Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Richard Dawkins Encourages Bible Reading?

Richard Dawkins, a renowned evolutionary biologist and no friend of Christianity, wants people to read the King James Bible but for different reasons than you might think. In his article entitled Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible (May 19, 2012), Dawkins shares three reasons to support his statement. The first two reasons are, both of which one would find little cause to disagree with:
·         The value of learning old English, including figures of speech: Dawkins refers to a section of a book which he has written, The God Delusion, the section itself being titled “Religious education as a part of literary culture." He boldly states in this article that “A native speaker of English who has never read a word of the King James Bible is verging on the barbarian.”
·         To allow people to understand European history: “European history, too, is incomprehensible without an understanding of the warring factions of Christianity and the book over whose subtleties of interpretation they were so ready to slaughter and torture each other.”
Dawkins then plunges into his primary point, a corrective rant of sorts, against which conservative Christianity will have much to say:
·         To disprove the Bible as a moral guide:  Dawkins believes that the Bible is wrongly labeled as a moral guide. By encouraging people to read the Bible, he claims, this practice will cure this wrong view (“pernicious falsehood”). “I have an ulterior motive…. People who do not know the Bible well have been gulled into thinking it is a good guide to morality. This mistaken view may have motivated the "millionaire Conservative party donors". I have even heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that, without the Bible as a moral compass, people would have no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.”
Throughout the remainder of his article, the evolutionary biologist proceeds to share his arguments against belief in the Bible as a legitimate moral guide, and thus to disprove the legitimacy of the Bible in its entirety. His underlying argument (which is obvious) is that there is no God, and thus no God-given revelation. Dawkins points out what he considers to obvious observations that undermine Christian claims, observations that mere theologians are unwilling to see. He addresses all forms of Christianity, including those forms that largely deny what the Bible says anyway. This is very broad swipe and ends up being a group of confusing swings in every direction.
Dawkins’ arguments can be summarized thus: (1) The Bible is not legitimate because of what it is; (2) the Bible is not legitimate because of what it says; (3) the Bible is not legitimate because of what Christians say or say about it; (4) the Bible is not legitimate because of its core claims.
Argument #1: The Bible is not legitimate because of what it is
Dawkins confidently directs his initial attack squarely at the 10 Commandments. Dawkins believes he lands an instant knockout blow by simply referring to the 10 Commandments: “Do you advocate the Ten Commandments as a guide to the good life?”
Dawkins falters immediately. The 10 Commandments, though moral in nature, are not given as a guide to the “good life” as he suggests. They indeed are a measure of “good,” giving a glimpse of God’s perfect standard of living. However, the Bible is clearly teaches that these 10 Commandments (as representation of the entire Old Testament Law) are not given primarily as a moral guide. Instead the Bible shares that the Law (represented by these 10 Commandments) is given to show that mankind is not moral and does not measure up to God’s holy standard:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)
Therefore the law was our tutor [to bring us] to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)
In fact, the Bible is clear that no person can be “good” or “justified” by keeping the law (including the 10 Commandments). Instead, the law shows us that our only hope was to be rescued by God. And He God did make a way for us to be “saved” or rescued by allowing His Son, Jesus Christ, to take our penalty (for breaking God’s law) for us!:
knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith." Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them." Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree "), (Galatians 3:10-13)
Argument #2: The Bible is not legitimate because of what it says
Dawkins, building on this wrong premise of the Bible being a moral guide, continues to show his hand by attacking some of the 10 Commandments individually:
The first two – "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" and "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image" – come from a time when the Jews still believed in the existence of many gods but had sworn fealty to only one of them, their tribal "jealous" god.
This simply is not true. This view comes from liberal Christian views that would reject what the Bible says, and who would impose an outside view on the Scriptures which is not contained in the Scriptures. Dawkins is fine applying this liberal evolutionary view to the Bible, but he misses three important facts:
1.       As revealed in the Bible, the patriarchs (progenitors of the nation Israel) Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all monotheistic. They had communication interactions involved just one God, which was initiated by God Himself.
2.       God is revealing Himself to the Israelites. Regardless of Israel’s history or proneness to polytheism, He is declaring what is true.
3.       Israel as a nation, receiving God’s declaration, was told this: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6:4) There was no evolving of views as implied by Dawkins (and liberal theologians). They were instantly monotheistic as a nation around the same time that the 10 Commandments are given. (The book called Deuteronomy means “second law,” and the 10 Commandments are repeated a second time in the very chapter where “the LORD is one” is declared….)
Dawkins continues to hammer, in his mind, more of the 10 Commandments. He believes he undermines the veracity of the Fourth Commandment (“Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy”) because of a harsh penalty that accompanied certain violations of that command (the death penalty).
Here we need to point out that Dawkins assumes that no God exists, and so all these commands are conjured up by crazed men. However, the Bible declares the existence of God as the Creator of the Universe, a holy God who deserves recognition and worship as such. One cannot parse the Bible in pieces and create a context of one’s choosing – Dawkins is doing just that.
