Posts Tagged evangelicalism
Well, it has been awhile. I’ve been writing, but not posting, for the last 18 months or so. My MDiv studies have consumed the vast majority of my time, not to mention working three jobs, getting a new addition to the family, and starting up ThM thesis research. Now that I’m done with the MDiv, I plan on writing far more often here (a couple times a week, I’m hoping).
First up are some reflections on marriage, family, and juggling a busy life, followed by a series on the “Gurufication of American Evangelicalism.” Concurrently, I’m hoping to explain the new taxonomy for posts that I’m adopting (as I mention in the updated “About” page).
I’m looking forward to writing more in lieu of the weekly work of the MDiv. I also hope to share more as I dig deeply in studies for my ThM thesis on Revelation, ethics, and reception history.
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. – Psalm 3:5
7:07 – 60 second warning… John Fieck and I arrived less than 5 minutes ago. Got two stray seats, this place is packed. Text to 24625 for questions.
7:10 – Introductory comments. This place is amazingly loaded. Owen Strand is coming up now, managing director of the Henry Center.
7:15 – Video with an overview of the Biblical story from BibleMesh. Looked at this program quite a bit at Gospel Coalition… a guy named Matthew at their booth was very helpful. Maybe include this at Timberland sometime.
7:18 – Alistair Begg is one of the people narrating. Need to get him at one of these conferences.
7:22 – Dr. Piper is up first. His approach will be to “tell his story… so you can decide whether I’m a scholar or a pastor.” Quoting FF Bruce, “While some readers have observed that in these chapters I have said little about my domestic life… I do not care to speak much about the things that mean most to me. Others do care more to speak about these things… and enrich others with the Lord’s dealings with them. It calls for quite exceptional qualities to be able do this without self-consciousness or self-deceit.”
7:24 – Piper didn’t really like FF Bruce’s comment… he wonders what does it matter if we aren’t sharing? It’s the scholarly way to be more reticant. Piper, on the other hand, is constantly bursting with things (really? No way!).
7:26 – Quoting Edwards… it is his duty to raise the affections of the people that listen to him as high as they possibly can. When the pastor seeks to do that, it’s assumed that they’ve already done so for themselves. FF Bruce’s comment is deadly.
7:28 – Paul does it Piper’s way… or Piper does it Paul’s way. Quoting 2 Corinthians 1.
7:29 – Piper is going to distill his talk in chapters of his life.
Chapter 1: Early Childhood
7:30 – Six years old at a motel in Florida, on vacation with his family, he put his faith in Christ. However, as he grew up, he had a inhibition to speak out loud in front of a group. People would ask him if he wanted to be a preacher like his dad… he would resoundingly say “no!”
7:32 – Neither his dad nor his home were enviroments for intellectual cultivation. Nevertheless, the affections were there. The realities in his life were Biblical realities.
Chapter 2: High School
7:33 – In high school, he had a a double awakening. On the intellectual side there was a biological class. On the emotional expressive side, there was an English class. He loved geometry as well; he loved reasoning from premises to create conclusions. He has an eye for non-sequitors.
7:35 – Geometry gave his a passion for right reasoning, biology gave him a passion for right observation. Both are essential; you cannot do one without the other!
7:36 – This worked in seminary. “Just see what’s there!” Tons of German too; knew he was at Munich, didn’t know he spoke it. He watched front line, world class scholars miss it while he saw it because he observed. Good advice.
7:38 – Back to high school, he was falling in love with writing, especially with poetry. Every day of his life since then he’s written. Thus, writing became the lever for his thinking. He cannot sustain a line of thinking for 30 seconds without writing. He can’t keep it in his head. I’m very much the same way. It’s a discipline.
7:40 – The inability to speak in high school made his life difficult. Cs in civics, didn’t interact well with others socially. Another thing… he couldn’t read any faster then he could talk. Still can’t. These two disabilities… what can you do? This was high school.
Chapter 3: Wheaton College
7:42 – Wheaton College. In his mind, forms began to take place. Ways of thinking exploded onto the scene, but God and the Bible were not the same focus. Two profs, Holmes and Hackitt had a profound effect on him.
7:44 – Holmes helped him with his worldview. “Think for a living, and write a little bit about it.” Wow. Hackitt was also a philosopher. It wasn’t just what he thought, but the way he thought. “Any system of thinking that denies truth denies itself.” Profound… the law of non-contradiction saves anyone a lot of time. “If you say there is no truth, you have just opened something that doesn’t count.
