The Supremacy of Christ in All of Life: The Pastor and His Worldview

Desiring God 2012 Conference for Pastors

God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ

Joe Rigney: So the origin of this idea for a conversation between you two came out of these two realities. On the one hand, from what I see, there’s a lot of common ground, a lot of similarities between the two of you. You both are preaching pastors. You both have writing and speaking ministries beyond your congregations. You’re both founders of institutions of higher education: New Saint Andrews, chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. You both have evangelistic fathers, fathers from ministry who are very evangelistically oriented. There’s the theological kinship Reform theology, Calvinism and so forth.

And at the same time, this is the other side. There’s a lot of differences: paedobaptist, baptist, pre-millennial, post-millennial. And then beyond that just kind of a ministry philosophy, tone, ethos, emphasis, some other differences there.

And so what we thought would be helpful would be to kind of explore some of those overarching common ground and then some of those differences as well.

So I want to begin kind of here with a segment on the big picture. Both of you have mission statements that guide and govern your lives, your ministries, your churches. And so I’d like to maybe have you each unpack your mission statement briefly and then we’ll reflect from there. So John, why don’t you go first, a mission statement for your life, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bethlehem College and Seminary, Desiring God.

John Piper: So you want it defined briefly?

Joe Rigney: Oh, briefly. Think paragraph.

John Piper: Internet paragraph or book paragraph?

Douglas Wilson: Define paragraph.

John Piper: Yes. This comes out of a lunch conversation. We love definitions.

Joe Rigney: That’s right.

John Piper: I exist to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things, for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. That’s my life mission statement, and it’s the church mission statement, the seminary mission statement, Desiring God mission statements. It’s what happens if you stay in one place for a long time. It’s a sweet thing, and it gets tweaked in terms of its outworking.

But a paragraph on that. I exist. We’ll leave that one. Philosophical, profound affirmation. How do I know that? But we’ll leave it. I think operative is spread. I’m leaning toward a world that doesn’t have a passion for the supremacy of God, just leaning there all the time. How can more people be awakened? And so secondly, I’m not ultimately mainly concerned with rational knowledge. That is a means to an end.

So I want a passion for, and not just any old god, but a supremely powerful, supremely wise, just, good, holy God. So I want passions to abound for his bigness and greatness. I want that to be experienced joyfully. Those are almost interchangeable words in the statement. Passion and for the joy, because I think God is most glorified in us when we’re most satisfied in him. And therefore pursuing people’s joy in God is pursuing God’s glory. And peoples for the joy of all peoples puts that global multiethnic peace on it.

There are 12 to 16,000 people, groups, in the world. And I would like to be used by God to get the gospel to each of them. Through Jesus Christ was added, interestingly, because I assumed it. And you can’t assume it in a world like ours that’s dominated by Islam the way it is. And so through Jesus Christ means that he died. He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things? So all things that I’m after are only possible because Christ died for me. That’s a long paragraph.

Joe Rigney: Yes. You went with the Piper paragraph. So, Doug, I want the same question to you. And the particular statement that I’m wanting you to unpack, because you may have had others over the years, is “all of Christ for all of life for all the world.” What do you mean by that?

Douglas Wilson: All of Christ for all of life for all the world is entirely and fully consistent with what John was just talking about.

I regard one of the great enemies of our time, one of the great ideological intellectual sins or failings in our time, is compartmentalization, where we divvy things out and we put something in this nook and cranny that’s inconsistent with that one.

So there are Christians who believe in all of Christ for part of my life, or all of my life to part of Christ. So all of my life to Christ as Savior, or all of Christ, Lord and Savior, to my Sundays. So we want “all of Christ for all of life for all the world.”

And so all of Christ includes not just the God-man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but it would also encompass what theologians have called totus Christus, head and body, Christ and his church. All of Christ for all of life, Sunday through Sunday, Lord’s Day through Lord’s Day, everything. And for all the world, which would include evangelization, mission, and it would prevent sort of a nationalistic parochialism where you have all of Christ for all of my life for us here in North America, or anything like that.

I would say that “all of Christ for all of life for all the world” is our attempt at a Kuyperian statement, worldview thinking, the lordship of Christ extended into everything all the time for everyone.

Joe Rigney: Okay, good. So I hear that. And we start there because when we talk about differences, I don’t want that to get lost, because I hear a lot of profound agreement on centrality of Christ, globalizing, totalizing, universalizing, a reach and into the details.

So then the next thing I want to do is take that a step-down and talk about some subthemes in your ministries, and so here’s something.

John Piper: Do you mind if I jump in? This is supposed to be free, right?

Joe Rigney: I can back up whatever you want me to.

John Piper: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Joe Rigney: Okay.

John Piper: I think it would be helpful to make a comment about the difference, the way these are framed.

Joe Rigney: I think that would be helpful too.

Douglas Wilson: Suppose I didn’t.

Joe Rigney: We outvote you.

John Piper: You’re a guest.

Douglas Wilson: I’m good.

John Piper: Whenever I hear a three-phrase, two-phrase, I say, “Senator, I need a verb.”

Joe Rigney: Okay.

John Piper: And the reason, just feel this. See, this is a personality bent. It’s a philosophical bent. To me, phrases are always ambiguous without propositions. And so this is the least ambiguous person I’ve ever known, sitting over here, except when he wants to be ambiguous, which he always does in one sense.

Joe Rigney: So you want to try that again?

Douglas Wilson: At least that’s clear.

Joe Rigney: He’s the least ambiguous person.

John Piper: You’d just have to know him, right? You’d have to know him. So he’s not surprised by what I’m saying.

And so know that in my saying spread and my saying passion, I’m unpacking all of Christ and for all of life. Because for is an unbelievably ambiguous word. So that’s not a difference, I don’t think, in personality here, because you really are a stickler for meaning and clarification and whatnot. But if we were to push back on each other’s life statements or whatever, that’s where I’d start pushing. But we don’t need to go there.

Joe Rigney: No, consider it pushed.

Douglas Wilson: I would agree. I would agree. All of Christ for all of life for all the world scans. All right. It’s the sort of thing that you can print and say and then tell people this is what we mean. The verb is reigns. So Jesus reigns. The Lord Jesus is king. We’re talking about the crown rights of King Jesus. So the Lord Jesus reigns, “all of Christ for all of life for all the world.”

John Piper: That’s not a mission statement. That’s a statement.

Joe Rigney: So what should we do? That’s the truth. What should we do in response to that? What would you say?

John Piper: So what?

Douglas Wilson: So what I would do is I’d say, “All of Christ for all of life for all the world. Can I have an amen?”

Douglas Wilson: That’s the mission.

John Piper: So I exist to pursue amen to these three statements. I think that’s totally worthy.

Douglas Wilson: I want the world to say amen to the Lord Jesus reigns.

John Piper: And mean it with all their heart.

Douglas Wilson: I want the church.

John Piper: Really be happy about it.

Douglas Wilson: Really happy about it. I want the church to say.

Joe Rigney: Are you trying to usurp?

Douglas Wilson: Wholly satisfied.

Joe Rigney: Are you trying to take his mission statement?

John Piper: I tried to show how much we agree.

Douglas Wilson: So when we say all of Christ, not a partial Christ, I want the church to say amen. When we say for all of life, not just your son to go to meeting Christians stuff, can I have an amen? Yes. All of my whole life. Not just for us, but for the people who’ve never heard. Do I have agreement there?

So basically, the mission is to get people to confess that truth. So it’s a propositional statement that Jesus reigns, he is king, these things are true, and then we are summoned to affirm that with a whole heart.

Joe Rigney: Okay, good. That was easy.

Douglas Wilson: Sorry.

Joe Rigney: Subthemes. John, I want you to briefly explain this subtheme. You’ve written a book about this: Don’t Waste Your Life. And then Doug, I believe, I don’t know if it still is, but it used to be the motto of Canon Press.

Douglas Wilson: Go ahead. Waste it.

Joe Rigney: That’s right. Yes. The motto of Canon Press. No, the motto of Canon Press, I think, was “living the good life one family at a time.” So “don’t waste your life.” “Live the good one.” And so I’ll start with you. What do you mean by “don’t waste your life”?

John Piper: Fulfill the mission. You want more than that?

Joe Rigney: Well, that was a short paragraph. Yes, a little bit more about what are you aiming at? What did that come out of?

John Piper: It just means — I’ll spin another paragraph unpacking the mission.

Why do human beings exist is what I am driven by. Why does God exist, first of all? And why do we exist? We exist to join God in his reason for existing. He exists to make much of God. At least he created the world to make much of God. And therefore, we exist to make much of God in Christ.

So in that book, I unpack Philippians 1: “My eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20–21).

So Paul’s passion, key word, was to magnify, which means make Christ look magnificent in the way he lived, which is the unwasted life. So a wasted life is a life devoted to anything that does not make much of Christ.

Everything should somehow figure into making Christ look great. And I measure the significance of my life by whether or not I am intentionally pursuing and then the fruitfulness of my life, whether people are responding to that magnificent Christ, the way I think Paul unpacked it, because the reason you can make Christ look magnificent in your death is that to die is gain.

So we experience death as gain when all we get is Christ and we lose everything else. And we call it gain, which means we must be totally satisfied in Jesus when we lose our wife and children and health and this world and only have him, we call it gain. And that’s what I’m after. After people who so love Christ, are satisfied in Christ, that when they lose everything but Christ, they can call it gain.

Joe Rigney: Okay, good. So “living the good life one family at a time”. What do you mean by that?

Douglas Wilson: Well, let me begin by responding to what John just said, by saying I would agree with absolutely every word, everything there. Amen.

And I think that this illustrates when we get to some of the differences where those differences would be, theological agreement, exegetical agreement. Yes, Christ demands our highest allegiance. We should affirm this.

And then we get to the level of execution. So one of the things I’m concerned about, and this would be a pastoral concern. It’s not a concern about the mission. It’s not a concern about any of those things that he wanted to do. But I would want to urge people to remember that in executing the mission, it’s possible to outrun your own supply lines. It’s possible to be Napoleon marching on Moscow and cut off your supply lines or lose contact with your supplies. And then there you are with winter coming in Russia, which is not a good place to be.

