Thursday, April 29, 2021

Drifting Off Course Into Comforts

"Is this not a beautiful thing, when a man has a great, worthy, single passion in life and burns for it all the way to the end?...I would rather see a man die abruptly, on his way to one last conquest, than to see him drift off course into the comforts of old age." (John Piper, Why I Love The Apostle Paul [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2019], 28)


  1. Replies
    1. So nothing. It's an observation.

    2. People don't make observations for no reason. You have a long history of making comments that are wrong or have too much potential to mislead people, then being evasive about those comments when challenged. You're wasting people's time. You've been warned about this before, and you've been warned about other problems with your behavior. Don't post anything else here or on the rest of the blog.

    3. I want to defend both Coram Deo and Jason. Both make good points.

      I read Coram Deo's point is Al Qaeda can say same as John Piper. There are people who live passionately for their beliefs. There are people who sacrifice their lives for their beliefs. Revolutionaries, Communists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. But are beliefs true or false and worthy of living and dying? We Christians know Christianity is true and Christianity is worthy of living and dying, but in this quotation John Piper does not explain more.

      But Jason's point is Piper's quotation is for exhorting apathetic or worldly Christians for passionate living for Christ. It is not for proving Christianity is true in apologetic sense. Piper is right for preaching to Christians, Don't Waste Your Life! "I tell you what a tragedy is. I'll read to you from Reader’s Digest what a tragedy is. Bob and Penny . . . took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their thirty foot trawler, playing softball and collecting shells. That's a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. And I get forty minutes to plead with you: don’t buy it. With all my heart I plead with you: don't buy that dream. The American Dream: a nice house, a nice car, a nice job, a nice family, a nice retirement, collecting shells as the last chapter before you stand before the Creator of the universe to give an account of what you did: Here it is Lord — my shell collection! And I've got a nice swing, and look at my boat! Don’t waste your life; don't waste it." That is Jason's point.

    4. Gerald wrote:

      "I read Coram Deo's point is Al Qaeda can say same as John Piper. There are people who live passionately for their beliefs. There are people who sacrifice their lives for their beliefs. Revolutionaries, Communists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians. But are beliefs true or false and worthy of living and dying? We Christians know Christianity is true and Christianity is worthy of living and dying, but in this quotation John Piper does not explain more."

      I don't know if that's Coram Deo's view. He didn't say much in his initial post, and he refused to provide clarification when asked for it, similar to how he'd refused to clarify what he'd said on other occasions.

      As Eyezayah mentioned below, Piper included qualifiers like "worthy" and "off course". And Piper is a well-known Christian writing a book of a highly Christian nature, and the person quoting him (me) is known to be a Christian and has said a lot elsewhere about the relevant issues. Both Piper and I have distinguished our views from those of Al Qaeda, and it wouldn't make much sense to take Piper's comments as allowing for views like Al Qaeda's even without that sort of background knowledge about Piper and about me.

      There's nothing wrong with passion. The problem with Al Qaeda isn't that they're passionate. It's that their passion is wrongly directed. We can commend zeal, even when it isn't in accordance with knowledge (Romans 10:2). Jesus' comments in Revelation 3:15-16 are consistent with the views of Al Qaeda, but it doesn't follow that Jesus was wrong to make those comments. Members of Al Qaeda also believe that we should eat food. We don't therefore refrain from encouraging people to eat.

      Piper's comments that I quoted refer to more than passion, as Eyezayah noted. But even if Piper had only been discussing the importance of having passion, there's nothing wrong with that. So, if Coram Deo was responding to Piper's comments on the basis that he was just commending passion, which Al Qaeda members also have, I would repeat what I said earlier. So what? Passion is worth commending, and the fact that Al Qaeda has it doesn't suggest otherwise.

      It's true that there are other, related issues that my quote of Piper doesn't address. But it's common and reasonable practice to address an issue without addressing everything related. And both Piper and I have provided a lot of information elsewhere about our views on related issues.

  2. Hey, I resemble that remark..... drifting off into comforts in old age... May Jesus save me!
    Rob A.

  3. This actually made me think of a book I'm listening to, The Rise and Fall of American Growth. Without getting philosophical (the author's assumptions are presupposed, not discussed), the book discusses how certain states of affairs are of course better now than another, with the discussion mostly focused on what led to improvements in the past. One thing that is discussed is how people didn't use to retire. They'd instead work until they died or became infirm. It's stated as an obvious improvement that people can retire and have some fun before...they promptly die. For a naturalist, in the end, both outcomes are the same, yet it's somehow better to have some more diversions than to have less.

