Speaker Interviews, Session 1

Desiring God 2003 National Conference | Minneapolis

Mark Dever: My name is Mark Dever, I’m the pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C. and I am your host this evening for this conversation. Our conversation partners tonight are of course, John Piper, our host pastor here at Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, who’s invited us all. Sitting next to John is Sam Storms, who’s a professor of theology at Wheaton College and is teaching a course on Jonathan Edwards coming up soon. And next to him is Iain Murray, who we’ll also be hearing from tomorrow, Lord willing, who’s written a great biography of Jonathan Edwards among many other things that you can get in the bookstore. And next to him, immediately to my right, is J.I. Packer. Dr. Packer has written Knowing God, and he wrote a great essay on Edwards that we’ll be hearing some more of tomorrow, Lord willing, and he’s written many other things that we’ve profited from.

So we’re delighted that these brothers who have taught theology and pastored churches and all profited from Edwards are willing to sit here and have a conversation with us tonight. That leads me to my first question, and this one’s directed to John Piper. John, after such powerful preaching, why on earth are we doing this instead of having more preaching? I mean, I was blessed by your message, brother. And then here we’re just sitting around talking like we’re on some talk show.

John Piper: Well, a biblical answer would be that you have in Scripture both Romans 9–11 and Romans 16.

Mark Dever: So this is Romans 16?

John Piper: Yeah. In other words, you have big majestic visions that are presented with force, and then you have Paul talking about how his heart is breaking, that Christ is not formed in you, and he tells about his experiences. I think Scripture points to the value of the more personal coming out, because it can touch a person in a way that preaching can’t, and preaching can touch in a way that this can’t.

Mark Dever: Okay. Let’s begin by thinking about what we’ve just heard this evening. We’ve all spent an hour listening together. And let me start over here with Jim if I can. Jim, in the message that we just heard from John, let me put you on the spot now. Was there anything there that was particularly helpful or useful for you? I mean, you presumably have been thinking about these things in Edwards much longer than certainly even John has. Is there anything in that, or is that stuff that you’re all very familiar with? What was particularly helpful or striking for you?

J.I. Packer: I think it’s gorgeous that Edwards is so clear and strong on the fact that God’s joy in us and our joy in God are correlative realities that merge. That’s my way of trying to sum up in a sentence what John Piper was spelling out to us in great detail. And every time I think that thought and hear it expressed or read it in a book, it rejoices my heart over again. I was very struck by what John said about the sermon that Jonathan Edwards preached on Song of Solomon 5:1, insisting that there is no limit to the joyful exploration of God, the joyful desire for God, the joyful affection Godward, in which Christians should encourage each other to grow and advance. Christians should have strong desires for God, and the stronger the better. That was wonderful to hear and it lifted my heart.

Mark Dever: I want to ask this question to Iain and Sam as well, but Jim, while we’ve got you on this, I think some of us may wonder, before John started writing this with desiring God, were you or others writing about this particular theme in Edwards much?

J.I. Packer: I wasn’t, I confess. I found it in the 17th century Puritans, particularly in Richard Baxter, and I’m sure I dropped some words about it in the massive stuff that I’ve written over the years about the 17th century Puritans. Verbal diarrhea is the phrase that comes to mind.

Mark Dever: That’s a bad phrase. That’s not accurate. We’ve profited from those writings.

J.I. Packer: Well, let me try and say it differently. Those writings about the Puritans that went on and on and on. You get the thought. Don’t ask me to say it differently again, will you? But Edwards makes the point particularly strongly. It was said of Edwards that puritanism is what Edwards was. Edwards is the kind of giant-size embodiment of everything that the Puritans were. And in this matter, no less than any other, indeed he took it further than I think any of the Puritans did.

Mark Dever: Iain, what was helpful for you tonight particularly, or striking in the message?

Iain Murray: I think the confirmation of what we are believing and trying to believe more strongly made me think again of the words of the Southern Presbyterian B.M. Palmer. He said, “I have concluded that the best way to reach the unregenerate is to show them the happiness of the Christian.” And some of our churches have been deficient in that emphasis, and we are learning. We’re all learning, aren’t we?

Mark Dever: And would you agree with Jim that before John was writing this stuff, people weren’t pulling this particular theme out of Edwards so much? Or can you think of things in the sixties or the fifties that you heard from Lloyd Jones or read elsewhere where people were talking about this?

Iain Murray: I can’t really see that, no. The emphasis on knowing God and knowing the love of God and enjoying God, that was there. But the correlation that God has created us to glorify him in enjoying him, I don’t know that that focus was there.

Mark Dever: Praise God for it coming to the fore. Sam, from the message tonight, was there something particularly helpful or striking to you?

Sam Storms: Yeah, everything. But I think the one thing that stood out for me tonight was John addressing this issue of how we can have joy in the midst of sorrow. As Paul said, using Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 6:10, where he says, “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing.” And I guess the reason why that touched home so much is because I was thinking perhaps of the untold numbers of people here tonight who perhaps were listening to John talk about joy and delight and satisfaction and rejoicing and celebration, and perhaps in the back of their minds they may be saying, “But how can I do that? My kids don’t know Christ, and I can’t pay next month’s bills, and my wife has just been diagnosed with cancer, and everything that I’ve tried to do in life and ministry has crumbled through my fingers, and I’m being beckoned and called and exhorted to rejoice?”

