far exceeding any movie renditions to date.  I want everyone to know this sweet story and to emulate the gentle, helpful, good, passionate Anne Elliot.  I also wish everyone to have her happily ever after!)

The Eighth Shepherd by Bodie and Brock Thoene (Centered on the story of Zacchaeus, this dramatization of the gospels teaches the importance of humility before the Shepherd-King who hears prayers and has come as doctor to the sick.  Enter Jericho.  Read of figs, taxes, sycophants, blind men, slaves, and the faith that could set any man or woman free.  Ask the question with Shimona whether it is better to be sick and know your need or to be healed by an excommunicant and feel alone.  Why does God save and heal?  What comes after that?  Perhaps God sends out the healed as instruments of more healing.  Shimona demonstrates courage, faith, gentleness, and a choice-love that doesn’t make sense but won’t be denied.  Can God use the love of His children to soften the hearts of the sick and the lost?  I loved the Ezekiel passage about shepherds placed between chapters.  What a warning to Christian leaders, and encouragement to those who are fed by the Great Shepherd.)

Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones (see full review)

Ninth Witness by Bodie and Brock Thoene (is another of their novels dramatizing the life of Christ, this time focusing on his twelth year Passover in Jerusalem.  I confess I didn’t like this one as much as most of this series.  The authors seem to be making Jesus and Simon Peter boyhood friends, and they felt it necessary to portray Mary and Joseph as adopting children rather than them being fathered by Joseph and mothered by Mary, the plainest interpretation of the New Testament account.)

The Chosen by Chaim Potok (see full review)

Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna (see full review)

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola (see full review)

The Shadow Within by Karen Hancock (see full review)

Newton’s Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms by Sir Isaac Newton (see full review)

Shadow Over Kiriath by Karen Hancock (see full review)

Unveiled Hope by Scotty Smith and Michael Card (see full review)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (Despite contamination with inappropriate and disturbing material, this is a parody of the classic novel beloved by refined women everywhere.  I get the impression that Seth believes he can improve Jane Austen’s work.  Often retaining the original language, he adds his interpretation of the story – things you know he was always longing to say he guessed about the characters’ true intentions or activities – and the ridiculous addition of zombies.  Most versions of Pride and Prejudice retain the same characters and plot, but this is a rather amusing twist that ends up changing the characters significantly.  To describe this book I have told everyone that the famous scene where Mr. Darcy first proposes involves the exact dialogue of the original, but Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are literally dueling.  Go figure.)

Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard (see full review)

Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews by David Pryce-Jones (A summary of centuries of French policy and prejudice, including some world history especially in the 20th century.  David Pryce-Jones researched the archives at the Quai d’Orsay for internal memos and official reports detailing the Foreign Ministry’s policies towards Jews and the Arab world, proving that all France has ever intended was to be more prominent and powerful than the Jews or the ‘Jewish-dominated’ United States.)

Flood Legends by Charles Martin (see full review)
Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker (see full review)

The cry in Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, is not a yell from rooftops. This is a crying book, with tissue and red eyes and the ache in your throat when you try to hold back the tragedy from taking over you. There are no answers in this book, only the brave resolve to do what is right and to speak the truth, knowing that some things belong to God, and He alone can rescue mankind. South Africa, like all of our nations, has for decades and centuries been in the brokenness that needs God. Still men are praying, and crying for their beloved country.

JRR Tolkien: Myth, Morality & Religion by Richard Purtill (see full review)

Get Married by Candice Watters (Some encouraging stuff and some challenging ideas and some points of view that weren’t helpful. I believe God wanted me to read the book, so I did.)

Gertrude McFuzz by Dr. Seuss; Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss; I had Trouble Getting to Solla-Sollew by Dr. Seuss; The Butter Battle by Dr. Seuss (who knew Dr. Seuss didn’t just write silly nonsense! Some of his books are actually allegories and parables. I much prefer them if they rhyme, but am rather unhappy when the rhyme is only accomplished by inventing a word.)

The Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle (see full review)

Return of the Guardian-King (Legends of the Guardian-King, Book 4)
by Karen Hancock
(see full review)

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (The classic children’s story about growing up. Not quite like the movies. Great writing, quirky quotes. I cannot figure out whether JM Barrie was trying to say something with his story, or a lot of things as they popped into his head. He seems to be fond of manners and humility.)

God and the Nations by Dr. Henry Morris (see full review)

Perelandra by CS Lewis (is the richly poetic tale of Ransom’s trip to the planet Venus, where he encounters the first created woman of the land, the Eve.  Ransom discovers the purpose for his visit when his old enemy, Weston, splashes into the Perelandrian ocean, bent to tempt the woman to prove she is “grown up” by moving out of the will of God.  While this question is strongly presented, there are other parts of the story more moving.  The opening description of the fluid islands and sensuous sights and smells, the intriguing but unfathomable moodiness of a world that is femininity incarnate – this is a strength of the story: the environment is a character.  As a character, it can be accepted or rejected or even abused.  Will one take the next wave as it comes?  Does a man try to maintain his plane when the island swells first into a hill and then dips into a valley?  If a fruit is good, must one drink of it again even when full?)

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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“One may steal your thunder, but the lightning is always God’s.” – my family (a collaborative quote, in which we were stealing each other’s thunder)

Several weeks ago – this post is way behind, so sorry – my brother gathered a group of our friends who, along with others of our acquaintance, have independently sensed the call to do something with our knowledge and fellowship.  We are so good at parties, but we lose focus.  So many of us have been wondering where God wants us to act.  My brother gathered us to pray and share Scripture, seeking God for where He wants us to serve, why, how, who, etc.  It must be a God thing, or it is nothing. 

Last year for a few months I attended a young adult Bible study and worship time in which I sensed that most of us were passionately eager to serve God, to have a part in His work, but He hadn’t told us where to go.  He has been building faith in a young generation, like armies in waiting.  And we gathered to wait on Him, to encourage our readiness, and to seek God’s marching orders.  Some days I think there are so many causes, that I wonder why it’s difficult to find mine.  And then I remember that God has us waiting.  Until God speaks, I can wait. 

Karen Hancock’s allegory, Arena, is a vivid description of Christian living.  At one point all those “saved” are waiting, studying and training, in a well-provisioned safe haven.  They must wait for the exact moment at which God will give them a sign to move out and cross the enemy-infested lands to the portal to home.  If they leave too early or too late, they will run across lines and camps of enemies and be lost.  So they wait.  So we wait. 

But we believe God is at work.  Over Memorial Day Weekend I attended the New Attitude Conference in Louisville, KY.  Put on by Sovereign Grace and featuring Josh Harris, Eric Simmons, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, CJ Mahaney, and John Piper as speakers, the young adult conference attracted 3,000 soldiers in waiting.  I was surprised, though I shouldn’t have been, to find most of them as directionless as me.  Ok, most of them had college degree or career goals, but spiritually we weren’t sure where God wanted us.  Some of us, in the midst of waiting, felt like the fight to keep heads above water while treading was all we could do.  Maintaining a devotional and prayer life, passionately worshiping God and memorizing His Word were high orders. 

Then John Piper spoke on William Tyndale, who most certainly had a calling and was not about to waste his life.  He translated the whole New Testament and several Old Testament books into English for the first time.  And he wrote books and campaigned for the Bible to be printed in the common tongue and made available to the people – at the risk and cost of his own life.  The challenge went out and resonated with the three thousand in attendance. 

Why does it resonate?  Because God is at work, in the grassroots, you might say, reviving our faith in a big God.  Twenty-something Christians, though comparatively immature in our marriage and childbearing rates and economic productivity, are getting excited about the truth, about a God bigger than themselves.  Rejecting the shallow self-help and entertainment-driven church culture, they are reading up on Jonathan Edwards and getting excited about William Tyndale, singing theology-rich God-centered worship songs like Chris Tomlin’s How Great is Our God, or Isaac Watts’ hymns. 

This is the subject of Young, Restless, and Reformed.  Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of ‘young Calvinists.’  He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what’s so exciting to us about God’s sovereignty.  Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping – we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West.  Why is God doing this?  We wait to see. 

