God of the Mundane, my Heidelblog review

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RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
In the summer of 2021, the evangelical world discussed the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” Embedded in that narrative was a reference to John Piper’s famous “seashells” sermon. Many of us who came to Calvinism during that time remember this sermon. The message was that people should not waste their lives on hobbies like collecting seashells. Rather, they should invest their time in missions or something equally radical and dangerous. The discussion reminded many of us that the Reformed faith was more than just Calvinism. It is also a specific way of viewing the Christian life. The proper response to a message like that, as one Reformed author pointed out, is not how radical I can be for Jesus, but what God in Christ has done...

 

Jeri Tanner

Administrator
Staff member
In the summer of 2021, the evangelical world discussed the “Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” Embedded in that narrative was a reference to John Piper’s famous “seashells” sermon. Many of us who came to Calvinism during that time remember this sermon. The message was that people should not waste their lives on hobbies like collecting seashells. Rather, they should invest their time in missions or something equally radical and dangerous. The discussion reminded many of us that the Reformed faith was more than just Calvinism. It is also a specific way of viewing the Christian life. The proper response to a message like that, as one Reformed author pointed out, is not how radical I can be for Jesus, but what God in Christ has done...

Interesting Jacob. I made the connection as I was reading your review that this is my neighbor. I sent him a friend request after we moved up here because I saw some of his comments on community pages that made me look at his profile, and I ascertained he was a Christian. I read his fb posts and responses with interest from time to time. I notice that he never speaks about holiness, sin, or anything else some might find controversial; he does Christian counseling in the area, so perhaps wants to maintain a more neutral social media presence. However, though he has some thoughtful and interesting things to say, some of his statements are questionable. A recent one had him apologizing for criticizing, in the past, the music of Bethel church, Hillsong etc., since they "do preach Jesus" (per Paul, he is saying, in Phillipians 1:12-20). A FB friend of his pushed back strenuously at this with a good argument against his claim, which garnered the sort of response that is no real response.

Anyway, a well-written review on your part.
 

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Is it possible that Piper's words have been exaggerated? Unless I am misremembering, collecting seashells is actually one of Piper's hobbies. Rather, he criticizes a couple who, in retirement, spends every day collecting seashells, as if they have nothing left to accomplish in life. Or to say it another way, he is criticizing excessive leisure. Excessive leisure sure seems to be a common sin. Years ago I remember hearing that the average American watched three hours of tv a night. Today social media and video games seem to occupy more time, but if anything Americans are less committed to a meaningful use of their hours.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Is it possible that Piper's words have been exaggerated? Unless I am misremembering, collecting seashells is actually one of Piper's hobbies. Rather, he criticizes a couple who, in retirement, spends every day collecting seashells, as if they have nothing left to accomplish in life. Or to say it another way, he is criticizing excessive leisure. Excessive leisure sure seems to be a common sin. Years ago I remember hearing that the average American watched three hours of tv a night. Today social media and video games seem to occupy more time, but if anything Americans are less committed to a meaningful use of their hours.
Yeah, Piper was criticizing the temptation and pull to live a self-absorbed life consumed principally with the pursuits of leisure and ease, contra the uniform teaching of Scripture that we are to live for Jesus, and not ourselves.

All I hear when I hear critiques (usually masked in the language of praising the so-called ordinary or mundane) are “hush now, don’t let your feathers be ruffled oh worldly one whose faith is just the garnish on an otherwise self-oriented life, don’t worry, your nominalism is not only ok, but actually praise worthy. In fact, YOU are a real hero of the faith!”
 

alexanderjames

Puritan Board Freshman
I’m just commenting to defend there being some value in Piper’s sermon, though I do not speak directly to this critique..

Admittedly I don’t think I have seen the whole sermon, nor was I there (I was 5 in 2000), but I did watch some of what Mr Piper said on YouTube a couple of years ago. And I was struck about how he exposed the foolishness of the wisdom of this world. Like in the parable of the rich fool, this world says “earn good money in your early life so that you can retire, hopefully in your 50s, then relax and take your fill”.

