October 22, 2020

The iMonk Weekend File: 2/5/05

belushi1941.jpgShould I say I have been O-verblogged with O-pinion about O-steen? Has my blog become the “Story of O?” ‘Tis true. The many deeds of Prosper-O hath made my island a regular traffic jam this week. But I press on, even if J-O can’t be distracted, and the O-Dogg still be rappin’, yappin’ and clappin’ ’bout dem postive confessions.

Join me inside for this week’s Internet Monk Weekend file, first weekend of February edition.

1. Good books on The Gospel: With all the Osteen chatter, I kept thinking that I needed to list some books on the Gospel. If you read the discussion threads, you will understand that the basic understanding of the Gospel among many Christians is non-existent. Reading and listening to the output of modern evangelical publishers, musicians and unfortunately preachers, the Gospel is small and nearly invisible.

There are books that remedy this. Not books on Christian basics, but books on The Gospel itself. I’ll suggest several different books, at different levels.

Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray. As good a basic book on the heart of the Gospel as was ever written. An essential book. Every pastor and teacher should have it on hand. When I meet a Reformed preacher who understands the Gospel, this book is a favorite.

Today’s Gospel, Walter Chantry. A tiny book that has challenged many to examine the Arminian, revivalistic Gospel that has taken over evangelicalism. An excellent wake up call.

Tell the Truth, Will Metzger. While this is a book about evangelism, it becomes one of the best books on the Gospel you will ever read. It tends towards a “Gospel Presentation,” but there is nothing wrong with that. It is very helpful if you are a communicator. (As Gospel presentations go, I endorse Two Ways To Live.)

Believers Need the Gospel, Peter Jefferey. A small book that makes a point many of my Osteen commenters need to hear: The Gospel is the center of the Christian life, not just the beginning. The idea that Christians move on to “deeper, more practical” truths is deadly.

The Cross Centered Life, C.J. Mahaney. It is what it says it is.

Jerry Bridges is a superb writer on the Gospel. If you don’t have them, add Transforming Grace and The Gospel for Real Life to your library.

Jim Berekley has written a fine introduction to the Gospel that really impresses me. Essential Christianity. Definately for non-Christians.

Well, there’s a start. Not theological heavy weights. Just books that would help my readers be well grounded in the heart of our faith.

2. A New Piper Product that looks exciting: I am greatly influenced by Dr. John Piper’s theology of Christian Hedonism. So I am always looking for ways to introduce others to this God-centered theology. Desiring God is the best way, but few will read it. The small version, Dangerous Duty of Delight, is more likely to be read, but doesn’t have the pages to answer the many questions that arise. There is an audio seminar on Christian Hedonism, with a Study Guide, but I found it a bit too interested in chasing rabbits (probably due to the fact it was a class at Piper’s Church, where the basics are well known.)

So I am very happy to see an eight session DVD presentation called The Blazing Center: The Soul Satisfying Supremacy of God in All Things, which apparently is a new introduction to Christian Hedonism, with a bunch of free leaders resources available at the web site. This presentation was for a youth retreat and I can see some mixing of other important Piper messages in the set. I have just ordered them and will let you know what I think, but it looks like the introduction I have been waiting for.

3. Larry King/Joel Osteen Parody: If you have no sense of humor, leave now……..yes…..you in the blue shirt. That means you……thank you.

I have a minor gift for parody. I get the voice and manner of Larry King in my head and things get weird. So I penned this small part of a transcript of Larry King interviewing the O-Man. It’s a parody….so don’t sent me hate mail.

Speaking of the O-train, check out Tim Challies and Phillip Winn’s (Part 1 and Part 2) posts. Both excellent. Phillip was in and around the Word Faith Movement for years.


  1. Great parody interview with Larry King/Joel Osteen! Your Best Friends Wife… too funny. Only a rat bastard like you could come up with something like this, Mike! We have to laugh about this stuff at some point or we’ll all go nuts. Thanks!

  2. Jim GIeseke says

    Yes, the parody is excellent.

    With regards to Piper, not everyone shares your enthusiasm for Piper. There are some critiques located at http://www.thefaithfulword.org/. There used to be a fairly stinging critique of Piper at http://www.c-r-n.org.uk/, but I cannot get that link to work. I saved that article on my other computer’s hard drive.

    I am not equipped to offer my own analysis of what bothers me about Piper (not on short notice, anyway – I would have to read thousands of pages and I cannot think as fast or as good as Mr. Spencer), but just thought in fairness that readers should be aware that there are some concerns.