I think the way that John addressed it was to show that it is in the midst of the sorrows of this life where we can find joy in God. And I’m also thinking especially of those who are here in pastoral ministry who have to go back Sunday and Monday and face petty squabbles and rebellious sheep. And they think, “How do I then bring the Christian Hedonism that was found in Edwards to bear upon my life in the midst of that?” And the reason why I guess it touched me so much is because just yesterday I was reading in one of Edward’s miscellanies on heaven, which I’ll be addressing tomorrow.

The objection that is raised to Edwards is, how is it that we can actually believe with confidence that there will be genuine happiness in heaven when we have so much unhappiness on earth? And Edwards, in his inimical way, said, “Well, here’s a reason why there is so much unhappiness upon the earth. Number one, God does not want you to become unduly dependent upon the things of this earth. If you derive too much happiness from the things around you, it could become idolatrous. Second, God does not want you to become so attached to the things of this world that you’d be afraid to leave them. He wants you to be ready to die at all times. And then thirdly, he wants to prepare you for the incomparable enjoyment of ultimate and eternal happiness in heaven.”

It’s a blessing to see someone like Edwards who endured so much in his own pastoral ministry and in his own personal life. He dealt with so many heartaches with the people that he tried to pastor. He was a man who was slandered so often. He was sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. And I really appreciated that emphasis in what you said, and I think perhaps those tonight who are facing real trouble in life need to hear that over and over and over again.

Mark Dever: John, I know that in preparing messages, I am often struck by things and I feel more than the people who ever listened to them, because I’ve had to meditate. I’ve thought about it for so long. What struck you as you were working on this message for tonight? Because surely this is something you’ve talked about many, many times before.

John Piper: Treason. It hadn’t hit me as powerfully as it did that the creation in finding pizza, or television, or music, or wife, or child, or ministry more delightful to God is committing treason. And I am groping for words like that which are not games, because I don’t think most people realize how important this issue is. I think people, when they hear me the first time, say, “He’s kind of clever.” That’s clever like suicide is clever, in the way murder is clever, and these are incredibly weighty matters. It pushes the issue of thinking, are we born again? In the Christian, are we born again or are we playing games? Because if you’re born again, you have a spiritual taste for God, and if you don’t, you’re committing treason and traitors will be sentenced to everlasting torment, which is a fitting response for denying God your joy.

So I think that’s what I felt most weighty, that word treason against God. When we delight in the things of the world more than we delight in God, it’s absolutely devastating. Christian Hedonism is devastating. It’s not entertaining, it’s not fun, it’s devastating, because hardly anybody in this room delights in God the way we should. And therefore, I ended where I did with us being sorrowful, not only because of cancer and kids and whatnot, but because of my sin and my lukewarmness that Jesus spits out of his mouth. One of the most frightening verses in the Bible is that Jesus spits lukewarmness out of his mouth.

Mark Dever: One thing that we can do in this setting is that we can give some quick background to all four of you guys as we enjoy hearing you speak and profit from it. So what I’d like to ask you to do now is give the longest answer that you’ll give tonight, but still be pretty short. I want you to tell us two things about yourself: how you came to Christ and what year you first read Edwards and how you encountered him. But it needs to be brief or we won’t have time, so it must be brief. I’ll give you an example. I was an agnostic as a teenager, and I became a Christian through reading and praying and by the Holy Spirit working on me. The first Edwards I ever read was in a little Hallmark book called That Old Time Religion and the year was probably about 1974 or 1975, and that’s it. And I want a year. All right, so John, we’re going to start with you buddy. Tell us how you came to Christ.

John Piper: My mother assured me before she went to be with Jesus that I knelt and prayed a prayer of repentance and faith when I was six. I have no recollection of it whatsoever and therefore I don’t bank my present standing with the Lord on that event, but rather my present faith in Jesus. I believe the first thing I read of Edwards was the Essay on the Trinity in 1970 in a class with Jeffrey Bromley. I was in Fuller Seminary in church history class and I read some of the essay.

Mark Dever: So in college you hadn’t read any Edwards, you hadn’t run across him?

John Piper: If I did in an English class it made no impact whatsoever and I don’t remember it, but I don’t recall.

Mark Dever: Okay, that was in 1970. Sam?

Sam Storms: By the way, answering your other question, you were asking if there were any earlier expressions and articulations of this view that John expressed. And there is one and it’s by J.I. Packer in the collection of essays that he wrote under the title Hot Tub Religion. And you talked about joy in that and that was one of the first times I ever encountered the centrality and the role of joy. It was in your essay in Hot Tub Religion. So I just wanted to throw that in.

