Friday, April 5, 2019

TGC’s Same-Sex Attracted Christian Apostasy Cover-Up

from Pulpit &

The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and 9Marks are fully engaged in a cover-up of Sam Allberry’s abominable doctrines. Stop and think. has been full of appalling teaching and counsel for years. The men behind TGC and 9Marks have been promoting Sam Allberry and for years. They were not ignorant of the gross exchange of God’s truth for the same-sex attracted lie until recent weeks. They actively facilitated it, and all the evidence indicates they’ll continue to. Read more ...

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Is Homosexual Practice No Worse Than Any Other Sin?

by Robert A. J. Gagnon, PhD.

In my work on the Bible and homosexual practice I often encounter the argument that (1) no sin is any worse than any other sin; therefore (2) homosexual practice is no worse than any other sin.* Usually the comparison is then made with sins for which accommodations are often made by Christians (like gluttony or remarriage after divorce), rather than with sins for which no accommodation is made (like incest or murder), as a way of either shutting up Christian opposition to homosexual practice altogether or contending that self-affirming participants in homosexual practice will still “go to heaven.” Even many evangelicals who neither support homosexual practice nor extend a pass from God’s judgment to those who persist unrepentantly in it subscribe to these two views.

Sometimes these claims are buttressed by an analogy, such as when Alan Chambers, former head of Exodus International, declared at the opening night General Session of the 2012 Exodus International Conference: “Jesus didn’t hang on the cross a little longer for people who … have been involved with same-sex attraction or who have been gay or lesbian.” It comes across as a nice sound bite and can be helpful for those who think that homosexual practice is too bad to be forgiven by God. But it doesn’t establish the claim that there is no “hierarchy of sin.” The length of time that Jesus hung on the cross is irrelevant. It is the fact of Jesus’ death that counts for atonement. Nor is anyone arguing that Jesus’ death cannot cover big sins. It covers big and little sins for those who repent and believe in the gospel. 

Monday, March 18, 2019

President Evangelical Financial Accountability Group Fined Falsely Claiming Unlicensed Use of CPA Title

by Julie Roys

As President of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), Dan Busby is responsible for enforcing ECFA’s standards of ethics among the 2,300 nonprofit groups and churches that the ECFA accredits. Busby also speaks nationally on financial accountability. And he’s written numerous books including, TRUST: The Firm Foundation of Kingdom Fruitfulness—a book equipping leaders of “Christ-centered ministries” to “be intentional about building and maintaining trust.”

Given that the ECFA and Busby’s platform rely on trust and integrity, one would expect Busby to be above reproach. Yet according to the Virginia Board of Accountancy (VBOA), Busby was fined $9,000 in 2016 for the unlicensed use of the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) title on at least 38 publications, his personal website, the ECFA’s website, and the Church Law & Tax website.

The VBOA also required Busby to pay an additional $1,000 administrative fee to cover the VBOA investigation. And the board ordered Busby to remove the CPA title from all “signage and any and all listings” until Busby again became licensed.

“Given that the ECFA and Busby’s platform rely on trust and integrity, one would expect Busby to be above reproach. Yet according to the Virginia Board of Accountancy, Busby was fined $9,000 in 2016 for the unlicensed use of the CPA title . . . “
According to the VBOA complaint, Busby falsely represented himself as a CPA on multiple books published by Zondervan between 2000-2015. These included “The Christian’s Guide to Worry-free Money Management,” and numerous editions of “The Zondervan Minister’s Tax & Financial Guide” and Zondervan’s “Church and Nonprofit Tax & Financial Guide.”

I contacted Zondervan for comment, but the publisher did not respond.

Busby also was listed as a CPA on numerous books published by the ECFA between 2000-2015. These included “Charitable Giving Guide for Missionaries and Other Workers,” “Donor-Restricted Gifts Simplified,” “The Independent Audit and the Audit Committee,” and multiple editions of “Preparing Tax Returns for Clergy” and “Reporting Procedures for Congregations.”

Busby was also listed as a CPA in ECFA newsletters between 2000-2015, as well as on multiple websites, the National Directory of Registered Tax Return Preparers and Professionals, and Busby’s LinkedIn account.

Brian Taylor, a former CPA who now works for a small consulting company in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, sent me the VBOA complaint, which he said he researched and submitted four years ago. Taylor noted that Busby had worked as a CPA for 31 years before coming to the ECFA, and said his misrepresentation was intentional and inexcusable.

“With Busby, it was a 15-year pattern of intentional fraudulent inducement to sell books and enrich his pocketbook and his reputation,” Taylor said. “This was no accident. . . . He knew he didn’t take any CPE classes for 15 years. You can’t do it for 31 years and then suddenly forget. CPAs are reminded annually.”

