Why Derek doesn’t think John Piper goes far enough

In an article written by Derek Oulette about why John Piper doesn’t go far enough with racial diversity, I had this response, I wonder what others think:

“It seems that Piper doesn’t have enough to account for real diversity (though he may not understand why) because it seems for him that the Gospel has nothing directly to do with diversity since it only addresses the soul of the person. In the revivals of the 18th century, which Piper is an avid reader of, the contact point for the Gospel was the message of justification by faith alone – i.e. there was no need to contextualize the Gospel and so the whole person was ignored and only their soul was addressed.

Once the soul was fixed by the Gospel then the whole person would follow = Reaganomics proposed this through Trickle Down Economics. Give the Rich a break and their ability to create jobs and a stronger economy will trickle down to the the rest of society. This is a similar dynamic when conservative theologians view the soul as the most important aspect of the human being to be “saved.” If you get the soul fixed, everything will receive it’s “trickle down” effect and receive the implications of what good the Gospel does to a soul. It seemed that since the soul is “transcultural” there was less of a need to address the embodied cultural aspects of a person or community’s lifeways as it related to sharing the Gospel.

Piper seems to follow this line of thinking and has preached that the Gospel, when preached, has a “magical” power all unto itself that the preacher cannot effect because the Gospel has a stand alone power that goes out to those who hear it – just because it is the message of salvation. Though this sounds good, it allows the preacher to ignore the cultural and embodied nature of the person they are preaching to be seen as a necessary component in how they shape their message in order to contextualize and inculturate the message – thereby ultimately divesting the responsibility for real ethnic and cultural diversity within a community.

That’s a harsh critique for him, but it seems to be true. When it comes to method – “If God is on your side, then you don’t have to count the bodies – literally.” I wouldn’t have such a problem with how he preaches except that he’s forceful and exclusive – if you or I don’t hold to Reformed doctrine, then we are on the outs or farther from the center than he is and it doesn’t seem that there is much discussion otherwise. Posture is just as important as positions when it comes to how we carry our theological convictions.”

So how does someone like Piper accomplish contextualization? Well he has a little known method called, “Concept Creation,” which he elaborates on in his Desiring God site.

As we think seriously about contextualizing the message of the Bible, let’s remember that we must also labor to bring about, in the minds of our listeners, conceptual categories that may be missing from their mental framework. If we only use the thought structures they already have, some crucial biblical truths will remain unintelligible, no matter how much contextualizing we do. This work of concept creation is harder than contextualization, but just as important…God brings about this new seeing and understanding and believing. But he uses us to do it. So we should give as much effort in helping people have new, biblical categories of thought as we do in contextualizing the gospel to the categories they already have.

I would contend that the opposite is true, contextualization is much harder than concept creation.  Not to mention that the concepts we would attempt to teach are culturally embedded contextualizations that have a history, culture and language. No concept is free from contextuality. Either way, the hard work of contextualization will always be harder than importing and disseminating pre-packaged concepts, concepts largely exported from a Western-dominated theological vision that has yet to account for the many majority world voices sitting at the table of dialogue.
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