Lunch Meeting with John Piper

I had the privilege to attend a Pastor’s lunch today where John Piper was the guest speaker.  I think their were about 100 pastors gathered together in Indianapolis so it was a relatively intimate setting.  Dr. Piper is a great preacher and a gift to the universal church.  His preaching and writing ministries have positively impacted thousands and thousands of pastors.  I am not a “Piper-ite” but I definitely appreciate this man’s unalterable commitment to the gospel and to sound theology.  We should all really pray for him this next month as he begins two important writing projects (one on the New Perspective and another on Christian marriage).  Pastor John said he is exhausted after a very busy Spring (go figure).  Please pray for him and his family.

 

In most areas I believe Piper’s “Christian Hedonism” campaign is very biblical.  I sometimes wonder though if he imposes this life long theological pursuit on too many passages of Scripture?  I know he (and his supporters) would argue otherwise.  They see God’s passion for His glory and the theology behind the slogan, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him’ as two of the most central doctrines in all of Scripture.  (I believe the first statement is entirely correct and that the second with qualifications is also a valuable statement).  I think Piper’s error is similar to what happens with some Covenant theologians/preachers.  Sometimes Covenant theologians in their noble effort to find/preach Christ in every verse of Scripture do a little hermeneutical esogesis.  In my humble opinion, this happens with John Piper in some of his lectures and sermons as well.

 

Dr. Piper spoke briefly on John 11:1-6 and showed the connection between God’s passion for His glory (v. 4) and the greater joy that is experienced by man when they too find their satisfaction in God’s love/power/glory.  He pointed out how important the Greek word translated in V. 6 as “so” or “therefore” is to the entire passage.  Jesus stayed for two extra days so that all these things could take place:  He was able to glorify himself and demonstrate His great love towards Martha’s family in and through this wonderful demonstration of His power/love/glory found in v. 11.  Dr. Piper than went to Philippians 1:20-26 and showed much of the same. 

One of the other major points John Piper tried to make was that God could be considered an egomaniac if He’s only concerned about His glory/fame/name.  Piper noted that because our joy is bound up in this very thing (namely that God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him) that God therefore is not unattractive nor an egomaniac, etc, etc.  This is true because our supreme JOY is bound up in God’s glory.  To a certain degree I see what John Piper is saying here but I’m still trying to process it out more fully in my mind.  I guess I don’t know if God would be unlovable, unjust, unattractive or what have you if He existed for His own glory apart from the part that we find our greatest joy in this very thing.  Read on and perhaps my dilemma here will make more sense.

 

During the Q & A session I was able to ask John Piper this question.  “Please help me understand the following:  Where does God’s unconditional election (in that He only chooses some unto salvation) and the doctrine/reality of endless punishment (hell) fit into your two major statements (That God exists to bring glory to Himself and that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him).” 

 

In other words, If God’s sovereign plan throughout redemptive history was/is to bring the most glory unto His own name (which it is); and IF ‘God is MOST glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him’, than how come God did not choose everyone?  Obviously the non-elect will never find their satisfaction in God like we believers do. 

 

Now don’t misunderstand me here. I believe God’s plan of redemptive history does and will bring Him all the glory He rightly deserves!  In my estimation this includes His sovereign election of unworthy sinners like you and I (the elect); AND His eternal damnation of unrepentant sinners (the non-elect).

 

Dr. Piper graciously answered my question by going to Romans 9:20-23.  He agreed with me that God’s grace is magnified in His wrath and His wrath is magnified in looking at His grace.  Dr. Piper believes that God is MORE glorified in His grace than He is through His wrath.  Which is probably why he says God is MOST glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.  On this point I don’t know if I wholly agree with him…Anyways, John Piper thanked me for my question and told me that his popular statement “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” definitely needs to be qualified.  Is God more glorified in the salvation of sinners than he is his punishment of evildoers?  Or is he equally glorified in both aspects in that they perfectly complement/magnify one another?  Clearly his statement is correct if we’re only talking about Christians.

 

Friends these are very small disagreements that I think I have with a Christian brother whom I hold in very high regard.  My thinking may be wrong here.  Feel free to express your biblical perspectives on this post but do not take this as a free for all to smash this dear saint.  This is not my point in posting this blog nor will I allow comments to remain posted that miss the spirit of this post.  All biblical teaching is subject to further examination, even the preaching of great teachers like Piper, MacArthur, & Sproul.  Any helpful thoughts here?  I will link the audio of this event when it is available.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. FYI my question was simply paragraph one; paragraphs two and three were added for clarification.

