Thinking Out Loud

August 11, 2016

A Rare Moment of Calvinist Transparency

Happy Rant Podcast logoI mentioned a few weeks ago I wanted to return to a discussion that happened several weeks ago on The Happy Rant Podcast, with Ted Kluck, Barnabas Piper and Ronnie Martin. This takes place on Episode #94 when the subject of the Kickstarter project for the documentary Calvinist comes up in the discussion.

At first, the guys are just having fun with the various fundraising levels, but around the 30:00 minute mark (the whole topic is introduced at 23:45) the discussion about the need for the movie gets more serious. First Barnabas Piper says,

Nobody is going to watch this that’s not already a Calvinist… The only people who like talking about Calvinism are Calvinists and nobody likes talking about anything more than Calvinists like talking about being Calvinists… almost as much as introverts like to Tweet about being introverts.  It’s how Together for the Gospel thrives year after year without ever doing anything different… So this will succeed… I don’t understand why Calvinists love being Calvinists so much; I just don’t get it.

Then Ted Kluck chimes in,

I think it has something to do with when kids get to college and join fraternities. You just want to belong, you want to be part of something, you want someone to sit with at lunch.

Ronnie Martin says,

It carries such a heavy a weight of a label… Baptist love going around saying ‘I’m a Baptist.’  What’s fascinating about the Calvinist position, if you take that there’s two positions, Calvinist and Arminian… is that nobody walks around holding up a card that says, ‘Arminian, that’s me; arrow pointing at me;’ but Calvinists carry the weight and the title and the identity and wave the flag of this thing given that the other position never represents themselves with that position, but you have this position which we think is Biblical and it has the most clarity… we’re drinking the Kool Aid, we’re wearing the t-shirt, we got the sticker, we’ve got the conference, we’re writing the books, we’ve got the publishing companies, we’ve got the — wait for it — podcasts.

To which Piper replies,  It’s fascinating like a nature documentary

Martin: Then what are we doing right now?

Piper: We’re making fun of how strange it is.

Martin: But we’re one of them.

Piper: Yes and no; because there’s different ways to define them… There’s the theology; there’s Reformed theology which, at its best informs how you live life, it informs how you see the world, it informs how you read scripture, it informs how you interact with God… Then there’s the culture of Calvinism which I want absolutely nothing to do with because it’s absurd.

Martin: How do you separate them?

Piper continues:

By not being a jerk… It’s like you can be a college student without being in a fraternity.  You can still go to class and study hard. You can still pursue a degree. You can still make friends. You can do all of those things in college. You just don’t have to pledge and binge drink and generally be an idiot…

[later] …

When I hear people, and when I see stuff like this… people love the label Calvinist … that label is divisive not helpful… When I say I want no part of it, I’m talking about all of the things that are divisive about it because I believe a truly Reformed person should  absolutely be able to interact with an Arminian and a Semi-Pelagian and a Buddhist and a Hindu and whoever else… You’re arguing for the gospel, you’re not arguing for Reformed theology. If you want to come back and say Reformed theology is the gospel, you’re wrong. It’s not. The gospel is bigger than Reformed theology; it is a way of understanding… But Arminian people are saved too, and too many Calvinists act like they’re not and those people are morons

[later]

… I’m talking about every aspect of the culture that I would deem to be divisive, or just dumb… When I saw this documentary, I just want to go, ‘Why?’ Who benefits from this. This is naval gazing by a naval gazing crowd. We love talking about ourselves, and how Reformed we are, so let’s make a documentary about Reformed Reformed people are.

[later]

…I’m talking about what will happen with it [the film]. …You know who’s going to watch this? Calvinists. And then they’re going to Tweet about it. And other Calvinists are going to re-Tweet it and they’re going to get their Calvinist buddies to watch it and we’re all going to be a little more Calvinist at the end of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 9, 2014

“Oh, are you any relation to John Piper?”

I would not want to grow up in the shadow of a famous person, let alone a celebrity in the present Evangelical/Christian milieu, so after listening to several episodes of The Happy Rant Podcast, of which Barnabas Piper is one of three hosts — I decided it was time to see how iconic Calvinist John Piper fared in his son’s book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity.

The Pastor's Kid - Barnabas PiperDespite a rather intense introduction from the elder Piper, no family secrets were revealed, in fact there is such a universality to this story that perhaps it should be titled, The Church Leader’s Kid, or The Board Member’s Kid, or The Sunday School Teacher’s Kid, or even The Usher’s Kid. (Note: This list was not presented in descending order; I am not implying that ushers are any less important than board members.) The point is that all of us who grew up in church sometimes feel undeniable pressure to be good.

The book itself is rather light reading, though this is not a light subject. The younger Piper comes at this from various perspectives and with absolute transparency. The ministry life is an individual calling, but as I know from my own household, spouses and offspring get dragged into that life whether they want it or not.

The immersion into ministry life for a child is not simply a matter of meshing a church schedule to a school and sports schedule. The expectations are gigantic.

