Diet of Nashville

Somewhere between me getting to the boxing gym and sitting down to dinner, social media hounds found the Nashville Statement. For the last two days everyone from every side has launched their opinion on it, given pushback, critiqued, and been offended by it.

But I’ve figured out something about statements like this. When you say something strong and Biblical, everyone has an opinion. Is CBMW perfect? By no means! They still have issues with Trinitarian doctrine. Eternal Submission of the Son is wacky, no matter what Grudem argues. And yes, many Christians have taken complementarianism and turned it into a new patriarchy. So yes, there are issues with the group. But let’s remember that God uses us crooked sticks to draw straight lines.

So now everyone’s coming and offering up these emotional critiques of this statement. Notice I said emotional critiques. Not hermeneutic critiques, not exegetical critiques, not historical critiques. But emotional ones.

This has been the flaw of mainline Protestantism for decades; that there is no real hermeneutic. It is whatever we make it. There are no real standards of exegesis or history because there’s no real doctrine, because there’s no real salvation, because what ails us isn’t in our hearts, it’s what’s outside of us.

Conservative Christians have been saying this for the last sixty years. Isn’t interesting, we are at the the same place we were two generations ago. Culturally, racially, and theologically we are having the same fights. Social media just put it in our face, turned the volume up, and boost the vitriol.

Because the overwhelming arguments have been emotional, I cannot take them seriously. Emotions do not carry the same weight as Scripture.

“But why make a statement about THIS? Who not about white supremacy or racism?” Because these things aren’t mutually exclusive. Because, while yes condemning racism is a good thing and for many denominations(including my former one) still has not happened, we cannot make it an idol. The primary work of the Church is not to condemn racism, but to proclaim the Gospel that calls both racists and the LGBT to repentance and to put their faith in Christ, just as it does for all sinners. But we’ve elevated homosexuality above racism. Here’s what I mean: take Article 10 of the Nashville Statement. Replace the language if homosexualty with “racism”. Any one who pushes back on this new statement gets RIGHTLY condemned and run out of town. So why do we do it with this sin?

Because at the end of the day, we don’t want to just say that homosexuality is a sin.

But my confusion is why the world is so shocked at what has been said. This has always been the orthodox Christian position. The Church has always held that homosexuality is against the teachings of Scripture. It has always taught the heterosexual monogamous relationships are God’s design for marriage. Only for the last half century has this been in question. So yes, I agree, this does strike at the heart of how we will interpret Scripture and form doctrine. One of the critiques I got was that I was interpreting Scripture as a 21st century cis white man; as if I’m inherently flawed because of my skin color and gender indentity. But Augustine, Moses, Paul, Peter, Gregory, Athanasius, Polycarp, John, and Christ weren’t 21st century white men. But Scripture doesn’t change with the culture. We don’t ignore the parts we don’t like. So while my liberal friends like to quote Christ when it comes to taking care of the poor, they seem to leave off the part where he says “Repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand”

Certainly, Evangelicals need a clear, gracious strategy of ministering to those who struggle with same sex attraction. Yes, absolutely the LGBT are made in the image of God and the hand of the Lord is not short to save. But we have to decide today, right now, are we going to change our doctrine to excuse sin

or are we going to cling again to the Scriptures and say “Here I am, I can do no other. God help me”



Something You Might Not Know About Trump Supporters, Feminists, and Gay People–Musings on Ontological Equality

I first heard the phrase listening to a recording of Jemar Tisby’s talk at The Charleston Conference. It’s been weeks, and I’m still thinking about it and relating it to an increasing number of ideas and situations. The phrase: “ontological equality.”

Sometimes this phrase relates to the persons of the Trinity, but in this case it refers to the belief that all people are equal in essence and possess inherent worth and dignity. This relates to the philosophical study of anthropology (which asks the question: what is humanity?) and to the theological concept of the Image of God (the belief that all humans are made in the Image of God). In his talk, Mr. Tisby asserted that this doctrine is probably the most important Christian doctrine aside from the doctrines of salvation, and that chaos ensues when we forget or reject it.

