In my pre-review For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper I cited a quote by Sam Storms:
"Having read this book numerous times (that's what being an editor requires) I can honestly say that it is the finest collection of essays on a variety of themes that has been produced in quite some time."
There I pondered whether this book would live up to Dr. Storm's high praise of it. After having read the entire 500 + pages (no small feat for this slow reader) I can say that I enthusiastically agree with Dr. Storm's assessment! This is quite a book! It is generally very difficult for me to read lengthy books all the way through if I am not encouraged and intrigued by what the pages hold. This book more than kept my attention and kept me coming back for more.
So what specifically was so great about it you ask? Here a few reasons I appreciated it:
1. As Dr. Storms said above, this really is a fine collection of essays from an incredible collection of intelligent and godly men. Each article is serious and substantial in it's own right.
Here is the full list of contents:
A Note to John Piper
Sam Storms and Justin Taylor
Part 1: John Piper
1. A Personal Tribute to the Praise of God's Infinite Glory and Abounding Grace
2. Three Doors Down from a Power Plant
3. Who Is John Piper?
Part 2: Christian Hedonism
4. Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God
5. When All Hope Has Died: Meditations on Profound Christian Suffering
Mark R. Talbot
Part 3: The Sovereignty of God
6. The Sovereignty of God in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards
Donald J. Westblade
7. Prayer and the Sovereignty of God
Bruce A. Ware
Part 4: The Gospel, the Cross, and the Resurrection of Christ
8. What Is the Gospel?--Revisited
D. A. Carson
9. Christus Victor et Propitiator: The Death of Christ, Substitute and Conqueror
Sinclair B. Ferguson
10. The Role of Resurrection in the Already and Not-Yet Phases of Justification
G. K. Beale
Part 5: The Supremacy of God in All Things
11. A Biblical Theology of the Glory of God
Thomas R. Schreiner
12. The Kingdom of God as the Mission of God
Scott J. Hafemann
13. The Mystery of Marriage
James M. Hamilton Jr.
14. Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching
15. The Glory and Supremacy of Jesus Christ in Ethnic Distinctions and over Ethnic Identities
16. Dethroning Money to Treasure Christ Above All
17. "Abortion Is About God": Piper's Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching
18. A God-Centered Worldview: Recovering the Christian Mind by Rediscovering the Master Narrative of the Bible
R. Albert Mohler Jr.
Part 6: Preaching and Pastoral Ministry
19. Proclaiming the Gospel and the Glory of God: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards for Preaching
Stephen J. Nichols
20. The Pastor and the Trinity
21. The Pastor as Worshipper
22. The Pastor as Shepherd
23. The Pastor as Counselor
24. The Pastor as Leader
25. The Pastor and His Study
William D. Mounce
Part 7: Ministries
26. The Vision and Ministry of Desiring God
27. The Vision and History of The Bethlehem Institute
2. Though these are essays in honor of Dr. Piper they are not mere repetitions of what he has said elsewhere. They are serious engagements by the respective authors on topics that are precious to Dr. Piper, but the authors plod their own course and at times interact with Piper's views. Many times the interactions are agreements with and expansions of Piper's thought, but at other times there is respectful disagreement and critical engagement with his thought. At others they are simply the authors on work on the topic with little more than a hat tip in Piper's direction when it serves the article to do so.
3. The topics themselves are broad and reading through this book has encouraged and taught me in many wide-ranging categories. As you can notice from above topics like Christian Hedonism, the Sovereignty of God, Prayer, different aspects of the gospel, the glory of God as central in scripture, marriage, obedience, money, abortion, thinking, preaching, the Trinity, and different aspects of pastoral ministry are all covered. It is quite a feat.
4. It is evident that these authors share a love for the Bible and for the Savior that it points to. Each of these articles is looking at the Scriptures, just as Piper would have it, and deriving their points from it. This is probably the main thing that makes them each so good, not that they are honoring John Piper but that they are honoring God by being in submission to His Word.
5. By God's grace John Piper's teachings have been instrumental in my own life and so it was with great interest that I read any part of the book that was more personal or biographical. Some of the authors would take a moment at the beginning or end of their articles to say something about or directly to Piper. These provided glimpses of the personal ministry and influence he has had on many men that might not otherwise be publicly known. Others were more biographical as colleagues at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Desiring God Ministries, or the Bethlehem College and Seminary detailed their personal histories with Dr. Piper and how some of the ministries were started.
Finally, I'd like to finish with a list of my favorite articles (which were many) with a significant quote or two from each.
I particularly was helped by the following:
Chapter 2 [Livingston]: "What follows is an effort to plot the progress of John Piper's implanted power, like successive upward 'conversions,' from cold to candle to coal plutonium--or in other words, from lost to found to Calvinism to Christian Hedonism."
