11 June 2010

Do We obey out of Love, or out of Duty?

by John MacArthur



I'm in Denver for a day-long conference today, and my back is still killing me. I had an MRI Tuesday, and the doctor called yesterday with an urgent referral to a neurosurgeon. So evidently the fix will require something more radical than the calisthenics and pills prescribed so far.

But I could have told you that 3 weeks ago.

Anyway, I haven't the strength or the time to write fresh material for our series on legalism, so here's something even better. It's a piece by John MacArthur, excerpted from a chapter in Trust and Obey (Pittsburgh: Soli Deo Gloria, 1997).

Phil's signature





t the height of the Lordship controversy a few years ago, a fellow pastor wrote me:


Dear John,

I am sympathetic to your stance on the lordship of Christ. You are quite right in teaching that the gospel calls sinners to repentance and calls for their obedience to Christ as Lord. His lordship is as crucial to the gospel message as His deity. In fact, as you point out, His deity and His lordship are so inextricably bound together that a christ who is not Lord of all is not the Christ who saves. The modern notion that the sinner can reject Christ as Lord but receive Him as Savior is foreign to all the historic creeds. To my way of thinking, any message that excludes the lordship of Christ is not the gospel at all.

If you don't mind, however, I would like to offer a criticism that I hope you will find helpful, not hurtful:

I notice that you present Christian obedience as a duty. You often cite the biblical passages that speak of the Christian as a bondservant—as if this meant we are abject slaves to Him. Your stress is on the Lord's authority to command obedience. And therefore you speak of obedience as an obligation to which the believer is bound.

I see a different emphasis in Scripture. Faith works through love (Gal. 5:6). The Christian obeys Christ out of sheer love for Him. Obedience for the Christian is not so much a duty as it is a delight. Believers obey because that is where they find their satisfaction—not because they are bound to do so. We obey out of love for Christ, not out of fear, and not out of duty.

I believe this perspective is essential to joyous Christian living. It is the whole difference between legalism and true Christianity.


I sincerely appreciated that man's comments. And I agree that it is possible to place so much stress on the duty of obedience that we lose sight of the joy of it. After all, the Christian's obedience should be a delight. Love for Christ is a higher motive than fear. So there is certainly some sound truth in what this man wrote.

Nonetheless, the danger of overemphasis is very real on both sides of this truth. It is not quite right to say "We obey out of love for Christ . . . and not out of duty." Duty and love are not incompatible motives. A father provides for his children because he loves them. Yet it is also his legal and moral duty to do so. The fact that a man loves his children does not lessen his duty to them. The more he loves them, the more he will see the duty as a joy and not a drudgery. But even when the duty is a delight, it should not diminish the father's solemn sense of duty.

Our obedience to Christ is like that. Certainly we ought to obey Him out of a deep love for Him. And the sheer joy of pleasing Him should permeate our obedience. Yet we should never think of obedience as anything less than a sacred duty. Our love for Christ does not make submission to Him elective. Christ is still our Master, and our relationship with Him carries a great weight of responsibility. We ought to serve Him as loving, devoted bond servants. "Abject slaves" is not too strong a term.

Jesus Himself underscored this very thing:
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do (Lk. 17:7-10).

That imagery paints a clear picture of the kind of servitude we are expected to render to Christ as His servants.

But that's only half the picture. Our Lord also called for the obedience of love: "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15). And He elevated those who obey to the level of friends:
Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you (Jn. 15:14-15).

Obviously, our Lord viewed our love for Him and our duty to Him as motives for obedience that are inextricably and necessarily bound together: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (Jn. 14:21). "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love" (Jn. 15:10).

Far from being a drudgery, Christian obedience is thus the bond of our relationship with Christ and the source of our deepest joy. And the fact that we are obliged to submit to His lordship should never alter the joy we find in doing so.

Of course, because we are still fleshly creatures, our obedience is not always joyful. And so we must realize that even when our hearts are not brimming with the joy of the Lord, obedience remains our duty. We are to obey when it brings us pleasure, but we also must obey even when we do not feel like it. Both our love for the Lord and our sense of duty to Him should motivate this obedience. One must never cancel out the other.

John MacArthur's signature

127 comments:

CAUGHTNOTTAUGHT said...

Sorry to read about your back problems. Sympathy and prayers. (Not sure if offered out of love or duty, but felt anyway.)

Marie said...

Great excerpt from a wise teacher. The timing is interesting - I am currently counseling a woman who is depressed because she "can't live up to the demands of Lordship". Macarthur's views aren't the problem - evidently, there's a contingency of younger celebrity pastors telling people that if there is any habitual sin in their life or they don't always 'hunger for the Word', it indicates they were never truly saved to begin with. Much more extreme than Macarthur, who has always taught progressive sanctification, but they're calling it "Lordship". This would be a good, balancing article to send her. Thanks.

DJP said...

He's right.

Rob Bailey said...

There have been many times when I obeyed because I had to. Then, as I keep doing it the Holy Spirit works in my heart to make my duty my passion.

Scott said...

Thanks Dr. MacArthur for a great article on joy and duty and connecting them together. Very convincing to go and live out, expressing today when I have little joy to go to work this morning.

Thanks for posting it Phil.

DJP said...

I never cease to marvel (in a bad way) at what complicated lengths Christians will go to, just to evade the issue of obedience.

Gov98 said...

Excellent thoughts

Ron Bailey - Oh that is so me...That is is so me.

On another side thought

...There's a contingency of younger celebrity pastors telling people that if there is any habitual sin in their life or they don't always 'hunger for the Word', it indicates they were never truly saved to begin with.

The scary thing is that this just isn't a fad among "younger celebrity pastors." It is part and parcel of Scripture.

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves and see if you be in the faith.

If she is examining herself and as a result lacks assurance and that lack of assurance is based on continuing ongoing unrepentant sin, if she doesn't love God by seeking to know him and his commandments then she should NOT be secure. Just saying "Lord Lord" is not salvation.

Jesus never said it was easy, in fact the demands of discipleship Christ tells us before we do it, to count up the cost (which of a king going out to war does not consider his number vs. his enemies and if he be greatly outnumbered send a peace delegation while far off.)

The concern is it indicates they were never truly saved to begin with. This is true. It doesn't prove they were never saved, but it's an indication, it's a reason for concern, we should not desire to make some feel assured when they Biblically should not have assurance.

Matt said...

I really feel that the Lord used Pastor John's teaching entitled "Slaves of Christ" to transform and open my view of our soverign Master and Lord. Understanding that we have a benevolent Master that not only demands that we live in conformance to His will, but He also draws us near and calls us His children and friends. My duty as a Christian is indeed to obey the will of my Master and as I obey the gospel becomes more clear and I begin to ever grow in loving to obey Him. "Trust and Obey, for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!" Thank you Pastor John, your ministry and obedience to the teaching of the Word of God has helped me to see my master and saviour more clearly and opened my eyes to the wonder and awe of the gospel!

His Grace
Matt

love God... said...

Amen...love and obedience are inexplicably bound together just as faith and works. Can't have one without the other.

One of my favorit verses...Lk 7:46-47 - "Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

This, I believe, is the reason for little love for God and Christ. Most don't believe they need forgiveness from God through Christ.

Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago but He really isn’t saving anyone today because they all are going to heaven by being a good person...so who needs Jesus? Right?

If you don't see the amazing grace that was given to you for the forgiveness of your sins then you really aren't that thankful and Christ really isn't that precious to you and well...God isn't really that great because after all you're a pretty nice person and He would be lucky to have you in heaven. /sarcasm

Sven Pook said...

My wife had to see a neurosurgeon for her back due to an injury. We'll be praying for you. In her case, first she has to have an EMG (next Friday), then nerve block injections (if she can get passed her fear of the 5" spinal needles).

Great post, I'm sure you posted it out of duty . . . no wait, love . . . no wait . . . :-)

VcdeChagn said...

This reminds me of the "both oars in the water" article from a month back, or thereabouts.

Love and duty are the oars in this case.

Does anyone else observe their own life and see when things are done out of love and other times out of duty (or not at all)? These don't even have to be things that God commanded.

I see it in my life. For example, I'm on a reading plan to go through Calvin's Institutes. It's heavy, dense reading and at times I struggle.

I guess it's just our sinful human nature to experience the ebb and flow of desire, duty and procrastination. Sanctification is more of the former, less of the latter, I guess.

Jugulum said...

Amen.

One addition: In addition to obeying out of love for Christ, and obeying out of duty, we should also be obeying out of love for the worth & beauty of what He commands us to do.

That idea is at work in Romans 12:2, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Through the renewing of our minds, we come to understand that God's will is good, and acceptable/pleasing, and perfect. We obey his command to care for our neighbor not only because we love Him & He commands it, but also because we understand that it's so right and beautiful and pleasing to do so.

(Note: You could argue that God's will is rooted in his character, and so loving the goodness of his will is included in loving him.)

Daryl said...

Given that we are also commanded to love him...how would you know if you were obeying out of love only or love and duty?

Besides, we are sinful are we not? Do we not often need to obey out of duty because we just don't love as we ought?

Jugulum said...

Daryl,

"Do we not often need to obey out of duty because we just don't love as we ought?"

Yes--but we can also say that as the Spirit sanctifies us, he changes our hearts, so that our obedience is less and less from duty only. Our minds are renewed, and we both "will and work" (Phil 2:13), and we start "not only to do this work but also to desire to do it" (2 Cor 8:10).

I think that there's also a "taste and see that the Lord is good" component. When we walk in obedience, we may begin to taste why we should obey--we taste how His will is sweet, and savory.

bruchim said...

I appreciate the balance Dr. MacArthur speaks of. I do believe that today there is an extra emphasis on "the emotions being the weathercock of the soul."

This makes me think of the wonderful William Cowper, poet and hymn writer. We all have a unique makeup - joy is difficult for some.

Cowper struggled with depression and never quite experienced the joy of assurance that many Christians are gifted with. And yet his poetry has encouraged the saints and glorified the Lord.

My question to any and all is - what do we do with William Cowper?
Were his emotions truly the weathercock of his soul?

The heart is the weathercock of the soul and yet how do we parse out the difference between "the heart" and emotions. And yet I think there is a difference. Can anyone help me articulate this? Is not the sense of duty from the heart?

And if we over emphasize joy then surely we must be vigilent in the definition of such? What is joy?
Is joy for me the same as joy for everyone?

Really interested in everyone's thoughts on this.

Brian Jonson said...

I have to confess, I don't think John Piper would agree with MacArthur here. I agree with MacArthur, by the way. I've slowly weaned off of John Piper because of his relentless "Christian hedonism". It's just too much...I appreciate John MacArthur's balance here.

Jugulum said...

Brian--where do you think Piper would disagree?

Marie said...

Thanks Gov98,

I think they key word being "always" here. Not too many of us, if we are honest, feel a pressing urge to read the Word at every single moment of every day, or never go through a season of dryness. It's not "cheap grace" or easy believism she's dealing with here; it's the other extreme - perfectionism.

I should have noted that a part of her discouragement is coming (from what I can tell) from her being taught that Romans 7 refers to the unbeliever, pre-conversion. I checked a commentary, and Macarthur does NOT hold to that view (nor do I). His teaching on Lordship is (IMO) absolutely Scriptural and balanced. There are other teachers who are much more extreme.

I am going to a biblical counseling seminar this weekend led by a NANC fellow - I will be interested in discussing this further with him, too.

Sorry for hijack - great post - and I truly hope you feel better soon, Phil!

~Mark said...

Whew! I'm so glad that excerpt went where it did because after reading the title I immediately thought "both"!

Paul said...

To me, this is ever-so simple. James 1:25 clearly says that happiness is "in" (a preposition for crying out loud) "the doing." Want peace as a Christian? Paul said: "Those things, which you have both learned, and received, and heard,and seen in me,do:and the God of peace will shall be with you." (Philippians 4:9). Lost people don't look for happiness in following Jesus Christ and living by "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). So why do we need 50,000 books on what these verses are "really" saying? Because the real issue is what some believe is the relationship of the Law to justification verses sanctification. My contention is that Piper believes the relationship is exactly the same between the two.