So there are many people who say that if you outrun your own supply lines, to use that metaphor, or you outrun your own headlights. You’re just going. This is the mission, the mission, the mission. Well, sometimes that’s a way of wasting your mission. Sometimes you miss the mission because you’re too eager for the mission.

But that’s a difference of caution. Like, okay, make sure your people aren’t doing this. But yes, we agree, that that kind of thing. That’s where the possible differences would come up.

Now, our emphasis teaching people to live the good life, one family at a time, that emphasis is that it’s not possible, I don’t believe. I don’t think it’s possible to make a good omelet with rotten eggs. And Jesus says when you cross earth and sea to make a proselyte, and when you get him done, you, he’s twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. You can only export what you have.

Now the danger is if you concentrate on cultivating it so that you have it to export, and then you’ve got a wonderful community going, or a wonderful church life going, or your families are great, then the temptation is to be too cozy. And then you don’t want to go, because it’s so wonderful here.

So the temptation, I can hear John saying, “Make sure you guys don’t get too comfortable with your good life, one family at a time, and you got a wonderful thing going, and then you forget the lost. I would say, “Yes, amen.” We have to be concerned about that. But then I would say, don’t be so eager to reach the lost that when you get there, you’re about as lost as they are. And there are many, many people who have gotten chewed up by the machinery of mission and they haven’t had a life. They haven’t had a robust experience of Christ, worshiping God with their families and their people and everybody’s together.

And then we take that on the road. So no qualms at all about, it’s “all of Christ for all of life for all the world.” This is to go to the whole world. But what I want to do is make sure that the families are getting it. So, the families are experiencing what we want the families out there to experience. Because if we don’t have it, we can’t teach it. If we don’t have it, we can’t communicate it. You can only export what you have.

So the one family at a time is not teaching Christians to live the good life, one family at a time, and then — well there, we’re in. We’ve had our comfortable life, and then we’re done. That would be the abuse of what we are saying. But I’m just wanting to make sure that we have a healthy experience of what we want other people to experience.

Joe Rigney: Okay. So you described the difference, I think, in terms of emphasis. Is that how you think about it? Do you hear a difference there between orientation or would you agree with that assessment of this? At the top level, it’s yes and amen. And then you work down to execution. And is there a different emphasis, do you think, in terms of the way that you think about mission?

John Piper: Yes, and I think I’m weak. I don’t hear what he’s saying. I don’t feel any need to justify my way. I think one family at a time would be a weakness of my ministry. So, yes.

I think a difference would be in explicit specificity. When you say the good life, I said, “What’s that?” I’m always pressing towards ultimacy.

Douglas Wilson: Define it.

John Piper: And make Christ present in it. The good life, one family at a time, could be pagan. That’s a pagan statement. And you have to put it in the context of the wider man and ministry. And so I would just say explicitness matters to me, but that’s marginal.

The real issue is, I think, Doug’s ministry has been much more specific, on the ground, fleshed out than mine. And that’s not a bad thing. I think it’s part of who I am and part of what I don’t think I know that probably has left me operating at a 10,000-foot level as I’ve preached and ministered. And Doug is coming down across the treetops a lot more frequently.

Joe Rigney: Okay. So you said when you preach live the good life, you’re mindful of the tendency toward insular, ingrown, we can just camp out in our holy huddles. How do you counteract that? How are you guys thinking and processing, “Okay, we need to make.” How do you prevent that? If that’s the tendency, how do you prevent that from becoming ingrown?

Douglas Wilson: By echoing what John just said, someone could interpret the good life as a suburban house and a sweet barbecue set up in the backyard and swimming lessons for the kids. And that’s the good life.

Well, as I’m understanding the good life, that’s not possible outside of gospel categories, so the good life for a husband and a father and his family. Bonhoeffer says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” And I don’t think the good life in your household is possible unless you’re dying, unless you’re giving yourself away, unless you’re loving your wife as Christ loved the church.

So the good life is always gospel goodness. So in suburban America, and in inner-city works, and wherever you happen to be, there’s always going to be temptations to be selfish and self-absorbed and self-centered, and carve out a niche for yourself.

And so what I try to do in my preaching is emphasize, take up your cross daily, come follow me. So that’s the way to the goodness. There’s no end run around it. You can’t circumvent the cross to get to the good stuff. It’s the story that’s the good stuff. It’s the death, burial, and resurrection that’s the good stuff.

Joe Rigney: Okay, so then it sounded like you’re mindful of the tendency, we exist to spread and you can get spread thin, supply line thing. How do you think about trying to counteract that, prevent that tendency from burning people out? Because there’s a mission and there’s a lost world and we’re pushing and we’re pushing, and there’s people who need to know passion for supremacy of God. How are you thinking about how do we counteract that or prevent that from burning people out?

John Piper: By emphasizing the sweetness of satisfaction in Jesus. That’s the way I do it. Whether that’s the best way to do it is another question. But I would say what I want to do is say that the very nature of my mission, like you would say, can’t make a good omelet with rotten eggs. I would say you can’t awaken passion for Jesus where you don’t have it. You can’t cause Egyptians to turn to Christ with thrill if the missionary’s bored with Jesus, or if he’s so eaten up with anxieties that he’s wrecking his kids.

Anxieties are solved by, don’t you know have a Father in heaven who supplies all your needs. Consider the lilies, consider the ravens. And Jesus argues for peace by the sufficiency of the Father.

So my answer to how to keep from thinning it, meaning having it so ineffective in home and soul and elders, is to try to teach how one maintains a deep, sweet, satisfying, through all hell and high water, peaceful enjoyment of Jesus. And then my belief is that out of that grows kinds of love and virtues that sweeten relationships.

Joe Rigney: That’s helpful. And I think we’ll probably circle back to these things in a moment. I want to move to a second segment here on influences. And I have two in mind in particular, Jonathan Edwards and C.S. Lewis, who’ve both had influences on both of you.

So John, I’ll start with you on this one, and we’ll start with Edwards. How would you describe, briefly again, the main impact that Edwards has had on you? And then secondly, the main impact you hope he has on the wider church today? They may not be the same thing. They may be the same thing, but you and then the wider church.

John Piper: Whenever I think about documenting influences in my life, I just want to put over the beginning, I’m not sure that this is the main impact. It’s just a huge one. Because I think there are impacts on us we don’t know. I think as I read my Bible each day, I don’t know what it’s doing. It’s doing more. It’s doing more than what I think it’s doing. And so when I read Lewis or Edwards, I’m sure more was happening to my soul than I can document.

But what I can document is the end for which God created the world, that book, and The Freedom of the Will, that book, and the nature of religious affections, that book, just take those three, in three distinct ways, were massively shaping. In for which God created the world, set my mission.

God created the world for the glory of God. God is for God. God exalts God. God worships God. I mean, that’s my message. And I got it from Edwards, from the Bible, I hope, through Edwards.

Secondly, the freedom of the will that the governance of all things, including the moral actions of all men, is not inconsistent with the blameworthiness of their sin or the virtue of their deeds or their accountability. David Wells says that book is a watershed book for him. It was for me. You’re reading it in seminary, and if you go this way, all the water runs to the Pacific Ocean. You go this way, all the water runs to the Atlantic Ocean. And if you decide he cannot be that in control and still have human personality mean anything, then you go to the Pacific Ocean.

So that book settled the core Calvinistic issue and the freedom of the will for me. And then the religious affections was a heartrending exposure of my subtle sinfulness, all with the view to the massive centrality of the affections in human life. Those two things are just big for me, and he was the strongest voice.

Joe Rigney: Okay. Doug, same question to you, but maybe as you answer it, you can describe just kind of how you’ve encountered Edwards over the years. Because I know in one sense you’ve kind of got back into him recently. I’ve seen things in your writing. But you guys go way back. So maybe talk about the same question of what are the main documented ways that he’s impacted you?

Douglas Wilson: That’s a great question. He had a pivotal role in my theological pilgrimage. I grew up in a conservative evangelical home. You just pick up comments here and there, the kind of world in which Finney was a good guy. And nobody was reading him or studying him, but he was just a hero. And I had read lectures on revival, and I was appalled. Yikes. And so I put that down and said if that’s revival, I don’t want.

Joe Rigney: Because what he’s saying is revival’s a work of man, and it’s just the use of proper means. And we can gin it up if we just know the right buttons to push.

Douglas Wilson: We can build this machine ourselves and we can operate it ourselves. So that was part of the backdrop. Then through other circumstances that I won’t go into, I had become post-millennial. It was really weird being an Armenian evangelical conservative post-millennial.

Joe Rigney: It was all downhill from there, wasn’t it?

Douglas Wilson: It was all but very fun. It’s fun. It’s fun going this fast when you’re going downhill.

There were maybe, at the time in the country, there were maybe two post-millennialists, Lorraine Bettner and John Jefferson Davis.

John Piper: Now there are three.

Douglas Wilson: But we’re gaining.

So I had become a post-millennialist. And somewhere in there I read Iain Murray’s book, The Puritan Hope. And after I became post-millennial, I thought, okay, now I believe the earth is going to be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. But then I looked around at the condition of the church, and the condition of the world was in, and I was thinking, well, not at this rate. Talk about a discrepancy between what I’d now come to believe and what I saw with my eyes.

And so that caused me. And I thought, all right, if that ever happens, if what I believe ecologically is going to happen, then future historians will describe it as a great revival, an awakening. So I was forced to go back and say, well, maybe Finney isn’t the last word on revival. And that took me back to Jonathan Edwards.

And so I read his account, his Northampton account, and somewhere in there I read the Religious Affections, Northampton account. And I came to the recognition that historically the kind of — I was not a Calvinist yet, but the kind of revival that didn’t creep me out the way the Fennyite approach did was historically a kind of fruit that grew on one kind of tree. And that was Reformed preaching.

And so a few years later when I was working through the whole Calvinism thing, which was a humbling experience — so first, Jonathan Edwards left a good taste in my mouth with regard to revival and awakenings and Reformation, reading that. And then when I was working through the Calvinist era, when I was sorting through all those things, The Freedom of the Will was magnificent.

