A Letter From John Piper

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Dear friends of Desiring God,

I would deeply appreciate your prayers for me during my writing leave from April 1 to May 5. I will not be preaching at Bethlehem during these weeks, but will give all my efforts to writing, I hope, two books. Here is the way I proposed the writing goals to our elders. I hope this gives some concreteness to your prayers for where I am heading.

In accordance with our previous practice of having the elders approve my writing leave projects, here is what I would like to propose for April of this year.

1. The Swans Are Not Silent volume 4

This volume will, Lord willing, contain the biographies of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen. What unites these three is their tenacious defense of orthodoxy against the false teachings of their day. All three teach us to engage in theological defense and debate in ways that are life-giving rather than deadening. I believe this will be a relevant contribution to what the church needs today in its battle for doctrinal purity and loving interaction and cultural impact.

I estimate about 8 days to complete this work, since the three biographies are already roughed in.

2. The Love of God: Enthralling Us With Himself

That is a very tentative title! I was thinking about calling it God Is the Gospel. I still might. The gist is this: I believe the point needs to be made loud and clear that what is most loving about God is not his making much of us but his enabling us, at great cost to himself, to enjoy making much of him forever. I think most people, when they ponder what it means to be loved by God, do NOT think God-centered thoughts. They think of things that God does for us but which, in their minds, don’t have God as the satisfying center. I would like to force the issue that it is not loving of God to give us everything but himself. And so his love doesn’t do that. It gives us himself for our enjoyment and it gives us other things as means of knowing him better and loving him more.

This book is not fully formed in my mind and therefore I do not know if I can do it in less than three weeks. If it proves that after some days of study that it is undoable I may abandon it for later and tackle a doable short book on marriage (using many of my marriage homilies from over the years). So I am requesting you to approve this approach to deciding which of these to do.

I am deeply thankful for your support and prayer.

Thanks so much for praying for me.

On another front, I want to tell you about something that has recently come to my attention.

On January 5, 2005, I wrote an article for the Desiring God website entitled Tsunami and Repentance (reprinted by World Magazine as Mercy for the Living). In it, I wrote the following:

But the topless sunbathers amid the tsunami aftermath in Phuket, Thailand did not get the message. Neither did the man who barely escaped the mighty wave with the help of a jungle gym and palm-leaf roof. He concluded, “I am left with an immense respect for the power of nature.” He missed it. The point is: reverence for the Creator, not respect for creation.

The man in reference was Patrick Green, a 28-year-old teacher at Singapore American School, who was quoted in an article written by Janie McCauley of the Associated Press. This is what I read:

"It was ugly and awful. There are some images I will never forget, and some that I might never acknowledge again,” Green said. “I am left with an immense respect for the power of nature."

But it turns out that this quote is inaccurate. Here is what Mr. Green actually said:

"It was ugly and awful. There are some images I will never forget, and some that I might never acknowledge again. I am left with an immense respect for the power of nature, and even more for the power of God." (my emphasis)

Mr. Green also wrote:

"The wave rushed by on both sides, and over our heads by at least six feet. I guess there are two ways you can look at it. You can believe, I suppose, that palm leaves woven together that normally can’t hold back rain water can, in fact, hold back an (at least) 18-foot wave. Or, like me, you can believe in God, and that for some reason, even though it was undeserved at least on my part, he miraculously spared our lives." (my emphasis)

Mr. Green did get the message, that the tsunami teaches us to reverence the Creator for his power and mercy. I sincerely apologize if my public comments served to undermine Mr. Green’s reputation in any way.

For the supremacy of God in all things,

John Piper
(with editorial help from Justin Taylor)