Friday, December 05, 2014
Word Magazine No. 32: John Piper on the Pericope Adulterae. Part 2: Can we preach from (supposedly) uninspired texts?
I recorded WM # 32 today. This is part two of my review of John Piper's 2012 sermon "Neither Do I Condemn You" on the woman caught in adultery passage (John 7:53--8:11).
In part one I outlined and responded to Piper's six reasons for rejecting the authenticity of the PA. In part two, I moved on to evaluate Piper's argument that though the PA is not an authentic part of John it is probably an event that really happened. Therefore, he justifies preaching from the text not as the basis of the truth but as pointing to the truth. As Piper puts it, “It’s true. It’s a true story…. whether it happened or whether it belongs in this Gospel” (start listening c. the 36:31 mark).
In my view, this approach is both unwise and even dangerous. If we might preach from (supposedly) uninspired texts (like the PA) why not preach from the Gospel of Thomas or the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, since an argument might be marshaled that despite the fact that these books are not canonical they might contain authentic sayings or deeds of Jesus (as some scholars like Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar and Bart Ehrman, among others, have argued)? Can we then preach from these texts also not as the basis of truth but as pointing to truth? If not, why not?
Oddly enough, Piper realizes that his approach will likely be perceived by the average Christian in the pew as undermining the stability and authority of the Bible. The most ironic line in the sermon is when he realizes his hearers will take his suggestion that the PA is not part of John as "a gut punch" adding "That's a downer!" (listen at the 22:58 mark). Still, he persists in attempting to justify the modern critical text's judgment that the PA is not part of Scripture, concluding, as well, that it can be preached not as truth itself but merely as a "pointer" to truth.