It just sorted everything out. In terms of the psychology of how the human heart did, the will is this arm that reaches. This mechanical arm like when you go to the county fair and there’s a bin full of teddy bears, and they’ve got this mechanical arm that grabbed. Well, the mechanical arm doesn’t have any power to create the contents of the chest, the contents of what’s pulled out. And Jonathan Edwards taught me that the will pulls what’s out of your heart, what whatever’s in your heart. And if I could repent and believe with my old heart, why do I need a new one? And so God gives me a new heart, and Calvinistic psychology all clicked and came together for me with Edwards. I’m greatly indebted to Edwards. He, since that time, was great. Good guy. I’d read a number of his books and then went on and did other things. Then, a year or two ago, you came out to New Saint Andrews and gave a talk at Disputatio rebuking us all at New Saint Andrews for being so Edwardsy and without doing homage to him. “Why isn’t he in the curriculum? What are you doing?”

Joe Rigney: Yes, I berated you.

Douglas Wilson: He was very forthright. “Edward’s emphasis on typology and his Trinitarian emphasis, which is one of our emphases, and his typology, his post-millennialism, all of these things. Why are you guys not more explicitly in there?” We thought he was a good guy. We’re happy for him to have done his thing. Anyway, after that, I decided to teach an elective on Edwards. That kickstarted it. Having read some of his stuff again recently, after the 20 years or whatever it had been since I’d been reading him, I was thunderstruck actually at some of the stuff that’s going on in Edwards. I made a decision there. Yale has got a nice collection of his collected works. I’ve been piecemeal buying them. They’re pretty expensive, but piecemeal buying them. I decided I’d like to work through the whole set of Edwards books before I die. He’s just wonderful.

Joe Rigney: You mentioned that the Trinitarian emphasis. I know that this is something you’ve written on as well. In some of your books, there’s an Edwardsian flavor on the Trinity. One Edward scholar describes him or says, “The Trinity is like a subterranean river that just runs underneath everything he wrote and thought and did.” I find that encouraging. I’m wondering if you guys can give some counsel and help. How do you ensure that when we talk about God and you preach about God, and so forth, that you’re always talking about the triune God? Do you have to make it explicit all the time? Are there other ways that you think? “I want people to think triune Christians and not just generic deity things”? How does the Trinity shape ministry, shape life, shape worldview for you guys? We can start with you, John.

John Piper: I’ll tell you what I do. One of the problems of being old is that you look back and you think, “Could have done that better.” I haven’t preached many sermons on the Trinity, and probably, I should have preached more than I did. Confession.

Joe Rigney: But even there, that’s where Edwards never wrote anything that was published on the Trinity. There’s the unpublished essay, which is, I think, what you were referring to.

John Piper: Here’s what I do do, and I don’t regret it. I do exposition and call out what’s there. I think a pastor should, in passing regularly, make sure that when he uses the word “Spirit,” he says “he,” and he says a sentence or two why he says “he.” He draws out the distinction between the fact that all three are mentioned in this paragraph and the way they’re inter-working and their economic distinctions and how they are one.

I’m working through John now. That’s been a prominent theme in John is that we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father full of grace and truth. In the beginning, was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God. You don’t fly over those. You say it. But in general, I think pastors who don’t preach individual sermons on the Trinity will, by their use of language and their occasional references to their personhood, keep alive in their people that we’re talking about Son, Father, and Spirit as persons in one God.

Joe Rigney: Doug, same question for you.

Douglas Wilson: I agree with everything John just said about how you tackle it in preaching, as it comes up in the text. Don’t be shy about pointing to those things. I don’t think you can say everything you must say all the time about everything in every instance. You’ve got to let some things go unsaid. I’m very comfortable with that approach. If you’re doing expositional preaching, that it’s in the text. It’s going to come up in the text.

The one thing I would add. I would like visitors to our church to not be able to go away. I would not want them to come for a month or two months and not know that this is a Trinitarian church. I would like them to know on the first Sunday this is a Trinitarian church. My call to worship is “Let us worship the triune God. Everybody stands up. Every Sunday, we say the Apostles’ Creed. We confess to the members of the Trinity.” Many of our hymns are Trinitarian in structure: a verse about the Father, a verse about the Son, a verse about the Spirit. Then, the expositional preaching ministry is just as John described.

Joe Rigney: I adventure to say, John, that your book Pleasures of God, at least for me on the Edwardsian stuff, is where I see that come out most fully, and they’re just publishing a new addition. Anything you want to say about that book and how a lot of people come into contact with your ministry through something like Desiring God? But in some ways, Pleasures of God goes underneath that. You want to say something about that book in particular.

John Piper: I thought your question on the Trinity might have been, since Lewis has this subterranean Trinitarian thought, “How does it function that way for you?” This gives me an occasion to answer that question with the Pleasures. Edward’s understanding of the Trinity is that the Son is the perfect idea, word, thought of the Father. The Father has a picture of himself. Therefore, that movement in the Godhead is reason and is thought and is head. Between those two flows an infinite energy of delight carrying. C.S. Lewis exactly said it’s like an esprit de corps in the Trinity carrying so fully the personhood of the Son, the personhood of the Father, that it stands forth as a third reality. Only it is distinctly defined as the delight that they have in each other.

I was just reading before you preached the first message that you preached when you said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased,” pleasure between Father and the Son. “the Spirit is descending like a dove.” As I read that the morning before you preached, I thought, “Those are the same. Those are the same.” One with word, one with symbol: dove. The dove is descending, and the Word is being spoken. “My pleasure is on you.” There he is, a bird called the Holy Spirit.

The implication of that is that in the Godhead, you have the essence of humanity: head and heart. You have true knowledge of God in God, the Son, and you have true love for God in God, the Spirit. Therefore, we are made in his image as capable of knowing him and loving him. Everywhere I move and everywhere I go I’m thinking in those terms: right knowledge of God, right affections for God, everywhere. That’s the subterranean effect of the Trinity on me.

Joe Rigney: Head and heart, for you, are Trinitarian categories. They were this way for Edwards. When you think about them, you think, whether or not it ever comes out specifically in every message or something like that, that is a subterranean river.

John Piper: If some person from Mars or some atheist said, “Where’s that come from? Where’s your ultimate basis for giving a hoot about what you think and giving a hoot about what you feel?” I would say, “Because God is the ultimate knower and feeler, and he made me in his image to reflect him that way.”

Douglas Wilson: Amen.

Joe Rigney: I think you said this in the introduction to Doug the other night. I want to turn this to Lewis for a moment, is this right that Lewis has had more impact on you than all other theologians outside the Bible combined?

Douglas Wilson: Mm-hmm.

Joe Rigney: Okay. Why don’t you unpack how/why? ‘Cause you wouldn’t even say that about Edwards or somebody like that. You wouldn’t say overall they’re combined. You’d say-

John Piper: Not that I know of.

Joe Rigney: Okay.

John Piper: he may have, and I don’t know it.

Joe Rigney: Okay. Okay. Why don’t you explain the bromance with Lewis?

Douglas Wilson: Well, let me go on the record as saying I don’t like the word “bromance.”

Joe Rigney: Duly noted.

Douglas Wilson: That’s not work.

John Piper: You wished he hadn’t said that.

Douglas Wilson: I don’t receive that. With Lewis, Lewis died when I was ten years old. I was born in ‘53. My folks started reading the Narnia stories to us in the ‘50 when I was a young boy. I think they were maybe still coming out. They were either just fresh on the market or still coming out when we were first introduced to the Narnia stories. We loved those stories, adored the stories.

My dad would read to us. I was the oldest. My dad would read a chapter or two in the evening. I would sneak the book off and finish it that night. I grew up as a quasi-Narnian. That was the first thing. Then in high school, I began reading. The first serious theology that I began to read was Lewis — The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity. I started to read his straight writing. That had a big influence on me.

Then, when I started to read other great influential theologians that I’ve read, John Calvin. There are a number of theologians who’ve had a monumental impact in my life. It’s striking that they were always in a Lewis context. It’s like Lewis set the key or the pitch that everything is understood in. I was processing Calvin as a Lewis guy. Accepting one didn’t mean rejecting the other. As I got older and I got into the ministry, I began to read just in a disciplined way all kinds of things that Lewis had written.

Then, I go back and reread some of the early stuff that I read, and I think, “Oh, that’s where I got that. I remember that now. I learned that first from him, and I learned that first from him.” That’s one thing. There are areas where I disagree with him. I think he’s out to lunch. But he’s the kind of writer who can edify me even when I think he’s being crazy. In Letters to Malcolm on prayer, he’s got some stuff in purgatory in there. There’s some just stuff I thought, “That’s nuts.” Reflections on the Psalms is a glorious book. But he says some atrocious things in that book about some of the Psalms. You discount that. Put that side of the plate. Even when he’s being not very good, it’s edifying. It’s just edifying to me. It really resonates with me.

I love his way of thinking. I love his commitment to clarity of thought. I love his rejection of relativism, his rejection of subjectivism, coupled with his vivid Christian imagination. He’s not a logic chopper. He’s a logician but not a pedantic logician because he’s a Christian romantic and a Christian logician at the same time. He marries things. He brings together, in his person, things that I think are just absolutely essential for us to have together in one man.

Then, the last thing I would say is that Lewis was a jovial man. His joviality. Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia is a great book. If you permit this astrological observation, I want to live as a Calvinist under Jove, not a Calvinist under Saturn.

Joe Rigney: Explain what you mean by that. I mean, tease that a little bit because if people don’t know the astrological background of those-

Douglas Wilson: Okay. Well, the first thing to say when we used the word “astrological,” we’re not talking about the newspaper column astrology. We’re not talking about any superstition or anything like that. But this is just a shorthand metaphorical way of saying I much prefer the God-is-good, life-is-good, Christ-is-good, he’s-given-you-all-things-richly-to-enjoy Calvinism to eat-your-spinach Calvinism.