As God Himself reveals in the Bible, He created all the universe, including his highest creation, the human race. These highest of creators are logically expected by God to worship Him and honor Him as their Creator in the ways He communicates. What is so hard to understand about that? Though the Sabbath penalty is a harsh one (as it was given to the nation of Israel), it made the point: God deserved His day of attention each week, per His commandment and per His design. Worship of God was no small matter, and God wanted the Israelites to understand the consequences of not doing so. It was that big of a deal.
From the Fourth Commandment Dawkins proceeds to the Fifth Commandment (“Honor thy father and thy mother”). He jumps backward in time (and in the Biblical text) to where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Dawkins is convinced that this is a violation of the Sixth Commandment: “do not kill.” Dawkins may not remember that God actually did not have Abraham kill Isaac (which then did not violate anything). To be fair, the Bible is also clear that Abraham did not know that God would prevent him from killing Isaac, but he was certain that God would raise up Isaac if he did go through with it (Hebrews 11:17-19).
This may bend Dawkins the wrong way. However, God does reveal that He knows what He is doing whether we can understand it or not. God accomplished what He desired in Abraham’s life. Further, Abraham was to the point that, having been called by God, having walked with God for years, and having been given a son in his old age, he was fully confident that God could be trusted. That is the greater context of the offering of Isaac.
Dawkins further objects to the Sixth Commandment, stating that the command “do not kill” really meant, in practice, do not kill those of your own tribe. This is simply not true. Again, Dawkins assumes that God is a myth, that men made up this text, and that all killing is condemned. He errs on all counts.
In the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God issued the warning of death for eating of the forbidden tree. Death is God’s justice, not man’s made-up choice. God, as the Creator of the Universe, is the One Who makes the rules based upon Who He is (His nature and character). He judges human beings and nations, and throughout the Bible, often dispenses His justice on some human beings through the hands of others. In fact, one only has to read to the ninth chapter of the Bible, Genesis 9, to see that God required men to hold other men accountable (the basis for human government). In Genesis 9:6 God commands Noah, “Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” This is reflected all the way into the New Testament where the government is said not to carry the sword in vain. Government exists to protect those that obey the law and to punish those that do not (some crimes even requiring capital punishment).
Therefore, “you shall not kill” in context means that you do not take matters into your own hands and murder someone. God holds the arm of justice, whether judging individuals or nations. We do not.
Argument #3: The Bible is not legitimate because of what Christians say or say about it
Dawkins mocks some Christians who make claims he rejects, and uses these to discard Christianity for yet another reason. It might be good for him to exercise reason. It would only be fair (and reasonable) to acknowledge that Christians do not claim to fully understand their Maker nor all of the commands given by Him any more than scientists claim to understand all that science involves. We both accept much on faith based upon what we do understand.
It is fair to say that ridiculous statements and actions by Christians (of which Dawkins gives examples) may cause Bible believers to look foolish (as they often have). However, these examples no more invalidate Christianity than previously held views of a flat earth or a geo-centric  universe invalidate Dawkins’ pursuit of any field of science. Further, just because some “sophisticated” theologians, as Dawkins puts it, reject what the Bible says and seek to back-pedal and avoid obvious interpretations does not mean that all Christians have abandoned what the Bible says.
Argument #4: The Bible is not legitimate because of its core claims
Dawkins finally jumps to several central themes of the Bible, which he wholly rejects (and which all who reject God must reject). Dawkins rejects the historical Adam (by which sin entered the world), and thus he rejects the concept of sin. Logically, then, he rejects the payment for  sin by Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, which He transacted by dying on the cross for the sins of mankind.
Since Dawkins rejects God as an evolutionist, he cannot understand that God revealed this plan of rescue (salvation). Since He refuses to believe in anything supernatural, he is left with no good options, and scorns the idea of God revealing truth to mankind. Since Dawkins rejects sin, he offers no explanation for evil, but sees no reason for its resolution – he rejects the only possible Source for its resolution.  Maybe to his own surprise, the Bible is not caught off guard by this:
For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify [Him] as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:20-21)
Dawkins accurately states that the Bible is not a “moral book.” It is much more than that. It is true that the Bible is full of instructions in righteousness for those that believe in God and seek to obey Him. However, it also does not shy away from accurately recording the history rebellious actions of those who failed to do so or refused to do so.
The Bible claims to be the revelation of the one true God, the Creator of the Universe, Who clearly and honestly presents the human race in all of its immoral and rebellious detail while declaring Himself to be the only solution to mankind’s core problem – sin. God did so by sending His only begotten Son to bear the penalty for the pathetic and helpless human race. God accomplished this in such a way that He could remain holy while receiving the justice His holiness demanded, and yet forgive the sins of those that believe in His Solution. God sent His only begotten Son to suffer the sin penalty for the world by dying on the cross, that He might save those that believe in that Payment.
It is not unreasonable to accept a Divine Creator Who has the sovereign reign of the universe, and Who is holy and metes justice as He sees fit according to that holiness. He is beyond our understanding, but has communicated with us at times directly, through His prophets, through the written Word, and through His Incarnate Son. God’s communications truly make perfect sense, if you accept them at face value.
We are all for people reading the Bible, even if they are encouraged to read it by enemies of the Bible. However, it is Dawkins that may need to read the Bible more, without the assumptions or explanations of men who reject it. It is then possible to gain what the Scriptures truly have to offer from God Who has everything to offer.

