In this episode John and Gregg discuss an open letter by Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The letter concerns Dr. Piper’s response to a student who felt “victimized” by a sermon on 1 Cor 13, a chapter of the Bible devoted to explaining the nature of love.
John sees similarities between this discussion and episode #108, where we discussed an article from The Atlantic magazine. John finds that the tenor of the letter is all too similar to the Christian perspectives that John experienced in his past, in that Dr. Piper clearly assumes that everything that the message that his staff (the minister or preacher) presented was completely correct and that the presentation was entirely appropriate. By consequence, if the student has an issue with the sermon then the problem is with the student (and his inability to understand or respond properly)!
As John summarizes, “Here’s the message, get on-board with it, and if you don’t agree with it there’s something wrong with you!” Everything is the responsibility of the other party and the authority figures (the university and / or its president) takes no responsibility
Gregg agrees with Dr. Piper that our emotions should not be the determining factor in our thinking or responses. Yet neither should any of our faculties take this role, reason included! Each should be balanced and informed by the other faculties to allow for ‘checks and balances’ in our decision making.
Gregg likewise sees a connection with episode #54, Is there a crisis in biblical literacy? In both cases, something is “not working out” for someone. Yet Gregg’s point is that rather than simply critiquing someone we should instead question what may be happening for someone such that they are acting or reacting in seemingly extreme ways.
John rejects Dr. Piper’s immediate association of emotional response (feeling victimized) with the idea that this is simply the person’s conscience, convicting him. Maybe yes, but maybe it’s more complicated. So one may feel “convicted” but the message my be bogus! In this way, Dr. Piper’s agenda seems to be that the student should have “the right” emotional response, as decided by Dr. Piper / those in authority.
Gregg disagrees strongly with Dr. Piper’s claim that we need to learn that “life is not about me” and that life is “not about my self-actualization. Instead Gregg argues that he, as a Christian, needs to value himself in order to love others rightly. This because Christians are called to a) love God entirely, b) love themselves rightly in order to c) love others as themselves.
This is partly related to the false understanding that theology can “go it alone,” rather than only being able rightly to understand ourselves by setting theology in dialogue with a number of other disciplines (psychology, neurology, geology, etc.). Gregg further is suspicious that Dr. Piper having given no further attention to the student’s perspective is indicative of the likely fact that Dr. Piper is unaccustomed to being challenged—he is immune to critique. In other words, the tone and content of his letter are as though he speaks for God / has a somewhat “God’s eye view” on the matter.