Saturnine Calvinism would be it’s your duty. It’s Puddleglum. Puddleglum is an endearing character off to the side. But you don’t want all Puddleglum. You don’t want all Puddleglum all the time. In selected literary essays, Lewis’ defenses of the Calvinists and Lewis’s defenses of the Puritans, I think, are among the most compelling defenses of the Puritans. When people talk about Puritans being puritanical, what they mean is Victorian or uptight or blue nose or whatever. Lewis says in selected literary essays that the Puritans were — if I may use the name of a great Christian, a great writer, and a great Roman Catholic — he said the Puritans were much more Chestertonian than their adversaries. That’s what I want to be.

I want to be a Chestertonian Puritan, as Lewis describes them. In history, that’s the first hundred years or so of the Reformation, the era when the Reformation first exploded, as in English literature in the 16th century. Lewis’s book, he says that the keynote for the Reformation was relief, forgiveness, joy. Be done with all the motive scratching. Be done with all the digging around trying to the introspective gunk. Then, later on, I think there was a Reformed stream that turned inward in an introspective unhealthy way later. But that wasn’t characteristic of the relief that God gave to the west in the Reformation. I learned that from Lewis.

Joe Rigney: John, same question. Over to you. Main impact of Lewis? If it’s the same things here, then unpack them in your own way if there’s different things that you’ve picked up from him.

John Piper: I’m listening and thinking they’re probably profoundly similar. And this is why I wasn’t sure whether he was the most dominant impact is that Lewis or Wheaton College, they’re almost synonymous where they hit me. Put kindling in place, and the fire fell at Fuller with Dan Fuller and Jonathan Edwards. The kindling was not the content of the theology. It was a way of thinking and seeing the world.

The book that moved me most — and I cannot find it in print anywhere. But I can see the cover, a little thin 30-page paperback called C.S. Lewis: The Romantic Rationalist. The very title made my spine tingle because I wanted that so bad. I knew from 10th-grade geometry: I love thinking and proving things with axioms. I knew from the awakening in the 11th grade with Mrs. Clinton: I love to read and write poetry and see the world and feel the power of nature. Those felt at odds. Geometry and literature? Weird.

Then, you see this title, Romantic Rationalist. You say, “Really?” You dive into that ocean. You just want to swim all day long. Called C.S. Lewis. The kindling that was put in place is there hasn’t been in the last 200 years a sharper logician than C.S. Lewis probably. What do I know? But he was really sharp. Nobody! Nobody compares, do they? Of what he saw when he looked at trees and faces and ground and books. He saw things. He saw things. He talked about their quiddity, the sheer this-ness of reality. Whenever I read him, I feel like I come alive. I feel like my eyes are open. I have to go back to Lewis for a dose of reality to just see the world because the world starts to be rationally hazy or emotionally hazy. You lose the robustness of the jovial orientation of just clouds.

I mean, I found myself walking to church, anxious about the meeting. Then, suddenly, Lewis, the Holy Spirit. Bang! Look at this sky. Look at that sunset. Look at these cars like a river going under this bridge. Wake up to reality. This is awesome. This is like a tilt-the-world, or whatever.

Douglas Wilson: Whatever that was.

John Piper: Those two things: a mind, lucid and clear in his thinking. A is A and not A. That’s a tree, and you’re tempted to worship, except that you’re a Christian now. You can just enjoy it as a creature. Now, you go to seminary then with your heart, just seething with readiness to have passion for something and your mind ready to latch onto something and understand it, and Calvinism shows up. You just say, “Okay. Now, I think I’m home. I can spend the rest of my life trying to spread this passion.”

Joe Rigney: That’s good. That’s good. That’s good. This is a good place to start.

Douglas Wilson: This is going to be shown. They’re filming this and everything. I’d like to go on the record now as saying that if anybody ever comes up with an idea of publishing C.S. Lewis: A Reformed Appreciation, contributing essays from different Reformed thinkers, I would dearly love to be able to claim it was my idea and then parlay that into being able to contribute an essay to that. I think John could probably pull some strings with some people and get that done.

Joe Rigney: There you go. New book project.

John Piper: I think the editor’s probably in the audience.

Joe Rigney: Good. I’d also like to note that. I don’t think you meant this but I think somewhere in there you said you’re walking to church, and then, all of a sudden, the Holy Spirit C.S. Lewis says.

John Piper: I said C.S. Lewis, the Holy Spirit.

Joe Rigney: Oh, there’s a comma there.

John Piper: Comma.

Douglas Wilson: It’s the old problem of the serial comma.

Joe Rigney: Yes.

John Piper: The Holy Spirit uses many means, and the means he has used to make Lewis a constant reminder. Wake up! Clyde Kilby, my Lucian incarnation at Wheaton, published an anthology of Lewis’s quotes. The name of the book was A Mind Awake. That’s what I mean. Having read Lewis now, as I walked through life asleep, the wake-up calls that happen, I believe, are God-given. Instrumentally, the memory of what I’ve seen in Lewis is what he uses often.

Joe Rigney: Okay. Thus far, we’ve mainly focused on areas, I think, of profound agreement/appreciation for different Lewis and Edwards and so forth. I want to talk a little bit about maybe a place where there’s some differences. Segment three here is on Christian Hedonism.

Doug, a couple of years ago, you wrote a couple of blog posts interacting with Christian Hedonism. I think you just reread Desiring God or were doing something in relation to that. You had some suggestions or modifications. We should push it further or something like that. You were amening it and then saying, “Let’s go a little bit further up, further in.”

Douglas Wilson: Further up.

Joe Rigney: The two terms you advocated for, one of which we’ve maybe talked about already, so we can focus on the second, was a Trinitarian Hedonism. We’ve kind of already talked a little bit about that.

Douglas Wilson: We covered that.

Joe Rigney: The one maybe to spend a little bit more time on is incarnational hedonism. What do you mean by incarnational hedonism/Christian Hedonism?

Douglas Wilson: This is, I think, another example. I think there’s some differences here. But there’s going to be a lot of “yes, butting,” I think, in this because, John, you recently wrote something. You were discussing C.S. Lewis’s “Meditations in a Toolshed,” the idea of looking along the beam of light, looking at it, and the differences there. The material world that God has given us is a revelation of his character. The trick is how can we be God-oriented, God-centered, God-saturated as we’re dealing with material things? If you ask me for a snapshot. “What do you think of John Piper’s Christian Hedonism?” I’d say, “I’m enthusiastically in favor of it and like what he’s done. I’m grateful for him doing all the spade work that he’s done. I’d like more bacon and more beer involved in this hedonism. We have an amen to the bacon.

Joe Rigney: Somebody just went, “Mm, bacon.”

John Piper: It was for the bacon.

Douglas Wilson: The question is if there’s a way of pursuing the pleasures of God and wanting to commune with God in these pleasures in a way that detaches from the world you’re in, in your prayer life, in your worship, in an exalted spiritual frame of mind, which, of course, I’m not against any of that. But I also want it to be constantly and regularly engaged with this world and not to think that I can protect myself spiritually from becoming an idolator by diluting this world at all. This world is thick. The world is thick. It presents itself to us as thick. I believe to use the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” he says. “It flames out like shook foil.” This material world, the thicker it is, the more solid it is, the brighter it is doesn’t make it more of a distraction.

This goes back to Lewis, also, in The Last Battle and in The Great Divorce. The resurrected state is more solid than here. It’s more substantive than here, which means, if you’re following the argument, it doesn’t make it more distracting away from God than here. If materiality, if the liquidity of the thing, if the substance of these things were an inherent distraction, and I could protect myself spiritually by finding a diluting agent that would make the material world thinner, my money thinner, my house thinner, my food thinner. If I could dilute it and protect myself spiritually, then, of course, that’s what I ought to do. But I don’t think that’s a protection. This is when John and I were talking at one of our meals together. He was saying the New Testament is full of warnings about wealth and material goods. I agree with that completely.

The New Testament constantly tells us to guard our hearts over against the distractions of the world. I just don’t think guarding our hearts can be accomplished by minimizing the material. I think it is accomplished by maximizing the gratitude for these things. I look through the material world to God. That’s where I think the protection is. If I pull away in an aesthetic way, it feels like I’m protecting myself from materialism. But I don’t think I really am.

This is a pagan story. But one time, Diogenes the Cynic went over to Plato’s house. When he went into Plato’s house, there were some fancy rugs on the floor. Diogenes the Cynic stomped on the rugs and wiped his feet and said, “Thus, I trample upon the pride of Plato. Plato responded mildly with greater pride.

All right. There’s such a thing as spiritual pride. I can detach myself from the things of the flesh and be giving way to the flesh. Now, all of these things, I think, in the abstract, I can’t imagine John and I disagreeing on this. But this is where the practical turn of mind comes. When you’re in the pulpit, and you have affirmed the goodness of pleasure and the goodness of hedonism and the good goodness of all these things, and then you’re sending them all out to try this at home, what do you caution them to not do? Which way do you lean when you say, “Now don’t get too wrapped up in your car, and don’t get too wrapped up”? Are you cautioning them against material goods, or are you cautioning them against maybe a more ethereal, spiritual, Euclidian pride? My tendency is to caution against the immaterial pride and exhort people to get maybe grateful for the stuff and make it thicker and make it more grateful. Make the soup into stew. Make it thicker, and be grateful for it. Say your prayers.

Joe Rigney: John, any thoughts there?

John Piper: Before I say anything, by way of affirmation, a question: is nature/the material world a mural or a window?

Douglas Wilson: It’s a window. The heavens declare the glory of God. I’m reading something. God is invisible. He’s the invisible God. I cannot see him. He shows himself through the things that have been made: his divine majesty, his glory. That’s my duty. The thicker it is, the better I can see through it.

John Piper: It’s a misleading word, isn’t it?

Douglas Wilson: Thick.

John Piper: Thick. The thicker it is, the better I can see through it. Most people wouldn’t go there.

Douglas Wilson: Right. But I just did.

John Piper: Why does increased thickness increase transparency?

Douglas Wilson: Increased thickness. If I see it as thick, as a gift from God, the more God lays it on, the thicker God makes it, and I see that, the more grateful I can be. The more grateful I can be, the more I’m linked to the giver of the gift. This whole thing is wrapped up in how do I respond rightly to the gifts that the giver gives?