[This was posted simultaneously on Caffeinated Thoughts: http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2012/05/richard-dawkins-says-read-bible/]

Monday, May 7, 2012

Problems with Piper

I wrote this brief summary (more of a list) last year to a friend in ministry who was constantly quoting from John Piper. John Piper obviously loves the Lord, but I cannot heartily encourage or endorse his writings. I just do not believe him to be "safe" for believers, and I express "why" in this list.

I obviously write this from a dispensational, cessationist viewpoint with a belief that Lordship Salvation (as taught by John MacArthur and others, as well as Piper) is erroneous.

I reiterate that this is a summary - a list. I recognize up front that it is not a full-blown, fully documented treatise. I share it for what it may be worth, and I share it to encourage discernment among those who follow Christ to do just that.


You ask me for reasons why I think Piper is dangerous. Here is a quick list:

1. Piper Is a Covenant Theologian

a. I would avoid encouraging any average believer to read heavily from those who are Covenant Theologians. Their entire method of interpretation is skewed the way they would approach all of Scripture, and not distinguish between Israel and the Church.

b. Covenant Theology is built on a purely unwarranted system of covenants that are not to be found in the Bible (they are NOT the Abramic, Noahic, Mosaic, and Davidic covenants). How is that for a faulty basis for theology? (See Renald Showers’ There Really Is a Difference and Ryrie’s Dispensationalism for a good overview.) You cannot build good theology on wrong premises.

c. We may overlap on some conclusions of Covenant Theology, but we get there different ways.

d. Endorsing or encouraging Piper just adds to the confusion among believers, and further aids the lack of discernment that is sweeping the Church. (All teachers are good teachers…  If a teacher is popular, he/she must be good.)