“This was no accident. . . . He knew he didn’t take any CPE classes for 15 years. You can’t do it for 31 years and then suddenly forget. CPAs are reminded annually.”

“Mr. Busby’s current role as President of ECFA is to enforce (ECFA’s Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship) among all member nonprofits, as the basis for the public trust in nonprofit fundraising and responsible stewardship of trust funds throughout America. And yet . . . Mr. Busby freely chose to commit intentional acts of wrongdoing over his entire 15-year tenure at ECFA, that repeatedly violated the ECFA Standards, the Code of Virginia, and the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) Code of Professional Conduct.”

Virginia law prohibits a person who does not hold a Virginia CPA license from using the CPA title in Virginia. Similarly, the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct states that a member discredits the profession if the person “makes claims about the member’s . . . qualifications in a manner that is false, misleading, or deceptive.” This would include “any representation about CPA licensure . . . that is not in compliance with the requirements of the relevant licensing authority.”

Recently, Busby and the ECFA have come under increased scrutiny for its longstanding accreditation of Harvest Bible Chapel, despite glaring financial improprieties there. Last Wednesday, I confronted the ECFA publicly for accrediting Harvest. And on Saturday, the ECFA finally suspended Harvest’s ECFA accreditation. But the Harvest debacle has raised questions concerning the ECFA’s effectiveness to hold member groups accountable.

In a statement released today, the ECFA defended its president. The statement said that Busby learned that he was not in compliance with Virginia’s accountancy laws in 2015 and has since rectified the problem. “While Dan’s use of the CPA designation complies with the laws of Kansas—where he was originally and still is certified—he had no idea that his use of the designation could possibly not be in compliance with Virginia law,” the statement said. “Dan, of course, was mortified to learn of any possibility that he was not in full compliance as he has made it his life’s work to help organizations pursue integrity.”

The statement added that Busby “has never held himself out as offering public accounting services as a Virginia CPA.” And it noted that Busby has since completed more than 180 hours of continuing professional education and settled the matter with the Virginia Board. “Dan is glad to have the matter resolved and he deeply regrets the oversight,” the statement said.

“Dan, of course, was mortified to learn of any possibility that he was not in full compliance as he has made it his life’s work to help organizations pursue integrity.”

Also, according to the AICPA, “any action initiated by a member that informs others of his or her status as a CPA . . . constitutes holding out as a CPA.” Not only did Busby use the CPA designation from 2000-2015 on his website, bio, and in his books, he also prepared the ECFA 990 tax returns and was listed as a CPA in online directories.

Taylor said he stands by his claim that Busby’s violation was intentional and not an “oversight.” In addition to the facts already cited, Taylor noted that Busby did not use the CPA title when he signed a letter in 2011 that was submitted to the IRS, nor in a 2013 report that was submitted to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. The “logical conclusion,” Taylor asserts, was that Busby “was afraid he might be found out and embarrassed, so he concealed the CPA where the risk was higher.”

According to the ECFA statement, the organization’s board was informed of the issues with the Virginia board “as it developed.” The statement adds that the board “continues to wholeheartedly support Dan in his role as ECFA president and in all his endeavors.”

Interestingly, Busby’s base salary at the ECFA in 2015 was $193,218, according to the ECFA 2015 990 tax form. However, in 2016, the year of the Virginia board sanction, it jumped 26-percent to $242,563. And in 2017, the last 990 available online, Busby’s base salary was $254,979.

One of the seven areas covered in ECFA’s seven standards is compensation setting for leaders of its member organizations. The other standards deal with use of resources and compliance with laws, doctrinal issues, governance, financial oversight, transparency, and stewardship of charitable gifts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

A Few World Facts

by Doug Nichols

1. Statistics about the Unfinished Task of World Evangelism.

▪There are approximately 7.5 billion people on Earth. Approximately 750 million (or about 11 percent) of those are willing to claim Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.

▪At present, just over 50 percent of the world's population (or 3.5 billion people) have not heard the gospel and most of them do not have a realistic opportunity to hear the gospel. Here's another way to look at the challenge of world evangelism:

▪Of the 16,700 distinct people groups on the planet, 6734 people groups (roughly 60 percent) contain between zero and two percent evangelical Christians. Many of these 6734 people groups have no churches, no Bibles, no Christian literature, and no mission agencies who are seeking to share the gospel with them.

▪If the church and evangelical missions worldwide were able to send one missionary to each group of 5000 people (of the 3.5 billion) we would need 700,000 additional missionaries!

2. Diaspora, “a people scattered.” The Global Diaspora Network (GDN networks and encourages ministries to diaspora worldwide.  For example, there are over one million Filipinos in Saudi Arabia; 50,000 of these are evangelicals encouraged to reach out with the gospel to Saudis!