J.I. Packer: Thank you, Sam. Let me be honest and say that nothing in that essay, to my knowledge, came from Edwards. It all came from 17th century Puritans like Richard Baxter. But thank you for mentioning it.

Sam Storms: Sure.

Mark Dever: And it’s good that in God’s providence this came to the fore through the book called Desiring God, otherwise you could have “Hot Tub Ministries” I guess, anyway. So the Lord knew what he was doing. Sam, you were saying how you came to Christ and how you first encountered Edwards.

Sam Storms: I was born into and raised into a home of Christian parents. They loved the Lord. And I have one sibling, a sister, and she was a believer. And as best I can recall, I came to saving faith when I was about nine years old, in 1960. Again, it was a little bit like John. I don’t recall this as a major transition out of unbelief into belief. I was immersed in the life of the church. I know obviously there was a time when it happened, I just don’t have a specific memory. I’m too old to remember.

In terms of my exposure to Edwards, I remember it vividly. I didn’t start out by reading something light. I got baptized with fire. The first thing I ever read of Edwards was Freedom of the Will, and it was part of an independent studies course that I took at Dallas Theological Seminary in the spring of 1974. And I can honestly say that I remember thinking it then and I still can say it now, that I don’t think I ever knew how to think until I read Freedom of the Will by Edwards. I really don’t think I knew how to reason and to infer and to analyze and to come to proper conclusions until he played with my mind in that volume. It is the greatest challenge I think, theologically, that I have ever had in working through that particular volume. So that was how I first became aware of Edwards.

Mark Dever: Okay, Iain?

Iain Murray: I was brought up in a liberal Presbyterian church and I became a communicant when I was about 14. At about the age of 17 I heard real evangelical preaching, which challenged me and made me read the Scriptures. And I believe I was born again about the age of 17, hearing things I’d never heard before. And I first came across the name of Edwards, I suppose in the writings of Alexander White, which was still in circulation in the middle of the last century. And in May 1952, I got the two volumes of his works and I’ve been reading them ever since.

Mark Dever: You got the two volumes of Edwards’s works?

Iain Murray: Yes.

Mark Dever: And these were 19th century copies that you just found at an old bookstore?

Iain Murray: Yes, the 1834 edition was in an old Methodist minister’s library that had been locked up for 30 years or more. And then his daughter decided to get rid of these books, so students were allowed to go in and plunder them and that’s what we did.

Mark Dever: John?

John Piper: I really must send you to the bookstore for that two volume set. Take that home and let this be the date that he was just referring to in his own life.

Mark Dever: And does this set come with a magnifying glass or not?

John Piper: No, you have to buy those yourself.

Mark Dever: Okay. All right. It’s well worth it though?

John Piper: It is worth it.

Mark Dever: All right, Jim?

J.I. Packer: I was brought up in a home where, for practical purposes, there was no Christianity. I was made to read C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters at school for general studies in the top form of the school. I played chess with a Unitarian minister’s son who tried to interest me in Unitarianism. And that left me with a question: what is true in Christianity? Lewis helped me. I thought I was a Christian by the time I went to Oxford at age 18. I was at least Orthodox in my beliefs. The first evangelistic sermon that I heard under the auspices of Intervarsity was 45 minutes long. The first 25 minutes said nothing to me; the last 20 minutes said everything to me. Quite suddenly I realized that I was no Christian and the Lord broke into my life and changed everything around in that very short time. I was 18.

As for Jonathan Edwards, I found the Puritans — or the Puritans found me — within a couple of years of my conversion. But I think my first reading of Jonathan Edwards was in the volume of his revival writings, which Banner of Truth published. Iain Murray was one of the founders and is still I think a director. When was that, Iain? It was 1960 or something I think.

Iain Murray: A little earlier, maybe.

J.I. Packer: Perhaps then I scraped an acquaintance with Edwards in the 1950s. I’m not sure. But that was my introduction to Edwards. And for the record, I still think of Edwards primarily as the supreme, Puritan, Christian, biblical, classic pundit on all matters connected with the revival of religion. I’ll be saying more about that tomorrow night.

Mark Dever: And Iain, you did very early on at Banner of Truth reprint Edwards. He was one of your first things that you reprinted.

Iain Murray: Yes. The first books of The Banner of Truth Trust were brought out in December of 1957. And early in 1958, we brought out the first volume of select writings of Jonathan Edwards.

Mark Dever: And who made that decision?

Iain Murray: I did.

Mark Dever: And what led you to reprint Edwards? I mean out of so much stuff you could have been reprinting, why Edwards? Particularly because Banner of Truth at that time was largely British, and I assume Edwards would not be as well known there as he was over here. So why Edwards?

Iain Murray: Well, we’re really getting into history, aren’t we?

Mark Dever: Well, we don’t have to say they’re long, I’m just curious.

Iain Murray: Well, the Puritans were in the process of being rediscovered and Edwards demonstrated the relevance of all Puritan theology to our present situation. So the interest in the Puritans wasn’t simply doctrinal and theoretical, but here was a man who believed these truths and was used by God not only in revival but in the start of a great missionary movement. So it came home to us that what we needed was not simply a revival of doctrinal belief, but a revival of godliness and serious Christian living. And Edwards was instantly really an example to a whole generation of younger men.