2. Piper Is a Lordship Salvationist

a. As with MacArthur and others, those that embrace Lordship Salvation approach salvation and sanctification completely differently than those embracing salvation by grace alone through belief (faith).

b. Lordship salvation views a person’s conduct as a proof or condition of salvation (not a cause). This confounds the clear Gospel.

c. Lordship Salvation is a parallel to the 5th point of Calvinism (Piper is a 5-pointer), which is the perseverance of the saints. It allows no room for carnal believers (though the Bible clearly labels them, assumes them, and addresses them).

d. Lordship Salvation messes up sanctification, seeing it as a result of salvation, rather than it being an ongoing process of learning to “yield our members as instruments of righteousness to God” (Rom 6) and the like. Approach MacArthur with extreme caution in his Gospel commentaries for this very reason (and many Epistle comments are also slanted because of this view).

e. Lordship Salvation builds upon Romans 10:9-10 as the single summary/basis for salvation, and ignores all the literally hundreds of passages that speak about salvation being by faith (belief) alone (Gen 15:6; John 3:16,18; Rom 4:5; Acts 16:30-31 to name a few). Once again, you cannot build good theology on wrong premises.

3. Piper Is a Non-Cessationist

a. Piper believes that all the spiritual gifts are for today. This would include prophecy (though he defines it differently that he would view the NT prophet), tongues, wisdom, etc.

b. This necessarily changes one’s view of Scripture. Either Scripture is complete and the end-all of God’s truth for us, or it is not. If prophecy is for today, then the attention is off of “what has God written in His Word” to that AND “what does God say today through prophets.”

c. Though he is not what I would call an “aggressive” charismatic, he is indeed a theological one, which in turn affects his view of everything.

d. Kevin Bauder wrote recently of charismatics in general:

Participation in the conservative evangelical movement forces one to work closely with people who hold charismatic views. True, the more moderate versions of charismatic theology [Subra: Piper would be in this category] do not directly affect the gospel. That does not mean, however, that they are minor or incidental. This issue was not much discussed at “Advancing the Church,” but I do not believe that close cooperation with charismatics is desirable under most circumstances. (http://centralseminary.edu/resources/nick-of-time/312-reflections-after-the-encounter)

4. Piper Draws People by Means of Artificial Depth or “New Truth”

a. As in Desiring God, Piper presents terms and words in a way not presented in Scripture.

b. If the teaching is not clearly taught in Scripture, how does it assist the cause of Christ to create some new twist to teaching? Instead of Christian Hedonism, why not teach what the Word DOES say? It raises Piper up to be something of a “secret insider” rather than promoting the common conclusions that all people should be able to come to when studying the same Bible. He is twisting the Scriptures to come up with something NEW, rather than teaching what is revealed. Piper is seen as a Biblical alchemist (teaching new, unknowns, unknown approaches) rather than teaching the historical truths of the Word. It garners an unwarranted “awe” of him. (See my point on “Cultic Following”)

c. As an example, here is an extended review of Desiring God by Dr. J.D. Watson (http://www.thescripturealone.com/BookReview_Piper_Desiring.htm):
John Piper’s book, Desiring God, originally published in 1986 and now updated in a 2003 edition, is being applauded by many evangelicals: Jerry Bridges, Larry Crabb, Os Guiness, John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, and J.I. Packer. Piper lays his foundation by changing the answer to the first question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (which he calls the “old tradition,” p. 18) to read, “The chief end of man is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever” (p. 19). In other words, we glorify God the most when we are satisfied in Him. Piper dubs this with the term “Christian Hedonism,” which in his view is a call to abandon the short-term, low-yield pleasures of the world for the magnificent joys of knowing God in whom is fullness of joy.

A dear friend’s recommendation that I read this book, along with a fellow pastor’s positive review of it, whose opinion I respect, had me very much looking forward to sitting down to a good read (and I thank John Piper for the free copy I received in the promotional campaign). But while I agree that there are things to praise here, I have some serious problems with several points.

First, and foremost, I have to say that when I read the term “Christian Hedonism,” the book was for the most part ruined from there. Now, let me say up front that this does NOT mean that the author advocates an antinomian, do-as-you-please, eat, drink, and be merry lawless hedonism, nor does it encourage people to ask God to give them the weak, godless pleasures they enjoy. But the fact of the matter is that to make the term “hedonism” into something positive, much less Christian, is patently ridiculous. A quick look at the use of the term in both Classical and New Testament Greek verifies this.