Now, we all know that if a kid receives a gift for a Christmas present and then snatches it out of his mother’s hands and then runs back to his bedroom to play with it, he is separating the gift from the giver and focusing on the gift. That’s what our consumerist, materialistic society does. We snatch things from God’s hand and never say thank you and run off and try to enjoy them. That’s one problem. But the other problem/the thing I’m trying to resist is when you have the super spiritual kid who the parents have shopped for just the present.

Douglas Wilson: Kid who the parents have shopped for, they’re just the right present and they give the Christmas present to the child and the child doesn’t unwrap it, just sets it aside and say, “Thank you so much for shopping for me, thank you for the present,” whatever it is, but I just want to spend time with you.

John Piper: So you got a lot of those people in Moscow?

Douglas Wilson: Well, I would say that the world is full of them. Yes. I think there are people who want to separate the giver and the gift and the consumerist world wants the gift without the giver, and I think far fewer, but I think that there are a number of people who want the giver and they are very, very nervous about the gifts. They don’t know what to do with them. They set them aside and, oh, thank you for this but I can’t think about how much I like it because I don’t want to forget Jesus.

John Piper: I suppose that would be a difference in tone is that that’s just not my perception of the world I live in, that there are a lot of people like that. I think most of the people in my church and in this city are very happy to receive gifts and spend all their time thinking about them and play with them and are almost never setting them aside for Jesus’ sake. As wrong as that might be.

Douglas Wilson: No, I think you’re right that we almost never set them aside, but I think there are many people who feel guilty for not setting them aside.

John Piper: Okay, that’s closer to reality perhaps. So first of all, the agreement is the more we talk about this at the principal level, the more agreement there is because we’re just Bible guys. That’s the reason. And the Bible’s pretty clear that he has given us all things richly to enjoy and woe to those who say some pretty nasty things about those who forbid marriage and food because these were given for your enjoyment and they are to be sanctified by the word of God and prayer. So clearly that little unit there in the pastorals is to show a paradigm for how to take the thickness of the world and to turn it into an act of worship.

Here’s another difference though. You are focusing on gratitude as the remedy for how increased thickness becomes more transparent. The bigger, better, the benefit of a material thing or just the goodness doesn’t have to be material I suppose, just created life. The richer, deeper, stronger the gratitude and hence God getting more glory. That’s almost never my emphasis. That’s probably an overstatement. My emphasis is constantly on enjoying God as God, delighting in God, delight yourself in the Lord and then I try to fit in stuff and ask how that works. Not everybody should live for gratitude. I’m not a good kelvin guide there. And then how you fit in stuff, easy. It’s just easy. That’s what you do with gifts. You say thank you. But if I’m onto the Trinity right that the Father is not thankful for the Son and the Son, for the Father, he is thrilled, satisfied, delighting in, enjoying enraptured by stunned with, amazed with, admiring. Ayn Rand said — let’s quote Ayn Rand.

Douglas Wilson: Now there’s a transition for you.

John Piper: “Admiration is the highest and most rare pleasure.” And for her that was an absolute mockery of humanity. It’s true, I think. We were made to admire, mainly, not mainly to be grateful. Grateful is essential, according to Romans 1, you can’t have God without it. And if you lack it, you don’t honor him. It is a way of honoring God. But at the core of my system, and this is why we wrestle with this a little different I think is I am leaning on people not mainly to be thankful for their stuff, but to delight in God if they don’t have any stuff. And then because that’s what happens at death, Paul, and we’re going to get it all back. I believe in the new heavens of new earth, then I’ll be suited to really handle thickness.

Douglas Wilson: Just practice now though.

John Piper: Yes. Oh absolutely. We practice now. But what’s the biggest threat? Now, see you’re operating with the threat that people are rejecting their gifts and I’m operating with the threat that people are in love with their gifts and they’re idolizing their gifts and they love them way too much and I’m on a crusade to show a God up here that is more satisfying, more beautiful than what the gifts can give. That’s a different model than gratitude issue. Then I ask, so what is a sunrise for?

And the answer is to reflect the majesty, glory, beauty of God so that when you see it and feel rising up within you, and I don’t think it’s much of a intellectual process here, delight, Psalm 19 says, the sun comes up and just like a bride groom, it’s like it’s joy. He’s crossing the sky. And I think the point there is you see it, I’m happy too. Son, you’re happy, I’m happy, we’re happy because God is, and then for the spiritual soul, the thickness is transparent. The sun is majestic, it’s beautiful, it’s glorious. It’s working in me, it’s making me happy and it’s becoming transparent and it’s God, God, God. So I labor and the closest I’ve gotten is the Augustine quote, he loves thee too little, this is a prayer, who loves anything together with thee which he loves not for thy sake. So Augustine is not working with a gratitude model there. He’s working with a sovereign joy model there.

Douglas Wilson: So I’d like to tack something onto that. First, we agree that the priority in our responses to God, we agree that worship and adoration precedes gratitude. So the admiration, the praise for God is senior in your prayers, I think is senior in your prayers to the thank-yous for the things he’s given you. I think we agree there. But even with admiration, and maybe this is another area where I would not mark myself down as disagreeing, but just mark me down as nervous. I don’t know that we have the ability to enter into the heavenlys and sort of tap into God raw. I believe that we need a mediator, and of course we can do this in Jesus’ name, but there’s a way of going, seeking to get detached from everything and then sort of accessing him raw. I think that God writes our lessons for us in big block letters.

he gives us the Bible, he gives us the world and so on. So I want to use my primers. I want to use the things that he’s given me so that I can approach him appropriately. So when the Bible talks about worship, worshiping God, admiring God, very rarely does the Bible, it is not like this is excluded because it is there in the Bible. But admiration for God, worship of God, praise for God is overwhelmingly connected to his mighty works. Things he’s done in history, his deliverance of it, and it could be slopped over with gratitude. Your works are, your deeds are mighty. The Bible doesn’t spend a lot of time, there’s some, but doesn’t spend a lot of time working through Stephen Charnock’s systematics on these attributes of God. We don’t have chapter after chapter on omniscience and chapter after chapter on omnipresence and chapter after.

We don’t have that. We have his mighty works, what he did to Pharaoh, what he did to Egypt, what he did. So this tells me, I believe what Charnock is saying, I don’t have a beef against the systematitions, but we are not mature enough to go there yet. I believe in the resurrection we will be a lot more able to do that. But I want to exalt in what God has done in this world, in history, in my life, and then realize that I’m being invited further up and further in. There will come a time when we will be more able to exalt in God as he is. But I’m still in kindergarten and I don’t feel like I’m ready for graduate school physics yet.

John Piper: But I totally agree. I totally agree. In fact, I don’t think we’ll ever get there.

Douglas Wilson: Right. We’re always going to be finite, and he’s always going to be infinite.

John Piper: We’re always going to be material.

Douglas Wilson: Always going to be what?

John Piper: Material.

Joe Rigney: Material.

Douglas Wilson: Yes.

John Piper: The new heavens, new earth, new body will be a material body of a spiritual kind.

Douglas Wilson: Yes.

John Piper: He has locked himself into materiality it seems to me in the incarnation, in the Godhead and now.

Douglas Wilson: Forever, right.

John Piper: So I’m totally there. We are just posing the questions slightly differently. Let me ask this. This might be clarifying, bring it on. I want my people to, I don’t tend to send them out saying, solve your spiritual community problem with God by minimizing, lessening, thinning, make the soup thicker and the celebration richer. But we agreed the other day, I think. And so just talk for a minute about the role of self-denial because here’s my experience and I think it’s biblical. For the sake of maximum enjoyment of all that God has made, too much of it is bad for you.

Douglas Wilson: Oh yes, absolutely. If we want to embrace the good life under Christ, under the Lordship of Christ, one of the first things that you should learn, one of the first things your parents should teach you is that self-denial is not done for the sake of self-denial. Self-denial is done for the sake of a right enjoyment, a balanced enjoyment. If your kids go out to the mall with money in their pockets and they will not be content unless they come home having purchased something, something’s wrong. It’s not whatever it was they purchased is not the problem. The fact that they had to purchase it, that’s the problem. If someone is incapable of saying no, whether it’s to food or to sex or to music or whatever, they just don’t have any breaks on this thing. Eventually the thing that they’re idolizing is going to be something that they lose. Alcoholics don’t enjoy wine the way they ought to. People who are addicted to sexual compulsions don’t enjoy sex the way they ought to. You lose the thing you idolize; it comes apart. It comes apart in your hands. So self-denial is not for the sake of self-denial; self-denial is for the sake of a rightly ordered relationship to God and pleasure and goodness and so on.

John Piper: So I think your statement, you just qualified that it’s of no use in killing the lust of the flesh to move in the direction of aestheticism. You just qualified that, didn’t you?

Douglas Wilson: Yes. When Paul is talking in Colossians where he says, “Why do you submit to decrees saying do not handle, do not taste, do not touch?” He says, “These things have the appearance of wisdom,” but he says there is no value in checking fleshly indulgence. Obviously, self-denial, the thing that he was talking about, the aestheticism he was talking about there in that context has no value in checking fleshly indulgence. Godly discipline under the rule of Christ, done for the right reason, not to put yourself in with him, and godly denial, self-denial is of great value in checking fleshly indulgence, but aestheticism by itself is as much a temptation as consumerism. So that’s my point.

John Piper: It’s as bad a temptation. Do you mean it’s as much a temptation?

Douglas Wilson: Well, it depends on who you are.

John Piper: I mean Americans, just say Americans like these people right here. I don’t think they’re tempted towards aestheticism nearly as much as they’re tempted toward materialism.

Douglas Wilson: There are two ways you can, and this goes back to a comment I made earlier. Some people actually embrace a lot. They go to the mission, they give it all away, they go to the mission field, and some of them are doing it for healthy, honorable, godly reasons, the same way that my father’s generation went off in the war, fought in the war. That was incredible sacrifices not because it was an end in itself, but because that’s what it took to get this job done. And there are many godly people going to the mission field for that same reason. But there are other people going denying everything, giving up everything going to the mission field because they’re trying to wrestle with their junk. They’ve got, I’m too messed up. And there are people who believe, and I’ve read a lot of the Jim Wallace Sojourner’s wing of the church. You own something, you have a problem.

