Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Why John Piper Hates Movies

I have never listened to a sermon by John Piper. I have never read one of his books. I have heard his name tossed around quite a bit but haven't taken the time to explore him and what he has to say. I do know I was quite turned off by his farewell of Rob Bell in the days leading up to the release of Bell's book on Hell, but I don't have anything for or against Piper.

I read with interest the transcript of an answer that John Piper gave to a question about preaching. Specifically, he was asked, "What are you thoughts on drama, movie clips, and the like in a church service?" You can see the whole response below, but the bulk of his answer can be wrapped up when he said:

"I think the use of video and drama largely is a token of unbelief in the power of preaching. And I think that, to the degree that pastors begin to supplement their preaching with this entertaining spice to help people stay with them and be moved and get helped, it's going to backfire.... It's going to communicate that preaching is weak, preaching doesn't save, preaching doesn't hold, but entertainment does."

I have not been preaching for nearly as long as Piper has. Heck, I probably haven't been alive as long as he has been preaching, but I have to disagree with his stance. The way I see it, the video clip is the modern-day story which is available to be used for illustration purposes. It doesn't take away from the power of preaching, but rather enhances it. To say that it detracts from the power of preaching assumes that preaching can only be done with the spoken word, when in reality communication is much broader than simply speaking. Communication is body language, visuals, stories, and so on, along with the spoken word. I don't know if Piper uses spoken illustrations when he preaches, but if so, what is the difference? By using video clips one is simply communicating to different senses and emotions which can't be a bad thing.

Jesus frequently used the means that He had available to Him to communicate a truth. If there was a flower close by, He would talk about it. If there was a sheep close by, He would use it. If there was a small child, He would discuss children in light of the kingdom of God. I would venture to say that if there was a movie that everyone knew and could relate to, Jesus would have used it as a means to communicate His truth to those who were listening. Let's face it: all truth is God's truth and should be used to communicate what He wants to say to His people.

What do you think? What part do video clips play in modern-day preaching?


Stephan said...

The disagreement between you and Piper is not stylistic; its fundamental. Piper is Reformed; you are not. In Piper's view, God says the Word must be preached. Period. God does the all of the work toward conversion. In a non-Reformed word-view, people must be convinced (or, at least, CAN be convinced) to be converted. If you're non-Reformed, not only can you make preaching as entertaining/captivating as possible -- arguably, you MUST do so because a captivating sermon may be the only thing between God/Salvation and eternal damnation for the lost. You and I have had this conversation before, and you know where I come out on this.

Stephan said...

...for what it's worth, this is one of the reasons why I think the Reformed/non-Reformed dispute matters and why it makes sense for Christians to actually think about it and reach a conclusion for themselves.

DisneyMacAddict said...

Doesn't God use a donkey to get his message to Balaam in the Old Testament? If God can use a donkey he can probably use a scene from the Holy Grail also. Just sayin'.

Over the past several months I have been camped out on a verse...Mark 12:24 where Jesus responds "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" He's addressing the Sadducees who think they have figured out how to prove there can be no resurrection. (Their example is The women and the 7 brothers.) And they really think they have it figured out. They have a theology, philosophy that is airtight until Jesus says you don't know the Scriptures and you don't know the power of God.

Of course just a few verses later Jesus talks about the greatest commandment being about loving God with everything and loving others as ourselves...and that's what it's all about. And if we can show love, illustrate love through scenes from a movie, we do it. Just my thoughts. Have a great day and I've missed you!! Good blog post!

Fitz said...

Stephan, I agree with your comments. Two thoughts I had with regards to them:

1. I wonder how many preachers who consider themselves Reformed would have this hardline of a stance. I don't have an answer, just a wondering. I'm sure there are plenty of degrees in the Reformed camp, some of which would allow for movie clips and some that would not.

2. If what you say is true - and I don't doubt that is the reasoning behind Piper's comments - where does one draw the line? If you use a non-movie illustration, perhaps even a story from your own life, wouldn't that be, in a sense, using what you have available to you to try and convince the listeners? How about if you work hard to craft a really good sermon using just the right words? What about the emotion you use when delivering the sermon? Where do you draw the line between 'trusting in the power of preaching' and using other means to convince the listener? Again, I have no answers, only questions. I guess in that way I am a bit like Rob Bell...

Sylvia said...

Hi Stephan,

I see where you're coming from regarding movies and I wouldn't disagree with you. However, I think it clearly comes across that John Piper isn't saying that he is the final authority on this subject by any means. And he talks about Christian liberty in that we aren't prevented from using movies, drama, etc, and he does this is a very nice way.

A little different on Rob bell though. I would think John Piper has some pretty strong thoughts about Rob Bell's ministry. And I bet John's has given a good bit of reflection to this based on his interpretation of scripture. I think if you sat down with him you could have a really good conversation and he could explain where he's coming from. You might not agree but it would be a nice conversation. However, I must confess that I haven't read what he said. I may be wrong but it looks like you have a link to twitter which I don't have a clue as to using. I'm old though - so that's my excuse.

I see that another commentor has mentioned the subject of the Reformed faith. There would indeed be a big difference between that and your beliefs. I'm not sure beliefs is the right word but I think you know what I mean. Also since I was raised as a Methodist I'm allowed to say it that way. Ha, ha

One last thing. I saw where you said you had never listened to John Piper or read any of his books. You know what, I'm going to suggest that you do. If you go to his website you'll find a mountain of resource material - videos, audio, articles, etc. And many of these wouldn't even touch on the subject of the Reformed faith or Calvinism, etc. If you really wanted to jump into the deep end you could check out a book of his "The Justification of God...". But I'll tell you right off the bat that a lot in this book is way over my head. But I do know that it's got some really good stuff in it and is very highly rated by some very solid Pastors.

OK, that’s my 2 cents worth. God bless you.

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