Example of a very typical “Piperism” self-contradictory attention grabber.
(From John Piper’s Future Grace, Multnomah: 1995)
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
In chapters 22-24 of his book What Jesus Demands From the World, John Piper tells us that life in Christ is a constant striving. We agree. But we do not agree with what Piper claims is the object of that striving: to enter the narrow door into God’s kingdom. Yes, there is an “already but not yet” aspect to our salvation in that we are not yet resurrected and glorified and the New Heavens and Earth have not yet been ushered in by Christ. But John Piper equates this “future grace” aspect of our salvation to justification, and in doing so he makes our justification before God hinge on our works. In contrast, the Bible calls our future full salvation glorification (Romans 8:16-25).
Piper’s fundamental error in these three chapters, as we saw in the last post in this series, is that he misuses and misapplies the Narrow Way teachings of Christ which are found in Luke 13 and Matthew 7. As we demonstrated, Christ is not directing his words to believers, but to crowds of Jews whose concept of their “assured” entry into the kingdom needed to be shaken up. You will see then that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was driving the demands of the Law home, showing them that they are in no way going to walk easily and merrily into the Kingdom of God on the basis of their physical lineage from Abraham and their circumcision. No, the demands of the Law cut right to the very heart attitude. The Gentiles will enter before they do. It is proper in our day to do the same thing — apply the Law to the unrepentant, unbelieving person to show them their need for Christ. But Piper takes these statements of Jesus and applies them to Christians — to people who are in Christ by faith — and he says that Jesus is “demanding” at least 50 things from us or we will not enter. This then is Piper’s basic error in these chapters, so he goes wrong right at the foundation of his premise.
It is vital for the reader of Piper to proceed very, very slowly, and question every Scripture that Piper cites as support for his thesis. Piper fires off Bible verses like a motorized mini-gun. If his books are compilations of his sermons, then I can just hear him zealously, with much animation, preaching these chapters — shooting Scriptures at the audience in rapid fire mode, convincing everyone that surely he knows what he is talking about. However, at least this particular book would be an excellent tool to use in a hermeneutics (method of Bible interpretation) class as a vast resource on how NOT to interpret and apply Scripture. I don’t recommend that you read Piper. It is simply not profitable and it is dangerous. But if you do, SLOW DOWN and start asking questions about his interpretation and application of every single verse he cites.
Now, in light of the Scripture quoted above from Colossians 2, I would like you to consider Piper’s conception of the Christian life set forth by him in the following quotes. Hold them up to the mirror of Colossians 2. How is Piper telling us that we enter the Kingdom of God via the Narrow Way? Oh yes, I know that he will go on to say that we have ALREADY entered, but in classic Piperese lingo, he will turn that right round and say that we must strive and strive to enter. This is the thing about Piper. You cannot conclude what his doctrine is by just reading one chapter or even one book from his pen. He will add “further details” of what he believes in another place. Most of the people I have talked to who think Piper is just wonderful and absolutely orthodox in his doctrine, have NOT read this book or really even very many of his books, and most are totally unaware of his permanence view of marriage which forbids divorce for ANY reason at all.
Alright then, listen to Piper and remember Colossians 2 as you do:
Less subtle is the lure of physical indulgence. Jesus focuses on alcohol and the dissipating effects it has on our minds and bodies. He says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap” (Luke 21:34). There are drugs and foods and practices that “weigh down” the heart. They make the heart sluggish. This is the opposite of vigilance. We will not “strive to enter through the narrow door” if we are self-indulgent and use drugs or food or drink in a way that dulls our spiritual alertness and vigilance.
Piper, John (2006-09-30). What Jesus Demands from the World (Kindle Locations 2608-2612). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition. Paperback, Crossway, 2006, pp. 169-70
NOTE: Did you catch that? Did you see how, in discussing Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7 (i.e., the Narrow Way), suddenly he makes a radical hard turn and we find ourselves transported to Luke 21, which Piper then says directly illustrates what Jesus is saying in Matthew 7. Whoa! But to continue. Hey, he will have us over in Mark 10 in a second and then we are beamed on over to Matthew 24. Mr. Piper, how many cups of coffee did you drink when you wrote this stuff?