Mark Dever: You’re all going to be addressing this in your talks, but let me just ask you briefly now. For the people who are sitting here and who would be honest enough if I ask, if you’ve never read anything longer than a quote by Jonathan Edwards, please raise your hand. There’ll be many people who’d be honest enough to raise their hands. Some are doing it even now. Take just a moment and try to tell them why they should consider seriously going home and reading some Edwards. I know you’re all doing that in your talks, but if you can try to persuade them just a little bit more, and just briefly. John, we kind of heard you do that tonight I guess with this theme, do you want to add anything to that?

John Piper: Edwards for me was a kind of 18th century C.S. Lewis. He had the same effect only with theological substance. Lewis caused me to open my eyes and see the world. I was kind of walking through life as a dream. I didn’t see trees, I didn’t see concrete, I didn’t see noses, ears, and hair. I just kind of saw ideas. And Lewis in his writing is so utterly able to open your eyes to see all that is. You’re just stunned like you’ve been living in it. You’ve awakened from a dream. Now Edwards has exactly the same effect on me spiritually. He talks about hell like nobody else talks about hell. He talks about heaven, which I’m sure we’re going to hear, like nobody talks about heaven. He talks about the Holy Spirit the same way. Anything he touches seems like I see things I’ve never seen before. So maybe you’ll have the same experience. Not everybody does, but that’s mine.

Mark Dever: Okay. Iain, what would you say to try to persuade someone to read Edwards?

Iain Murray: I’d like to throw in a warning. I agree with Dr. Piper that the two volumes that are downstairs published by Hendrickson are marvelous volumes and at $50 it is absolutely wonderful. I’m tempted to buy some more myself. But the warning is, don’t imagine that you should read those books in sequence. If you do, you’ll probably get very discouraged. I think if you’re beginning to read Edwards, you should remember first of all that he was a preacher and a pastor, and therefore, go to his sermons. He then, when he was an older man, wrote treaties and longer books, and if you got into those early on, you might get very bogged down. Go to his sermons and go to his books in which he speaks about revival, his distinguishing marks of the spirit of grace, something like that. And then you’ll move on, won’t you?

But I have to admit that The Religious Affections, which I think is his greatest book that was recommended tonight, I couldn’t understand it as a young Christian, and I can therefore be sympathetic with someone who might start it and have problems. Dr. Piper was saying to just read a page or two at the time. Maybe my mistake was to try to read too much, but I think it is the greatest book perhaps I’ve ever read, but I couldn’t understand it when I was a young Christian.

Mark Dever: So Iain, why should they go to the sermons and start reading them? What should motivate them to do that?

Iain Murray: Well to me, I’m drawn in by the historical. If a man is used by the Lord, as Edwards was used, and as he’s been used through countless lives, right down to Jim Elliot and so on in 1956 and much more recently, there has to be something there that’s going to help all Christians.

Mark Dever: Okay. Sam, what would you say to such people?

Sam Storms: I would agree with Iain in terms of what you start with. I do not recommend that you start with Freedom of the Will. You might never get very far if you do, but certainly read it later. I would agree, the sermons are the place to begin. There’s just something about Edward’s vision of God that has been lost in evangelicalism, and I think if I had to put my finger on one word, it would be the word beauty. Edwards understood the beauty of God, and he didn’t just say the word “God is beautiful”, he explained it and he explored it. There is an aesthetic beauty in God. He is exquisite. And Edwards has a way with words and imagery and metaphor in his sermons as he pulls this out of the text of scripture to unfold to the human heart, the exquisite glory and splendor and sublimity of God’s beauty in a way that nobody I have ever read can even approximately come close to. It’s just incomparable.

I suppose if I was going to tell somebody where to start reading, read his Personal Narrative. That’s the very first thing you should read. He wrote it in 1739, maybe 1740. That is probably my favorite piece of his writing, because it is Edward’s talking about his own experience of spiritual formation and his encounter with the beauty of Christ and the beauty of holiness and the beauty of God in creation. And then, perhaps, go read a sermon like “God’s Excellencies”, which is just stunning as he just goes through one attribute after another of God and unpacks it in a way that you don’t find in contemporary systematic theology. You can’t go to systematic theology and look up the attribute of beauty. It’s just not addressed. But beauty was God in the totality of who he is for Edwards, and nobody describes it or touches the human heart with the beauty of God the way he does.

Mark Dever: I think one thing that you’ll find in Edwards when you read him is a combination of biblical knowledge, which is there, along with a powerful logic, a training in logic, along with a spiritual willingness and desire to meditate and a patience in all that. And when you put that all together, that biblical knowledge, that powerful logic, the willingness to meditate, and the desire to meditate, and then along with his patience in doing that, there’s a powerful combination.

