Piper and issues of the Hart

I have a lot of respect for John Piper and his lifelong work of exalting the glory of God, and I have been challenged and encouraged by a lot of his writings and sermons. Yet when I hear him or read him, something just doesn’t “click” for me, and I find myself not fully identifying with his Christian hedonism. Maybe because in his teachings there is too heavy an emphasis on individualism that I am reticent to embrace, or there is a latent emphasis on law and imperatives mixing with the gospel, or that I find it most edifying and God-honoring to glorify and enjoy God without focusing on my efforts to glorify and enjoy him. On this last point, it’s like telling someone not to think about a pink giraffe. What are they going to think about? It’s not going to be a green monkey. Likewise, focusing on my own subjective delight in God too much, or constantly asking myself if I am enjoying God enough, or worrying if I’m wasting my life takes away from my actual delight in God.

D.G. Hart’s recent post on Piper, Jonathan Edwards, piety, and introspection encapsulated and articulated much of my reluctance to fully embrace Piper. Check out the post here: Desiring God Enough? I also found many of the thoughtful and respectful comments helpful for putting to words much of my own thoughts. R. Scott Clark also posted briefly on his worry “about the long-term consequences of the influence of [Piper’s] theology, piety, and practice on the confessional Reformed churches.” Hart recently followed up his original post with an excellent quotation from Luther that speaks to these issues.

I’m with Hart and many of the commenters in being careful to not argue that all things subjective or introspective need to be eliminated. That wouldn’t be biblical. But I’m weary of overemphasis with such. I also heartily agree that Piper is doing lots of great things and bringing many into a beginning understanding of the glorious truths that come with a Reformed world and life view. I plan to read all of Piper’s Desiring God later this year, so I’ll be better able to wrestle with his teachings. I may or may not embrace Piper more afterward, but regardless, I’ll be thankful to have mingled with others in the hallways of mere Christianity and be ever more thankful to return to the warm, welcoming confessionally Reformed room.

Much further discussion can be found from the keyboard of Doug Wilson, which Hart probably would never link to: Christian hedonism; confession of sin.

3 thoughts on “Piper and issues of the Hart

  1. Amen. His Desiring God was formative for me; first infuriating (as an Arminian), then inflaming (once my eyes were opened to Calvinism). I have nearly everything he'd written as of a couple years ago on my shelf and marked 'read', and have been through most of his sermon series (including the decade? long series in Romans). I find much to be very thankful for in Piper, but after having spent a few years in the 'Reformed room', Piper is just missing something bigger, covenantal, ecclesial. Stellman offered a glimpse of it here, summarizing a talk given by Horton a while back (to which, another Amen!).I'll be a very interested on-looker as you work through this…best to you and yours!

  2. Amen. His Desiring God was formative for me; first infuriating (as an Arminian), then inflaming (once my eyes were opened to Calvinism). I have nearly everything he'd written as of a couple years ago on my shelf and marked 'read', and have been through most of his sermon series (including the decade? long series in Romans). I find much to be very thankful for in Piper, but after having spent a few years in the 'Reformed room', Piper is just missing something bigger, covenantal, ecclesial. Stellman offered a glimpse of it here, summarizing a talk given by Horton a while back (to which, another Amen!).I'll be a very interested on-looker as you work through this…best to you and yours!

  3. Joel, I think back to when we read through John Owen's "Communion With God." I was disappointed that his applications so rarely incorporated the Christian community, or any community for that matter. His piety was very much your-soul-before-God. At times, this can be refreshing–especially if one has had too much of the opposite. Other times, it can be deadly–especially if you are prone to ask yourself that question "Do I desire God ENOUGH?" Likewise, I think that people rarely realize that Jonathan Edwards' piety contained this element as well. Especially in his presentation of David Brainerd as an ideal. (I think Brainerd was very depressed because he was trying to desire God "enough" and didn't have enough good times with friends. I kid not.)So I think this string of criticisms is on to something. BUT. A big but: These are wonderful men in Christ. Piper in particular did a great service by giving us "Desiring God" – the paradigm presented there is very helpful, and I think it is a fairly practical book because he covers a wide range of topics… Happy reading!

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