So after mulling over this concept for many weeks, here are some of my thoughts on it. To treat a person as an ontological equal means to respect their humanity, even if you don’t respect their character or accomplishments. It means that no matter how much you disagree with someone, you never lose sight of their dignity. It means that no matter how evil a person is, that you seek justice rather than vengeance. It means that you accurately represent who they are and what they think–no straw man arguments or spreading false information. It means that when dialoguing with them, you are assertive rather than aggressive.

Let me clarify what I’m not saying. To respect a person’s equality does not mean that you respect their ideas or their choices. It does not mean that it is wrong to disagree with them. It does not mean that one cannot call out oppression or seek justice. It does not mean that one cannot call out immorality or urge righteousness.

When Mr Tisby spoke on ontological equality, he applied it primarily to the experience of people of color in the United States. He asserted that slavery and Jim Crow happened in large part because so many people denied or dismissed the ontological equality of human beings who were from another land or had a different skin color. And it was when some Americans lost sight of (or purposely and systematically rejected!) the inherent dignity of all people that gross injustice was rationalized and perpetuated.

Race-based discrimination is one of the most extreme examples of what can happen when people deny the equality of other people, but the same principle applies to many other areas of life as well. The belief in ontological equality also means the following…

  • When having discussions with people with opposing political viewpoints, you maintain respect for the person even if you disagree with (or even hate) their positions.
  • Women are viewed primarily as people (instead of “other”) and as equals to men.
  • In a relationship between a child and an adult authority, the most important kind of respect is the adult’s respect for the child’s humanity (rather than the child’s respect for the authority’s position).
  • People are not less valuable if they have less capabilities. A disabled person is not less valuable if they are unable to contribute to society. A child is not valuable only because of their future potential.
  • A person’s age does not make them of lesser value. An old person or an unborn person are equal in worth and dignity to a young adult, and therefore should not have life taken from them.
  • A person’s socioeconomic status does not change their inherent worth. A wealthy person and a poor person are ontological equals.
  • A person’s beliefs do not lessen their humanity. A Trump supporter is of equal value to a feminist. 
  • Any discussion of LGBT issues and people must start with the ontological equality of people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But what about those whose very purpose in life is seemingly to deny justice and equality to others? What about Neo-Nazis? What about evil, murderous dictators? How does a belief in ontological equality relate to them? I think the answer is two-fold. First, it gives us confidence in denouncing their beliefs as wrong and their actions as evil. But second, we are not absolved of our responsibility to treat even them as our ontological equals. We may critique them and seek justice, all while maintaining an awareness of their dignity and worth. (Practically this might look like not physically harming them or not spreading lies about their beliefs or actions.) It is tempting when evil people so blatantly deny the equality of other humans to then want to take away their human rights, to dehumanize them in our minds, and to treat them as if they have forfeited their own inherent value. But this is where, especially as Christians, we are to rise above our baser instincts and honor the humanity even of evil people as we simultaneously call out their wrongs.

I anticipate continuing to mull over the concept of ontological equality. It has been a fascinating study to date! And I have to say, I agree with Mr Tisby that this is one of the most important doctrines in Christianity. It affects so much of life: how we think about and relate to minorities, children, the disabled, people we disagree with, political opponents, and even truly evil people!

In closing, what I would like is for us to rejoice in the great privilege of being human, of being God’s marvelous creations, of being made in His image. And to seek to honor that image in ourselves and in others.

Here’s the link to Jemar Tisby’s entire talk. I highly recommend it!

Dagon in Dixie

In my new city, we are famous for our downtown square. Every month, there is a square party with music, dancing, food, and games. It is a great time to let off a little steam on a weekend. The first Walton 5 & 10 is still there, many good restraunts and coffee shops are scattered around. And then, standing in the direct middle of the square, is a statue of James Berry.