3. Children Everywhere! Please pray for many additional missionaries to serve with the gospel and compassionate care to the 100 million street children, 160 million orphans, and other children in crisis in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

4. Additional Missionaries Needed for Manila. Metro Manila is composed of about 17 municipalities (called “cities”) with a total population of 20 to 25 million people! Perhaps you would pray for a great influx of missionaries (ages 21 to 81) to serve in each of these 17 cities by working with local evangelical churches in ministries of encouragement, evangelism, discipleship and development to the glory of God. Missionaries are needed to help mentor pastors in ministry, and all ages are needed to work with street children, the rich, the poor, prisoners, businessmen and women, political leaders and in all aspects of ministry of the gospel.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Who Me? Admonish? (or should I say something?)

… Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ,
(Colossians 1:27-28).

Have you ever been surprised or disheartened by the conduct or teaching of big shots, celebrities, pastors of mega churches or directors of large ministries? Are you discouraged by their rudeness, crudeness, anger, language, teaching, or lavish and ostentatious lifestyles?

Most of us are intimidated and fearful to say anything. After all, we may only pastor a small church of 50, so who are we to confront (even graciously) a pastor of a church of 5000? How can we speak to the conduct of a famous Christian author when we have never written a book?

But shouldn’t all of us in the body of Christ encourage each other in our conduct and walk with God?

At a pastors’ meeting where I was speaking, I was seated next to the well-known pastor of a large church, who was known for his crudeness in the pulpit. He spoke to no one at the table even when spoken to. When I sought to encourage and talk to him, he simply looked at me with an angry stare.

Was this a time to say something like, “Hey, brother, what do you think of Paul’s instruction to the church in Colossians chapter 3, when he says that as a Christian, we are to put on (so the world can see) a heart of compassion, kindness, and humility? Brother, as a pastor and teacher of the Word, is it possible to be a true believer without the evidence in our lives of things that clothe a follower of Christ?"

The reason most of us would not speak (even kindly) to a big shot church leader is because we are afraid they will answer, “Who do you think you are?”

Well, we do know (or should know) who we are; we are members of each other in Christ, in His body the Church!

So, don’t be a coward like me. Tactfully and graciously speak (or write) to those who bring shame to Christ and discouragement to the church. Don’t be intimidated by statements like, “I know Pastor So and So is not perfect but look at the size of his church. He may be angry, use crude language and have strange teaching, but look at all he does for the Kingdom.”

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29).

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

If our teaching, lifestyle, and conduct do not glorify the Lord Jesus, what good is it to have a large ministry or church?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

We Must Care for Our Future -- Our Children

by Doug Nichols

[Appeared in the Journal American, March 18, 1995]

If 40,000 spotted owls were dying every day, there would be an outrage. But 40,000 children are dying, and it’s hardly noticed, said one representative to the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

One hundred million extremely underprivileged and street children struggle for existence in today’s cities. One hundred million! Are these children trash? Local businessmen in Brazil call them...Vermin, Garbage. If we let them grow up, they will be criminals, a blight on our society.

Therefore, some policemen (and others)moonlight by contracting to kill many of them. In 1992 an average of 400 of these children were killed monthly in Brazil.

Some of these children are young and cute. They can still smile. But most are older, have rotten teeth, and are scar-faced, disease-ridden, flea- and lice-infested, shifty-eyed, suspicious, and fearful. They are the poor, the outcast, the abandoned, the exploited—the children of the streets.

How do they exist on the streets? By begging, stealing, selling their bodies and eating out of garbage cans. The government of the Philippines estimates there are up to 100,000 children living on the streets of Manila. Fifteen thousand of these are child prostitutes between the ages of 9 and 12. In Thailand there are 800,000 prostitutes from 12 to 16 years of age.

In Sao Paulo, Brazil, another 800,000 children are living on the streets. Bogota, Colombia, has 8,000 to 10,000. Estimates in Mexico City are over one million underprivileged children, with 240,000 living on the streets.

Children don’t ask much

A veteran children’s worker with more than 30 years’ experience, asked Latin American street children what was the biggest wish of their entire lives:

Ramon drooled over a vivid description of a sumptuous dinner. Ten-year-old Leila pleaded for the chance to go to school. She longed to read and write.

Ricardo looked up from his shoe-shine box to whisper wearily that what he always wanted in his 12 years is a father. Maria’s aggressive retort was, To be left alone! from abuse and violence, and Nelson said that more than anything, he wants to play.

The biggest wish? Not new cars, fancy houses, property, exotic vacations, the desire to be prosperous and famous? No, the biggest wishes of street children are for things many take for granted: home, good food, family, school, the chance to play and work, the freedom from fear and violence. Really, they’re not asking much, are they?

