DAVID AND BATHSHEBA (2 Samuel 11): The steps, sin, and responsibility

What were the steps in David’s temptation, sin, and cover-up (2 Sam 11) with biblical references?

At a time when David should have been with his people and fighting for Israel, he stayed in Jerusalem (2 Sam 11:1). David seems to believe that as king he can do whatever he wants and starts to think of himself as a god, much like other Near Eastern kings. Since David, as king, stayed back in Jerusalem, verse one points to David possibly becoming lazy instead of fighting with his mighty warriors like he should have. The allusion to laziness is seen even more in verse four as David arose from his bed when evening came. The next step in David’s temptation is David moving to the roof to gaze upon the city. As he looked around, he saw a woman (Bathsheba) bathing. Instead of averting his eyes or not looking in her direction, he continued watching her bathe. At a time when David could have avoided letting the temptation progress any further, he harbored it. The lust inside him grew until he could no longer stand it and he had to act upon it. As mentioned in the module videos, it is possible that Bathsheba’s bathing is a signal that her menstrual cycle is over and it is a safe time to have sex. Next, David inquired of who she was from his servants and was told that it was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 11:3), one of David’s mighty men (2 Sam 23:39). In spite of her being married, David sent his messengers to bring her to him and then had sexual relations with her (2 Sam 11:4). As king, David was to set an example for the people to follow and act as God’s appointed servant, yet this sinful act brought others into it and showed that David pursued his own pleasure instead of pursuing God.

Bathsheba then conceived and told David she was pregnant (2 Sam 11:5). It is not recorded or known in this passage, but there is no appearance of remorse and repentance from David for this sinful act. David then tries to cover up his sin by commanding Uriah to come back to Jerusalem from the battlefield. Upon arriving, David sends Uriah home hoping that he would have sexual relations with Bathsheba and cover up the pregnancy. However, Uriah disobeyed David’s orders and slept at the door of the king’s house with all the other servants refusing to sleep in the comfort of his own home while his men and the ark are on the battlefield (2 Sam 11:8-11). The next night, David showed his lack of integrity again by trying to cover up his sin by getting Uriah drunk so that he would go to his home and sleep with Bathsheba. However, Uriah once again stayed with the servants and did not go home (2 Sam 11:13). Uriah provides the example that David should have set by being where he was supposed to be with the army, and refusing to enjoy the comforts of home while the rest of the soldiers are in harm’s way.

David saw that he could not cover up his adultery and moved on to the next stage of the cover up by writing a letter to Joab and sending it back with Uriah. Joab was to put Uriah in the front line where the battle was the fiercest and then purposefully withdraw the men from him, leaving Uriah exposed to the enemy (2 Sam 11:14-15). Joab followed David’s orders and Uriah was killed in battle. Once Bathsheba’s time of mourning was over, David married her and she gave birth to a son. “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Sam 11:27).

After the child was born, God sent Nathan to confront and convict David. Nathan told David a story and pointed out that David was the evil rich man that took the poor man’s lamb and was guilty of sin (2 Sam 12:1-14). The Lord took away the sin of David in which David repented of (Ps 51), but the Lord brought judgment on David for this sin. While God told David that David would not die (2 Sam 12:13), the child died seven days later (2 Sam 12:18). David would experience a total of four sons ultimately dying untimely deaths.

Does the text state or imply that Bathsheba was partly guilty in the matter?

I agree with others that the text does not say that Bathsheba is responsible. If there was any sign of her tempting or seducing David into sin, I believe the Bible would be more clear in this matter. In this particular case, I do not see any evidence that points to Bathsheba having any culpability in this matter. Reading the text, it appears the Bathsheba was following Jewish law by taking a ritual bath that would make her clean since she was made “unclean” by her menstrual period (Lev 15:18-30). It was David that made her come to him and his pursuit of her, not Bathsheba’s seduction.

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SECOND SAMUEL 7 DAVIDIC COVENANT SUMMARY

Below is a summary of the Davidic covenant that is discussed in 2 Samuel 7. As part of the ongoing series at looking at Old Testament history, this post focuses on three main questions that arise out of 2 Samuel 7. The last question has a broader lens but still the main thrust of the information is based on what David’s response was in this important chapter.

Much more has been discussed on the very important Davidic covenant, but this post is about the context, the promises, and David’s understanding.


1. What did David want to do and what were Nathan’s and God’s responses

David settled into the king’s palace and realized that He was living in a luxurious dwelling, while God and His ark was in a tent (2 Sam 7:1-2). David wanted to build a permanent and better house for God than the tent that was housing the ark. Nathan answered David to proceed in building this temple for God. However, Nathan did not inquire of God for His direction nor did he depend on the Spirit’s leading before responding appropriately to David’s request. Nathan knew that God has blessed David and was with David (v3), which is why Nathan probably told David to go ahead and build the temple. God, on the other hand, came to Nathan that night and told him to tell David that David is not the one to build a house for God to dwell in, but his son will build the house of God. God did not put that request into David’s heart and neither had He asked other rulers to build Him a house to dwell in (v5-7). God proceeds to layout the promises of future blessing upon David and his descendants (v8-16).

 2. What are the promises made in the Davidic Covenant (vs. 8-16)?

The promises made to David are a further development of the Abrahamic covenant in which the three main parts are descendants (or seed), land, and blessing. God promises to make David’s name great like the names of the greatest men on earth (v9). The land promises that God made in the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants are reaffirmed when God promises that He will provide a place for Israel where they will not be disturbed, the wicked will not oppress them, and they will have rest from all of their enemies (v10-11). God promises that David’s son will succeed him as king of Israel, would build the temple of God (v12-13), and God’s mercy would remain with him (v14-15). God expands this by promising David an everlasting kingdom (Verse 13: “I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”, and verse 16: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever”). This is a promise that a Son of David, referencing the Messiah, would come from David’s lineage and that He will establish a kingdom and rule forever (v16). These promises from God to David are unconditional and do not place any conditions of obedience upon its fulfillment. The promises are based on God’s faithfulness and not on the obedience of David or Israel.

 3. How did David respond, and is there any evidence that he understood that these promises would not all be fulfilled by his direct descendant (who will turn out to be Solomon)?

David responds by worshipping God with thanksgiving and praise. He goes before the Sovereign Lord in prayer and is in awe of God and the promises God made to him. David cannot believe that God would bless him, “a mere human” (v19) the way He has promised. David praises God and speaks of the greatness of God (v22). Within the context of the 2 Samuel 7:18-29 passage, I think there is some evidence that David knew this would not all be fulfilled by his direct descendant, as multiple times throughout David’s praise he mentions the word forever. He asks God that He would keep these promises forever (v25) and in verse 29 David understands that with God’s blessing, his “house” will be blessed “forever” (cf. 1 Chron 17:12, 14, 27). Outside of this passage, Psalm 110:1 (“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet’” provides evidence that David knew these promises would be fulfilled in One that is greater than himself, his direct descendant, and future descendants (cf. Acts 2:29-36). First Chronicles 17 summarizes the Davidic Covenant and provides another glimpse at David’s understanding. First Chronicles 17:17 says, “This was a small thing in Your eyes, O God; but You have spoken of Your servant’s house for a great while to come, and have regarded me according to the standard of a man of high degree, O Lord God.” David understands that these promises will apply to his throne “for a great while to come” and would not all be fulfilled by his direct descendant, but because God is true and faithful, He will bless David’s house forever by establishing an eternal kingdom.

