I continue my interaction with the Biblical Counseling Coalition’s new book, Christ-Centered Biblical Counseling by looking at John Piper’s contribution in Chapter 1: The Glory of God – The Goal of Biblical Counseling.

Piper’s Thesis: Only by uniting teaching with feeling, doctrine with delight, will the church attract people to her for counseling.

Piper’s Concern: The church, especially the Reformed church, has a reputation for teaching truth in a cold, boring, and detached way. This inevitably deters people from coming for the sympathetic and loving guidance that only the Bible can provide.

Piper’s Challenge: Preachers and counselors ought to be “joyful leaders who commune with the truths they contend for.” Know God truly and feel Him duly to give Him all His glory.

Piper’s Definition: Biblical counseling is God-centered, Bible-saturated, emotionally-in-touch use of language to help people become God-besotted, Christ-exalting, joyfully self-forgetting lovers of people.

Comment

I love Piper’s fundamental point, that preachers and counselors must work harder to combine knowledge with feeling in all their communications. I don’t doubt that many needy people turn away from the church and to the world because they want more than cold hard data, they want more than a logical and systematic presentation of the facts.

They want to talk to someone who has been transformed by what they believe, who is excited about what they say, who exudes hope and optimism, who enjoys what they do, who loves and loves being loved. But they also want someone with something to say. Delight plus doctrine. Truth plus feeling. Reflection plus affection.

Complex
This was a bit of a “heavy” chapter with which to start the book. I needed to read it three or four times before I really got what Piper was driving at. His fundamental point is quite simple (and profoundly helpful), but the style and presentation is quite complex. For example, consider Piper’s definition of love:

Love is doing whatever you have to do at whatever cost to yourself in order to help another person stop finding pleasure in being made much of and help them get to the mature, God-exalting, Christ-besotted, joyfully self-sacrificing, self-forgetting delight in making much of God for the sake of others.

Wow! I’m not sure if I’ve ever loved.

Contrast?
I’m also not sure about the contrast that Piper draws here. He insists that there are “two profoundly different root sources of satisfaction. One is being made much of; the other is seeing and savoring God and making much of God.” And he asks: “Do you feel more loved when God makes much of you or do you feel more loved when God, at the cost of His Son, enables you to enjoy making much of Him forever?”

I don’t see these as opposites. I see them as two truths that must be held together. Can we not see both as true? Piper denies this. He says, “God is not into making much of us.”

I disagree.

Though there is nothing in the believer to make much of, God does make much of us, even when we do not make much, if anything, of Him.

If I can’t feel loved until “God, at the cost of His Son, enables me to enjoy making much of Him” then there are many times in my life when I will not and cannot feel God’s love.

The wonder of the Gospel is that God makes much of us even when we do not make much of Him. In fact, maybe I feel most loved when God makes much of me despite me not making much of Him.

He loved me, and gave himself for me.

  • http://the-rest-stop.blogspot.com Kurt Strassner

    Thanks for this, David. Especially the last few sentences. Piper’s point it well taken, and may be especially helpful for those Christians living in a world of me-oriented, consumer oriented Christianity. But many sincere Christians struggle with the knowledge that they do not love God as they ought, but still need the healing balm of knowing that He loves them and yes, in a manner of speaking, makes much of them in the cross.

  • http://www.lettermen2.com/bcrr8ch.html#brelat Steven C. Kettler

    Thanks for the wise comments. We all need to be brought back to a focus on the Absolute Sovereignty of God and the Total Depravity of Mankind. Biblical Counseling should be Christ-centered counseling . . . and will inevitably lead toward a knowledge of systematic theology . . . Someone once said “All of our problems prove the same thing, the lordship of Jesus Christ.”

  • Venkatesh

    Thanks for the review, Dr. Murray. Piper’s Christian Hedonism theology touches everything he writes. I once read his book God is the Gospel at a time when I was feeling really low about God. However, instead of helping me that book made me feel miserable. I am not saying that Piper hasn’t written good stuff. But at times this theology of “making much of God” can be really detrimental to the spiritual health of weak Christians like me. As you said, God has made much of me in the cross and I am thankful for him for that.

    • Marie Peterson

      Venkatesh, it’s interesting you mention “Christian Hedonism.” I actually think that Piper’s words, if they really do exclude taking joy in God’s delight in us, would go against Christian Hedonism rather than uphold it.

  • http://spurgeon.wordpress.com Tony Reinke

    Just a couple points worth mentioning, David. The chapter in this book under Piper’s name is an edited version of an article previously appearing about a decade ago in the Journal of Biblical Counseling (20.2; Winter 2002). It’s worth keeping this in mind.

    In the last decade (indeed the last 3 years especially), Pastor John has labored to express why God makes much of us (for his glory). See the following examples:

    • Piper, sermon, “How Much Does God Love This Church?” (April 18, 2010)
    • Piper, chapter, “Brothers, God Does Make Much of Us,” in the book, Brother, We Are Not Professionals (2013).
    • Piper, conference message, “Getting to the Bottom of Your Joy” (Jan. 3, 2011)

    Blessings brother!

    Tony

    • David Murray

      Thanks Tony. As soon as you wrote that, it rang a bell. I remembered that I actually reviewed Piper’s new chapter in the new edition of “Brothers, we are not professionals,” and noted how he had issued a “mid-course corrective.” See here:

      http://headhearthand.org/blog/2013/02/18/brothers-we-are-not-professionals-book-review/

      That raises serious questions about my memory! But it also raises questions about the decision to publish two conflicting chapters in the same year!!

      I do welcome the more balanced note.

  • Rob de Roos

    Yes, I agree so much. The focus of a lot of counseling seems to be on the “technology of repentance” but in Phil. 3, Eph 4; Col. 3, Paul’s focus is not merely on behavior change or even heart change but on identification and communion with Christ because of faith-union with Christ. So in ordering our inner self along the lines of the standard Thomist disposition and habit needs a broader base in the heart and life, which is the sweetness of Christ. Without this positive focus the sustenance the right view of living is not strong enough.

  • Rob de Roos

    David,
    I missed your point … “making much”; sorry. I agree with you I think though I agree with Piper to the degree that we need to take up our cross and follow Him and this following is basic to self-denial. Perhaps your point is that this self-denial is not a denial of what or who I am. Perhaps some balance is found in Rom 12:3- “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

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