Sam Storms: Yeah, just to say again, if people here have not read Edwards or they’re scared of even trying after listening to some of the quotations that John gave, start with the personal narrative, then read “God’s Excellencies” and then read “Heaven Is a World of Love”, and you’ll be hooked. You’re gone, you’re dead. You have no hope after that. You’ll be an addict.

Mark Dever: Jim, what can reading Edwards do for us today?

J.I. Packer: That’s a different question from the one you’ve asked the other brethren.

Mark Dever: We reserve our special questions for our special guests. But as if we were in Washington, you can answer whatever question you want to.

J.I. Packer: Exactly. Well, that’s what I’m going to do. Because what I want to say to the person who hasn’t read any Edwards is this. All right, friend, you must start from where you are. Have you got an interest in Christian experience? Have you got an interest in spiritual revival? Surely you have. Then read Edward’s Personal Narrative. You can find it quite easily in the books about Edwards or in the introduction to the big volumes. Read his account of the spiritual experience of his wife, which in its own way is even more poignant than his own narrative of his own experience.

Then I’m recommending you to follow the path along which I went. This is the way I was hooked. Read his Narrative of Surprising Conversions, which is the archetypal revival narrative of what happened in Northampton in 1735. Reading about occasions of revival, I have always found tremendously stirring to my own heart, and Edwards tells the story coolly, clinically, but oh boy, very powerfully. And then go on from that to read his assessment of reality in these very confused and confusing movements which we call revival movements. They always are confusing and confused. It’s a book called The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. And by then I would expect you to be completely hooked.

I sympathize with what Iain was saying about the fact that Religious Affections may bewilder you when first you meet it. You have to remember that the book was originally a set of sermons preached in the aftermath of the Great Awakening, from 1740 to 1742, when a great deal of fanaticism and folly accompanied the work of God. And what you’ve got Edwards doing in Religious Affections is sorting out the criteria of genuine, Spirit-given, God-given spiritual experience from all the phony stuff that came rushing in those years after the Great Awakening to confuse people. But yes, you have to understand the background and you have to have some knowledge of the kind of thing that can go wrong in revival times before you’ll understand why Edwards put into Religious Affections all the things that he did. So I agree, don’t start there. My suggestion is that you start with the Personal Narrative and the revival writings.

Then you asked the second question, and you asked it as if it was the first question, but that’s all right. What particularly is there in Edwards for us? I’ve already answered that one. Edwards, first of all, was confronted with a time in which the Spirit of God worked with great intensity and speed. That’s what happens in revival situations. So Edwards had a great deal of experience in dealing with various forms of allegedly Christian experience, wonderfully genuine some of them and quite phony others of them. That’s his special strength when he comes to write about it. And that’s something I believe in which we all of us need today to know more than we do.

Mark Dever: One tip, if you begin to read Edwards and you’re not used to reading things from the past, you might try reading it aloud. Sometimes that helps. Because sometimes people are just not used to that language and you do have to get used to it. Be patient like John was when he read Religious Affections. You may just read a page or two at a time just to think about it, because some of the sentences are long.

J.I. Packer: And let it be said, all sermons in print come out better if you do read them aloud because after all, that’s what they are. They are oratory. They are words written for speaking.

Mark Dever: If you want to add one other author that you would say would help us have a God-enthralled life and have that be what we’re about as Christians, can you suggest one other author that’s been helpful to you in helping to accomplish that in your life and heart that you would commend to people? Jim?

J.I. Packer: Richard Baxter, most definitely. He actually wrote a treatise on delighting in God, and its rich and thrilling stuff, as The Saints Everlasting Rest, as is The Reformed Pastor, as is just about everything contained in his enormous Christian Directory. I root for Baxter as a writer on practical religion. People like William Wilberforce never tired of reading Baxter, and he’s not the only one. I don’t tire of reading him. I recommend him very strongly to you. He is very much on Edwards’s wavelength, at least in practical religious reality terms.

Mark Dever: Iain?

Iain Murray: I think we could be in some danger of putting Edwards too high, if it doesn’t sound too heretical. God makes every man for his age and Edwards was repeating Puritan theology at its best and its purist. I think there are numbers of Puritans that were quite Edwards equal in many respects. But in his own day in the 18th century, remember the philosophers were all talking about, what is happiness, what is benevolence? And Edwards in his apologetic to his own times was directed by circumstances to address questions which some of the Puritans, or you might say all the Puritans, didn’t so directly address. They were in a different period.

So I wouldn’t actually put him above many of the Puritans, but I would put him alongside them and say that in his own century he stood in a remarkable way and that he comes down to us as we’ve been saying. But John Owen and John Flavel and Stephen Charnock and many of the Puritans, Edwards himself would have regarded as well above his own self, wouldn’t he? Thomas Shepherd was one of his favorites. He read them all. Spurgeon said, pointing to the Puritans, “I’ve gone through them all like a mouse goes through cheese.” And Edwards had done that with the Puritans, hadn’t he?

Mark Dever: Okay. Sam, another author?

Sam Storms: I’d have to echo what Iain said . . .

Mark Dever: Okay, but you can’t give us a list of names. Just give one other author that they could go buy a book of.