Why is working with children, the smaller half of the world so important? First, God said of the Ten Commandments, “Impress them on your children” (Deut. 6:7); therefore, working with children is central to obedience to God. Second, it is important because of the bulk of the world’s population is children. Third, children play important roles in society, positively as well as negatively.

There are an estimated 40 million children on the streets of Latin America. The majority of them are becoming a plague to society; but by helping these children we can help society as a whole.

What can you do? You as an individual can have a large impact on one, two, or more street children throughout the world. For example, if you set aside just 25 cents per day to assist street children, this would total $30 in four months, which is all it costs to send a child to camp for one week in Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines or Africa.

How can you help the 100 million children of the world?

Christian Hedonism, Is It Right?

by Dr. Peter Masters

‘Christian Hedonism’ is a term adopted in the literature of Dr. John Piper to describe his scheme for sanctification and advance in the spiritual life. Certainly, it is a very strange term, because hedonism is, for Christians, a bad word. Hedonism means the pursuit of pleasure as the chief good, but in the case of this new scheme of spiritual living, it refers to the pursuit of pleasure in God.

Christian Hedonism says that the pursuit of happiness in God is the overruling source of power and energy for the life of the Christian. The proposer, Dr. John Piper, is a prominent evangelical preacher in the United States, who began to popularise his views in 1986 with the publication of his book, Desiring God. In this he maintains that delighting in God is the pivotal issue in the Christian walk; the central and the most important part of the life of faith.

Dr. Piper makes much use of the little sentence, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.’ Indeed, the pursuit of joy in God is held as being one and the same thing as glorifying God.

Why should this article set out to assess this teaching? The answer is that many pastors and people are being influenced by it, but very serious cautions need to be sounded.

It is not surprising that believers find Christian Hedonism or ‘delighting in God’ interesting and attractive. To delight in the Lord is a magnificent and biblical exercise. But Dr. Piper’s formula for its use undoubtedly alters the understanding of sanctification long held by believers in the Reformation tradition, because it elevates one Christian duty above all others.

Delighting in God, we repeat, is made the organising principle for every other spiritual experience and duty. It becomes the key formula for all spiritual vigour and development. Every other Christian duty is thought to depend on how well we obey this central duty of delighting in the Lord. The entire Christian life is simplified to rest upon a single quest, which is bound to distort one’s perception of the Christian life and how it must be lived.

Whatever the strengths of Dr. Piper’s ministry, and there are many, his attempt to oversimplify biblical sanctification is doomed to failure because the biblical method for sanctification and spiritual advance consists of a number of strands or pathways of action, and all must receive individual attention. As soon as you substitute a single ‘big idea’ or organising principle, and bundle all the strands into one, you alter God’s design and method. Vital aspects of Truth and conduct will go by the board to receive little or no attention. This is certainly the case with Dr. Piper’s method, as we will show.

The same goes for all the attempts at constructing a single-principle formula for sanctification that have been devised over the years. One thinks of the branches of the holiness movement, each of which has invented a single overriding principle, whereby one particular spiritual duty has been made superior to all others, these being made dependent upon it.

You cannot reorganise the Lord’s way of accomplishing the fruits of godliness without many duties being swept out of view. ‘Single-principle’ systems do not intend to cause harm, but, inevitably, they do. To borrow a piece of modern scientific jargon, biblical sanctification is a system of irreducible complexity. Not that it is too complicated - having only seven or eight well-known component virtues which must all be kept to the fore in ministry.

It may be helpful to refer here to the founder of this new ‘delighting in God’ method of Christian living. Dr. Piper, now in his mid-fifties, has for the last twenty or so years been the senior pastor of a very large church in Minneapolis. Prior to this, he was an academic, a seminary professor. Without doubt he is a Calvinist, and much of his written output is entirely admirable (although his presentation of the work of Christ and justification has been challenged).

Dr. Piper is particularly noted for passionate communication. Those who know him say that his entire heart is in what he teaches. He is clearly no mere ‘performer’. He writes and preaches with a distinctive and compelling style, achieving a popular ‘flow’ which everyone can follow, and yet without sacrificing depth of reasoning. He also produces many extremely powerful, expressive sentences (although these often mingle with others rather overloaded with superlatives). This reviewer must own that he finds Dr. Piper too keen on producing startlingly original ways of looking at everything, and seldom are these to be found in the Bible. He is a master of the oblique approach, but at times his rather contrived reasoning leaves one grateful that Scripture, by contrast, is so straightforward and free from philosophical gymnastics.

Dr. Piper’s main proposition - that we must delight in the Lord - commends itself to us all. It touches every conscience. It is scriptural. It is necessary. It is neglected. Accordingly this scheme for Christian living will naturally seize our attention and challenge us. The great problem arises from it being made the supreme issue of life, and the core of our obedience to God. Is the key aim to delight in God? Is the root of all righteousness to delight in God? Is delight in God the only true and worthy motivation for good deeds? In Dr. Piper’s scheme, every other Christian virtue, from love to temperance, is dependent on this. We cannot have either motivation or energy for the life of faith unless our prime aim is to be delighting in God. This, in a nutshell, is the method which is proposed.