James Berry was an Arkansas politician who served multiple terms as an Arkansas Representative. He was Governor after the civil War and buried here in Bentonville. He is depicted as his first role, a Confederate soldier.

We find ourselves again having a great race debate in this country and part of that debate is asking the questions “What should we do with these Confederate monuments? What message do they send?”

If I’m honest, my first thought is, “They aren’t hurting anyone. They are merely stone, and a statue cannot hurt you.” But I am speaking as a white, Southern Protestant. Two generations of Sawrie’s fought for the Confederacy. I have lived in the South most of my life. And I love being Southern. SEC football is superior to all other types of football. Fried chicken is the perfect Sunday lunch, and I’ve used “y’all, buggy and catty-corner” all my life. I’ve grown up seeing these statues as stone pillars of a bygone era that’s never impacted me.

But the scars of Jim Crow still run deep in the South. We see the black and white photos and forget that segregation is only 60 years behind us. Some of you may still remember segregation. But my family was not harmed by the so called “separate but equal” division that was forced upon us. It was easy to move on because all we had to do was wash our hands and wake up the next day. We got over it. But our brothers and sisters did not. They still know the past, and they still are impacted. While Mr. Crow may have flown the coop, the impact remains. The majority of these monuments were erected either in the height of Jim Crow or the middle of the Civil Rights movement. Yes, different people react to things in different ways. But just because it doesn’t hurt me doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And when I speak to Black Christians, they tell me it hurts.

It’s this subtle reminder of the position they once held. This clandestine statement that they were lesser. This image that they once were not imago Dei. This is something I cannot, I will not understand. I will never be daily reminded of my oppressor because I was never owned. No one ever fought to keep my family in bondage. No one ever tried to lynch my grandparents. They were always allowed to vote. i get scared when a cop is behind me because I don’t want to get a ticket, not because I think I will get shot for telling an officer I have a legal firearm (Philando Castile) or laying face down while handcuffed (Oscar Grant) or playing with a toy gun in a park by myself (Tamir Rice) or offending  a white woman (Emmet Till). Our Christian brothers and sisters have told us, “This is what this means to us and it hurts”

And if we refuse to listen to our brothers and sisters when they say “This hurts us”, we are complicit in their pain. We may not be directly causing it, but we are not caring for them. We may not be tormenting them, but we are allowing their torment. When we march and fight for these symbols of racism to remain, we are the pain.

“But this isn’t about race” you may retort, “This is about our history and our heritage. This is a reminder of our dark past. We cannot forget where we come from.”

But there are museums full of our history, books full of accounts, and battlefields to mark important places, where yes those statues may be appropriate. There are far better ways to remember our past sins. And perhaps honoring and glorifying our past sins isn’t right.

“But it’s my right to fly that flag or to have that statue. I’m an American.” You certainly have that right. But one of the applications that we may take from Romans 14 is that if our liberty is harmful to a brother, it is our responsibility to take care of our brother, not his to get over it. We do not get to flaunt liberty at the expense of our brother.

But we do.

By these excuses and our fighting to maintain these symbols and banners that pain our brothers, the message is loud and clear. “My heritage is more important than your pain. My history, my sinful past is more important.” Or if we really said what our hearts said, “I love this statue more than I love you. You just need to get over the pain and the past, because this monument is more important than that.”

I love the South, and I love you dear Christian. But if you love a monument made in the image of a man more than you love your African American Brother made in the image of God- then maybe we’re more pagan than we’d like to admit. These monuments, our heritage, and our history are the new idol in Dixie. And we continue to elevate them over and above our brothers.

Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to is really your god” and Calvin said our hearts are perpetual idol makers. We may pretend that we would never flay our brother on the altar of Heritage, but we do. We may say that at the end of the day we love them more, but we are liars if we do not show them. They are worth thousands of times more than any monument- and our words say otherwise. We have been called to love fellow Christians above all others. Over every statue, heritage, and ounce of history. More than we love being Southern, and more than ourselves.