Sam Storms: Piper.

Mark Dever: Fair enough. John?

John Piper: Probably you would get the same flavor in A.W. Tozer, so I’d go there.

Mark Dever: Okay. Any other resources you’d particularly point people to today? Things that are contemporary, certainly Desiring God Ministries. I mean, it’s possible that somebody here doesn’t know about Desiring God Ministries. Do you want to just tell briefly what you’re doing with that, John?

John Piper: It’s just sermons and tapes and CDs . . .

Mark Dever: Okay. All right, I’ll do it. When he says just dismissively, that’s not helpful. It’s many things that are written that you can find on the web, and you can order them. It’s John’s books, it’s sermons, but it’s things that take these same themes in contemporary language and express them. It’s a wonderful resource if you’ve not looked at it before.

John Piper: I was going to mention The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray, because Spurgeon should be mentioned as very different from Edwards and with the same God. He was so different in expressiveness and style and everything about him is different except the theology. And that little book, The Forgotten Spurgeon, has to be one of the most powerful introductions to Spurgeon. So I would recommend Iain Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon. I hope we have a bunch of them in the store.

Mark Dever: Yeah, that’s a great book. Any other modern resources or other things you want to mention? Anybody, Jim or Iain or?

Sam Storms: There are a couple of websites, like monergism.com. What a great name for a website. It has a lot of the Edwards manuscripts.

Mark Dever: And I’m just curious, do you have to type that in yourself or?

Iain Murray: It has Edwards’s manuscripts in it?

Sam Storms: Oh, tons, yes.

Iain Murray: In typed-out form?

Sam Storms: Yes. And you can just print them on your printer. They have sermons and treatises and the thing about Sarah Edwards and her experience that otherwise it’s hard to find. It’s found in Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion, but that’s about the only place you can find it. And certainly the single greatest resource, though you’d have to mortgage your house, is the Yale University Press series of volumes, which is now at 22 volumes at $95 a piece. It will be 27 volumes when it’s done. And that still is only half of the extant sermons. But if you mortgage your house, it’s worth it.

John Piper: No it isn’t worth it. And the reason it’s not worth it is that almost all of that’s in the two volume work, though not all of it.

Iain Murray: I think the wise person is going to buy the two volumes and carefully note what you’ve got in them, and then you’ll find you have a great deal that’s in the 22 volumes. But there are certain volumes of the 22 volumes that the Edwards lover will want to buy that aren’t in the two volumes, but that’s going to take you a bit of time. Volume 16 of Yale is all Edwards correspondences and there are presently about four volumes of his sermons and a number of them are not in the two volumes. But also some of the introductions in the Yale volumes you will not want to read, I have to say.

Mark Dever: And positively some other resources that are available for today would also be Banner of Truth. Iain, it may be that some people here don’t know a Banner of Truth. Do you want to just tell us briefly about Banner of Truth?

Iain Murray: Well, if you can get a Banner of Truth book or catalog, their address is in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Give them a ring and ask them to send you a complimentary copy of the magazine or any catalog, if you don’t have one. They’d be delighted to do that. Thank you, Mark.

Mark Dever: And you can probably go to a website to find out the information immediately?

Iain Murray: Yes, there is a website.

Mark Dever: And many of the books that you’ll see in the bookstore are published by Banner of Truth. Jim, can you think of any other current authors or resources that would be helpful with some of these same themes for people?

J.I. Packer: I’m trying to do so, but I think that everything that’s come to my mind has already been covered.

Mark Dever: I think the writings of J.I. Packer would be good.

J.I. Packer: I hadn’t thought of that.

Sam Storms: And seriously, if the people here have not read Iain’s biography on Edwards, they must. After reading George Marsden’s new biography, I went back and read Iain’s for the second time and was just thrilled and glad to be reminded of how excellent the work is. And they compliment each other so well, because they do really focus on different aspects of Edwards and you really do need to read them both.

Mark Dever: Yeah, I think that’s true. John, were you going to say something else on that?

John Piper: I was just going to pick out a Packer book. A Quest for Godliness is the place where the flavor of the Puritans is going to come out so richly, I think.

Mark Dever: Yeah, if you want to get a modern introduction to Puritanism, if all the language about Puritanism is new to you, Jim’s book called A Quest for Godliness is a collection of what, 20 or 25 essays, with separate chapters. They’re freestanding. You can just go and read the ones that interest you from the table of contents. They don’t depend on each other. And it’s a great way to be introduced, particularly that chapter called “The Writing of the English Puritans”, I think, is one of the best little introductions to the Puritan movement that I know of.

J.I. Packer: There is an essay on Jonathan Edwards also in A Quest for Godliness. Edwards is a theologian of revival. All that I know about Edwards as a theologian of revival is there.

Mark Dever: Any books you want to throw out to tell people to avoid with Edwards? I’m not going to go down the line, but does anybody want to warn anyone here about something in Edwards, something you don’t like about him or his writings? Just a fair warning. Iain?

Iain Murray: Can I give a more general warning?