The danger Jesus warns against most often is the danger of money. It is a mortal danger. Heaven and hell hang in the balance in our vigilance against the lure of money. Jesus made this as clear as possible with the words, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). The issue is entering the kingdom. Striving for wealth is not the striving that leads to the narrow door.
Ibid, Kindle Locations 2614-2617; Paperback p. 170.
It appears, then, that striving to enter the kingdom of God through the narrow door is largely a battle about how we relate to money.
Ibid, Kindle Locations 2626-2627; Paperback p. 171.
One of the great temptations to keep us from fulfilling what Jesus calls us to do is that we grow weary in the battle and look back on how easy life was before we started to follow him. Strive to enter through the narrow door means, fight for perseverance. The zeal of many would-be followers of Jesus grows cold, and they drift away. Jesus said, “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:12-13). In other words, one of the factors that makes the door to the kingdom of God narrow is that striving to enter must last to the end.
Ibid, Kindle Locations 2722-2726; Paperback p. 177.
But the Apostle Paul has warned us about this business of fasting and asceticism. He says that these things are useless and in fact feed our sinful flesh:
Colossians 2:23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Piper is incredibly confusing. I absolutely cannot understand why he is so popular, because I don’t comprehend how anyone can really make rhyme or reason out of what he preaches and writes. Self-contradiction is all over his material. Perhaps his popularity is an example of the phenomenon that if someone is good enough in their presentation, the content of what they are saying ceases to matter. But it is way past the time for Christ’s people to start very carefully examining Piper’s content in the light of God’s Word.
One final note. As we have mentioned earlier in this series, a common trait you find in Piper is his awareness of problems in what he proposes. He will say something, often with a kind of “shock effect” which causes a red warning light to go off in the listener/reader. But he will not simply recognize that problem and take back what he said. Nope. What he will do is something very much like this:
And then we will turn to the question, how does the demand for vigilance fit with his demand that we rest in him? How does the seriousness of watchfulness fit with the sweetness of Jesus’ care?
Ibid, Kindle Locations 2662-2663; Paperback p. 173.
Then we turn to the crucial question: Is all this vigilance and all this striving to enter through the narrow door consistent with the sweet invitations of Jesus to come to him and find rest?
Ibid, Kindle Locations 2681-2683; Paperback p. 174.
What makes the demands of Jesus to strive and to be vigilant seem burdensome is the assumption that we are left to ourselves. Our natural tendency is to think that if Jesus tells us to do something and makes this a condition for entering the kingdom of God and having eternal life, he will then stand back and merely watch to see if we will do it. We do not naturally think that if he demands something, he will enable us to do it.
Ibid, Kindle Locations 2740-2743; Paperback p. 178.
My point here is not to deal in detail with Piper’s explanation of this particular problem his teaching has raised, but simply to point out that this is a common thing that Piper does. He knows full well that his teaching is “edgy,” in light of Scripture and orthodox confessions of faith. But he is bound and determined to make his Christian Hedonism “fit” no matter how much shoving and pushing it takes. He presents a “this cow is white, not black, because I said so” argument and expects us to swallow it and move on. But we are done moving on. No, Mr. Piper, the cow you are describing is indeed black. You said so, and you just can’t have it both ways. (see part 1 in this series for an explanation of the white cow/black cow metaphor)
Still not convinced that Piper teaches a false gospel of works righteousness? In our next post in this series, we will examine Piper’s 27th “demand” which is titled, “Your Righteousness Must Exceed That of the Pharisees, For Every Healthy Tree Bears Good Fruit.” There, he says:
…notice what is at stake: hell. “It is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Many Christians who love the truth of justification by grace alone through faith alone—which I love, and which I believe Jesus teaches (see Demand #20)—find it difficult to take these threats of Jesus at face value. But there is no way to avoid them. They are strewn throughout the Gospels, and they clearly imply that if we forsake the battle for purity, we will perish.
If we do not have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus says, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20). Everything we have seen in this chapter shows that Jesus is not thinking here mainly of his own righteousness that is imputed to us. He is thinking of the kind of internal transformation and external application revealed in the following six antitheses of Matthew 5:21-48.
