Read It! - March 2021
2020 was a year of pain, suffering, and anguish. COVID-19 impacted countless lives, crushed the economy, overwhelmed our health care system, and influenced the presidential election. By mid-December, the virus claimed over 300,000 lives in the United States alone. We were told what is classified as "essential" and what is not deemed "essential." Stay home-stay orders, social distancing, wearing masks became a normal part of daily lives.
The lockdowns had a devastating effect on thousands of people. Businesses were permanently closed, many churches stood at a stand-still, and hopelessness ruled in many hearts. One report suggested that suicide rates among young adults skyrocketed due to the pandemic.
In the midst of this crushing heartache, John Piper released his newest book, Providence. I received an advance copy and began diligently reading this massive book, weighing in at over 700 pages.
Dr. Piper lures in readers with a four-fold invitation:
- An invitation into a biblical world of counterintuitive wonders.
- An invitation to penetrate through words into reality. While the term “providence” is not found in Scripture, the reality of providence occurs on every page of the Bible.
- An invitation into a God-entranced world.
- An invitation to know God in a more intimate way.
Once readers become aware of the theological terrain that lies ahead, the 700 pages to follow are much less daunting.
The book is arranged in three parts. Part one explores a definition and a difficulty. The difficulty wrestles with the notion of divine self-exaltation. Piper discusses the typical negative creaturely response to a God who finds pleasure in exalting himself. The author demonstrates that anyone who resists the idea of a self-exalting God has fallen prey to a sinister mindset. Indeed, “The idea that God is unattractive to us because he acts for his own glory cloaks a deeper resistance: he is unattractive because he is God.”
Part two focuses on the ultimate goal of providence. Three areas are discussed which include:
- God’s ultimate goal in providence before creation and in creation.
- The ultimate goal of providence in the history of Israel.
- The ultimate goal of providence in the design and enactment of the New Covenant
The great benefit of part two is delighting in the big picture of God’s providence. From before creation, to the cross, and the final glorification of the elect, we find God orchestrating every detail for his glory and for our good. As Piper writes, “God is supremely committed to the display of his glory for the admiration and enjoyment of all who will have it as their supreme treasure.”
Part three reveals the nature and extent of providence. The author skillfully demonstrates how God’s providence reigns over all things including the weather, world leaders, circumstances, and the demonic realm. Piper shows how God’s providence superintends over sin and triumphs in conversion.
In the end, Piper gloriously describes the final achievement of providence in the return of Christ, the glorification of his elect, and his reign on the New Earth. He writes, "The great goal of providence is the shining forth of the glory of God in the holiness and happiness of his people through Jesus Christ.
My own experience as I neared the end of Providence was a keen sense of disappointment that the book was drawing to a close. Frankly, Providence helped me maintain a God-centered perspective, even in the midst of a tumultuous year.
Providence is a theological tour de force. It is heart-warming, mind-riveting, and soul-shaping. My hope is that Piper’s great accomplishment, dare I say his magnum opus, will have a similar impact on thousands of people around the world. There is no question that John Piper’s Providence will be one of the most read and treasured books of 2021.