by John Piper
If you’re tempted to think that the second edition of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions is little more than a publisher’s effort to rekindle interest in a classic work, resist that temptation with all the effort you can muster.
Baker Books, P.O. 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 2003, 256 pages, $14.99.
—Reviewed by Mark Young, professor of world missions and intercultural studies, Dallas Theological Seminary.
If you’re tempted to think that the second edition of John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions is little more than a publisher’s effort to rekindle interest in a classic work, resist that temptation with all the effort you can muster. Thankfully much of the text remains unchanged—same trenchant style laced with verbal bombshells that refuse to be forgotten. “Missions exists because worship doesn’t. You can’t commend what you don’t cherish” (17).
To say that Piper’s thinking in the first edition of this book defines a generation’s theology of mission would certainly be open to criticism, but it would as certainly be defensible. Let the Nations Be Glad intentionally and unabashedly moves the reader from an anthropocentric perspective on mission to a theocentric one in which God’s passion for his own glory becomes our passion to see God glorified among the nations. On the one hand, this book is an apologetic for mission using Edwardsean themes and paradigms, an apologetic that attempts to reformulate perpetual paradoxes of reformed theology in the framework of mission. These attempts are noteworthy and helpful. On the other hand, the book demonstrates how mission provides a context within which three elements of the Christian life—worship, prayer and suffering—gain significance and value seldom experienced by those who do not participate in God’s eternal purpose for all people. Each chapter from the first edition is nicely updated, especially by the addition of relevant footnotes.
The second edition of Let the Nations Be Glad contains two important chapters that address significant lacks in the first edition—a consideration of the necessity for, and logical consistency in, compassion for the needs of humanity in mission and a fuller explication of Piper’s understanding of worship. Piper argues for a compassion for the lost based in our awareness of their eternal destiny and the pain of their earthly existence apart from any satisfaction in Christ. One wishes that he would have explored more fully the love of God as a ground for compassion in mission. Regarding worship, Piper argues that the New Testament’s silence on forms of worship frees the Church worldwide to focus on the heart of worship more than the experience of worship. “Worship is not first an outward act; it is an inner spiritual treasuring of the character and the ways of God in Christ. It is a cherishing of Christ, a being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ. When these things are missing, there is no worship, no matter what forms or expressions are present” (227). Thus, he argues, worship pervades all of life, a life “properly motivated by a thirst for more and more satisfaction in God” (223). Coupled with the newly added chapter on compassion Piper’s understanding of worship leaves little room for those who claim to glorify God and demonstrate no concern for the lost and no involvement in God’s concern that the lost become satisfied in him.
Piper notes in the Preface that the book is intended for all in the Church, not just for missionaries. Indeed, viewing Let the Nations Be Glad as a book on missions sells short the power and scope of this significant book. I could not commend it more heartily.
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