    During the Q & A session I was able to ask John Piper this question. Please help me understand the following: Where does God’s unconditional election (in that He only chooses some unto salvation) and the doctrine/reality of endless punishment (hell) fit into your two major statements (That God exists to bring glory to Himself and that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”)…….

    {In other words, If God’s sovereign plan throughout redemptive history was/is to bring the most glory unto His own name (which it is); and IF ‘God is MOST glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him’, than how come God did not choose everyone? Obviously the non-elect will never find their satisfaction in God like we believers do.

    Now don’t misunderstand me here. I believe God’s plan of redemptive history does and will bring Him all the glory He rightly deserves! In my estimation this includes His sovereign election of unworthy sinners like you and I (the elect); AND His eternal damnation of unrepentant sinners (the non-elect).}

  2. Great post, and great questions. I think I see the distinction you are trying to make, but I see Piper’s major statements as self-qualifying. Let me see if I can explain myself.

    I think we both agree that God exists to bring glory to Himself, but I think we may be reading his second statement differently — placing the emphasis on different parts.

    Interpretation #1: The primary means by which God is glorified is through us. Or another way, “God is most glorified when Christians are most satisfied in him.”

    Interpretation #2: In as much as God is glorified by Christians, he is most glorified by Christians being most satisfied in him. The point here is to highlight the “in us” qualifier from Piper’s statement — “God is most glorified in us when …”.

    Do you see the distinction? I think Piper is primarily speaking of God being glorified in Christians. I think his statement is a motto for Christian living.

  3. I guess I would have to qualify myself as a “Piper-ite” b/c I so throughly enjoy his work.

    I do have a little quibble here and there b/c I’m also “MacArthur-ian,” but hey, I can live w/ the differences I have w/ Dr. Piper.

    The “Most Glorified in us” statement def. needs qualification, but I agree w/ Cameron Moore here that in the since he described the statement holds.

  4. Great question. It seems to me from Romans 9:22-23, that God is MORE glorified in his grace toward “vessels of mercy” than he is in his wrath toward “vessels of wrath.” Also texts such as Eph. 2 seem to further contribute to this understanding of the glory of God being seen in either his grace or his wrath. His glory is seen in his justice on the one hand, the very thing he is expected to do because he is just. But on the other hand his glory is seen even more in his grace and mercy toward sinners who are deserving of justice, the one thing a just and holy God is not expected to do. I’m with Piper on this one.

    A Christo Regnante.

  5. Cameron, John, and Chris

    Welcome and thanks for your thoughts. I will continue to think through these matters myself.

    CK

  6. Caleb,

    Does Piper tie Christ’s glory in the gospel of John to His death on the cross?

  7. Bobby,

    I have not heard any of Piper’s exp. sermons through the book of John so i can’t answer that question for him.

    CK

  8. Caleb

    Piper noted that because our joy is bound up in this very thing (namely that God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in Him) Can God be any more satisfied than He is in
    Himself? Is God “satisfied” with us when we glory Him? I am concern that we think we can satisfy God by been satisfied with Him most. As if God can be satisfied by what we do! His satisfaction is bound up in Himself I would think? I wonder just how much we as sinners really can satisfy the Lord in the first place. At best my love for the Lord and His glory is limited to my fleshly self, pride, and effort.

    I like John Piper from the few times I have hear him preach in person, once in Cedarville U. in Ohio.

    That question you ask him in the A andd Q was very good I am sure he was not able to answer briefly. I don’t think I would have asked Jerry Falwell that question when I had dinner with him one on one the other week.

    But as Piper, he as a passion for the glory of the Lord. He believes God’s glory is best seen when sinners come to Christ. God is best satisfied (if possible) when those whom He as elected have come to Christ, and God was most satisfied when His Son satisfied His wrath which enabled Him to forgive His wrath and apply His grace in Salvation.

    Charles

  9. Posted by wdss on September 23, 2007 at 4:32 am

    Hi. Check out the papers at http://www.TheFaithfulWord.org on Christian Hedonism. I believe they will be helpful for you. Thanks.

  10. Posted by CalebKolstad on September 23, 2007 at 6:07 am

    WDSS,

    We prefer you leave your name (first and last) when you post.

    I read through a bit of your articles thus far. It seems you are trying to say Piper is not sound. I have read nothing to make me question his genuine commitment to the gospel. I don’t agree with everything he writes but appreciate his passion for the glory of Christ.

    Caleb

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