Paul's Passing Thoughts

Piper’s Sabbatical is a Reflection of Reformed Idol Worship and Arrogance

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on April 14, 2010

“Is Piper taking an eight-month sabbatical to put Paul Tripp’s  theory of change to the test? If he is, God help us.”

“Per the usual, Scripture takes a backseat in regard to judging such situations. In fact, Scripture isn’t even in the car.”

Well, I have read through several commentaries on John Piper’s “heroic” decision to take an eight-month “sabbatical” from his, um; stand by while I find a replacement word for “duties,”…….ok, activates. We don’t want to use the ‘D’ word, especially when we are talking about an eight-month leave of absence (this is sarcasm in regard to Piper’s constant dissing of  “duty”; this dissing serves him well in regard to his sabbatical).  No surprise, all of the reviews were stellar, as the Reformed rock stars of our age can do no wrong. But, I still stand perplexed in this development, especially in regard to the plain sense of Scripture, and really, just good-old-fashioned common sense as well.

First, from a common sense point of view, it’s inconsistent with all of the clamor about not putting Reformed leaders on pedestals. In his formal letter regarding this latest episode, dated March 28, 2010, he, himself, eludes to this by saying the following: “Not only that, others could use similar time away. Most working men and women do not have the freedom to step back like this.” Ya, so why are you? The very thought by him that he has a right to do this, also confirms that he thinks of himself as distinct from most other Christians, and Christian leaders. Eight months? Why not just resign and be done with it? Simply put, it’s arrogance. But, per the usual, all these guys have to do is mention that they acknowledge a possible objection, and the objection goes away like the wind drives away chaff in the minds of their koolaid-drinking followers; “Oh, he knows this is reality, all must be well.” Actually, he makes the statement in conjunction with the fact that he requested not to be paid while on his sabbatical. Apparently, the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church rejected the request. Surprise, surprise. What a huge disconnect, some leader taking an eight-month sabbatical to reconnect with his family while getting paid. And he’s just like us?; struggling in the same spiritual trenches? Doesn’t seem to compute.

Not only that, didn’t he write a book entitled “Brothers, We Are Not Professionals”? What is more indicative of professionalism than some guy getting paid to take a leave for eight months from an incorporated church? Not only that, as well, didn’t he thank a well known Evangelical leader for inviting him to speak, by publicly rebuking his leadership (the leaders of the church he was invited to), from the very pulpit he was invited to, for honoring him (Piper) with embellished accommodations? I guess they treated him like a professional, or something. My guess is as good as any, as to why Piper and other Reformed leaders get a pass on their extreme hypocrisy. I guess, like GM, Piper and other Reformed leaders are just “too big to fail.”

But I will now address another issue that just makes me want to jump in the river. Per the usual, Scripture takes a backseat in regard to judging such situations. In fact, Scripture isn’t even in the car.  Anyone who has a big picture grasp on the New Testament should know that such an endeavor by an elder is foreign to Scripture. Can you imagine the Apostle Paul doing something like this? Better yet, could you imagine the same apostle, with his scared-up body, being at that elder’s meeting? “You want to do what?” “Eight months?” “And you will be doing what?; spending time with your wife?” And would the apostle also insist that he be paid as well? I seriously doubt it.

But I may be digressing a bit, Piper’s reasons were stated as follows: “I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me.” First of all, these types of statements that continually come out of Piper’s mouth raise all kinds of questions: 1. Several “species” of pride? How many are we talking about? What specific “species” are they, and where do we find them in Scripture? 2. What do you mean when you say you “see” them in your soul? How, exactly, do you “see” them? Please specify. I’m sorry, but the guy was in an elder’s meeting; therefore, the solution to any of his problems were right there:

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13-16).

I don’t know how many elders serve with him, but his actions make it clear that, supposedly, the prayer, confession to, and counsel of these men are not enough, he needs a lengthy sabbatical. In fact, he calls it a eight-month “….reality check from the Holy Spirit.” He’s such a super, high-powered, man of God, that he needs a special fix. Again, it’s arrogance. I could see a couple of weeks in addition to his vacation time. I could certainly see a cut-back in ministry duties, uh! I mean, activities, sorry; but an eight-month leave of absence? C’mon, what’s really going on here?

Well, we get a clue of sorts. Here is what he is quoted as saying in The Christian Post : “One of the goals of fasting,” he noted, “is to determine levels of addiction or, as Paul Tripp of [of?] Tim Keller would say, levels of idolatry.”

Per the usual, Piper can make statements like this and nobody blinks. Where does the Bible talk about determining levels of idolatry through fasting? I wish the whole reformed movement would fast and pray to determine its level of addiction to the teachers they worship. An idol is anything you cannot say no to, and trust me, not many followers of John Piper say no to him, including his elders. They can’t even say no to him when he doesn’t want to get paid for not working, and by his request! Furthermore, he mentions Paul Tripp, who believes that you can empty your heart of idols by determining what they are by identifying their relationship to sinful desires. These sinful desires are discovered by asking yourself “X-ray questions,” which are like interpretive questions of sorts. I believe Tripp borrowed this concept from Nero-linguistic Programming, a method of change used by psychologist. His treatise on this method of change can be observed in “How People Change,” published in 2006. Is Piper taking an eight-month sabbatical to put Paul Tripp’s theory of change to the test? If he is, God help us.

I suggested to my daughter, Heather, a missionary in PR, that this sabbatical could result in Piper repenting of his Christian mysticism. She suggested instead, that as a teacher that survives from novelty to novelty, that he will more than likely come back with all kinds of fresh, new ideas. Frankly, I find this possibility terrifying.