1 Samuel 1-15 Assessment: Eli, Samuel, and Saul as Fathers

Before I begin, let me start by saying the section titles below in bold were questions asked of me and which I had to respond to. I do not necessarily care for the phrasing of the questions and think they are quite harsh. The assignment was a short assessment and as such, not much space could be given to the bigger, broader, and more important question of why do some kids turn away from Christianity and lead a life with this world. That topic has been much discussed and there is not one simple catch-all answer that applies to every situation. Obviously, one can conclude that their straying from the Christian faith or living a life of sin is because of Satan and his demons. Because of their work and the issues of the flesh and the world (all three are the main categories in spiritual warfare – flesh, world, Satan/demons), people stray or fall. Ultimately, it is a temptation from our enemies (demons/Satan) that start the process. We have seen many “good” Christians and Christian leaders walk away from the faith because of sin or lack of a deep faith.

Anyways, for the purposes of this assessment, we focus only on the questions posed with what is known through 1 Samuel 1-15.


First Samuel chapters one through fifteen examines the lives of three leaders, their relationships with God, and its impact on their sons. This section of Scripture provides a glimpse into the importance of being a godly example to your children and how disciplining your child is vitally important. Eli, Samuel, and Saul each had their own unique relationship with God, however, as fathers their faith did not yield the same effect. A father must be a faithful believer in God, but must also train, teach, and discipline his children in the ways of the Lord.

Which of the Fathers was Evil and Which had Evil Children

Eli, a Jewish priest who served during the time of the Judges (1 Sam 1:1,3), probably started off with a good relationship with God in order to become a priest. However, that is not how he finished his life. Eli had two wicked sons, Hophni and Phineas, who served in the tabernacle but did not know the Lord (1 Sam 2:12). First Samuel describes their wickedness was apparently well known (1 Sam 2:24), including: sinned against the Law (Lev 7:30-34) when they kept and ate the meat was brought out of the pot when an animal was sacrificed, ate raw meat that had not been cooked (1 Sam 2:15-16), and had sex with women who served at the tabernacle (1 Sam 2:22). Eli was devoted to being a priest but was not effective in being a parent. Eli knew his sons were doing evil and wicked things, yet did not rebuke or discipline them as he should have to stop that type of behavior. God warned Eli through a “man of God” revealing the judgment that would come upon Eli’s sons (1 Sam 2:27-36). This prophecy said that Eli’s family line would end and God would raise up for Himself a more faithful priest (1 Sam 2:33, 35). Eli accepted God’s decree with almost indifference and tried to rationalize the judgment (1 Sam 3:18). He finished his life as a blind, overweight, and lazy man. These physical characteristics show his spiritual nature that he had become disobedient, lazy, and blind to God and His holy ways. Eli put his ministry before his family, did not discipline his children when they misbehaved, did not follow the Lord’s direction, and rationalized the sin of his sons.

Samuel was a faithful and obedient prophet and judge. At a time when prophecies and visions were rare, God revealed Himself to Samuel (1 Sam 3:7). Samuel faithfully obeyed God throughout his life, even in telling Eli the impending judgment upon his sons (1 Sam 3:11-18). Samuel’s faithfulness to God was shown as Israel recognized him as a prophet and God continued to reveal His word through him (1 Sam 3:20-21). Samuel had a great relationship with God, a healthy prayer life, and was a faithful and obedient servant of God. Near the end of Samuel’s life, he calls on anyone to accuse him of wrong doing, yet no one finds anything to accuse him of (1 Sam 12:1-5). Samuel is an honorable man who obediently followed God. However, like Eli, Samuel’s two sons, Joel and Abijah, were also wicked. They were appointed judges but sinned before God by seeking dishonest gain and perverting justice (1 Sam 8:1-3). The elders of Israel did not want them to rule and asked for a king (1 Sam 8:4-5).

Saul’s life started off well by obeying God and having a close relationship with Him, and was empowered to prophesy (1 Sam 10:10-13), but after becoming king, he became a wicked and disobedient man. He led Israel in several successful military campaigns against the Philistines. Yet, the signs of Saul’s heart and lack of trust showed early on in his career, including: he was fearful during his anointing (1 Sam 10:22-23), his impatience led to the improper burnt offering (1 Sam 13:1-15), the fear in waiting in the valley against the Philistines while Jonathan took to action (1 Sam 14:1-13), the unwise fasting oath that almost led to Jonathan’s death (1 Sam 14:24-48), and his failure to eliminate all of the Amalekites and their livestock as commanded by God (1 Sam 15:3). This final disobedience led to God rejecting Saul and withdrawing His Spirit from him (1 Sam 15:26). Ironically, Saul had the godliest son between himself, Samuel, and Eli. Saul had three sons (1 Sam 14:49), but the most well-known is Jonathan, who was faithful and loved God. Jonathan’s bravery in the Philistine outpost raid shows his faith and trust in God (1 Sam 14:6). Jonathan was faithful to God, even when it meant he was opposed to his father Saul in regards to God choosing David to be king. Saul threw a spear at Jonathan attempting to kill him and also insulted him calling him a “son of a perverse and rebellious woman” (1 Sam 20:30-33).

Evidence of Bad Fathering Leading to Evil Ways And Why Do Some Kids “Go Bad”

The story of God rejecting Eli because Eli honored his sons more than God gives evidence to bad parenting leading to evil ways (1 Sam 2:27-36). Eli’s life shows how bad fathering led to his son’s evil ways by his lack of discipline and rebuke of their actions; had he been obedient to God and disciplined his sons, their lives may have ended differently. A father is to teach his sons about God (Isa 38:18). Children are a gift from God (Ps 127:3), and He has entrusted them to the parent to care for and disciple them. “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). A father must be a man who “manages his household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” (1 Tim 3:4). Just as God deals with His children disciplining them, so fathers should discipline their children so that the children may follow the path of righteousness and goodness (Heb 12:6-10).

There is not much evidence to suggest that Samuel was a bad father and that led to his son’s evil ways. Since Samuel seems to have lived a righteous and obedient life as a judge and prophet (1 Sam 12), it is difficult to determine how he was as a father. However, one could apply Proverbs 22:6 to Samuel and deduce that Samuel was not training his children the right way. A plausible argument for the why Samuel’s sons were evil is because Samuel devoted so much time to his ministry, including travelling to different cities, and perhaps he was not home to teach and disciple his sons. His ministry may have taken priority in his life that his family suffered for it. However, it is difficult to determine from the text if this principle from Proverbs applies to Samuel or not since he is seen as an honorable person (1 Sam 12:19, 23; Jer 15:1; Acts 13:20).

In contrast, Jonathan was completely different from Saul. Jonathan was a brave and faithful follower of God, while Saul sought his fame and glory instead of God’s. Samuel was essentially raised under Eli’s tutelage, but turned out to be this honorable and faithful servant of God. Sometimes, children just “go bad” and it is not the fault of the parents. Some of the godliest people and pastors have had rebellious children. Humans are born totally depraved with a rebellious sin nature toward God and there is none that is righteous (Eccl 7:20; Rom 3:10). Our response when God calls us will determine if we choose to ultimately live for God or ourselves. Thankfully, God is a good Father that knows and loves His children and can bring a child into His family under the worst of circumstances.

