Thinking Out Loud

May 28, 2019

On Issuing a “Farewell” to Those With Whom You Disagree

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:32 am

There’s a classic Negro spiritual, In That Great Gettin’ Up Morning. My parents owned a copy of the song covered by a group of white guys (not the version by the Gaither Vocal Band) and for some reason it got lodged in my brain Sunday morning while getting ready to leave for worship.

The song urges the listener to do what they can now in order to “fare well” at the sound of the trumpet ushering in the judgement of God. The chorus lyric (which is common to the GVB version) is “In that great gettin-up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well…”

At the same moment, my brain flashed back to the now iconic statement by John Piper to Rob Bell, “Farewell, Rob Bell;.” Piper’s pronouncement that Bell had officially left the fold of Evangelicalism (something Bell might agree with) and more importantly, left the fold of saved believers (something God might have told Piper that he didn’t tell everyone else.)

Piper’s statement was totally dismissive. It was the type of thing you say (more positively) to someone you don’t expect to see again; perhaps even someone who has died; but the context carried with it the tone of, “Get out of my life;” or “I never want to see you again.”

Despite this, the words themselves are actually a blessing. ‘Farewell’ is clearly a shortened ‘fare thee well,’ as vocabulary.com notes: “A farewell is also an expression of good wishes at a parting. If you’re leaving a job after being there a long time, your co-workers might throw you a farewell party.”

When someone in our lives announces that they are embarking on a bizarre career path or making an ill-advised investment, we might say, “Well…good luck with that.” We’re being equally dismissive, but the words themselves at least have a positive ring.

So are we really wishing the person the best of luck? Probably not insofar as it connects with the issue at the center of the interjection.

Nearly a year later, Christianity Today pressed Bell for a response to the many reactions his Tweet brought:

…my issue there was not primarily his view of hell. It was his cynicism concerning the Cross of Jesus Christ as a place where the Father atoned for the sins of his children and dealt with his own wrath by punishing me in his son. Rob Bell does not admire that. He doesn’t view the Cross that way, as a penal substitution. I consider that the essence of the Cross and my salvation, and the heart of God for me, and that ticked me off royally. I didn’t say all that, so probably everybody thought “Farewell Rob Bell” was kind of like “I don’t like his view of hell, so there.” Well, I don’t like John Stott’s view of hell either, and I never said anything about John Stott. I kept learning from John Stott. I would have sat at John Stott’s feet until the day he died.

In another article which responded to Piper, Justin Taylor wrote that, “it is better for those teaching false doctrine to put their cards on the table (a la Brian McLaren) rather than remaining studiously ambiguous in terminology.”  

Was it right for Piper to condemn Bell? He certainly wasn’t alone, but there was such an unbelievable degree of snark in the remark (that rhymes!) that it is now part of Piper’s legacy, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing…

…Seven years later, in March 2018, Piper’s remark was not forgotten:


I tried to locate a version of the song which comes close to remember, but this is the best I could find.

 

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July 23, 2015

The Calvinist and the Altar Call

I don’t want to take a lot of time over-introducing the video segment here, lest I fall into the trap of putting some spin on it; but in this 11-minute clip there is a strange juxtaposition between the revivalism of John Piper’s description of his traveling evangelist father, and the context of the Calvinist audience to whom he is speaking. If your mind and hearts are open, there is a moment of unusual transparency here where we learn as much about the speaker as we do about the place of pleading in the salvation process.

This clip was posted (or re-posted) by Free Gift Media, a new resource I am just being made aware of. To learn more check their Twitter and their website.

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.

January 29, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Bible is like a software license
A lot of people are critical of short-term missions, but right now, a plane ticket to somewhere warm would look really appealing. In the meantime, here are some links to keep you warm, clicking anything that follows will take you to PARSE at Christianity Today and then you can click through from there.

We leave you today with “the thrill that’ll gitcha when ya get your picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone.”  In this case, Pope Francis in the current issue; click the image to read the story.

Pope Francis Rolling Stone Cover

Paul Wilkinson is based in Canada — “You liked the first Polar Vortex so much we’re sending you another one” — and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and Christian Book Shop Talk

January 15, 2014

Wednesday Link List

When is a bargain not a bargain

I spent a lot of the week listening to Christian radio stations from around the world on DeliCast.com; so the temptation was to make the entire list this week simply links to all the wonderful stations I found. However, reason prevailed…  Each of the following will lead you back to Out of Ur, a division of Christianity Today, where you may then click through to the stories.

Paul Wilkinson writes from Canada (Motto: Home of the Polar Vortex) and blogs at Thinking Out Loud and edits Christianity 201, a daily devotional.

 

November 20, 2013

Wednesday Link List

Times of Testing

If your work week runs Monday to Friday, by noon on Wednesday you’re ‘over the hump,’ but the Baptist in me still blushes when someone says, “Happy Hump Day!”  With that, I think we’d better quickly move on to the links which you’ll find at Out of Ur.

The Wednesday Link List is written by Paul Wilkinson who blogs the rest of the week at Thinking Out Loud and Christianity 201.  Professional stunt blogger. Do not attempt at home. Offer not valid in Wisconsin or Hawaii.

Sister Mary Clara Vocation Doll

November 18, 2013

Were Strange Fire Participants Caricatured?

First of all, I want to start a rumor that John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference was actually a misspelling of its original name, Strang Fire Conference, named after Stephen Strang, the publisher of Charisma Magazine. I think with all that’s gone on before, during and after the conference, this story has as much plausibility as anything else.

