There is some controversy over Piper's new book, God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself. Of course it wouldn't be a Piper book if it didn't give people pause. He speaks provocatively to arrest our attention while drawing us to the truth. This time the controversy I have come across centers on the issue of conversion. Most of you from a Reformed background will have little trouble with this, and I'll let you deal with it when you read the book. Even for those who object to this application of Piper's thesis, the whole is still worth your time. If you like Piper, chances are you will love his newest work.
Piper argues that the church has confused the many blessings of the Gospel with the Gospel itself, and has often missed, both in our understanding and preaching, the greatest blessing of the Gospel; God. Western Christianity has grown large churches and made a lot of money selling books by emphasizing the blessings of the Gospel as if they were the point. Piper's wants us to see a more theocentric Gospel. He says it in different ways, all making the same point: The greatest gift of the Gospel is God himself; the best and final gift of the Gospel is that we gain Christ. God gives us himself. And all the other blessings of the Gospel lead us to and are summed up in him. For example, Piper explains that "Justification is the heart of the Gospel, not its highest good." Justification is the heart of the Gospel in that it addresses man's greatest need and from it flow the other blessings. But the highest good and the greatest blessing of the Gospel is God himself. And unless we get this, we have missed the point. So Piper asks us a great question.
If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?
How we answer that question can make the difference now and in eternity. His point is that forgiveness, and freedom, and health and life are all good because they enable us to fully enjoy God for all eternity. Justification, or any of these blessings, is not an end in itself, but a means to knowing and making known Jesus Christ.
This is a solid read, one that challenges, promotes conversation and can lead to worship and life-change. I pray that it does.