Monday, June 13, 2005

Too Much Piper?

John Piper has let me down. Following him from the moment I discovered the whole group from Passion/268, I've been so challenged and so stretched over the years. I consider his sermon, "Did Christ Die for Us or for God?", to be one of the turning points of my life.

But then I received this sermon in an email last week: "For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death?" I was hoping it would be a reminder of that previous message, maybe building on the idea that Jesus' real work was fulfilling the will of the Father. But it wasn't like that at all, instead focusing on who did Jesus die for: everyone or just the elect? I don't see the logic that says Jesus' death was anything less than universally meaningful, but that's where Piper goes. In John 3:16, Jesus died to save the "whosoever believes in Him", and not necessarily for thosesoever who don't. But doesn't that sell short the sacrifice of Christ on the cross? I'd rather err on the side that everyone has access to God through Jesus' work on the cross, that the relationship is open to more than "just the elect". If Jesus died only for those who were predestined to be saved, then there are people Jesus did not die for - and I don't like making that assumption either.

So at least on this cound I part ways with Dr. Piper. I still own a few CDs and books, and will still receive the email that challenges me and from time to time disagrees with me. There's nothing wrong with a little disagreement - his ministry has made so many positive changes in my life, I can allow him to be wrong once in a while.


Blogger Renee said...

I agree with you Rick. Christ died for ALL. It's us to decide if we want to follow him or to turn the other cheek.

13/6/05 11:30 AM  
Blogger MaryAnn M said...

with all things: discern. keep the good and toss the bad stuff.

not all teachings from someone are going to 100 percent true....or false.

if you have a theological disagreement and you can back up your side scripturally...then agree to disagree. If you disagree and cannot find scriptural and pray.

For all the good he has brought into your life...keep those things. just be more discerning in the future...

13/6/05 12:15 PM  
Blogger utech said...

just from reading what you have here Rick it seems to me like you are both saying the same thing.
"Jesus died to save the 'whosoever believes in Him'" ultimately, according to 'the plan' isn't it God's wish/plan that "ALL be saved..." so Jesus died for EVERYONE. But only those that believe in His attonement will be saved.
I think what complicates this whole concept is this issue of predestination and what it really means.
Without really getting into it keep in mine that...
1. We have free will
2. God knows all (not limited by time) He sees us yesterday, today and tomorrow all at the same time, He knows where we are, been and going.
3. Just because God knows where we are, were and will be, doesn't mean that He is making us. We still have free will, He just knows what we will do as long as there is time.
4. He could force us to do this or that based on the whole picture, but his greatest gift to us was free will (also our biggest curse) Sure He can nudge us but ultimately the choice is ours.

13/6/05 12:58 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

there's a bit more to my thinking, and yeah, we're not that far apart. i just don't like the thought that there are some not covered by the blood - some who weren't chosen - some who Jesus didn't love enough, at least in the phrasing of it all.

13/6/05 1:23 PM  
Blogger DaNutz said...

Jesus died because there were people that didn't want him shaking up their neat little social order. His vision for a new "kingdom on earth" was going to end thier kingdom, so they killed him. In the end, his death immortalized him and ended thier kingdom anyway.

Every person that benefits from his message benefits from his death because it ensured that his message about a new kingdom lasted the test of time. His death ensured that he would be resurrected in the lives and spirits of Christians for generations to come.

13/6/05 4:04 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

hey, danutz - something about the way you put that seems to take away the deity and intentionality that the Bible puts into the story. i think the way you put it sells Jesus' act short, too, just not in the same way. the need for holiness, obedience and love in relationship with Christ is apparent in the gospels and the epistles.

13/6/05 4:59 PM  
Blogger iggy said...

I used to think I was a Calvinist because I believe in eternal security. Yet, I find so much wanting in Calvinism I can't accept it.
T - the Total Depravity of Man
If this is true then Jesus being man born of woman would be under the curse of Adam.

U - Unconditional Election
Their definition of election is really not biblical. It presupposes much that is not there. It also negates the "whosever’s" of John 3:16.

L - Limited Atonement
All are forgiven, yet not all are saved. The atonement is universal, but salvation is not. This is a basic misconception that Forgiveness=salvation. It does not.

I - Irresistible Grace
This is a very limited view of God's Grace. It seems to deny the fact we are ALL under the grace of God, saved and unsaved as He has all rights to destroy us and start over.

P - the Perseverance of the Saints
Here there is a little validity in their teaching. We persevere because that is our nature as a "new creation".

Ultimately the whole system denies God to have a free will.... For He can not change from this system. So God becomes a salve to the system. So much for sovereignty.