Ibid, Kindle Locations 3226-3234; Paperback pp. 208-9.
Once more, Piper takes Law from the Sermon on the Mount and applies it to Christ’s people. In doing so, he would bring us back under the bondage of the law. We will not go there. Jesus Christ is our full and perfect righteousness in whom we stand fully justified before God.
(Go to Part 4 of this series)
My husband, David (who is a pastor), told me a story yesterday about a man at an elder/deacon board meeting at a church a few years back. The meeting was an effort to unite the congregation and staff and create a mission statement and vision for the church. At one point, during an endless talk about every minute detail, one of the elders spoke up and questioned, “Why don’t we allow the pastors to create a vision for the church? I mean, let’s trust them with this!” Right then, a very angry board member slammed his fist down onto the table and said, “THEN WHO WILL WIN?! No, we are NOT taking away the leadership from the LAY PEOPLE!!!” The man went on and on for a bit and then there was an awkward silence. The rest of the people at the meeting were slayed. This angry man revealed his heart right then and there. No one wanted to take anything away from anyone. But, to this man, this was not about Church. This was not a unified church effort to him . . . this was a war. And he wanted to win.
George Simon speaks of disturbed characters as “fighters”. Not warriors in the sense that they are fighting for some sort of common good or for their survival. Abusers see all of life as a fight — a fight to win, a fight to get their way and a fight against normal expectations of society:
. . . the disturbed character is making excuses (rationalizing), blaming others (scape-goating), it is absolutely essential to remember that he is primarily fighting. When you confront a disordered character about a harmful behavior, he is fully aware of the pro-social principle at stake. He’s likely heard the principle espoused several times and from several sources. (George K. Simon Ph.D.. Character Disturbance: the phenomenon of our age Kindle Locations 1735-1737).
Abusers, high conflict personalities and disturbed characters all put people into two categories: those above them and those beneath them. Nothing is mutual. It is part of why they love the patriarchy movement so much! And, for the seasoned abuser, every person in their path is a chance to dominate. It is a struggle for the upper-hand . . . one-upmanship . . . they want to win.
So . . . whenever a person gives themselves away with such language, you know you are dealing with a personality that wants to destroy. The truth is, these abusive personalities know and understand what they are doing and they generally (listen to this!) do not want to change. It is much easier to just continue to aggress against the universe. It is the way of the Enemy! It puts self in the driver’s seat. It is the age-old problem.
The answer to the problem of controlling people is always freedom in Christ. We always have freedom in Christ. Unfortunately, abusers do not see this, understand this nor want this. And, because they are shackled, they want to shackle others. The only thing we can do is to try to keep the shackles from mere man off of ourselves. Press on, as freemen who are also bondservants to only one — the Christ who died for us.
After reporting so many disappointing responses to domestic abuse by church denominations, we are glad to announce that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is taking a proactive stance to help victims and survivors of domestic abuse.
According to Deaconess Kim Schave of the LCMS:
Our church body has recently convened a task force to deal with this issue and is in the process of developing materials and a training program for our church at large. We hope to bring greater awareness to the issue as well as offer hope and healing to those who have suffered at the hands of an abuser. It is our belief that the Gospel must be proclaimed with great clarity in these instances with no additional burden being placed on a person already afflicted with unimaginable pain.
A Cry For Justice can recommend the LCMS as a sound denomination for abuse victim/survivors, but at this time not all pastors in that denomination are instructed concerning domestic abuse. Because the church-wide program is not planned to be fully in effect until December 2014, the LCMS has offered their assistance in a church placement program during the interim.
Let me explain what I mean by a ‘church placement program’. Any survivor of abuse who is interested in attending a LCMS church may contact me at email@example.com and I will refer them to the LCMS office that will assist them in locating a church. Additionally, the pastor will receive instruction and materials to ensure that the abuse victim will receive comfort and not the guilt that so many of us have endured in our former churches. I personally am now a member of the LCMS and can testify that the Gospel centered environment has restored the joy of being a Christian back into my life.
The LCMS is represented in all 50 states. There are over 6000 congregations and 2.3 million members in the U.S. Despite the large church body, we cannot recall a single abuse victim coming to this blog for assistance with church abuse issues. Should you be out of the United States, please contact me concerning LCMS ‘sister churches’ that may be in your area. The LCMS website has information about the denomination’s doctrines, history, missions, etc. I wrote a post previously concerning their abuse resources.