..
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I can quote part of that sermon from memory, including voice inflections. He followed that story with "Don't waste your life. Don't waste it." I get that Piper probably exaggerated to make a point. He is often notorious for that. Still, the essence of the critique applies.
Yeah, Piper was criticizing the temptation and pull to live a self-absorbed life consumed principally with the pursuits of leisure and ease, contra the uniform teaching of Scripture that we are to live for Jesus, and not ourselves.

All I hear when I hear critiques (usually masked in the language of praising the so-called ordinary or mundane) are “hush now, don’t let your feathers be ruffled oh worldly one whose faith is just the garnish on an otherwise self-oriented life, don’t worry, your nominalism is not only ok, but actually praise worthy. In fact, YOU are a real hero of the faith!”

Nothing in the book or my review said "live for yourselves." The point--and I admit the author of the book didn't do a great job with his thesis--is that it is okay to have a boring life. To be sure, he could have strengthened it with language about the Supper and God's promises. You don't have to die of dysentery in the jungle to be a good Christian.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I’m just commenting to defend there being some value in Piper’s sermon, though I do not speak directly to your critique sir..

Admittedly I don’t think I have seen the whole sermon, nor was I there (I was 5 in 2000), but I did watch some of what Mr Piper said on YouTube a couple of years ago. And I was struck about how he exposed the foolishness of the wisdom of this world. Like in the parable of the rich fool, this world says “earn good money in your early life so that you can retire, hopefully in your 50s, then relax and take your fill”.

..
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

I get that. In the aforementioned book, everyone was poor. I am a school teacher. I'm not rolling in money. I work in the inner city.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
"For example, he says our common labors “push back” against sin in the world.11 He is correct in using the category of “common” in the Christian life. Common does not mean bad or neutral. It means distinct from the church. What is not clear, though, is how our common labors push back against the sin in the world. "

I think you misunderstood this, although to be fair, he threw in that one line on page 29 of my 2012 book about pushing back against the insurrection of sin. But in four other sentences about that one, he is crystal clear that we are pushing back against the effects of the fall, not just sin or specifically sin. In fact for the most part he talks more about the fall in terms of work being hard, and decay and failures and things that leak and break, and the repetitious monotony of many callings.

I LOVED that book. I knew Reformed theology enough to know in my head that every calling is holy and there is no secular/sacred distinction. I was blessed to love being a mother and then grandmother, and to have a full and busy life, and to not wish I could traipse all over to go to conferences and foreign missions trips and "do exciting things for God". But still, even with all that, after I read that book, for months, literally months, I would pick something off the floor and think "I am pushing back the fall". Or do dishes or cook dinner or pull weeds and be flooded with those words from the book that "I am pushing back the fall". I've known women too busy with "ministry" and church to make dinner for the family or clean up the house or have time to go for a walk or read a book. But for me, there was a flood of joy in the ordinary things of life after I read it; it affected me so deeply. It wasn't something intellectually new, but, for whatever reason it affected my heart and created much joy.

I better read it again, what with getting older and tired and helping with energetic little grandkids. Lol.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
"For example, he says our common labors “push back” against sin in the world.11 He is correct in using the category of “common” in the Christian life. Common does not mean bad or neutral. It means distinct from the church. What is not clear, though, is how our common labors push back against the sin in the world. "

I think you misunderstood this, although to be fair, he threw in that one line on page 29 of my 2012 book about pushing back against the insurrection of sin. But in four other sentences about that one, he is crystal clear that we are pushing back against the effects of the fall, not just sin or specifically sin. In fact for the most part he talks more about the fall in terms of work being hard, and decay and failures and things that leak and break, and the repetitious monotony of many callings.

