The Pied Piper
Dr. Jay Worth Allen
On March 6th, Anno Domini 2011, I celebrated my 42nd birthday. But I’m not really concerned, I still have the body of a 41 year old. Among my fête of gifts was the book, Desiring God by John Piper. Since Miss Diana and I do not have Cable or Dish, we entertain ourselves in an old-fangled approach called Reading. Most of our friends are familiar with our eccentricity, so Books are usually their Party gifts of choice. We love Books.
The Piper Book was an amusing read . . . Paul Simon was right, “every generation sends a Pop Star up the charts.”
The most remarkable aspect in Piper’s theories are their inseparability to those of Aristotle. Aristotle’s whole goal (as with Piper’s brass ring) was to show men why spiritual, as well as physical Happiness can, and should, be our goal: “Our task is to achieve the highest human good. That good is happiness” (Aristotle’s Ethics, Book four).
In his first 50 pages, Piper tries his best to convince both reader and author alike that “Christian Hedonism” is the most fitting idiom to describe the “Happy” Christian. Beginning with the preface, Piper writes: “It’s about happiness because that is what our Creator demands.” He then quotes Jeremy Taylor, “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy.”
Really? Well, I’m not convinced.
If, in the words of Job’s buddy Elihu, I would offer “flattering titles to men,” the Lord would soon “take me away.” There is a vast difference between flattering words and Godly edification. Words of adulation puff up. Words of edification build up. I prefer Christian authors, who offer words of edification for the building up of the saints of God, rather than Piper’s witty ideological abstract constructs.
The disorder, unhappiness and chaos, which most of us experience from time to time, would perhaps be clarified, if we would simply ask ourselves, “Am I out of the order of God?” Any frustration or rupture of Divine order will have ripples, like a rock thrown into a calm pond. It doesn’t matter if we’re Happy or not, God’s order stands. There are many believers walking in the economy, order, and blessings of God, who are not Happy:
“Who, through faith . . . escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong . . . were tortured . . . had trails of cruel mockings and scourgings . . . bonds and imprisonment; stoned . . . sawed in-two . . . being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:32-40).
Would you call those believers Happy? Hardly. Joyful? You bet. But most assuredly not, what Piper calls, “Happy.”
On page #66 Piper writes, “Conversion is what happens to the heart when Christ becomes for us a Treasure Chest of holy joy.” Then he quotes Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then from his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Piper then declares, “A person discovers a treasure and is impelled by joy to sell all he has in order to have this treasure.”
This (as with much of Piper’s book) is just another 14th-19th Century medieval scholasticism interpretation. “Old news” ain’t always “Good news.” Erasmus (wrongly) came to the same conclusion during he and Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” parleys. The “field” in Matthew 13 is the Lord’s people, the Church (John 4:35), which was purchased by the Lord at the precious cost of His own blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), in order that He might secure the treasure, i.e., His “bride” - “Forasmuch as you know that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver and gold . . . but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18,19). The Church is Christ’s bequest from the Father, and thus His Joy, which He purchased . . . not us. None of us can muster up enough money, method or means to buy Salvation. “Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).
While reading Piper’s book, I found gross misreading, unscriptural intrusions and misinterpretations of Biblical data. The essence lurking behind Aristotle, Erasmus, and Their Kind, who stress the Potential Value and Happiness of human beings, who emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems, is the same spirit which lurks behind the pretend Prophets and Teachers of today. That essence or spirit is their concern for freedom, merit, and good works in human pride - a desire to have something to offer God that will blunt the enormity of our need for Grace. I fear that the wrong kind of concern for human responsibility, which they teach, will soon connect with the self-centeredness that is the result of Original sin. Such pride of self is the enemy of the Gospel, which calls us to receive what God offers in Christ Jesus humbly, and without conditions.
Both human wickedness and human achievements stand judged by the Cross, to the extent that either represents an attempt to live without God, and by human strength alone. If anyone believes that he can obtain Grace, Conversion or Happiness, by invoking the good that is in him, then he is adding sin to sin - he is now doubly guilty. “Christ has become of no effect unto you . . . you are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Sin does not cause a man to “fall” from grace. Trying to obtain that Grace by our own efforts does. The Gospel is sharply set against human wisdom and human achievements - even, and especially, the best that we humans have to offer.
One of my dear teachers, Dr. Keith Lamb, once told me, concerning the enemy of our Faith: “The Devil will flood a valley with Truth, so he can float one Canoe full of Lies.”
The Pied Piper
Published: 3 April 2011 on Freed In Christ! blogsite.
Published: 24 March 2011 in the Faith Column of The County Journal.
© 1998-2012 dr. jay & miss diana ministries, inc. all rights reserved
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© 2012 dr. jay & miss diana
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