They think of life as a zero-sum game, if you’ve got more, that means somebody else has less and he has less because you have more. I think that that’s a misunderstanding of how economics works. So there are people who either give it all up for the wrong reason, they go to the mission field and die for the wrong reason, not taking anything away from those who do it for the right reason. And then there are all the people who remain with all their stuff, they remain with their white, suburban, middle-class values, but they feel like they’re class B Christians. They don’t get to the point of making that surrender, but they’ve accepted the obligation that they ought to be. And so they’re falling between two stools. They keep all the stuff and they walk around with guilt because of it and they feel like, oh.

And so I’ve been in evangelical circles my whole life. You’re flipping through a magazine, you see a picture of a starving kid. You could, for the price of a cup of coffee a day, save this child from starvation or you could turn the page, you jerk. And if you turn the page, you’re under condemnation. So what do you do? You have guilt-motivated giving instead of gratitude-motivated giving. If I receive blessings and I give out of gratitude, I’m going to give as much as I can for as long as I can for the rest of my life. If I give out of guilt, what am I going to give? I’m going to give just enough to make the guilt go away, which usually works out to about 20 bucks.

Joe Rigney: So I’m going to bring in a couple of quotes here and see if that does anything. Here’s this from these blog posts that you did interacting with it. You’re talking about the integration between gift-giver, vertical-horizontal enjoyment. This kind of integration will prevent dislocations from arising in families that are sold out to the glory of God. Integration will keep our neighbor, wife, husband, kids from feeling like a means to an end. There’s a delicate balance here, and that’s what we’re trying to discuss is with this balance, you say this, but God is most glorified in me when I love what he has given to me for its own sake. And this is teleologically related to the macro point of God’s glory being overall of course, but we still have to enjoy what he gives flat out, period, stop.

Now I’ll throw that over to you first and then, because I think that that’s, you’re saying no, not flat out, period, stop. If you do flat out, period, stop you’re-

John Piper: You’re an atheist.

Joe Rigney: You’re an atheist, there you go.

Douglas Wilson: That would be bad.

Joe Rigney: And so I want to say you’re rejecting where he goes in that sense. But does that then mean that our neighbors, wife, husband, kids should feel, are they in fact, and I don’t know if merely is the right word, means to an end. In other words, I love you, honey. I love you, children, I love you, neighbor, I love you, food merely as means to an end. And then what does that do to those relationships? So I just wanted you to comment on how are you navigating that? If you want to reject where Doug’s going in that emphasis on flat out, period, stop, how does the means end thing work?

John Piper: Right. Here’s the way I have thought about it. Why is my Christian Hedonism not offensive? If I am motivated to help someone or bless someone because it makes me happy. Well, I back up and I say what makes me happy is seeing more of God, knowing more of God, loving more of God. And that happiness enlarges when it is shared by others. My enjoyment of God, in your enjoyment of God through my enjoyment of God on your behalf makes mine bigger. So I come to you desiring that I will get my joy bigger in your blessing. If somebody says to me, why isn’t that manipulation, that means then why aren’t you using me? And my answer is because the way you enlarge my joy is by sharing in my joy and God’s joy, which is the greatest thing you could ever know. The way you will make me glad is if you are glad in God and you are being glad in God is the highest gladness you could ever have. So if my finding more joy in your being more glad in God looks manipulative to you, call it what you will. That’s what I’m after. I’m after my maximum joy in your maximum joy in God.

Joe Rigney: Okay, so what I hear there is our joys don’t cancel each other out.

John Piper: No.

Joe Rigney: So the greater that mine goes in God, the greater yours is going to go in God, especially if you have some part in making that happen. So this is not a zero-sum game, like you were talking about.

John Piper: Yes, but now see I really haven’t answered your question. That’s the way I’m constantly trying to figure out how my motivation of love is not manipulative. But the question you asked I think would go back to pleasure in your children, pleasure in your wife, not doing them good necessarily and not on they’re sick. How can I make them well, but rather there’s a who they are and how can I be happy about that and enjoy that.

Joe Rigney: But there is a part of it I think where, this is what we’ve been talking about, I think in your talk on that first talk you did the other day, your delight in your children simply considered, I love you, son. I love you, daughter is good for them. You are doing good to them. Simply as fathers expressing delight.

John Piper: It is, but I’m just dealing with his stop. Okay, all right. Delight in your wife, stop. And I’m saying my wife should want me to say the Augustine quote, that you delight in me because you see in me reflections of, evidences of, traits of God. There are evidences of God in my character and there’s evidence of God’s power and creativity and wisdom in the way he’s made my face and my body and my personality.

Yet this inconstancy is such As you too shall adore; I could not love thee (Dear) so much, Lov’d I not Honour more.

And I’ve always taken that loveless poem and just say love you God more.

Douglas Wilson: Now let me, I’d like to agree with that and then take this opportunity to distance myself from atheism.

In that quote you read, you said, we acknowledge the overarching teleological coherence of all things in Christ. In other words, I agree with the Augustine quote, everything coheres in Christ, everything converges on Christ, everything finds its meaning and purpose in him. So we agree with that. That’s what I meant by the teleology of the thing. So what did I mean by focus, period, stop? What did I mean by that? And this has to do with the psychology of the thing. It doesn’t have to do with the abstract theology of the thing. It doesn’t have to do with how I would answer questions about my life and my responses and my reasons for going and doing this in a setting like this. If someone said, why did you start a school for your children and why did you do these things and why did you do that other thing?

I would hope that my answers would always come back to Christ because this is, we’re reflecting on our lives and we’re looking down on our lives sort of detached and we’re looking at years and decisions from a higher perspective. The way I’d illustrated is this. Suppose we’re in this room and we hear the screech of tires in a crash and someone says that a little girl’s been hurt out here, a car wreck, and we all run out there. And suppose I’m thinking at the time, this is great, I’m full of compassion. Look how fast I’m running. I’m running faster than everybody else. I’m wanting to get there first. I’m overflowing, I’m full of compassion. Well, if I were doing that, I’d be full of something, all right? But it wouldn’t be compassion because we are finite. And because we’re finite. If I’m doing a math problem, I have to think about the math problem. I can’t think about the math problem and Jesus. Or if I’m in an emergency, if I’m running into a burning building to rescue someone, I’m not thinking about the schematic diagram of the theology of the thing.

I’m loving my neighbor, which means that I’m not doing theology about loving my neighbor. So go back to this car accident, if I’m running out there thinking about anything except that little girl, then I don’t have love. In order to love my neighbor, I’ve got to be loving my neighbor. Now if I step out of that later and someone asks me questions about it, I can take that finite human act that I experienced as a total, a horizontal totality at the moment.

Joe Rigney: That’s all I was thinking about. But I was thinking about it in a certain way because of my Christian upbringing, because I’ve been prepared myself beforehand to respond in a certain way. All of those things are true, and I could reflect on them afterwards, after the point. But if I come to my child and say to one of my daughters, let’s say their little daughter, and I say, I love you with everything I’ve got because Jesus is making me, that is not going to fly as well as if I just say I love you. If I’m laughing in my, now it’s my grandkids. And if one of the toddlers is toddling around the living room and I’m just enjoying it, stop. All I’m describing, I’m not describing a worldview there. I’m simply describing a moment there. And I think that it’s the stop that makes that moment potent in that relationship.

Now, when I’m teaching my children or grandchildren or whatever later I would, when marriage seminars, I say, if your wife is number one in your life, she’s going to get shortchanged. Christ has to be number one. If she’s number two, she’s going to get more love than she would if she were number one. If you make an idol out of your kids or your grandkids or your family and put them in the position of number one in the ultimate, then you’re going to rob everybody because you’ve detached yourself from the source of all love, which means that you can’t love them. But when I’m connected to the source of all love, I can only think about so many things at a time and I’ve got to focus on what I’m doing and hopefully I’ve positioned that beforehand so that it’s operating in a Christian framework.

Joe Rigney: Okay. So what I hear there is you’re saying, and I think in one of the posts you mentioned something about anchor points. Creatures need anchor points. And so if you’re thinking about the moment, it’s okay to do full stop provided that there’s these periodic regular, I think you used Sunday morning worship and then sort of daily quiet time type examples where you’re going directly immediately Godwards. So I’m going vertical, I’m thinking about God, I’m in the worship moment. And then if those are there, then I’m sort of freed to engage with my wife, engage with my kids, so forth, full stop, just boom, because it’s punctuated by these directly Godward moments. And so when I think about that, the analogy I think of is when I’m eating dinner and I pray before the meal and I commend the time to God and I fellowship to God, and then I just eat and talk and then afterward I think, man, that was great. Thank you Lord for that time.

Douglas Wilson: Those are the anchor points.

Joe Rigney: So there’s anchor points at the front and the back end. So I just wanted to say, okay, that little model there to you, and maybe in the context of things that you’ve said about drinking orange juice to the glory of God and those sort of just daily, does that require me to, every time I take a sip, go up, go up, go up? Or is there this sort of momentary?

John Piper: Doug in distancing himself from that possibility I think uses character or strong men. I love you because he made me, nobody’s suggesting that, that’s a strong man. That’s that what we’re talking about. Coercion versus authenticity, that’s not the issue.

Douglas Wilson: That’s a fair point. That’s good.

John Piper: Nor is the issue here, I love you, and I need to add that God made you. I don’t think verbally, that’s the issue. That’s not the issue. Whether you need to verbalize that. The issue in that quote with the full stop is where does our delight terminate? Now, I think psychologically you’re making a totally valid point. Given my finitude and my fallenness and my selfishness and my materiality, all kinds of finiteness, I think that’s right. You cannot probably do a geometry problem or design things and be consciously God-focused all the time. Now my question is in saying that that would be a good thing, I think I’m saying something true and that I suspect.

Douglas Wilson: A good thing if you could do it at the same time?