I LOVED that book. I knew Reformed theology enough to know in my head that every calling is holy and there is no secular/sacred distinction. I was blessed to love being a mother and then grandmother, and to have a full and busy life, and to not wish I could traipse all over to go to conferences and foreign missions trips and "do exciting things for God". But still, even with all that, after I read that book, for months, literally months, I would pick something off the floor and think "I am pushing back the fall". Or do dishes or cook dinner or pull weeds and be flooded with those words from the book that "I am pushing back the fall". I've known women too busy with "ministry" and church to make dinner for the family or clean up the house or have time to go for a walk or read a book. But for me, there was a flood of joy in the ordinary things of life after I read it; it affected me so deeply. It wasn't something intellectually new, but, for whatever reason it affected my heart and created much joy.

I better read it again, what with getting older and tired and helping with energetic little grandkids. Lol.

Fair enough. I might have misread him on that point.

I love the idea of the book and I agree with where he is going. Give me this book over all the "Radical" books. I just thought Horton's was better.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
It isn't really fair, in regards to precise Theological writing or thinking, to compare anybody to Horton. :)

I wonder if Horton had written his book sooner, if MBR might not have felt the need to speak up about the subject.

The way the economy is going may end all the conferences with big names telling us how to be radical and passionate and hyped up for Jesus. We may be hard pressed just to eat and keep warm. I pray a lot for the younger folks.
 

kodos

Puritan Board Junior
I think the bigger problem in the American Church is nominalism and something rarely addressed. My read was that Piper was addressing that. Not that he doesn't have his issues with justification.

Hard to convince me that most Christians today are pressured into being too radical. Most cannot even get themselves out of bed to go to Church.
 

Tychicus

Puritan Board Freshman
Dr. Joe Rigney, the current President of Bethlehem College and Seminary has an excellent article addressing this:
"I can look back over the last twenty years and see times when these exhortations have become distorted or twisted in my soul. "

He is balanced and precise. I admire that. The fact that he is the President of BC&S goes to show that Piper's ministry and theology being pinpointed and needled-down to that one message (or particular doctrine) is quite misleading. His book When I Don't Desire God is a great book on the ordinary life and waiting on the Lord. I remember Steven Wedgeworth mentioning (on some platform) another book of his; When Darkness Will Not Lift, which pushes back on the whole "Christian life is always a bliss. joy, etc" jargon.
 
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C4MERON

Puritan Board Freshman
I think someone should create a graphic and print it on a T with a slogan such as ‘Punta Gorda Yachting and Seashell Conservation Club’. He could wear it while he’s out jogging. See if anybody gets it!

But no, really timely sermon. I was 18 and just left high school at that time and it would have been exactly what I needed to hear back then.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Piper is not speaking to nominalists. He is speaking to people who go to Passion conferences and have upraised hands during the worship segment. I heard him speak in Glorietta, NM in 2002. His sermon was "Life is War and God is Sovereign." His message to college kids: pool your resources into renting one apartment, take out extra jobs delivering pizza, and send all the money you make to missions. (Although I am severely critical of Piper and I think his message was wrong, he was easily the best speaker there). I grant that there might be a place for that. I also argue there is a category called "common" or "nature." Piper, having a somewhat anabaptist view of nature and grace, especially in ethics, can't really address that reality.
 

Tychicus

Puritan Board Freshman
He is speaking to people who go to Passion conferences and have upraised hands during the worship segment.
A little push back; these are the nominalists. Their Christianity is CCM and Joel Osteen. The nominalists come in various forms. They come with lifted hands to these conferences and go back to living their nominal life. Christ as Lord has no implications on their living. Eternity has no pace in their thinking. It's about being cool. And raisin' hands is cool.
 

MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
You don’t have to be around the Passion or Bethel crowd that long to see how much of their liveliness fades out rather quickly after college.