    Jim Gieseke
    Houston, Texas

  3. If they read my linked piece, they will read my criticisms.

    The only critiques I am aware of are from…

    Non Calvinists who don’t like Calvinists. (yawn)
    People who think the term “Christian Hedonist” isn’t helpful.
    People who side with the Openness guys.
    Folks- like me- with a quibble or two with various things.

    Piper doesn’t have anything going to fan much of a critical flame. Once you figure out that he’s a Calvinist, he uses his own terms to translate the theology of Edwards, and he’s intense, maybe too much so at times, that’s about it.

  4. I am certainly one of the people who does not share your enthusiasm for Mr. Piper’s teachings.

    I recently read an article by John Piper, “Tsunami and Repentance” at http://www.desiringgod.org/library/fresh_words/2005/010505.html. After reading the article I felt several emotions, but the primary ones were anger and sorrow. I was angry that he would propound what I consider offensive and sorrowful that so many people that follow him would consider and even believe what he had written.

    Piper states:
    “The point of every deadly calamity is this: Repent. Let our hearts be broken that God means so little to us. Grieve that he is a whipping boy to be blamed for pain, but not praised for pleasure. Lament that he makes headlines only when man mocks his power, but no headlines for ten thousand days of wrath withheld. Let us rend our hearts that we love life more than we love Jesus Christ. Let us cast ourselves on the mercy of our Maker. He offers it through the death and resurrection of his Son.”

    The above paragraph is only a sample of what I find disconcerting about Mr. PiperÂ’s article.

    After reading the whole article I remember thinking, “Does God have such low self-esteem that everyone must love Him or worship Him or He will send some deadly calamity their way? Mr. Piper makes God seem like a young child who throws a tantrum when they don’t get their way. For example, “You had better love me and worship me or something bad is gong to happen to you.” To me that type of thinking leads to superstitious beliefs and a life that responds to God out of utter fear rather than love.

    Mr. Piper makes it seem like God sends us deadly calamities for our own good and then is pleased when we turn to Him for help getting though the calamity that He sent in the first place. That type of action sounds curiously like Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, where a parent causes harm to a child and then gets some secret satisfaction from helping take care of the child they hurt in the first place.

    Please tell me that you donÂ’t subscribe to the same belief as Mr. Piper.

  5. I certainly don’t subscribe to your adjectives, and I don’t think you really have a feel for Piper as a pastor by reading one piece.

    Your paragraphs don’t resonate with me, but I don’t think they resonate much with the view of God’s soveriegnty that Piper is operating from. The Westminister Confession says:

    >I. God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

    II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, as that which would come to pass, upon such conditions.

    Your outrage is at a very one-dimensional view of Piper’s statement. HE SAID that God’s word to us in any tragedy is to turn from sin and trust in Christ. YOU SAID God was torturing us into worship out of low self esteem.

    I assume that you understand the phrases “second causes” in the WCF? In this instance that means that God ordained these events, but he also ordained everything in these events, from the natural causes of an earthquake, to the laws of physics to the limitations of the human body to the freedom to choose where we spend vacation or what we do when the tide runs backward.

    And Piper is saying that God also ordains that natural evil send us the message that we are mortal and need to prepare to meet a holy God.

    If you are outraged, I would suggest you have two choices:

    1) Eliminate God’s sovereignty and become a deist or a process theologian. Read Kushner’s WHy Bad Things Happen to Good People and conclude that God couldn’t stop these events.

    2) Become an atheist and then there is no reason to be outraged. It’s just nature being nature and there is no meaning at all.

    C.S. Lewis said that Pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Thousands of Christian have written that the mystery of suffering is a mystery, but the purposes of God are plain. We do not know why Tsunami’s happen, but if we believe in the sovereign God of the Bible who took responsibility for all natural calamities as demonstrations of his power, then you are left with a certain amount of outrage at God. It’s in the Psalms. It’s in the same Bible that says God is speaking to human beings in the midst of this fallen world, calling them to himself.

    It is certainly possible to read Piper and be offended on this. I have another suggestion. Google Piper’s 9-11 messages: Sorrow, Self-Humbling and Steady Hope. Read those and see what you think.

    I have said WAY too much. Sorry.

  6. Wow, I can see I touched a nerve with you concerning John Piper.

    I have read more than one thing from John Piper. I know that he is a staunch Calvinist and I confess that I believe Calvinism is wrong. There is no question that clouds my opinion of his teachings.