John Piper: If you could do it. If I could be God focused and you focused simultaneously and God focused in you, the thickness of the you would not thin out in my being God focused, I would see God and see you for all that he made you. And I think what maturity in Christ is now and what we will be in the age to come probably means those won’t have to be kept as separate as they are now. So I’m just agreeing that those limitations that are on us now are there, and that’s reality. No, every sip, not a conscious thank you, won’t work because you’re probably talking to your wife or thinking about your worker, something else. But I don’t regard that as a necessary virtue to be pursued, it’s just a reality. And the more I can help people toward who knows what level of God consciousness, simultaneous with any given enjoyment of natural things, I want to take them there.

Joe Rigney: So there’s a difference between saying, because you said that the fact that we have to go Godward and then downward and Godward and horizontal, you used two different words, and I think it probably matters which one it’s owing to. If it’s owing to our finitude, to our creatureliness, then it seems like it’s just a feature of our existence that’s never going to go away no matter how big we get in the age to come. If it’s a function of our sin, then it’s something that I need to repent of.

John Piper: And I stumbled because I’m not sure. Included in finitude I simply meant bodies as we have them now, minds as we have them now. I don’t know what the resurrection body and mind will be capable of, but I’m inclined to think they’ll be capable of more God saturatedness in our thinking and seeing than we have now.

Douglas Wilson: And I agree with that, and I would agree, provided it’s not the kind of discipline anchor points where I need to touch base in this fallen world in my body. I need to touch base periodically. We say grace before meals. We begin each day with prayer. We touch—

Douglas Wilson: We say grace before meals. We begin each day with prayer. We touch home base to remind ourselves as I go through this next stretch and then we touch base again. Let’s imagine a mature saint in this life before the resurrection who’s lived in such a way that they’re God-saturated. You won’t have the sense that they’re touching base so much as that Christ’s presence pervades the whole. But the one other comment this dear brother Martin Luther, again, he discovered that it was impossible to give himself to prayers while he was making love to his wife. And I can’t believe you even tried.

John Piper: You really want to go there?

Joe Rigney: He did. You invited him.

John Piper: It depends on how long it lasts.

Douglas Wilson: That’s right. Never start something like that.

Joe Rigney: And we’re done. No.

Douglas Wilson: Don’t start.

John Piper: I told you, you didn’t want to go there.

Joe Rigney: It’s all folks.

Douglas Wilson: With Martin Luther, what you’ve got is this idea of touching base, sort of formal connection, formal invocation.

Joe Rigney: Conscious.

Douglas Wilson: Conscious.

Joe Rigney: Conscious or intentional Godward.

Douglas Wilson: But I don’t think anybody has any quarrel. I can’t see how anyone who loved God would have any quarrel with someone who is living in the fruit of the spirit all the time. All the time. And when they’re brought to their senses and asked a direct question, “Was Christ involved in that?” Well, yes, of course, but it’s not the formal anchor point. So when we’re talking about growth and maturity, the God-saturated-ness, which I hope that we will have in the resurrection, we’re not going to be, I don’t think, having to stop every seven times a day in the resurrection to remind ourselves that we’re still Christians.

Joe Rigney: Okay, so this is a question that’s related to these things. We’re running close to time. We got about 30 more minutes and I want to get to one or two other issues, but this is a more pastoral, practical question related to all of these things, and so I wonder how you would deal with this situation. You have someone, faithful Christian in your church who comes to you and says, “Okay, I’m sold on Christian Hedonism, sold on God’s passion for his glory, all of Christ, for all of life. And so I know that God loves me, enjoys me, delights in me for his glory. I know that he loves me, delights in me and enjoys me for the sake of Christ who is my righteousness. I know that. But does he just love me for me?” So they’re giving you the macro points, they’re giving you the, “I know all of that, but is there a sense, any sense in which just me as I am, does he just love me for me?”

Or maybe even a better way to put it would be, “Does he like me? Does he think my personality’s enjoyable? Does he delight in me?” And the reason I think about it that way is because I look at my sons. I’ve got two little boys and I look at them and think I love them overarching. For the sake of the glory of God, I hope and pray that one day, I’ll love them as brothers, but I like their personalities. I enjoy them for them in that sense. And so I’m wondering, I see how that relates father to son humanly speaking, is there an analog in that? Is that a picture of some sort between the way that God thinks about me? Because I think that there’s a pastoral question that people are coming. They’re not trying to be main center, they’re not trying to put me at the center of the universe. They just want to know, “Does God enjoy me and like me?” Whoever wants to go first can go first, but how would you talk to that person?

Douglas Wilson: The reason you can delight in your sons for themselves is because you’re not delighting in your own work. So when God delights in us, we are not independent of him or his will or his predestination. Everything that he’s delighting in comes back, as you’ve pointed out, to his own glory and his own pleasure for the good purpose of his will. So this goes back to the previous discussion. I’m fine. I’m limited. I can just get a blast out of one of my grandkids just doing because I’m watching something that I didn’t do. I’m partly responsible upstream a number of years ago.

Joe Rigney: You went there again.

Douglas Wilson: What? I didn’t. So I’m this child’s ancestor, but I’m not doing all this stuff. I can just delight in it and delight in the moment for its own sake, but that has to do with my finitude and my limitations. But when God delights in us, he rejoices over us with singing. In Luke it says there’s more joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents. In the presence of the angels, that’s God’s joy. God is rejoicing over the sinner who repents, but God who rejoices over the repentant sinner is rejoicing in his own work, in his own wisdom. So that’s at least a distinction that should be factored in.

John Piper: Two things. The second one will be more pastoral. First, more exegetical]. In Ephesians 5, we are being made beautiful because we are his body. We are being made beautiful so that he can delight in us because we are him. I think that text is one of the most amazingly. Christ is the hedonist in Ephesians 5 and he’s making a wife that he can delight in because he will conform her into his image and make her a perfect reflection of himself. And so with Romans eight, so I think that’s agreeing with what you said. Now, here’s the who person comes to me and says, “Does he delight in me” — and their voice is wavering — “just because of me?” Because they’ve just heard a sermon that’s big and global and all about the glory of God.

I think I would put my hand on her arm because it is usually her for me anyway, and I would say, “What would be the opposite of that? What are you feeling?” I want to dig in there a little bit because operating at the theoretical level at that moment. I got a theoretical answer to that question. That’s not, I don’t think, what she’s after. At least she doesn’t know quite. I want to know what’s the opposite of that for you, and she’ll probably start talking about some experiences which I’ll be able to affirm, probably, things that she needs, wants that are not evil and go there. But the answer is, “God is God, and you may not yet be at the point where you are most happy that he’s God. Your deepest happiness should be that God is God and that you get to know him and admire him. This is eternal life that you know me, you know God the Father and him with his Son.”

“And you still are so wounded from your upbringing that you believe right now your deepest need is for God to be affirming of who you are. It feels like the absolute gigantic need emotionally right now.” So I want to go there and affirm all that I can about what God will do about that. He’s caring, he’s attentive, he’s loving. He’s wise, he’s a there Father, but I do want to take her beyond that. I want her, in the end, to get to the point where there’s a robustness about her soul that says, “Come hell or high water, God is God and though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” And she’s not there. She’s just not there, and so giving her just a quick theoretical answer is not going to help her. So pastorally, that would be my effort.

Douglas Wilson: I agree with that. And I would distinguish to the two questions you said: “Does God like me?” and, “Does God care about me for me?” I would answer those two in this setting. Pastorally, I think that John’s right, that there’s something else going on there, but if someone asks, “Does God like us?” I would say, “Of course.” If God says, “Does God care about me for me?” I’d say, of course not, man.

John Piper: This is huge. This is worth lingering another one minute on. Theologically and experientially, most of us probably, generalization, walk with a sense of God’s disapproval. Theologically, it’s based on the fact that he’s perfect and I’m not, and he doesn’t like sin and I commit it regularly. None of my attitudes is without some element flaw. God is perfect, therefore he is always, I think this is a true statement, always looking upon me with disapproval. And if you stop there, that is the most oppressive, impossible, discouraging, blank way to live. You’re not going to look at any clouds if you’re feeling that all day.

Douglas Wilson: If God should mark in inequities, who could stand?

John Piper: So now what? Hebrews 12, God disciplines those whom he loves. And so our lives, I think, are shot through with God’s disciplines because of things he disapproves of in our life as a father. But, and this is where Noelle and I have just gone pretty deep trying to work through these things for each other, God never, ever, though he disapproves of any bad attitude that I have, he never looks upon me with contempt. He never looks upon me with contempt. And as I think of my fatherhood and its failures, that distinction, I often fail to make. The disapproval of my child’s behavior here is I observe it, they feel it.

They know, “Daddy doesn’t like this attitude. Daddy didn’t like what I just did.” Now, am I at that moment or have I set up such an atmosphere that they don’t feel contempt from me? I want both hands, I need both hands. That disapproval is couched, is swallowed up in this singing over me and dying for me and purchasing me and planting me in his son and conforming me to his image. All that grand, redemptive, affirming, delighting work can exist simultaneously with a God who’s infinitely perfect and the standards are infinitely high and therefore never met in this life. That’s really hard for our people to get. It’s hard for me to get. And yet I think—

Douglas Wilson: And that’s why justification is so crucial.

Joe Rigney: That’s helpful. I think that was a longer session than I anticipated, but I think it was really good. And there’s one or two other issues that I’d like to explore. So this is a 90 degree turn here for a minute, and it has to do with engaging broader issues outside the church, public square sorts of stuff, which both of you do. And so I have two questions in it. One is, John, you speak into certain public square issues, most notably I think racial harmony and the pro-life movement sermons every year for the past 26 some odd years, but it’s largely, those are the ones that are your issues that you speak to.

Doug, on the other hand, you are all over the map, but your blog, even sermons, everything from taxation, national debt, climate change, what have you, it shows up there. So I’m just wondering if you guys could give any reflections for pastors and maybe for Christians more broadly, perhaps, but mainly pastors, is there a reason or is one of those models better? Is it just you guys are different and so different ministries? And so Lord bless your right-handed fellowship and off you go. How do we think about that, that you go deep in one or two issues that are really big and you’ll say that those pro-life issues at the top of your list, but you’re doing a lot more?

