PIPER FRIDAY – It is Impossible to Elevate Emotions Too Highly!

Today, I have a treat for you from John Piper, thanks to ScottyB. It’s a link to some audio in which Piper addresses this issue of the importance of experience in the Christian life.

Scotty has kindly typed out a short quote for us from the talk – it is the third one listed at this link over at Covenant Seminary.

In this talk, Piper is answering objections to Christian hedonism, and the third objection he addresses is:

“Don’t I elevate the importance of emotions too highly?”

While at Wheaton College, Piper read Situation Ethics by Joseph Fletcher, who argued that since love is commanded in the Bible, therefore love can’t be an emotion because you can’t command an emotion. But Piper felt there was something dead wrong with this premise since emotions are commanded everywhere in the Bible. It’s because it’s an Arminian premise, it’s not a Calvinistic or biblical premise. An Arminiam says, “If you can’t do something immediately by your will, it can’t be commanded legitimately, whereas a Calvinist will recognize that I can be commanded to do things that I’m morally incapable of doing, and God has every right to command me to do them, if I ought to do them, whether I can do them or not! So, for example, joy is is commanded (Phil 4:6 – Rejoice in the Lord), hope is commanded (Ps 42 – Hope in God), fear is commanded (Luke 12 – Fear him who can throw both soul and body into hell), peace (Col 3:15 – Let the peace of God rule in your heart), zeal (Rom 12:11 – Never lag in zeal), grief (Rom 12:15 – Weep with those who weep), desire (1 Pet 2:2 – Earnestly desire the sincere milk of the Word), tenderheartedness (Eph 4:32 – Be kind to one another), brokenness and contrition (James 4 – Be broken, you proud), gratitude (Eph 5:20 – Giving thanks always). All of those are emotions that you cannot control; you can’t turn them on and off like a faucet . . . and for people to come back at me and say my elevation of emotions is out of whack with the Bible, I say ‘I don’t know what community you’re coming from, but where I live, we haven’t begun to feel emotions that are appropriate to the glory of God.’ “

This section starts at approximately 31:01 into the tape and the following key quote starts at around 37:00.

“Edwards has this sentence that as a pastor he said I count it my duty as a pastor to elevate, to raise the emotions of my hearers (he uses the word affections) the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided that they are elevated by the truth and in proportion to the nature of the truth.

Well, what are some of the truths . . . ? Well, that God by grace has saved us. That God has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ. That God has granted us the Holy Spirit. That God has promised us everlasting joy in His presence that will increase forever and ever. That God will work everything together for our good. That God will be for us everything we need and supply all our needs. I mean, has anybody in this room – now be honest – has anybody in this room ever felt an emotion that rises to the level of something fitting the glory of those promises? No! So, how can we possibly say we have over-emphasized the importance of this reality of emotion?

We are dishonoring God by our emotions every day in our churches and we’re defending it by creating a will-power religion – Arminians do it by decisionism and Calvinists do it with a kind of authoritarian “obedience glorifies God” by sheer doing what He says and that reflects His authority in our lives. Well, that reflects a little teeny piece of His glory – namely His authority. All right! Granted, you got that one. His glory has ten thousand radiances beyond authority that mean to be glorified in the echo of the emotions of His people that are fitting the beauty of the revelation, and if you don’t call that and help create that among your people, you cultivate a people who dishonor God by the flatness of their emotions.

Oh, I wish I had that other quote here from Edwards because Edwards says (I’ll paraphrase it here because he just says it so powerfully) he says, God created his creatures, human beings, rational creatures, with two capacities – the capacity to will and delight . . . and the capacity to think and reason – the notional and effectual capacities. And then he says God revealed Himself to be known properly by the rational capacity . . . . and, Edwards says, He reveals His revelation of Himself to be known accurately by the mind, through Scripture . . . and He reveals the glory of that truth to be rejoiced in and delighted in, and satisfied by to the will and to the affections, and he says God is not so much glorified in those who only know Him truly, but don’t delight in Him duly . . . .

You may know Him wonderfully accurately, and therefore reflected back to Him from your mind is right thinking, and that’s good, and that’s part of the rumination of His revelation that He wants to get from you. But if you don’t take that other huge dimension of the human soul (and it is bigger and more powerful in most people than their little poor brains are) that has longings, and cravings, and desirings, and delightings, and satisfactions, and show them that God is also the satisfaction for that, so that in our worship, and in our lives, and in our families, our hearts are taken out to God with delight, and satisfaction, and joy, then God is not glorified for the value of the truth that is seen, and that, I would say, is the larger part of His glory.

Powerful. I couldn’t have put it better myself, and it is this very dishonoring of God that I am anxious to address in my recent charismatic debate post. I am convinced that only the Spirit can soften our hearts so that we can respond appropriately emotionally to the felt presence of God and the preaching of His Wo
rd.
UPDATE: An additional portion of John Piper’s talk has been added to this post, including the first few sentences of the “Wheaton College quote” and the final two paragraphs of the “main quote.”

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor, a writer, and a member of Jubilee Church, London since 1995, where he serves as part of the leadership team alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus. Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

**********************************

You are warmly invited to comment on this blog. By doing so you demonstrate that you accept Adrian's comment policy.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X