Deconstructing a Defense of Christ to Reconstruct a Celebration of Christ
Friday, September 24, 2010
Don't Waste Your Life @JohnPiper @christianaudio @caReviewers
John Piper is a prolific writer who people seem to either love or hate. In December, I had the opportunity to review his latest book (in audiobook format), which made me into a non-fan of Piper. I cross-post my reviews on other sites, including Amazon. It was quite interesting to see how passionately people defended Piper in response to my review. And how they review the usefulness of a review and people's comments based on their agreement with them.
Another of Piper's books became available in christianaudio's reviewers program (with a complimentary copy), so I decided to take the opportunity to give Piper another chance. Don't Waste Your Life is actually an older book of Piper's (from 2006), and it definitely gave me a more positive view of Piper.
I'm still not a Piper fan, but he presented a much more balanced view of life in this book. As the title suggests, he is encouraging people to not waste their lives. In short, we need to live for Christ and not for the materialism of the world in order to not waste our lives. He gives an excellent story from his childhood that his father would frequently tell people about an older man who died feeling like his life was wasted on "worldly" endeavors.
I agree with this viewpoint. We need meaning and purpose in life, and the only way to get true meaning is by loving others through Christ (or more accurately, letting Christ love others through us). I also appreciated that Piper acknowledged the various ways people can enhance the Kingdom--not always through explicit ministry. He did an excellent job of supporting an incarnational view of spreading the Gospel, as he noted the critical need of people to do "mundane, secular" jobs.
He illustrates these points with nice stories, anecdotes, and metaphors. At the same time, it would have probably been easy to make a more concise version of the book.
In his eagerness to emphasize the tragedy of a wasted life, Piper also invalidates other life tragedies. He explicitly states that people getting cancer and dying in accidents are not tragedies. I greatly and passionately disagree. These are all tragedies; just different types.
Further, there was still too much emphasis on sin and leading a holy (meaning morally pure) life. From my post Wednesday: "While we do need to combat sin and move toward moral purity, this is something that is impossible in this world. And it's not the primary goal of the Gospel or what God wants, in my opinion. He wants a relationship with us. And battling sin can get in the way of that. If we are always beating ourselves up in order to repent, we are ignoring God's redemption and therefore ignoring God."
Different Christian traditions emphasize the roles of repentance and redemption to varying degrees. Piper clearly comes from one that sees the role of continual repentance as central. I think we need to emphasize redemption more.