Thursday, September 07, 2006

Matthew Green's Apologies And Other Comments

Matthew Green of Debunking Christianity has posted an article with some apologies and some further criticisms of John Piper, J.P. Holding, and Steve Hays. All of us sin in our treatment of other people at times, and apologizing is difficult to do. There are some commendable elements of Matthew's article, but I don't accept his assessment of John Piper, J.P. Holding, or Steve Hays.

He seems to be particularly upset with J.P. Holding, to the point of overestimating his faults and underestimating his strengths frequently and to a large degree. Remember, it was just recently that Matthew radically changed the nature of his public comments about J.P. Holding. I haven't said or suggested that I agree with J.P. Holding on every issue. I don't think I need to include qualifiers about my degree of approval of a source every time I link to something that source has written. I don't claim that J.P. Holding is sinless or correct on every issue, but I hold a far higher view of him than Matthew Green does, and I think I've been reading his material and have been in correspondence with him longer than Matthew has.

Regarding John Piper, I consider him one of the best Christians of our generation, and anybody significantly familiar with his ministry should realize that he has commendable motives in writing a book like the one Matthew has criticized. I'll close with a few sections of that book that I quote in my article, the article that Matthew has been criticizing. I think that these segments of his book give us an indication of why John Piper would want people to do more with their lives than play softball and collect seashells:

Oh, that young and old would turn off the television, take a long walk, and dream about feats of courage for a cause ten thousand times more important than American democracy - as precious as that is....

Christ came and died and rose again in order to gather a joyful, countless company for his name from all the peoples of the world. This is what every Christian should dream about....

This is God's design in world history - that people from all nations and tribes and languages come to worship and treasure Christ above all things. Or as Paul put it in Romans 15:9, "that the Gentiles [all the peoples] might glorify God for his mercy." There can be no weary resignation, no cowardly retreat, and no merciless contentment among Christ's people when he is disowned among thousands of unreached peoples....

Let love flow from your saints, and may it, Lord, be this: that even if it costs our lives, the people will be glad in God. "Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy." Take your honored place, O Christ, as the all-satisfying Treasure of the world. With trembling hands before the throne of God, and utterly dependent on your grace, we lift our voice and make this solemn vow: As God lives, and is all I ever need, I will not waste my life


  1. I have a word about Piper's illustration, shared by Jason, that picking up sea shells is “wasting one's life” when compared with “doing the Lord's work.” Have they considered that maybe collecting sea shells, or giving a pleasant nod to their Creator’s handiwork, or sharing their beauty with others, or studying them intently and scientifically, might not each in their own way be possible examples of “doing the Lord's work?” Certainly appears to be more like the Lord's work than trying to find new ways to call other people fools (all done in service to the Lord of course). Also, “contending for the faith” and being contentious about it, seems more of a “waste of one's time” than enjoying God's creation and sharing your discoveries with others of sea shells on the sea shore, does it not? Being contentious is also likely to lose souls to damnation, hardening people’s hearts against Christianity and thus working against the work of salvation. Or haven’t Piper and Jason considered such dangers?

    As for the rest of us I suspect that people gravitate toward things in life that excite their bodies and/or brains, just as some of us consider it pleasurable to engage in intellectual discourse, even with people who view us as presently “blinded by sin and Satan and eternally damned” while they are “the saved.”

    Speaking about wasting one's time:


    Reporter: What will we do in heaven for eternity? Won’t we get bored?

    Rev. Spurgeon: Nonsense. We will joyously sing and meditate on the sufferings of Christ that made the miracle of our salvation possible. As for myself, I could sing and meditate on the wounds round Jesus’s head for a billion years. Then focus on the wounds on his scourged back for the next billion. Then the wound in his right hand for a billion more, the wound in his left hand for a billion, the wound in his side for a billion. Then the wounds in his feet, each foot for a billion years.

    Reporter: So, you’re saying there’s nothing worthy of a Christian’s time and devotion, nothing worth looking at, or singing about, for all eternity, except Jesus and his wounds?

    Rev. Spurgeon: That’s exactly what I’m saying.

    Reporter: So, ah... What’s hell going to be like?

    E.T.B. (based on actual replies of Rev. Spurgeon)

    When Robert Ingersoll heard how Rev. Spurgeon planned to spend billions of years in heaven just staring at Jesus’s wounds, Ingersoll said, “I bet he even takes great delight in reading the genealogies of the Old Testament.”

    The Best of Robert Ingersoll, Robert E. Greeley, Ed.

    Is it possible that an infinite God created this world simply to be the dwelling place of slaves and serfs? Simply for the purpose of raising orthodox Christians? That he did a few miracles to astonish a few of them? That all the evils of life are simply his punishments, and that he is finally going to turn heaven into a kind of religious museum filled with Baptist barnacles, petrified Presbyterians and Methodist mummies?

    Robert Ingersoll

    The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was saved, they were damned--we were in a state of grace and the rest were heathens. Our hymns were loaded with arrogance--self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty, and what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day.