“Hedonism” is a rough transliteration of the Greek hēdonē, which originally “meant something pleasant to the taste, and then pleasant generally.” To Herodotus [c.484-c.425 B.C] it meant “the pleasures of the senses,” and Aristotle [384-282 B.C.] “uses it as a synonym of chara, joy, in expressing pleasure in the practicing of the virtues and for aesthetic pleasure in works of art.” In later Hellenism, however, the term took a turn for the worse; it “was confined to its ethically bad elements,” was actually “used in contrast to chara, joy, and aretē, virtue,” and finally came to mean “the pleasure of the senses, of sex, and then the unrestricted passions.” This meaning is clearly carried over into the New Testament, where the term appears only five times, all in “later books,” and always with “a bad connotation.”

In the Parable of the Soils, for example, the thorny-ground hearer is one whose life is characterized by the “riches and pleasures of this life,” which choke the seed of the Gospel (Lk. 8:14). Paul reiterates that the lost man’s life is typified by “lusts and pleasures” (Tit. 3:3), and Peter asserts that he who seeks “pleasure” will “receive the reward of unrighteousness” (II Pet. 2:13). Finally, James declares that fights and fusses among Christians come because we all are seeking our own “lusts” (4:1) and that we often don’t receive what we pray for because we’ll just “consume it upon [our] lusts” (v. 3).

With that etymology in mind, how can we possibly view hedonism in any positive light. It simply has no positive side as used in Scripture, regardless of any adjective we might put in front of it. One writer, in fact, makes this profound contrast, “We must beware of confounding hēdonē with the desire for true joy (chara) which is never rejected in the New Testament. Joy is satisfied rather by communion with God, often even in the midst of suffering and persecution.” While Piper actually does a good job of making the same point as the second sentence of that quotation, he undoes it with the term hedonism. The quoted writer is saying, “Don’t mix the two; hedonism and joy are not the same.” Indeed, trying to make hedonism Christian is like trying to make “gay marriage” an “acceptable alternative lifestyle.”

Which leads me to a question: why invent a term that you then have to spend several pages (or even a whole book) defending and explaining? Why not write a book on a Biblical term, such as the word JOY (chara). Piper could have written his entire book based on that Biblical word and done it much more easily. Why not do so? Why pick a provocative and contradictory term that has nothing whatsoever to do with real joy? Is the reason simply cleverness and marketability or is it a misunderstanding of language? In either case, it misses the Truth.

May I also interject that I found it a little presumptuous to use quotations from Jonathan Edwards (and others) in such a way as to imply that his words support Piper’s thesis. Now, while C. S. Lewis might have agreed with the term “Christian Hedonism,” in my wildest imagination I can’t fathom Edwards doing so. He knew what words mean. And speaking of Edwards, what about J. I. Packer’s recommendation on the back of the book? “Jonathon Edwards, whose ghost walks through most of Piper’s pages, would be delighted with his disciple?” Ghost? Doesn’t this push even poetic license a little far?

Piper also at times leaves out portions of verses to make his point, thereby leaving a false impression. For example, he quotes Psalm 147:11 thusly, “The LORD takes pleasure in . . . those that hope in his stedfast love” (p. 54). But he leaves out the middle portion of the verse. The entire verse reads, “The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” (KJV). I apologize for mentioning a translation issue (see my sixth point), but the Hebrew hesed is best translated “mercy,” not “love,” and the ESV’s use of “stedfast” is not even supported by a Hebrew word. Another example is Piper’s quotation of Jeremiah 32:40-41: “I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them . . . I will rejoice in doing them good . . . with all my heart and all my soul.” But here he leaves out half of verse 40 (“. . . but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me”) and the middle of verse 41 (“. . . and I will plant them in this land assuredly”). In both these instances the foundational principle of the fear of God (Ps. 34:11: 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 9:10; etc.) is left out. Is this because that particular concept might cast a small shadow on the author’s premise, which would then be one more thing he would have to explain?