Second, a question: Am I the only one who found the presence of Joni Eareckson Tada at the even somewhat unsettling?  I mean, I’m sure that over a lifetime she’s been besieged with people wanting her to “claim her healing.” Who wouldn’t want to see someone of her profile get up out of that wheelchair and walk? But Joni is more than a movie and a paperback biography. Her writings on various topics have earned her the right to be heard as a serious theological author, and if she falls on the cessationist side of the dispensational equation, so be it. I still find her inclusion in the conference…unsettling.

But mostly today, I want to direct you to an article at Desiring God (well, there’s a first for this blog!) dealing with what John Piper may have been quoted as saying, or characterized as saying, and what he really believes about spiritual gifts. Here’s a sample:

John PiperAt the conference, Piper was characterized as open to the gifts but not advocating for them or encouraging others to pursue the gifts themselves. This is a misunderstanding, says Piper. “I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 12:31, ‘earnestly desire the higher gifts.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:1, ‘earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you might prophesy.’ And I advocate obedience to 1 Corinthians 14:39, ‘earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.’ I want Christians today to obey those texts.”

And Piper seeks to obey those texts himself. “I pray for the gift of prophecy almost as often as I pray for anything, before I stand up to speak.” This prayer for prophecy is a desire to preach under an anointing, in order to “say things agreeable to the Scriptures, and subject to the Scripture, that are not in my manuscript or in my head as I walk into the pulpit, nor thought of ahead of time, which would come to my mind, which would pierce in an extraordinary way, so that 1 Corinthians 14:24–25 happens.”

For years John Piper’s words dominated the Christian blogosphere. I never quite got that. I think he’s still worshiped as some kind of God by various hyper-Calvinists and militant Reformers. But let’s set all that aside today, and consider the possibility that the man offers a great deal of balance on this issue.

Continue reading Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos at Desiring God.

May 23, 2013

What Not To Post Online During a Crisis

Filed under: internet, media — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:21 am

When tragedies happen, you want to post something like this:

Pray for Oklahoma

not something like this:

John Piper - after Oklahoma May 20

Michael Frost was kind enough to post on Twitter: ‘John Piper should sack whoever writes his tweets for him.” giving Piper a pass on the responsibility. Tuesday night the post had been removed from JP’s feed. 

UPDATE 5/24/13 — Piper explains why the Twitter posts were removed.

August 8, 2012

Wednesday Link List

…witty introduction…okay we don’t have one…

  • Okay, I don’t get paid to do this and I don’t have endless hours to do the research, but according to one source, The Jesus Deck is a harmless Christian educational product from the ’70s, while according to another it’s tantamount to ‘Christian Tarot cards.’  Since you guys always correct/update me, I’ll leave it to you to comment on this.
  • Are we actually allowed to disagree with John Piper online? I thought there was a law about that. Anyway, Peter Enns did a few weeks back, the full title of his article is: John Piper on Why “It’s Right for God to Slaughter Women and Children Anytime He Pleases” and Why I Have Some Major Problems with That. That’s a long post title. Are we actually allowed to do that, too?
  • CNN reported Thursday that a bill restricting protests and pickets at military funerals is a just steps away from being signed into law by President Obama. This means a certain fringe group and its wacko leader would be in direct contravention of a law should they decide to continue their media-attention-getting ways. Since most of the group is family members, and many of those family members are trained as lawyers, they should understand the consequences of transgression. Or will they?
  • For those of you willing to step outside the comfort zone of the Christian blogosphere, here is a guide to reading the blogs of atheists, agnostics and just plain skeptics.
  • Sikh and ye shall find: If the weekend shooting at a Sikh temple left you wondering where this religion fits in, here’s a link to the Wikipedia page on Sikhism.
  • “So if you’re a wife reading this, ask your husband, point blank, this simple question: ‘When was the last time you viewed pornography?’ If communication is good in your marriage, as it should be, he’ll answer your question directly and honestly. If your marriage needs help, he may hem, haw, stall, look away, get defensive, or act offended.” More by Eric Guel at Thinklings
  • I’ve gotten behind with the Phil Vischer Show podcast; they’re up to episode #11. Phil, Skye and Christian talk about Chick-Fil-A and how our society has come to associate brands with personal identity. They talk about the Olympics and then Skye and Phil answer the twitter question, “If you could add any pavilion to the future world at Epcot, what would it’s theme be?” Guest Scott Olsen, CEO of International Teams, talks about the changing face of world missions and social justice. 
  • Website of the Week: Life After Ministry: Leading Mormons to the Real Jesus Christ. Michelle, Kirk, Kent and Melissa have chronicled over 300 ‘dilemmas’ with LDS theology and teaching.
  • On July 23, 2011, nine-year-old Rachel Beckwith was killed in a tragic car accident on highway I-90 near Seattle, Washington. After her death, thousands of people all around the world started donating to her mycharity: water fundraising page, and over the course of a month, raised over $1.2 million in Rachel’s honor. That money is now helping 60,000 people get access to clean water. It’s been a year since the accident. In honor of the anniversary, Rachel’s mom and her grandparents visit Ethiopia with charity: water and meet some of the people Rachel helped. 
  • Really into Christian book authors? CrossTweet at Christian Book Videos is an index of the Twitter feeds of authors both established and fairly new; fiction and non-fiction.
  • Dan Gouge wrote a short interesting post about similarities between sports institutions and religious institutions, and then, a few days later, came across this 8-minute video about the sports element in custom funerals.
  • The cartoon turned up in a cleanup I’ve been doing; it’s the comic Simple Beasts circa 1989… Have a great week and remember to get link suggestions in by Monday evening.
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