At times in his books Dr. Piper wants us to see this as an old idea, but his claims are not convincing. It does tend to look no older than C S Lewis, whose famous book, Weight of Glory, had an explosive influence on Dr. Piper in his younger years. In the course of this book, C S Lewis criticised people who regard the self-interested pursuit of joy as something ugly and wrong, insisting that it is a Christian duty for everyone to be as happy as he can be. (This is characteristic of the mystical drift of C S Lewis.)

Dr. Piper tells us that while browsing in a bookshop as a young man, he found Weight of Glory, read the passage on the pursuit of joy, and was overwhelmed by a whole new view of the Christian life. From that moment he began to develop the determined and passionate pursuit of pleasure in God as the supreme and all-controlling principle of life.

Dr. Piper often quotes Jonathan Edwards, who said much about delighting in God and Christian joy. By reference to Jonathan Edwards, Dr. Piper effectively says, ‘Look, this is as old as the hills. This is the way our forebears thought.’ Certainly Jonathan Edwards provides choice passages about delighting in God, as did the English Puritan writers, but at no time does he frame a system in which this becomes the key principle of Christian living. Joy in God always sits alongside other equal duties.

Although Dr. Piper seeks to root his system in the past, he seems at the same time well aware that it is a brand new idea. Frequently, he virtually admits it by using the language of innovation, and saying, in so many words, ‘This is explosive’; ‘This is stunning’; ‘This is radical’; ‘This is dangerous’; ‘This is not safe’; ‘This is surprising’. Dr. Piper really knows that he is promoting something novel. He even uses the term, ‘my vision’, and that is what it is, for however well intended, it is Dr. Piper’s personal vision. He also calls it ‘my theology’.

Dr. Piper’s publisher calls his book a ‘paradigm-shattering work’, and bids the reader join Dr. Piper ‘as he stuns you again and again with life impacting truths you saw in the Bible, but never dared to believe.’ The reality is that no one ever saw them like this in the Bible until Dr. Piper pointed them out in the 1980s.

A special matter for concern is Dr. Piper’s use of Scripture, because his books appear to establish every point with a host of relevant quotations. He takes the reader through every step with biblical validation. This obviously commends his viewpoint to readers, but the Scriptures quoted never actually support the thesis Dr. Piper presents. I do not for a moment suggest that his use of Scripture is devious or manipulative, but he is clearly so carried along by his ‘vision’ that he sees corroboration where it is not to be seen. Here are some examples of this.

In Deuteronomy 28.47-48 we read - ‘Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies.’

This is quoted in support of the idea that the pursuit of enjoyment of God is the key motivating action for all other Christian virtues. However, the text does not actually say this. It is obvious that the force of the charge is that the Israelites had forgotten their privileges, and refused willing obedience to God.

The verses do not go further and charge them with failure to pursue delight and pleasure in God as their prime objective. Dr. Piper’s thesis injects itself into the text, rather than receiving support from it.

We may glance also at Psalm 16 as a typical example of Dr. Piper’s use of quotations.

‘Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ (Psalm 16.11).

A look at the context shows that David is speaking about eternity, about Heaven. Although there is wonderful joy even while on earth, this is mingled with trials. The psalm does not say anything to support the idea that delighting is the key to spiritual living. To the relaxed reader such texts may appear to be supportive, but in reality they are not.

A most significant quotation comes from Psalm 37, particularly verse 4 - ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’

This verse is seen by Dr. Piper as a powerful rock and foundation for delighting in God as the fundamental duty, the key step in living the Christian life. But if we examine the opening block of eight verses we see a very different and larger picture. Duty number one appears in the first verse - ‘fret not thyself.’ So does duty number two - ‘neither be thou envious.’ Then comes duty number three (in verse 3) - ‘trust in the Lord, and do good.’ Then comes duty number four (verse 4) - ‘delight thyself also in the Lord’, which actually means comfort yourself (the Hebrew means pamper yourself). Duty number five (verse 5) is ‘commit thy way.’ Number six is ‘rest in the Lord.’ Number seven is ‘wait patiently.’ Number eight is ‘cease from anger.’

There are at least eight distinct exhortations in this grouping of verses, and delighting is by no means the first. Clearly, what the psalmist has in mind is a set of distinguishable and relatively equal duties. He does not single out one saying, ‘If you get this right, the others will follow.’ David is inspired to provide a multiple-track method of sanctification in which attention must be given to a number of duties at the same time.

This is exactly what traditional evangelicalism presents. David describes the multi-track teaching taken up by the Reformers, the English Puritans, and the great Continental dogmaticians.