Brief Statement on the Doctrine of Ecclesiology

Below is part of summary project on the doctrine of Ecclesiology (study of the church). During this project, I was to provide a detailed exposition on ecclesiology. This is not included in this post as my beliefs may differ from yours. Also, thoughts on the church, its purpose, baptism, offices, the sacraments, and its functions are all things Christians must wrestle with. From past hurts and pains we have felt in church to how it impacts our theology to a general theology of the church is something we all must deal with.

Think about what God has revealed and study the role of the church. What is the role of worship? What about sanctification? Is the church only a select few or many? Is one denomination right over another? Does denominations matter? What is the true, universal church? Is the church different from Israel? How long will it last? What are the qualifications of elders and deacons? Who can be an elder?

Brief Statement on the Doctrine of Ecclesiology

The church is the new covenant community of the Spirit for which all who are united to the risen and ascended Christ, who is the Head of the Body, are members of the invisible church which is the body and bride of Christ, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12-27; Eph 1:20; 4:3-10). The visible or universal church consists of all the true believers in Christ regardless of membership or nonmembership in organized churches of earth (John 17:20; 1 Cor 3:16-17). By the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, all believers are baptized and thus become the one body of Christ, and having become members of the united body, are to be obedient to Christ’s commands to seek unity of the Spirit, keep peace among the body, and love one another and their neighbors as Christ has loved (Matt 22:37-39; John 17:20-23; Eph 4:3-6; Col 3:14-15; James 3:18). Water Baptism, identification with Christ and His body, and the Lord’s Supper, the sign of the new covenant, are the only sacraments of the church and are a means of testimony for the church of the new covenant (Matt 28:19; Luke 22:19-20; Acts 10:47-48; 1 Cor 11:26). The justified believer is being sanctified, which is a setting apart unto God, by grace through faith; and while retaining their sin nature, is growing in godliness by the power of the Spirit and not human effort and yet will not be fully sanctified until glorification when the sin nature will be completely removed (John 17:17; 2 Cor. 3:18; 7:1; Eph. 4:24; 5:25–27; 1 Thess. 5:23; Heb. 10:10, 14; 12:10).

Practical Implications of Ecclesiology  – Ministry Emphasis: Christian Leadership

Ecclesiology is eminently important for Christian life and ministry because the church is a vital dimension of the Christian faith. Love for God and love for others is often summed up as the two “Great Commandments” (Matt 22:37-40). If love for one another is so important, then it would imply that the church is to love one another and the church would be known by their love (John 13:35). There are a number of stories from people who have left the church or will not even attend church because of some form of abuse from a church or some of its members. While the church is an easy target in modern times, we as Christians must work that much harder to focus on manifesting the love of Christ to all people, regardless of any differences.

Each member of the body of Christ has been given some form of a spiritual gift. These gifts are given by God, at His discretion and are for the good of the body. Each member of the body is to understand and use these gifts for the glory of God and the strengthening of the body. Each believer has been called to a holy calling and to not walk in the flesh, but in the Spirit and thus live in the power of the indwelling Spirit instead of the flesh. Every believer, indwelled by the same Spirit, is called to their own divinely appointed service as the Spirit wills and should be encouraged in their service for God. The church must help its members understand what these gifts are and how they can be used in their service to God. If one part of the body is hurting, then the whole body hurts with it. If one member is not using their gifts for the glory of God in the body, then the body is not fully functioning as it should (1 Cor 12:12-27). The church must not run from the topic of spiritual gifts, but must educate its members accordingly in hopes that the body may be better served.

Christians should remember that the church and the kingdom of God are not identical. There is a greater and blessed hope that is still yet to come. The church is the present form of the kingdom and the kingdom is present in the church, but the kingdom is not completely present now. The church witnesses to the kingdom of God and is the instrument of the kingdom. The church should be a place and a people of righteousness, justice, and peace. The church should be a place that helps those that are lost, marginalized, oppressed, and hurting. Yet, leaders and members of the church must remember what their lives were before Christ, and continue to build each other up by encouraging and strengthening each other in Christ’s love. The church should show members and visitors the transformative power of the Gospel, instead of something that distorts the Gospel and obscures God. Leaders should continually emphasize that church is not just a collection of individuals, but is a community of believers experiencing and worshiping God. As a church, we must remember the authority of the inerrant Scriptures in our lives and be obedient to its instructions.

The church is responsible to live as the community of the Spirit in the world. The church and all believers are not of the world but we are in the world (John 17:9-12, 15). Believers were called to function as salt and light and show the world what true worshippers of Christ look like. Church should continually remind people who God is and how He loves us, for out of our love for Him will flow a love for others as we are live out the commands of Christ. Our charge to “grow in grace” and becoming more spiritual mature should be a constant reminder. As we grow, we are being sanctified, we are loving God, obeying His Word and Spirit, and helping others see the transformative power of God.

Finally, the church should be a continual reminder of a believer’s justification and sanctification. Baptism and Communion should always be held in high regard instead of a task to be accomplished. A regular reminder of the beauty of Communion needs to occur to truly remember the work of Christ. In doing so, we look forward to the day when in our glorified bodies we are finally with Christ. Church is something that is overlooked; it is time modern believers show sanctified people worshipping in Spirit and in truth proclaiming the love of Christ.

Biblical, Exegetical, Theological, Historical, and Explanatory Notes

[1] WCF 25.1: “The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, “Chapter 25: Of the Church,” 3rd ed. [Lawrenceville, GA: Committee for Christian Education and Publications, 1990]). The invisible church (the elect) is known only to God.

[2]  Glenn Kreider, “The New Covenant,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 (Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016), 74. C.f. Gregg R. Allison, Sojourners and Strangers (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 30.

[3] Rom 12:5; 1 Cor 12:12-27; Eph 1:20-23

[4] Eph 1:20-23; 5:23; Col 1:18.

[5] Eph 3:6; Col 1:18

[6] Eph 1:23

[7] 1 Cor 12:12-27

[8] Matt 16:16-18; 1 Cor 3:16-17. Glenn Kreider, “The New Covenant,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 (Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016), 27. “The church is defined by the people who constitute it. Or better, she is defined by the one whose people constitute it. The NT emphasis is on what she is, not how she came to be; on who she is, not what she does; on whose she is, not who/what she used to be.” The church assembles together (Heb 10:25), but is not defined by the assembly or a building. The church remains the church even when not assembled.

[9] Eph 2:8-10

[10] Acts 2:1-4, 42-47. “It is notable that Jesus makes only two references to the church (Matt. 16:18; 18:17), and that in the former case he is speaking of the future (‘I will build my church’). The fact that Luke never uses ekklesia in his Gospel but employs it twenty-four times in Acts is also significant. It would seem that he did not regard it as present until the period covered in Acts. While Acts 7:38 uses ekklesia of the people of Israel in the wilderness, it is likely that the term is here being used in a nontechnical sense. We conclude that the church originated at Pentecost” (Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013], 1048). Regarding Ephesians 2:11-3:11, if the church, which is the dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit, is built upon the foundation of the work of Christ, its origin must be dated after the work was accomplished (Glenn Kreider, “The New Covenant,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 (Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016), 37-39).

[11] Matt 26:26-30, 28:19-20; Acts 8:38-39; 1 Cor 11:23-24, 12:13. The mediation of covenant blessings of the Abrahamic covenant appears to provide the best distinction between Israel and the church. “Israel” is designated for those whose relationship is governed by the Mosaic Covenant, whereas “church” is designated for those whose relationship to God is governed by the New Covenant (Glenn Kreider, “The New Covenant,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 73).

