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Great little book
on 31 January 2014
There has been a plethora of books dealing with Reformed theology over the past 15 years or so, and many have sought to explicate and defend the so called ‘five points’ of Calvinism. In his endeavour, Piper seeks not only to inform the mind, but inflame the affections. Piper seeks to go deeper than mere cerebral stimulation.
My experience is that clear knowledge of God from the Bible is the kindling that sustains the fires of affection for God. (8)
His desired outcome is clear from the start.
I pray that because of our meeting here you will move “Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace.” (9)
In dealing with the five points, Piper does not do so in the traditional order that many are familiar with T.U.L.I.P but rather T.I.L.U.P his reasoning for this is that he believes this is how the individual Christian experiences them. In such a short book Piper skilfully defends each of the five points, with the theological acumen, biblical precision and personal warmth that characterises much of his work.
T. Under total depravity Piper explains that man isn’t as bad as he could be, rather he is depraved in the totality of his being, every faculty so affected by the fall that apart from God’s regenerating work, he is utterly unable to please God or be reconciled to Him.
In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total; everything we do in this rebellion is sinful, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are, therefore, totally deserving of eternal punishment. (22)
I. Under the heading for ‘Irresistible Grace’ Piper demonstrates how man does indeed resist God, but only up until the point when God chooses to overcome that opposition. In short under this point Piper declares God to be sovereign over all things, including the depraved will of man.
The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit, whenever he chooses, can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible. (26)
L. Under ‘Limited atonement’ Piper asks ‘who really limits the atonement?’ In this, he points out that it is those of an ‘Arminian’ persuasion who actually limit the atonement to a mere possibility or opportunity for men to be saved, whereas the ‘Calvinist’ see’s Christ’s atonement truly accomplishing its intended purpose, namely the salvation of the elect.
And we affirm that when Christ died particularly for his bride, he did not simply create a possibility or an opportunity for salvation, but really purchased and infallibly secured for them all that is necessary to get them saved, including the grace of regeneration and the gift of faith. (40)
Up to this point Piper’s defence of the five points has been the customary argument used for many years; however it is here under this point that Piper does indeed bring something new and very interesting to the discussion. Piper frames much of his argument in the context of the New Covenant, stating that Jesus death on the cross actually procured the benefits that the New Covenant promised, making salvation not just a possibility but a certainty. Here in this section he really excels and shows the most controversial of the five points to be a truth that again awakens the affections, as well as informing the mind. If there is a weakness in this book, it is found in the fact that the author does not deal with the Amyraldian view of the atonement, a view that is gaining ground today among many evangelicals.
U. ‘Unconditional Election’ Piper takes the typical Reformed view on this namely that God’s choice of human beings onto salvation is not contingent upon anything they do, nor is it based on their foreseen faith. Piper asks his readers to ponder the above fact and thus go beyond the theological abstract to a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love for His people, in the hope that they will experience that love for themselves.
P. ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ Piper is very forthright about what this doctrine does not communicate; the fact that those who are saved by God can never be lost does not mean they can live as they please and still expect to enter into God’s presence. He explains that the saints will persevere in holiness and that evidence of God’s presence with them, will be their progressive sanctification.
The perseverance of the saints is not a guarantee of perfection, but rather that God will keep us fighting the fight of faith so that we hate our sin and never make any lasting peace with it. (68)
Like with the other points Piper sets this one firmly in the context of God’s sovereignty exercised for His glory. The reason a Christian wakes every morning and still believes, is down to the sovereign grace of God, and for this reason He deserves our worship.
In this title, John Piper is lucid and forthright in his defence of the doctrines of grace, but more than that, he uses this theology as a lead into doxology. He concludes this work with a personal testimony as to what the doctrines of grace mean to him. There are few theology books that make you pause every few pages and worship, but this is certainly one of them, Tolle Lege