"Salvation Brings Imitation": Piper on Christus Exemplar

One of the important doctrines I have studied recently with the feeling that orthodox theologians have ignored in the doctrine of the atonement is Christus Exemplar. I reject the Moral Influence Theory of the atonement (birthed by Abelard centuries ago) that says Christ died to give us an example of how much he loves us and how we are to love others. In Abelard’s theory, there is no objective purpose of the cross. It is purely subjective. This view has been adopted by liberals theology and is nothing more than heresy.  Christus Exemplar is not that.

I will not go into great detail here into defending it, but Scripture is clear that the root work of the cross is substitutionary, but that does not mean that the only motif or purpose of the cross is substitution. Christus Victory, when properly understood, is valid as is Christus Exemplar. If we deny substitution, Christus Exemplar becomes nothing more than Abelard’s heresy.

I have found as a pastor the power of this doctrine. The work of Christ on the cross redeems us and at the same time we as Christians are to never to leave the cross and resurrection. Christus Exemplar assures that we do just that.

I want to quote John Piper in a book he wrote called Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die (read online here).  One chapter is dedicated To Call Us to Follow His Example of Lowliness and Costly Love.  He quotes from 1 Peter 2:19-21, Hebrews 12:3-4, and Philippians 2:5-8.  Piper writes:

Imitation is not salvation. But salvation brings imitation. Christ is not given to us first as model, but as Savior. In the experience of the believer, first comes the pardon of Christ, then the pattern of Christ. In the experience of Christ himself, they happen together: The same suffering that pardons our sins provides our pattern of love.

In fact, only when we experience the pardon of Christ can he become a pattern for us. This sounds wrong because his sufferings are unique. They cannot be imitated. No one but the Son of God can suffer “for us” the way Christ did. He bore our sins in a way that no one else could. He was a substitute sufferer. We can never duplicate this. It was once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous. Divine, vicarious suffering for sinners is inimitable.

However, this unique suffering, after pardoning and justifying sinners, transforms them into people who act like Jesus—not like him in pardoning, but like him in loving. Like him in suffering to do good to others. Like him in not returning evil for evil. Like him in lowliness and meekness. Like him in patient endurance. Like him in servanthood. Jesus suffered for us uniquely, that we might suffer with him in the cause of love.

Christ’s apostle, Paul, said that his ambition was first to share in Christ’s righteousness by faith, and then to share in his sufferings in ministry. “[May I] be found in [Christ], not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ . . . that I may . . . share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:9-10). Justification precedes and makes possible imitation. Christ’s suffering for justification makes possible our suffering for proclamation. Our suffering for others does not remove the wrath of God. It shows the value of having the wrath of God removed by the suffering of Christ. It points people to him.

When the Bible calls us to “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:10), it means that our imitation of Christ points people to him who alone can save. Our suffering is crucial, but Christ’s alone saves. Therefore, let us imitate his love, but not take his place. (92-93)

Correcting the Record on a Common Lewis Misquote and Why it Matters

The Internet is great for many things. Accuracy is not one of them. Misinformation abounds in cyberspace. The old adage is true:

 “A lie can spread halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on” -Winston Churchhill (or was it Mark Twain or someone else?)

In this vein, one quote often attributed to CS Lewis is in the above image: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” No reference. No context. Just a quote. Falsely attributed.

Lewis never said it. Even more, it fails to reflect both Christian orthodoxy and Lewis’s mere Christianity. Here is why.

First, the quotation is Docetic.This predominantly Gnostic doctrine taught that Jesus was not embodied but only appeared to be physical. The motive behind this early heresy reflects Greek philosophy which believed the spiritual world was good and the physical world was bad. Thus in order for Jesus to be perfectly good, He cannot be an embodied being.This type of dualism is contrary to the Christian.

The suggestion that each of us are souls trapped inside of a body reflects this. The Gnostics took such spiritualism and either landed on the extremes of asceticism or moral libertarianism. If we are trapped in our bodies, then we must either be liberated from the physical world (which leads to asceticism) or indulge the flesh (which leads to moral libertarism). Docetism is not the gospel.

Christians affirm both the body and the soul. We are embodied beings and this is good. God made all things – the spiritual and the physical – good. Though the Fall and its introduction of sin distorts God’s good creation, the physical and spiritual world remain good (but easily abused and used for evil). Therefore, sex remains good even though it is too-often distorted. Food is good even though it is too-often abused.We do not bifurcate the physical and the spiritual.

Furthermore, we shall one day be raised bodily. We will not be spiritual cupids floating on clouds, but embodied beings dwelling with Christ forever. So no, we are not souls trapped in a body. We are both body and soul.

Secondly, Lewis never portrayed the world as exclusively spiritual. In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes heaven’s gate in such a way as to suggest that the future world is more real than our present one. Likewise, there is no evidence in any of his other writings that reflects this worldview. Throughout Narnia Aslan is physical with a mane that can be touched. Ransom experiences physical worlds in Perelandra, Earth (the Silent Planet), and Malacandra.