Second, the oddest language Piper uses is in reference to salvation. While I most certainly agree that just because someone says, “I believe in Jesus,” that doesn’t make them a Christian (pp. 54-55). I totally reject the “easy-believeism” that plagues the Church today. But Piper goes on to make some rather odd (if not disturbing) statements. For example, he writes: “There are other straightforward biblical commands besides, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’ [Acts 16:31] . . . Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not ‘Believe in the Lord,” but ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’? And might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed broad awake by the words, ‘Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonism he cannot see the Kingdom of God’?” (p. 55; emphasis in the original). Apparently simple Biblical wording is not enough. Later he adds, “The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is not an ‘extra’ that a person might grow into after he comes to faith. Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith” (p. 73). Should this be our new definition of faith?

Third, Piper reports a letter of criticism he received after preaching on his thesis. It read: “Is it not the contention of morality that we should do the good because it is the Good? . . . We should do the good and perform virtuously, I suggest, because it is good and virtuous; that God will bless it and cause us to be happy is a consequence of it, but not the motive for doing it.” Another popular writer also wrote: “For the Christian happiness is never a goal to be pursued. It is always the unexpected surprise of a life of service” (p. 112). Instead of taking this godly counsel, however, Piper regards these statements “as contrary to Scripture and contrary to love and, in the end (though unintentionally), dishonoring to God.” Really? How about I Corinthians 10:31? “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” While Piper quotes this verse three times (pp. 18, 56, 320), he doesn’t seem to get the full implication. The Bible simply does not say “that the pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed,” as Piper teaches and goes to great lengths to “prove.” The Bible says that our motive is to give God glory.

Fourth, in a footnote on page 124, Piper writes, “Historically, ethicists have tended to distinguish these two forms of love [which he mentions in the text] as agape and eros, or benevolence and complacency. Not only is there no linguistic basis for such a distinction, but conceptually both resolve into one kind of love at the root. God’s agape does not ‘transcend’ His eros, but expresses it. God’s redeeming, sacrificial love for His sinful people is described by Hosea in the most erotic terms (11:8-9).” What?! I had to read that three times to even believe I read it. Here is another example of ignoring language. There is a very good reason why erōs (English “erotic”) never appears in Scripture, namely, because it speaks of the physical and sensual. Erōs is not used even for the physical relationship of a husband and wife because their love transcends sex alone. What is the history of erōs? “The Greeks’ delight in bodily beauty and sensual desires found expression here in the Dionysiac approach to, and feeling for, life. Sensual ecstasy leaves moderation and proportion far behind, and the Greek tragedians (e.g. Sophocles, Antigone., 781 ff) knew the irresistible power of Eros—the God of love bore the same name—which forgot all reason, will, and discretion on the way to ecstasy.” Another writer adds that the meaning of erōs (and the related eran) had degenerated so that they stood for lower things. Christianity could hardly have annexed these words for its own uses.” [iv] So Piper’s blending erōs with agapē, that high, selfless, Divine love in Scripture, is beyond comprehension. And words escape me on how to respond to the thought that God possesses erōs!

Fifth, the section heading on page 168, “Glorifying God Not By Serving Him, But by Being Served By Him,” is just one more example of Piper’s skewed premise. I just find such statements totally onerous at best and offensive at worst. Here are a few verses that are absent from Piper’s book: “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11); “Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him” (72:11); “Take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Josh. 22:5); “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29).

Sixth, while my intention is not to open the Bible translation can of worms, in spite of all the hype and marketing of the English Standard Version (which is one of the changes in the 2003 edition of Piper’s book), I am compelled to mention that this version is simply a resurrection of the corrupt Revised Standard Version. Yes, it makes some changes, but it’s just the new flavor of the month and another will come along soon.

To conclude, in my view, what could have been a wonderful book on true joy, John Piper’s Desiring God is more of a philosophical thesis than Scripture exposition. It’s founded at best on a questionable premise, which is then propped up by the author’s own reading of Scripture, not on sound principles of exegesis. It proves once again that much contemporary literature lacks sound interpretation and replaces it with “jargon that sells.” Read Puritan Stephen Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God instead; it will provide a lifetime of meditation.

