Why John Piper is wrong about John 6

When teaching on John 6, John Piper asserts that God, by a sovereign and effectual act of the Spirit, regenerates some people which decisively causes them to come to saving faith. Piper puts it this way,

The teaching that I want to try to persuade you is biblical and, therefore, true and precious is that the new birth is the result of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit preceding and enabling our first act of saving faith. We do not cause our new birth by an act of faith. Just the reverse: the cry of faith is the first sound that a newborn babe in Christ makes. Regeneration, as we sometimes call it, is all of God. We do not get God to do it by trusting Christ; we trust Christ because he has done it to us already….

So he says in John 6:43, 44, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” No one can come to Jesus unless drawn by God. The natural man cannot submit himself to God until a supernatural work of grace is done in his life, called “new birth” in John 3 and the “drawing of God” in John 6….

 Therefore it follows that saving faith does not precede and cause the new birth. But rather God the Father, by the agency of his Holy Spirit, regenerates freely whomever he pleases and by this draws a person to the Son enabling him to believe in the Son and be saved. This is “prevenient grace”—the gracious work of God preceding and enabling the act of faith. It is “irresistible grace.” There are divine influences which can be resisted, but there are also those which cannot be. <link>

Piper uses John 6 to suggest that mankind is in such a condition from birth that they must be regenerated by the Holy Spirit in order to believe divinely revealed truth. But what about people in the Old Testament? Piper would have to assume that they were born in this same disabled condition, right?

What, if anything, changed about the role of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost? How did the Holy Spirit work in the lives of those who came to faith before Christ died and the Holy Spirit came down like fire? Was He actively regenerating (effectually drawing) a preselected few as Piper dogmatically asserts in his soteriological teachings on John 6? Did the role of the Holy Spirit change in any way from the Old Testament times to the New Testament times with regard to soteriology? Should the fact that John 6 took place prior to the resurrection and Pentecost affect our understanding of the passage?

In other words, was Enoch, Lot, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Rahab, Ruth, David and the rest of the Old Testament saints effectually regenerated by a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit so as to effectually cause them to believe in God’s revealed truth in the same way Piper supposes the elect are today? If we are going to interpret John 6 as addressing an overarching ontological reality of fallen men’s need to be “regenerated” in order to believe in truth revealed by God, then what other option is there than to conclude that the OT saints were effectually impacted by the Holy Spirit so as to decisively cause their faith?

John 7:39 clearly states, “The Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified,” which indicates that the role of the Holy Spirit would change at least in some respect after Christ was raised up (see John 12:32). What kind of change would occur after the coming of the Holy Spirit? John Piper confesses confusion on this point as reflected in this response to a question about the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament:

The relationship between the old covenant and the new covenant is complex and I do not have all the intricacies worked out yet. The work of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost is part of this problem… 

 The hardest verses for me are John 14:16ff, “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another helper, that he may be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not behold him or know him, but you know him because he abides with you and will be in you.”

 Also 7:39 is especially troublesome: “the Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified.” I’m not at all sure I understand John’s pneumatology (especially 20:22), but I suspect the key to it is found in the identification of the earthly Jesus with the Holy Spirit: “He is with you but will be in you” (14:17 cf. 6:63).

 Since the Spirit which Christians enjoy is known to be the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), perhaps John thinks it inappropriate to think of the Spirit in this sense as having come. Theologically I would ask who the agent is in accomplishing the “drawing” of 6:44 and the enabling of 6:65? Do we postulate that God the Father works directly without the agency of the Spirit? Or can we not suppose that the Spirit was redemptively at work during Christ’s earthly ministry and that the Spirit which has not yet come is that particular manifestation of the Spirit which will equip the apostles uniquely for calling to remembrance all things (14:26) and guiding into all truth (16:13)?

 These are just gropings. I do not have the problem of Johannine pneumatology solved. <link>

When responding to a fellow brother’s pressing question, Piper humbly admits his own confusion and even speculates about the unique role of the Holy Spirit with regard to guiding the apostles during His earthly ministry (which ironically sounds a lot like our interpretation of John 6…see HERE). Yet, when teaching the TULIP systematic out of John 6, Piper dogmatically asserts, “God the Father, by the agency of his Holy Spirit, regenerates freely whomever he pleases and by this draws a person to the Son enabling him to believe in the Son and be saved… It is ‘irresistible grace.’ There are divine influences which can be resisted, but there are also those which cannot be.”

How can it be dogmatically presumed that the Holy Spirit is effectually regenerating (i.e. “drawing”) preselected individuals prior to Christ’s death and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost given Piper’s own concessions above? John Piper’s “problem of Johannine pneumatology” is created by the soteriological presumptions he brings into the text, not by a lack of clarity on the part of the apostle John.

The Provisionist/Traditionalist’s interpretation of John 6 does not have this problem because we do not assume that mankind lost the moral ability to willingly respond to God’s clear revelation due to the Fall, especially revelation brought by the Incarnate Word of God Himself! There would be nothing preventing the natural man from understanding and believing Jesus’ teachings from our perspective.

We believe that those who have listened and learned from the Father would be ready to follow His Son (John 6:45), and those who have continually refused to listen and learn from the Father would certainly have grown hardened in their rebellion and thus be unwilling to follow His Son, like good sheep (John 10:25-27).

