John Piper

The God Who Dwarfs Big Tech

Audio Transcript

Well, this week is exciting for me. It’s the scheduled launch week for my new book: God, Technology, and the Christian Life. I have been wanting to write and publish this book for several years now. It’s a dream of mine. Back when I wrote my book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, it proved to be harder to write than I expected. It was hard because I couldn’t find a baseline theology of technology that would orient my thinking toward the smartphone specifically. I came to see that there’s a theological gap, a lacking foundation, in how Christians think about modern-day technology — digital technology, big-tech, Silicon Valley — which surprised me.

Without that foundation, I had to build as much of it as I could myself. So, I wrote a ten-page introduction in my smartphone book. I called it “A Little Theology of Technology,” and it was published there on pages 29–39. Very little, indeed. But I knew this little theology of technology would need to become a larger theology of technology. And I knew if I could pull this off, it would serve a real need in the church.

In other words, we need to ask, What is God’s relationship to big tech? What does he think of space travel, nuclear power, and the big agricultural innovations we depend on for food every day? That’s what I’m trying to figure out, because only once we can answer this question can we figure out our relationship to tech. So, I’m thrilled to announce that my theology of technology is written, done, printed, and out. Pastor John kindly took the time to read it, and he liked it, and wanted to use this Wednesday slot in the podcast to share his thoughts with you about my book, which is a little awkward for me as the host of this podcast, but it’s super kind of him. Here’s what he had to say.

If you can see me and hear me, you are among the most technologically advanced human beings in the history of the world. Yes, you are. And probably, like me, you take that for granted, and we’ll be taking for granted very soon, probably, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence, and robots, and human genetic engineering — all of them as if they were just as normal as an iPhone.

Penetrating Book on Big Tech

There are only a few people in the world who are asking the question, How does a big God relate to big technology? — especially Bible-saturated people. Thoughtful people. Especially also given the fact that the word big in “big tech” and “big God” are infinitely disproportionate.

“I don’t think there is a more sweeping treatment of technology so tethered to the infallible Scriptures.”

You may know the name Tony Reinke from being the host of Ask Pastor John, or you may know him as the author of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. Tony has written a book called God, Technology, and the Christian Life. It is a panoramic and penetrating book. I don’t think there is a more sweeping treatment of technology so tethered to the infallible Scriptures, and therefore, so realistic and so hopeful. Tony’s not anti-technology. He calls himself a “tech optimist,” in fact. He’s glad he lives in the computer age. In fact, let me read to you a quote that was amazing to me:

Our safe jets, reliable cars, intelligent phones, medical options, household appliances, streaming video, digital music, have upgraded each of us to a tech wealth beyond Rockefeller’s wildest imagination. . . . “Nearly every middle-class American today is richer than was America’s richest man a mere 100 years ago.” (150)

God Bigger Than Big Tech

But Tony’s tech optimism doesn’t flow from confidence in Elon Musk, or artificial intelligence, or human genetic engineering. It flows from the fact that in the Bible, Tony finds the reality of a sovereign, massive, glorious God of providence, infinite wisdom, and infinite knowledge that simply dwarfs all the powers of big tech. That’s what he finds. That’s where his confidence comes from.

“Is your God big enough to make the greatest technological marvel look like a first-grade arithmetic book?”

What happens when you read this book is that your theology is exposed. You discover whether or not your feelings and thinkings about the greatest technological marvels cause you to see God as vastly greater. Is your God big enough to make the greatest technological marvel look like a first-grade arithmetic book — or not? For me personally, reading this book was a worship experience, because the bigger technology became — and Tony makes it big — the more beautiful Christ became.

Tony says this: “The angels in heaven are not bowing down to the wonders of Silicon Valley. The angels in heaven are bowing down to the glories and the agonies of Jesus Christ” (278). It was a worship experience, so my prayer is that that’s what it will be for you when you read God, Technology, and the Christian Life by Tony Reinke.

The God Who Dwarfs Big Tech

Pastor John commends Tony Reinke’s new book — a panoramic, penetrating theology of technology, tethered to God’s infallible Scriptures.