Dr. J. D. Watson
Grace Bible Church
Sola Scriptura Ministries
Meeker, CO
5. Piper Has a Cult Following

b. People worship Piper and Piper’s works. Whatever Piper writes is some automatically accepted deep truth. It bypasses discernment by embracing the author rather than engaging his writing with the Word.

c. Piper is now a commodity. He sells. Example: In a church I was part of in the past, we used a book Piper wrote around the time of the movie The Passion called 50 Reasons Why Christ Had to Die. It was simply awful. It was written poorly (likely not even written but dictated). It was unscholarly, confusing, and further it was tainted by his covenant theology and his Lordship Salvation. (We finally just gave it up.) Popular preacher + poor book = still a strong seller. People have no discernment anymore. It is not the author but the content of a book that must be scrutinized (really, in addition to the author). People by books by Piper even though they have really no understanding of his approach.

d. One of his biggest popularity boosts came from his conferences on sexuality. It is amazing what crowds can draw to that topic!

e. Piper has ongoing unqualified (overextended?) influence, which will trap the multitudes who lack discernment and follow the faddish teachers and teachings.

6. Piper Has a Broad Following

a. This is a form of “conservative ecumenism,” where people who would not think of “doing church” together are brought together. They flock to Piper, even though his theological foundations are far different from their own.

b. This alone weakens the church. The local church is to be led local pastors, not the popular author / teacher.
c. I often wonder if this is not exactly what Paul wrote Timothy when he said people would heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears (and be led away from the truth, even while they “study”!).

7. Piper Has a Growing List of Questionable Connections

b. Piper has growing connections to Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Rick Warren has MANY theological holes, and has gone off the non-separation and almost New Age deep end (http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1322972/pg1).

c. The Warren connection and others (such as Mark Driscoll) discussed well (http://oxgoad.ca/2010/04/05/its-not-about-separation/)

d. Here is a well-written article by Phil Johnson: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2010/04/on-piper-warren-connection.html


I would not recommend an author like Piper to a general reader if only because of his theological foundations. If I quoted from Piper, I would do so with careful clarification and with a specific quote (though I would not feel comfortable quoting from him at all). -- CT

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Review of "October Baby"

I had the opportunity recently to attend a screening / preview the Irwin brothers film October Baby. This film highlights the victims of abortion, but more specifically abortion survivors. The fictitious story centers around a teenager, Hannah, who discovers that she was adopted, and was a survivor of a botched abortion. October Baby focuses on all those that were impacted with her survival in one way or another, including the attending abortion center nurse, birth mother, adoptive parents, and of course, the teenager herself.

A “Christian Film” It Is Not

Even though the screening included footage of the Irwin brothers expressing great joy over being able to enter into the “Christian film industry,” (a term which I am not wholly friendly towards), I would argue that
October Baby is not a Christian film. Though it may have some common feelings with Christianity (and I did say “feelings”), if it retains the Christian film nomenclature it should win the award for being the “most covert.” The film makes reference to little that would be characteristically Christian. The writers and producers seemed to be so concerned about not offending viewers by word or action that all such things are left out.

October Baby
contains no church involvement. The one church that is brought into the film is a Catholic church where Hannah wanders to and occasions to speak with a priest. Hannah (the abortion survivor) expresses that she is a “Baptist,” but is helped by the priest. Apparently her Baptist upbringing had no effect or ability to help her in this time of struggle. Sharing that her implied Christian involvement could not sustain her or assist her misses the Christian message, and actually degrades the intent of the film. She is a Christian and doesn't know what to do? The Christian walk centers around interaction with a local body of disciples who learn the Word and help each other. Hannah has no such connection or help evident. Was this scene just a gesture to appeal in a more ecumenical way? Market is the message?

October Baby
makes no clear references to Scripture. To say that a film is Christian and leave out Scripture is, well, unchristian. If the goal is to appeal to the Truth, and proclaim the Truth, why not share some Truth? I caught no references to the Word in this drama.

