Before you start reading this, let me be clear that I am writing this to Christians in general, and to a particular set of Christians specifically, and in that, I am assuming they have a basic facility with the arguments and/or doctrines included. Therefore, I haven't peppered the text with Scripture citations. Some of you will find that a gross sin of omission. Be forewarned.
Those who check out my blog know that I have already taken a poke at Adrian Warnock over a John Piper link he wanted someone at TeamPyro to talk about, and I thought that was enough because, frankly, I don't much enjoy the cessationist/continualist discussion -- not just here at TeamPyro, but wherever it springs up.
It seems like red meat, doesn't it? You'd think a guy like me would love to get out the steak knife and the fork, get the grill exactly the right temperature, sear the subject on both sides until the middle is hot but not yet less than crimson, and then even without a salad or baked potato dig in with gusto for the warm, salty pleasure of the hot, red meat of doctrine that the cessationist discussion regularly turns up.
Yeah, well, if that discussion ever turned into a real debate where neither side misrepresented the other, I'd be in. Until that day, I'm going to speak to the scope of the matter at hand and so be it. For the record, Dan is concerned that he never has misrepresented the continualists, and he probably has not, but as I read all the exchanges, I am sure they do not think this is true. If that's a topic that needs more meat on the bone, take it to the meta.
Adrian sent this e-mail to TeamPyro about the Piper "Taste and See" essay "The Morning I Heard the Voice of God":
Hi GuysWell, we did that a long time ago (4 days ago, which is like 172800 seconds ago in blog years), and I have done it again in this post, so if that's all we're looking for, done and Done.
I think this Piper article on hearing the voice of God deserves a response from you guys. (just in case you have missed it tho I know Dan has commented over at Tim's I have a link in my most recent blog post here at my blog).
There is some interesting discussion going on as a result with both charismatics and cessationists trying to claim Piper as "one of their own" from this post. I think we are in danger of missing his point. Would be fantastic if you too could link to this Piper article from pyro, would love to see what you and your readers feel.
But that's never enough, is it? Adrian has added this spicy PS:
PS this is what I said in the comment section of mine, Tim's and Justin's blogs- when I realized that people seem to be reading this in very different ways. I didn't want to say anything in my actual post that would spoil the surprise element of the way in which Piper writes this article...Listen: Amen. I said last week at my blog that the AWANA method of studying the Bible is no good -- not even suitable for children -- and Adrian spells out the reason here well: We were always meant to experience God in powerful ways through His Word. God's Spirit takes the word He inspired and makes it living, active and personal to us as individuals today in the 21st Century. To my knowledge, there are no honest cessationists who would say otherwise -- and if there are, they had better get serious about actually reading their Bibles rather than waving them around as if the Bible was a flag or a big foam "We're #1" finger or something.
For me, I think that Pipers article has a lot to say to those of us on both sides of the cessationist fence. To the charismatic he is saying "Listen, God really does speak thru the Bible - you better make sure your experiences of Him are rooted in His Word and that you find Him through His word the Bible" To the cessationist he is saying "Listen, God really can speak personally to you in a way you can experience - you better make sure you allow His Word to really affect you".
We have all done God a disservice in our thinking by attempting to divorce His Spirit from His Word. We were always meant to experience God in powerful ways through His Word. God's Spirit takes the word He inspired and makes it living, active and personal to us as individuals today in the 21st Century.
I am personally teaching a class in a Baptist church right now called "Word of God, Speak" in which my foundational premise is that the Bible can speak to you personally -- even if it isn't talking about where you should eat lunch today, or which shirt you should wear. There's no question that there's power! power! wonder-working power! In word of the Lord (yes, I know that's not what the revivalist hymn says; I'm taking liberty with a hymn, not with Scripture), and everyone who takes the Bible as God's singular word agrees on this. The question, unfortunately, is if Dr. Warnock is willing to concede that this is what guys like John MacArthur and James White believe. They believe it -- concede that they do.
Adrian goes on:
I fear that the average intellectual student of the bible will have found Piper's experience to be totally alien. In fact I fear that even many of us that claim to be charismatic do not regularly - if ever - have the level of genuine experience of God speaking to us that Piper here describes as routine for him. It is no wonder Piper preaches like he does when he has regularly encountered the person of God in this way. This article is not really about the charismatic issue, ...Again: amen. In spite of nearly-universal agreement among the men who agree that the Bible is God's singular word on the subject of how we experience God in Scripture, I would agree that a lot of people -- people who fancy themselves apologists even, or even people who just sit in a pew -- never experience God's word as the personal revelation of God.