[12] Dan 9:27; John 14:1-3; 1 Thess 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; Rev 6:1-19:21. See Dallas Theological Seminary, “Article XVIII,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed July 4, 2016, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/ and Dallas Theological Seminary, “Article XIX,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed July 4, 2016, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement

[13] John 17:20; 1 Cor 1:2, 3:16-17. See note 8.

[14] John 17:20-23; Eph 4:3-6; 1 Cor 3:16-17

[15] Col 3:12; Eph 2:21; 5:27

[16] The church is universal and is no longer confined to one nation as before under the law (see Westminster Confession of Faith, “Chapter 25: Of the Church,” 3rd ed. [Lawrenceville, GA: Committee for Christian Education and Publications, 1990]). The local church is an entire church, but it is not the entire church. The church includes believers of past generations and of all cultures and societies. Each is part of the church. “Genuine catholicity is that which pertains to everything necessary for the justification and sanctification of the believer. It is a wholeness of faith that offers the complete counsel of God to all peoples in all times and places” (D. H. Williams, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999], 225).

[17] John 17:20; Eph 2:20. “The church is founded on the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20) and is populated by those who have believed in Christ through the apostolic message (John 17:20)” (Glenn Kreider, “Creeds,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 54).

[18] See “Nicene Creed,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed July 4, 206, https://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html.

[19] John 3:6; Rom 8:9, 12:5; 1 Cor 6:19, 12:13; Eph 4:3-10.

[20] John 3:6; Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19, 12:13; Eph 4:30; 1 John 2:20-27. See Dallas Theological Seminary, “Article XII – The Holy Spirit,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed July 4, 2016, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/.

[21] John 17:20-23; Eph 4:3-6; 1 Cor 3:16-17.

[22] Col 3:1-11; James 3:18

[23] Col 3:9-15. Dallas Theological Seminary, “Article XIII – The Church, A Unity of Believers,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed July 4, 2016, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/

[24] Matt 22:37-39; John 13:34-35, 15:12-13; Col 3:12-17.

[25] Matt 28:19; Acts 10:47-48; 16:32-33; 18:7-8. Ephesians 4:4-5 points to one baptism for the forgiveness of sins (also see Acts 2:38, “Nicene Creed,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library, accessed July 4, 206, https://www.ccel.org/creeds/nicene.creed.html). Baptism involves the use of water. “To baptize” means to plunge or immerse and symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Many New Testament texts seem to imply immersion, however not all text follow this rule. All three modes of baptism, immersion (Matt 3:13-17), sprinkling (Heb 9:10-14; 10:22), and pouring (Titus 3:5-6) have biblical support, however most importantly is the persons professions of faith in Christ.

[26] Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor 11:17-34.

[27] See Dallas Theological Seminary, “Article XIV – The Sacrament or Ordinances,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed July 4, 2016, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement/

[28] Gal 3:27; Col 2:12; 1 Pet 3:21. See Glenn Kreider, “Sacraments,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 40.

[29] 1 Cor 11:17-34. Communion should only be open to believers in Christ. Glenn Kreider, “Sacraments,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 43.

[30] Elders are also known as Overseers, Bishops, or pastors (Acts 20:28, 1 Pet 5:1-2). The New Testaments use of the terms “Overseer” and “Elder” seem to imply they refer to the same office and function (See Glenn Kreider, “Leadership,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 8).

[31] 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet 5:1-4. The functions of the elder seem to imply the exercise of leadership, ability to teach, manage and care for the church, encourage others with sound doctrine, refute those who oppose sound doctrine and shepherd or pastor the church. There is support for women servicing the church by pastoring and shepherding women and children (1 Tim 5; Titus 2). “Paul’s list of elder qualifications indicates that the office of elder/pastor is limited to men, and this office with its commensurate authority is conferred by the local church (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 5:1-4)” (Glenn Kreider, “Leadership,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 22-27). However, the “office of not open to a woman, but as with a man, she can exercise her gifts without holding this office” (Dallas Theological Seminary, “Women in the Church: Biblical Data Report,” DTS Connection Extra [Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1997], 8).

[32] 1 Tim 3:8-13. While the New Testament does not seem to demand that a church have deacons, it does demand that if there are deacons they must meet the New Testament qualification. I do believe there is some ambiguity as to whether females can be deacons (1 Tim 3:11), but it seems that the office of deacon is open to women. Some women have fulfilled many of its functions in the New Testament church, such as Phoebe (Rom 16:1). “Since the function of teaching is a spiritual gift and not an office of the church, it is available to both men and women (Rom. 12:7; 1 Cor. 12:28-29). Though women are forbidden to teach men in corporate worship, they can always teach women and children (Titus 2:3-5) and give instruction to men as well, at least privately, as Priscilla and Aquila did with Apollos (Acts 18:26) (Glenn Kreider, “Leadership,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 15-16).

[33] “The church exists for two inter-related purposes, both of which bring glory to God and reveal Him. Both of these purposes have individual emphases but they require the community. Both of these purposes are spiritual works or manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Both of these can be performed outside the church but they are church functions” (Glenn Kreider, “Worship,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 15).

[34] Ps 148; Matt 22:37-39; John 4:23; Eph 5:17-21; Rev 4-5. Worship “focuses on the glory of God. It is the creatures’ ‘response’ to the divine; it is focused or directed toward God and the earth. Worship results in the manifestation or revelation of God on earth” (Glenn Kreider, “Worship,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 15). Worship is to be done in Spirit and in truth.

[35] Matt 6:9; 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49; John 17:18; 20:21; Acts 1:8. Discipleship “focuses on the expansion of the manifestation of God’s glory on earth; it is focused or directed toward the earth and the spread of his glory on earth but is also focused on God and his glory (Glenn Kreider, “Worship,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 15). The goal of discipleship is the edification of the body of Christ (Eph 4:7-16)

[36] Glenn Kreider, “Worship,” unpublished class notes for ST 105 [Dallas Theological Seminary, Summer Semester, 2016], 78.

[37] Holiness or a setting apart unto God. All believers enter into this state when they are born of God. Just as justification is by grace through faith, sanctification is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10). Justification and sanctification must be distinguished and cannot be separated.

[38] 1 Thess 4:3

[39] John 17:16-17; 1 Cor 1:30; Heb 10:10, 14. “Since the believer is in Christ, he is set apart unto God in the measure in which Christ is set apart unto God” (Dallas Theological Seminary, “Article IX – Sanctification,” Dallas Theological Seminary, accessed July 4, 2016, http://www.dts.edu/about/doctrinalstatement).

[40] 2 Cor 3:18; 7:1; Eph 5:25-27; 1 Thess 5:23. “Progressive” sanctification is the effect of obedience to the Word of God in one’s life. It is the growing in the Lord or the growing in grace mentioned in 2 Peter 3:18. God started the work of making us like Christ, and this is the way He is continuing it (Phil 1:6). Progressive sanctification has in view the setting apart of believers for the purpose for which they are sent into the world (John 17:18-19). That Jesus set Himself apart for God’s purpose is both the basis and the condition of our being set apart (John 10:36). Christians are “in Christ” and grow into the conformity of that image. Sinfulness is not removed until glorification but the Christian should make progress in character and conduct during life. The commands of Scripture are to be obeyed through the power of the Spirit. Growth in godliness is not through human effort or works but is a process involving the work and power of the Spirit.