    1. The changes in people's circumstances through history are important, but often neglected. That's one of the reasons why I often cite Jesus' comment in Luke 12:48, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required". In some ways, the circumstances of a modern American are much different than those of somebody living in B.C.-era Israel, the first-century Roman empire, or medieval Europe, for example. Yet, modern American Christians often act as though little or no adjustment should be made to our expectations.

      Atheists and others with similar views do often look at retirement the way you described. And the large majority of Christians in places like the United States have their own variation of that sort of view. They'll add things like attending church, reading the Bible each day, and voting, but nothing even close to what Piper refers to, what Paul exemplified, what the Bible in general suggests, or even the standards we should be able to figure out with the general principles of reasoning. People will be surrounded with a culture with characteristics like the ones I've discussed before, yet will be hesitant to retire, because they'd be "bored", "wouldn't be able to find anything to do", etc. (I've frequently heard people make comments like those, including professing Christians.) I agree with the author you cited that the sort of time we have for retirement today is a good thing. It can be abused, but it's good in principle to have that free time. The large majority of careers people have (and other ways they spend their time) are like the housework of Martha in Luke 10:38-42 and the table serving of Acts 6:1-5. They have less value, typically much less value, than the things we could be doing in retirement. Continuing a career into our retirement years makes sense under some circumstances, but I'd expect those cases to be highly exceptional.

  4. I think the key terms in John's "burn-out vs fade-away" comparison of the two men's lives are "worthy" and "off-course"
    Its inspiring to see an all-out passionate exuberant man that's on-course die in the midst of battle.
    But its also inspiring to see a man live an ordinary, steady but surely life, enjoy the comforts of his old age while still remaining on course. This is also worthy as i see it.
    I hope its not that the older you get, the more chance there is of veering off course, and i would hope that the man who lives longer does so in a worthy manner.
    Id like, Lord willing, to live to enjoy the comforts of old age with my grand and great-grand kids learning from one who has wisdom (that comes with godly gray hairs) to pass on...while on course.

    1. Eyezayah wrote:

      "I think the key terms in John's 'burn-out vs fade-away' comparison of the two men's lives are 'worthy' and 'off-course'"

      Those are important qualifiers.

  5. In light of some of the issues that have come up here in the comments section, I'll expand on what I've said above.

    We should enjoy some benefits from our relationships, our careers, aging, and so forth. We should enjoy our spouse, children, grandchildren, friends, and other people, and we should enjoy the food we eat, the advantages of modern medicine, and so on. We have to sleep, even if we don't want to, various forms of rest and other ways of enjoying life are often acceptable, etc. But those aspects of life can be abused and frequently are.

    It's not as though there's an equal danger of going off-course in either direction. Rather, human nature, the characteristics of our culture, and other factors make it far more common for people to err in the direction of living by too low of a standard than to err in the direction of living by too high of a standard.

    All Christians should have passion and urgency. Christians in general, not just some, are called to run in such a way as to win (1 Corinthians 9:24), be hot or cold (both being good) rather than lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16), etc.

    We also have to distinguish between one set of circumstances and another. We don't always have a situation like Nehemiah's, where a large amount of work needs done rapidly and requires a high level of involvement by a large percentage of people. But we do sometimes have such circumstances. We differentiate between peacetime and wartime circumstances in other areas of life, and we should make that sort of distinction in religious contexts.

    Christians in settings like modern America can't have it both ways. They can't refer to how important America and its place in the world are and refer to how much America has been declining in various ways, yet respond to those problems as though there's much less at stake than they've been implying. There's a major disconnect between, on the one hand, what modern American Christians keep saying about issues like America's importance and how much the culture has declined and, on the other hand, how little of their time, opportunities, and other resources they put into improving the situation.

    I think the circumstances in modern America are much closer to Nehemiah's situation than the large majority of American Christians suggest (what they suggest by their words and actions, not just their words). On the other hand, I expect much less from, say, illiterate Christians living a shorter lifespan in poverty under an oppressive government in a third-world nation. And I expect less from American Christians whose circumstances warrant lower expectations.

    I've gone into a lot of detail elsewhere about the implications and details involved in my view of issues like these (such as here and here, including the comments sections of both threads). Life is large and complicated, so the application of principles like these is large and complicated. I can't know every detail of what's involved in every context, and it wouldn't make sense for me to take the time and effort to discuss every detail even if I could. But these issues don't get discussed nearly as much as they ought to (probably largely because of the anticipated negative response), so they should be discussed more.