Brian Jonson said...

I think Piper would disagree that "duty" should ever be an impetus to any sort of action in our Christian lives. I have read quotes of his where he seems to indicate obeying Christ out of "duty" instead of delight is sinful.

Not trying to hijack the thread. Just an observation in passing.

Mike Riccardi said...

I think MacArthur gets it right here. And I actually don't think Piper would disagree.

I think many people perceive a difference between what MacArthur said in this article and what Piper has tried to articulate over and over again, but really they aren't incompatible.

1. MacArthur never says, "And hey if joy doesn't do it for ya, just remember it's your duty and trudge through it!" He consistently roots our duty in what is most joyful for us to do.

- "After all, the Christian's obedience should be a delight. Love for Christ is a higher motive than fear."

- "Certainly we ought to obey Him out of a deep love for Him. And the sheer joy of pleasing Him should permeate our obedience."

- "Far from being a drudgery, Christian obedience is thus the bond of our relationship with Christ and the source of our deepest joy. And the fact that we are obliged to submit to His lordship should never alter the joy we find in doing so."

2. And Piper never says, "Hey if you're not joyful, just wait until you are." He says: "You can feel proper remorse that the 'want to' is very small and weak - like a mustard seed - and then, if it lies within you, do the 'ought to' by the exertion of will, while repenting that the 'want to' is weak, and praying that the 'want to' will soon be restored. Perhaps it will even be restored in doing the 'ought to.' This is not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy hides one of the two contradictory impulses. Virtue confesses them both in the hope of grace.

The point is not, "If delight is not there, don't do your duty." The point is, "Delight is your duty." It's not, "Don't obey unless you feel like it." It's, "You haven't obeyed until you feel like it."

MacArthur used the analogy of a father providing for his children:

A father provides for his children because he loves them. Yet it is also his legal and moral duty to do so. The fact that a man loves his children does not lessen his duty to them. The more he loves them, the more he will see the duty as a joy and not a drudgery.

And Christian Hedonism (or whatever you prefer to call it) says, Amen!

But it would also say, if the Father stopped dearly loving his children because of the weakness of his flesh, and provided for his children simply because he knew it was his responsibility, then that's not doing his duty. His duty is to love God and love his family, and provide for them out of that love.

One other example and then I'll shut up. From here:

Suppose a husband asks his wife if he must kiss her good night. Her answer is, "You must, but not that
kind of a must." What she means is this: "Unless a spontaneous affection for my person motivates you, your overtures are stripped of all moral value."

In other words, if there is no pleasure in the kiss, the duty
of kissing has not been done
. Delight in her person, expressed
in the kiss, is part of the duty, not [merely] a by-product of it.

Insisting that our duty is delight, or that obedience be joyful, does not lower the bar of obedience, but raises it from mere moralism and willpower religion to being rooted in a love for Christ that is only known through a vital relationship with Him.

bp said...

In sharing the truth of Christianity, Truth #1 is that God created us for HIS glory. Truth #2 is that this is, therefore, the duty of every man and woman and child—to live for the glory of God. - John Piper

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/1989/665_The_Joyful_Duty_of_Man/)

bp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bp said...

The point is not, "If delight is not there, don't do your duty." The point is, "Delight is your duty."

Perfect, Mike.

Pooka said...

This really seems like an easy issue on one hand while living it out comes as a tough assignment.

I don't have anything useful to contribute here but would like to express my gratitude for the post and meta. This is very important to me and I appreciate the explanations and thoughts on this loving-duty matter.

Thanks, guys.

NewManNoggs said...

This is really a fascinating subject. It's interesting how some see duty and love as almost polar opposites rather than two sides of the same coin.

However, what JMac's article immediately brought to my mind was the difference between my father and me. I thought about how all that greatest generation stuff (loyalty, commitment, duty, perseverance...) is so absent in me and my generation and how it seemed to be what those older guys were completely made of. And, I don’t think that my dad (not a believer) or those of his generation would see love and duty as distinctly unrelated things.

I don’t know. I’m not as smart as most of y’all. But, I couldn’t help but think about my inadequacies and those of the modern generations of "men" our culture is producing.

Am I way off base here?

I hope you feel better Pastor Johnson. I can’t believe you preached that great message at GL the other day in such pain (CASE IN POINT!!)

Paul said...

bp,

I realize that Piper says those things, but then he goes on to say that it is our duty to glorify God without duty in regard to obedience. This is reflected in the following quotation that you posted that our first duty is to pursue delight because when delight is not present with duty, it is not godly duty, but in-fact, sin:

"The point is not, 'If delight is not there, don't do your duty.' The point is, 'Delight is your duty.'"

His point is: your getting the cart before the horse. John Piper believes that joy is a perquisite to valid faith.

Paul said...

Bruchim,

Thanks for introducing me to William Cowper.

PS

I'm greatly encouraged by the comments from Matt and Jugulum.

Paul said...

Furthermore, Piper does not believe that obedience should ever precede joy. To him, that would be works and self-effort in the sanctification process. Joy must always precede obedience in order for it to be obedience that God recognizes. Also, he believes that their is absolutely nothing that we can do to obtain joy on our own, it is a gift from God like faith:

“Yes, it becomes increasingly evident that the experience of joy in God is beyond what the sinful heart can do. It goes against our nature. We are enslaved to pleasure in other things(Romans 6:17)."

"Christian Hedonist[ism]is a miracle of sovereign grace. This is why Paul said that becoming a Christian is the same as being raised from the dead."

MacArthur and Piper are far separated on this issue. The difference is their view of the Law's role in sanctification. That's the crux of the issue: Monergistic, or synergistic sanctification?

Brian Jonson said...

Paul:

Thanks - those are the tendencies I've noticed in Piper as well.

dwitzke said...

Paul,
Thank you for clarifying that. I think you nailed it.

In addition, you quoted Piper as saying: "Yes, it becomes increasingly evident that the experience of joy in God is beyond what the sinful heart can do. It goes against our nature. We are enslaved to pleasure in other things(Romans 6:17)."

He seems to make no allowance here for the change referred to in 2 Co 5.17 (as well as Romans 6.18).

Paul said...

Words mean things: "'We'[Christians]'are'[present tense]'enslaved' to pleasure in other things (Romans 6:17)." He quotes Romans 6:17 in regard to Christians in the present tense. But the Apostle Paul is clearly using this verse to speak of us in the past tense:

"But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted." or:

"But thank God, though you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient with all your heart to the standard of teaching in which you were instructed and to which you were committed."

bruchim said...

So would all sides agree that joy in obedience is ideal and what we pray for, but should not be the all important indicator of regeneration?

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many great Christian
saints have gone through droughts with little joy - Luther, Spurgeon, Brainerd, Cowper.

I am not very familiar with blogosphere ethics. I keep hearing about watch blogging and hijacking.
Maybe I've done both and have no idea?

Stefan said...

All's I can is this:

Obedience is not something that comes naturally. After all, it requires the supernatural intervention of God to replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh, and write His Law upon it.

And obedience is not something that comes easily. Working too hard at it in the past brought frustration to me; doing nothing and waiting for something to happen also brought frustration.

In the end, I can see now that I am gradually being made more obedient to our Lord and Saviour, but it has only been through a long and sometimes painful process of trials and chastisement as the Holy Spirit conforms my heart to God's.

Which is not to say that I don't still stumble (every day!), but I'm learning in steps just how wide and deep the Father's love is for us, just how sweet and precious the blood of Christ is, and how nothing is to be desired more than simple obedience.

Mike Riccardi said...

Furthermore, Piper does not believe that obedience should ever precede joy.

Paul, you continue to misunderstand. Piper does not believe that obedience should precede joy, he believes that obedience cannot precede joy, and he's right. We are commanded not only to keep the commandments of Christ but to do so such that we prove they are not burdensome (1Jn 5:3). We are commanded to rejoice always (Phil 4:4; 1Th5:16). Whenever we fail to follow Christ with joy -- to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength -- we have sinned, and not obeyed.

It just boggles my mind that you seem to have no qualms about entirely misrepresenting a man's position, and doing so resolvedly with supposed authority. What you're doing is wrong, Paul, and I would advise you to take some serious time, remove yourself from whatever controversy you've put yourself in, and disinterestedly evaluate the issues here. Your comments both today and last weekend demonstrate to me pretty clearly that you don't understand Piper's position, nor the implications of the various issues involved.

You can simply assert, "MacArthur and Piper are far separated on this issue," all you want. But it's just an assertion. If you read my comment above, actually taking what they said and comparing them, you'll see that you're wrong. Things aren't so because you want them to be so.

So would all sides agree that joy in obedience is ideal and what we pray for, but should not be the all important indicator of regeneration?

No, I don't think all sides do. I don't, at least. Regeneration is the Holy Spirit's imparting new life to the soul such that eyes that were blind to glory are now opened: we see sin for the garbage that it is and Christ for the beauty that He is, and we leave sin and run after Christ with joy. When we see Him in all His glory, we must be joyfully compelled to follow after Him. To know Him is to enjoy Him. To see Him is to delightfully follow after Him. That happens at the moment of conversion, but also happens throughout our Christian lives.

One of Jonathan Edwards's biographers, George Marsden, helpfully summarized Edwards's thoughts on this matter:

"'Beauty' is the term that Edwards most typically used to describe the character of God's ongoing actions in creation and redemption. 'Beauty' for Edwards is not just an object of passive contemplation, but rather a transforming power. If one sees a beautiful person, said Edwards, one cannot help but be drawn to that person. One’s heart is drawn to that beauty, and one’s actions will follow one’s heart. So it is with the surpassing beauty of God as revealed in Christ. ... If one glimpses the perfect beauty of such love, one cannot help but be drawn to it.

If you see beauty (which regenerated people have been given eyes to see), you enjoy it. It's beautiful. Failure to enjoy the beauty of Christ is the definition of being spiritually dead.

And so if we claim to be disciples, whose eyes have been opened to see and treasure the glory of God in the face of Christ, yet we are not delightfully following after that beauty, something's wrong.

Mike Riccardi said...

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many great Christian saints have gone through droughts with little joy - Luther, Spurgeon, Brainerd, Cowper.

This is undisputed. No one, especially not John Piper, believes that we just go around gushing all the time. He himself has battled with depression. This notion of delightful obedience doesn't require perfection. What it does require is the admission that failure to obey with joy is failure to obey. Period. And from there we are to seek repentance not only for not doing our duty of, say, reading our Bible often, but to seek repentance for our not wanting to read our Bible often.

He seems to make no allowance here for the change referred to in 2 Co 5.17 (as well as Romans 6.18).

Of course he does. He just hammers the point that God is the one to overcome that sinful heart. Romans 6:18 comes from God, as Paul says in 6:17: thanks be to God that you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed. What does that mean other than that God Himself grants us the heart to obey?

How can it be denied in any form that we are dependent entirely on the grace of God, moment by moment, even for our next breath, let alone our obedience to Christ?

Paul said...

bruchim,

I think there is a deeper question: Does a more and more consistent Christian joy come from learning more about the mind of Christ and how to apply it to our life, and doing so? Or does it come from a deeper and deeper understanding of the gospel that justified us?

Mike Riccardi said...

False dichotomy.

Paul said...

Piper says the latter, with the result being an obedience from God that is earmarked by joy.

Paul said...

Mike,
Then why does Paul David Tripp say in "How People Change" that even the passive Christian activity of changing our thoughts to the thoughts of Christ; rejects Christ as
"Savior?"

Mike Riccardi said...

Paul, I haven't read Tripp's book. I'm not sure why he says what he says, and I would reserve comment until I've read his thoughts in his own context, something you don't seem to be a fan of doing. Besides, Tripp's book isn't the topic of the post. That's called a red herring.