Thus, a psalm to which Dr. Piper appeals in order to justify his central organising principle, actually teaches the opposite, upholding a multi-track approach to sanctification.

It is therefore necessary to say - take great care with the Scriptures advanced by Dr. Piper. They are obviously quoted in all sincerity, with passion and conviction, but they never truly support his very singular scheme.

Dr. Piper quotes the Puritans for support, when plainly they take a very different view. Richard Baxter is quoted, as if to demonstrate that he placed delighting in God in the central place. But Richard Baxter in 1664-5 wrote A Christian Directory, the most comprehensive treatise on Christian conduct ever penned, and this follows the multiple-track approach throughout. Nearly 1,000 pages of small type provide (in Baxter’s words), ‘A sum of practical theology, and cases of conscience; directing Christians how to use their knowledge and faith; how to improve all helps and means, and to perform all duties; how to overcome temptations, and to escape or mortify every sin.’

Baxter nowhere suggests that any single element of the spiritual life can be singled out and made the basis of success in all the others.

Puritan divines characteristically took hold of each duty and virtue, defining it, listing the impediments to its accomplishment, and identifying the encouragements and helps. Each one received individual and careful attention.

Matthew Henry is also quoted in support of Dr. Piper’s scheme, but not realistically, because he also gives equally close attention to each Christian virtue, each problem, each sin tendency. In a work as large as Matthew Henry’s wonderful commentary it is not hard to find quotations which may seem to support the ‘joy-is-everything’ idea, but it is certainly not the great commentator’s position. All Christian duties overlap a little and help each other, and quotations to this effect are numerous.

As we have noted, the Puritans are multiple-track if they are nothing else. They focus on mortifying sin, enduring, obeying and praying (with agonising). They press upon us the duty of self-examination, including even self-humiliation. Then they extol the duties of praise, thanksgiving, reflection, yes and joy in the Lord. However, it is multi-track. All duties are as important as each other. If it is possible to see one duty lifted a little higher than the others in Puritan literature it is probably obedience, not the pursuit of joy, but this is no doubt endlessly debatable.

We remember also that the Puritans had a place for the child of light walking in darkness (Isaiah 50.10). They paid a great deal of attention to the problem-times of spiritual gloom. The great confessions, the Westminster and the Baptist confessions, ascribe two reasons for spiritual darkness, when the clouds roll across the heavens. Reason One is the possibility of sin. Reason Two is the possibility that God brings about this darkness Himself, in His grace, to bring out our faith and trust, and so cause us to deepen and advance. Besides these, the old writers also see the believer living out life as an alien in a hostile world, oppressed by the sin and unbelief around, and yearning for home.

These trials and tribulations must be borne. They cannot simply be anaesthetised away. They are part of the faith-building process. Disappointment and sorrow and grief are essential for self-examination by both individuals and churches, and also as the fuel of compassion to lost souls.

There is no adequate and balanced view of trials and heartaches in Dr. Piper’s system. In fact, as far as I can see, the only way he addresses spiritual heaviness is to urge repentance for coldness of heart. This is the kind of shallowness even a brilliant man will stumble into once he subsumes the whole range of biblical principles and virtues under one.

We may think again of Richard Baxter, noting how he once preached a great sermon entitled “The Causes and Cure of Melancholy for the Cripplegate Morning Exercises” at St Giles, in the City of London. How long that sermon lasted is anyone’s guess. This writer has estimated two hours. A friend insisted four hours. Whatever the length, Richard Baxter could never have assembled such a mass of priceless observations and counsels if he had been strait-jacketed within the ‘pursuit of joy in God’ system. He was, however, free to concentrate on depression and all its aggravating causes, then provide help, without the distraction of an artificial formula for the spiritual life.

Or take Dr. Piper’s quoting of Jonathan Edwards, when he wrote - ‘God is glorified not only by His glory being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it, delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.’ Is Jonathan Edwards saying that delight in God is the channel and organising principle for all Christian activity and progress?

No, for we take account of the environment in which he ministered. His language was always influenced by the sickness of the society in which he lived. It was a church-going age. Practically everyone was theoretically a biblically enlightened, well-instructed Christian. Yet he was anxious to distinguish between those who had real spiritual life, and those who did not. His language here cuts between those two groups. It reflects the burden of his message: that you can be a merely theoretical Christian, or you can be a spiritually alive Christian. The former will only see, whereas the latter will be filled with passion. Equally, his words challenge a cold or backslidden believer to resume a fervent walk with the Lord. There is no implied endorsement of Dr. Piper’s unique system of sanctification.

