Thursday, April 22, 2010

How John Piper Got To Where He Is Today And Why Many Readers Have No Problem With It

John Robbins of The Trinity Foundation had serious problems with John Piper even back in 2002. Too bad most didn't see what he saw.

Take heed of what you read and who you expose yourself to.

Piper exposed himself to error early on through the influence of Wheaton College where he minored in Philosophy (this is a direct violation of Co. 2:8where he studied Romantic Literature with C. S. Kilby, a C. S. Lewis scholar (CS Lewis was not even a Christian, but a Romanist). Piper went to Fuller Theological Seminary after that, to be influenced by Daniel Fuller (see below), and then after a stint at University of Munich in West Germany, he went on to teach at liberal Bethel
College.

The post-modern idea of playing with words and blurring lines has come through Piper himself.

Piper plays with significant words. Flowery poetic speech obfuscates clarity and moves away from concrete,biblical definitions and declarations. This includes pairing up opposing views to come up with a new word ("Christian" Hedonism). To redefine justification by faith alone, to one of faith and works, is not only to go back to Rome, it shows exactly why Piper invited Douglas Wilson later on, it shows that he already got that idea out to his readers so they easily accepted it and did not rebuke him and separate from him. Justification by works is what Rick Warren teaches as well...the blending of faith and works.

So, on to Robbins' article on the Pied Piper.

Excerpts:

[Daniel Fuller of Fuller Theological Seminary]Fuller wrote: "I would say that Moses was justified by the work, or obedience, of faith.… [There are] many passages in Scripture in which good works are made the instrumental cause of justification."

As we have already seen, Fuller explicitly denies justification by faith alone and explicitly asserts justification by faith and works. Piper, his faithful student, trusted friend, and editor, arrives at the same conclusion. Piper denies justification by faith alone while professing to accept Biblical soteriology—which makes his work all the more dangerous. The most effective attack on truth, the most subversive attack on the doctrine of the completeness and efficacy of the work of Christ for the salvation of his people, is always couched in pious language and Biblical phraseology.


The phrases "future grace" and "faith in future grace" appear hundreds, if not thousands, of times in the book. It is a clever propaganda device that has been used many times: Repeat a phase so often that the reader cannot get it out of his mind.

But what does Piper mean by the phrase? In fact, what does he mean by "faith"? The answers are revealing. Here are his own words: "…the focus of my trust is what God promised to do for me in the future" (6).

This may not be the central error of Piper’s book, but it comes close. The focus of saving faith is not what God has promised to do for us in the future, but what God has already done for us in Christ. Christians preach and trust only Christ crucified, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Christ crucified is the sole focus of Biblical, saving, faith; it is the focus of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, by which we remember the Lord’s death; and it is the focus of worship in Heaven (see Revelation 5), with endless future ages before it. Piper wants to change that focus, from Christ crucified to something else. In attempting to change the focus of our faith, he avoids discussing, although he grudgingly admits, that all the benefits Christians receive from God are because of what Christ has already done on their behalf and in their place.11

Piper’s admission is grudging, for he wants to argue that our future happiness, benefits, and final salvation depend upon our meeting conditions that God has established for receiving those blessings. In Piper’s Plan of Salvation, despite what Christ said on the cross, "It is not finished." The believer must complete the work of salvation that Christ began. Future grace is conditional, and it is we, not Christ, who must meet those conditions.

Piper’s propensity to play with words is also evident in his treatment of faith. Harping on a tire-some theme of the Neolegalists, Piper asserts that "belief is not merely an agreement with facts in the head; it is also an appetite for God in the heart" (86).

One of the subtlest ways to deny justification by faith alone is to change the definition of faith. Piper presents us with several different definitions of faith:

But I want to say a bit more than [Charles] Hodge does. I don’t want to say merely that faith in promises produces "confidence, joy and hope," but that an essential element in the faith itself is confidence and joy and hope. [Aren’t these three elements?] It is not false to say that faith produces these things. But that does not contradict the other truth: that confidence and joy and hope are part of the warp and woof of faith…. [T]he essence of saving faith is a spiritual apprehension or tasting of spiritual beauty, which is delight (205).