Look, we get it. You think Piper's an antinomian. You think Tripp, Horton, Keller, and the new Calvinism conflate justification and sanctification. There. It's been said. Out in the open. You got your publicity.

Can you stop misrepresenting people now?

Paul said...

Mike,
If it's a false dichotomy, then why did Micheal Horton say this:

“Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every
moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ's flock
but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ's image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and
you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.”

Mike Riccardi said...

Furthermore, Piper does not believe that obedience [to external duties] should ever precede joy.

In the following paragraphs, just a few above the original quote you provided (the one referring to Romans 6:17), Piper plainly contradicts that claim. The honest thing to do here, Paul, is to retract your statement.

From, The Dangerous Duty of Delight, pp. 30-31:

"It is true that our hearts are often sluggish. We do not
feel the depth or intensity of affections that are appropriate
for God or His cause. It is true that at those times we must
exert our wills and make decisions that we hope will rekindle
our joy. Even though joyless love is not our aim (“God loves
a cheerful giver!” 2 Corinthians 9:7; “[Show] mercy with
cheerfulness,” Romans 12:8), nevertheless it is better to do a joyless duty than not to do it, provided that there is a spirit
of repentance that we have not done all of our duty because
of the sluggishness of our hearts
."

For good measure, I think this will clarify some things and answer some questions. It's just the next paragraph:

"I am often asked what a Christian should do if the cheerfulness of obedience is not there. It’s a good question. My answer is not to simply get on with your duty because feelings don’t matter. They do! My answer has three steps.

- First, confess the sin of joylessness. (“My heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I,” Psalm 61:2.) Acknowledge the coldness of your heart. Don’t say that it doesn’t matter how you feel.
- Second, pray earnestly that God would restore the joy of obedience. (“I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart,” Psalm 40:8.)
- Third, go ahead and do the outward dimension of your duty in the hope that the doing will rekindle the delight."

Mike Riccardi said...

If it's a false dichotomy, then why did Micheal Horton say this:

Another red herring. Whether or not it's a false dichotomy has nothing to do with what Michael Horton said.

Paul said...

Mike,
Thanks for that clarification. I have really grown fond of you through these back and forths. Do you live anywhere near the Dayton,Ohio area? I would like to buy you lunch.

Paul said...

Mike,
Look at my statements that you say are a false dichotomy, and then look at Horton's statement. It articulates what Piper says about moving on from the foundation of the gospel (justification) and how it relates to Christian Hedonism, the subject at hand.

Mike Riccardi said...

Fond enough to admit that you misrepresented Dr. Piper, and retract your statement?

No, I live in L.A. Thanks for the offer though... well, thanks as along as you offered out a sense of truly delighting in buying me lunch, and not out of a sense of mere duty.

:-)

My point, Paul, is that no matter what anyone else says, pitting

(A) "learning more about the mind of Christ and how to apply it to our life, and doing so"

against

(B) "a deeper and deeper understanding of the gospel that justified us"

is fallacious. The two are not distinct from one another. We learn about the mind of Christ through a deeper understanding of His work (i.e., the Gospel). And we learn more about the Gospel by learning more about the mind of Christ.

bruchim said...

"Romans 6:17: thanks be to God that you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed. What does that mean other than that God Himself grants us the heart to obey?"

He grants us the heart to obey? Oh yes! I am familiar with Edwards writing on that extra sense of sweetness that comes with conversion.

But what else comes from the heart?
That innate sense of right and wrong - a general revealation that becomes a sense of duty when we are converted. That duty may then carry with it a sense of sweetness and joy. Or perhaps not joy, but a sense of underlying peace when there is no joy to be found. This is the ebb and flow of man. One step forward, two steps back until we inch our way to glory. I guess I am reiterating the points of Stefan. And I really like Stefan's last paragraph.


Mike, you seem to say two different things...

1.So would all sides agree that joy in obedience is ideal and what we pray for, but should not be the all important indicator of regeneration?

No, I don't think all sides do. I don't, at least. Regeneration is the Holy Spirit's imparting new life to the soul such that eyes that were blind to glory are now opened: we see sin for the garbage that it is and Christ for the beauty that He is, and we leave sin and run after Christ with joy. When we see Him in all His glory, we must be joyfully compelled to follow after Him. To know Him is to enjoy Him. To see Him is to delightfully follow after Him. That happens at the moment of conversion, but also happens throughout our Christian lives.

2.Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe many great Christian saints have gone through droughts with little joy - Luther, Spurgeon, Brainerd, Cowper.

This is undisputed. No one, especially not John Piper, believes that we just go around gushing all the time. He himself has battled with depression. This notion of delightful obedience doesn't require perfection. What it does require is the admission that failure to obey with joy is failure to obey. Period. And from there we are to seek repentance not only for not doing our duty of, say, reading our Bible often, but to seek repentance for our not wanting to read our Bible often.


Could you speak more to this...If we are in a joyless drought should we then question our salvation? Or not? How long should we give this joyless period before we totally despair for our souls?

Also issuing forth from the heart, is that sense of trust, submission, dependance and even desperation for our Saviour. Is this not just as powerful as joy?

I want to be joyful, Mike. I should be joyful! What the heck is wrong with me? Why can't my mind take in all the grandeur around me and my heart overflow with the ideal of beauty and joy? I confess and repent. But your words do not shake my assurance. There is so much more to heartfelt obedience than joy.

bruchim said...

HAHAHAHA - there must have neen 10 comments made all while I was slowly plodding through my thoughts and posting!

I can't keep up! I guess that's why they put me on the tuba instead of the clarinet :)

Mike Riccardi said...

But your words do not shake my assurance.

I have absolutely no desire to shake your assurance.

There is so much more to heartfelt obedience than joy.

I don't deny this. But there's not less than that, either.

Could you speak more to this...If we are in a joyless drought should we then question our salvation?

I would say, you shouldn't question your salvation any more than you would question your salvation if you were in a rebellious phase. Joy is commanded, just as, for example, patience is commanded. If you were consistently impatient -- for weeks, months, etc. -- you would probably start asking yourself what's going on. You'd examine yourself. You wouldn't immediately despair of your salvation, but you would confront yourself with the reality that the fruit of the Spirit includes patience, and you've not been bearing that fruit. So you examine yourself and get to the bottom of it. You confess impatience as sin. You pray for grace to be a patient person.

The fruit of the Spirit also includes joy. You should think the same about it as you do patience, and love, and peace, and self-control, and so on.

Also issuing forth from the heart, is that sense of trust, submission, dependence and even desperation for our Saviour. Is this not just as powerful as joy?

It depends. Why do you trust Him? Why do you submit? What makes you feel dependent or desperate for Him? It would seem to me that it is precisely the joy and satisfaction you receive form Him, having known what it means to be in a relationship with Him. My faith comes from the confidence that He will keep His promises, one of which is to fill me with joy in His presence (Ps 16:11). I submit to Him out of joy because I know His lordship is sweet. I depend on Him and am desperate for Him because it is He alone who satisfies the depths of my soul. Joy drives all of those things.

I want to be joyful, Mike. I should be joyful! What the heck is wrong with me? Why can't my mind take in all the grandeur around me and my heart overflow with the ideal of beauty and joy?

I hear you, brother. I'm right there with you. The answer is because the presence of our flesh remains, and we see Christ's glory yet dimly, and so savor Him imperfectly.

I confess and repent.

That's all we can do. And pray that the joy we so often lack will be supplied to us by grace. Here's a prayer from Tozer's Pursuit of God that I found particularly helpful and encouraging:

O Lord, I have heard a good word inviting me to look away to Thee and be satisfied. My heart longs to respond, but sin has clouded my vision till I see Thee but dimly.

Be pleased to cleanse me in Thine own precious blood, and make me inwardly pure, so that I may with unveiled eyes gaze upon Thee all the days of my earthly pilgrimage. Then shall I be prepared to behold Thee in full splendor in the day when Thou shalt appear to be glorified in Thy saints and admired in all them that believe.

Amen
.

Bobby Grow said...

Here is how historian Theodore Dwight Bozeman characterizes the ethos that gave rise to English Puritianism:

English penitential teaching expressly echoed and bolstered moral priorities. In contrast, again, to Luther, whose penitential teaching stressed the rueful sinner’s attainment of peace through acknowledgment of fault and trust in unconditional pardon, several of the English included a moment of moral renewal. In harmony with Reformed tendencies on the Continent and in unmistakable continuity with historic Catholic doctrine that tied “contrition, by definition, to the intention to amend,” they required an actual change in penitent. For them, a renewal of moral resolve was integral to the penitential experience, and a few included the manifest alteration of behavior. They agreed that moral will or effort cannot merit forgiveness, yet rang variations on the theme that repentance is “an inward . . . sorrow . . . whereunto is also added a . . . desire . . . to frame our life in all points according to the holy will of God expressed in the divine scriptures.” However qualified by reference to the divine initiative and by denial of efficacy to human works, such teaching underscored moral responsibility; it also adumbrated Puritan penitential and preparationist teaching of later decades.” [italics mine] (Theodore Dwight Bozeman, “The Precisianist Strain . . . ,” 20-21)

When there is an emphasis upon moral conduct in re. to the "elects" personal salvation; and when this emphasis places the person in a place of subjective/introverted contemplation oriented around personal obedience; then we are going to end up with a salvation framework that is destined for man-centeredness that only ends up Christ-centered after the individual has looked to themselves (behavior) (this could be called, and has been, reflexive faith).

I think MacArthur, for all his good intentions follows the pentinentialism of English Puritanism that Bozeman describes above; and for that, good intentions won't really do the job.

Bobby Grow said...

Here is John MacArthur on the role of good works and behavior in the life of the "believer" (this is far from "progressive sanctification" and fits better with what has historically called: experimental predestinarianism):

. . . They’ve been told [Christians in the typical evangelical church in the West] that the only criterion for salvation is knowing and believing some basic facts about Christ. They hear from the beginning that obedience is optional. It follows logically, then, that a person’s one-time profession of faith is more valid than the ongoing testimony of his life-style in determining whether to embrace him as a true-believer. The character of the visible church reveals the detestable consequence of this theology. As a pastor I have rebaptized countless people who once “made a decision,” were baptized, yet experienced no change. They came later to true conversion and sought baptism again as an expression of genuine salvation. [brackets mine] (John MacArthur, “The Gospel According to Jesus,” 17)

It's interesting, and this stuff pops up in Piper's teaching all the time too, how similar MacArthur's approach sounds to the English Puritian approach. It's also interesting how in his framework genuine salvation, in order for us to "know," must have some sort of behavior modification in order for us to rest assured that "real salvation" has happened.

Again, for my money, the problem with this framing is that it does not objectively ground the appropriation of salvation in Jesus Christ; instead it is up to the "elect" to figure out if in fact they are in, and one of those for whom Christ died (limited atonement).

When MacArthur, in the body of his post appeals to the historica Prot. creeds and confessions he shows his hand; he shows, at a categorical level, what in fact is informing his interpretive decisions when it comes to the TEXT and the articulation of "his" salvation system.

bruchim said...

"It depends. Why do you trust Him? Why do you submit? What makes you feel dependent or desperate for Him? It would seem to me that it is precisely the joy and satisfaction you receive form Him, having known what it means to be in a relationship with Him. My faith comes from the confidence that He will keep His promises, one of which is to fill me with joy in His presence (Ps 16:11). I submit to Him out of joy because I know His lordship is sweet. I depend on Him and am desperate for Him because it is He alone who satisfies the depths of my soul. Joy drives all of those things."

Aha! this is clarification. "Joy drives all things." Joy is more than a mere emotion or happiness alone...you have given it additional meaning. Joy is the spark.

I think I understand a little more where you are coming from. But still I wonder, does joy really drive all other heart felt responses? Could you give me scriptural proof? Forgive me if you have already and I have missed it.

