He Sees with New Eyes: My Love for David Powlison (1949–2019)


I really like David Powlison, who handed away yesterday morning, and want to honor him and exult in his Savior by providing you with seven the reason why.

I say “love,” not “cherished,” as a result of that’s the way in which love is. It doesn’t stop to be throughout separations. And this one might be brief.

1. I really like him as a result of when he spoke I noticed.

I made no secret that I ranked him with C.S. Lewis as a see-er of what’s actually there. It was no coincidence that one anthology of Lewis is titled A Thoughts Awake, and one anthology of David’s is named Seeing with New Eyes. They have been each profoundly awake to the quiddity of issues — to get up within the morning and concentrate on the firmness of the mattress, the nice weight of the blanket in your toes, the heat of the solar rays, the smooth murmur of the distant visitors, the sheer being of issues.

Lewis and Powlison gently shook me awake from the recurrent slumbering of my thoughts in theoretical and summary reconstructions of issues, one step faraway from the concreteness of actuality. Get up! These folks have noses! (Lewis). Get up! These folks have tales! (Powlison).

I invite you to pay attention to some of David’s brief movies on YouTube. Simply whenever you assume there may be nothing extra that may be mentioned about this inscrutable private drawback, he sees it from a unique approach, then one other angle, and one other. Then I understand that my speechlessness earlier than this sorrow was owing to my not being alive to what’s actually there. Wonders. Wonders within the damaged human being in entrance of me, and wonders within the phrase of God. He helped me see, repeatedly.

2. I really like him as a result of he was gently amazed on the wonderful — and the whole lot is wonderful.

Let me illustrate with a narrative he instructed:

Some 1,500 years in the past, the warrior-chief of a primitive, Germanic tribe bluntly questioned a visiting missionary, “Why ought to I imagine on this Jesus that you just inform me about?” The person of God answered, “As a result of in Jesus Christ you will discover surprise upon surprise — and all true.”

David believed that Jesus Christ — revealed in Scripture — is the important thing to rightly seeing and experiencing the whole lot. And the whole lot, rightly seen, is wonderful. And, rightly skilled, the whole lot is therapeutic — eye-opening, joy-giving. Jesus, seen and spoken properly, is the important thing to all that’s true and good and complete and sincere and lasting. God’s Son and God’s phrase don’t go begging among the many secondhand shops of secular philosophies or psychologies.

If we’re to serve folks nicely, David mentioned,

We should know the sheer glory and goodness of what our Father has given us in Jesus Christ. To know Jesus in reality and love is to seek out the one factor price discovering, the one lasting happiness, the aim of life.

Simply after we are about to sit down down and take a look at a shiny, coffee-table e book of mountain footage, David takes us by the arm and pulls us as much as the following rim of Himalayan heights of Scripture, and says, “Have a look at Actuality! That is wonderful! And extra related to each troubled life than something within the shiny imitations.”

3. I really like him as a result of his language is alive with what he has seen.

In the event you solely see, and don’t say, how do you serve anybody? However in case you see what’s concretely wonderful, and but say it with imprecise abstractions, how will folks see and savor the wonders you see? David didn’t do that. You would contact his phrases. They have been actual. It is a reward. For instance, he recommended,

Don’t ever say phrases similar to “indicative” or “crucial” or “normative, situational, existential” when you’re talking with a human being who continues to be respiration.

I laughed out loud after I learn that! Don’t load folks with wonderless jargon out of your specialty. Press by way of the one that you love shorthand to the concrete actuality and discover phrases that contact the soul.

Don’t use shorthand — “gospel, cross, metanarrative, justification, sovereignty, redemptive-historical,” and so forth — when you’ve gotten a possibility to make use of longhand. The Bible solely makes use of shorthand after the that means is crystal clear, established in some element within the context. And biblical shorthand sometimes strikes ahead with a nuance or recent angle, moderately than merely speaking in technical jargon. Most individuals get little or no out of shorthand, however get an incredible deal out of particulars and tales.

Shorthand is required. Certainly, it’s impressed by God. But it surely’s the “element,” the “context,” the “crystal clear that means,” the “nuance,” the “recent angle,” the “tales” that waken. In some mouths this counsel may need put me off, however David has my belief as a rock-solid lover of Romans, in addition to Ruth. So, I listened when he mentioned,

Develop into as Ruth-ian as you’re Roman-esque, as Psalmic as you’re Colossianic. We who’re Reformed by conviction have at all times cherished Fact, and now we love The Story. However we nonetheless have a tough time listening to the tales and all the opposite issues which are true.

4. I really like him as a result of he’s radiantly severe.

Jokesters don’t assist my happiness or my fruitfulness. Levity, it appears to me, is what occurs to the soul when the hunt for happiness loses contact with actuality. To do good to folks we should not lose contact with actuality. We should know some issues. For instance, David writes,

We should know the gravity of our situation as human beings. We are likely to defect. We’re false lovers. We’re traitors — compulsively, blindly.

The Christian Counselor (that’s all of us believers in some measure) is severe due to the terrifying propensities he sees within the mirror. However together with these dreadful information, “We should know the sheer glory and goodness of what our Father has given us in Jesus Christ.” So, the Christian Counselor is radiant with pleasure.

At the very least David was. In my expertise he was by no means glib, or gloomy. He didn’t put on the heaviness of his troubles on his sleeve. They made him earnest, however not onerous. He was not a celebration pooper, nor the resident clown. He was severe — the alternative of superficial — radiantly severe. Nobody greeted me like David Powlison — eyes fastened on mine, smiling gently, seeing, asking.