Chapter 3 [Mathis]: "As I brainstormed the main things I've learned about John, and from him, in the last four years, they brought together realities that we often think of as being in tension or in contradiction rather than in complementary union: 1. Rigorous Study and Reliance on the Spirit, 2. Introversion and Relational Investment, 3. Publishing and Pastoring, 4. Theology and Everyday Life, 5. Productivity and Family, 6. Passion for Truth and Capacities for Kindness, 7. Life for Christ and Death as Gain."
Chapter 7 [Ware]: "What a privilege we have been given in this marvelous gift of prayer by which we enter into closer relationship with and heartfelt dependence upon God, and by which we are allowed--indeed, called--to participate in the outworking of the very eternal plans and purposes of God."
Chapter 8 [Carson]: "We will gain a clearer grasp of the gospel if we hold a clear grasp of the desperate situation the gospel addresses. If we see that we are guilty, we will understand that for the gospel to be effective it must clear us of our guilt; if we are alienated from God, we must be reconciled to him; if we stand under his judicial wrath, that wrath must be propitiated; if we are estranged from one another, we must be reconciled to one another; if the entire created order lies under the curse, the curse must be lifted and the created order transformed; if we are, morally speaking, weak and helpless (as well as guilty), we must be empowered and strengthened; if we are dead, we must be made alive, if the heart of our idolatry is abysmal self-focus and the de-godding of God, God must be restored in our vision and life to his rightful glory."
Chapter 9 [Ferguson]: "Jesus appears as the divine champion, as it were, entering into enemy-occupied territory under the guidance of the Spirit..Rather than overcome Jesus, Satan is comprehensively defeated.... Thus, through his death as it dealt with our guilt and its implications in relationship to God, Christ disarms him who had the power of death, and releases his people from their lifelong bondage to the fear of death."
Chapter 10 [Beale]: "The final judgment that was to occur at the very end of history has been pushed back into history at the cross of Christ.... The resurrection vindicates Christ's innocence, thus overturning the unjust verdict against him. On the other hand, the saints were justly accused of sin and guilt and sentenced to death. Nevertheless, they have been vindicated by Christ's work, declared not guilty but innocent because he suffered the penalty of death due to them and represents them in his resurrected being with his own innocence (i.e. righteousness), which has been vindicated by his own resurrection."
Chapter 11 [Schreiner}: "God's purpose is to bring glory to his name. God's name is honored in both salvation and in judgment. And yet the Scriptures focus on the glory of God in saving his people, and hence it is not surprising to discover that God is particularly glorified in Jesus Christ, and particularly in the salvation he accomplished in his cross and resurrection."
Chapter 13 [Hamilton]: "Perhaps no other metaphor for Yahweh's relationship to Israel could capture the pain of betrayal and the wonder of forgiveness the way that marriage does." "Just as the death of Jesus opened the gates of life, so also the husband's death-to-self love for his wife puts gospel life in his heart. There is an awe-inspiring symbiosis in this, too, for the wife who knows her husband is ready to lay down his life for her will gladly submit to such a man."
Chapter 14 [Grudem]: "I suspect that just as Satan accuses Christians and wants them to feel false guilt and false accusation, so he also seeks to keep them from the great joy of knowing the favor of God on their daily activities, of knowing that God is pleased with their obedience." "When we disobey God, we can experience his love as a disapproving, disciplinary love that flows from his fatherly care for us."
Chapter 15 [Anyabwile]: "What the Scripture teaches about the glory of God in ethnic difference must be set alongside another truth. Namely, that Jesus Christ is supreme over our ethnic identities."
Chapter 16 [Alcorn]: "Jesus gave us a choice: a life wasted in the pursuit of wealth on earth, or a life invested in the pursuit of wealth in heaven."
Chapter 20 [Mahaney]: "Our pneumatology must never take precedence over--and in fact cannot be understood apart from--the gospel of Jesus Christ"
Chapter 22 [Powlison]: "Pastor, you are a counselor. Perhaps you don't think of yourself that way. Perhaps you don't want to be a counselor. But you are one."
Chapter 23 [Dever]: "The image of God's people without a leader, being like sheep without a shepherd, is meant to be a pathetic image, one that would bring to mind the confusion, fear, and slow, meandering self-destruction of the flock."
Chapter 24 [MacArthur]: "There we see two sides of spiritual leadership in perfect balance: the tenderness of compassionate, motherly care alongside the fortitude and strength of fatherly supervision."
Chapter 25 [Mounce]: "Bible study can be one of the greatest idols of all times if we stop at study and do not move on to loving the author." "If my students are going to move from exegesis to proclamation, they needed to see me do it. If your students are going to love God, they need to see you love God more than academic degrees, books published, or the praise of men."