Mark Dever: Sure.

Iain Murray: The current interest in Edwards is quite remarkable and it involves thousands of people and many publishers. But at that point, be careful. There are certain publishers like Crossway, Soli Deo Gloria, Banner of Truth, and a few others who you can rely upon. But there are a number of books in print on Edwards now and you want to be cautious about them. He’s a publishable event now. So it doesn’t mean that any book on Edwards is one you should buy. I should have mentioned that Presbyterian Reformed has done a few very good books on Edwards, and everybody’s got Stephen Nichols book who’s coming to the conference. It’s a wonderful introduction.

Sam Storms: Plus Stephen Nichols’s doctoral dissertation has just been published as well, which is now available in the bookstore on the apologetic emphasis of Edwards and the role of the Holy Spirit. It’s very good.

Mark Dever: John?

John Piper: I have another general warning. There’s a lot of renewal in the Reformed community in America and Britain of recovering Edwards and recovering the Puritans. And as I circulate around among some of these works, they really do, I’m afraid, make a mistake of repeating the language and it doesn’t work.

Mark Dever: You mean modern works often repeat that old language?

John Piper: Yeah. They are just transporting the old language. You walk into the church and they sound like 17th century people and try to sound more pious and more deep and more rigorous, and that’s a mistake. That’s a really bad mistake. I think we need to labor hard to say things in a very compelling contemporary way that we learned from them. So don’t talk like Edwards by any means.

Mark Dever: Yeah, when they spoke and taught, they didn’t sound antique. They were speaking in the way people spoke and taught then.

Sam Storms: I would also want to add to that warning as well, there are a number of people who not only are writing introductions to collected writings of Edwards, but also secondary sources, very scholarly works, who really do not appreciate at all the God of Jonathan Edwards. And they certainly don’t understand and appreciate his passion and they study him strictly as an object of historical curiosity or inquiry or academic pursuit. And it is important to be discerning there, because it’s really tragic when you read some of these individuals who are using Edwards perhaps as a foil for their own theological agendas and it does require some discernment.

Mark Dever: I want us to talk about one sort of serious topic left and the rest of the stuff we’ll have to leave for tomorrow. And that’s something that John brought up in his talk tonight about the evangelical suspicion about emotions, or our suspiciousness about the affections. One of the things that’s so striking about Edwards as we read him, and about John’s reappropriation of Edwards today, is the very positive outlook he gives on emotions and affections. Why is it that we are so distrustful today of the affections? John, you surely have thought about this a lot.

John Piper: I’m tempted to just jump to a real easy answer about seeing the abuses and therefore shrinking back to the pendulum swing the other direction. But instead of saying that obvious thing, I’m inclined to think it isn’t so much suspicion that’s the root issue, it’s hardness of heart. We don’t want to be indicted for lacking a new heart, because if joy and the affections are as crucial as Edward says they are, we’re all in trouble.

We don’t like to admit that we’re in trouble. Most of the people in this room do not want to say it’s really as bad as they’re thinking it might be right now in their own heart. So we are really glad for some intellectual person to come along and say, “Affections and emotions are really icing on the cake and a caboose on the train. They don’t really matter that much.” And we all go, “Oh that’s good because I don’t have very many and that really makes me feel good that we have a willpower religion now, or an intellectual religion, so I may make it to heaven.” I really think the deeper issue, rather than suspicion of charismania, is that we are not where we ought to be in our affections for God. And it’s just safe to be told that they’re dangerous.

Mark Dever: Well, and a part of that has to be cultural. I mean we’re all wasps up here. We’re all men. I mean certainly if you’ve been to an African-American church where some of the people here may worship every Sunday, you won’t find that same kind of initial suspicion, at least in most black churches that I’ve been in. Certainly if you go elsewhere in the world, in most places in the world, you won’t find that.

John Piper: I think that’s probably a naive observation in this sense. I’m talking about a joy in God that cuts right across every culture in its indictment. I don’t think emotionally-oriented church services probably are any more deeply rooted in joy in God than an OP church is. In other words, your stylistic cultural personality orientation may be big and bright and vibrant and have nothing to do with God. Nothing. It’s easily stirred up by music. And your cultural makeup may be a certain way, and it sort of looks blank to everybody and inside there may be incredible intensity of affection for God. So I’m just not sure we can say that a Latino temperament or African temperament or a Scandinavian temperament are so different, and here’s the one that’s got Edwards more. No way. I mean the indictment of the absence of joy in God, in his being, in his character, just cuts right across all those cultural forms.

Mark Dever: So when you’re talking about affections, you’re not talking about what we may just visibly see?

John Piper: That’s right. Edwards talked about “animal spirits”, which was his way of saying sweaty palms, fluttering eyelashes, wobbling knees, beating hearts, etc. All those things don’t necessarily have anything to do with spiritual affections. And the easy evidence of that is that we will have massive spiritual affections in heaven without our bodies.

Mark Dever: Sam, why are we so distrustful or cautious as evangelicals about the affections?