    I am not a theologian and never will be. I am not familiar with the Westminster confession. I am not trying to persuade anyone to come over to my way of thinking. I am just hoping that people will think about and question what Piper says without automatically assimilating it.

    I am just a single soul trying to find peace in the contradictions, and believe me I see lots of contradictions where God is concerned.

    I have searched for years for answers concerning God, but I haven’t been able to find any satisfactory answers.

    I did read Piper’s sermon on 9-11, but again it engendered no hope or comfort for me.

    I wish I could say I find Christianity comforting but I don’t. I find it more tormenting than anything else. I heard a saying once that went something like this, “If you have never been angry at God or never questioned Him, maybe you have never encountered Him.” It seems that I encounter Him every day.

    Regardless, I will keep on searching, and questioning, and being angry with God more often than not, and hope in the end that He will have mercy on my soul.

  7. Christians don’t look at the explanations of theologians or at the words of those who claim to know the thoughts of God.There is only one kind of knowledge about God: Jesus.

    Read what Jesus said in John 9 about a man born blind. No explanations. Mercy.

    The cross, the incarnation: that is all God shows us, and the rest is us mumbling.

  8. Calvinism isn’t the Gospel GBaker. And if you go down into the basement of theological discussions, you probably won’t see the light of the Gospel. If you are still trying to find the light of the good news, find Christians talking about Jesus, not tsunamis

    If you are trying to get a reason WHY for suffering in your life or the lives of those you love, all I can tell you is read Romans 8. The cross is the heart of God, and we don’t find any explanations past that. Spurgeon said when we cannot trace his hand, we trust his heart.

    Christianity isn’t an explanation for evil. It is Jesus dead and raised, for us.

  9. So Mr Baker, your logic is, I assume, that if it doesn’t make you feel good, therefore it is wrong?

  10. Jim GIeseke says

    I also must confess that I am not fond of Piper (I am not even Calvinist!), but GBaker’s complaint about Piper’s Tsunami comments are not well taken and now I find myself speaking up for Piper.

    The very best sermon I ever heard on the subject of catastrophe was from R. C. Sproul which I heard after the September 11 incident. In it, Sproul was expositing Luke 13, where Jesus is asked about two separate catastrophes which had occurred at that time, one the collapse of a tower on some innocents, the other the slaughter of some worshippers by Pilate. Jesus gives a cryptic answer: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans because they suffered such things? I tell you, No. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” The parable which follows makes interesting reading as well. It appears that Jesus is turning the tables on the questioners from “Why did this happen to those poor innocent people” (a question which God often chooses not to answer, at least not immediately) to “Why are YOU still here and what are you going to do about it”.

    Piper’s answer appears to me to be in keeping with the answer Jesus gave in Luke 13.

    Am I missing something here?

    Jim Gieseke
    Houston, Texas

  11. Jim GIeseke says

    Mr. Spencer had written that the only critiques of Piper which he was aware of were from:

    1. Non-Calvinists who don’t like Calvinists.
    2. People who think the term “Christian Hedonist” isn’t helpful.
    3. People who side with the Openness guys.
    4. Folks- like me- with a quibble or two with various things.

    Booth, whose link I gave, certainly does not find the term “Christian hedonism” helpful, but I doubt he falls into any of the other categories. The other critique I mentioned, which I located on my hard drive, was entitled “The Mysterious Case of the Compulsion to Defend John Piper (when everyone already seems to love him)”, by Peter Glover. Glover is decidedly Calvinist and hardly open. I think he had a problem with Piper’s flirtation with the Toronto Blessing. In addition, Peter Masters, current pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London has written a critique of some of Piper’s writings, and there are some book reviews at Gary Gilley’s Southern View Chapel web site which appear substantive.
    There is a short list of criticisms at a Reform church web site from Singapore.

    Now, as an aside, as to the first category of critics, “Non-Calvinists who hate Calvinists”:

    1. Shame on them thar non-calvinists. They should not hate people for whom Christ died. Indeed, God so loved the world, and I am sure that this includes Calvinists, too. 🙂

    2. Down here in Texas we absolutely love Calvinists. The local varieties are quite large and have nasty dispositions, making them difficult to catch and dangerous when cornered, but it is worth the effort as they make right tasty eating. Since they are now off the endangered species list they can be found in many parts of the state and there is a limited season on them though you must obtain a license from the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

    Jim Gieseke (who probably will regret having attempted humor on the imonk’s turf, writing from Houston, Texas)

  12. Just wanted to say I appreciate your list of books which clearly explain the gospel.

    I haven’t read Redemption Accomplished and Applied by John Murray [note that there is a Pentecostal book which has swiped his title, btw] but realise I need to.

