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Jason Harris

Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research and is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in the College of Business, Law, and Governance at James Cook University, Cairns. Jason is also a pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@teaminfocus.com.au.

13 Comments

  1. avatar

    Kez

    Do you have a link to where we could get this book? Or should I call shotgun to borrow it…? :)

    Reply
  2. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Hello Kezia,

    You can click on the book image or have a look at Amazon.com.

    God bless.

    Reply
  3. avatar

    Larry

    This book should rather have been titled “The gospel is just that, but only if you have top feelings for the gospel.”

    This is easily shown from modus tollens type statements throughout the book, on who is excluded:

    p. 47: “If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.”

    p. 31: “what makes the gospel good news in the end is the enjoyment of the glory of God in Christ.”

    p. 37: “Until the gospel events of Good Friday and Easter and the gospel promises of justification and eternal life lead you to behold and embrace God Himself as your highest joy, you have not embraced the gospel of God.”

    p. 56: “If we do not see him and savor him [God] as our greatest fortune, we have not obeyed or believed the gospel.”

    Reply
  4. avatar

    Jason Harris

    You seem to have missed the point of the book… Piper is not arguing that we must have “top feelings” for the gospel, but that we must have “top feelings” for God who is the gospel (good news). Or to rephrase your statement: “The gospel is just that, but only if the news of restoration to fellowship with GOD is something you consider good.” His extensive interaction with 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 warrants a careful response from those who would argue against the proposition he draws from it.

    Additionally, Paul’s words “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22) implies that salvation leads universally to love for God. The argument then is that IF regeneration THEN love for God. In such a case, if we deny the consequent, then it is logically valid to deny the antecedent. Modus tollens is a valid form of argument.

    Reply
  5. avatar

    Larry

    Jason.

    You establish a red herring. Paul did not say “if anyone does not want God above all things, let him be accursed.” Piper’s test is for more than just “love for God.” Piper’s test for not being saved is a comparison test between wanting God and wanting other things.

    Paul did not say “if anyone does not embrace God as their highest joy, (or “greatest treasure,” etc.) let him be accursed.” etc.

    Piper wants you to conclude, when you love something more than God — that you haven’t been converted, believed, embraced the gospel, etc.

    So your attempt to justify it by Paul’s statement completely ignores Piper’s attempt to set up competitive test.

    That’s why I said “top.”

    Then the next thing you tried to do was say that Piper is talking about love. “Wanting God” and “savoring God, ” and having Him as your “greatest fortune” and “highest joy” can easily co-exist with no proper love for God whatsoever, because love for God always manifests in keeping His commandments.

    Think about it: one person may want another, and have no intention of obeying. A person may “savor” another, and ignore their wishes completely. A person may call another their “highest joy” and yet order them around incessentaly. Piper’s hedonistic philosophy may lead him to call those things “love,” but they don’t touch the subject. Piper’s trying to get you to buy that his hedonism, which takes God as his greatest pleasure, but wouldn’t take Him, if He wasn’t, is love. You have his other books which define this hedonism, and say that anyone who doesn’t take God as an object of pleasure, is a unsaved hypocrite. I’ll give you the references if you need them.

    This is just another attempt by Piper to shore up his hedonism.

    Reply
  6. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Thanks for the response Larry.

    Piper does not see wanting God and wanting other things as being in competition per se. Certainly to desire anything more than God, he argues, is sin. But when we love God supremely, other desires, far from being excluded, are integrated into our joy in God as a demonstration of his character through his gifts. This particular book spends considerable space addressing exactly this issue and is very clear on the matter.

    So you see love for God as something different from desire for and joy in God. I disagree. That obedience will naturally follow love does not change the definition of love. To argue that it does is to confuse the consequence of a thing with the thing itself.

    Your illustrations are valid, but they fail to recognise that we’re not talking about joy in or desire for just anyone… we’re talking about joy in and desire for God. I cannot have joy in and desire for a God—the nature of whom is holiness, sovereignty, authority, etc.—without accepting his lordly authority in my life and without loving him.

    I don’t say this casually, but you are clearly misrepresenting Piper’s views, unintentionally I hope. Piper presents a whole seminar addressing what to do “when I don’t desire God.” In it, he admits openly that he doesn’t desire God at times. Clearly he is not arguing that a person who has no desire for God at some point/s is not a believer. But he is arguing that anyone who has no desire for and joy in God, and wants none, is not saved. And he’s dead right on that point.

    That’s a helpful explanation of your use of the word “top.” Thanks.

