Saturday, July 31, 2010

Holy Means Whole: According to Dr. John Piper

For a seminary class I am taking as part of my post-graduate degree program, I ran across the following quote from one of my professors in college, who is now pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN. He, in The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, says:

The reasoning goes like this: The ultimate value in the universe is God - the whole panorama of all of his perfections. Another name for this is God's holiness (viewed as the intrinsic and infinite worth of his perfect beauty) or God's glory (viewed as the out-streaming manifestation of that beauty). Therefore, "right" must be ultimately defined in relation to this ultimate value, the holiness or the glory of God - this is the highest standard for "right" in the universe. Therefore, what is right is what upholds in proper proportion the value of what is infinitely valuable, namely, God (p. 64).

He says this in the context of defining what righteousness means. In the end, I think his definition of righteousness falls a little short, because he leaves out the idea of holiness and only speaks of God's glory, but in this portion of his paragraph I agree wholeheartedly with his meaning for holiness.

On careful reading, his definition is: "the whole panorama of all his perfections" as the other "name for this is God's holiness." This sounds like it could have come right out of Jonathan Edwards, who I know Dr. Piper is fond of reading, and likely also from the influence of Edwards' writing, The Religious Affections.

Notice also that he says that "this ultimate value" is "the holiness or glory of God," if you read carefully. So I could not agree more with him as one of my early teachers in college on his understanding of holiness. Yet the unfortunate thing in the end is that he does not develop his meaning for holiness further in his final definition of righteousness, but drops it in favor of the word "glory."

This is likely due to his commitment to the words from the Westminster confession that: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." This apparently causes him to veer slightly from good exegesis and powerful biblical theology. Yet he comes so close.

That in turn would seem to cause him to miss out on all the implications that are possible from his definition of holy in understanding the whole of Scripture and in the actual understanding of ourselves and our lives. This is why our commitment must be to God's word as our final authority, even while understanding the value of a connection with other believers accross the ages. Notice that I value both. Both can assist each other as long as we understand that our first commitment is to God, but also that it would be silly to think of ourselves as only ones with that commitment.

In Christ,