Thank you to Rev. Bart Day, Rev. John Fale, and Deaconess Kim Schave from the Office of National Mission for working with us to make the referral program available to readers of A Cry for Justice.
For purposes and advantages that only web trekkies understand, we have purchased our own web domain. You should see in your address bar that INSTEAD of cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com (which is a bit of a mouthful), you have simply cryingoutforjustice.com Readers don’t need to take any action on their end.
Owning one’s own domain should make one feel like royalty. I don’t feel it yet. Waiting for it…..
Joh 14:1-3 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
When I was teaching an ESL class a couple of years ago, one of the Spanish-speaking students asked me about the English word “house” and how it was different from our word “home.” I thought for a moment and told her that “home” es mas sentimental — is more sentimental. She told me that the same is true of the Spanish words casa (house) and hogar (home). A house is not necessarily a home, as is evident when we speak in ways like “home sweet home” or “boy, it was so good to be home” or “this place feels like home to me.” Home, in other words, is a place where we are loved and where we can feel that love. Home is a feeling, more than a place you might say.
Abusers then, necessarily destroy home. A house, which should be a home, becomes anything but. It is a place of suffering, a place of attack, a place that is anything but safe. No one is at ease in such a house. Everyone (except the abuser) is on guard against the next raging session. There is no rest in such a place. And that is tragic because our houses are meant to be homes. Families, husbands, wives, children, are meant to be blessed with a place called home. Home is a place we can run TO, not FROM, when troubles assail us.
Abuse victims begin their journey home when they leave such a place. Over time, hopefully, their new house or apartment – even if it is not nearly as luxurious as their old house – can become their home, their refuge. Why? Because the abuser is not there! They are no longer sleeping with the enemy. This surely is one chief reason that abuse victims and their children are able to begin healing once they are out of that old place. This seems like common sense, but it appears that often that “sense” is not at all common in the family court system. So many “experts” today still cling to the notion that children are better off having a relationship with both mother and father, even if one parent is a terrorist! Many of you can testify to the fact that your children just start to recover, and about that time they have to go back for a court-ordered visitation with the abuser. To a great degree they return having to start recovery all over again.
One of the greatest truths about heaven, about the New Heavens and the New Earth, is that it will be perfectly and finally our Home. Thirty years ago I resigned my career in the police department and our family headed out to the West-Central mountains of Montana to pastor our first church. Though this proved to be an extremely trying eight years (people who move to remote areas often get low marks in “plays well with others”), when it came to the mountain valley itself in which we lived, I was “home” very quickly. I loved that place. Deer, elk, moose, fish, firewood, snowmobiles, horses, mountain lakes, snow. It has been very, very difficult for me to get over Montana, and in fact I really never have. If I could somehow transport our present church congregation to that valley, it would be a bit of heaven on earth.
As I write this, I am sitting in our church building here in Tillamook. We have been here going on now, 21 years. We have a small but wonderful band of believers in Christ Reformation Church now, but this unity has not come without many battles. Over these past two decades, and to a degree in the first decade of our ministry, the Lord has allowed many classic abusers to work their deeds upon us. This place, this building, has been the scene of many battles and discouragement, especially in the years before we truly came to understand the mentality and tactics of abuse (of evil). As a result, it has not been a “home.” Many times it has been more of a place where we have felt like we were unwelcome guests.
Those feelings do not depart quickly, even when we have separated from the abusers. I am hoping that someday this building will have a different “feel” to it — that it will become a home. I suspect that it will as memories of abuse are replaced with those of kindness, loyalty, and Christlike love.
I hope the same for all of you. I hope that you can find a place free of abuse, where you feel that you have come home. This much I can be certain of. Every single one of Christ’s people will without fail come safely home. The Lord knows us intimately. He knows the kind of home we need, and He is building it for us right now. One of the things we are going to experience on the Day He comes for us is that we will see our custom-made mansion and we will gasp and say, “I’m home. I am finally home. THIS is my Father’s house, and it is mine too.”