7:46 – Francis Schaffeur showed up and turned their world upside down. There were people who he went to college with that influenced him. Mark Noll was his RA, had a sign up that said “to love is to stop comparing.”
7:48 – Piper was a B student at Wheaton. He worked hard, but couldn’t get it. He reads slow, he can’t remember what he reads, he can’t make As at Wheaton, and he can’t talk. This was his mind at Wheaton.
7:49 – His heart at Wheaton was also helped. His writing flourished to a degree, but didn’t take a single novel class although he was a lit major. Loved poetry, didn’t like novels. “I’ve read one or two in recent decades.” His emotions ran deep. A writer named Kilby helped him in his writings to be affectional. “Mental health is seeing and enjoing them for what they are.
7:51 – Clyde Kilby’s resolutions. 1) Once every day, I will stare at a tree, or a could, or a person. 2) I will joyfully allow them the mystery of life. He was alive to wonder, and helped Piper awaken to that wonder.
7:54 – Noel came into his life at Wheaton, and everything changed. They were talking marriage in three weeks. Basically, Piper wanted to sleep with her.
7:55 – Lewis became for Piper in his college days what Edwards became for his in the seminary. There was a book called “The Romantic Rationalist” that at first sight Piper fell in love with. Rational poetry. Pastor scholar. “Cool logic is not foreign to warm feeling.”
7:57 – Smash an argument, hug a friend. That’s great! Both/and instead of either/or.
7:58 – Had a teacher who told them never to buy an illustration book. Instead, he told them to “just listen” and was was silent for a minute. When no one had anything to say after a minute, the prof said “did you hear the siren? Someone is dying or injured now, and you don’t feel anything?” Amen to that! As Keller said, you won’t touch a life until you have a life!
8:00 – Piper started cracking jokes about thinking about being a veterinarian because it wasn’t a big deal to him if a patient died in surgery…..especially if it was a cat.
8:01 – Was asked to give the invocation at summer school; about 500 people. Piper said “how long do you have to talk?” and said “yes”. He promised God that if he got through it, he would never turn down another opportunity to speak for Him. He believes he’s kept the vow for 43 years. God showed up and broke him.
8:03 – Harold Ockenga came and preached and Piper missed it and two weeks of classes. This was impetus for him to change direction and go to seminary.
8:05 – He says that at seminary he felt no allegiance to the local church, but when he got married 3 months later, he matured and realized he needed to be involved in a church. He found a church where the pastor “loved his people through preaching.” What an idea.
Chapter 4: Fuller Seminary
8:07 – At Fuller, these were the years when New Evangelicalism was wanting to gain intellectual respectability. This wasn’t always good. For instance, George Ladd was destroyed by a bad review of “Jesus and the Kingdom”… absolutely crushed. Later in his life, he ran through the hallway when his NT Theology was published, waving the royalty check. It was both good and sad. There would never be a Don Carson and all his books without these years of rigorous academic development in evangelicalism.
8:10 – Wasn’t happy about the sophomoric profs who would bash fundamentalism.
8:12 – Dan Fuller was a HUGE impact on his life. He taught Piper what true scholarship was. He introduced to him the idea of “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in HIm.” This is how it went down. Fuller was in a class, and said “why can’t we be like Edwards?” Both warming hearts and crafting rational arguments that challenged minds.
8:15 – Freedom of the Will crushed his Arminianism. The End for Which God Created the World set up a love for His sovereignty. He came out of seminary firmly Reformed.
8:16 – The focus of romance and of rational labor become the Word of God. In Wheaton he was given form, and at Fuller he was given substance that the form could interact with.
Chapter 5: Univeristy of Munich
8:17 – After Fuller, he sought more education. Ended up in Germany, and didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Went to a little Baptist Church that had life in it, wrote a dissertation on loving Jesus. “The global king of Biblical scholarship had no clothes on.”
8:19 – How did you get from probability to certainty in German Biblical scholarship? “The wand of consensus… *insert incredulous look by Piper* Tenth grade defeats that!” His understanding of rationalism and passion innoculated him against their postmodern thought.
Chapter 6: Bethel College
Got his degree from the University of Munich and never looked at it again. Went to Bethel College in Minnesota. Was great except for one thing. Something changed inside of him… he became very restless in grading and the day in-and-out of teaching.