5. I really like him as a result of he’s calmly unshakeable however corrigible.

He devoted a few of his greatest considering to how he may revenue from the critics of his greatest considering. This was a part of the larger imaginative and prescient — the peaceable, pleased imaginative and prescient— that God and his phrase are infallibly true even when we aren’t infallibly proper. The most secure place to reside and minister just isn’t within the fortress of defensiveness, however within the shadow of the Almighty, able to study from each severe witness.

David turned each detractor into a physician for his soul. Why waste a criticism by being defensive? He favored to say, “Critics, like governing authorities, are servants of God to you for good (Romans 13:4).” As traditional he acquired rather more particular:

No one likes to be criticized. However critics maintain us sane — or, by our reactions, show us quickly or completely insane. Whether or not a critic’s method is gracious or malicious, whether or not the timing is nice or dangerous, whether or not the intention is constructive or harmful, whether or not the content material is correct, half-true, or totally false, in any case the very expertise of being criticized reveals you. To what madnesses are you inclined?

Not many individuals speak like this. David Powlison does. And I’m the extra sane for it.

6. I really like him as a result of he knew that the counsel of Christ radically opposed and opened the world.

He knew that every one fact is God’s fact. However, simply as importantly, he knew that any fact minimize from God as fact is radically unfaithful — unfaithful to all that’s most necessary, most stunning, most treasured, most lasting. Biblical counseling was not a baptized imitation of the world’s concepts. It grew from the unfathomable roots of Actuality in God.

God’s means is qualitatively completely different from the whole lot else out there within the bazaar of choices, of different counsels, different schemas, different practices, different techniques.

We’re not at a loss when our roots develop deep and vast within the vastness of God’s knowledge. “God speaks profoundly and comprehensively to the concrete situations of each particular person’s life.”

However the counsel of Christ just isn’t solely against, and higher than, all of the world; it additionally opens the world as a treasure trove of human expertise. David didn’t imagine it was doable or fascinating to maneuver immediately from Bible-reading to soul-healing. No one exists in that type of bubble, the place there may be solely a Bible, a reader, and a sinful, wounded soul. This reader — this counselor — has been fashioned by ten thousand experiences in life, in addition to what he sees within the Bible. Some have been dangerous. Some useful. Some each.

David’s level is that this: the radically complete, God-centered, Christ-exalting imaginative and prescient of Scripture turns the world into a faculty of infinite wonders — horrible and exquisite. With Christ as Creator and Instructor the universe turns into a college of discovery. The Bible reader — the biblical counselor — is not passive about being formed by the world, however actively urgent by way of appearances to depths of perception in human expertise.

We see this not solely in the way in which David listened perceptively (to us), but additionally in the way in which he learn fiction and historical past. Why did he love Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Crime and Punishment) and Alan Paton (Cry, the Beloved Nation) and Mark Helprin (A Soldier of the Nice Conflict)? He tells us:

In fact, I really like [them] otherwise than I really like Scripture. However alongside Scripture, I most love novels and histories. Why? Since you study folks. You achieve a really feel for human expertise. You come to know riches and nuances that you might by no means perceive simply from realizing the circle of individuals you occur to know. You come to know the ways in which folks differ from one another, and the methods we’re all alike — an exceedingly invaluable part of knowledge. You turn into a much bigger particular person with a wider scope of notion. All these stuff you come to know illustrate and amplify the relevance and knowledge of our God. I really like fiction and biography for a similar causes that an 18th century pastor would learn his Bible and his Shakespeare.

David Powlison was completely assured that the counsel of Christ was the decisive, indispensable, lastly authoritative phrase of God over towards all of the God-omitting world. And he knew that world was a treasure chest of discovery awaiting Christ as the important thing.

7. I really like him as a result of he’s lastly centered on the sweetness of the love of God in Christ.

When he recommended a buddy who couldn’t shake the sensation that God was distant, sure, he recommended “Hearken to Scripture” (2 Timothy 4:2). Sure, “Discuss coronary heart to coronary heart with a buddy” (Hebrews 3:13). Sure, “Eat and drink the Lord’s Supper” (Matthew 26:26—29). Sure, “Take time to rigorously take into account the great thing about a flower” (Matthew 6:28–29). Sure, “Keep in mind the Christian leaders whose lives and educating most affected you” (Hebrews 13:7). Sure, “Keep in mind Jesus lived Lamentations 3, and lived it for you” (Lamentations 3:22).

However his counsel reaches a crescendo on this candy observe:

And keep in mind that essentially the most repeated sentence in the whole Bible is “His steadfast love endures perpetually.” God thought it price repeating that his steadfast love lasts perpetually. And it’s price our repeating it, too. Say it out loud, “The steadfast love of the Lord by no means ceases. His mercies by no means come to an finish.”

I’m penning this tribute in Bideford, England, simply after listening to the information of David’s dying. Simply this morning, Noël and I have been strolling by way of a graveyard in close by Buckland Brewer, a village the place my nice, great-grandfather, John Piper, was born. Within the cemetery amongst centuries-old gravestones there was a round cement marker with the engraved phrase, “Reserved.”

Marked or not, your spot, and my spot, is reserved by God. The Lord provides, and the Lord takes away. In life, David Powlison taught us find out how to reside, and to assist others reside. In dying, he helps us put together to die. Few reminders could possibly be sweeter than the one he leaves with us: “The steadfast love of the Lord by no means ceases. His mercies by no means come to an finish.” By no means.


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