Listeners to this podcast and readers of Desiring God will have heard some things about Look at the Book. Pastor John, can you explain what it is, how it works, and what you are working on?
Opening Up the Kitchen
I love to talk about it, because I am having a great time working on it. We have been working on it for over a year, but we finally got the technology to a point where we can actually produce the kinds of things that we are going to put on the Internet, probably starting sometime in the fall, as we roll it out with our annual conference.
“I would like, in addition to serving meals, to take people into the kitchen and to show them how I cook.”
Look at the Book is rooted in my sense of calling to take people from the banquet to the kitchen. I spent the last thirty or forty years of my life mainly serving meals to people in sermons — meaning, I have spent hours in the kitchen cooking. Then I set the table in a manuscript, I stand in the pulpit, and I feed the people a finished meal. I believe in that with all my heart. I think that is what preaching is.
But what will happen when I am gone, if people haven’t learned to make meals for themselves? Now, there will always be preachers. Praise God. Amen. But as I come to the end of my life, I am thinking, “You know, I would like, in addition to serving meals, to take people into the kitchen and to show them how I cook, how I get food, how I get meaning from biblical texts.”
Forming Confident Cooks
People ask me all the time, “How did you see that? Where did you get that? How do you study? How do you prepare a sermon? How do you read the Bible?” People are hungry to read the Bible for themselves and to find meaning, and I am hungry to help people gain confidence in reading the Bible for themselves.
The idea is that the kitchen is where the meals are made and where spiritual culinary arts are taught. The crowds aren’t as big. It is messy in the kitchen. It is less finished, less refined. You spill things. You have to start over. So, the kitchen is not, as you know, as public. There are not as many kudos that come with the small group that meets in the kitchen, and I want to go there. I want to go deep, and I want to go wide. This is Bethlehem College & Seminary: I get to go deep because we are in Greek, and I am going to take sixteen guys and go to the kitchen with them for a year. But I want to go wide. I want to help laypeople who don’t have any Greek to get as much as they can out of their English Bibles, and they can get infinitely more than they think they can get out of their reliable English translations. There are reliable translations that they can work with in confidence. So, Look at the Book is part of the deep, and it is part of the wide.
Scripture as Your Backbone
I was inspired to do what we are doing by Khan Academy online — by Salman Khan when he is teaching algebra, for example. What you see online is a black screen, and then numbers appear as he writes them, and he teaches math that way. I looked at that, and I said, “Oh, I would love to do that with the Bible.”
“My goal is to lead people through text after text after text to form habits of mind, habits of reading, habits of analysis.”
So, that is what we are going to do. People aren’t going to see me on these little videos. These are five-to-eight-minute videos online. When they click the app, they will see a little six-second introduction with a logo, and then they will see a black screen with white print. There will be a text of the Bible — two, three, four verses. Maybe five. Then they will hear me talking, and they will see me circle and draw arrows and underline and make connections and write notes.
It’s all to show them: What do you do with this text? That is my goal. My goal is to lead people through text after text after text, hundreds of them, to form habits of mind, habits of reading, habits of analysis that will give people confidence with their own Bibles.
It’s the confidence that says, “I can do this. John Piper — he can die now, because I have seen him do a couple hundred of these. I can do this now. I can find meaning so that my obedience will be stronger and purer, and my worship will be more authentic, and my courage, as I share the gospel and as I try to teach my Sunday school class, will be higher.”