Hmm, we love because God loved us first. We know this. And you would use the kissing illustration - can you show a true kiss without joy?
Therefore it is joy that is the actual point of proof. The laying down of Isaac upon the pire.

I just don't know. I cannot accept the statement "without joy you are spiritually dead." Joy is so subjective. We have already seen that your definition of joy is much more than I would have first believed. Isn't there a danger then for those who are prone to melancholy if we make blanket statements like - without joy you are spiritually dead?

That is why I like MacArthur's statements more than Piper (although I am not anti-Piper, I love his narrative poetry. I just wonder about such emphasis on joy.
Has there ever been such an emphasis in other teachers who have gone before?
True, Edwards does speak of being drawn to beauty and truly enjoying chocolate in the Lord etc. but I think a sense of sweetness is a better description because one can even have a sense of bitter sweetness - realizing all God has given us and yet not responding as we know we should.)


Do my questions make sense?

Your sister in Christ,
bruchim

PS can our souls honestly feel true satisfaction in Him while we are still burdened with the old man? Perhaps that is the dilemna with joy.

bruchim said...

Bobby,
How do we apply Biblical teaching and commands to our lives if we are not penitent and seek amendment?

We know our salvation is not dependent on us, but somewhere the rubber has to meet the road. Otherwise it's all theoretical.

Paul said...

Mike,

Here are your Piper quotes:

"It is true that our hearts are often sluggish. We do not
feel the depth or intensity of affections that are appropriate
for God or His cause. It is true that at those times we must
exert our wills and make decisions that we hope will rekindle
our joy. Even though joyless love is not our aim (“God loves
a cheerful giver!” 2 Corinthians 9:7; “[Show] mercy with
cheerfulness,” Romans 12:8), nevertheless it is better to do a joyless duty than not to do it, provided that there is a spirit
of repentance that we have not done all of our duty because
of the sluggishness of our hearts."

Mike, this is classic John Piper double-speak. First, he says:"It is true that at those times we must
exert our wills and make decisions that we hope will rekindle
our joy." Mike, we don't need to "hope" for that, it's a biblical promise throughout Scripture. Why doesn't he just simply teach that we are promised joy through obedience? Secondly: "nevertheless it is better to do a joyless duty than not to do it, provided that there is a spirit of repentance that we have not done all of our duty because of the sluggishness of our hearts."

This doesn't line-up with Christ's parable of the two sons that the Father told to go work in the vineyard. The one who actually obeyed did so reluctantly. The bottom line with Christ was "who did the Father's will?" Also, Christ told Peter that he would glorify God by being taken to a place that he did not want to go. Sometimes, the depth of self-sacrifice can be marked by a temporary despair. Furthermore, Piper teaches that joy is synonymous with faith, but in the Hebrew writers treatise on faith in chapter 11, joy is not once mentioned among those presented as paramount examples.

Bobby Grow said...

bruchim,

My points were to underscore the informing background to MacArthur's teaching.

There is a huge difference between knowing you have communion or sweet fellowship with the Saviour and His saints; and knowing if we in fact have Union with the Saviour in the first place. As my quote illustrates, from Mac., his "rubber meeting the road" is oriented to the latter scenario I just mentioned (i.e. justification). This is the fundmental flaw with "Lordship Salvation" it fits all the key features which characterized English Precisianism or English Puritanism.

My question has to do with the broader informing framework in which being penitental derives its shape. I "know" what's behind Macs, historically, and it is flawed for some of the reasons I've mentioned.

I don't think being repentant or pent. is what's at issue --- that's clear from scripture --- its how those are referenced and explained that is the issue.

Paul said...

Mike,
Here is the other one:
"I am often asked what a Christian should do if the cheerfulness of obedience is not there. It’s a good question. My answer is not to simply get on with your duty because feelings don’t matter. They do! My answer has three steps."

Mike,Evangelicals don't believe that feelings don't matter and Piper knows it. It's disingenuous.

In regard to your defense of Piper using Romans 6 in regard to sanctification, ARE WE STILL ENSLAVED TO SIN OR NOT? HE SAYS WE ARE!!

Mike Riccardi said...

But still I wonder, does joy really drive all other heart felt responses? Could you give me scriptural proof? Forgive me if you have already and I have missed it.

Could I just recommend that you read Desiring God? You can read it online for free. :-)

I'll try to answer you, but it'll be much worse than what Piper says in DG.

The reason why joy in God-in-Christ is so all-encompassing is because it is rooted in God's ultimate purpose to glorify Himself in all things. We recognize this, right? The opener to the WCF: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. And as evangelicals, we buy that (Is 42:8; 43:7; 48:11; Eph 1:11-12; 1Pet 4:10-11; etc.).

The thing is, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever are not different things. God has so ordained all things that His glory be displayed to the utmost. When He displays His glory (the beauty of all of His perfections) He desires that it be perceived, known, understood, and rejoiced in. God is not as honored by someone who sees is glory and understands it, as He is by someone who sees and understands His glory and loves it, and enjoys it. Just like you're not as honored by your husband's intellectually acknowledging that you're beautiful as much as when he sees you, runs up to you, and gives you a big hug and a kiss because of how you delight him.

So God's chief aim in all He does -- to glorify Himself -- is in perfect harmony with our greatest good and satisfaction imaginable, because we were created for His glory (Is 43:7). So when God pursues His glory, He necessarily pursues our happiness, because His glory is what makes us truly happy. So we also, then, must pursue His glory, which is the same thing as saying our happiness.

So if our chief end is to glorify God -- i.e., that is obedience: to glorify God -- and His glory is our joy, then we must pursue our joy (provided that we understand that our joy is in God and in Him alone). So when Jesus tells me, "Do not fear, for I am with you," He is not interested in someone who simply isn't ever afraid. He's interested in someone who isn't ever afraid because all of their confidence and satisfaction is in Him. He's interested in me displaying to people how wonderfully trustworthy and satisfying He is. And I want to obey Him because I know that as I do, I'll get more of Him to enjoy.

(Continued next comment)

Mike Riccardi said...

When your obedience isn't driven by that desire to see more of Christ (i.e., to enjoy more of Christ), quite simply, it's legalistic. It's moralism. It's as if you're saying, "I know You tell me, God, that going to church and reading Your Word and praying are all good for me. And I know You reveal Yourself to Your people through those means as they obey in loving submission, but I honestly just don't think You're satisfying enough, pleasing enough, beautiful enough, to have me enjoy obeying You. Sure, I can muscle it down, but it's not enjoyable. You're not enjoyable."

But obedience that glorifies God -- get that: obedience that glorifies God -- is keeping the commands because you're excited about getting more of the glory of Christ to enjoy, and about displaying that glory so that others will enjoy Him and further glorify Him. Examples of that are throughout Scripture: Jesus tells the listeners of the sermon on the mount to love their enemies because in so doing their reward will be great: they will be sons of the Most High. In Hebrews 10, the writer recounts how the Christians' joyfully accepted the seizure of their property, because they were looking for a better city (a reward). In Hebrews 11, we learn that Moses chose to endure ill-treatment because he was looking to the reward, because He was seeing Him (Christ) who is unseen (according to the flesh). This idea of obeying Christ for the reward of further enjoyment of Him drives the entire Christian life, because God enjoyed is God glorified.

I just don't know. I cannot accept the statement "without joy you are spiritually dead."

The point is this: Unbelievers are defined in verse 2Cor 4:3 as those whose minds are blinded so that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. When we were unbelievers, we could look right at Christ's glory and be entirely unaffected, entirely unmoved. That's depravity. Looking at what gives you greatest satisfaction and having no taste for it. That is the definition of a blind man!

But regeneration is God shining in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2Cor 4:6). With new life comes this new light so that we can finally see Christ's glory.

Now, if we have the eyes to see that glory, we will not act like we did before we had the eyes to see that glory. We now look at what gives most satisfaction, and we run to it! We take hold of it! We eat it and drink it to be satisfied by it (cf. John 6:27ff)! That's spiritual life.

If you made a blind man open his eyes and look directly at the sun, you wouldn't be surprised that there was no reaction. But if that blind man had been given eyes to see, and he looked at the sun, there would be a reaction! The brilliance of the sun would demand a reaction. It's the same with the glory of Christ. His glory is the sun, and our joy is the reaction. If you look into the sun and don't react, you're blind.

And yet, we're not perfect. When we sin, we look away from the sun, we place things in front of our eyes between us and the sun. As Tozer prayed, "I see Thee but dimly." And our imperfect, yet ever improving (2Cor 3:18), vision is what progressive sanctification is all about until we see Him as He is. And when we see Him as He is, we'll be like Him, conformed perfectly into that image (1Jn 3:2).

(Continued next comment)

Mike Riccardi said...

Isn't there a danger then for those who are prone to melancholy if we make blanket statements like - without joy you are spiritually dead?

The only danger I see there is that they might recognize that's a problem and set about to be more joyful. I'll take it!

And... I'm not talking about just always being peppy. Paul could say that we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. And so periods of depression don't disqualify someone from heaven, but neither does it mean that those periods of depression aren't sinful.

That is why I like MacArthur's statements more than Piper.

Could I please ask you to re-read my first comment, where I believe I clearly demonstrate that MacArthur's thoughts in this post do not at all contradict Piper's thoughts as he's sought to express them over the years? There isn't a contradiction.

Has there ever been such an emphasis in other teachers who have gone before?

Yes. Edwards would be pretty preeminent, but also Luther and Calvin. Especially Augustine. And for all Bobby says about the Puritans, many of them understood that the Christian life was the pursuit of joy in God. And it even goes back to the writers of Scripture. See here for a quick overview.

Can our souls honestly feel true satisfaction in Him while we are still burdened with the old man?

Absolutely. That's what it means to have eyes to see the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Again, the old man does its best to cloud that vision, but we are no longer its slave and can fix our eyes on Jesus as we run with endurance this race set before us (Hb 12:2).

bp said...

Piper does not believe that obedience should ever precede joy

Mike's right. It’s not that obedience shouldn’t ever precede joy, but that it can’t. “True” obedience flows from joy. Think about it. Whenever you make a decision, you decide based on what brings you the most pleasure. Piper talks about this in one of his books (don’t remember which). Whether a man flees to Canada to avoid the draft or marches down to sign up himself, his decision is based on what brings him the most pleasure. It’s like that for all of us.

Btw, If Piper thought that we should all be walking around filled with joy or else we should question our conversion, he wouldn’t have written a book titled, “When I don’t desire God.”

bp said...

that's the 2nd time you posted 1 minute before me, Mike. lol

bp said...

In-fact, I bet you can't tell me one decision you've ever made that wasn't based on what brought you the most pleasure.

bp said...

When your obedience isn't driven by that desire to see more of Christ (i.e., to enjoy more of Christ), quite simply, it's legalistic. It's moralism. It's as if you're saying, "I know You tell me, God, that going to church and reading Your Word and praying are all good for me. And I know You reveal Yourself to Your people through those means as they obey in loving submission, but I honestly just don't think You're satisfying enough, pleasing enough, beautiful enough, to have me enjoy obeying You. Sure, I can muscle it down, but it's not enjoyable. You're not enjoyable."

Exactly Mike! And think about this: If someone is going to church week after week out of duty (no joy in Christ), would you then say that they are not doing what pleases them most?” No, they still are. Maybe they go because they’re afraid if they don’t, they’ll displease their parents/spouse/God (maybe they’re afraid they’ll go to hell). So it pleases them most (brings them most pleasure) to go, even if they dread it. That’s duty. And James 1:12 says,

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Those who love Him. True obedience flows from a heart of love.

bruchim said...

Bobby,
I don't think I have enough background knowledge to understand exactly what you mean.

Would you mind explaining communion with the Savior versus Union with the Savior?
Now that Christ is raised it seems as if we cannot have communion unless we have Union from the beginning.

Why do you capitalize Union?

So your main criticism is looking too much at the self for positive indicators? And a teacher should point to Christ's overall role - and not in any close relation to personal obedience?

