Puritan Board Junior
I read a critique of John Piper's book, "Desiring God" (especially focusing on the concept of Christian Hedonism) but I wonder if this article misrepresents what Piper means by "authentic" [worship]. The critic actually makes the claim that Piper would mean by "authentic worship" worship that is acceptable before God in and of itself, whereas I would understand Piper to indicate genuine or sincere worship which by no means implies perfection. Here is a reasonably short excerpt from the critique, and I've bolded all the words "authentic", plus I underlined the statement which makes the aforementioned claim.
In the chapter entitled “Worship: The Feast of Christian Hedonism,” Piper addresses the question, What makes worship “authentic”? He begins, correctly, by stating that worship must come from the heart, for which he quotes Matthew 15:8: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”´
A knowledgeable reader of Piper will already be dreading what Piper understands by worship that comes from the “heart,” especially considering his neglect to quote the next verse. The answer follows shortly after: “The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.” [footnote 1.]
Things get worse: “Now let’s be specific. What are these feelings or affections that make the outward acts of worship authentic?”
The answer, for which he quotes extensively from the Psalms (e.g., 46:10; 33:8; 5:7; 51:17; 42:1-2), is the following list, which “is not intended to limit the possibilities”: “stunned silence” at “seeing the majestic holiness of God”; “a sense of awe and reverence and wonder at the sheer magnitude of God”; “a holy dread of God’s righteous power”; “brokenness and contrition and grief for our ungodliness”; a “longing for God”; “gladness and gratitude.” [footnote 2.]
Words cannot adequately express the deep horror and disgust that all the godly saints must have at hearing this teaching that promotes itself as true piety. Of course, we ought to have the right feelings when we worship God. But has Piper forgotten what the very beginning of godliness is? Has he lost all sense of the majesty of a holy God who demands perfection? Has he become blind to our total depravity? This is a mortal strike at the heart of the gospel: the cross of Jesus Christ!
What is Piper thinking? Has he forgotten that what is required for any of our acts to be accepted before God is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” and to “love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37, 39)? Has he forgotten that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10)? Has he forgotten that even if we managed not to sin once, we are still guilty in Adam (Rom. 5:14ff.)? The Almighty Creator of heaven and earth, the Perfect One whose eyes cannot behold sin, in whom there is no shadow of turning, is not satisfied with mere emotions and feelings, be they ever so “spiritual”! God requires—demands—perfection!
This is the whole reason that Christ Jesus became flesh:
For what the law [i.e., anything we do] could not do, in that
it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in
the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the
flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-4).
That we have nothing to offer to God, that we are totally depraved with no good in us, is why we are Christians! For it is Christ who fulfilled the law in our stead (Rom 8:3-4)—He has become our righteousness (II Cor. 5:21)!
It is in Him, and only in Him, that we are accepted before God—we do not ever keep the law in order to be accepted before God. That is legalism, works righteousness, filthy heresy, Romanism and the end of all true religion.
Of course not one of Piper’s “prooftexts” states that our worship can be made “authentic” or acceptable before God by us having certain “spiritual feelings.” Indeed, if they did, they would contradict the remainder of Scripture. If our worship was rendered “authentic” before God by our “spiritual feelings” or “emotions” or anything else done by us, we would have “whereof to glory” (Rom. 4:2).
Our worship can only ever be acceptable before God if it is done out of faith in Jesus Christ, this faith resting in Christ alone as the fulfilment of the law and trusting in Him and Him alone to satisfy God’s justice.
1. Desiring God, p. 86.
2. Ibid., pp. 88-89.