The question, of course, is "why?" If this is God's word, as the atheist might object (and does if you give him a second breath), why isn't it so obvious and why doesn't it speak to every man the same way, making God real and present and worthy of praise?
That, I am afraid, will require more than one blog post to answer, but to give an unsatisfying (and therefore a tease to prompt you to come back) answer, I'll agree that it has something to do with God's Holy Spirit and leave it at that. Look for more on that in the future.
But that said, Adrian says more than even that:
... although when he is reading aloud for his mp3 available on his site, he adds the following words which I have bolded below:-OK -- now, Dr. Warnock is hard upon a specific point here, and he's right: Dr. Piper says something more in the MP3 than he does in the scripted text (and to help you out, I have loaded that MP3 up at archive.org, which has become my newest internet friend. The Piper audio can be found here, and you should visit Desiring God radio just because it is good for you).
Here's how Dr. Adrian cites the text:
What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn't true or didn't happen. Don't put me in that category. What's sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence." - John PiperWhich is fair enough, right? No sneaky ellipses or anything. But here's how Dr. Piper reads the section in question:
This is why I found the article in this month’s Christianity Today, “My Conversation with God,” so sad. Written by an anonymous professor at a “well-known Christian University,” it tells of his experience of hearing God. What God said was that he must give all his royalties from a new book toward the tuition of a needy student. What makes me sad about the article is not that it isn’t true or didn’t happen. Don't put me in that category. What’s sad is that it really does give the impression that extra-biblical communication with God is surpassingly wonderful and faith-deepening. All the while, the supremely-glorious communication of the living God which personally and powerfully and transformingly explodes in the receptive heart through the Bible everyday is passed over in silence.Now, seriously: everyone knows John Piper is a continualist. He is an advocate of daGifts -- even if it's a qualified advocation. So that's not in contention here. But what Dr. Warnock tries to do is make Dr. Piper into a sort of broad charismatic when in fact Dr. Piper is not so much broad.
I am sure this professor of theology did not mean it this way, but what he actually said was, “For years I’ve taught that God still speaks, but I couldn’t testify to it personally. I can only do so now anonymously, for reasons I hope will be clear” (emphasis added). Surely he does not mean what he seems to imply—that only when one hears an extra-biblical voice like, “The money is not yours,” can you testify personally that God still speaks. Surely he does not mean to belittle the voice of God in the Bible which speaks this very day with power and truth and wisdom and glory and joy and hope and wonder and helpfulness ten thousand times more decisively than anything we can hear outside the Bible. Sure, surely he doesn't mean that
I grieve at what is being communicated here. The great need of our time is for people to experience the living reality of God by hearing his word personally and transformingly in Scripture. Something is incredibly wrong when the words we hear outside Scripture are more powerful and more affecting to us than the inspired word of God.
Yes: he believes that God can and does speak to the individual believer and moves the hearts of men to do stuff. But his point in this essay is that the far more powerful, and more authoritative, and more substantive experience of hearing God is found in Scripture.
The context of his statement is a reaction against the article in Christianity Today which seems to say that the only way we can make the testimony that God speaks to us today is if we hear a voice saying, "that money doesn't belong to you". Piper dismisses that idea plainly.
And in that, the charismatic has to scramble to the one emboldened sentence to say, "but... but... but... John Piper believes that God speaks to us individually!" Yes, well, nobody says he thinks otherwise. The problem for the charismatic is that Piper rightly cloaks that non-normative event in the necessary and normative event of hearing and experiencing God through the words of the Bible in English. Surely he doesn't mean only English, but he certainly means to say, "you don't need to learn Greek and Hebrew to hear God's voice".
And in that, again I say "Amen". Amen! What's at stake here is if we are first using God's precious gift of Scripture to seek Him and find Him, not whether some voice in one's head is the voice of God.
Since this is 3 pages single-spaced now, let me end up this installment with this: when you pick up the telephone and you hear a voice on the other end, can you know who it is if you have never really heard that person speak before? So how can you know if that voice in your head is God's voice if you have never listened to Him say what He's been saying since Paul and Peter were in short pants?
I'm sure this will require the meta. See to it.