[41] Col 1:27; 3:4; 1 Thess 5:23; 1 John 3:2. Paul speaks of Christ as “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) and links the glorious appearing of Christ to our person glorification. This glorified state will be a total sanctification and will be our ultimate separation from sin.

Critical Response/Book Review: SOUL SURVIVOR BY PHILIP YANCEY, pt. 2

Evaluation of Thesis and Presentation

Yancey introduces each chapter by describing a correlating event in history or in his own life as to why this mentor matters, the impact the mentor had on him, and why we should study them. Each chapter takes the reader through the life and times of the mentor, their work, and the impact they have made on society. Yancey uses these spiritual guides to focus on one or two key issues that he has personally struggled with in his own Christian faith and how these mentors seemed to fight or struggle with the same cause.

While Yancey provides the reader with numerous reasons why these people matter and how they made an impact on his life, he is not scared to show them as flawed individuals. He does not hide their issues with sin, whether that is adultery, homosexuality, or even denying Christ, but shows that despite their sins, God has used these thirteen individuals to reclaim his faith. As Yancey presents these flawed individuals it seems as though he begins to appreciate them more because they are imperfect and he identifies with them not being the only one to struggle with faith.

As the book progresses through the mentors, Yancey begins to open up more and divulge more of his personal life. It is helpful to the reader who may be struggling with their own doubts on faith to see this popular Christian writer being vulnerable with his doubts, troubles, failures, and struggles. Some chapters near the end of the book almost seem to be more about Yancey and his journey than about the individual he is spotlighting. As a reader who has many struggles and questions about life and faith, Soul Survivor helps me feel like I am not alone. I can identify with Yancey because of our shared background in a legalistic church, in addition to the racist society that was around us. It took many years and a work of God to help us both overcome those horrors of our early years. In a time when many Christians tend to not show their vulnerabilities and present themselves with this perfect spiritual walk, Yancey’s stories about his doubts and whether or not he even believed what salvation means, is refreshing to me.

Through most chapters he provides the reader with several helpful concluding paragraphs about what he learned from the individual. This summation provides a wonderful way to tie the chapter to a close and leave the reader with one or two takeaways. Some chapters, on the other hand, do not provide this summary of what he learned from that mentor; instead, the chapter is spotted with little snippets of what he learned from that individual.

The book is not without its flaws as some chapters seem to provide superficial overviews, like the ones on G.K. Chesterton and Dr. C. Everett Koop, which can make the chapter feel incomplete even wonder why they were included in a book of only thirteen individuals. This is in part due to the brilliance of the other chapters that take the reader to the time and place of that mentor and of Yancey himself. The details and the storytelling of these chapters are amazing and not only provide the readers with lessons to learn, but cause the reader to ponder questions about their faith and past. At the end of each chapter, the reader understands why these people mattered to Yancey and can feel his passion for them. The chapter closes with several recommendations from Yancey on how the reader can learn more from that individual by providing several recommendations of their work and biographies. Yancey is able to convey a passion that motivates the reader to study these individuals, see why they matter, see why they changed the world, and how it can be applied to anyone.

What I appreciate about this book is how Yancey shows what other Christians should learn from the selected mentors. A common theme found in many of these individuals is how they chose a simpler life. They chose to give up or not seek the materialism of the world and instead seek contentment in their spiritual journey, finding it within their case. Their lives may have been full of poverty, but the way they helped people, encouraged others, and made a difference, they lived rich and fulfilling lives. One of the best examples of this is the chapter on Gandhi in which Yancey describes how Gandhi read the New Testament and admired the way Jesus lived. The theme of this chapter is that Gandhi, a Hindu, better exemplified Christ than many Christians do: he cared for the needy and marginalized and lived out the commands of Jesus to love another oftentimes neglecting his own well-being.

Soul Survivor leaves the reader inspired: the reader is motivated to not be afraid to ask the hard questions about God and faith. The reader is stimulated to seek answers and be open to the numerous ways God can speak to the individual, even through non-Christians and non-traditional mediums. The reader is encouraged to learn more about these individuals and examine those in their own lives who have acted as a spiritual guide. Soul Survivor shows how God can take an individual that was subject to the worst of church behavior and heal and transform this person. God would then use Yancey and his struggles to help and encourage others who have struggled with similar stories.

Personal and Ministerial Applications

Soul Survivor is not just a story of Philip Yancey’s faith, but has numerous applications for the reader. First, Yancey studied some of the greatest authors in the world and he saw the power of their words. He felt a desire within him to write and he sought out that passion. As he explored his passion and gift for writing, the words became even more powerful for him:  he decided to pursue writing further to help others but mainly to explore the deepest and hardest questions of his own faith and begin to repair the hurt. I believe this is a reminder for each of us that God has granted us a gifting that can be used to not only serve society, but serve the church and Christians as a whole. While many of us do not have the gift of writing like Yancey, God has given each of us a gift to be used for some specific purpose. I believe it is important for me to continue to explore what my gifts are and how I may use them. As I have struggled to find my passions for many years and how they can be used, this book is a great reminder of not wasting what God has created us to do.

Second, while each chapter had a specific focus not only on the individual but also a part of Christian life, a theme that I saw over and over was how God spoke to many of these people in the mundane and ordinary parts of life. While many think of God working in these big, miraculous, supernatural ways, Yancey provides examples like Annie Dillard and Frederick Buechner as those who find and see God in the humdrum of daily life. The point Yancey makes is for all of us to be open to how God is working in our daily lives. We miss God thousands of times a day: when the birds sing or a baby coos, while waking or sleeping, in the city or in the mountains, wherever we are God is revealing Himself to us. I must remember these teachings and be open to how God reveals Himself.

While there are many other lessons from Soul Survivor that space will now allow including service, loving the marginalized, and listening to God through non-Christians, the final application for me is mentors. Yancey wrote a touching and inspiring tribute to thirteen individuals who helped shape his faith. What I thought was most intriguing about this is that many of these individuals he has never met. I never thought of mentors being someone whom I have never met or had any real conversation with. Then, I remembered that Dr. Kreider mentioned in the soteriology class that he had several mentors as well he had never met like Bono, Dylan, and Rich Mullins. Soul Survivor inspired me to think about those in my life who have impacted me the most. In my many years of going to church and during my time at seminary, I have only had one actual mentor that I could have conversations with. He was a pastor at a church that I attended when I first moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Other than him, I have not had one. I do think a mentoring program is something that is missing in many churches. I realize that pastors cannot mentor everyone but it could be beneficial to have some type of program where pastors, elders, and other godly church members would be open to mentoring the younger generation.

