Piper said what?

Marc Heinrich at Purgatorio posted this video of John Piper talking about loving Christ more than anything else.  No one can argue with the soundness of that teaching.  And Piper also admonishes his live audience in the video, who were pastors, to challenge their congregations to the point of them questioning their assurance of salvation.  His thinking is surely that for those who are among the unregenerate, this will bring about a recognition of their depravity which in turn leaves them receptive to the irresistible nature of God’s saving grace.

I think John Piper is an amazing teacher and author.  And he is one of the important and key spokesmen for Reformed Theology in our day.  But there is something in this video, that messes with my understanding of election and the sovereignty of God.  At approximately :55 into the video he says that pastors who do not “jostle the assurance” of their congregation wind up sending some to hell.  The following are some of the comments I have made at the Purgatorio site concerning the issue.

Let’s stipulate that it is God who ultimately does the sending of souls to hell, so my concern is NOT with the idea that a pastor literally or even figuratively does the sending. Rather, my contention is this: The elect will not be lost! To embrace such a concept to me suggests that God made a mistake (which he cannot do) in choosing the elect before the foundations of the earth.  And if the elect can ultimately refuse grace, then God is less than omnipotent. (Consider the “I” in TULIP)  Furthermore, if God is dependent on pastors alone to be the sole catalyst for regeneration, then He is something less than sovereign and the Holy Spirit is merely a “companion.” By Piper saying that pastors send to hell suggests this dependency.

I absolutely agree with the point that pastors need to challenge the assurance of their flock from time to time.  And certainly a challenge oriented around a discussion of “what do you love more, Christ or football” (or whatever else it is that competes with Christ for our affections) is appropriate.  And if someone has “assurance” but does not love Christ, then they MAYBE are going to hell. If they ultimately DO go to hell, then I would suggest that they were not among God’s elect. If that “assured non-Christ lover” IS among the elect, I doubt that God will allow that person to go to hell simply because a pastor failed in his efforts to jostle assurance, or for that matter even if the pastor never tried. Wouldn’t God find some other means to bring about genuine salvation and sanctification?

I know that Piper’s view on the “P” in TULIP is perhaps not as absolute as mine and therein may lie the problem.

What does anyone else think about this?

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3 Responses to Piper said what?

  1. Brandon says:

    Yeah…that’s a tough one. I agree that everyone should rest in God’s power to sovereignly save. I think it comes down to the tension that must be held between what a pastor must preach and the sovereignty of God. Surely we can make the argument (soundly) that God is the one in charge of damnation, and that the elect will not suffer such an end. Yet, the preacher must be in a place where he also realizes that his preaching is one of the means by which God will save the elect. So there is room to talk about the possibilities of what might happen due to a preacher’s short-sightedness. Even James talks about teachers being held to a stricter judgment.

    That said, I’ll agree with you about Piper’s voice in the resurgence of Reformed Theology. I cannot begin to count the number of people I have talked with who state Piper as one of their main influences in how they see God and read Scripture. Often times, I feel like a spiritual drunk before sitting down with a Piper sermon and instantly being sobered. And that’s a good thing.

  2. Joni Congleton says:

    Chuck, perhaps he could have said, “if we don’t challenge them we allow them to continue in their complacency which may lead to hell.” I doubt he meant it literally. I think we should concentrate, pray over, and write about all the wonderful things that Piper said in his message. If your blog is gong to appeal to me, lift me up. If you want debate some point in a sermon of a Godly man, I’ll refrain from logging on. It just doesn’t benefit the masses to pick it apart. That’s how I see it.

  3. Chuck Thomas says:

    Joni: Thanks for checking out the blog and importantly, for taking the time to comment.

    Let me respond to you by saying that my sense is that God has wired me as a “problem solver”, more so than as an “encourager.” Discovering and fixing problems is what I did professionally for 25 years. Apparently I was pretty good at it, or at least they paid me well and kept me around. I think to a large degree that is the way my mind works. For good or ill, my blog will probably be a reflection of that. So, with that said, I can’t promise that I will be able to “lift you up” each time you read my blog. (The post I made today on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is certainly not one that “lifts.” Instead, my hope is that it would make all of us sad and angry.) If that discourages you from reading my blog, I am sorry. Still, I hope that you will check in regularly, or at least, from time to time and feel free to comment. I certainly do not object to disagreement. I may be getting closer all the time, but I still don’t have it ALL figured out. And I welcome the ideas of others, whether I agree with them or not. Besides, if I disagree with those who commment and am not moved to respond, I can simply take the advice of the title of my blog and say “Whatever!”

    So as to clarify any confusion about where I stand on John Piper, as I said in my original post, he is a wonderful teacher and author. I have listened to and read some, but certainly not all, of his stuff. For good and legitimate reasons, he has become a go-to-guy for the contemporary Reformed Theological movement, which I embrace. You can hardly find a conference oriented around this theology that he is not listed among the speakers. But because of his popularity, I fear that SOME people may listen to him and NEVER test what is being said. (1Thes 5: 21; 1Cor 14: 29) While he is good and maybe even great, I would guess that even he would admit that he is not infallible. I took exception to the one comment he made in this video because I perceived it to be a problem. Whether his choice of words was intentional or accidental, literal or figurative, in my opinion, he WAY overstated his point. And for those who are “young” in Reformed Theology, the comment he made is confusing and edges close to being counter-doctrinal. By pointing this out my intention was not to discount any of the other good and accurate things that he said in the balance of the video. And I tried to make that point (apparently unsuccessfully) in my original post.

    Thanks again for checking out the blog. My love to you and Paul.

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