Does Scipture itself seperate God's sovereignty and choice from man's condition and obligation?

Could you define "Lorship Salvation?"

If this is too much for you to explain to me in a blog could you suggest a book?

Mike Riccardi said...

Paul,

You are the poster child for eisegesis, Scriptural and otherwise.

Mike, this is classic John Piper double-speak.

Dude, your arrogance is truly staggering. I mean truly. Here's me staggered: :-o

It's just amazing that you can't conceive of the fact that you could be misunderstanding him -- especially after people have presented that they believe you're misunderstanding him. No, he must be contradicting himself. And none of the greatest minds in Evangelicalism who he happens to have at his disposal as his friends, who might warn him about this and correct him, none of them get it either. Where would the Church be without you, Paul?

First, he says: "It is true that at those times we must exert our wills and make decisions that we hope will rekindle our joy." Mike, we don't need to "hope" for that, it's a biblical promise throughout Scripture.

So you've never been on empty? It's never happened that you didn't feel like obeying, did it anyway, and the feelings still didn't follow? If so, you're a better man than most. Certainly better than Piper. Certainly better than me. Is that what you want to hear?

And besides, we know that Biblical hope isn't the wish-upon-a-star hope like we use the word in contemporary English. Biblical hope is simply faith in the future tense: a solid, resolute conviction. Why not read him and give him the benefit of the doubt? You're constantly reading your own hangups into what he's saying.

Why doesn't he just simply teach that we are promised joy through obedience?

LoL. That you can posit that he doesn't teach that we get joy in obedience is just mind blowing.

This doesn't line-up with Christ's parable of the two sons that the Father told to go work in the vineyard. The one who actually obeyed did so reluctantly.

Wow. So you think this parable is a lesson on the Christian life? There's that eisegesis again. And the interpretation is right there in verse 32! The parable is teaching that the Pharisees (religious Israel) would not inherit the kingdom despite their outward "obedience" to the Law, but those who seemed not to be obedient to the Law (tax collectors and prostitutes) would inherit the kingdom because they believed in Christ. Almost sounds like it supports my argument doesn't it? The moralistic, external "obeyers" didn't believe in Christ to keep the Law for them, while the sinners who recognized that they didn't keep the Law but sought a true relationship with Christ.

(Concluded next comment)

Mike Riccardi said...

Also, Christ told Peter that he would glorify God by being taken to a place that he did not want to go.

You're using old arguments that I've already responded to. From that thread:

The instances you bring up about Peter going a place he doesn't want to go, or keeping a vow even when it hurts, all illustrate the dichotomy of the flesh and the Spirit. Being crucified upside down was not pleasant according to the flesh, yet Peter and countless other martyrs before AD 313 rejoiced in those circumstances. They delighted to be counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's name (Ac 5:40-42). It was an unpleasant experience according to the flesh, and yet in those instances they delighted in Christ according to the Spirit. Pruning is a painful activity according to the flesh, but a delightful one according to the Spirit (cf. John 15).

Furthermore, Piper teaches that joy is synonymous with faith, but in the Hebrew writers treatise on faith in chapter 11, joy is not once mentioned among those presented as paramount examples.

This is another red herring, moving onto another thing that Piper said that had nothing to do with the previous discussion. That's your M.O. When someone refutes one argument, don't counter-argue or cede the point, just move onto another saying, "Well, well what about this?!?!"

The fact that you can't see joy as the motivator of obedience in Hebrews 11 is just plain sad (v. 16; vv. 24-27), but only further demonstrates your willful blindness on this issue. It's like there's no turning back. You've thrown a ton of mental energy into making a case against these guys that you can't read them without reading your hangups into their writing. You're only going to see what you want to see, and that's terribly dangerous.

Again, I plead with you, take about a month and don't write at all on the subject. Just read what these men are saying without feeling like you've got to prove something. Divest yourself of the agenda you've set up for yourself, and soften your heart a little. Until you've given some evidence of that, I can't imagine how it would be profitable for me to continue interacting with you. To the best of my knowledge, I've answered every one of your substantive comments, thoroughly and orderly. You have afforded me no such courtesy, but dismiss arguments and run to your next out-of-context quote and gripe -- so much so that I have to quote myself from earlier comments. You're not about interaction, Paul, you're about airing your own mind. I'm not going to participate in that any longer.

bruchim said...

"And... I'm not talking about just always being peppy. Paul could say that we are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. And so periods of depression don't disqualify someone from heaven, but neither does it mean that those periods of depression aren't sinful."

Yes, I see what you are saying.

"can our souls honestly feel true satisfaction in Him while we are still burdened with the old man? Perhaps that is the dilemna with joy."

After I wrote this, it bothered me. I realized it was a terrible question. I know our chief end is to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.

And what do I admire most in saints who have passed, but their underlying joy and dependence upon the Lord?

I thank you for taking the time to respond Mike and DJP. I promise to consider all your words.I will reread Desiring God and try to remove any beginning prejudice.
I get caught up on the word "joy."

Perhaps I need to recapture my frame of mind when I wrote...

Besotted

The passing chorus of besotted saints
Sounds in Baker's black and white.
They erect with living eyes,
fill the risors and the skies.

Oh, impassioned print-
Pressing chords so dissonant.
Heated air and rising wind
Suspends the earthbound pilgrim,
Then turns him out with new resolution.

Paul said...

bp said...

In-fact, I bet you can't tell me one decision you've ever made that wasn't based on what brought you the most pleasure.

Oh really bp? Let me share: I was a long-time member (20 years) and former elder of a church where new leaders came who believed that synergistic sanctification is a false gospel. I took my family and left the church. The elders of that church then convinced my wife that I had led my family to a church that preached a false gospel and that I was leading the family to hell. She then went back to that church, and the elders told me that if I too came back, that they would make sure our marriage stayed intact. bp, thou wise one, the decision not to go back to that church to save my marriage was the most heart-wrenching decision that I have ever made in my life, but it was the decision that Christ wanted me to make and the decision was made under the guidance of several godly pastors. It was an act of obedience, but trust me, the joy of it was hard to find. Not only was I married to this dear woman for 24 years, but I am the one God used to lead her to Christ. If you doubt this story, I could send out some emails and flood this site with witnesses, but I doubt DJP would appreciate it.

Fellas, I think I am done for tonight,
God bless you in our Lord.
paul

bp said...

I'm so sorry for what you’ve been through. I can’t imagine a church doing something so extreme, that’s just awful! But, Paul, even that decision, to not go back, came from a desire in you that was even stronger than the desire to keep your marriage in-tact. A desire to heed your Pastor's wise counsel, and honor God, probably. This was the greater pleasure. (maybe you don’t see it as the greater pleasure, but your greater desire drove your decision). It doesn't necessarily mean that it has to bring you great joy. A man can fling himself in front of a bullet to save another's life. This obviously is not pleasant in the least. But, at the time, he was more pleased to save that person's life, than to save his own.

Bobby Grow said...

bruchim,

Unfortunately alot of what I'm referring to requires some "technical" background work. There's not "one" book, I would suggest though familiarizing yourself with the theology of the Reformation (like Steven Ozment's The Age of Reform) --- if you haven't done this kind of donkey work before ;-).


I am in the process of co-editing/co-authoring a mutli author work on "Evangelical Calvinism" that will be out late 2011; I would point in advance to that book, although it's not exegetical (i.e. it's "theological") in orientation it will be a good resource for alerting folks to the broader issues going on with Calvinism (including Mac's version, though I won't be explicitly referencing Mac). You can find out more about the book and who the authors are here: http://evangelicalcalvinist.com

You're right, communion presupposes union (the Trinity being the best example of that). So my point was that Mac. is referencing justification (or union issues) when he should be limiting himself to sanctification or communion issues (in other words once we're "saved" we're saved, and all of the "warning" passages, esp. in the NT are referencing our communion/fellowship with God --- which can be broken through personal sin --- versus referencing justification (or union) which cannot be broken once apppropriated by faith in Christ by the Spirit. I don't think Mac. is clear or careful on this distinction; and I really think this is a rhetorical move in order to reign Christians in who might be living morally lax lives --- but this is not the New Testament way (see I Cor. 5 for example or I Cor. 11 and the serious issues surrounding the ordinance of communion).

As far as defining "Lordship Salvation", Mac. does an excellent job of that himself in his "Gospel According to Jesus."

My finger slipped when I capitalized "union," and I didn't feel like fixing it, seriously ;-).

You ask:

Does Scipture itself seperate God's sovereignty and choice from man's condition and obligation?

I don't understand this question, can you clarify?

Yes, we need to be able to look immediately to Christ and His good works as the ground for our salvation; our "good works" are an overflow of His in our lives, and in the NT they are intended to serve or edify the Body or bear witness to Christ. There's not one passage in the NT that says "good works" are intended to prove that Christ died for me, and if I don't remain or persevere in those good works then I'm probably not one of the unconditionally elect. This presents a bit of a challenge for the classic Calvinism that Mac is informed by (I'll just reference you to my forthcoming booking and blog which is dedicated to dealing with these issues).

I think I broached all of your questions, let me know what you think.

bp said...

Why doesn't he just simply teach that we are promised joy through obedience?

LoL. That you can posit that he doesn't teach that we get joy in obedience is just mind blowing.

Mike, I don’t know if he is arguing that Piper doesn't teach that we get joy in obeying God, rather, he seems to think that joy comes as a “result” of obedience (correct me if I"m wrong, Paul).

Does obedience, itself, bring the result of joy or does joy in Him bring the result of obedience?

If you’re a kid and your mom tells you that if you clean your room you can go to the store and pick out any toy in the whole store, tell me: Would your delight in what’s coming, lead to your obedience or would your delight be a result of your obedience?

If we really believe that in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand, pleasures forevermore, this delight in Him will drive our obedience.

Off to bed, I gotta work all day tomorrow! (My delight in my paycheck drives my obedience to my boss ;)

bruchim said...

Bobby Grow,
I will check out your blog and look for your book. I really am not in a position to comment, but am interested in what you have to say.

Just one more question in regards to... "There's not one passage in the NT that says "good works" are intended to prove that Christ died for me, and if I don't remain or persevere in those good works then I'm probably not one of the unconditionally elect."

What comes to mind when you say this is 1John - How do you interpret 1John 2:3-6?

Phew, my mind is swimming! I might have to read a bit of Jane Austen before I go to bed :) Clergymen are very simple in her writings hehehehe

bp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobby Grow said...

bruchim,

You're a really nice sister, glad to have across you here!

You know I'm physically/emotionally beat at the moment (I'm recovering from some surg. and chemo treatment); I have my moments of strength which is when I made my previous comments :-). Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow, and be able to at least sketch the way I would approach interpreting the I Jn passage (I Jn is often used to support classic Calv. interp. --- I would just simply assert right now that the "audience" and the occassion of I Jn are the most important interpretive keys when approaching this awesome little epistle).

Anyway off to bed; I would appreciate if you might pray for a quick non-complicated recovery for me :-) . . . thanks!

Bobby Grow said...

Phil Johnson,

I wanted you to know that I'm praying for your back . . . get better!

Paul said...

bp,

You rightly comment on the whole "desire" element of this argument.
Piper, like Sigmund Freud and the Catholic philosopher Blaise Pascal, believe that all human behavior is driven by desires.
Change the desires and you change the behavior.

Shockingly, Piper openly admits that the whole premise of his Christian Hedonism didn't first come from Scripture, but from the writings of CS Lewis:

"Before I saw these things in the Bible, C. S. Lewis snagged me when I wasn’t looking. I was standing in Vroman’s Bookstore on Colorado Avenue in Pasadena, California, in the fall of 1968. I picked up a thin blue copy of Lewis’s book The Weight of Glory. The first page changed my life:"

"Never in my life had I heard anyone say that the problem with the world was not the intensity of our pursuit of happiness, but the weakness of it. Everything in me shouted, Yes! That’s it! There it was in black and white, and to my mind it was totally compelling: The great problem with human beings
is that we are far too easily pleased. We don’t seek pleasure with nearly the resolve and passion that we should. And so we settle for mud pies of appetite
instead of infinite delight.”