8:21 – Wrote the Justification of God while he was there at Bethel, and realized that God had to be proclaimed and not simply analyzed. This is when he said he needed to get out and proclaim the Word. He moved from his scholarly pursuits to pastoral pursuits.
Chapter 7: Bethlehem Baptist Church
8:23 – In June 1980 he accepted the call to Bethlehem Baptist. Went to the text so that people would argue with Paul and not with him. Doesn’t get to read much, and only gets to write because he’s converting sermons.
8:25 – Is Piper scholarly? Tries not to stay on the cutting edge of anything… way too slow for that. What scholarly would mean for him is that the greatest object of knowledge in the universe is God, and He has revealed Himself in a book. It behooves us to spend everything we have to get to know Him in that book.
In spring of 2008, I wrote a series of posts on the relationship between fundamentalism and evangelicalism as it related to Together for the Gospel. In them, I pointed out how liberal fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, as movements, could learn much from each other. I saw Together for the Gospel as a perfect venue for this, and in many ways I still do.
In the intervening months, my opinion has changed somewhat. As I’ve reached the end of my undergrad studies, I’ve seen less value in the convergence of movements and more value in the protection and cultivation of the local church. As far as the convergence of two movements can facilitate this, I’m all for it. But if this perceived convergence only strengthens a movement and decentralizes the local church, I’m very much against it. As such, I want to write a few blog posts on what can be learned from such conferences about keeping the main thing the main thing: the Gospel.
But before doing so, there’s something in my soul that’s been bothering me. It’s my propensity to get excited about the speaker instead of the message… it’s something I hear often in my casual conversation with my friends. And I know I partake: we get excited about people, sometimes in such a way that it practically eclipses the message.
I see Advance 09 and the Acts 29 network as good forces in highlighting the resurgence of the local church, and Gospel Coalition is a great conference for maintaining the centrality of the Cross. However, some of the superstardom in evangelicalism seems to be imported with these conferences and movements… and it’s something I must be on guard against. Mark Dever said it himself at the opening of Together for the Gospel… they were using this stardom in evangelicalism as a tool to deliver a message. Is this not pragmatism? And if it is, what should we do to combat it?
While there will always be some people who are in the spotlight more often, it would behoove us to not get swept up in that mentality. It happens whenever what Piper says goes as Bible without thought, reading, and prayer. It happens whenever Driscoll is defended for turning people’s minds towards crudeness on his way to Biblical truth. It happens whenever I check out and am not a Berean simply because someone resonates with my theological position. In this way the local church can be hurt by following individuals instead of the message of the Gospel.
Fundamentalism seems to be less tied into superstardom. First, it’s not very theologically unified compared to the New Calvinism, which at least has a starting point. Second, the mentality in fundamentalism tends to cause cautiousness when leaders speak. This leads to the theological impreciseness found in the first point. Third, the movement is so fragmented that when one leader speaks, fewer listen. So for us, who are coming out of fundamentalism into conservative evangelicalism (or the “convergence”, if you prefer to see it that way), let’s be careful to not even come close to enshrining men. Instead, let us always point to the message of the Cross. What can we be doing to highlight the message instead of the messenger in America’s (and evangelicalism’s) star-centric mentality?
Observation: men seek other men to identify with. The Gospel puts a twist on this: we are commanded to identify with Christ, both directly and indirectly. By directly, I mean that we’re to present our lives as living sacrifices, being transformed into Christlikeness (Romans 12:1-2). By indirectly, I mean that we’re to mark those who are conforming themselves to Christ, and follow them (Philippians 3:17). But instead, we young men seem far too impressed with those who should only be pointers to Christ.
Think about this idea: if there wasn’t a future for many of us in our given movement (fundamentalism or evangelicalism)… would we still want to pursue the ministry? If we knew that our lot was similar to Jeremiah’s, who knew that Israel would not repent… would we still want to pursue the ministry? If we knew that our peers weren’t going to respect us… would we still want to pursue the ministry?
This desire for respect leads many young men to seek degrees at more prestigious colleges or seminaries… even equating holiness with a degree. It leads young men to look at and seek out the leaders of evangelicalism… instead of looking at and seeking Christ. It leads young men to drop names and speak about who or what they know… instead of looking to learn from Him through others. It leads young men to hypocrisy, knowing that they must appear holy and humble for their peers… instead of God, Who knows how selfish they really are.
It burdens me. It is me. It is you. Are we impressed with Christ in other people… or are we impressed with other people?