In some sense the “Bible expert” identity is one that PKs can’t help. It takes very intention effort not to learn biblical facts and references when it is your parents’ full-time job and home life both. We absorb biblical knowledge passively whether we care to or not. And the higher expectation naturally follows.

When you combine this ever-present reality with the fact we are the progeny of clergy, a further challenge arises — PKs are often expected to be theologians (sometimes by our parents, usually by the church). This is distinctly different than being a “Bible expert,” someone who knows the facts of Scripture. Being a theologian is a discipline, a cause, a passion. People expect that one of our great passions will be the systematized exploration and explanation of God. And while it is good for everyone to give careful thought to the things of God, the expectation of “theologian” placed on PKs is much more than that.  (pp. 52-53)

The book also is strong in its examination of the relationship of the PK to the pastor/parent.

American church culture has created a double standard for pastors. They are expected to be dynamic leaders, teachers, counselors and organizational heads. And one of the job qualifications is that they be dynamic family men. These two demands would not necessary be at odds except that both far surpass reality. Pastors are expected to be superior in both roles, even when they are at odds with each other.   (p.  119)

If the church wins the battle for the man’s time, the family (i.e. especially the kids) lose. “What we get are the leftovers. When that happens, while he may be seen as great pastor, he is a flop as a parent.”

Barnabas Piper and John PiperThere is more than a direct hint from Barnabas that his famous father really isn’t drawn to any particular hobbies.  In a rare candid paragraph he laments that “…to this day, I still yearn to have a shared hobby with my father, something as simple as golf or hiking. Such little things have big meanings.” While I am not a pastor myself, I saw myself in this section of the book, especially the notation that, “…what he loved was studying, theology, writing and preaching — not exactly the hobbies to share with a twelve-year old.”

That’s possibly why I said the book really has a more general application, especially for Christian men. I know men aren’t big consumers of Christian books, but the 137 pages of core content here includes 21 essentially blank pages (something publisher David C. Cook is frequently guilty of) so at least the guys will feel they are making progress as they read.

As universal as are the parenting issues this book speaks to, the very designation “PK” shows that the issues are unique.

You can tell we have a reputation because we get our own abbreviation. You don’t see a teacher’s kid getting called a “TK” or a salesman’s kid getting called an “SK.”  (p. 23)

There are two things that are absent from The Pastor’s Kid which I feel are worth noting.

First, Barnabas is the son of both a famous preacher and a famous preacher’s wife. (Some churches even refer to the Pastor’s wife as the church’s “First Lady,” in the same sense as the wife of the U.S. President.) Perhaps he is saving this for a sequel, establishing a brand. (The Pastor’s Wife followed by The Pastor’s Cat and Dog.) It’s also possible that Noël Piper wisely suggested something like, ‘Leave me out of it.’ Either way, there is only a passing reference to his mother.

Second, and more importantly, while the subject frequently arises, there isn’t nearly enough direct treatment of what Barna Research refers to as Prodigal Pastors’ Kids. Perhaps their circumstances make them overly visible, but we all know PKs who have gone off the deep end, either theologically or behaviorally. (See infographic below.)

Those two things said, this is still an important book and one that every elder, board member needs to read, as well as passing it down the line to kidmin and ymin workers who deal with the PKs in Sunday School, midweek club, or youth group.


Thanks to Martin Smith of David C. Cook Canada for a chance to come late to the review party and still get a seat!  For another excerpt from the book, see the second half of this devotional at C201.

Barna Research - Prodigal Pastors' Kids - from infographic

July 7, 2014

The Happy Rant Podcast

Church Clothes 2.5 John Piper LecraeOkay…I’m staying loyal to the Phil Vischer Podcast (and they’ve got video) but I now have new audio podcast favorite.

The Happy Rant is Stephen Altrogge, Barnabas Piper, and Ted Kluck

Self-described as “talking about things that don’t matter,” the latest, Episode 5, looks at alternative study Bibles we’d like to see. (Didn’t Mad Magazine do this premise?)

The Andre the Giant Study Bible
The Zangief from Street Fighter Study Bible
The Tootie from Facts of Life Study Bible
The Other Girl from Facts of Life, The One Who Is a Christian Speaker Study Bible
The Crease from Karate Kid Study Bible
The Dwight Schrute Study Bible
The “The Situation” Study Bible
The Chaz Marriot Study Bible
The “Platform” Study Bible
The Pete Rose Should Be in the Hall of Fame Study Bible
The Lloyd Dobler Study Bible
The U2 Lyrics Study Bible
The Mike Seaver Study Bible
The Super Bowl Shuffle Study Bible feat. William “The Refrigerator” Perry
The Twitter Every Word Is Hashtagged and Every Name is Squigglied Study Bible
The 1986 Mets Featuring Daryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson Study Bible
The Joyce Meyer Study Bible

or this suggestion, “I want a Minnesota Sports Fan Study Bible which basically consists of Job, Ecclesiastes and Revelation.”

They also discuss John Piper’s upcoming gig with Lecrae, hence today’s graphic.

To listen to the podcast, click this link.

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