One author comments on Piper's prism (eisigesis) that is primarily formed by CS Lewis and Henry Scougal. SEE NEXT

Paul said...

"There was a time among evangelicals when an admission that someone got an idea while browsing in a bookstore and then went to the Bible to establish
the idea would send good men running for the tar and feathers, but no more. Not only that, Piper made the same type of claim concerning another theory
of his on page 17 of “The Pleasures Of God.” This time the idea was from Henry Scougal instead of Lewis. Both are considered to be Christian philosophers. Piper took a four day sabbatical with a concordance to confirm what Scougal said and you guessed it, there it was! One would wonder why he needed a four day study to determine the biblical veracity of Scougal's theory if Scougal made his case from the Bible to begin with, but I think I know the
answer to that."

Paul said...

Though Mike thinks discussion of Paul Tripp is a red herring, the fact is that Piper holds to Tripp's theory on how we reorient the desires of our heart and therefore modify behavior. Piper himself has said that the theories of Paul Tripp will be the focus his sabbatical as he seeks to remove various "species" of idols from his heart through fasting. Tripp believes that we discover sinful desires in our heart by asking ourselves interpretive questions called "x-ray questions." Once we determine the sinful desires through x-ray questions, we confess them ("deep repentance") which empties our heart. Christ then fills the void with himself and obeys for us ("new obedience").

Again, I'm I here right now?

bruchim said...

Bobby,
It would be an honor to join all the other voices who lift you up in prayer! Isn't it wonderful - to think of the chorus who prays for you - especially all those you don't even know!

I like to meditate on "I waited on the Lord, He inclined unto me."
It's the word "inclined" that is beautiful to me. That our great God condescends to lean toward us when we pray.

I will look at 1John for audience and occasion, and I will also try to get a better grip on what you were saying in your previous posts.
I am a slow plodder - but hopefully the next time we talk I will be (at least) a little more informed :)

GrammaMack said...

Dear Mike,

I don't know enough about the teachings of Pastor Piper or Pastor MacArthur to enter into your discussion, but this remark of yours concerns me: "periods of depression don't disqualify someone from heaven, but neither does it mean that those periods of depression aren't sinful."

My dear mother, a faithful Christian for many years, recently suffered through several years of a devastating depression, set off by emergency surgery and a Vitamin B-12 deficiency and deepened by memories of terrible events from her childhood. Among other things, she believed that God came to her and told her that He never knew her.

I thank God daily that He delivered her from it and restored her faith as well as her sanity, but I'm concerned that you would deem such suffering sin. Believe me, she had no control over it. Mostly I'm concerned that readers suffering through something similar might heap more blame on themselves than they already do.

Do you really believe clinical depression is sinful, or are you speaking of something different?

Thank you.

Mike Riccardi said...

GM,

On the one hand, it's very difficult to answer your question without first-hand knowledge of the situation in question. And specifically, I didn't outright say that all periods of depression are sinful, but that simply because they're not a disqualifier of salvation, neither are they necessarily amoral. There is a difference there.

But at the same time, we are commanded to rejoice always (Phil 4:4; 1Th 5:16). To the degree that anyone doesn't do that, that's sin. How can we argue with that?

Aside from that, a number of things from your comment are worrisome to me.

...a devastating depression, set off by emergency surgery and a Vitamin B-12 deficiency and deepened by memories of terrible events from her childhood.

There is just a world of subjectivity there, that I am absolutely unqualified to comment on -- since (1) I don't know your mother, and (2) I'm not a neurologist. But for one thing, the science in determining the the relationships between cause and effect, between physiological and psychological, regarding depression is very murky. Saying that it was "set off" by emergency surgery and a B-12 deficiency is more of a theory than a reality, because depression is a 'diagnosis' (a misnomer) of the mind/soul, not the brain.

But even if we were to grant that the surgery and vitamin deficiency were the cause (which, again, I can't possibly know; and please hear the gentleness in what may seem to be a firm statement), it would still be your mother's responsibility before God to respond to those very unpleasant circumstances righteously. Not doing so is sinful.

Let me illustrate with an example, which is my own but is adapted from Jay Adams' Christian Counselor's Manual, pp. 375ff:

Depression develops as the result of a downward spiral of unbiblical responses to circumstances of life. First, there is an original problem which may or may not be the person's fault. For example, a man finds out he has prostate cancer – something largely, if not entirely, out of his control. Yet, rather than receive the cancer as a trial from God, and as an opportunity to make much of God in his response by resting in His sovereign goodness, he becomes worried and self-focused. Then, rather confronting his worry Biblically (cf. Mt 6:25-34; 1Pet 5:7), this worry slowly produces complicating problems such as a fatalistic attitude as he begins neglecting responsibilities. His neglect of responsibilities elicits more unbiblical responses until all his multiple problems plunge him into depression. Adams summarizes, "The downward cycle of sin moves from a problem to a faulty, sinful response, thereby causing an additional complicating problem which is met by an additional sinful response, etc." (CCM, p. 375). It is important to note that depression is the result of the sinful responses to the initial problem of a cancer diagnosis, and not the cancer diagnosis itself.

(Continued next comment)

Mike Riccardi said...

I thank God daily that He delivered her from it and restored her faith as well as her sanity,

I am very thankful for this as well. May He be glorified for His mercy.

Believe me, she had no control over it.

As mentioned before, she may have had no control over the initial problem, but (and again, please don't hear unfeeling harshness, but tenderness, even in a firm statement) as someone responsible before God, she did have control over how she responded.

Mostly I'm concerned that readers suffering through something similar might heap more blame on themselves than they already do.

And that would be a sinful response, which would quite possibly further the depression. That comes from a self-focus, and trusting more in circumstances and others' evaluations of them than in the grace of Christ.

In fact, I'd be concerned that readers may hear that they have no control over their depression, that it's not necessarily sinful (so not their fault), and so that any hope of recovering is out of their control. Insisting that depression is a result of sinful responses means that at any point (by the grace of God in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit) a child of God can respond righteously, and reverse that downward spiral. After all, "if you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?" (Gen 4:7). Perhaps bringing this up may be painful and bring sorrow at first, but I would hope that it's a godly sorrow which leads to repentance. If they can learn that they must confess and repent of their joylessness, that to me would seem to be wonderful progress!

So, insisting that depression is a result of sinful responses gives more hope than does insisting that they have no control over it.

Do you really believe clinical depression is sinful, or are you speaking of something different?

I hope I've answered your question clearly, but also sensitively. I don't mean to be insensitive to real, hurtful problems; I hurt along with you to read about them (1Cor 12:26). Yet because the believer's joy in God-in-Christ is at the heart of glorifying God as He's worthy, and because that is what my entire life is supposed to be about, I believe it's so important to order our thinking aright in this matter. Even if it means saying and taking a stand on some hard things. I hope you'll receive them in the spirit in which they were intended.

GrammaMack said...

Mike, thanks for your kind response.

There have been a couple of Christian mental health conferences locally in the past few years to address the largely hidden and ignored problem of mental health issues amongst believers. The widespread belief that "depression is a 'diagnosis' (a misnomer) of the mind/soul, not the brain" is one thing addressed.

I understand your viewpoint but respectfully disagree. My mother lived a tortured existence for several years. I believe that Satan asked and received God's permission to subject her to this torture, and God eventually delivered her, as He did Job. I don't know or need to know His purposes in it, but I do know that He strengthened my faith and that of others in my family, although not as much from her deliverance as from His close walk with us through our suffering because of her suffering.

The thing that brought about my mother's recovery was repeated ECT. I initially opposed it but was outvoted. Thankfully. God used it to bring about her healing.

Also (this is just from wikipedia but there's plenty of research out there) "B12 deficiency can also cause symptoms of mania, psychosis, fatigue, memory impairment, irritability, depression and personality changes...Studies showing a relationship between clinical depression levels and deficient B12 blood levels in elderly people are documented in the clinical literature." But I won't derail this discussion further and will say no more.

Bobby Grow said...

bruchim,

Thank you for the prayers, that is much appreciated.

I think I'm going to pass on trying to sketch an interp. of I Jn right now; maybe at a later time.

Appreciate the conversation.

GrammaMack,

I believe that there is actually real life physiological mental impairment that is real. I think each case is a case by case so to speak of this in generalities really isn't helpful. All we can go on is what you communicated about your mom; and be thankful she came through this terrible season.

Another issue, that needs to be dealt with in this context is mental retardation; are they responsible for certain things, or are they covered by God's mercy and grace inspite of themselves? I would say they are covered (w/o argument right now). Anyway, thanks for sharing this trial; I think it is good to inject real life stuff into the mix of often theroetical theologizing and exegeting.

Stefan said...

GrammaMack:

Your story is very moving, and it must have been agonizing for your mother and all of your family to go through that.

Praise God that He delivered your mother from her suffering.

GrammaMack said...

Thank you so much, Bobby. May God bless you in your own suffering and bring you to complete healing. Yes, any theories we had previously were blown away, leaving us clinging only to the Lord and His grace and mercy. And--apologies to the Pyros--one last thing to Mike in response to this:

"Depression develops as the result of a downward spiral of unbiblical responses to circumstances of life...as someone responsible before God, she did have control over how she responded."

She responded in her usual faithful manner, searching the Scriptures (until she could no longer maintain concentration to read anything), pouring out her heart to God in prayer and in her journals (which are heartbreaking to read). At some point during the journey she "saw" the Lord come to her in person (probably a result of one of the meds they tried while she was in and out--mostly in--of psychiatric institutions, which made things worse) and "heard" Him say, "I never knew you; depart from me, you worker of lawlessness." She believed herself justly accused and judged by our righteous God. But she had been born again many years before and was safely in His hands through it all.

It's easy to say that she must have been sinful in her response, but being a faithful child of God is no insurance against any kind of illness, physical or mental.

Thank you, Stefan, as well!

Paul said...

Stefan said:
"Praise God that He delivered your mother from her suffering."

Ditto, and many, many amens. Does my heart good.

bp said...

We don’t seek pleasure with nearly the resolve and passion that we should. And so we settle for mud pies of appetite
instead of infinite delight. - Piper


Do you believe that in His presence is “fullness” of joy? If so, then it is obviously true that we do “settle for mud pies of appetite” instead of passionately seeking the fullness of pleasure and joy that can only be found in Him. How often I’ve chosen the lesser pleasures over the infinitely greater One. How often I’ve wasted my prayer/Bible time in the morning by getting caught up in some newspaper article or some such thing, settling for ridiculously lesser pleasures when I could be spending time with the King, and in His Word. We all do that.

Piper holds to Tripp's theory on how we reorient the desires of our heart and therefore modify behavior

Piper himself has said that the theories of Paul Tripp will be the focus his sabbatical as he seeks to remove various "species" of idols from his heart through fasting.


I’d have to see Piper’s words in writing before I could comment fully on this, but Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I don’t think it’s unbiblical to teach that we should recognize when we are setting up idols in our hearts, desire to turn from them and to delight in God, instead (1st commandment), and the result will obviously be a change in behavior. And I’m willing to bet everything I own that Piper would not say we can do this in our own strength.

Paul said...

bp, mike, others:

Bottom line: Does Piper believe that we are still enslaved to sin as believers or not?

bp said...

Where has he ever said that Christians are "enslaved" to sin? I can't find this quote of yours in the meta.

bp said...

Found it, Paul. I haven't read the entire thread, so sorry if this has been stated already. Piper would never say that Christians are enslaved to sin in the same way that unbelievers are. And yes, Rom 6:17 says that we “were [past-tense] once slaves of sin.” But look at what he says in the present-tense in Rom 7:21-23:

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.”

I’m certain this is what he’s referring to. And if you don’t think your flesh is making you a captive to the law of sin, try going one whole day loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, the way that you should. (you’ll fail)

bp said...