Sing! Sing! Sing! — To Each Other and the Lord: Ephesians 5:15–21, Part 5

http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/15032237/sing-sing-sing-to-each-other-and-the-lord

Did Bathsheba Sin with David?

Does the story of David and Bathsheba suggest that Bathsheba was a willing partner in his adultery, or that David took her against her will?

Did Bathsheba Sin with David?

Audio Transcript

“Did Bathsheba sin with David? Was she complicit in the sin? Or was she simply taken advantage of? It’s an important Bible question, one that I see pop up on social media every now and again. Of course, it’s also a sensitive question too, so a heads up to those of listening with the kids around.

“The particular question arrived recently in the inbox from a listener named Micah, who lives in Toronto. Micah asks this: “Pastor John, hello! I have a delicate Bible question I have been thinking about for a long time about the misuse of a woman. Back in APJ 234, you came right out and said that Bathsheba was ‘raped’ by King David — a violation that went against her will. Most Bible scholars I read today leave this situation more vague and simply say David ‘committed adultery’ with her, leaving her volition ambiguous, maybe even suggesting that she was a willing participant in the sin. Is there any evidence in the Bible of whether Bathsheba was willing or unwilling? And, from what I hear from feminists on this text, his power as a male king over her, a subject, would immediately classify this as a rape, even if she put up no resistance. Are there any pointers for us in the text itself?”

Yes, I think there are pointers that David exerted a kind of pressure on her to warrant the accusation of rape, and I don’t say that because I think the act couldn’t be consensual given the power dynamics at play. It is possible for a woman to be sinfully complicit in committing adultery with a very powerful man. I don’t see any evidence for that in this text.

‘He Took Her’

On the contrary, I see two indications that David threw his weight around — threw his power, his influence, his position — in such a way as to force her, apart from and against her commitment to her husband, to have sex with him. So, here’s the first pointer that I see in the way the story itself is narrated.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (2 Samuel 11:2–4)

“David didn’t invite Bathsheba. He didn’t woo her. He didn’t lure her. He didn’t trick her. He took her.”

He didn’t invite her. He didn’t woo her. He didn’t lure her. He didn’t trick her. He took her. That’s what the text says: he took her. In other words, the description is of a completely one-sided, powerful exertion of his desire, with no reckoning with hers.

Parable of David’s Sin

Now, here’s the other point, and I think it’s even more significant. When the prophet Nathan is sent to rebuke David on behalf of God and confront him with his sin, he did it by telling a parable to suck David in to giving his own self-condemnation, which he did. The picture he creates is telling. Here’s what he said:

And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him.

“Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die.” (2 Samuel 12:1–5)

“We are not exaggerating to use the word ‘rape’ for David’s abuse of his power in the way he took Bathsheba.”

Oh, I love that. I love Nathan. Nathan did not have to create a parable in which there was a single, harmless pet lamb who wasn’t just taken, which it was, but was taken and killed and eaten. In other words, he really re-created the adultery in the categories of theft and killing. Not Uriah’s killing — that’s an added evil — but as it were, Bathsheba’s killing represented by the little, little, helpless pet lamb being killed and served up as a meal.

So, I would say, for these two reasons, we are not exaggerating to use the word rape for David’s abuse of his power in the indulgence of his sinful lust in the way he took Bathsheba.

Holy Authority

But the Bible doesn’t just leave us with pointers — and I think this just needs to be said before we stop. It doesn’t just leave us with pointers to the reality, and the danger, and the sinfulness of the misuse of official authority or power in order to exploit, or threaten, or manipulate, or mistreat, or demean, or destroy other people. The New Testament is replete with warnings against a worldly use of authority. It is replete with beautiful descriptions of what Christians who hold positions of influence and governance should be like.

It starts with Jesus, it goes to Paul the apostle, it goes to the elders of the churches, and it goes to husbands — and indeed, it goes to all Christians, because all Christians are influential one way or the other, and they can be influential in harmful ways or influential in helpful ways. So, let’s just take a brief look at each of those stages.

