Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is God all that matters?

Abraham Piper is always thought-provoking; this post especially grabbed my attention yesterday. The title of the post is: If you think God is all that matters, you can't love people or honor God.

Then Piper writes:

God’s story includes essential roles besides God’s.

He’s not honored as the MAIN character when we act like he’s the ONLY character.

Piper was responding to this quote from Paul Washer:

"God saved you from Himself; God saved you for Himself; God saved you by Himself."

So what do you think about Piper's response?


  1. Larry,

    I do not know much of Abraham Piper (other than the fact that he is John Piper's son). I know that many like to check his blog and appreciate his thoughts. I think I know what he is trying to communicate. However, I think that what he actually DID communicate is wrong and dangerous. Further, I think that it is logically inconsistent.

    If we think God is all that matters, it would follow that we would adopt what matters to Him; namely, the love of others and the honor of His name. It is by abandoning our desire for other things that we become wrapped up in Him, and then it turn, care for the very things He cares for, while hating the things He hates. If we do not think that God is all that matters, why would we embrace all that matters to Him?

    Perhaps Piper is in effect stating the idea that some are too "heavenly minded to be any earthly good." I would argue that if people are too heavenly minded to be any earthly good, they must not be heavenly minded to begin with! Perhaps he is trying to communicate this. Nevertheless, in attempting to do so, He took out the very foundation that allows people to love others and honor God.

    Rob M.

  2. Have to give this one some more thought.

    I am initially inclined to side with Abraham. Seems like he is coming against overestimating a truth that while true, cannot be stated to the neglect of other equally true statements.

    The statement, "God is all that matters" simply isn't true. He is ultimate in what matters, no doubt, but not all. He cares too much about His creatures and creation to make such a statement. Don't you think Rob?

    I agree with your statements concerning a preoccupation with God and Heaven, but do believe a brother like Washer can overstate things at times. Has a powerful effect at the time maybe, but might not be best in the long-term. I think we have spoken about something like this before.

    Lar, I look forward to your thoughts on this one as well. Maybe deserving of a post.

  3. Joe,

    We have spoken about these things before, and I am certainly with you on what you said. Though we might not see completely and totally eye to eye, I think we essentially believe the same thing. I also see the danger in going to far in one direction, as you stated. We have talked about this before, but reading your Bible or praying are not the only "spiritual" things out there. Cutting grass, taking your wife out on a date, discipling children, typing lesson plans, playing bball to His glory, can all honor Him and be very spiritual. Things matter in life. Perhaps you are concerned that an overemphasis in one direction will lead to a sacred vs. secular problem. Perhaps not though. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    My only discomfort with Piper's statement is that if we do not START with God and how He matters, other things in life loose their value. After all, the very fact that humans have incredible value exists because we are made in God's image. Other creatures, though also with value, are less valuable compared to humans because they are not made in His image. So I think that the statement, "God matters most," though true, is lacking. God not only matters most (like a quarterback matters most to a football team), but its His very value that gives value to all other things. I fear that we can also go too far in the other direction and not honor God as He is due.

    Rob M.

  4. Larry, Rob, and Joe,

    I think that we have discovered the flaw in Abraham Piper's blog format. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it may also be the source of oversimplification and miscommunication.

    "God’s story includes essential roles besides God’s."

    What does he mean by "essential"? Does he mean that, were God to have a role, but something else besides God were we not in existence, then something about the nature of reality would be lacking that is necessary? This would be, of course, heresy. I have trouble believing that this is what Piper means; however, 22 words isn't sufficient to tell.

    Until he clarifies, I think he's seriously confused Creator and Creation, not to mention Law and Gospel.

    Washer's quote is awesome, by the way.


  5. Thanks for the discussion guys. A couple of thoughts.

    I actually think both Piper's and Washer's quotes both suffer from oversimplification. Given lengthy (ie, more than 22 words) conversations with these two, I expect I'd agree with them both. But I think in attacking an oversimplification, Piper probably did the same thing.

    Will, can you explain what you mean by saying that Piper is in danger of confusing law and gospel?

    With regard to the word "essential", I agree his statement is limited given its brevity. But I don't think it's difficult to make an interpretation that isn't heretical. God is sovereign over all and therefore has no needs. But God uses means to accomplish His purposes.

    Is it essential that the gospel be proclaimed by a human instrument in order for someone to be saved? Yes, it is essential. That does not impugn God's character as the Sovereign Creator and Redeemer. God uses means. He has chosen to bring about the new birth through the proclamation of the Gospel by His servants. He will see to it that the necessary means are employed to achieve His global purposes.

    So I think Washer's statement is just as much in danger of oversimplification and heresy. Of course I know he's not a heretic, but saying that God saves by Himself certainly leaves one open to gross abuse. Yes,He saves by Himself. I know what he's saying. I'm in for all 5 points, brother. But without the Word of God spoken, there's no salvation. So it's misleading to say that He saves ALONE.

    Am I making any sense?

  6. Larry,

    Sure. He's confusing law and gospel if he means that there's something else essential that we can do apart from God to be saved. Anything essential was provided on the cross--anything we are told that's essential to our salvation we must receive from God first in order to provide it. Utimately, God is the source of any repentence and faith. This is Gospel. To say that there's something essential apart from God, means we must get that thing from our own efforts. This is law, a way of salvation that is hopeless. Also, if God is the creator of all things, then how can anything exist apart from his will? In this sense, eveything traces back to Him, and everything is only essential in that it owes his existence to Him.

    John 1 says "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Utimately, God inhabits his Word, and so the Word is simply the means through which we are saved. Jesus is the Word because, at least in once sense, he himself is the revelation of God. The written words that make up the Bible are not essential in the same sense that Jesus Christ is essential. One is simply a tool, and the other is the creator and user of the tools, who could just as well create other tools to achieve his purposes. However, remove the tools, and God is still God, the source of all meaning and purpose for the Universe. In this sense, Washer is right on. If the Gospel must be proclaimed and heard for salvation, then what about a baby who dies in the womb? Can he be saved? If the only essential thing to salvation is God, then you can have faith, knowing his nature, that that child may be saved. However, if there are essential means that he uses, then when these means are absent--well, there's no hope.


  7. Very interesting discussion here guys! One thing I think should be pointed out is that Paul Washer did not simply take a stage somewhere and say that sentence and then leave. So to accuse him over oversimplification might be a bit in error. Just because Piper was addressing that sentence does not mean that was the whole of Washer's message. Maybe Piper is guilty of oversimplifying on both fronts.

    I think if you listen to Washer's messages and watch the testimony of his life, you'll know that he enjoys being a means of God's grace. But that does not in any way negate the truth that God saves by Himself. The messenger has zero power to make the message penetrate the heart.

    And I thought that Piper saying Paul Washer (or others like him) acts like God is the only character was really a low blow. The man spent much of his time in the Lord bringing the gospel to unreached people in Peru - not confined in a monastery somewhere. And he did it, and we do what we do, because our God deserves to be glorified among every nation, tribe, and tongue!

    I do not think Washer's quote is controversial at all, and I agree that if he and Piper sat and talked, they would most likely be on the same page.


  8. Jason -- Good qualification. Yes, Washer did not utter those words in isolation, so it's not right to say that he is guilty of oversimplification.

    That wasn't my intention, though I can see how I worded myself poorly.