So yes, these statues do need to come down, because they have become more valuable to us than the lives of our brothers and sisters. So when they come down, let us not grumble and complain, but rather look to our neighbor and love them again.

Theology in a Dirty Glass

It would do you well to give this article a read.

The High Church Puritan

The insipid cosmopolitan cocktail that is evangelical churchianity is comprised of one part orthodoxy to ten measures of water; shaken, stirred, and cut again with simple syrup. Having all the potency of a feather duster, it lacks both the vigor and viscosity to even make its little pink umbrella stay afloat. Those who imbibe such are nonetheless inebriated, even if only by pomposity, and still prove brazen enough to belly-up with the big boys. “I’ll take mine in a dirty glass,” they bluster. So the barkeeper pours a few strained ounces of weaksauce into a sugar-coated martini glass while the new patron struts upon his stool. This kind goeth not out but by prayer and a much older vintage—a vintage distilled in antiquity—to be served neat without a water back.

In that spirit I suggest that a strong shot of Chalcedonian orthodoxy would clear up most of the christological confusion…

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Christians and Hospice Ministry


If you see my right arm you’ll notice pretty quickly a tattoo. My tattoo says, very simply, “Imago Dei”. Imago Dei is Latin for “the image of God” and is typically used to express the Biblical fact that every single human being who was or ever will be created is created in the image of God and therefore their life is dignified.

This tattoo has a unique meaning to me nowadays though. I’m twenty-five years old and have worked for two separate hospices in North Carolina. Having worked in Hospice, even though just at a support level, has given me a new understanding of the importance of recognizing the Imago Dei of everybody.

You see, hospices exist to give everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, the care and treatment to die peacefully. Nurses work endlessly to alleviate the pain of the patient and to make sure that the family is taken care of. I interact with countless people daily who tell me how thankful they are for hospice because their family member lived their last days to the fullest extent and they died respectfully.

We live in a world absolutely veiled by discrimination because of the fall and it is saddening. But visit, or better yet volunteer at, your local hospice and you’ll see a glimpse of the depth of the Imago Dei.

There is a sweet sense of peace working in a field where you’re making lasting impressions on entire families. Hospice allows me to take the Gospel, Jesus being the remedy for sin-ridden mankind, and share it in practical ways with hurting families. At some point we all have to face the pains of death. Death sucks. The effects of sin suck, but the Gospel heals.

I want to end this post by encouraging you to talk to your local hospice about volunteering. If you’re a pastor, consider leading your congregation to partnering with hospice. Through hospice you’ll have countless opportunities to magnify Christ. Hospice is much more than end of life care. It is changing lives and impacting the community one life at a time, and in my case, it is fueled by a love for the Gospel and a command of Jesus to make disciples. That starts by ministering to broken people in a broken world in a time when they desperately need the loving comfort of the God who created them.

A Mental Buffet // 19 Aug 2017

Mental Buffet

Some reading material for the eager mind and the hungry soul. This week’s mental buffet includes a sermon from Ronnie Martin, and articles from Chad Bird, Thomas R. Schreiner, and Kyle G. Jones

Drawing Near to God’s Kingdom – Ronnie Martin

In this sermon, Pastor Ronnie Martin speaks about what it means to draw near to God’s Kingdom.

“God wants to draw near to people that constantly reject Him.”


Grace is Karma’s Worst Nightmare – Chad Bird

“Grace is lacking in taste and propriety. The same loving lips that kiss away the tears of a repentant whore will turn right around and kiss the lips of a humble queen. The same hands that scrub the vomit out off the clothes of a drunk will shake hands with the teetotaler. It’s never learned the difference between a shack and a mansion. Grace doesn’t know why the color of skin makes one sinner more or less in need of forgiveness than any other.”


