No. 19 on the list of the most widely read posts on this blog appeared on January 17, 2006, and was a lengthy chat I had with Justin Taylor. Few editors are as well-known as Justin. He has expertise in editing others’ writings, highlighting interesting posts around the blogosphere, and creating his own work. He is now an integral part of the Crossway Books team. He is also someone I am pleased to be able to call a friend.
It is a real pleasure to be able to welcome to the blog, Justin Taylor, who is known to some as John Piper’s right hand man. First off, Justin, perhaps you can tell us all a little bit about yourself and how you came to be working with John Piper.
Adrian, it’s a pleasure to chat with you. Before I answer, let me first express my gratitude for your work in the blogosphere in producing thoughtful edifying material, as well as your work in encouraging and connecting with other bloggers.
About myself? At the risk of boring your readers, I was raised in a Christian family. I first prayed the sinner’s prayer at age 4. Then I prayed it again at ages 5, 6, 7, 8, etc. I consider my decisive conversion to be after my freshman year in high school, when I truly understood the nature of Christ’s finished work on my behalf.
When I went off to college four years later, I took a humanities course with a professor who would later become my advisor. I was captivated and frustrated with the first lecture—which was a passionate plea for the idea that a belief in moral absolutes was the source of great evil in the world!
I soon became a Study of Religion major, and almost lost my faith in the process. I had never really encountered intellectual arguments against Christianity, and they were now flying at me fast and furious. After one particularly vigorous discussion, based on the implications of Gordon Kaufman’s Theology for a Nuclear Age, I remember being pretty shaken. I had no interest in believing a Christianity that wasn’t true. Walking back from class, I sat down and leaned against a large tree, staring at the stars and expressing my doubts and confusion to God. God was very kind and merciful to me, and in that moment granted me a sense of peace and assurance. From that point on, I continued with my questions, but I knew that only a fool could deny his Creator.
Thus began an interest for me in apologetics and theology. During the summer break following my freshman year, my friend Matt Perman (now the Internet and radio director at Desiring God) was writing me long letters seeking to persuade me that Calvinism was biblical. In the mail he sent me a tape by John Piper on definite atonement. I was intrigued by the message because Piper was clear, winsome, and intellectually challenging. (My general view of pastors at that time was one of well-meaning anti-intellectuals.) I began listening to more and more Piper tapes.
Our public University of Northern Iowa had about 13,0000 students. By my junior year, 1,000 students a week were attending a weekly Christian meeting. And the interesting thing is that John Piper, along with corollaries like Calvinism and Christian hedonism, became one of the main topics of conversation among the Christian student body.
I made a couple of trips to Bethlehem Baptist Church (just a few hours drive away) to hear Piper preach. One Sunday I was there with my brother. I said to him at one point, “I’d love to just come here for a year or two and hear him preach—even if I had to clean toilets as an excuse to hear the sermons!” I inquired as to whether Bethlehem did apprenticeships, and it turned out that The Bethlehem Institute, a two-year, seminary-level apprenticeship program, was being planned at that time.
When I graduated from UNI in 1998, I applied for TBI. I was the first applicant. Not knowing if any more would apply, I was accepted! So I did an apprenticeship from 1998-2000. And one of my jobs during that time was as a janitor at Bethlehem—cleaning toilets! (I’ll let the debate rage in the comments section as to whether my previous utterance in this regard was prophetic!)
In 2000, I was planning to go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville to complete my MDiv. Piper’s editor was asked to take over a church, and thus the job opened up. Desiring God prevailed upon me to stay for just one year. At the end of one year, we had a moving van lined up to take us to Southern. But DG prevailed again, and I’ve been at DG ever since. In mid-January, however, we’ll be moving to Wheaton, Illinois, where I will take a job at Crossway Books as the Managing Editor for the forthcoming ESV Study Bible.
You may have seen some discussion about discipleship on my blog following a post by Tim Challies about being jealous of Josh Harris. That inspired my interview with Josh Harris, which focused on his relationship with C. J. Mahaney. I guess it was also part of my motivation behind asking you today. Do you get the impression that your relationship with John is similar to the relationship Josh has with C. J.?
I’m not sure there are very many people in the world who have a relationship like C. J. and Josh have! One of the differences is that C. J. was specifically grooming and mentoring Josh to step into C. J.’s pastoral role, whereas I was first a student of John’s, and then his employee. So our relationship of necessity has looked quite a bit different. John has been a wonderful mentor, friend, and counselor to me. No one has taught me more about the centrality of God in Christ and his supremacy over all things for his glory and the good of his people.
The question most people ask me about John is whether or not he’s the real deal. I can say with absolute confidence that he is. What you see is what you get. He lives modestly (he doesn’t personally receive a single penny from his book royalties), he is teachable, he is humble, and he goes hard after God. It has been such a privilege and joy to study under him and to work for him these past seven years.
Read more . . . Adrian Interviews Justin Taylor
Photo of Justin Taylor courtesy of Tony S. Reinke, The Shepherd’s Scrapbook. Used by permission.