I have been thinking for a few days about a recent article from John Piper that I first came across through Adrian Warnock's blog. I've read it a few times now, as well as the article from Christianity Today that inspired it. I've spent a little time searching other blogs for comments and have only found positive agreement, which I suppose is not surprising considering it's Piper we're talking about. I myself rarely disagree with this wise man of God, and I admire him for many things but especially his passion for God.
HOWEVER, I found this article disturbing. It came across as arrogant and degrading to the poor man who shared his experience with God in Christianity Today. It reminded me of the prayer "Thank God I am not a sinner like that guy". And on many levels it concerns me that there is no voice of disagreement or questioning of Piper to be heard. It seems that we've created a false Christian bubble where we think it's wrong to confront people lovingly when there may be something wrong. We've adopted the worldly view of "if you butter my bread and I'll butter yours" instead of iron sharpening iron.
So why do I think Piper's wrong? I just don't see in Scripture an elevation of one form of hearing from God (Bible reading) over another (prayer). Piper seems to indirectly but powerfully degrade the importance of and legitmacy of prayer. What else is a 'conversation with God' but prayer? I also found the article Piper writes about sad, but because the experience in question is an isolated one and rare, not an everyday interaction with a Living God.
And of course hearing God through Scripture is essential. I pray that I can have the experience Piper seems to have in my life more and more. I don't doubt his experience, especially since I've heard him preach so powerfully. But, I don't believe that the miracle of hearing God speak to us has anything to do with black and white print on a page. Many many people have had the same words to read and have heard Satan speak instead of God. The only way we hear God speak to us is through his Holy Spirit, and he uses both Scripture AND prayer, as well as other ways revealed to us in Scripture (prophecy,godly counsel, ect...). Scripture is very valuable as it is a solid material resource of Truth. But let's not kid ourselves--it is easily twisted and misunderstood. It take the Holy Spirit it make us able to properly understand it and not one of us truly understands more than a small part of it. Thankfully, there are many vital truths that are clearly laid out and cannot reasonably be disputed.
I realize Piper's article is impressive and sounds loftily spiritual. I have been tricked by this kind of talk before, and have engaged in it myself many times. In the end, it seems to me that he's just elevating his own personal experience above a brother's. I don't see this as the Biblical way to deal with a weaker brother, if that's what that man is compared with Piper. Another implication of Piper's view is that believers who don't have Scripture (or all of it) or can't read it are not able to hear from God in the 'best' way. Do we really limit God that much? I've heard of people who have literally heard words from the Bible through the Spirit alone because there was not other way for them to hear God's word. (I'll see if I can dig up a testimony and post it later.) If God wrote it, he can also speak it.
I hope I'm not sounding overly critical of Piper, he's on my short list of people I would love to sit down with and just listen for hours and hope and pray that even a tiny bit of him would rub off on me. I have and and will continue to be influenced by his passionate preaching and teaching of the truth. But I will not any longer see any man as infallible or above the rest of us 'normal' people.
So am I a crazy???