So I am listening to the latest episode in the Christianity Today podcast series, “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.” Like the others it is illuminating, compelling, and frustrating simultaneously. For one thing, the ad for CT urges me to support CT as a “global movement to lift up the story tellers and sages of the church” is symbolic of the hubris of the neo-evangelical movement inaugurated by Carl Henry et al. Who anointed a magazine as a “movement” or as the arbiters of who are the “story tellers and sages of the church”? To what church do they refer? The Presbyterian Church? The Baptist Church? The Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church? To be sure I do not think that Carl Henry thought of Christianity Today as a movement and I doubt that he thought of it as a way to “lift up the story tellers and sages of the church.” I know about apostles, prophets, pastors, elders, deacons, evangelists and teachers as church offices mentioned in the New Testament but I do not remember reading anything about story tellers and sages.
Just past the halfway mark the episode plays clips from John Piper’s famous “Sea Shell” sermon. Evangelicals flocked to Driscoll and Piper, in part, because those preachers told them exactly what God wanted them to do with every moment of their lives. The control that people ceded to Piper, Driscoll, MacDonald et al. over their lives was an abdication of the Reformation doctrine of Christian liberty.
Piper is entitled to his opinion about when you should retire and what you should do with those years. He is not entitled to bind your conscience and say, “Thus says the Lord” about what you should do with your retirement. The preacher does not have that authority. Should we be critical of American materialism? Certainly but when I stand before God I will not be presenting to him the last thing I did with my life. I will be presenting to him the last thing Jesus did with his life for me. If you think that Piper’s doctrine of final salvation through works does not have practical implications you are not listening carefully enough. His doctrine of final salvation through works gives him the leverage he needs to tell you what you must do with your retirement. Driscoll was going to take back and transform Seattle so he got to tell the Gen-Xers who followed him when to marry and who could work and not work and how many children to have.
Piper’s doctrine of final salvation through works is not the gospel and it is most certainly not a Reformation doctrine and it underpins the sort of control that he, MacDonald, Driscoll, et al. in the YRR movement sought (and seek) to exercise over Christian laity. If the Reformation doctrine of Christian liberty is new to you, welcome. It was a great deliverance from the tyrannical control exercised by the clergy over the daily lives of medieval Christians. It went hand in glove with the Reformation recovery of the salvation by grace alone, through faith alone and the Scripture as the alone final standard for the Christian faith and the Christian life.
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