I honor Pastor John Piper. I respect his wisdom. I have learned from and highly value his winsome presentation of the Gospel. I admire his passion and his courage.
I have learned a great deal from him intellectually and spiritually in my almost 15 years at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I would never belittle or lessen what he has taught me or the debt I owe him personally.
But I have to take exception, at least in part, with this:
It's a little under 4 minutes, please listen to it first if you want to read what I've written in response.
Here's the problem.
If there is something in what Pastor John says here about the Achilles heel of this my generation, it has to be understood in a much more important context.
He addresses a discontinuity between this generation's admiration of the majesty of God and "big appetites for beer ... the lure of pornography ... the carelessly attended, default weekend movie ... hip huggers and plunging necklines." I'm certainly with him on pornography and taken to a certain extent I am with him on the others.
But there is something behind the tone and the level of concern in light of other concerns that could very well be coming from what was and remains the Achilles heel of his generation - a discontinuity between a verbal, emotional and real admiration of the grace of God and an attachment to a culture of moral fundamentalism that makes that grace all but null in the practical life of the Christian, a discontinuity between an admiration of what Christ did on the cross and a near complete failure to apprehend the freedom for which we have been set free by that very work of our Savior.
None of us is less than a product of his or her generation. Hopefully we are each of us more, but none of us is less. And if what Pator John is saying here is significantly influenced by something wrong with the culture of his own generation, that must be taken carefully, wisely and humbly into account when thinking about how to respond to his admonition.
Personally, at this point in the development of Evangelical culture, I fear far more things like the "Modesty Checklist" put out by Sovereign Grace ministries (C.J. Mahaney) or the "Modesty Survey" done by the kids at Rebelution than I do of a whole pitcher of Guinness or a double matinee of The Dark Knight and WALL-e. Both of the former have circulated at our church and very little of the latter.
No matter how you cut it or qualify it, projects such as the "Modesty Checklist" and "Modesty Survey" are oppressive in practice if not in theory. They de facto help sustain a fundamentalist culture in the Evangelical church, a culture of timidity, fear, and pseudo-morality to which our hearts are as wrongly bent as they are to overindulgence and perhaps more dangerously so. I've seen and felt this since the "Modesty Checklist" was passed out a couple years ago at our church. You can't walk into church without sub-consciously looking for 'violations' in the back pew. Read some of the text responses to the "Modesty Survey" and look at the ages of the individuals responding and then ask yourself, "Is this what we want our men, young or old, thinking about and dwelling upon?" Personally, I find it almost repulsive. It was not the leaven of the tax-collectors and prostitutes against which Christ warned his disciples.
So, yes, there may be some truth to what Pastor John is saying in this clip. And if you are an overindulgent, do-nothing loafer from Gen-X or Y or whatever the next Gen is, then you should repent, get up off the couch and start working for the Kingdom.
Nor am I accusing my Pastor of being so attached to that old culture of moral fundamentalism as to be an enemy of the gospel - though I think some who are more significantly attached are just that (see the passage below). In fact, though a vigorous teetotaler himself, Pastor John was responsible for taking that requirement out of our church covenant - for which I thank him.
I realize, also, that there is a place for preaching that highlights the transforming work of Christ in the individual such that we can "no longer live as the Gentiles do". Properly understood, that is the outworking of being indwelt by the Spirit and endowed with freedom and power from on high.
But I can't escape the conviction that Pastor John is speaking with at least a few toes in the older American-Christian moral framework into which he was born, in which he was raised and out of which he has come to some extent but to which I will never return even in part.
I've been there. I've experience that culture's degradation of grace and diminution of Christian liberty. I could never walk back in without betraying all Christ has graciously taught me in the past 15 - 20 years.
I've talked to several elders at my church and to Pastor John himself about this. It's a huge concern to me. This issue, what the Evangelical Christians of the so-called Generation X and Generation Y decide to do with our moral framework, will have a serious impact upon the future of Christianity.
Will we become enslaved once again to an old legalism that suffocates the practical implications of grace? Will we become libertines and so give our elders something at which to exclaim, "See, we told you so"?
Or can we find a way to praise God and pour another pint at one and the same time?
I would be curious to hear what others have to say in answer to this question.
1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. 11 Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!