Thirdly, in Mere Christianity, Lewis himself seemed to have repudiated this Gnostic doctrine. He wrote:

There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this is rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.

This is not the language of a Docetic, but of a Christian.

Finally, the origin of the quote has been discovered. The full quote is “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.” It was written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. in his 1960 novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. Miller was anything but orthodox.[1]

What should concern us most is how pervasive this quote (regardless of who it is attribute to) continues to spread among people who should know better. I am rarely surprised by what I find on Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterests, and Twitter, but when leading Christians promote it a red flag should be raised. Hannah Peckham chronicles that both John Piper has tweeted the quote and Ravi Zacharias has included it in at least one of his books and tweeted it.

See:

This should alarm us. Such leaders ought to know better. On the surface, this quote sounds good and right but is dangerous. It leaves out the ultimate victory of Christ. He defeats death, decay, disease, pain, suffering, and violence. It repudiates the whole gospel and thus it ought to be repudiated by gospel people.

For more on this dubious quote see the following:
Mere Orthodoxy – “You Don’t Have a Soul”: C.S. Lewis Never Said It
First Things – The Spiritualist Origins of “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.”
Thomas T. Human – C.S. Lewis did not say “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.”
Justin Taylor – Apocryphal Quote from C.S. Lewis on the Soul and the Body

[1] The origin of the quote really predates Miller. For more see both the Mere Orthodoxy and First Things articles.

 

"Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce" by John Piper: A Review

Thus began a forty-five year investment in the politics of England. He began it as a late-night, party-loving, upper-class unbeliever. he was single and would stay that way happily until he was thirty-seven years old. Then he met Barbara on April 15, 1797. he fell immediately in love. Within eight days he proposed to her, and on May 30 they were married, about six weeks after they met – and stayed married until William died thirty-six years later. In the first eight years of their marriage they had four sons and two daughters. (28)

As I am typing this, the primary choices for the American presidency in the 2016 election is Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). I am unaware of a more depressing time to be a Christian voter on the national scene in America. The two candidates clearly lack any clear moral barometer. In light of that, it seemed appropriate to return to one of my favorite all-time politicians: William Wilberforce. I began by reading the short book by John Piper entitled Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce (download the book for free here) which is a great resource for those new to the British leader.

Wilberforce is best known for his work in abolishing both the slave trade and slavery in England. The abolition of slavery required a war and an executive order in America, but the work of leaders like Wilberforce accomplished the same without a single shot. Yet Wilberforce accomplished more than that. He was a man driven by his Christian faith. His political courage and the causes he fought for were the fruit of his robust theology. In a day were many politicians are either hesitant to embrace faith or are outright faithless, Wilberforce embrace the gospel openly and served his country well through it.

Piper’s brief book offers both a biography and theological treatment of his life and thought. It is precisely what one would expect from a pastor-theologian who is not a biographer or a historian. That is a not a critique of the book, but the reader should know what this volume is and is not. The origin of its pages come from a sermon preached by Piper available below.

The advantage of this approach is that Piper shows how deep Wilberforce’s theology was and how it shaped his life in a unique way. Historians get distracted by political and historical detail whereas Piper shows us how Wilberforce’s deep faith was the driving force behind all that he did.

The one critique I would have for the book would be his heavy reliance on John Pollock’s biography on him. The author does reference and quote other works, but Pollock dominates the pages. I would not recommend the same practice for any other author.

Nevertheless, this is a helpful introductory to a great man who was used mightily by God. Wilberforce loved Jesus and did not run from his vocation in that affection but understand that God called him to public service and that politics was his ministry. No doubt he fought the good fight and finished the race. Literally. The news of the abolition of the slaves came to him three days prior to his death. What an answer to his prayers!

For more:
“Seven Men” by Eric Metaxas: A Review
William Wilberforce and the End of Slavery: A Legacy of the Gospel

Correcting the Record on a Common Lewis Misquote and Why it Matters

The Internet is great for many things. Accuracy is not one of them. Misinformation abounds in cyberspace. The old adage is true:

 “A lie can spread halfway around the world before the truth has time to get its pants on” -Winston Churchhill (or was it Mark Twain or someone else?)

In this vein, one quote often attributed to CS Lewis is in the above image: “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” No reference. No context. Just a quote. Falsely attributed.

Lewis never said it. Even more, it fails to reflect both Christian orthodoxy and Lewis’s mere Christianity. Here is why.

First, the quotation is Docetic.This predominantly Gnostic doctrine taught that Jesus was not embodied but only appeared to be physical. The motive behind this early heresy reflects Greek philosophy which believed the spiritual world was good and the physical world was bad. Thus in order for Jesus to be perfectly good, He cannot be an embodied being.This type of dualism is contrary to the Christian.

The suggestion that each of us are souls trapped inside of a body reflects this. The Gnostics took such spiritualism and either landed on the extremes of asceticism or moral libertarianism. If we are trapped in our bodies, then we must either be liberated from the physical world (which leads to asceticism) or indulge the flesh (which leads to moral libertarism). Docetism is not the gospel.