Sermon: A Building from God – Thomas R. Schreiner

“The gift of the Spirit functions as the guarantee, the downpayment, of our future resurrection. So, Paul concludes in verse 5 where he started in verse 1. We know that we will have a resurrection body in the future. We are assured of this because we have the Holy Spirit. No matter how happy your life is now, you still long for something better. We all naturally think how life could be better. There is a longing in us for perfection. There is a sense of incompleteness and an ache in our lives. We are not fully satisfied or fulfilled. We sense that there is more to life. Those desires are not a bad thing. They remind us that we were made for another world. They remind us that this world is not our home. They point us forward to the resurrection.”


Go and Be Dead – Kyle G. Jones

“We sinners share a common problem when it comes to Jesus’ parables. We read them with an eye to our own righteousness. That is, we read them with our eyes peeled for what they might tell us to do. We read them with Law tinted lenses.

While it is true that Jesus’ parables contain Law (commands and demands from God), if we’re to understand them rightly our eyes need to hunt tirelessly for where Christ and his Gospel reside within them. Though not always easy, we must avoid the temptation to make the Law our primary prize while reading or listening to Jesus’ parables.”


Here We Have No Lasting City

I can say for sure, I am no fan of our President. I have not heard one policy of his that I can support or get behind. I find him to be reactionary, divorced from reality, and pompous. I find him to say one thing, walk it back, and then double down on the original statement. I believe he has emboldened white supremacists to come to the forefront. I believe many Christians have “baptized” him and his decisions so that, as he said, he could “shoot someone on 5th Ave and wouldn’t lose supporters.” And it is hard.

It is hard because the same brothers and sisters who said that we should “Give him a chance?” will not say “he’s wrong”. Those dear friends who sit opposite me on this issue were furious about President Obama’s golfing habit, but have ignored President Trump’s. They decried executive orders as tyranny, but give President Trump a pass. They accused for years that President Obama was a Muslim, though Trump has not attended a worship service in some time and has even said he doesn’t need forgiveness. The inconsistency is hard. It’s hard because it looks like they’ve traded promise for power, justice for Justices, and sanity for soup.

Its hard because I have to remind myself that my dear, blood bought brothers and sisters are made in the image of God. Like our President.

It is hard to remind myself that no one rises to power and authority outside of God’s sovereign hand, though I know it to be true. It is hard because I cannot understand how someone who rises to power on falsehoods and vitriol is God’s decision. I struggle because I think, “Surely, there is a better way isn’t there? What is going on?” And I’ve come to one conclusion.

I don’t know.

I know, dear reader that this isn’t helpful. To share in my confusion doesn’t help at all. It won’t move the ball downfield.

But let us not act as if we are a people without our hope. Because that is the place that I’ve been. I have, this week, been in a place where I wanted to throw my hands up and say “I quit”. But quitting doesn’t love our neighbor. Being silent ensures that the only voices are those who use the ends to justify means.

I have found for myself two truths that steel my soul. Three firm foundations that  are a comfort for me.

1. God is Sovereign

i. God from all eternity did, by the most wise (Rom. 11:33) and holy counsel of His own will, freely (Rom. 9:15, 18), and unchangeably (Heb. 6:17) ordain whatsoever comes to pass (Eph. 1:11): yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin (James 1:13, 17; 1 John 1:5), nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures (Matt. 17:12; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28); nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established (John 19:11; Prov. 16:33).

God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (WCF 3:1&5:1)

This is difficult because the implication is hard. Why God has caused or allowed this to happen is something I neither like nor understand. But we are not called to understand, though we are called to trust Him. Because His faithfulness to His Church has never waned, never faded, we do not have to doubt but joyfully cling to Him. Because we affirm the hymn “Whatere My God Ordains Is Right”, we can hope in Him. Because all Presidents and kings are God’s and are under His authority, we don’t have to fear. Because whatever they do, good or wicked, occurs with God accomplishing His decrees, we can trust Him.

2. America is not the Kingdom.

This is a great relief, because as Preston Sprinkle writes in his book Fight “America could burn tomorrow and the Kingdom never be threatened” Throughout all of time, Kingdoms have risen and fallen. They have grown to the heights and been brought down in the lows. And the Church remains.

