Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On John Piper and the Reformed Resurgence

Mark Dever has a series going over at the 9 Marks blog, Church Matters, called "Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?" He's examining the various influences that have led to a resurgence of Reformed theology among my generation. This phenomenon was the cover story for Christianity Today in September 2006, and Dever, agreeing with the premise, is proposing the top ten reasons for this growth.

Given that Steve and I are a part of the resurgence--after coming through college thoroughly indoctrinated by the Arminian Wesleyans, I did a full 180-degree turn and embraced what they so staunchly caricatured. I didn't even know what a Calvinist or an Arminian was before I went to Indiana Wesleyan, but quickly learned that the word "Calvinist" was usually accompanied by a tone dripping with disdain. And then I went and graduated and became one :)

But I digress. Given that Steve and I are part of the resurgence, both having come from Arminian backgrounds to be a part of an unapologetically Reformed church, I recently read through the series with interest (part 10 is still to come). Part 9 caught my eye especially, because it's about a theological "hero" of Steve's and mine--John Piper. We're huge fans. The more we read and listen to him, and the more we are exposed to Desiring God Ministries, the more we admire and appreciate him. I could (and perhaps will) do a whole separate post outlining why are so impressed with DGM, particularly their financial policies, but for now, I'll stick to Piper himself.

Truthfully, sometimes I don't like reading his books. But that's because I find his arguments so compelling, and so convicting. When I read Piper, I have to come face to face with the difference between what God calls for, and what I live out. I have to acknowledge the disparity between what I say I believe and what my life says I believe.

His preaching is even better than his writing--and, true to their generosity, DGM has 25 years' worth of his sermons available for free online. Steve has been working his way through Piper's multi-year series on the book of Romans during his morning commute. I think there's a fatherly warmth and tenderness that comes across more in Piper's preaching than in his books. He's one of my favorite preachers.

So, I appreciated this description in "Where'd All These Calvinists Come From? Part 9"--both for its characterization of John Piper, and for its characterization of the sovereignty of God (emphasis mine):

The starkness of John's statements, the uncompromising nature of his sermons' calls and claims have captivated this supposedly word-weary generation. John may have turned 60 not too long ago, but his discipleship, his Bible reading, and his preaching and writing have more of the freshness of the young convert's "anything, God, anything you ask of me" than they do of professorial overstuffed leather chairs with a retirement account to protect.

If nothing else, when he preaches, John makes it clear that the sovereignty of God he's talking about is not the sovereignty of some musty philosophical argument. No, it's the kind of dangerous sovereignty that means God may demand anything--or everything--from you at any time. (And God will never demand as much as He's already given.) And it's the kind of comforting sovereignty which points us to God's kind providential care of his own, and which allows the believer to get through some otherwise desperate nights by considering Christ's love at Calvary.

When everyone else has been out polling to see what people want to hear, or at least how they want to hear it, John has been meditating on Romans, and his own heart, and life as he sees and knows it. And he has been unsparing in reporting what he finds, whether it has to do with the greatness of God, or the foolishness of our own tiny goals and ambitions.

That, my friends, is why we like Piper.


kristin said...

Have you ever watched The Blazing Center? It's a dvd series of sermons Piper preached to high school students. (Although, in true Piper form, it's not dumbed down at all.) It's an excellent overview of all things Piper, and definitely worth owning. Thank you for this post, and for pointing people to a man Luke and I have come to greatly appreciate!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this link! I also was raised in the Wesleyan church and have grown into the Calivinism point of view on things. The thing that sold me was the fact it shows how powerful our God is, he is so Soveriegn over us.

Also, althougth I have never been pregnant, nor met you I appreciate the fact you are blogging everyday until you become a mommy. I am excited to "meet" your baby when he/she arrives. I went through

luke middleton said...

I can identify with your second paragraph. "Caricatured" was a fair word to use, by and large, I think. I embraced the Arminian theology I came across at IWU.

It is easy to find teaching against Calvinism that approaches it from the outside. But it is not always easy to find Arminian teaching that really gives you a great grasp of Calvinism (while still disagreeing, of course). A few years after leaving IWU, I met a Calvinist who knew, loved, and adored God's sovereignty (and had previously gone through his own theological 180). What was explained to me and what passages and books and sermons I was pointed to in the subsequent months ... what I had learned at IWU (granted, I was not a CM major, but ran in such circles and always had my nose in such things) hadn't touched many of these things and they just had no answer.

I mentioned this to a friend once because I found it hard (not impossible) to find Arminians who really could explain Calvinism at its core and with all its outpourings. My friend said it was because all the ones that reach that point become Calvinists.