Christians affirm both the body and the soul. We are embodied beings and this is good. God made all things – the spiritual and the physical – good. Though the Fall and its introduction of sin distorts God’s good creation, the physical and spiritual world remain good (but easily abused and used for evil). Therefore, sex remains good even though it is too-often distorted. Food is good even though it is too-often abused.We do not bifurcate the physical and the spiritual.

Furthermore, we shall one day be raised bodily. We will not be spiritual cupids floating on clouds, but embodied beings dwelling with Christ forever. So no, we are not souls trapped in a body. We are both body and soul.

Secondly, Lewis never portrayed the world as exclusively spiritual. In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes heaven’s gate in such a way as to suggest that the future world is more real than our present one. Likewise, there is no evidence in any of his other writings that reflects this worldview. Throughout Narnia Aslan is physical with a mane that can be touched. Ransom experiences physical worlds in Perelandra, Earth (the Silent Planet), and Malacandra.

Thirdly, in Mere Christianity, Lewis himself seemed to have repudiated this Gnostic doctrine. He wrote:

There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this is rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.

This is not the language of a Docetic, but of a Christian.

Finally, the origin of the quote has been discovered. The full quote is “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.” It was written by Walter M. Miller, Jr. in his 1960 novel A Canticle for Leibowitz. Miller was anything but orthodox.[1]

What should concern us most is how pervasive this quote (regardless of who it is attribute to) continues to spread among people who should know better. I am rarely surprised by what I find on Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterests, and Twitter, but when leading Christians promote it a red flag should be raised. Hannah Peckham chronicles that both John Piper has tweeted the quote and Ravi Zacharias has included it in at least one of his books and tweeted it.

See:

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This should alarm us. Such leaders ought to know better. On the surface, this quote sounds good and right but is dangerous. It leaves out the ultimate victory of Christ. He defeats death, decay, disease, pain, suffering, and violence. It repudiates the whole gospel and thus it ought to be repudiated by gospel people.

For more on this dubious quote see the following:
Mere Orthodoxy – “You Don’t Have a Soul”: C.S. Lewis Never Said It
First Things – The Spiritualist Origins of “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul.” 
Thomas T. Human – C.S. Lewis did not say “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul; you have a body.”
Justin Taylor – Apocryphal Quote from C.S. Lewis on the Soul and the Body

[1] The origin of the quote really predates Miller. For more see both the Mere Orthodoxy and First Things articles.

"The Life and Ministry of Charles Spurgeon": A Lecture by John Piper

HT: Justin Taylor

For more:
A Minister’s Melancholy:  Spurgeon on the Downcast Preacher – Part 1
A Minister’s Melancholy:  Spurgeon on the Downcast Preacher – Part 2 
A Minister’s Melancholy:  Spurgeon on the Downcast Preacher – Part 3
A Minister’s Melancholy:  Spurgeon on the Downcast Preacher – Part 4 
A Minister’s Melancholy:  Spurgeon on the Downcast Preacher – Part 5 
Charles Spurgeon: A Biographical Documentary 
A Pedstal For the Cross: Spurgeon on Preaching
Repost | Shai Linne: Spurgeon
Theology Thursday | Spurgeon on Uniformity vs. Unity
Spurgeon’s Defense of Calvinism – Part 1
Spurgeon’s Defense of Calvinism – Part 2
Spurgeon’s Defense of Calvinism – Part 3
Spurgeon’s Defense of Calvinism – Part 4
Spurgeon’s Defense of Calvinism – Part 5
“Great Forgiveness For Great Sin”: A Sermon Preached by CH Spurgeon – Part 1
“Great Forgiveness For Great Sin”: A Sermon Preached by CH Spurgeon – Part 2
“Great Forgiveness For Great Sin”: A Sermon Preached by CH Spurgeon – Part 3
“Does Revelation Teach Us Evolution?”: The Prince of Preachers on the Question of Evolution
“A Habit Most Natural, Scriptural, Manly, and Beneficial”: Spurgeon on Growing a Beard

"God Raised Your Great Shepherd from the Dead": The Final Sermon of John Piper at Bethlehem

John Piper’s final sermon as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church was Saturday on the eve of Easter. Here is that sermon:

Read the transcript here. Download the audio here.

HT: Denny Burk

For more:
“Salvation Brings Imitation”: Piper on Christus Exemplar

The Critical Question For Our Generation: Piper on Heaven & the Satisfying Presence of Christ
Piper & Wilson: A Fascinating Conversation
Piper: 15 Things to Consider about Abortion
“Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper
Repost | “Thinking. Loving. Doing.” by John Piper & David Mathis
Theology Thursday | Piper On Hellless Preaching

“Sadness and Beauty of Paul’s Final Words:” A Sermon Preached by John Piper
Repost | Proclaiming a Christ-Centered Theology
Did You Hear?: Piper Interviews Warren

John Piper on His Support of Minnesota’s Marriage Amendment