Not only are our discoveries and conversions to Calvinism different; the lifestyles and trappings in which we couch our belief in the sovereignty of God also run a spectrum, which Collin Hansen (a writer for Christianity Today) describes with excellence: from liturgical and traditional presbyterians to charismatic and modern Mark Driscoll and CJ Mahaney.  Then there’s the unusual mix of Baptists and Calvinism (which for the moment describes me, though I find myself pretty much in pieces of everything).  On of the most interesting parts of Young, Restless, and Reformed to me was the chapter on the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Al Mohler’s Calvinist makeover of the college.  So that’s why my friends at Elect Exiles are Election-affirming and Baptist.  I’m from a church that, in my observation, has been more typical of 20th century S. Baptists: in between Calvinism and Arminianism and reluctant to debate the issue.  The tides are turning.  I’ll confess belief in a big, sovereign God was a prerequisite for me to vote for our current pastor. 

This is a book I will recommend to pretty much everyone.  The only disappointment I had was that the chapter on New Attitude, titled “Forget Reinvention,” didn’t say much about the conference.  If you want to know about that, the New Attitude website has plenty of info to get you hyped about next year.  I read the book in a few days, and told everyone I know about the book for the next several weeks.  Read it, talk about it, and be encouraged by all the others God is calling.  Keep waiting. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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I’m reading John Piper’s new book, Future of Justification.  He is defending the definition of justification as accepted by protestants for centuries.  N.T. Wright, an English scholar on the New Testament, sparked John Piper’s book by writing one of his own, in which he presents apparently a comprehensive theology centered on the idea that the gospel is that Jesus is Lord, not that we can be saved by Jesus’ substitutionary atonement: justification. 

At one point in the introduction, John Piper says that to help people believe the gospel in a saving way, we have to announce why it is good news for them.  (Gospel, of course, meaning “good news.”) 

Just this week I was sharing my testimony with a friend.  I was saved the day I turned 6.  Opened presents, remembered all the times my Sunday school teachers told me Jesus died for my sins, and decided this was it.  I needed forgiveness, and I asked God for it because Jesus could save me.  That’s faith, right? 

“Did you ever wonder if it was for real?” my friend asked me.  Yes, I did.  When I really started learning the Bible (three years later) I wondered why I hadn’t been learning before.  In sixth grade again I was getting to the point where my faith was challenged, and standing, and I made sure it was for real.  No doubts since then.  Looking back, I still believe I was saved when I was six.  And it didn’t matter whether I knew what atonement meant, or about eternal security.  I didn’t know about sovereignty and couldn’t define justification.  But if it’s true that we are saved by grace through faith not of ourselves, then God was doing the saving.  And if God is saving, ignorance of any but the main facts is not important.  God will discipline us by grace and mature us into understanding and conformity to His Son’s image. 

Some people think we ought to preach the “cost” of following Jesus, preach His lordship, to nonbelievers:  Anyone who is saved will also recognize Jesus as their Lord.  Faith without works is dead, and we need to tell people that, so won’t get it wrong. 

Actually, we could say that our presentation of the gospel is so important that if we get it wrong, people won’t actually be saved.  We could say that people need to know about Lordship so that they can get salvation right

That doesn’t sound all that grace-based, though, does it?  If we’re saved by faith, can’t we evangelize by faith, too?  Don’t you think that if God, who convicts hearts of sin and need for a Savior, who justifies, regenerates, rebirths, and seals those still without strength, is saving someone, and using your obedience to His call for making disciples of all nations, He’s able to make sure it’s done right? 

I believe in having a solid, truth-based grasp on theology as much as anyone you know.  Using clarity when we talk about Jesus and the Bible is important; confusion has birthed so many mistakes not intended by the teacher or translator.  But God can work through our weakness.  When we rely on Him for the words to say (maybe even use His words, not ours? see 2 Timothy 3:15), He’ll provide the right ones. 

Maybe this is why in the New Testament we see so many different wordings of the gospel message.  The message is the same.  Everyone is saved the same way.  Depending on what they already knew, and their attitude, the different apostles and evangelists answered them where they were at.  God gave the words that the sinner needed to hear, and God did the saving. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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