So who are my mentors? Who are these people that have shaped my faith and taught me more about God? Obviously, due to space constraints I cannot write in detail about these mentors as Yancey does in the book, but I can think about it. The people in my life that have mattered the most have come from a variety of different mediums. In the realm of music, groups such as Jesus Culture and Bethel Music have led me to appreciate worship music in a different way: they have led me to deeper worship and inspired me to seek God more. Authors such as A.W. Tozer and J.I. Packer have awakened in me a greater reverence for God and to think rightly of Him. Author Larry Crabb has caused me to examine myself, my past, and my experiences to cultivate a greater longing for God and how to find satisfaction in Him. Baroque painter Caravaggio first opened my eyes to the brilliance of art; in his paintings, subjects jump off of the canvas, come alive, and are completely beautiful. He inspired me to find how God uses the talents of people to show His beauty, whether or not they are Christian or non-Christian. Finally, Dr. Glenn Kreider has become a mentor for me. I have taken two online courses from him through Dallas Theological Seminary and one in person for which I now write this paper. He was the first Christian leader that stressed the importance of culture and staying relevant for ministry. I have heard a number of bad reasons and excuses people have made for listening to or watching things for the sake of relevance, yet Dr. Kreider made it make sense. He taught me how to listen to the song, emotions, and story to understand what the culture or artist is trying to say. He challenges the students to not just watch or listen, but to truly open oneself up to listening for a greater meaning and purpose behind the presentation. While there are many others, these are just a few that have stuck with me.

Conclusion

Growing up in a strict and legalistic environment similar to Philip Yancey, I can appreciate how he found God and His wisdom in a variety of different individuals that profoundly impacted him. Yancey found mentors through interacting with their material and as he did they influenced, taught, and impacted him. Yancey reminds each of us that anyone can be a mentor, regardless of time or space constraints. In addition, a mentor does not necessarily have to hold the same view or values as you do; God can use their view or words to provide some statement of truth or cause one to search God more. Each mentor provides Yancey, and the reader, with a way to learn from them on how to handle their own longings. Yancey reminds the reader that some longings lead us to becoming the person God wants us to be and toward God Himself, or the longings can lead to a tired and depressed state. From these mentors, Yancey has learned to sense these longings as intimations of something more, worthy of his ceaseless although potential futile pursuit, and to resist the temptation to settle for less. For Yancey, his mentors came along at a crucial time in his life and helped him follow a direction that shaped his beliefs and led him to a more abundant life. Soul Survivor is a book that challenges the reader to think honestly about the church, about one’s faith and personal beliefs. Yancey challenges the reader to not only ask the tough questions of God and Christianity, but to seek out the answers with the help of God and be open to what He is revealing. Soul Survivor is the story of how thirteen unlikely individuals helped one man overcome the hurt to find a true God that is beautiful, loving, kind, and gracious.

 

Bibliography

 

Yancey, Philip. Soul Survivor. Colorado Spring: Waterbrook Press, 2001.

Critical Response/Book Review: SOUL SURVIVOR BY PHILIP YANCEY, pt. 1

How does a person recover from church abuse? The church is to be a place of worship, a place where one can go to experience true communion with other believers. It should be a place where everyone is welcome and everyone feels welcomed. A place free from the problems with culture, a place where everyone can feel peace and be recharged. A place where it is safe to tell others the problems of one’s life. The church should be free from any sort of abuse or mistreatment among its members. Yet, the church is not perfect and is full of sinful people. While the church should be a place that helps people explore Christian faith and what it means to believe in Jesus, many times it shows everything a Christian should not be. The church is filled with horror stories and sometimes shocking abuses from visitors and members alike. In the book Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church, author Philip Yancey describes how the church of his youth negatively impacted his life, faith, and view of God and the church. Despite being raised in a racist and legalistic church that displayed little resemblance to the Gospel, Soul Survivor recounts Yancey’s personal journey to develop and reclaim faith in Jesus as he experiences God through thirteen individuals who had a profound impact on his life. Yancey takes the reader along this journey through his life by recounting the mentor’s life, their impact on him, and what he learned from them. Soul Survivor reminds the reader that God can use a variety of mediums and artists to teach His children about Him, a situation, or how He can show up in the most unlikely of sources. Soul Survivor is a book to encourage those who have been hurt by the church, to inspire believers and non-believers to be open to the variety of ways God can speak to us, and instructional for how we can practice and apply the principles of love and grace described in the book.

Thesis and Supporting Arguments of Soul Survivor

“I have spent most of my life in recovery from the church.”[1] Soul Survivor examines Philip Yancey’s personal involvement with the church and how those impressionable early years in a racist and legalistic church would impact his life. Yancey had experienced some of the worst the church had to offer growing up. In fact, his brother turned away from the faith because of this church. The wounds he experienced from this church, like deception, judgmentalism, and small-mindedness, would profoundly impact his personal and spiritual life for many years to come. Throughout the pages, Yancey shares his personal life and struggles with doubt and religion. As God works in Yancey’s life to overcome his issues with the church, Yancey discovers the divine love and grace that frees him from the legalistic chains of his youth. Yancey chronicles how God used thirteen unlikely spiritual guides as mentors to bring him into a deeper and more loving relationship with Himself. Yancey discovered grace and its transforming power: the lifelong work that God was doing in Yancey’s life allowed him to return to that church and say that it “had now lost any power of me.”[2] Dealing with the effects of a church that had nearly caused him to abandon God, Yancey would later struggle with how to fit his religious and legalistic past with his present doubts.

Yancey describes the similar feelings of others he knows who have struggled with their religious past. He identifies with many people who have rejected Christianity because of the attitudes of Christians. Yancey ponders the questions of Walter Percy and others that if the Good News is so good, why do so few people perceive it as good news?[3] Soul Survivor provides background for Yancey’s experience by asking if God is so good and full of love, grace, and compassion, then why were the sermons and teaching of his youth showing God as an angry, vengeful tyrant? Yancey’s thesis for Soul Survivor is that while he was a person who absorbed some of the worst of the church, through a variety of Christian and non-Christian spiritual guides, he found a God of grace and Good News. Yancey supports his thesis by arguing that even though he rejected God and the church, he still landed in the loving arms of God because He used these unlikely mentors to show him the God of grace through their words and lives.

While Yancey wrestled with the damaging effects of religion on his personal faith and negative Christian role models he grew up with, God would use Yancey’s love for writing to provide him with some positive role models.[4] As a journalist, he met many people whose lives were indeed enhanced in every way by their faith. Their lives were abundant and it was something Yancey wanted to tap into and know more about. Yancey supports his thesis by showing how the difference between the two states of legalism and grace led him to discover what the Bible meant by living the words of grace, love, and compassion. He says this is what drew him to writing because writing opened up windows of light into another world he had never known. Writing became a way to bring life, air, and freedom to an otherwise closed off space

In contrast to the pastors he heard growing up who would raise their voice and play on emotions, Yancey met other representatives of faith – C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, John Donne – whose calmer voices journeyed across time to convince him that somewhere Christians were living who knew about grace as well as law, love as well as judgment, reason as well as passion.[5] Yancey, who identifies himself as a spiritual pilgrim, frequently questions and reevaluates his faith as he learns from and is challenge by the people identified in the book. Some of his mentors are Christians and some are not – like Mahatma Gandhi –  but each one was permanently changed by their contact with Jesus.[6] Half of the mentors he has met and interviewed, whom he may even consider a friend, while the other half he only knows indirectly through the writings they left behind. Strangely, and maybe sadly, the mentors that were the furthest from orthodox Christianity – Gandhi, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Endo – helped him the most by helping him understand his own faith and by providing a different angle on it that he had not considered.[7]

Each chapter is written to showcase a specific mentor; Yancey helps the reader understand the impact of the spiritual guide while providing support for his thesis by identifying the difference that mentor made in his life and how has he changed because of his contact with them. Yancey offers the reader an inspiring tale of these spiritual mentors, their own struggles with faith or other Christians, and how they lived out their lives. Each mentor reflects a specific focus whether it is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding racism, or Dr. Paul Bland on the meaning of suffering, or John Donne and the issue of death, Yancey provides the reader with their personal impact on his life, a reason why we should pay attention to this person and why their work matters. Each mentor provides lessons for modern Christians to follow and reveals how our faith may come alive. These are the people that shaped his faith. Each person revealed to him what it looks like to be a person to live where their faith is made fully alive. He recognizes that no Christian is perfect, but the common thread among them is that these titans of their respective fields credit their faith as the reason why they have achieved so much.