I really don’t get what is so harsh about telling people that retiring at 60 to collect sea shells or some other useless endeavor is a waste of time. My 58 year old dad just retired and is more or less playing pickle ball every day. It’s wasteful. Hobbies are fine, but we’ve become so obsessed with them such that our lives revolve around them. Even our daily labor has turned into “do you find value out of your career?”
 

kodos

Puritan Board Junior
Piper is not speaking to nominalists. He is speaking to people who go to Passion conferences and have upraised hands during the worship segment. I heard him speak in Glorietta, NM in 2002. His sermon was "Life is War and God is Sovereign." His message to college kids: pool your resources into renting one apartment, take out extra jobs delivering pizza, and send all the money you make to missions. (Although I am severely critical of Piper and I think his message was wrong, he was easily the best speaker there). I grant that there might be a place for that. I also argue there is a category called "common" or "nature." Piper, having a somewhat anabaptist view of nature and grace, especially in ethics, can't really address that reality.

Well, certainly, that is an extreme and legalistic message if so - never heard it, don't really listen to John Piper and he has his issues as noted. But in terms of his critique of the retired couple who want to spend all day on a boat and collecting seashells after attaining the "American Dream"? That is a much-needed critique. And youth, especially, need to hear it before they orient their lives towards that as their aim for this side of eternity.

I know many, even stalwart, Reformed people who neglect the first things for the sake of the love of this present world. They are like Demas. They claim the kingdom is important and then will find themselves ensnared with the love of the world as Lot's wife did.

There are many warnings in the Scripture regarding it, and sad to say, very few men preach it.
 

MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
I am re-listening to the 'Sea Shells' Sermon (Boasting Only in the Cross). I am hard pressed to find much objectionable in the sermon. In our day we need more pushback against the 'American dream', not less. Yes, there can be legalistic excesses in counting the square feet in a house or the like, but that is not what Piper is arguing for. We have close family members, reformed folk, who aren't sure if they are going to have kids. Talk about a self centeredness. Or others who think since drinking wine is lawful, that spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on wine is fine. In my own life, I am far too prone to excess and using 'lawfulness' as an excuse for too much. We need to redeem the time and be more tactical about what we are spending our money on.
 

NM_Presby

Puritan Board Freshman
I am re-listening to the 'Sea Shells' Sermon (Boasting Only in the Cross). I am hard pressed to find much objectionable in the sermon. In our day we need more pushback against the 'American dream', not less. Yes, there can be legalistic excesses in counting the square feet in a house or the like, but that is not what Piper is arguing for. We have close family members, reformed folk, who aren't sure if they are going to have kids. Talk about a self centeredness. Or others who think since drinking wine is lawful, that spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on wine is fine. In my own life, I am far too prone to excess and using 'lawfulness' as an excuse for too much. We need to redeem the time and be more tactical about what we are spending our money on.
I'm inclined to agree with you. There is a fine line, and different groups need different correctives, but there is a real problem in America of comfortable Christianity which simply sanctifies the American dream. We do need to be content with the "ordinariness" of the Christian faith, but we also need to be called to place Christ over the comforts of this life.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
Hard to convince me that most Christians today are pressured into being too radical. Most cannot even get themselves out of bed to go to Church.

I think the issues are actually connected. In my experience, I have worked with folks who refuse to regularly exercise the ordinary means. Because of this, they (rightly) perceive their situation as troubled. But they (wrongly) perceive that the solution to their troubles is something radical and singular, not something ordinary and regular. The problem of not attending to the ordinary means is the prompt for the temptation to supplant them with extraordinary things. Maybe our modern impatience is thrown in there as an aggravating factor.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Some thoughts:

1) I get that Christians who are going to retire and watch Stepford Wives for the rest of their lives might need to hear Piper's message.
2) Those are *not* the people to whom he is speaking. He is speaking to 19 year olds, not to the Rotary Club.
3) As to "nominal" Christians, they probably need to hear Law and Gospel, not more manmade rules
4) Remember, Piper believes in Final Justification and he rejects the Reformed teaching of Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. I bet that plays into his appeals.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
Some thoughts:

1) I get that Christians who are going to retire and watch Stepford Wives for the rest of their lives might need to hear Piper's message.
2) Those are *not* the people to whom he is speaking. He is speaking to 19 year olds, not to the Rotary Club.
But Jakob - This is where you're being myopic. By the time people are retired, it's too late. A person gets to a point where they're basically calcified into their way of thinking and prioritizing. To prevent people from getting to that self-absorbed final destination, they need to intentionally chart a course while still in the course charting stage of life. Hence the value of Piper's sermon to them.
BTW - telling people to live for Jesus is not giving "man made rules."
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
But Jakob - This is where you're being myopic. By the time people are retired, it's too late. A person gets to a point where they're basically calcified into their way of thinking and prioritizing. To prevent people from getting to that self-absorbed final destination, they need to intentionally chart a course while still in the course charting stage of life. Hence the value of Piper's sermon to them.
BTW - telling people to live for Jesus is not giving "man made rules."

Perhaps on being calcified in habits. I might grant that.

Living for Jesus is great. As it stands, though, that saying is abstract and it can mean anything from hearing Law/Gospel and receiving the sacraments to following x, y, and z.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
I'm an amillennialist. My whole outlook is "this world is not my home."
Jacob, I love the fact that you are well read. I learn a lot from you. But there is the issue of a lot of vacillation doctrinally when that happens. I too am an Amil but that term is loaded with a lot of baggage and is relatively new. I don't know a Premil, Progressive Premil, Dispensational Premil, Conditional Immoralists nor Postmil who would say any different. Even the Antinomian would say the same thing. My point is that there is a lot of growing to do when a lot of knowledge is crammed into a soul. I have seen many like you who have fallen away into a poor view of scripture and false doctrine of soteriology. So what, you are an amil. Means nothing in this statement.
 

MChase

Puritan Board Freshman
Some thoughts:

1) I get that Christians who are going to retire and watch Stepford Wives for the rest of their lives might need to hear Piper's message.
2) Those are *not* the people to whom he is speaking. He is speaking to 19 year olds, not to the Rotary Club.
3) As to "nominal" Christians, they probably need to hear Law and Gospel, not more manmade rules
4) Remember, Piper believes in Final Justification and he rejects the Reformed teaching of Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude. I bet that plays into his appeals.

The end for which we work is important. It is important to get ingrained into christian college kids' heads that they are working for Christ, not for themselves. The primary end of their labor is not to stock their 401k early and often, it is for Christ. That means everything. That means you tithe before you buy the new 3 series.

I don't really know what man-made rules were given. I fail to see how exhorting folks to glory only in the Cross and make all other glorying subservient is 'man-made legalism'. I also fail to see how it is in any way controversial to tell adolescents that the primary thing we have to look forward too is not retirement and hobbying around; rather it is hearing on that final day "well done good and faithful servant".

This is where the hard core law/gospel folks out west get so confusing. They'll emphasize law/gospel so much and then when a command is actually preached with more force than "don't worry you can't do this" everything is written off as legalism. Commands in scripture aren't merely abstract, they stung then and they are supposed to sting now.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Brimstone
The end for which we work is important. It is important to get ingrained into christian college kids' heads that they are working for Christ, not for themselves. The primary end of their labor is not to stock their 401k early and often, it is for Christ. That means everything. That means you tithe before you buy the new 3 series.

I don't really know what man-made rules were given. I fail to see how exhorting folks to glory only in the Cross and make all other glorying subservient is 'man-made legalism'. I also fail to see how it is in any way controversial to tell adolescents that the primary thing we have to look forward too is not retirement and hobbying around; rather it is hearing on that final day "well done good and faithful servant".

This is where the hard core law/gospel folks out west get so confusing. They'll emphasize law/gospel so much and then when a command is actually preached with more force than "don't worry you can't do this" everything is written off as legalism. Commands in scripture aren't merely abstract, they stung then and they are supposed to sting now.
Exactly. For well over 12 years I've had exactly ZERO use for the White Horse Inn/Horton/WSCAL bastardization of Reformed theology with Lutheranism. I haven't argued it here because some love it and find it profound, or whatever, and at least I've been able to successfully warn those in my circle. Again, ZERO use.

Behold, Tullian Tchividjian... the ignoble love child of that movement.
 
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