October Baby
contains no clear Christian conversation or conduct. I found myself in strange territory when this fictional Baptist with her fictional Baptist parents had no Christian words amongst themselves. In fact, I was trying to figure out why these supposed Christian parents would have failed to tell this adoptive daughter of theirs about her adoption or her being the survivor of an abortion (and other things that I will not share so as not to spoil the movie for those that have not seen it). I was in a further quandary why such a Christian girl would take off on a co-ed spring break and end up in compromising situations such as being in a motel room alone with a single boy. That is not conduct encouraged in any Christian group I’ve ever known.

October Baby
provides no clear Christian takeaway. This may sound repetitious, but this film leaves one with feelings, not facts. The feelings are not bad; they are just incomplete without something to hang them on. The Truth sets one free, not emotions. In a truly Christian film, one should walk away with something very clear to think about, not just a sense of emotional pain.

A Mixed-Up Market

I would suggest that the writers and producers confused their audience, and lost the full impact that they could have had. The film , when analyzed (as opposed to experienced) leaves things painfully incomplete. Something is missing when appealing to the Christian, and more is missing if the intent is to appeal to the non-believer.

It is very apparent that
October Baby is written to appeal to the unchurched and irreligious. The message is presented in a way to appeal primarily at an emotional level, touching on the pain abortion causes, especially surrounding failed abortion. The film seems to go to great lengths to avoid any real Christian connection, to the point of not sharing one.

The film offers no action for Christ followers. Even though the “Christian film industry” seeks to activate the Church to sell their wares, this film gives nothing concrete to know or do for those that want to act. Further, at least from my view, it tries to sell a Christian story that is very unchristian, even foreign to those actively attending and serving in a local Christian assembly, and seeking to learn and live the truths taught in the Word of God.

Even though I was given the privilege to view this screening for free, I felt a little used. I was challenged to promote this so that more such films could be made. That seems to be a self-justifying market. “Please come and see our movies, so that we can make more.” That pitch would work on any product anywhere, if you can find those to do what they are told without discernment. Make a good movie, and we’ll spread the word about it.

Two Detracting Observations

In this film there were enough technical gaffs to actually catch my attention, and such attention to detail when viewing a movie is usually not something for which I am known (ask my kids). Jumpy camera shots were plentiful. Scene mistakes were also evident (tears on cheeks in one shot, missing in the next; the priest walking far away and the audio footsteps not matching his stride, etc.). It was not a technical disaster, but it was not a stellar work in that area either.

If you like crying, you will like
October Baby. There is much crying in the film, which seems to encourage crying at the film. I felt that the crying was largely “see and do likewise” rather than from any powerful scenes which made you want to cry because of content. It came across very manufactured. I think I’ve mentioned “emotion” enough times already that you get the picture. Make people cry because of your message, not because you have people crying in front of them.

One Major Concern

From a pro-life perspective, I walked away from
October Baby confused. This is due partly to the exclusive focus of the film on the abortion survivor at the cost of any emphasis on those that do not survive abortions (where the abortionists actually succeed in killing the babies). This confusion is also due to comments by the writers and producers (in the screening, not in the actual film) that seemed to miss that truth as well. All abortions kill babies. Some survive abortions, but that story is not worse than any of the 54,000,000+ “successful” abortions that have taken place to date since Roe v. Wade.

There is even a level of confusion which I believe could even be construed by some to think that we need to make sure there are no unexpected survivors of abortion. Some could really walk away with that thought. “If it is this bad, we need to make sure that no one accidentally survives an abortion.” Refer back to the need for clear Christian information.


Though the film is presented as a contribution to the Christian film market,
October Baby accomplishes that only by weak implication. There are no clear or overt Christian messages spoken or presented.

The film does encourage people to consider how others are affected by abortions, and more specifically, failed abortions. However, it does so on a subjective feelings level, with no presentation of absolute truth or principles. Though it may get people thinking about abortion and its consequences, maybe it will be used by some to introduce the topic for further truth-based discussion. and maybe it will even encourage some to decide against having one, the film falls short in presenting the foundational truth of the value of life, or any clear Christian truth. --