At times Dr. Piper reflects a fear that his teaching could lead to a mystical serenity. His fear is well grounded, and this writer is sure that it does lead to this. He frequently uses the language of direct mystical communion. Although the joy pursued is derived from reflecting on the Lord, the end is still subjective, and this will lead to a self-conscious nurturing of happiness. This will become for many an unhealthy preoccupation, emotions being artificially ‘cranked up’ (a feature of other single-dominant-issue movements).

Dr. Piper also employs New Testament passages to support his thinking, but not appropriately. Take Acts 20.35 where Paul quotes the words of Christ, saying ‘I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Dr. Piper expounds this to mean that the delight and pleasure which we procure from reflecting on the Lord, is the essential motivation and energy for all good deeds. Christ is shown to be the authority for this.

However, Paul does not teach that we must fuel our generosity from the happiness derived from contemplation of the Lord and His blessings to us. This activity is precious, but it is not the vital driving force of our giving. Neither Christ nor Paul teach this - they simply state facts. If we give until it hurts, then we may derive comfort from the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It is not a lesson in how we may motivate and energise ourselves for giving, as if our performance of compassionate deeds depended on our basking in the delights that are ours in Christ.

It may have been during the course of the Sermon on the Mount that Christ gave His words. If not, He certainly gave similar teaching there. In each of the Beatitudes, the Lord speaks of the outcome or reward for a trial borne or a duty performed. He does not set out to tell us how to motivate ourselves for the duty, but how we may be comforted and encouraged by the ultimate blessing. Our motive will be an inborn desire to obey Christ and please Him and live out His standards. We will also be motivated by compassion for others. These are our motives and longings. To fulfil duties only for reward is to diminish or cheapen Christian character, and to hinder any real personal advance. In other words, our appreciation of God is one matter, and our desire to obey Him is another. The two are linked, but one does not take care of the other.

Dr. Piper, however, says that even Christ motivated Himself by thinking about the future reward. He quotes Hebrews 12.2 where it is said of Christ - ‘who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross’.

Says Dr. Piper, in effect - this is wholesome, this is holy, this is righteous, this is what motivated Jesus Christ. He could go through with the cross, only because He could set it against the future joy.

But this is not right. The Lord Jesus Christ indeed could go through with Calvary because He saw the joy that was set before Him, but this joy refers not to bare emotion, but to the joyful accomplishment of a host of redeemed people in glory. It was not the anticipation of His own future joy that energised and motivated Christ, but the happy result of Calvary, namely our salvation and deliverance; including our joy. (Loosely speaking, ‘joy’ is a metonymn in this text.)

When the Lord went to Calvary it was an unselfish act. We repeat that in Hebrews 12.2 the word ‘joy’ represents the achievements of redemption. Christ’s strength came from His view of what would be accomplished. So great was His love and compassion, that the goal of millions of saved people moved Him to pay that unthinkable price.

No, the love of God must be seen here in all its wonder, quite apart from the joy of God. Similarly the love which is put into the heart of the Christian at conversion is a pure and wonderful quality that cries out to be expressed. It may be suppressed and tarnished for periods by sin, and it certainly needs to be nurtured, but at the same time, it is a wonderful quality in itself. It is unselfish and un-self-seeking (as in 1 Corinthians 13). It is a tiny, minute, microscopic fragment of an attribute of Almighty God. It is not right to reduce it to a neutral thing, dependent on the stimulation of pleasure - however sacred that pleasure may be. It is a love that endures, even when the faculty of emotional feeling is burdened by grief, or jaded.

Some degree of love is in everyone, even the unregenerate. Unconverted people can carry out some beautiful and entirely unselfish acts. Perhaps a small capability of love has been preserved in the heart of the ungodly, not because it is deserved, but to leave a language for the Gospel. People would be unable to understand the wonderful love of Christ, and His act on Calvary, if there was no recognition or concept of love left in the world.

The love which comes with the new nature at conversion is a much more wonderful quality. It may certainly be energised and stimulated to some extent by reflecting on the fact that God will be pleased with this, but it ideally acts naturally, out of Christ-likeness and compassion, and then out of duty and obedience to God. Christian Hedonism really reduces love to cause and effect. It sounds so spiritual and God-centred, but it is an emasculated love.

Dr. Piper reinforces his idea for strengthening love from Hebrews 10.34, where we read - ‘For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.’ Says Dr. Piper, the reason why the people of God could accept persecution, with loss of their goods, was that they had joy in God, and in the certainty of a future inheritance. But this idea is not the intention of the passage.

The word ‘joyfully’ is obviously selected to show how willingly the Hebrews accepted persecution, the price of helping the Lord’s servant. It is not intended to show that they laughed and leapt for joy as they were punished. Nor is it an insight into their mental processes.

