John Piper. The Collected Works of John Piper. Edited by David Mathis and Justin Taylor. 13 vols. + one volume of indexes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2017. 8,464 pages. Available from Amazon and Westminster Bookstore .
Both Justin Taylor and David Mathis have spent years serving as John Piper’s assistant, and they know Piper and his publications unusually well. Justin wrote his fascinating PhD dissertation on Piper, and David is the executive editor for Desiring God.
The editors explain in the introduction to volume 1,
Our task has been to edit and assemble the standardized, definitive collection of his publications to date. … Our basic criterion for selection has been to include everything that John Piper has written for publication in printed books, magazines, and journals. The result is forty-five books, sixty articles and reviews, twenty-three forewords, and forty-two chapters—totaling around three million words (all of this is in addition to his sermon manuscripts and online articles already available, free of charge, at desiringGod.org).
This set covers Piper’s publications from 1970 to 2015, and it always includes the latest edition of Piper’s books. The editors consistently format all of Piper’s works and occasionally clarify bits (with Piper’s approval).
Sometime in the indeterminate future, when Piper’s writing production comes to a conclusion, we plan to publish several additional volumes to complete the set. … We have decided not to number [what is currently the final volume of Indexes], but rather to replace it when we publish the full and final edition of the Collected Works. Thus, the first volume in the second half of this set will begin as volume 14.
Note to academics: The idea is that Piper will not be updating any of the books that are in the Collected Works, so what appears in Collected Works is the definitive academic version to cite. It is a standardized source with common pagination and the latest editions.
I spent several days working through this collection. I thoroughly enjoyed reading John Piper’s prefaces to each of the 13 volumes. He shares what what was going on in his life at the time he wrote specific works and what motivated him to write. I also read the publications I hadn’t read before (I had already read most of them). Working through the Collected Works filled me with gratitude to God for John Piper.
Crossway printed the volumes in Italy with a durable, smyth-sewn binding on specialty book paper designed for maximum readability. It’s beautiful.
Here’s are two pictures Tony Reinke took at the Desiring God headquarters earlier this month. Justin Taylor is in the top frame, and David Mathis and Justin Taylor flank John Piper in the bottom frame (with Jon Bloom in the background).
I conclude with some excerpts from my latest book (pp. xxvii, 330–31) as a small way to express why I thank God for John Piper:
I dedicate this book to John Piper, who inspires me to look at the Book—and to keep looking. He influenced me so deeply that when I started dating my wife-to-be, I lent her my marked-up copies of The Pleasures of God, Desiring God, and Rediscovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and I asked her to read them to make sure that we were on the same page theologically. (She loved them.) John models how to look at the Book and exult in it. …
I recommend a strong diet of John Piper’s sermons and writings because he masterfully applies the Bible. (By the way, it’s wise to listen to sermons by several people—not just one or two—so that you can learn from their strengths and not try to be a carbon copy of any one of them. Develop your own voice.) You can access John Piper’s resources at www.desiringgod.org. All his sermons and articles are there, along with free PDFs of most of his books. I won’t take the time to list and comment on all his books, but I’ll highlight eleven Piper resources:
- Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. 4th ed. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2011. Piper’s signature book. You most glorify God when he most satisfies you.
- The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God. 2nd ed. Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000. God will most satisfy you when you know why God himself most satisfies God. Since reading this book, I refer to good nature documentaries such as Planet Earth as “worship DVDs.”
- Future Grace: The Purifying Power of the Promises of God. 2nd ed. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2012. You don’t sin out of duty. You sin because you want to. Sin promises happiness, and you buy the lie. Jesus not only pays the penalty for our sin but also breaks its power when we bank on his promises. Piper strategizes on how to fight sins such as anxiety, pride, misplaced shame, impatience, covetousness, bitterness, despondency, and lust.
- Don’t Waste Your Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003. Make your life count. Live for what matters forever, for what you can die for. Take risks for the sake of the gospel. The most memorable story from this book is about a couple retiring early and collecting seashells in Punta Gorda, Florida: “That is a tragedy.”
- Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004. It’s all about Jesus. Know him. Adore him. Imitate him.
- Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Coedited with Wayne Grudem. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991. Men and women are equal in dignity and essence but distinct in their roles in the home and the church.
- Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry. 2nd ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2013. Don’t buckle under the pressure to “professionalize” the pastorate. This book is prophetic and practical.
- The Supremacy of God in Preaching. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. Explains why God should be supreme in preaching and how Jonathan Edwards modeled that principle.
- Let the Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010. Exhorts Christians to strategically reach all the nations with the gospel.
- Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011. Partly autobiographical. Compellingly argues from the Bible why Christians should pursue ethnic harmony.
- Ask Pastor John. In this podcast, Piper thoughtfully answers tough theological and pastoral questions. I listen to every episode because this is rubber-meets-the-road practical theology. It helps me apply the Bible.
Update on 3/31/2017: See Justin Taylor, “An FAQ on the Collected Works of John Piper (3 Million Words over 13 Volumes + an Index Volume).”