Again Piper obscures truth with his pied, pink prose. What, exactly, does "tasting spiritual beauty" mean? Is it akin to "smelling spiritual loveliness"? What good purpose is there in deliberately obfuscating the nature of faith with such vague and meaningless figures of speech? On the next page, "It is the ‘embracing of spiritual beauty’ that is the essential core of saving faith." Just a few lines earlier, Piper had told us that "an essential element of faith is a sense of revulsion."

In chapter 19, "How Many Conditions Are There?" Piper actually enumerates 11 conditions we must meet if we want any "future grace": loving God, being humble, drawing near to God, crying out to God from the heart, fearing God, delighting in God, hoping in God, taking refuge in God, waiting for God, trusting in God, and keeping God’s covenant, which he says is the summary of the first 10. Piper proclaims: "I am hard pressed to imagine something more important for our lives than fulfilling the covenant that God has made with us for our final salvation" (249).

Consider his words carefully. Piper does not mean that the work of Christ in perfectly fulfilling the covenant on behalf of his people is the most important thing he can think of for our final salvation; he says that we personally, or as he says, "experientially," fulfill the covenant on our own behalf, and that our fulfillment of the covenant is the most important thing for our final salvation. We ourselves "fulfill the covenant that God has made with us for our final salvation." Furthermore, keep in mind his description of "future grace": "the heart-strengthening power that comes from the Holy Spirit…is virtually the same as what I mean by future grace."

Therefore, if we fulfill the conditions required of us, if we obey the covenant, then God will give us "the heart-strengthening power that comes from the Holy Spirit," and we will be saved. This is not the Gospel. It is a pious fraud.

To return to Piper’s various definitions of faith: "All these acts of the heart [the 11 conditions he has cited for receiving future grace] are overlapping realities with saving faith. Faith is not identical with any of them, nor they with faith. But elements of each are woven into what faith is" (252). Keep in mind that Romanism has only seven theological virtues; Piper has out-poped the papists.

But the worst is yet to come: There are still more conditions required for obtaining future grace: doing good deeds, not practicing the works of the flesh, and loving the brethren, to name three.

End quote.

This is where Warrenism comes in: good works or as its currently labled, "social justice". Between Warrens' affinity for Romanism (calling it merely another "denomination" of Christianity, and his good works push (PEACE plan--the thing Piper admires), it makes for a perfect fit for Piper who denies apparently, justification by faith alone--or at the very least propagates its denial via Fuller and Wilson.

For Piper, the influence of Daniel Fuller eventually led to ebracing Doug Wilson, which led to embracing Rick Warren. Once error is embraced, it becomes easier to believe and proclaim....and defiantly defend.

You think reading opposing views of biblical doctrine won't taint your view of Scripture or your doctrine? Look what happened to Piper.

Or is biblical doctrine optional?

This goes against the very heart of the commands to elders particularily:

"Part of Paul's challenge then to young Timothy is to get him to hold the truth and then to pass the truth to the next generation, to avoid the insidious and debilitating and damning influence of false teachers and false teaching. And as I said a moment ago, I believe that the stream, the polluted corrupt vile and filthy stream of false teaching is deeper and wider than it's ever been in human history because it's cumulative."

As A.W. Pink said:

To turn away from the lifeless preachers and publishers of the day—may involve a real cross. Your motives will be misconstrued, your words perverted, and your actions misinterpreted. The sharp arrows of false report will be directed against you. You will be called proud and self-righteous, because you refuse to fellowship empty professors. You will be termed censorious and bitter—if you condemn in plain speech—the subtle delusions of Satan. You will be dubbed narrow-minded and uncharitable, because you refuse to join in singing the praises of the "great" and "popular" men of the day. More and more, you will be made to painfully realize—that the path which leads unto eternal life is "narrow" and that FEW there are who find it. May the Lord be pleased to grant unto each of us—the hearing ear and obedient heart! "Take heed what you hear" and read!

7 comments:

chuck said...

Thanks Denise, Chuck

Jim Burton said...