I see some things in Armenianism that tend towards a "work salvation" and "maintenance” of our own salvation. I think God is better at maintaining my salvation than I am so i let Him do that. haha

I go back to Irenaeus. His view is that man has a free will.
My conclusion is we have a free will, but as we come to the cross we lay it down and receive the will of God. We give our death, to God and He gives us His Life. It is eternal. The old man is dead and crucified, and we are a new creation. We struggle in that sin dwells in our flesh, and being double minded in not accepting that who we were is dead. We must put on the new man.

Of course this is very much simplified here as I am trying to be brief.

14/6/05 4:38 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

maybe part of my problem is that any time we try to be "brief" we might need to write a book :) - not a slam, and thanks for posting that!

14/6/05 5:52 AM  
Blogger utech said...

and a lot of people who write books should have been brief

14/6/05 6:22 AM  
Blogger DaNutz said...

Those theological theories fall under the same category as "vampire movie theology". Does he die if he gets in the sunlight or just get burned? Is it a silver bullet or stake through the heart? Does garlic really work? etc... We turned Jesus into a vampire movie! I guess it is our nature. Can't we just listen to what he said and leave all the other crap to hollywood? If he is actually God or if he is a lunatic that stumbled onto truth by accident it doesn't matter because what he said works. The truth stands the test of time. The amazing thing is in the truth not the messenger. We always make a fuss over the messenger and miss the message. The early church did it with Peter and Paul and we still do it with Jesus but when we do we are actually making a mockery of what he said. If Jesus believed what he said then he would prefer to be thought of as a humble, meek carpenter that pointed to God rather than a God himself. Maybe we focus on the other crap becasue we don't want to do what he said. Is anybody really selling all they have and giving it to the poor? How about turning the other cheek when people attach us? Of course if we dumped all the theology of in/out, saved/un-saved, chosen/not-chosen, heaven/hell literal afterlife, etc we couldn't convince peasants to join our armies, fight wars, and maintain the necessary imbalance of wealth to support the world's cast systems.

14/6/05 8:43 AM  
Blogger Rick said...


i think we might be on the same page, danutz - once i figure whether or not we're in the same book. i understand your vampire reference and the whole in/out business - and i'm all for getting more inclusive if that's what will open us up to loving others unconditionally. but leaving behind the divinity of Jesus leaves out some pretty amazing scripture - and i'm not sure we need to go there to love God and love others.

14/6/05 4:46 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

"If he is actually God or if he is a lunatic that stumbled onto truth by accident it doesn't matter because what he said works."

I agree, danutz, that it matters that what Jesus said works. And I agree with you that it most definitely works. But I wanted to point out some of those things that he has said or not said that seem appropriate here.

"Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'" -Mt. 14:33

Jesus didn't rebuke his disciples for worshiping him in a boat and calling him the Son of God. This would have been outrageously egotistical for someone that did not think he was actually God.

"But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." -Luke 22:69

Jesus was referred to as the Son of Man and is talking in this passage about himself being in a place of power next to God.

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.'" -John 14:6-7

Jesus emphasizes that he is the tunnel, the bridge to the father and tells his disciples that they have seen the father because they have seen him.

It's tough, like you said, to walk the walk. I am bruised and bloody from the effort, and I have bruised and bloodied others. It is hard, however, for me to separate Jesus' teachings about loving others from his statements about being God because he said both. If he's not God, then there's no hope for me... or for the poor, fed or unfed.

14/6/05 7:02 PM  
Blogger DaNutz said...

I agree that Jesus encouraged us to see God as a Father figure by using that metaphor often. He told us to pray “Our Father…” I prefer to use that metaphor over the "King" metaphor favored by the Hebrews. It is more accurate based on my experiences with God and our current world view doesn't relate to "King" in a positive way. However the Hebrews also were referred to as children of God, so it isn't completely out of left field. When the terms children of God or sons of God are used it usually means people acting in God's will or having God's favor. I definitely see Jesus as one who acted in God's will and had his favor so therefore I feel comfortable using son of God to describe him. However, I think some people have a more literal view that is a little weird and sounds more like something from a greek or roman view of pagan gods actually impregnating humans and having sons. Kind of weird don’t you think? I guess it was natural for that idea to have evolved because much of early Christianity came from greek and roman influences.

Most rulers at that time were referred to as sons of Gods. It was not unheard of for people to call Caesar son of god. Calling Jesus the son of God was a direct and intentional insult to the roman and Jewish leaders. That's what got him in trouble with the authorities. He was shaking up the authority structure. I think the important thing to take from the "father" metaphor is that Jesus spoke on behalf of God or in God's honor the way a son might represent his father in any normal activity. It is a key element in the message of Jesus because it means he feels what he is saying is definitely in line with God's will.