Did they say to themselves, ‘Can I allow my home to be seized? Now let me do some spiritual calculations. Let me consider - what are my gains?’ On the contrary, the text tells us that the motivating factor was compassion for the servant of God in his bonds, so they identified with him, visited him, fed him, and all those other acts which brought fury upon their heads. Then, as they lost their goods and their homes, they fortified and comforted themselves with the thought of their heavenly wealth. The latter did not precede and give rise to their sacrificial behaviour. Their love of the Truth and compassion for an apostle gave rise to their behaviour.

Dr. Piper’s system of delighting in God goes too far in ascribing every spiritual act and desire to one factor, and depriving each virtue of its own value and power.

One of the great problems with this ‘delighting in God’ scheme of spiritual advance is that it unwittingly puts self-interest right at the heart of the Christian life. Dr. Piper clearly would not intend this, but it is inevitable. Pursuit of joy in God has always been embraced as a Christian duty, but it must never be elevated above others so as to detract from their inherent virtue, nor must it eclipse the negatives of the Christian life - the ‘thou shalt nots’.

We obey God because it is our duty, and, of course, because we love Him. We obey Him because He hates sin, and because it destroys and harms those around us. We obey Him because He is the One Who knows all things, and is infinitely wise. We serve Him and seek the spiritual good of others out of indebtedness and out of compassion. We must be multi-track in our pursuit of godliness, and not simplify the method of the Word.

Andrew Murray, who died in 1917, a powerful writer, and a man of immense compassion and evangelistic fervour, inspired thousands through his books to adopt a single-issue system of sanctification. But for all its lofty goals and many truths, it tampered with the full-orbed biblical method, and could never work well. In the event it also provided the snare of spiritual pride.

Thinking of a more recent single-issue writer, there is the case of a Christian psychologist, a sincere man, whose books are extremely popular today. He reduces the process of sanctification to the simple formula of ‘blocked goals’. In some ways this runs fairly close to Dr. Piper’s vision, but like all single-dominant-issue systems it cannot work. There are numerous such systems. In all cases, certain sins go untouched; certain problems never come under the spotlight.

What does the ‘delighting in God’ scheme have to say about some of the rampant ills of the present-day Christian scene? What does it say about the charismatic movement, and the abandonment of reverence through contemporary Christian music? What does it say about irreverent Bible translations, and other appalling trends? The answer is that Dr. Piper goes in exactly the wrong direction on such matters.

Why is this? Is there some intrinsic weakness in his scheme, causing him to show such poor discernment and concern? This writer believes that there is. All single-dominant-issue schemes tend to be blind to individual matters of deep concern. Their major preoccupation creates a kind of tunnel vision, and perception fails. Dr. Piper concentrates on seeing his delighting system in all the Bible, so that his recognition of the rules and principles which bear on other issues is seriously impaired.

In fact, Dr. Piper’s system runs so near to the mystical-emotional basis of charismatic experience that it is not surprising to find him endorsing it in large measure, and claiming great blessing from his own experience with the Toronto Blessing. We understand he advocates charismatics and non-charismatics in the same church, and encourages all the trappings of charismatic life. Hedonism is hardly protective of principle.

When delight is everything, doctrine suffers a setback. When subjective emotions are unduly elevated, the proving and testing of all things becomes impossible. On charismatic matters, and on modern worship matters also, Dr. Piper is - to put it gently - an unsafe shepherd, and the fault lies not in his Bible, nor in his capacities, but in his system. As the better aspects of his ministry earn respect from his readers, so the poor guidance on potentially disastrous issues will mislead them.

God’s Word does not provide a single organising principle to govern and drive all the component duties of the spiritual life. ‘Christian Hedonism’ is not drawn from the teaching of the Lord, nor of Paul. However, the Bible does provide a clear prescription for the Christian life, listing a number of spiritual and moral duties, all of which must be given direct and individual attention. We are given famous lists (such as the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount, and the lists of 1 Timothy 6.11-12 and Galatians 5.22-23 - see footnote 3) and we must set our minds to accepting a multiple-track righteousness. We will pay a high price for any kind of clever system that reduces biblical duties to an artificial formula, however sound and inspiring many of its elements may seem to be.

Dare we question the apostle when we read the list of 1 Timothy 6.11-12? Will we say, ‘But just a minute Paul, you have left out the organising principle. You have left out any wonderful simplifying factor. You have left off the formula which will make it all come together.’ Of course he has, because there is no such formula. It is multiple-track righteousness. Seeking happiness is certainly not our prime goal. This is the recipe for emotional self-indulgence, subjectivism, and self-centred mystical ‘communion’ with Christ.

How is it that some notable teachers have endorsed Dr. Piper’s books? Presumably they have appreciated the many fine sentiments, and have automatically and graciously passed over the author’s exaggerated emphasis on his big idea. Reviewers cannot always be expected to put themselves in the shoes of students and younger believers who are at risk of basing their entire approach to life on such material.