Jesus

Not only did Jesus say that he came into the world “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom” (Mark 10:45), but he also taught about this issue of power and servanthood. For example, he said,

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:25–27)

Apostles

Jesus commissioned the apostles to have foundational authority, tremendous authority, in the church to teach. If something that other people taught didn’t conform to what the apostles taught, they were not acknowledged (1 Corinthians 14:38). And yet, we get glimpse after glimpse into the way the apostle Paul and Peter and others used their authority by trying to set an example to the churches.

For example,

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed — God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2:5–7)

He acted exactly that same way with his authority toward Philemon when he wrote to him in Philemon 8–9, “Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.” That’s the apostles picking up on Jesus’s example and teaching.

Elders

Then comes elders. Peter says concerning the elders, the pastors who have rightful governing leadership roles in the church, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ . . . shepherd the flock of God that is among you . . . not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1–3).

Husbands

Paul applies the same principle to husbands in Ephesians 5. After teaching that wives are to submit to husbands as their head in marriage, he tells the husbands how to use that headship, that authority, that leadership, and he says this: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:24–25).

All Christians

So it starts with Jesus, it goes to the apostles, it goes to the pastors, it goes to the husbands, and now it lands finally on all Christians, because all of us can throw our weight around with somebody in order to exalt our egos and manipulate or abuse them. So, Paul says to every Christian,

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3–5)

And there it is — it all circles back to Christ: “Which is yours in Christ Jesus.” It all circles back to Christ. The only hope that David would ever have that he could be forgiven and be happily in heaven with Uriah and Bathsheba and a holy God is that Jesus Christ lived and served and died in a way radically different from David. All of us depend totally on the upside-down way that Jesus used his infinite power on the cross.

The Root Problem with Drunkenness: Ephesians 5:15–21, Part 4

http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/15025539/the-root-problem-with-drunkenness

I Enjoy Being Alone — Is That Unloving?

Audio Transcript

We’ve addressed the challenges of being a Christian loner in APJ 109 and APJ 212. A lot of helpful counsel can be found in that pair of episodes: APJs 109 and 212. A listener named Brian heard them, and he writes in to us with a question that complements what has been addressed previously in those two episodes. Brian writes this: “Hello, Pastor John. What would you say is the difference between being a loner who is a Christian and a loner who fails to ‘love the brothers’ as John puts it in 1 John 3:14? Is that the same thing? Is being a loner the same thing as being an unloving person? How would you work through this, Pastor John?”

Well, as often, let’s start with a definition. We can’t talk about what we don’t know what we’re talking about. So, here’s my definition — I’m just going to choose one — of loner. A loner is a person who is quite comfortable being alone. He’s comfortable reading a book in the evening with nobody else in the apartment. He’s comfortable spending time on his woodworking in the garage with nobody else around. She’s comfortable working in the kitchen, or on her handiwork, or hiking in the mountains without any friends around.

That’s what I mean by loner. Whether because of genetics, or upbringing, or experiences later in life, a person now finds himself or herself to be quite comfortable being alone. So, the question is, Does being a loner mean that you are a person lacking in love for other people?

Our Innate Personalities

For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by the fact that human beings are by nature so different from one another, and what they’re prone to do, what their bent is, is so various because of their innate personality. I’ve been fascinated with what moral significance this has since it seems to be so rooted in our personality and doesn’t seem to change, essentially, when we become Christians.

Let me give an illustration from the Bible of what I mean and how this fascinates me. In Romans 12:6–8, Paul gives some instructions about using your spiritual gifts, and it’s an unusual list. Let me just give you the three unusual ones that provoke me, and fascinate me, and set me to pondering about being a loner. He says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: . . . if service, in our serving; . . . the one who contributes, in generosity; . . . the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6, 8).

Service, giving, mercy. Now, what’s surprising about calling those spiritual gifts is that all Christians are supposed to serve, all Christians are supposed to give, and all Christians are supposed to be merciful. So what is Paul saying? I take Paul to mean that even though these three traits should characterize every Christian, nevertheless, some people are inclined to them in an unusual way. It’s just what they’re like; that’s what they do — it’s just part of them. Service — they’re just given to it. And the same with giving and mercy.

