Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Not Pietism, Not Activism, but Realism

Piper or Kuyper?

John Piper
John Piper, a contemporary Edwardsian, and Joel McDuron, a manifestation of one version of contemporary Kuyperianism, are at odds on what to do about a contemporary addiction (seems that everything qualifies for designation as an addiction today). - entertainment.

A writer sought Piper's counsel: “I believe I do love Jesus, but most of the time I'd rather spend time being entertained than spend time in God's word. How do I break this hold that entertainment has on my heart?”

Piper points out how different things are now from Edwards day, when young people’s temptations were things like “frivolous conversation” and “bundling.” Now we have television and internet, and other sorts of “titillating fun” that we can carry around in our pockets.

Piper’s give practical recommendations for entertainment addiction rehab:

"1. Recognizing it is a huge step in the right direction.

 2. Seek the Lord earnestly about it. Pray like crazy that God would open your eyes to see wondrous things out of his law.

 3. Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don't feel like it, pleading with God to open your eyes to see what's really there.

 4. Get in a group where you talk about serious things.

 5. Begin to share your faith. One of the reasons we are not as moved by our own faith as we are is because we almost never talk about it to any unbeliever. It starts to feel like a kind of hothouse thing, and then it starts to have a feeling of unreality about it. And then the powers of entertainment have more sway in our life.
And so those would be some of the things, but ultimately it's a gift of grace to feel the glory of God.
One last suggestion: think about your death. Think about your death a lot. Ask what you'd like to be doing in the season of life, or hours or days, leading up to meeting Christ. I do that a lot these days. I think about the impact of death, and what I would like to be found doing, and how I would prepare to meet him and give an account to him."

It is somewhat i ironic that in the middle of Piper’s response one finds: “Like us on facebook.” Also, the final counsel sounds a little like the old rule we fundamentalists were given about doing “questionable things” such as dancing or smoking. How would you feel if Jesus came at that moment?

Joel McDurmon of American Vision, doesn’t like Piper’s counsel a bit. He responds:

Abraham Kuyper
"I am sorry, but there is more to the Christian life than praying, reading the Bible, and contemplating death. I’m sorry, but it is simply inconceivable to think that someone would use their personal “free” time—likely dozens of hours per week for average people, probably more for young people, and definitely so for people who are already wasting too much time with entertainment—doing nothing but praying and reading the Bible...I will go further: it is irresponsible before God to do so."
What’s Piper’s problem according to McDurmon? No worldview, of course!
"While most Christians would disavow this extreme, unfortunately the advice many of them give sounds too much like it. This is because they don’t have a full-fledged biblical worldview.

Christianity—the Bible—is about every area of life. It is about excellence, progress, learning, building, networking, socializing, helping . . . working. Hardly any of this is ever preached on in modern churches, and yet these things, and things like them, are by far the most powerful tools to break the very addiction Piper was asked about, as well as many other problems like it."
So practically, how does one break the entertainment addiction? Here’s his rehab program:
"First, this is not an issue of personal preference. Indulgence in too much entertainment is a sin: it’s a sin of laziness, a sin of apathy, a sin of indulgence (lust), a lack of self-control, a failure of vision.

God did not design you to be a passive loaf absorbing the airs of the environment until you’re stale and molded (common after-effects of too much entertainment). God created you to take dominion over what He puts in front of you: your work, your family, yourself, your community. You are created to contribute, to work, to help.

As sin, laziness (or idleness) is to be repented of and thus turned away from. This part is very simple: Turn off the TV, internet, etc. Put down the IPhone. Turn off the Xbox.

Second, you need a productive alternative… you will probably need to learn an alternative… This in itself—an educational process—is taking dominion over your life.

So, get a book. What interests you?... The point is to find something productive—something with which you can help people, make a product, improve your self-discipline, manners, character. Preferably, find something that does not cost you much money.

Better yet, find something with which you can make money.

There are two steps to this second point: education and application. They should not be perceived as mutually exclusive—you learn more all the time even after beginning to apply what you’ve already learned.

McDurmon’s examples of things to do include building birdhouses, making flutes, and joining a chorale.

He goes on to summarize:

          The lesson is simple:
 1) You were created to be productive
 2) You can be productive
 3) You are commanded to be productive
 4) There are hundreds of ways for you to be productive

 5) There’s nothing stopping you from educating yourself on   “how to . . .”
 1)Turn off the entertainment
           2) Choose a productive hobby, interest, business, etc.
           3) Educate yourself (reading, listening to lectures)
           4) Apply what you’ve learned as you become able

           5) Repeat steps 3 and 4."

(For followers of Kuyper, yes Kuyper is better than McDurmon and that Kuyper understood the place of piety with his activism. But, please let me have my fun with the assonance of Piper and Kuyper.)

So there you have it. If you experience “entertainment addiction,” here are two paths to recovery. Pietism: Confess, pray, read the Bible, join a group, evangelize, think about death. Activism: Repent, take dominion, educate yourself, figure out applications, do something productive, make some money. Detach from this world as much as you can, seek the vision of God, and don’t let pleasures distract you. Or, take dominion, accomplish as much as you can for God, and don’t let pleasures derail you.

Now, all this makes me feel a certain amount of guilt. I don’t read the Bible, pray, witness, study, work, or produce – enough. Nor do I “make right use of this present world,” including its lawful pleasures. I would never say, “Here. Live life the way I do.”

Nevertheless I do have counsel for the person who wrote to Piper, and I think it’s Biblical. Read Ecclesiastes. Education, wisdom, work, pleasure, accomplishment, and righteousness have their places and their limits. Life is serious, but don’t take it too seriously. Make the best of things you can, but don’t’ count on anything in this world. If you live, you’ll get old. Then you’ll die and leave it all behind. It’s all vanity. Only God is above it all. So don’t ever forget him. Fear him. Keep his commandments. 

Not pietism, not activism. Realism.


Don K. Clements said...

I'm doing Ecclesiastes on Wednesday nights at Pulaski Presbyterian (the one that is NOT in Giles County). I can second Bill's emotion. Talk about realism. Someone needs to write an up-do-date commentary on that book!

mozart said...

I thought Phil Pyken did?

mozart said...

RYKEN! Too much caffine.

The Christian Curmudgeon said...

Phil Ryken died?

mozart said...

AACK! NO! Now, I'm in real trouble, oh, man, I hope Dr. Ryken doesn't read blogs.