I think people often confuse the metaphors of “sitting at God’s right hand” or “come to the father through me”. They are beautiful uses of metaphor that tell us a lot about God’s nature and Jesus’ intentions, but I think the actual thing he is referring to is his “message” or “vision of the kingdom of God”. We come to the father through his “way” which was his message about a “lifestyle of transformation” (i.e. die to self and be transformed to a life of “other-centeredness”).

If you start taking every metaphor literally then we would also need to literally commit suicide in order to “die to self” or see God as a literal Shepard with a sheep farm. Why do we try to read too much into some of these metaphors "about Jesus" and ignore his actual teachings on ideas like feeding widows and orphans or turning the other cheek?

15/6/05 10:53 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

here's the thing with literal and non-literal interpretations: i've got no problem with either side as long as we don't take the easy way out. to me, intellectually removing Jesus deity reduces Him - and i don't think the scriptures literally or figuratively can support that. if He's not God, then His statements and subversiveness were ruses to mess with the status quo. but if He is God, then i've got to look at what was said through that filter, and it demands more of my life coming from God than from "some good man".

i think the evidence pointing to Jesus as God and as part of a trinitarian view is there scripturally, traditionally and practically. taking that aspect away removes the weight that i think it brings to the conversation.

15/6/05 11:04 AM  
Blogger DaNutz said...

For me, Jesus' life and death are more powerful when I see him as a man rather a than a god. If he was God then what did he really sacrifice by dying?

If I say 2 + 2 = 4 then I am right and it doesn't matter if I am God or man. The truth is the truth because it is true. Jesus' "way" is the truth because it works and it is true. It can't be "more right" if he is God and it wouldn't be less right if he was a demon or a man. If satan said "your life will eventually be blessed if you are humble and love your neighbor" then satan would be speaking truth. He would be right just like Jesus was right. The status of the messenger doesn't add or lessen the truth in the message. It does however help some to buy in to it more.

I think the evidence you suggest abouth the divine nature of Jesus is in the teachings that evolved in the church AFTER Jesus died and are missing or misinterpreted from his own teachings.

The idea that a physical man could dedicate and even sacrifice his life for this vision of changing the world is much more challenging to me because it shows us that WE can and should do the same thing.

I'm surprised to hear your views on this Rick. From your reading list I expected a less fundamentalist view of the Bible. I do howevever applaud you for reading things that you don't agree with theologically. I think if more people were willing to branch out and read opposing opinions then our faith and even our politics would be less polarized.

I think the important thing is to develop a theological view of Jesus that leads you to to follow what he says. If someone could begin to follow his teachings and undergo the transformation that Jesus describes by beliving that Jesus was a alien from mars, then I would support that view for them. The important thing is that they are transformed and take part in the transformation of all creation that Jesus shared about.

15/6/05 12:52 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

thanks for the encouragement, and for the back-and-forth. i don't feel any antagonism on this, and i have seen it in other situations in the past. in my own deconstruction, i drew a line right before doing what i see as de-deifying Christ, and i reconstruct on a foundation of Jesus as God and the scriptures as revelation of God in relationship with Jesus. that's probably where we differ, and it's cool.

here's where i lose track of what you're saying: Jesus said, "I AM the Truth" - in that, the idea of the messenger BEING the message, of Jesus embodying Truth, more than just speaking truth. i've got alot more respect for God as God, maybe like you have for Jesus as man, in seeing Him as more than just the messenger.

thanks again!

15/6/05 12:58 PM  
Blogger DaNutz said...

I think you place more value in the wording of the Bible than I do. I don't try and read much into exactly how the 2nd hand recounts of Jesus' words are phrased. When I read "I am the truth" the most common sense interpretation of that for me is that he means what he is saying is the truth. A person can't be true or untrue, but their words can be. Or he could mean that he is being authentic when he is living out (i.e. he embodies) the truths that he teaches. Therefore his life is the truth because he lives the true words.

I assume that the people writing the gospels had as their objective to form a religion around Jesus (which is not a bad thing in itself) so they had great need to add weight to his message by trying to prove his divinity and physical resurrection. They accomplished what they set out to do. You yourself said that you have more appreciation for the message because you believe the message came directly from God. They were smart enough to realize that the message carried more weight if it was percieved as being directly from God instead of inspired by God. In the end, I am glad they did that because otherwise the message might not have lasted the test of time.

I tend to think things are more simple, logical, and less spooky. It helps me.

Thanks for the conversation! It's hard to find a place to do that in the bible-belt without being run out of town.

15/6/05 3:53 PM  
Blogger Margaret Feinberg said...

I think disagreement is totally healthy... it means we're engaged... growing..wrestling through..not content to be spoon fed... a thing of beauty.. not necessarily easy but still beautiful.

16/6/05 11:14 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

exactly - and having fun doing it, too... right?

17/6/05 12:09 AM  

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