So, here’s the inference that I draw: there are real differences between human beings, including Christians, in how naturally, or how readily, dispositionally, we are given to, or not given to, behaviors that are real Christian duties for everybody.

“You could be more of a loner, or you could be more sociable, and in either case not necessarily be sinning.”

This fact that we are less given to certain good things is not necessarily sinful. It doesn’t mean we’re sinful — that we’re committing sin when we don’t do those good things to the same degree, or with the same intensity, with which other people do them. You could be more of a loner, or you could be more gregarious, or more sociable, and in either case not necessarily be sinning. That’s what I infer.

Truth from Various Angles

When I ask myself why God designed the world that way, there’s an interesting part of the answer in the way Jesus spoke about himself and John the Baptist. Here’s what he said:

To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.” (Luke 7:31–32)

Then he explains in Luke 7:33–35,

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.

So, here’s the point: this is an unbelieving generation, and God has exposed their hardheartedness by showing them that whether a person like John or a person like Jesus speaks to them, they still won’t believe.

John is one kind of person — a real loner, not a party person at all, likes the wilderness — and he spoke the truth, and you didn’t like it. You didn’t like the way he said it. Then Jesus comes along, and he’s very different from John. He comes eating and drinking, he’s sociable, gregarious, attending parties, and you don’t like the way he speaks about it either, which in God’s wisdom shows you can’t blame your unbelief on the speaker.

God’s wisdom is seen in sending all kinds of different people into your life in order to show that your rejection of them is really owing to your rejection of the message, not the messenger, because he has sent so many different kinds of personalities to you. You won’t have the message no matter what kind of personality brings it.

So, I’m inferring that one of the reasons God has designed the world with loners and gregarious types, among many others, is to make sure the world hears the truth from different vessels, different voices, different forms, different personalities to make clear what the real issue is.

Loving and Unloving Loners

So, my answer to the question of whether being a loner means being unloving is this: not necessarily. And I would say exactly the same thing about being a mingler or a gregarious or sociable person. Is that person loving? Not necessarily. People can need people for self-centered reasons, and people can love solitude for self-centered reasons.

So, the question then finally is, What makes the difference between a loner who is self-centered and a loner who is loving? I would just say two things.

Resisting Fear and Indifference

The loving loner seeks to purge himself of every form of fear of other people and every form of indifference to the good of other people. Everywhere he sees the motive of fear, he seeks to put it to death by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Everywhere he sees indifference in his heart toward the good of other people, he seeks to put it to death by the Spirit, trusting God’s promises. He trusts the promise that God will take care of him — God will help him. He doesn’t need to be governed by any sinful motives like fear of man or indifference to people’s good.

“The loving loner seeks with all his might to make his loner personality a means of love.”

One of the ways that we detect and put to death sinful dimensions of our personality like that is by regularly stretching our comfort zone and acting contrary to our natural bent. Now, I don’t mean that we cease to be who we are or that we constantly live against the grain of being a loner or being gregarious, but I do mean that we test ourselves from time to time as to whether we are merely justifying a sinful behavior by a natural inclination. That’s the first test of how we know we’re a loving loner or a selfish loner.

Leveraging Aloneness for Love

Here’s the second thing: What distinguishes a self-centered loner from a loving loner is that the loving loner recognizes his natural inclinations, and instead of trying to totally be a person that he’s not, he seeks with all his might — and by means of all prayer, and faith, and creativity — to make his loner personality a means of love.

If he likes being in the garage doing woodworking all by himself, then let him dream and pray and work toward ways of turning his lonely woodworking into a ministry for the good of others. If she likes rummaging through historical archives in the library all by herself, let her dream of turning her lonely research into a ministry for the good of others. In other words, you don’t have to be paralyzed by the hopelessness of becoming a non-loner in order to be loving. You just have to really care about turning your loner bent into love.

I Enjoy Being Alone — Is That Unloving?

God made some Christians to enjoy spending a lot of time alone. But what makes the difference between a Christian loner and a self-centered loner?

Don’t Let Evil Days Make You Stupid: Ephesians 5:15–21, Part 3

John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.

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The God of the universe cares about every problem you have, no matter how small. And he wants to draw you up into purposes far greater than your problems.

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