Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Year with John Piper

Happy super belated New Year everyone! Wow, this time it's really been a while! For my first post in a while, I'd like to reflect a bit on the recently ended year. I'd like to talk a bit about ways my life has changed over the course of it as well as do a bit of a shout out to my favorite preacher. About this time last year, I had just finished my undergraduate degree at Nyack. It was at about that time that I was getting ready to head to Bosnia to take a semester off from school before seminary and help my dad out with a few things. Things started off well. I got to preach in the East church in Mostar. I was reunited with some old friends.

After a while, however, the workload began to slow down. Much of my time started to be spent alone. That didn't bother me too much, though. I've always been able to occupy myself. So began a time when I could finally start thinking about some theological topics I had only begun to dig into at Nyack. It was at Nyack that my call to study theology that I had discovered at Elim was really confirmed.

I was raised, as many of you know, primarily as a pentecostal. I've always believed in the operation of the gifts of the spirit being valid today and I don't ever think this will change. However, something I slowly began to discover was that a calling to intellectual discipline when it comes to scripture has a reputation for leading to “dry religion” in many of the circles I grew up in. This hit home very hard as I began to interact with some pentecostal missionaries while overseas. I realized that the ability I have to talk about a controversial biblical topic for hours on end without getting upset was not common. I found that techniques in lovingly ending a conversation when one doesn't want their mind changed were becoming very popular.

All of this to say, I eventually felt very isolated. Eventually I turned to the internet to look for some resources on some of the topics I was pondering. It didn't take long for this to lead me to John Piper's ministry. I had heard of him before, and I knew what he believed, but I had never dedicated any serious time to study his ministry. So, I decided to give his nine part series on Calvinism a look since this was one topic that had been on my mind since I left my reformed circle of friends at Nyack.

Time was not lacking, so I finished it very quickly. I wasn't convinced by his arguments on this particular topic quite yet, but he did something for me that no one else had. He showed a true and undeniable reconciliation between the heart and the mind a Christian is meant to have. There is such a thing as deep thinking met with deep experiences with the Holy Spirit. There were nights when I would stay up listening to his sermons and I began to feel the weight of God's glory as well as His calling on my life. It was as if God's hand was pressing down on my chest as I laid in my room at night. The mind is meant to be a pathway to the heart. The Holy Spirit doesn't simply give you a buzz. He reveals knowledge of who Christ is and then illuminates that knowledge through experience.

After returning home, I decided to look into some of the writings of John Piper's role model, Jonathan Edwards. It was during this time that some of the issues of the sovereignty of God and the balance of mind and spirit were truly settled in my heart. I at last gave into my discontent with the box I had been putting God in intellectually. I wanted more. I have no problem giving 95% of the credit for this to John Piper's ministry. Some of you reading this might be rolling your eyes... you already know I bring Piper up a lot these days, I can't say it's not true. I'm not ashamed to admit that he has become for me what Jonathan Edwards was for him. The only reason I can give for this is that when I dig into his teaching, I don't get permission to dwell on a personality. He always points his listeners back to God.

So here I am, an unashamedly Reformed, Charismatic, Calvinistic, Amillenialist. I refuse to choose between deep thinking and deep experience. I refuse to think that congregations can't handle pure biblical teaching anymore. I hate when Christians refuse to stand on the shoulders of great thinkers who brought them to where they are today. When we can't stomach the sovereign, glory seeking, sin hating, righteousness loving, substitutionary atoning, sinner justifying, son crucifying God of the Bible anymore, then we can't build a church that will last through the ages. We can experience him. We can taste him. But we must let him be himself in our minds before he penetrates our hearts.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post. I am very proud of you Eric. As You know you have caused me to think so much my brain hurts, and for that I thank you. More talks ahead, I will see you soon.