@Paul,
By God’s grace, anyone who is a believer, has been set free of their enslavement to sin and enabled to obey God from the heart. This is what Rom 6:17 is referring to. Unbelievers can not do this. But there is still an enslavement of sorts that causes the battle that Paul describes in 7:21, between the mind and the flesh, and as long as we have flesh, we’ll be living in this war zone. Piper talks about fighting for our joy in Christ. It’s about immersing ourselves in the truth of Scripture that God, in Christ, is infinitely more satisfying than anything else, so that when we are tempted to turn to this or that idol to be satisfied instead of God, we won't believe the lie, and will obey the 1st and 2nd commandments from genuine desire and not merely out of duty.

Paul said...

Bp,
Many followers of John Piper hold to the belief that we as Christians are "totally depraved" and still enslaved to sin. I just had to break fellowship with a friend of 20 years who is a follower of John Piper and understands Piper to hold this position. Furthermore, he (Piper) has a close association with Paul Tripp who positively holds to that position (see pages 64 and 65 of "How People Change").

However, let's assume for sake of argument that Piper does not hold that position, would you then say that he mis-spoke in regard to the quote that I posted?

Secondly, Piper said the following:
"Never (he proceeds to repeat "never" 23 times) think that you are saved by the gospel and that you then move on to something else."

Per the usual, Piper doesn't clarify what we can move on to other than the gospel that saved us (his preaching always brings up more questions than are answered), but the implication seems to be *nothing other than the gospel.*

So, what can we move on to other than the gospel, if anything?

Secondly, Piper says the Scriptures need to be read strictly in regard to the gospel and redemption; the Spirit only illuminates in regard to the gospel narrative. So, this means that we wouldn't want to see Genesis one as a historical account of God's creation, but rather a picture of the gospel.

So, how do I pick-up my bible and see God's redemption in Genesis one, put feet on that for us.

bp said...

I already explained what Piper meant by that quote in my last post, Paul. And as for your other questions, they're way off topic. Time to let the comments return to the subject matter.

Paul said...

Bp,

Piper said this in his letter to MacArthur:

"And therefore you speak of obedience as an obligation to which the believer is bound.I see a different emphasis in Scripture."

Sooo, how Piper interprets the Scriptures is not congruent to the issue?

Paul said...

Bp,

Ok,let's do this, you said:

"It’s about immersing ourselves in the truth of Scripture that God, in Christ, is infinitely more satisfying than anything else, so that when we are tempted to turn to this or that idol to be satisfied instead of God, we won't believe the lie, and will obey the 1st and 2nd commandments from genuine desire and not merely out of duty."

1. What do you mean that *God is "in" Christ.* Please explain.

2. You only mention the first and second commandments. Any particular reason for that?

3. So, changing our desires is job one. So we primarily, if not exclusively, saturate ourselves with Scripture to effectively change our desires, right?

Mike Riccardi said...

Piper said this in his letter to MacArthur...

That wasn't Piper. It was an anonymous "fellow pastor."

bp said...

Since this is more on topic, I’ll answer your questions, Paul.

1. What do you mean that *God is "in" Christ.* Please explain.

I think you’re reading too much into my words, Paul. I didn’t say that “God is in Christ.” I said that God, in Christ, is infinitely more satisfying than anything else. I could have simply said, “God is infinitely more satisfying than anything else.” But here’s basically what I was trying to say: God is infinitely more satisfying than anything else, and it is in/through Christ that we are able to experience Him. If it weren’t for the gospel, we’d still all be dead spiritually.

2. You only mention the first and second commandments. Any particular reason for that?

When we see how infinitely more satisfying He is then anything else, we will obey all the commandments from genuine desire and not merely out of duty. Happier?

3. So, changing our desires is job one. So we primarily, if not exclusively, saturate ourselves with Scripture to effectively change our desires, right?

It’s not some magical formula, Paul. Scripture tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord. How do we do that apart from immersing ourselves in the truth of who He is? And Scripture is where we find out, very specifically, who He is. The more we read about Him and know Him in truth (this goes w/out saying, but: Only those who have the Holy Spirit living in them can know Him/grow in the knowledge of Him), the more beautiful He becomes to us and our desire for Him increases and our desire for fake substitutes decrease.

Paul said...

Bp,
Thanks for you answers.
Mike,
Thanks for the clarification on that, I wrongly assumed Piper sent it.
I would like to post a pdf file link that is an explanation of Gospel Sanctification in layman's terms. It has a chart and each component of the chart is explained separately.I would like to get your input on it, but I think it may be against the rules to post it here. So, I aint gunna post it till I know for sure.

Mike Riccardi said...

I'm not an admin here, Paul, so I'm not one to enforce the rules. But if I were, I'd tell you that posting stuff like that is what your own blog is for.

Paul said...

ya, that makes sense.

Gary said...

As a member of Bethlehem Baptist Church for the last 7 years, I would say that Mike Riccardi has accurately represented Pastor Piper's position and teaching on this subject.

Paul said...

Gary,
Piper and other proponents of Gospel Sanctification(and how it addresses love/duty)part ways with the rest of orthodox Evangelicalism on key issues.The whole love/duty debate comes from the Heart Theology of Gospel Sanctification. First, Piper and others do not believe that a grammatical historical approach to interpretation has significant value in our endeavor for spiritual growth (and GHH does violence to his Christian Hedonism, which is how Heart Theology is experienced). Though he throws GHH a dog bone in the beginning of his speech at the T4G conference, he continues to say (in the same speech) that the only purpose of Scripture is Christocentric per the "Biblical Theology" system of Geerhardus Vos. Though I do not believe that he has ever mentioned Vos, Biblical Theology is not the same Christocentric approach to Scripture that Evangelicals hold to, and his views of interpretation are extremely similar, if not exact, to Vos's Biblical Theology. CONTINUE

Paul said...

Secondly,and lastly, though much more could be discussed, Evangelicals do not believe that synergistic sanctification is a false gospel. Piper (and this is crucial to how all of his theology fits together, including Christian Hedonism)says that we cannot be saved by the gospel, and then move on to "something else." I am only asking here, and I think it is a fair question because of his close association with Paul Tripp; is he talking about the same "something else" that Paul Tripp is talking about? Which is anything less than the *imputed active [present tense] obedience of the Christ in us.* This is substitutionary monergistic sanctification, and Christian Hedonism answers Daryl's question in regard to it:
Daryl said...

Given that we are also commanded to love him...*how would you know if you were obeying out of love only or love and duty?* [emphasis mine].

Besides, we are sinful are we not? Do we not often need to obey out of duty because we just don't love as we ought?

I'm just asking here: What is the "something else" Piper is talking about?

Paul said...

By the way, I think Daryl's question is key here. Of course, Christian Hedonism would tell Daryl that you know because delight will be present in the obeying when it is out of true love for God. But doesn't love sometimes drive duty?; regardless of how it feels?

Furthermore, I will go ahead and slip in another element here. Piper's view of the Law is not orthodox. He believes the primary use of the Law is to look at it as something that Christ has already accomplished for us, and that only the gospel should be seen in the Law. In contrast, Evangelicals believe that the Law is: "these words of mine [Christ speaking]" that are to be "put into practice" so when the storm comes, our spiritual house will stand strong.

Paul said...

Read what he is saying here, it fits what I am saying. Then read what Christ says about the law in the Sermon on the Mount and how He concludes the sermon.

"What Then Shall Those Who Are Justified Do with the Law of Moses?

Read it and meditate on it as those who are dead to it as the ground of your justification and the power of your sanctification. Read it and meditate on it as those for whom Christ is your righteousness and Christ is your sanctification. Which means read and mediate on it to know Christ better and to treasure him more. Christ and the Father are one (John 10:30; 14:9). So to know the God of the Old Testament is to know Christ. The more you see his glory and treasure his worth, the more you will be changed into his likeness (2 Corinthians 3:17-18), and love the way he loved – which is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10).

I say it again. What shall you do with the law – you who are justified by faith alone apart from works of the law? Read it and meditate on it to know more deeply than you have ever known, the justice and mercy of God in Christ, your righteousness and your life."

Mike Riccardi said...

Paul, your hubris continues to be stupefying.

Not only can you get along just fine having a conversation with yourself...

And not only can you dismiss hundreds of words over several days of actual documentation of your mischaracterization of John Piper...

But here you have someone from Piper's own church for the last 7 years telling you -- albeit indirectly -- that you've misunderstood him, and you dismiss it like he has the agenda you have.

Congratulations. You've graduated to professional axe-grinder status, complete with earplugs and a blindfold.

Seriously dude. Why don't you just respond to comments by saying, "La la la la la, I can't hear you!!!"

Paul said...

Mike,
Words mean things. Why don't you be productive and analyze the Piper quote, which strongly insinuates that the role of the Law is exactly the same in justification and sanctification.

Piper clearly teaches that Christians are unable to uphold the Law because we are "dead to it." The idea that Christians are only obligated to one Law (the Law of love) can also be seen in this statement. A careful examination of Piper's teaching in general will reveal that it is all but 100% vertical, with very little "hands-on" application. Neither is it an accident that he avoids the word "obedience" like the plague.

Also insinuated in his statement is the Gospel Sanctification tenet of the "imputed active obedience of Christ" which teaches that Christ obeys the Law for us.

His singular concept of Christian meditation as the primary means of sanctification can also be seen. In his answer to this key question, our duty to uphold the word of God is conspicuously absent, unlike Scripture. Again, in this statement, you see the 100% vertical mode.

Do I have an axe to grind? Yes I do. I have seen first-hand how this doctrine effects the lives of others at ground level. Namely, the company that was divided and eventually went out of business because two of the partners would only do the tasks that gave them joy; their other responsibilities were neglected because to do them out of duty was "dishonoring to God."

Mike, I wish you and others well in your endeavor to save the church from the Dark Ages of Dispensationalism.

Jugulum said...

Paul,

"Piper clearly teaches that Christians are unable to uphold the Law because we are "dead to it." The idea that Christians are only obligated to one Law (the Law of love) can also be seen in this statement."

Are you talking about this sentence?

"Read it and meditate on it as those who are dead to it as the ground of your justification and the power of your sanctification."

If so... That's an interpretation of "dead to it as the ground of your justification and the power of your sanctification" that would not have occurred to me at all. Even after you've suggested it, I have no idea how to get "unable to uphold the Law because" out of his words.

In fact, it seems that you're reading it exactly backwards--we're dead to the Law as the grounds of our justification because we could never have obeyed it, not the other way around.

You're reading "dead to the Law" in the same way as "dead in sin", aren't you? That's not at all obvious on the face of it; I'm pretty sure that's simply a mistake. Particularly, note that the former comes from Gal. 2:19. I think we could verify Piper's meaning by finding his exegesis of that verse.

By squinting, I can understand how you would see "slavery to sin" in that--but I have to try really hard.


FYI, I read Piper's quote this way:
"Read it, remembering that you could never have been justified by any efforts to obey it, knowing that your justification is grounded in Christ's work, not yours. Read it, remembering that simply knowing its commands will not give you the power to obey them. Learn its commands--which will make you know God himself more, since God's will is rooted in his character. As God transforms your mind, you will know that God's will is good, and pleasing, and perfect--and you will love him more. As your mind is set on Christ above, and you grow to love him, you will be transformed from the inside out. You will love God more, and you will love his will more--and in that heart-change, you will find the power to obey God's commands, all of which come down to acting in love the way Christ acted in love."

I get the impression that you read this as, "Sit there and meditate and don't do anything until you actually feel the love & joy." But you cannot legitimately get that idea out of those words. As Mike already quoted, Piper does say, "do the outward dimension of your duty in the hope that the doing will rekindle the delight", and Mike also responded to your dismissal of that as "double-speak". I hope you'll reply, and defend your interpretations that we find baseless.

Paul said...