    And in the link to Believers Need the Gospel, there is this terrific justifcation for publishing the book:

    Whether you have been saved for two weeks or twenty years, we all need to regularly hear the message of the cross and the grace and love of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. We need it because everything else in the Christian life flows out of it and depends upon it for freshness and vitality. That’s why there’s nothing more thrilling to a believer than to hear the gospel preached in the power of the Holy Spirit. It melts the heart and stirs the soul-and may even cause him or her to want, if it were possible, to be converted all over again.

    It was worth reading your weekend blog, just to read that paragraph.

    Oh, yeah. About John Piper. I don’t agree with everything he says and does. I think he sometimes forces everything into “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” but his system of theology contains a lot more of the bible’s diverse strands than most other preachers’.

  13. I really think you’re off base about Joel Osteen. Nevertheless, since you’ve asked that we blog about Joel Osteen, I obliged you by doing so at my blog.


  14. Protagonist,
    I read your blog. I am glad that God saw fit to use such ignoble means to reveal himself to you. That doesn’t make them right. The word/faith prosperity gospel has things backwards. He didn’t redeem you to material prosperity in this world. He redeemed you to share in His suffering.

  15. God did not make man to suffer! Not the God I know and worship!

    Do God a favor and never say that again where a non-Christian could hear it.

  16. Clark Bunch says

    Dear Protagonist,

    “I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his suffering, and be like him in his death.”
    Phil 3:10 (New Century Version)

    Paul explains here and other epistles that if we die with Christ, we shall also be raised with him. If we suffer with Christ and for Christ’s sake in this life, we will share glory with him in heaven. Christ warned living the Christian life would lead to persecution by the world the same way that Christ was persecuted by the world. God did not make man to suffer, you’re right. But if you follow Christ and preach the gospel, you will suffer in this life, in a world that is not our home.

  17. Clark Bunch says

    iMonk, you’re right; you do have a talent for parody. You know who could use a person with those talents? Saturday Night Live. They’ve lost all sense of direction. Send your King/Osteen parody attached to a resume.

    (Trying to keep it light, iMonk.)

  18. Clark,

    In the verse you pointed out, in the original Greek, “suffering” is [to patho, tou pathmou]. The “suffering” defined in this word is a specific accident or misfortune, not a long drawn out process. In this verse, Paul is referring to Christ’s death on the cross, and that Paul, too, foresees that he will be martyred.

    In the New Testament, occurrences of “suffer” can mean either to endure, put up with, wait on (greek: hypomenomai, stego) or to mourn with someone or empathize with someone (greek: sumpascho). But whenever the New Testament conveys the concept of “suffer” as we commonly understand it (greek: pascho), it is ALWAYS SUFFERING AT THE HANDS OF OTHERS. In other words, Christian Suffering = Persecution by the Ungodly. Never will you find physical pain or mental anguish, in and of itself, to be a godly act. Other occurrences of “suffer” mean either to endure, put up with, wait on (greek: hypomenomai, stego) or to mourn with someone or empathize with someone (greek: sumpascho).

    In other words–I hate using this analogy–a New Testament Christian would be a Ned Flanders: Blessed by God for his well doing, but constantly suffering harassment from the Homer Simpsons of the world.

    I also object to “suffering” morality in principle as being, admittedly, anti-life. If the purpose of morality is make men temporally suffer, then your morality is completely useless in a pragmatic sense, divorced from that which would keep people biologically alive, let alone keep them in a state where they would live well, or even want to be alive. That kind of “Christianity” is not martyrdom at the hands of infidels, but a slow suicide. We also have as our model Old Testament Law, which clearly gives material rewards for being good, as well as material curses for being bad. (see e.g. Deuteronomy 28).

    I believe we, along with Mr. Spencer, would agree with this in a general sense–what philosophers call a “benevolent universe”.

  19. I went through this logic a number of years ago. I used to believe that the NT mention of suffering was solely in reference to persecution.

    The key here is the book of Job. Job loses everything he has and is reduced to scraping his sores on a rubbish heap.

    Why has this occurred? Is it via the random acts of the world? No. The suffering has a satanic origin. In the introduction to Job, we see Satan and God in dialogue. God allows Satan to do what he wants but not to kill him. Everything that Job suffers is from Satan.

    I eventually realised that all forms of suffering – from the overt attack upon the church to catching a cold – could be considered as a form of satanic persecution. Moreover, the fact that God allowed this to happen to Job also means that it could happen to us.