Douglas Wilson: I would say that I feel constrained to address all these other issues. There’s so many shenanigans and corruptions and evil in so many areas. I feel constrained to address them, but I believe with all my heart it’s because the country was not listening to the sorts of things that John has been saying all these years. So if you prophetically address certain key issues and people respond at the time in the moment, you’re not going to have to deal with downstream corruptions. The things that are going on in Washington D.C. now would have astounded our fathers. Christian, non-Christian, Democrat, Republican, they would’ve been totally flummoxed at the trillions of dollars that we are stealing from our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s evil. It’s a moral issue. So I address those things because they’re moral issues.

I don’t believe I’m getting into politics. I believe that the state is getting into breaking every one of the Ten Commandments. And when the civil government comes over onto my turf, I’m a preacher. These are the commandments of God. “You shall not commit murder. You shall not steal.” All of these things that they’re enshrining, they’re redefining marriage, which is a violation of the prohibition of adultery, you name it. They claim to be God. All of these things are necessary for us to address and then we have to do the spade work and the thinking that goes to that.

But I believe that there’s certain root issues that anybody who addresses in principle any one of those issues from the pulpit is preserving the prophetic prerogative that I think the church must maintain for itself. So I have nothing but appreciation and respect for what John’s done, and I would say just do so more and more and that’s what we need because that’s where the principle is. If John the Baptist rebukes Herod for taking his brother’s wife, I don’t have any complaints against John the Baptist for not addressing other things that Herod may have done and I have no doubt that there were some.

John Piper: There’s really a simple and very encouraging answer, I think, from my orientation. There’s a principial one, but I would be flattering myself to say that it’s the reason. I’ll tell you anyway. I’m often, in reading news and blogs, tempted to make snide comments about the world and its folly on Twitter in particular, and I’ve just resolved it would dilute what I think Twitter should be for me. So I’ve just resolved, keep Twitter God-ward and here’s the real reason. Doug is smarter than I am and in this regard, he reads more and remembers more. I don’t understand the world. I really don’t understand the national debt. I try to read it and I say, “I don’t have time to read this stuff.”

Douglas Wilson: John, that’s not your problem. That’s their problem.

John Piper: But you understand.

Douglas Wilson: Trillions is a big number.

John Piper: You understand it enough to see a real moral issue and where it is. Frankly, I don’t know. I just say, “Okay, if I did that with my house, that would be a bad idea.” It’s like, “Don’t borrow that.” But on issue after issue, I read you and I’m thankful, so I’m not picking on you either. I’m thankful for your perceptivity. You have read more, you have thought more, you understand more, and therefore, you can comment on more with integrity. If I tried to go from issue to issue to comment, I’d have to take a two or three weeks sabbatical and read a book or two and then study some history, and then I might feel safe to understand this political orientation and why this doesn’t work. This is supposed to be encouraging. I really feel the reason my life is as narrow, simple, straightforward on a few things as it is because I’m a pretty limited guy. I left at the academic world largely because of my limitations academically, my reading limitations, my memory limitations. Like J.C. Ryle. Okay, here’s an example.

I dumped on you an hour and nine minutes of J.C. Ryle and you would say, “Goodness, gracious, did he have lots of quotes and he knows lots about J.C. Ryle.” You know what? In one year, I won’t be able to tell you one sentence of what I said. He, standing here a year from now, would be able to remember lots of quotes that I gave you probably. I watched him do it up here. He’s not taking any notes. While the speakers are down there, he’s sitting there and he’s quoting back to him what they said up here. I can’t remember what they said. Know who you are. Know who you are, light a torch and stick it in that oven. Just take that thing that you are and just stop trying to be Piper or Wilson out there and just inflame that thing that you are for Jesus’ sake. So really, I think if I could read as much as you read and remember as much as you remember, I would really make a pain of myself in the political sphere.

Joe Rigney: Amen. Okay, good. It’s different gifts, different callings. And so then the second issue, and I wanted to bring this up because I think the first time you guys met I think was about ten years ago at a league in your conference. And you were sitting on a panel, something like this, and you said something to him like, “I just wish there were more tears coming out of Moscow.” And you looked back at him and said, “If you only knew how much we were holding back,” and that’s ten years ago. And then last June, I remember seeing this. It was two blog posts. One you did and one you did, and I remember thinking that’s a good pairing for this sort of event. It was during the gay pride month and they were doing the march and all that sort of stuff.

And you wrote a post and the title of the post was something like “My Eyes Shed Streams of Tears — Thoughts on the New Calamity,” and you started talking about the institutionalization. The governor attended the march, and so just the embrace by the establishment of homosexuality and gay marriage and so forth and that lifestyle. And you just said, “My reason for writing is to help the church feel the sorrow of these days. In our best moments, we weep for the world.” So you did that. Meanwhile, right over on the worldwide web, if it’s possible for a man to put a fruit plate on his head, and it is, and it’s also possible for him to deck his tan little body out and lather in oil, and it is, and possible for him to gyrate that little body on a float cruising down Main Street, USA, and it is then we should consider three possible responses and reject another one, and it got better from there. And so phrases like fruity contributions from the homo-hipsters, the femmy, flannery, fanboys, militant homos, pomo poofters. What they’ll say?

Douglas Wilson: I was holding back.

Joe Rigney: No. I know. I know. So one’s an accident, two’s a trend, three’s a problem. And so I’m looking at that, weeping tears because of this and mocking. So ten years on or so since you guys got to know each other, this is maybe a good place to end. I’d just like to hear thoughts on that. Are those both good models, different models? How should we think about reading and engaging with that?

Douglas Wilson: I’d like to go first on that. John’s response is one that I am in sympathy with, am grateful for. I believe that Jesus wept over Jerusalem, Paul said that with tears that many are enemies of the cross of Christ. I believe that the body of Christ at large must show compassion for these people who are like sheep without a shepherd and it’s a disaster, and so I have zero objection to John’s response and I have similar responses. Also, in our ministry when I’m preaching, there have been plenty of times where I’ve encountered that kind of thing or responded that way. I have no objections to it whatever. There’s a difference between, in my thinking, and this is what I tried to lay out in the serrated edge, I don’t believe that satire is a one size fits all response. I believe it’s appropriate in some cases and totally inappropriate in others.

You don’t mock people in their grief. You don’t mock people in their pain. If you’re dealing with human wreckage, you don’t do that, but when you’re dealing with priests of Baal who are dancing around an altar, cutting themselves with knives. If you’re dealing with the people who are doing the gay pride parade thing, you’re dealing with a certain level of arrogance and insolence and hubris that the last thing in the world they would want to hear is someone. I think in that post I said, “The last thing they would want to hear is the sound of my lonely kazoo.” I’m not going to give them the seriousness with, “They’re leading people astray.”

But I’m not mocking them because I don’t care about the people they’re hitting, the people they’re harming, the people they’re hurting. So I believe that this, as funny as it may sound, this is a giftedness issue. I think some people are called to be Jeremiahs and they’re just called to be weeping prophets, and I think others are called to sometimes be partly that and partly something else. Elijah is different than Amos is different than Isaiah is different than Jeremiah, and I have nothing but respect for people who can weep over Jerusalem. But the man who wept over Jerusalem was the same one who made fun of their flowing robes, their phylacteries, their haircuts or whatever else. He said some things at their expense.

John Piper: Yes, absolutely. Two things. In the early days, as I read Credenda/Agenda, not knowing Doug at all, all I read was satire. And I didn’t know if he was a cynic at heart and I didn’t like the tone of it. It didn’t feel pastoral and I didn’t know him as a pastor and never anything else. And I think 99 percent satire is unwise and I don’t think that is your life as a pastor and as a husband. So that’s the first thing. My take after years of awareness is that you’re not at root a cynic. You’re not at root ugly, mean-spirited, bitter, but robustly, jovially, passionately in hatred of sin and love of God and all the delights that hate at sin destroys. And so I don’t stumble as much as I used to, and I don’t know if you got the proportion right yet.

Douglas Wilson: Working on it, working on it.

John Piper: But here’s probably the reason I say what I say and it’s, again, rooted in my weaknesses. I don’t buy gum because, like I said last Sunday, I chew the whole pack in a minute. My first reaction to the gay pride is disgust and to go where you wind up with eloquence. I know that my first reaction is not as loving as I’d like it to be. I feel like in my first reaction, there is truth and wisdom there. I think disgust is appropriate, but knowing myself, I’m also sinning because the movement from disgust to go to hell is slippery and near and go to hell is a sin, to say that, I think. That is not to want them to be saved and I do want them to be saved. So I rescue myself from myself by making myself write those things.

That is I go to my knees and I say, “God, I’m not feeling that way. Would you help me to feel more compassion?” Because people whose first reaction are making me so angry and what they’re destroying in this world, I don’t even want my children to know the word queer or gay or homosexual when they’re eight years old. They shouldn’t even have to deal with that and on and on and on. So I try to pull back and say, “God teach me other things about capacities in me. I want to treat my wife more compassionately, my daughter more compassionately, my church.” So a lot of my bent is running away from a sinful side of me and protecting myself from it.

I really do believe Doug is a healthier person than I am in significant ways and I could point to other people. I think Mark Dever. Hi, Mark, if you ever listen to this. Mark just strikes me as being so free from the kinds of inner introspective turmoils that are from who knows where inside of me, that he can just say things much more quickly and easily, and I’m always second-guessing my motives. Therefore, I’m leaning towards trying to become a more compassionate person than a more cleverly indicting person because I think that would come pretty naturally to me. Whereas I don’t think Doug is wired in such a way that to write what he wrote there is nearly so much a temptation to be sinful as it would be for me.

Joe Rigney: That’s helpful. Well, I want to thank you both for participating in this. This has been really helpful, I hope, for all of you, and thank you for sticking around. And John, I just wonder if you’d pray to close us out.

John Piper: And before I pray, this group is left. Thank you for being here. When we’re done with this prayer, we’re done with the conference, really done, and so this is my last opportunity to say thank you. We’re really, really happy you were here. May God grant us to apply what we’ve heard.