Yancey does not set out to defend or critique the church, or even to defend the sins of the spiritual mentors, but he does present each one in touching tribute as those who have helped restore his “mislaid treasures of God.”[8] He does not pull any punches or hide anything on how the church has hurt and abused people. In many of the stories he presented, he goes so far to say the church obscures God, actually distorting the true vision and beauty of God.[9] However, through various trials, tribulations, and encounters, God used these thirteen mentors and their stories to make the Gospel message clear and to profoundly impact Yancey’s life that eased the pain of his religious past and cause him to love God more.

[1] Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor (Colorado Springs: Waterbrook Press, 2001), 1.

[2] Ibid, 5.

[3] Ibid, 6.

[4] Ibid, 7-8.

[5] Ibid, 7.

[6] Ibid, 9.

[7] Ibid, 9.

[8] Ibid, 10.

[9] See the chapters on Mahatma Gandhi, Annie Dillard, and Frederick Buechner.

Conclusion to Piper’s “The Future of Justification”

This book is well suited for those interested in the controversy surrounding the New Perspective’s view of justification, including the role of the Law and works. In this book, Piper makes the argument to prevent the reality of justification from moving off of the point where a person becomes a Christian. He wants to keep it there because that is where he believes the Bible locates it. He believes a person becomes a Christian by what happens in the event of justification. He also wants to keep justification from moving off of the basis of Christ’s death and obedience. He wants to keep the doctrine of justification from straying off of the imputation of Christ’s obedience to a believer by faith alone in union with Jesus Christ, so that a believer’s confidence that God is for them is based on the work and life of Christ and not the works of a person. The major difference between Wright and Piper is how they see the process of justification working. Wright’s view of justification is a future declaration, that has present implications, rather than a completed declaration in the past. For Wright, justification is not only the beginning, but it is the beginning and the end. Piper takes the traditional reformed viewpoint that justification is the point in time at the moment of salvation that God declares a person to be righteous. Wright never denies that justification, the declaration of the individual, is a point in time. He argues that it is more than that. Wright says it is the declaration of the individual and that a person is righteous as part of the community.

The Future of Justification sets out to defend the doctrine of justification by arguing from a traditional reformed perspective. The book takes an unorthodox viewpoint and demonstrates how and why it is an unbiblical concept. Piper sees this issue of justification as a primary part of soteriology that needs to be defended from ideas that distort the gospel, take away from the work of Christ, and diminish the glory of God. Piper shows that a Christian is to live in a way to glorifies and exalts God. Piper argues that the reason God is for a believer is not that a believer obeys or does works, but that the believer is enabled to obey producing works out of faith.

Personal and Ministerial Application from “The Future of Justification”

As critiquing another person’s work or beliefs is never easy, I believe Piper does an admirable job in responding with his reformed beliefs about justification and defending the gospel as a whole. While the book is in firm opposition to the theories proposed by N. T. Wright, it is never slanderous or condemning. I appreciate how Piper takes the time to defend a fellow brother in Christ from unjust criticism. Throughout the book, the reader is able to see that Piper is not out to attack Wright, but to represent him as truthfully as possible, so that Piper is able to accurately assess Wright’s views and respond accordingly. I was amazed at reading the chapter on dealing with controversy within a Christian framework. The way Piper humbly opened the book to discuss the importance of these issues and his concern for the church was honestly remarkable. Within the Christian community, there are many members that disagree with others. What Piper does in this book shows how to respectfully disagree with a brother without calling him a heretic or slandering him. This way of thinking not only provides a course of action for dealing with conflict inside the Christian community, but outside as well. We should all do a better job in understanding the opposing viewpoints as Piper did by examining what is truly said and believed. In doing so, we will have a better understanding where the disagreements arise and how to address those issues.

Throughout the pages of the book, the reader can see Piper’s concern for truthful teaching for the church so that they will not be misled. He reminds the reader that right and proper teaching is vitally important for the Christian community. He warns the community that it is a slippery slope down the path of wrong teaching. He calls the teachers to action to equip the saints for right living and to be thankful for what God has done in and through Christ.

Of all the ideas that were mentioned in this book, I come back to why Christians are to live. As Piper reminds the reader that God’s glory is our goal and as God is concerned with upholding His glory, so should His children. This book calls its readers to be thankful for the righteousness that God provided through Christ. Regardless of one’s perspective, as a Christian, I am thankful for what Jesus did and the righteousness that is provided for me. I am encouraged through this book to do all things for the glory of God. In addition, as I live for God’s glory, I am to do it dependent on the Spirit because the only way God will be glorified is by Him in my life. The only way that the fruits of the Spirit will be shown and my faith will bear good works is only by the Spirit.

Critical Evaluation of “The Future of Justification”

The Future of Justification is framed around eight fundamental questions that are raised in Wright’s theology: The gospel is not about how to get saved (ch 5), Christians are not justified by believing in justification (ch 5), justification is not how you become a Christian (ch 6), justification is not the gospel (ch 6), future justification is on the basis of the complete life lived (ch 7), the imputation of God’s own righteousness makes no sense at all (ch 8), first-century Judaism had nothing of the alleged self-righteous and boastful legalism (ch 9, 10), and God’s righteousness is the same as His covenant faithfulness (ch 11).

Before jumping into the debate, Piper opens the book with very humble words. He states that he is not about winning debates or scoring points, but is concerned with the truth and the risk that this New Perspective will have on the church.[1] He follows the introduction with an entire chapter about controversy to explain why true Christian unity is not to be found in avoiding disagreements.[2] The godly example that Piper displays in relating to Wright and his perspective is amazing. He condemns those who would call Wright a heretic and says that Wright deserves a fair reading and to be treated graciously. The graciousness of Piper toward Wright was astonishing as Piper provided strong affirmations for the positives of Wright’s work.[3] The respect and appreciation that Piper has for Wright is wonderful and in so doing, Piper provides an example to follow for those who would critique Wright or any other Christian with a different theology. Piper demonstrates a remarkable effort to be fair to Wright in this book, including defending Wright for his endorsement of Steve Chalke’s controversial book, “The Lost Message of Jesus.”[4] With this great respect Piper has for Wright, Piper decided to not just take the statements of Wright at face-value, but instead got into the details of Wright’s theology to better understand what he might or might not be saying.[5] In writing this book, Piper even sent Wright a draft for Wright to provide comments on, which resulted in an 11,000 word response from Wright.[6]

In the introduction, Piper summarizes the main points of contention he finds with Wright’s fresh theology. Piper takes issue with Wright’s statements about “the gospel” not being about how to get saved and about justification is not how one becomes a Christian. Piper believes Wright is wrong when he says Paul did not mean the doctrine of justification when referring to “the gospel.” Piper moves on to say that Wright is misleading people when he says that a person is not justified by faith in the doctrine of justification by faith. Piper takes significant time to show Wright’s view of righteousness as inaccurate. Piper sees Wright’s view on future justification being based on the whole life lived as confusing and raises a high level of concern about how close it is to a Roman Catholic view.