    Robert A. Heinlein, (Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land)

    Look at the songs of Fundamentalism: “That will be glory for me… I shall see Him face to face… My sins are gone… I’m so happy… I’m saved, saved, saved… Love lifted me… He holds my hand… Now I belong to Jesus… Safe am I… My Lord is real, yea, real to me…”

    I was even taught as a child to sing that shameless chorus, “For me, for me, for me, for me.”

    It’s like someone decided to set “original sin” to music.

    Daniel Stevick, Beyond Fundamentalism

    I’ve never understood how God could expect His creatures to pick the one true religion by faith--it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.

    Robert A. Heinlein (Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land)

    They told him a God of Near Eastern origin, the God of Abraham (who evidently had a stupendous bosom) and Isaac and Jacob, had made the whole universe, stars and atoms, from start to finish in six days and made it wonderfully and perfect, and had set it all going and, after some necessary setbacks called the Fall and the Flood, had developed arrangements that were to culminate in the earthly happiness and security and eternal bliss of our little Mr. Davis, which had seemed to him a very agreeable state of affairs. And further they had shown him the most convincing pictures of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel and had given him a Noah’s Ark toy to play with [in times past the only acceptable toy to play with on Sundays was Noah’s ark] and told him simple Bible stories about the patriarchs and the infant Samuel and Solomon and David and their remarkable lessons for us, the promise of salvation spreading out from the Near East until it covered the world, and he had taken it all in without flinching because at the time he had no standards of comparison. Anything might be as true as anything else. Except for difference in color they put him into a world of Green Pastures and there they trained him to be a simply believing little Anglican.

    H. G. Wells, “The Mind of Mr. Joseph Davis”

    Thank God He made it easy to find the “one true faith.” So easy that your parents can pick it out for you before you are even born, and, in most places on earth, they do.

    It’s even easier to find a “true” Christian as opposed to a false one, or a “true” Moslem as opposed to a false one: The “true” believer-- the one who understands what his holy book “really” says--always happens to be the one addressing you.


    You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that WE are the ones who “need help?”

    Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist

    An evangelical Christian once told me, “Only Jesus Christ can save man and restore him to his lost state of peace with God, himself and others.” Yeah, sure, and only new Pepsi can make you feel really happy, and only our brand is better than the competition, and only our country is the best country. It is truly amazing to me that people can utter such arrogant nonsense with no humor, no sense of how offensive they are to others, no doubt or trepidation, and no suspicion that they sound exactly like advertisers, con-men and other swindlers. It is really hard to understand such child-like prattling. If I were especially conceited about something (a state I try to avoid, but if I fell into it...), if for instance I decided I had the best garden or the handsomest face in Ireland, I would still retain enough common sense to suspect that I would sound like a conceited fool if I went around telling everybody those opinions. I would have enough tact left, I hope, to satisfy my conceit by dreaming that other people would notice on their own that my garden and/or my face were especially lovely. People who go around innocently and blithely announcing that they belong to the Master Race or the Best Country Club or have the One True Religion seem to have never gotten beyond the kindergarten level of ego-display. Do they have no modesty, no tact, no shame, no adult common sense at all? Do they have any suspicion how silly their conceit sounds to the majority of the nonwhite non-Christian men and women of the world? To me, they seem like little children wearing daddy’s clothes and going around shouting, “Look how grown-up I am! Look at me, me, me!”

    There are more amusing things than ego-games, conceit and one-upmanship.Really, there are. I suspect that people stay on that childish level because they have never discovered how interesting and exciting the adult world is.

    If one must play ego-games, I still think it would be more polite, and more adult, to play them in the privacy of one’s head. In fact, despite my efforts to be a kind of Buddhist, I do relapse into such ego-games on occasion; but I have enough respect for human intelligence to keep such thoughts to myself. I don’t go around announcing that I have painted the greatest painting of our time; I hope that people will notice that by themselves. Why do the people whose ego-games consist of day-dreaming about being part of the Master Race or the One True Religion not keep that precious secret to themselves, also, and wait for the rest of the human race to notice their blinding superiority?

    Robert Anton Wilson

    Many Christians who can’t even get members of their own family to agree with them on trifling matters are currently seeking to evangelize the world and tell everyone “what’s what.”


  2. Ed,

    You've added qualifiers to John Piper's comments that he didn't include. He didn't suggest that people "try to find new ways to call other people fools" and "contend for the faith and be contentious about it". Those were your inaccurate descriptions of what you think John Piper would want people to do. You refer to collecting seashells as "giving a pleasant nod to our Creator’s handiwork", but many things that people do could be described in that manner. The question still remains, how would we best use the time and other resources we have? You must have a highly trivial view of life if you think that the sort of retirement lifestyle John Piper was criticizing is something that shouldn't be criticized.

    Your list of quotes is problematic also. The Christian view of Heaven involves much more than you've suggested. Christian hymnals cover a larger variety of topics than you've addressed. Etc. What did you do, just copy and paste a few pages from a poorly written atheist quote book or web site?