Sam Storms: Yeah, let me just follow up on what John just said. He’s right that Edwards made it very clear that these sort of physical phenomena or manifestations may well have absolutely nothing to do with genuine affections, but they also may well have a lot to do with genuine affections. And he made a point very clearly that we are holistic beings. And Edwards argued very clearly. He said, “I have a hard time believing that the mind could grasp something of the beauty of Christ and the greatness of grace and not have it affect the body.” Now again, his point very clearly that he makes this in Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God is that you cannot conclude anything either positively or negatively from physical manifestations. They may be the effect of genuine, Spirit-wrought affection, and they may be pure hypocrisy and emotional weakness and fleshliness.

Mark Dever: And if you want to look at that question, you read his Distinguishing Marks of the Work of the Spirit of God?

Sam Storms: Yes.

Mark Dever: It’s a very short work that you can find in the bookstore.

Sam Storms: Regarding this question of why the suspicion, I think personally my experience in 25 years as a pastor before I went to Wheaton is that there are two factors. One, I think the bottom line is pride. This is my own perspective, and I know my colleagues may disagree with me on this, but I have seen it all too often — and maybe this is just a personal confession — that my suspicion of joy and affection and deep passion and yearning was born of pride, because I was terrified that somebody might see that externally and conclude that I must be a wishy-washy thinker. In other words, people could think, “He can’t really think deeply because he feels so profoundly, and he’s feeling this way as an excuse for not having to be a good thinker.”

Mark Dever: So the assumption is that the affections would cloud the judgment rather than assist it?

Sam Storms: Yeah, and it’s also that I wanted to maintain and protect a public image of being theologically precise. Anybody who is openly passionate about the things of God just generally comes under suspicion by a lot of evangelicals. Not always, but oftentimes.

J.I. Packer: I think that Sam is onto something very important and very far-reaching. In these days, when evangelicalism has for three generations at least been under very strong pressure within the church from the liberal leadership, and outside the church from an increasingly secular culture, we have become — may I coin a phrase? — evangelical formalists, in a way that we don’t always appreciate. We have become formalists about doctrinal orthodoxy. We have developed an assumption among ourselves that maintaining a clear-cut doctrinal orthodoxy is the really important thing. Nothing else matters these days when the faith is under pressure. So learn your orthodoxy, uphold it, pass it on, and fight for it. That’s the essence of faithful Christianity in our time.

The thought of the sort of communion with God that brings joy, the sort of communion with God that thus brings maturing and wisdom and stature, that just gets marginalized by our preoccupation with the formality of getting and maintaining evangelical doctrine at a time like this. We’ve been distracted, in other words, from God and from what really matters, which is relating to God the way that God means us to relate to God. That doesn’t stop short with justification by faith. It goes on into the fellowship in which joy in the Lord is central, just as continuing repentance, continuing humility, and continuing sorrow is central. But we’re always rejoicing as well. We don’t think about it because we’re thinking about something else.

Mark Dever: Iain?

Iain Murray: I think there’s something very serious here that perhaps we haven’t quite touched on. Real emotion cannot be produced. All that we can produce is a counterfeit. It’s the Holy Spirit that produces real emotion. Now, a form of evangelism has developed in which people are brought to a decision and they’re told that decision is conversion. And they’re told, “If you don’t feel anything, don’t be too troubled. There is no need for the fear of God, and there is no need to be pricked to the heart or anything like that. Just make your commitment, come up to the front, become a Christian. Maybe later on you’ll feel some joy and so on.”

Now, if that kind of teaching prevails, we are really saying a person can be regenerate without true spiritual emotion and true spiritual joy. And that’s got a lot to do with this present situation. I mean, there was a crusade, I recall, when one of the things that was said in praise of the crusade was that so many people made their decision and there was no emotionalism. That was, as it were, to credit that the thing was genuine instead of the other way around. But real spiritual emotion comes from the Holy Spirit and it goes with real conversion. So the old evangelistic preaching, whether it was Arminian or Calvinistic, believed that you couldn’t actually bring people to conversion. You gave them the gospel, you told them to go to Christ, and you told them the Holy Spirit had to come and open their hearts and give them assurance that they were indeed born of God. And if there were real Christians, they were going to know that power in their lives and so on. It’s a big thing, isn’t it?

Sam Storms: Yes.

Mark Dever: There’s much more we could say, but John people should be able to get some rest. Anything else you want to say?

John Piper: Boy, we should talk about that one a long time, because that is so right. That’s a good place to end, so I’ll resist. But we did not design this conference to maximize your rest. We designed it to maximize content, so I hope that you’ll go home on Sunday, tired and happy rather than rested and happy. Because we know that it’s late and we didn’t expect everybody to stay, but a lot of you did. And we start at 8:30 a.m. in the morning, can you believe that? And we will sing our hearts out together like we did tonight. So I hope that you’ll go to the bookstore now, which is open until 11 p.m. or so, and then you go get whatever rest you can and that you’ll be here to worship at 8:30 a.m., where Iain will pick up perhaps where he left off. You’re dismissed.