Piper does not believe that Wright has evil intentions or is viciously dangerous, but sees Wright’s message as confusing the gospel and breeding confusion for the church. In Piper’s mind, he contributes this confusion to Wright’s ambiguous statements and expressions. As Piper goes through the issues he has with Wright through the book, one of the biggest charges Piper has against Wright is that he feels Wright’s theology lacks clarity and forthrightness. At times, this debate seems to revolve around the issue of semantics and how one prefers to say or address theological topics, there are several times in the book that Piper mentions they may be saying the same thing,[7] but until those issues are resolved, more books about this conflict may be published. Piper believes Wright’s treatment of texts does not fit well with the ordinary or traditional reading which will leave people not with an illuminating experience, but with a sense of perplexity.[8] From Piper’s perspective, the most straightforward passages on imputation like 1 Corintians 1:30 and 2 Corinthians 5:21, which Wright agrees are passages in favor of imputed righteousness,[9] are “shrouded in Wright’s misleading comments.”[10]

Piper does a remarkable job in the final chapter of by offering an entire summation of the book recounting the major arguments against Wright and the New Perspective. The conclusion not only offers the reader a summation of the book and the arguments, but encourages and inspires the reader to live a life worthy of the call of God and live dependently on God for His glory. Piper takes the theme of his ministry, God’s glory, and ties it into this book. He encourages the reader to not do good works to earn God’s favor, but to glorify God out of the love and faith that God has provided the believer.

As a reader I found it helpful when Piper identified areas of agreement between the two scholars, including Scriptural authority, resurrection and deity of Christ, the Abrahamic covenant, and penal substitution.[11] While there are agreements on big theological concepts, the reason this book exists is for the disagreements between the two on the doctrine of justification. For Piper, he sees Wright as using too many extra-biblical resources to make interpretive decisions for his theological framework to produce correct understanding. Piper takes significant issue with Wright’s removal of justification from the gospel.[12] In the latter portion of the book, Piper highlights the missing element of Christ’s imputed righteousness in Wright’s theology. Piper devotes significant time to clarifying the issue of legalism and provides a careful distinction of works and justification, something that he sees as confusing in Wright’s statements.[13] In particular, Piper disagrees with Wright’s interpretation of justification as he describes Wright’s proposal that the righteousness Paul spoke of really meant “covenant faithfulness,” and not imputed righteousness as Piper sees it. This leads to the disagreement over a believer being part of God’s covenant family as Wright sees it, and not the means by which someone is declared righteous and qualified for eternal life as Piper sees it.

One of the strengths of this book is how frequently Piper quotes Wright’s material and interacts with it throughout the book. Since the book heavily revolves around the meaning of righteousness, Piper states what Wright’s understanding of it is, “covenant righteousness,” and what that means. In turn, Piper uses the Greek language to define what he believes “righteousness” means and how the Reformers got it right. Piper’s proposed definition is “God’s unwavering commitment to the honor of His glory.”[14] This establishes a foundation for what righteousness is, in contrast to how it merely acts as Wright believes. Piper’s thorough analysis of Wright’s theology regarding Wright’s understanding of Second Temple Judaism, links Wright’s view of the idea of future justification of the saints based on their remaining in the covenant through faith and works. Piper makes the strong case that Wright’s view is unbiblical and dangerously close to the Roman Catholic doctrine, essentially making salvation a works based system. While the book provides a good a good overview of the issue at hand, it would have been helpful to have some additional clarity provided on several topics, including what is Wright’s view of Jesus as Savior, salvation through grace by faith, or assurance of salvation. These would have been helpful to the reader in understanding more of the context where Wright is coming from and his overall soteriological views.

[1] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 13.

[2] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 29.

[3] See John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 15-16.

[4] See John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 47-53.

[5] See John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 17.

[6] See John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 10.

[7] See John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 121, 131.

[8] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 24, 38.

[9] N. T. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Saul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 123.

[10] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 178.

[11] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 15, 16, 48, 52.

[12] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 82, 95.

[13] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 185-186.

[14] John Piper, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007), 70.

Piper’s “THE FUTURE OF JUSTIFICATION” Key Arguments pt. 2

The series on Piper’s “The Future of Justification” is continued in this post by taking a brief look at Piper’s key arguments against Wright and the New Perspective. This will be done in two parts due to length, today’s post will conclude the key arguments section (part 1 can be found here).


 Piper’s Key Arguments

 

One of John Piper’s major concerns is what Wright teaches about the role of the imputation of God’s righteousness in Christ and the imputation of the obedience of Jesus to believers according to Romans 5:19. Wright argues that it makes “no sense” to say the judge imputes his righteousness to the defendant. He believes that righteousness is not something that “can be passed across the courtroom.”[1] Wright thinks that when God acts to vindicate His people, then they will metaphorically have the status of righteousness, “But the righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness. That makes no sense at all.”[2] The righteousness of the Judge and the defendant has two different meanings and looks nonsensical to Wright because of the framework and method Wright used to evaluate it is incorrect according to Piper. From Piper’s perspective, Wright treats the righteousness of God merely in terms of the actions of the Judge, and not in terms of His deeper attribute of righteousness and omnipotence.[3] Piper believes Wright’s paradigm to explain Paul turns out to limit and distort rather than clarify.[4] Piper brings the argument back to the glory of God. As Piper examines the teachings of Paul and using this law-court imagery, Piper concludes the reason God acts the way He does is not because God is unrighteous, but because God will act in a way that most fully upholds and displays the supreme worth of His glory.[5] Interpreting Paul and the Old Testament, Piper defines God’s righteousness as most fundamentally His unwavering allegiance to uphold the value of His glory. God also demands His creatures forsake their unrighteousness and glorify Him.[6] In contrast to Wright’s view of the defendant and judge, Piper makes the case that what makes God and humans “righteous” is their unwavering allegiance to treasure and uphold the glory of God. Thus, it is conceivable for the Judge’s righteousness to be shared with the defendant. Piper sees the Judge, who is also Creator and Redeemer, will find a way to make His righteousness count for the defendant since it is the exact righteousness they need.[7]

Piper concludes his volume by citing that the reason he wrote this book is to avert the “double tragedy” that is caused by Wright and the New Perspective. The first tragedy is where the obedience of Christ, imputed to the believer through faith alone, is denied or obscured.[8] Piper believes that inevitably a believer’s own works – the fruit of the Spirit – will take on a function that contradicts the very reason the good works exists. Piper argues Wright’s perspective elevates the importance of the works of love, that in turn begins to nullify the glory of Christ and His work that were designed to be displayed.[9]

The other tragedy that Piper hopes to avoid is the undermining of what makes the works of love possible, which is that Christ’s perfect obedience and sacrifice secured completely the glorious reality that the omnipotent Father is for His beloved children. Piper believes that if Christians deny or minimize the importance of the obedience of Christ, imputed to Christians through faith alone, their works will begin to assume the role that should have been Christ’s.[10] Piper argues at length about the supremacy of God’s glory and that God does all He can to uphold His glory and will not do or allow anything to take from his glory.


[1] Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 98-99.

[2] Ibid, 99.

[3] Piper, The Future of Justification, 71.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid, 70.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 71.

[8] Ibid, 187.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.