    You comment that Christian hedonism “takes God as his greatest pleasure, but wouldn’t take Him, if He wasn’t.” Basically, you’re saying “I take God because I find my greatest joy in God, but if I didn’t, I wouldn’t.” But that is no argument against Christian hedonism because in order for God not to be the supreme object of our desire, one of two things would have to happen: 1) We would have to be blind to his glory [this is the state of the lost] or 2) God would have to be less than infinitely beautiful in some way, in which case he would be less than God. In other words, the argument supports Piper’s theology.

    I’m interested to know if, since you reject Piper’s understanding of the gospel, you also reject Jonathan Edwards’ understanding of the gospel?

    Reply
  7. avatar

    Larry

    Thanks Jason!

    Your post has such irenic tone in parts, that I feel like I can only hope at best to be a gruff Luther to a polished Erasmus. At best! And of course, in true discourse we must allow ourselves to be corrected on anything. Consider it so.

    And yet, behind that, why do you put words in my mouth, like “since you reject Piper’s understanding of the gospel,” and “you see love for God as something different from desire for and joy in God.” Did I even use the words or phrases, “desire for” and “joy in God?” No. Did I make any evaluations of “Piper’s understanding of the gospel?” Those are all your characterizations.

    There is also a rhetorical trick called “schesis,” fishing for something to categorize someone’s views as incorrect because of associating them with some broader category, like a view of Edwards.

    But we want to build up an honorable dialog and make progress on agreements! OK!

    1. Modus tollens is a valid form of statement. That’s true! I pointed it out in order for you to notice it in the text more easily. We can often discover many things an author clearly wants to emphasize, when we see what an author says in that way.

    2. The “rephrasing” of my attempt to pique your interest by retitling the book had a validity to it, bro, “Top feelings for God” and “top feelings for the gospel” at least sound different — until we remember that Piper’s title is “God Is the Gospel” so for him, he would not be able to say the rephrasing of “top feelings for the gospel” to “top feelings for God” changes anything. To the extent that a person thinks it changes anything, they would disagree with Piper.

    3. We’ve made some progress in the understanding of the initial quotes I used to substantiate my description of the competition Piper sets up. I’ll try and document it.

    on the p 47 quote, Piper did say “if we don’t want God above all things, we haven’t been converted by the gospel.”

    (We see the comparison language there. Now, look at your use the word “supremely” in your response: “But when we love God supremely, other desires, far from being excluded, are integrated.” Who said anything about a competition that excludes the competitors? That would be quite a Mafia competition. So the word “supremely” admits that Piper is comparing one want (“want,” for him; you use “love”), to another, and makes a conclusion from “if we don’t want God above all things.”) But your insight about what he says in other places puts some light on it: Piper doesn’t necessarily mean, all the time. Right!

    But the p. 56 quote is more blanket, covering previous time, by a current situation. If … is true, then something is true about the previous time. Piper’s conclusion is about being unsaved. His method of getting there is frog-in-the-pan: at first, “we have not embraced” … then, “not obeyed” “we have not believed the gospel.”

    So what mischaracterizing Piper, the statement that says that Piper has a “competitive test,” or the statement that says “Piper does not see wanting God and wanting other things as being in competition per se.” in light of Piper’s exact statements quoted, about “greatest” and “highest” and comparisons of things as one above the other?

    But you admit this, and that is progress. You also resort to other places, to find him qualifying himself, and come to some rather stark restatements of his idea, in your own words. But this post may be too long. More soon, Lord bless.

    Reply
  8. avatar

    Larry

    May the Lord call us away from idolizing our feelings. The author sets up the idol for you in his first paragraph.

    p. 12: “The best and final gift of God’s love is the enjoyment of God’s beauty.”

    The best (Col 1:18-19ff) gift of God’s love to us is His Son, not our internal feelings of wanting Him for pleasure. As for “final,” there is no stopping point, no final gift from Him to His.

    The author’s governing philosophy gets inserted into his doctrine of salvation. Not only do our feelings get called “the best and final gift of God’s love,” but the feelings get relied upon for being “the gospel”:

    p. 14: “the gospel is the good news of our final and full enjoyment of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

    The author is trying to make feelings be his (and our) gospel. Thankfully, he can’t. In a way, he’s a teenager in love: the teenager can’t wait to daydream and experience the feelings that come from thinking of a loved one. The teenager loves those times of daydream (as “the best”) and would love to daydream the day away, until it’s tomorrow (“the final”) … ;) So we have to forgive our author, of course, these teenager things, but also pursue the Lord Jesus with a growing maturity.

    Reply
  9. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Thanks for your patience Larry. I appreciate your responses.