Christ has declared that this kingdom is “not of this world” and in this Kingdom everything is upside down. In this Kingdom victory is won by death. In this Kingdom, the heroes are those who’ve walked humbly. In this Kingdom, everything that is sad is becoming untrue and we will beat our swords into pruning hooks. This is the better Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom. we are seeking a better country, for here we have no lasting city. Our citizenship is not America, we are not Americans first. We are Kingdom citizens above all else. Here we are only sojourners.

Throughout Scripture, God promises to care for the oppressed, the widow and the fatherless. He will not forsake us, His people, His Church

The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD! – Psalm 146:9-10

So as Kingdom citizens, we live quiet lives. We obey the laws, we speak with grace to all people, so that may see our Kingdom. We care for the oppressed and marginalized. We have balanced scales and call sin sin. We reject power, position, and prestige for something far more better: a Kingdom that cannot be shaken and that will trump all Trumps.

Yes for many of us, it is the dark night of the soul, but dawn will come. The sun will come back. After darkness, light.



Don Quixotes and Theological Windmills

Don quixote

“If you’re not teaching you’re(sic) people about the dangers of charismaticism then you have no qualifications to be a pastor” the brash, overzealous, pompous Student of THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary told me.

Understand this was at the outset of the MacArthur Strange Fire phase and so it was popular to rant and rave on the subject because it was the most important thing facing everybody’s church.

Except the people I worshipped with weren’t dealing with the charismatic question. They were dealing with the loss of jobs, of family members, of life. They were just trying to live their lives in light of God’s covenant promises. I have a great mentor who taught me a great lesson “Don’t go introducing heresy by attacking it.” It’s so simple.

I will say clearly I am a strong cessationist. I think Reformed Charismatic is right up there with Jumbo Shrimp and Pretty Ugly. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Just because you take monergistic soteriology and slap it onto Charismatic ideology doesn’t make it Reformed. Now, I have brothers and sisters who I love who hold to a different view. But that’s ok. And here’s why this tiny, open handed doctrine really isn’t worth fighting about.

It’s not the Gospel.

But alas, I can find folks on both sides of the issue blasting away at each other, tilting at windmills, and spilling digital ink because THIS is the line. THIS is where we should swing it out.

Trust me, not everything needs a blog post written by a seminarian. Yes, we as Christians should firmly know what we believe and why we believe it. This is not a statement of me throwing my hands up and saying “uh I don’t know anything about spiritual gifts but what the Westminster says”.

But we do our people a massive disservice to think that every little theological fight needs to have civilians in it. That only makes more casualties. This is why (and Mercy help us) public social media isn’t the place for theological pugalism. When my Anglican friends do something that’s profoundly Anglican on social media, the Reformed come out and swing. It’s fight time.

But it’s really not. They’re shocked that an Anglican would act like (and brace yourself, cause this might be confusing) an Anglican. He’s not bothering anybody. He’s not forcing anyone to worship his way (like a Covenanter). But the dogpile commences because young Reformed men don’t have a real fight. And instead of just being quiet we have to go tilt at windmills and look like fools.

My point: maybe we just all need a little grace. Maybe we should expect people to act within their nature. And maybe the mountains that the Theological Windmills are placed on, are really just molehills that we shouldn’t tilt at.


The Chief End of Joy

whenidontdesiregod[A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 2 – What is the Difference Between Desire and Delight?]

We come to the second chapter in what I referred to in the last post as John Piper’s “tome of Christ-centered joy.” In this chapter, Piper defines for us desire and delight. He goes on to tell us what is the difference between the two and how the end of both of those things is Christ Himself, not the experience of desire or delight.

We see more imperative without indicative, more admonition to fight for joy without any real application, but the book is still early, and I’m still hopeful. There’s 10 chapters left to go so we’ll see what’s left.