Jugulum,
I just got done with a project and i am wiped out, but I find your argument well thought out and reasonable. I will get back to you tomorrow, but I will make an initial comment concerning this sentence:
"Read it and meditate on it as those who are dead to it as the ground of your justification and the power of your sanctification." Jugulum, maybe I should just wait till tomorrow because I'm not thinking clearly, but shouldn't "are" be "where" if it refers to a past-tense object or subject? Justification is past, right? Also, how can our prior deadness to the Law be the present power for sanctification? Also, in his concluding statement, only reading and meditation are suggested in regard to our use of the Law in sanctification. You want me to assume that he would include obedience, but it's not there. I will rethink this tomorrow.

Paul said...

Jugulum,

I'm looking at this, but I'm not going to address your last point in regard to dieing the death of a 1000 cuts to finally observe a place where Piper addresses the "should we go ahead and obey whether we feel like it or not" question, and even then, grudgingly affirming such, but saying it is sin and telling us to ask for forgiveness while obeying. Cut me a break.

Paul said...

Jugulum,

Isn't the sentence saying that we are *presently* in the *same* condition that *was* the condition of our justification? Grammatically, that is what he is saying. Right?

Paul said...

Also, I'm curious, do you and Mike think that there is any spiritual value in the grammatical historical hermeneutic? Will the Holy Spirit use that approach (GHH) to sanctify?

Jugulum said...

Paul,

This is a short version of a longer message that will come later--tonight, if I find the time.

1.) Again, "dead to the law" does not mean "dead in sin" or "unable to fulfill the law".

We're born dead in sin; we die to the law when we meet & embrace Christ. We died to the law as legalism--we stopped seeking to be justified by our obedience to it. Yes, that death continues to now. (Our current obedience is fruit, not root.)

2.) In your quote, Piper didn't say that our deadness to the law is the ground of our justification, or is our power of sanctification. Christ in us (through faith) is both of those.

You were reading it as "'dead to sin' as 'the ground and power'". Piper meant it as "dead to 'law as the ground and power'".

I can see the ambiguity. My longer comment will explain why I'm certain that Piper meant it the way I'm reading it. I'll include links to his exegesis of Gal 2:19 ("died to the law"), and to his discussion of the believer's relationship to the law before and after conversion.

Jugulum said...

Paul,

Another brief thought. Take this as a suggested interpretation for the moment, until I can point you to where Piper makes it clear that this is what he means.

You're right that Piper (often) avoids the word "obedience", and it's not accidental--specifically, he does not make "Obey the Law!" his exhortation to Christians. (Though he does talk about obedience as fruit of justification, in addition to the quote that you've blithely dismissed.)

That's not because he thinks the exhortation is wrong, but because he thinks it puts the emphasis in the wrong place. Or, it fails to put our focus in the place that will enable our obedience, beyond a white-washed-tomb, purely-external, "I-don't-murder-but-I-still-burn-in-anger" kind of obedience.

That's why Piper didn't tell MacArthur, "I think that's mistaken", but "I see a different emphasis in Scripture."

Overall, I think you have a couple simple misinterpretations of his explicit statements, compounded by a tendency to read between the lines to extract objectionable material--filling in "I reject X" or "X has no place", when it's actually "The emphasis shouldn't be X". (I truly don't mean this as a rhetorical device or insult: This pattern reminds me of Paul's hypothetical objector, making misinterpretations and unwarranted "Well, then!" conclusions. But I think Piper could do a better job of heading off the mistakes.)

Mike Riccardi said...

That's why Piper didn't tell MacArthur, "I think that's mistaken", but "I see a different emphasis in Scripture."

Jug, just a reminder: Piper didn't say that. MacArthur's interlocutor was an anonymous pastor.

Jugulum said...

Mike,

Whoops, thanks. I was going back to the comment where where Paul quoted it, and forgot that he'd gotten it from the letter in the original post.

Jugulum said...

Paul,

Regarding your question about GHH: Of course.

I'd have to listen to the T4G message to know if you have a good reason to take "read Christocentrically" as an alternative to GHH, rather than as complementary. (My hope is that he fleshes out "Christocentrism" as something closer to the reason for which we read, rather than as our exegetical method. That is, we should always be seeking to know Christ better through what we read.)

Jugulum said...

Paul,

Here's the promised longer comment, with references that explain why I'm certain about what Piper meant. I'm going to draw from a sermon where he exposited Galatians 2:19 and "died to the law", as I suggested you should do. (Mainly the paragraph on v. 19 and the paragraph right before.) I'll also draw on a Mother's Day message and a message on love & the Law, both of which I found by googling "'John Piper' obey law".

To keep this as brief as I can, I'll use those links to address (1) what he means by "died to the Law", and (2) how he speaks positively of obedience (not as a "grudging affirmation"), but why he tends to avoid "Obey the Law!" as the exhortation to Christians, even though it's a valid exhortation. Then with those two in view, I'll again clarify the quote you were misunderstanding.

1.) It looks like you're reading "dead to the Law" as "unable to fulfill the Law". That's not what Piper thinks "died to the Law" means. In Piper's mind, dying to the law means: "Paul had learned through his own long experience with the law that in order to live in close communion with God and have his power, he had to simply give up on legalism and die. The old self that loves to boast in its ability to climb ladders must die." (From the link on Gal 2:19. Read the paragraph before, for more on the misuse of the law as legalism.)

So, Christians die to the law when we stop looking to it as our grounds for justification. And we stay dead to it in that way--we're dead to "the law as grounds for justification". Christ is our ground for justification, through faith.

And he doesn't say that being dead to the law is what powers our sanctification, as you were reading it. Again, he meant that Christians are dead to "the law as grounds for justification, or as power for sanctification". The thing that does power our sanctification is living through faith in Christ, or Christ living in us through faith:

"The new "I" looks away from itself and trusts in the Son of God, whose love and power was proved at Calvary. From the moment you wake in the morning till the moment you fall asleep at night, the new "I" of faith despairs of itself and looks to Christ for protection and the motivation, courage, direction, and enablement to walk in joy and peace and righteousness. What a great way to live!" (Bold added, from the same exposition of Gal 2.)

2.) Piper doesn't avoid the word "obedience", as you think. He simply avoids "Obey the law!" as the focus of exhortation & guidance to Christians.

In the same Gal 2 sermon, he actually uses "sanctification" and "obedience" interchangeably--again giving a picture of what powers sanctification:

"God gave the law originally as a railroad track to guide Israel's obedience. The engine that was supposed to pull a person along the track was God's grace, the power of the Spirit. And the coupling between our car and the engine was faith, so that in the Old Testament, like the New Testament, salvation was by grace, through faith, along the track of obedience (or sanctification)."

(continued)

Jugulum said...

(continued)

And in the Mother's Day message, Piper explained why he tends to make the focus something other than the exhortation "Obey the Law!"--even though God does require obedience of us.

"Or to make the question more complete, and draw in the larger issue of how the obedience of believers – their sanctification – relates to their justification, we ask: Are the children learning from us that the practical, personal obedience God requires of believers is the way to become a justified person or the way a justified person becomes?

When you tell a child to do something, and insist on his obedience – which you should – are you leading the child to think that his good behavior is the root that grows into justification, or a fruit that flows from justification by faith alone? Are we helping the children see saving faith both as the way we have Christ’s righteousness as the basis of our acceptance with God, and as the way we have Christ’s power to become like him in daily life
?" (bold added)

Then in the message about love and the Law, he talks about what enables us to "satisfy the demands of the law". He answers the question, "If Paul cares about the fulfillment of the Law, why does he call for love instead of directly calling for keeping the Law?", and "Why does Paul want us to speak one way and not the other?"

Go there and read "Question #1" first, which includes the sentences "What about God’s law? Don’t we owe that?"--Piper says that in Romans 13:8-10, Paul heads off an imaginary objector who would misinterpret Paul. (And it looks like you've been misinterpreting Piper in exactly the same way.) God does intend for us to satisfy the demands of the law. But Piper thinks that Paul intentionally doesn't say "keep the commandments" here--not because it wouldn't be true, "but it would not give the kind of guidance that Paul believes this church needs".

Then, when he answers the question "Why does Paul want us to speak one way and not the other?", he explains it as a matter of "focus"--he says the focusing on Christ (rather than focusing on the list of righteous commands) will produce the fruit of love in us, through which we will be fulfilling the Law.

In short, the key guidance that will enable obedience/sanctification is not "Obey!", but "See Christ and treasure him, growing in love."

3.) Back to the quote you provided, from this sermon.

Piper's point there is to direct our focus to the place that will enable our obedience. He said, "Love is not pursued first or decisively by focusing on a list of behavioral commandments and striving to conform to them." His suggestion is to use it primarily as a lens through which we can see Christ, because the Law testifies to the righteousness of God. The power to obey will come through the love God grows in us.

Jugulum said...

Finally:

You can criticize Piper for not answering the question "What do you do before you feel the right kind of love & joy?" during his sermon on the uses of the Law. I even agree that it would have been a better sermon if he had.

But you said to me, "You want me to assume that he would include obedience, but it's not there."

No, I don't want you to assume that he thinks we should obey even when our hearts don't yet rejoice in the command. I simply (1) want you not to assume an answer for him which he didn't give in that sermon, and (2) want you to accept the answer he did give when he was addressing that question.

(As a minor clarification: Piper said that the joylessness is sin, not that deciding to obey anyway is sin. And I have a hard time believing that you really disagree with that--don't you agree that if our hearts are bitter while we give money to help those in need, that we should repent of that bitterness, and ask God to give us joy in generosity?)

I'm not going to "cut you a break" in your inclination to dismiss the answer that he gave when he was addressing that question. You shouldn't be inferring an answer that directly contradicts what he's explicitly taught--and aside from that, I think the links above also explain why your inference is unnecessary.

I hope that after all this explanation, you no longer think that your dismissal of his answer is justified. If you do, I hope you'll see where you need to defend that dismissal. (However, my interaction on this is probably done. I think I've used up the time I can profitably give to it.)

Paul said...

Jugulum,
I'm absorbing your comments and also reading through the 3-part series that Phil posted that speaks to this issue. It's a series by Mac that speaks to the relationship between justification and sanctification.
Will get back with you-want to see what Mac has to say about all of this.
paul

Paul said...

Jugulum,
Here is what you said:
"And he doesn't say that being dead to the law is what powers our sanctification, as you were reading it. Again, he meant that Christians are dead to "the law as grounds for justification, or as power for sanctification". The thing that does power our sanctification is living through faith in Christ, or Christ living in us through faith:"

So, here is my question: are we sanctified by faith alone?

Jugulum said...

A fair question. I can't say that I've thought it through sufficiently to give an answer with any confidence. I also don't know how Piper would answer it.

But keep one thing in mind--in two places, I saw him define sanctification as obedience. It inherently refers to something involving works, in a way that isn't the case with justification.

So any analogy between sanctification and "justification by faith alone" is going to be more complicated. It doesn't even make sense to talk about works as the grounds of sanctification--it's more like the substance of sanctification.

The categories don't quite seem to translate.

Paul said...

Jugulum,
"So any analogy between sanctification and 'justification by faith alone' is going to be more complicated. It doesn't even make sense to talk about works as the grounds of sanctification--it's more like the substance of sanctification."

Unless sanctification is the full essence of justification moving forward. Unless sanctification is just a further revealing of the gospel (justification). Let's say it's like a seed. All of the essence of the future tree is in the seed(justification or the gospel). Therefore, as the tree grows, it is merely revealing the fullness of the original seed. So, whether Piper or these other guys, they are constantly saying:"the same gospel that saved you, also sanctifies you." Well, if we are justified by the gospel that teaches that we were saved by faith alone, and we are sanctified by the gospel as well, then sanctification must be by faith alone also, right? Especially if sanctification is merely the further revealing of justification. If they (Piper included), don't mean the above by "the same gospel that saved you, also sanctifies you," then what exactly do they mean by that statement?