    To answer your first question, it was not my intent to mischaracterise your position, but rather to restate it in my own words in order to clarify whether I’ve understood you properly. I’m happy to accept correction where I’ve misunderstood.

    Regarding Edwards, my intent was not to unfairly characterise you, but rather to understand whether you feel that Piper has misunderstood/misrepresented Edwards, or alternatively, whether you accept Piper’s contention that his own theology is largely a recapturing of the theology of Edwards. I think this is relevant because Piper roots his theology in the Reformed tradition through men such as Edwards. I was curious whether you agree with Edwards but think Piper has misunderstood/misrepresented him, believe that Piper does indeed represent the theology of Edwards, or perhaps believe something else.

    1) Fair enough.

    2) “He would not be able to say the rephrasing of ‘top feelings for the gospel’ to ‘top feelings for God’ changes anything.”

    I think you’ve misunderstood Piper’s intent in the title “God is the Gospel.” Piper is not saying that God equals the gospel (a statement of substantive equivalence). That would of course be untrue. Rather, he is saying that God (relationship to; fellowship with; sight of; joy in) is the content of the “good news” (a statement of substantive reference). It is the inverse of the statement “The Gospel is God,” and while it is mildly susceptible to misunderstanding in it’s inverted form (“God is the Gospel”), Piper no doubt has editorial/marketing reasons for using this form and more than clarifies the point dozens of times throughout the book.

    Piper’s explanation is simple, clear, and precise: “When I say that God is the Gospel I mean that the highest, best, final, decisive good of the gospel, without which no other gift would be good, is the glory of God in the face of Christ revealed for our everlasting enjoyment” (p. 13, 2011 edition).

    3) I see your point on p. 56. It seems to me that you see the terms “greatest” and “highest” as terms of exclusivity rather than terms of rank. For instance, if I say I love only my car, that is a statement of exclusive love. But if I say my love for my car is greater or higher than my love for my shed, that is merely a statement of rank. The terms “greatest” and “highest” imply a position above all the other ranked items, but do not exclude lesser or lower ranking items.

    So is Piper saying there is competition for the top rank (e.g. does Piper believe that I must love God more than my car?)? Absolutely. But is Piper saying that love for anything besides God excludes love for God (e.g. does Piper believe that if I love my car a lot, that I cannot possibly love God the most?)? No. I don’t believe that is what he is saying.

    4) Re: p. 12, how can worshipping God himself (“enjoyment of God’s beauty”) be idolatry?

    In the broader context of the book, what Piper means here (and perhaps he’s said it somewhat clumsily in this instance) is not that the best gift is enjoyment itself, but rather that the best gift is “His Son” (as you said; i.e. himself) and, by implication, our ability to enjoy him. In other words, in the context of 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 which Piper expounds extensively, God’s goodness is already there for all to rejoice in, but the lost cannot see it because their eyes are blinded. The gift is God, yes, but also the ability to see him for the first time.

    That this is indeed Piper’s intent is seen in the the two sentences immediately preceding your quote: “It is stunning to watch the shift away from God as the all-satisfying gift of God’s love. It is stunning how seldom God himself is proclaimed as the greatest gift of the gospel.” He could not have been more explicit.

    The gift is “final” in the sense that the enjoyment of God is a perpetual, eternal gift… we will worship him forever and never cease to be amazed at who he is (his “beauty”).

    5) Re: p. 14, the statement “The author is trying to make feelings be his (and our) gospel” is simply not a fair characterisation of what Piper believes, or what he teaches in this book. Not remotely. Three sentences after the sentence you quoted, Piper says “The price Jesus paid for the gift and the unmerited freedom of the gift are not the gift. The gift is Christ himself as the glorious image of God—seen and savored with everlasting joy.” Piper addresses this so many times, from so many angles in this chapter alone, that it is difficult to understand how anyone could come away with any understanding besides the repeatedly stated position of Piper that the best gift of God’s love is “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

    Reply
  10. avatar

    Larry

    “Clearly he is not arguing that a person who has no desire for God at some point/s is not a believer. But he is arguing that anyone who has no desire for and joy in God, and wants none, is not saved.”

    The addition is “and wants none.” To WANT no desire for God, and/or to WANT no joy in God, gives the conclusion, “is not saved” — in the idea you offer here, Jason.

    1. That idea has to be considered, Jason, but that idea is not the author’s idea in this book. The desire for God must be supreme, not just some desire to have the desire. See the p. 47 quote in my first comment above: “If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.” There is no exception, some desiring to desire God, allowed by that statement.