Denise, Four or five years ago my wife and I were invited to Bethleham Baptist to hear John Piper speak. It happened to be the sunday for baby dedications. As the pastors were holding the little ones and praying over them, I listened to their prayers very carefully. You could hear their prayers of "HOPE" carefully woven into the prayer that this little one would be "One of the Elect." I couldn't help wonder what was going through the minds of the parents who were standing alongside. But, if you are a Good Calvanist, "you either ARE or you AREN'T.

Denise said...

Jim,

Well, I wouldn't say its a matter of being a Calvinist re: election. I mean, Scripture clearly states that God decides on His own without regard to men in any way, whom He wants to save, and then He makes salvation happen for them (Eph. 1:11, Rom.9-11).

That said, Piper isn't very Baptistic these days, as in recent years he was being swayed by the Presbyerian view of infant sprinkling, by opening up Bethlehem to membership to those who were not biblically baptized (believer's baptism by immersion). The elders didn't go for it, so the matter at that point was set aside. It did, however, prove one thing: Piper is NOT baptistic. So he is warming up perhaps, to the other Presbyterian views as well---time will tell.

Doug Wilson, whom he invited to the DG conference last year, is a Presbyterian and denies Justification by Faith alone (he holds to Federal Vision junk).

Glenn Leatherman said...

The problems with Piper (and his book "Future Grace)that John Robbins of the Trinity Foundations has been refuted hundreds of times especially with his refutation of the New Perspective of Paul. When I read John Robbins article back then, I could not believe that he genuinely read the book properly. As Christians we must dialogue and argue with the authorial intent of the author in mind, rather than what we want to hear someone say. It is my understanding from reading Future Grace that when he speaks of intentions that he is talking about our responsibility and not the work of God's grace in causing us to walk according to his commands. It is so important to put quotations in the actual framework that the author holds to.

While I can appreciate your concerns over some of these issues you raise, John Piper makes some very helpful Biblical distinctions that restores Biblical Christianity to its proper exegetical roots. He is a much better exegetical theological than Author Pink (whom you quote at the end), whose allegorical interpretation can be problematic.

Denise said...

Actually, the problem with Piper is his misuse of words for one thing, by giving new definitions which aren't accurate. But also, it has to be evaluated in light of Scripture. What Piper has done is echo what Fuller taught him in seminary, and then re-enforced via Piper's promotion of Douglas Wilson without batting an eye. Federalism is rank heresy but Piper doesn't see that and of course he wouldn't, because that is the heresy he was taught via his mentor.

I would have to disagree with you on Piper vs. Pink. Pink is far more biblical, and to be honest, Piper is a representative of the very thinking that Pink was coming against. Its only more prominent now.

What Piper has done is make biblical doctrine optional. He pretends (scary if he's sincere) to not know what Scripture says concerning appropriate language (last year's DGC with Tripp and Driscoll, both cussing men, and one sexually explicit)--thinking he can learn from men who not only are not qualified, but 1) he should be teaching them as being an elder both in age and maturity (purportedly), and 2)teach heresy.

Piper has not brought people closer to the truth, but is pulling them FROM the Truth as he continues to defiantly offer wolves to the sheep. He has committed Treason.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I too am a former charismatic/pentecostal. I agreed with your entire article. What shocked me was when I reached the end of the article and found that you were a lady:) It's truly refreshing to see a lady so well informed on the problems with Piper's theology. I'm assuming that you're also aware of the many problems with the Wesleyan/Arminian theological roots of Pentecostalism? And that's not even considering the influence of Christian Science/New Thought in the charismatic movement via Kenneth Hagin and the Word of Faith heresy...

May the peace of God be with you!

Charlie J. Ray said...

I disagree with the whole "reformed" baptist thing, though. The fact is the OT nation of Israel was the "church" and infants were part of the visible congregation via circumcision. That did not mean all Israel was true Israel any more than all church members are truly elect--including those baptized as adults! The NT does not over turn the OT. It replaces circumcision with baptism. Thus, infants of believers are members of the visible church. They are baptized in faith that they are regenerate and elect, though this is not always true. Baptism is merely an outward sign of the inward grace. If there is no inward grace and no election then the sacrament is merely an empty sign. That's true for baptized infants and for baptized adults.

Charlie