Words, Wordy Words, The Kind of Words That Are… Wordy

Words and their definitions are important so he starts off by telling us that he’ll be interchangeably using words like happiness, delight, pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, desire, longing, thirsting, passion,etc. At first, I was worried because I really like distinctions, but then Piper reminded the reader that the Bible also uses these terms without distinctions.

“I am aware that all of these words carry different connotations for different readers. Some people think of happiness as superficial and joy as deep. Some think of pleasure as physical and delight as aesthetic. Some think of passion as sexual and longing as personal. So I signal from the outset that the Bible does not divide its emotional language that way. The same words (desire, pleasure, happiness, joy, etc.) can be positive sometimes and negative sometimes, physical sometimes and spiritual sometimes. That is the approach I take. Any of these words can be a godly experience of the heart, and any of them can be a worldly experience of the heart. I will try to make plain what way the words should be taken in any given context.”

In layman’s terms “Pay attention, and you shouldn’t get lost.” I’m fine with this.

A Barrage of Scripture and Some Working Definitions

Piper briefly reminds us to desire God and to take delight in God, and then he hits us with about two pages worth of Scriptures that support both ideas. Using Scripture to build your case is never a bad idea, but I think, in this case, a list would’ve been more helpful instead of just a wall. It’s almost as if he was looking for some filler.

After the wall of Scripture we get to where Piper is tells us the difference between delight and desire.

“The first thought that comes to most of our minds (I tried this on my eight-year-old daughter) is that delight (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is present, not just future. But desire (with its synonyms) is what we experience when the thing we enjoy is not present but, we hope, coming to us in the future.”

He goes on to say

“Desire is awakened by tastes of pleasure. The taste may be ever so small. But if there is no taste at all of the desirability of something, then there will be no desire for it. In other words, desire is a form of the very pleasure that is anticipated with the arrival of the thing desired. It is, you might say, the pleasure itself experienced in the form of anticipation.”

Again, this is a place where I think doing something different would’ve been more helpful. I think it probably would’ve been better to define our terms and then work from Scripture, but that’s just me. But to Piper’s credit, I think he accurately lays out what the difference desire and delight is and gives us some good working definition. Also to his credit, he admit that there are some scenarios where these definitions may fail because, in some cases, the desire is the delight. But, if you’re one of those people that takes notes when they read a book, then this is where you’ll want to pause write down these definitions so you can keep them in the back of your mind as you trek through the rest of the book.

Desire and Delight Are Not the End Goals

For me, the climax of this chapter is on page 29 under the subheading, “Neither Desire nor Delight Is Finally What We Want.” This is where I perk my ears up. I’ve heard critics of Piper’s idea of Christian Hedonism complain that what Piper is teaching is that joy is the end instead of Jesus, but if you really paid attention to anything that Piper has said or taught over the course of his ministry then you would know that that’s simply not true. John Piper explicitly wants us to see that our desire points us to Jesus as the ultimate source of our delight.

Piper warns us that pursuing joy in and of itself is a ditch that can find ourselves in if we’re not careful.

“Jonathan Edwards warned against [this] by observing that “there are many affections which do not arise from any light in the understanding. And when it is thus, it is a sure evidence that these affections are not spiritual, let them be ever so high.” Our goal is not high affections per se. Our goal is to see and savor “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). The affections that arise from that light are spiritual. By this Christ-revealing light, we avoid the mistake of simply pursuing joy, not Christ.”

Another Reminder to Fight for Joy

He closes the chapter by reminding us yet again to fight for joy, but this time he’s giving us three reasons we should do so (this is my condensed version):

  1. God has commanded us to do so. (Deuteronomy 28:47-48)
  2. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. (A famous Piper quote)
  3. In his own words: “The third reason we should make much of joy and the pursuit of joy in God is that people do not awaken to how desperate their condition is until they measure their hearts by Christian Hedonism…” (I’m still not sure what this one means.)

Again, if you take notes while you read, write these down.

In conclusion, I think was beneficial and it really did enlighten my understanding of desire and delight. On the rating scale, I give this chapter another 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.