    I find it very difficult to understand why God would save our souls freely without any need for us to do works, and yet in order to gain a lesser part of God’s grace (health and wealth), we have to earn it.

    I just recently had a conversation with a word/faith protagonist at Wikipedia. In it I examine some of the important verses in the Bible that w/f people use to justify their position. If you read what I have written, then go back to your Bible and check it with the Greek, you’ll discover that word/faith teaching is heterodox.


  20. astheneo – to be weak, to be ill.

    Matthew 25:36 “I was sick and you visited me.” – not you came and healed me.

    Philippians 2:25-27. Epaphroditus almost died from his illness, but God had mercy on him and he lived. Notice that Paul did not speak about positive confession here – he expected Epaf to die and praised God that it was God’s will that he be healed.

    2 Timothy 4:20 Paul leaves Trophimus ill at Miletus. If illness is something no Christian can have, then why does he record this information? He is merely letting Timothy know that Trophi was sick. Why? Because it was not an uncommon occurrence.


    Daniel 8:27 Daniel falls ill after seeing a vision.

  21. (1) You’re forgetting the most important aspect of Job: That in the end, he had double the blessing he had before, and a few months of suffering sandwiched between a hundred’s year life of blessing.

    (2) You’re all knocking down a strawmen by assuming that any and all of these beliefs are mine. Yes, there are prayers that God will not answer and people he will not heal. If it were otherwise, it would be “immoral” for a Christian to die to have any misfortune occur to him. I simply believe that God can, will, and wants to have his children lead a good life, in every sense. You can’t treat “the faith movement” like some party platform from which no member deviates.

  22. The apostle James tells us to REJOICE — to count it all JOY — when we face trials and tests. We are told various times in the scriptures, particularly the epistles, that hardships build patience and character, that they lead us to more steadily and closely trust and follow God.
    It may not be out of line (though I admit it sounds sort of glib) to say that suffering is a GOOD thing for us as Christians. In other words, what we see as “good things” and “bad things” happening to us — the important thing is how we respond to them. Whether we allow them to teach us or whether we don’t.
    I admit that I don’t always immediately rejoice when bad things happen to me. But in hindsight, I realize that those times of turmoil and suffering were times in which the Lord was drawing me to a nearer walk with Him, and was refining me — through fire, since that’s how refining’s done. Looking back, I CAN rejoice in those times. ALL things work together for good to those who love God and are called for his purposes — including pain, including turmoil, including DEATH.
    It’s also helpful to remember Jesus’ comments on how difficult it is for prosperous people to enter the kingdom of God …
    To encapsulate, to say “God did not make man to suffer!” is to ignore the biblical teaching of suffering as a teacher, as a GOOD thing. Do I want to suffer? Of course not. But I know it’s necessary if I am to grow.
    Thanks to everyone for the dialogue and to the I. Monk for his efforts and steadfastness.

  23. Protagonist,

    I’m sorry if we have treated you like a “Straw man” but the fact is that you did not qualify your beliefs. You have come across as a “typical word of faither”. Now you say that God doesn’t always heal people. Can you explain your position further? If God doesn’t promise to heal us of our physical ailments then why are we discussing this?

  24. I have qualified my beliefs, quite thoroughly, on many subjects, at my blog. It’s the best explaination of my psycho-epistomological-philosophical-theological-spiritual guide I can give you at the moment. If and when I ever write my all-encompassing manifesto, it won’t be for the benefit of this comment section.

    If I’ve upsetted you expectations as a “typical word of faither”, then perhaps the problem is not with my position, but your expectation of it. I’m no novice in biblical theology, and I know God’s presence and voice when I feel it and hear it. I got that way by spending the formative years of my Christian walk watching TBN. I don’t agree 100% with what they say. I don’t agree 100% with anybody! But from their God-breathed teachings, I grew in the Lord enough to discern God’s word and Man’s word and find real wisdom and real happiness in life.

  25. Subjectivity

  26. Discernment, disaggregation and logic.

  27. “Do you see what happens Larry? Do you See what happens? This is what happens when…”

  28. The parody is killer!! Keep em coming, Michael.

    Enough with Piper, already. Christian Hedonism is like the hulahoop, fun for a while, but once you figure it out and realize there is more to God than the pursuit of pleasure, it begins to look like a gaudy plastic toy. I read Booth’s stuff on “Is God a Hedonist” and it rings more true from Scripture than hedonism ever did.