    2. Let’s consider that idea. Many relationships have come to nothing, with the wispy “I wanted to want you” sounding in the ears of both sides. With people, this is wispy. If we assert that with God, it isn’t, then that has to be shown scripturally, as the difference between salvation and not being saved. Salvation by wanting to want God — compared salvation by the Son’s own accomplishments, seems a rather wispy cloud to ride to heaven on.

    Reply
  11. avatar

    Larry

    Thanks for the carefulness again Jason. Your latest arrived in my mailbox, but before I read it I wanted to continue with some of your earlier thoughts, in the particulars of a previous post, so as not to have a tree of thoughts with leaves on some of the branchings. Your latest was careful, and looks at some things that can help. More soon and thanks.

    Reply
  12. avatar

    Jason Harris

    “The addition is ‘and wants none.’ To WANT no desire for God, and/or to WANT no joy in God, gives the conclusion, ‘is not saved’ — [is] the idea you offer here, Jason.”

    You have correctly understood me on this. I believe this is both a) true, and b) exactly the point Piper is making. I’ll try to substantiate both of those points in responding to your two points.

    1) The very next sentence after your quote on p. 47 says “So now we must turn to the biblical basis for this truth.” He then proceeds to set out that basis in detail finally coming to the section on p. 55 (2011 edition) titled “Seeing the glory of Christ has its ups and downs.” In this section he makes statements such as “The ability to see spiritual beauty is not unwavering” and “this is not an all-or-nothing reality. There are degrees of purity and degrees of seeing.”

    2) This is the dual concepts of “seeing and savoring” that Piper repeatedly brings up throughout the book. To see God’s glory is a work of the Spirit starting at regeneration and continuing through illumination. But the savouring concept is inherently linked to the seeing. Spiritual enlightenment is not merely to see “just the raw facts” (p. 55), but to see “spiritual things for what they really are—that is, seeing them as beautiful and valuable as they really are” (p. 55-56). The savouring is based on the seeing. When we see something as valuable, we want it. We savour it. Automatically (“One cannot see it and reject it,” p. 63).

    So how does this support point (b) above? What Piper is arguing is that at salvation we see it for the first time. But then he admits there are “degrees of seeing” throughout the Christian life. His logic is: God is valuable > If we see God, we will want him > There will be times when we don’t see him clearly > There will be times when we don’t want him much.

    Though Piper does not address the implications of this logic at any length in this book, he does address it at length in his book “When I Don’t Desire God.” His premise in that study is that the fight for joy is a fight to see God. In other words, he assumes that someone who is concerned about their lack of desire for God is a believer, and argues that if only they could see God, they would savour him! Automatically! And therefore his focus is on how to see God.

    In support of point (a) above, I offer two thoughts. First, if Piper is right, then every believer has at some point seen God in such a way that he saw the value and savoured him. It is the memory of a previous vision of God that makes a believer want to want God. It’s the person who says “I can’t see his glory right now, but I remember when I used to be able to see it and I want that again!”

    Second, I would suggest that this is a form of the dilemma Paul is addressing at the end of Romans 7, a passage which is appropriately used to address assurance of salvation. A person who sins and loves it and is content to stay that way is not a believer. But a person who sins, but feels conviction, and battles it demonstrates spiritual life. So the idea of conflicting desires is not foreign to the Christian life based on Paul’s theology here. Rather, it is the norm.

    I appreciate your gracious spirit and careful discussion. I hope I can “sharpen” you half as much as you have already “sharpened” me through this discussion.

    Reply
  13. avatar

    Larry

    I’ll just do a little snippet response, to the latest post, to show agreement on something….

    <>

    Of course we must love God more than our cars, or xyz. Where the disagreement with him lies, is his attempt to do a fallacy called “denying the antecedent” or “assuming the converse,” from that.

    To show the structure of these kind of things…: assuming that there is a statement, called Orig., whether true or false:

    Orig: “those who love God supremely are saved.”

    A fallacious conclusion from Orig. is: “those who don’t love God supremely are not saved.”

    That’s called assuming the converse, or denying the antecent. A simpler non-theological example:

    Orig: “It’s 4 am, therefore the sky is night-time brightness.”

    A fallacious conclusion from Orig. is: “it’s not 4am. Therefore the sky is not night-time brightness.”

    If there is one fallacy being used over and over again in many of this author’s statements, it is this one, throughout this book and many of his others. Another famous one:

    Orig: “To the humble God gives grace”

    A fallacious conclusion from Orig: “To those who are not humble, God doesn’t.”

    But this is from another book, so it’s off-this-topic. We agree that Piper espouses supreme, not exclusive, love for God. But we must look at his “or-else” statements.

    Reply

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