Piper’s Hyphenated Words, Christian Hedonism, and the Constant Reminders of Missions and Martyrdom

whenidontdesiregod [A Review of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper // Chapter 1 – Why I Wrote the Book]

My cohort and partner in crime on the Late Night Theology podcast, Tom, has accused John Piper many times of simply telling us to desire God without giving us real applicable steps to do so. Let me just say that I love John Piper and that his ministry has been a real influence on my ministry for the last 7 years, but (and this is a big ‘but’ *gigglesnort*) if I’m being honest, I feel that those accusations are a little more than justified. So, for the new few weeks (months, maybe? A year if I get lazy or busy), I’ll be reading a chapter at a time of “When I Don’t Desire God” by John Piper and I hope to either confirm these accusations against Piper or deny them.

This is my review of Chapter 1.

This chapter is mostly information about the concept of Christian Hedonism and why it’s important. Like the beginning of most books, Piper is just giving us some introductory information to work with and keep in the back of our minds as we trek through the rest of this tome of Christ-centered joy.

There are two things I really appreciated in this chapter and I want to take the time to address each of them individually. First, I think, and I could be wrong, but I think John Piper acknowledges that there are Christians who do not desire God, and secondly he supports that the doctrine of Christian Hedonism is not something that he just came up with out of thin air, but rather is something that has been taught all through Church History.

The Christians That Don’t Desire God

Here’s a lengthy quote from the top of page 15 under a section titled, ‘The Most Common Question I’ve Received.’

“This is why the most common and desperate question I have received over the last three decades is: What can I do? How can I become the kind of person the Bible is calling me to be? … Many are persuaded. They see that the truth and beauty and worth of God shine best from the lives of saints who are so satisfied in God they can suffer in the cause of love without murmuring. But then they say, “That’s not who I am. I don’t have that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God. I desire comfort and security more than God.” Many say it with tears and trembling.”

Even though Piper does not come right out and say that these people are not Christians, I believe that he’s under the impression that those who say that they don’t desire God with tears in their eyes and say that they don’t have “that kind of liberating, love-producing, risk-taking satisfaction in God” are not saved. However, I believe the whole reason those people have tears in their eyes is because they are believers, and it hurts them that they don’t desire God more. The unregenerate man either believes that he desires God adequately or doesn’t care that he doesn’t desire God on this level. I don’t believe any regenerate person looks at how their living out their religion and says, “what I’m doing is good enough.”

Piper will go on to imply that the answer is conversion as stated under a heading in the chapter that he has titled, “Conversion is the Creation of New Desires.” In this theologian’s opinion, conversion might be needed, but not in every situation. What is most definitely needed is a revival of the soul. If we reach this place where we don’t desire God as we once did, then we need a baptism of joy. We need to cry out with the Psalmist, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” (Psalm 51:12a, NKJV)

A Historical Legacy of Christian Hedonism

One of things that I really appreciate about this chapter is that Piper isn’t just pulling this Christian Hedonism thing out of the air. He feels that this is something that Puritans, Reformers and Patristics all taught and he goes out of his way to prove that by giving us quotes from Saint Augustine, John Calvin, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, and others.

Concluding Remarks

In the final paragraphs of the chapter, Piper tells us that the fight for joy is not easy, but if we stay in the fight Christ will be glorified. Now, to tell us how Christ will be glorified he brings up missions and martyrdom… because it’s not a John Piper book if he doesn’t bring up missions and martyrdom… Don’t misunderstand me, I think missions and martyrdoms can and should be talked about, but as someone who has read many a John Piper book and livestreamed many a CROSS conference, I can tell you that a lot of these Reformed guys use missions and martyrdoms as a battering ram on the conscience, and quite frankly, it’s annoying.

Missions are important; martyrdoms are bad, but I don’t have to be reminded about it every five minutes to have a healthy relationship with God. As long as Piper keeps these references to minimum, I think the rest of the book will be okay.

On the rating scale, I’ll give this chapter a 3.5 out of 5 beard strokes.