John 6 must be understood within its immediate context. Jesus is only revealing His identity to His closest followers and strategically hiding the truth from the rest (Mk 9:9; Mt. 16:20; Mt. 11:25). We must understand that Jesus is using parabolic language to blind the self-righteous Jews of that day from recognizing Him as their long-awaited Messiah (Mk 4:11-12, 33-35). That, and that alone, is the reason His Jewish audience was incapable of coming to Him in faith (John 12:39-41). There is absolutely no reason to believe that all of fallen humanity is born morally incapable of responding positively to God’s own Holy Spirit wrought appeals to be reconciled from that fall. That imposed doctrine creates Piper’s confusion and contradictions represented above.

If it is true that all people are born morally incapable of willingly responding in faith to God’s revelation, there would be absolutely no rational reason for Christ to use parabolic language in order to hide the truth from the Jews of his day, as reflected in the passages below:

“As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9).

“Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ” (Matt. 16:20)

 “But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was” (Mark 3:12).

 “Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him” (Mark 8:30).

 “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, ” ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ …With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.“ (Mark 4:11-12; 33-34).

 “He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: “ ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:23-28)

What purpose would the parables of Christ serve if Piper’s teaching on “Total Inability” is valid? Jesus uses of riddles would be as senseless as putting a blindfold on a corpse. And why tell them to keep His identity hidden if they were morally incapable of believing in Him unless first regenerated anyway? <More on Jesus’ strategic use of parables can be found here.>

“Text without context is a pretext for proof-text.”

Context tells us the history, the setting, the audience and thus helps understand the intention of the author.  The grammar can inform us of what interpretations are allowed, but the author’s intent is best discovered in the overall context.

The sixth chapter of John is one of the top three most contested passages in all of scripture regarding the doctrine of salvation (along with Rom. 9 and Eph. 1). So, as students of scripture lets put our hermeneutical training to work and answer the major questions about the context of this hotly contested chapter:

1. What is the context?

2. Who is the audience?

3. What is going on at this time?

The audience is a bunch of unbelieving Israelites looking for free food (vs. 25-31) and the twelve apostles (vs. 70). What do we know about the Israelites of this day?

  • They have “become calloused…Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Acts 28:27).  They were not born calloused, but over time they had grown hardened in their religious self-righteousness which prevented them from hearing, seeing and responding to the revelation of God.
  • They are being ‘judicially hardened’ (or ‘cut off’ or ‘sent a spirit of stupor’) so as to seal them in their calloused condition.  Why? To accomplish a greater redemptive purpose through their rebellion (crucifixion, ingrafting Gentiles into the church — Rom. 9-11).
  • Jesus is not attempting to “win them over” or have them come to faith in great numbers as we see in Acts 2 when Peter preaches.  In fact, in support of God’s judicial hardening of Israel, we see Jesus actively instructing his apostles to not tell others who he is yet (Mt. 16:20).  Jesus purposefully speaks in parables in order to prevent their coming to faith and repentance (Mark 4:11-13; Matt. 13:11-15).  If anything, Jesus is actively provoking the Jews with very difficult teachings.  In this chapter, he tells them to eat his flesh and drink his blood without explanation (vs. 51-52). Clearly, He is not attempting to persuade this audience to stick around. He is provoking them purposefully (1 Cor. 2:6-8).

Is this contextual information relevant when attempting to understand the author’s intention with regard to the natural inability of mankind from birth? I certainly would think so given he is addressing a large group of people nicknamed “the elect of God” who are being actively blinded by God from seeing the truth (albeit temporarily and for a redemptive purpose). <see John 12:39-41>

Notice, the judicially hardened Jews are not the only ones present when Jesus is speaking in John 6. The twelve apostles are also in the audience and in fact, they are the only ones who stick around after Jesus is done provoking the crowd with a “cannibalistic” sounding message (vs. 66-67).

Why didn’t the twelve leave too? It is almost as if they were “drawn to him” through persuasive teachings and miraculous signs. Remember, unlike the other Israelites in the audience, they had watched Jesus walk on water, control the weather, heal the blind, feed the masses and had personally explained to them the meaning of the mysteries that the world had not yet been given (Eph. 3: 1-13). [Note: nothing is mentioned in the text of God using an inward, irresistible calling or work of regeneration to convince his apostles. Thomas is shown the scars in order to be persuaded. Jesus clearly indicates his signs are meant to help their unbelief.]

Those Jesus are entrusting with the truth from Israel are only a select few at this time while He was “down from heaven” (see Acts 10:40-43).  The rest are being hardened in their already calloused self-righteous stubborn condition…NOT a condition from birth due to the Fall (as Calvinists impose onto this text), but a condition which was a result of their own free rebellion. A condition God is using to accomplish a greater redemptive good for all.

30 thoughts on “Why John Piper is wrong about John 6

  1. Great article Leighton and great breakdown of context. I believe there’s another point of context that is just as important that the Calvinist misses or ignores here. The context of this section of John 6 is Jesus clearly teaching that He was the son of God, that He and the Father were one, and that if you’ve seen and heard the son you’ve seen and heard the father. The Jews were questioning Jesus validity and who he was.

    “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” “This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.””
    ‭‭John‬ ‭6:38, 40, 42, 51, 58‬

    Essentially the Jews were saying, we are followers of Jehovah, and followers of Moses, but you, Jesus, we don’t believe you. We don’t believe you came down from heaven. Jesus, in John 6:44 and 45 is essentially answering them, if you were truly followers of Jehovah and Moses, you would believe that I am the son of God and came down from heaven. Based on the context, this is what Jesus was specifically addressing to this audience at this time in his ministry when he said “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”

    1. Great points AndyB2015!

      That is exactly how I have viewed this passage in the context.

      Another way to illustrate could be like this –
      “All the emails that my server gives to me shall come to me”. This just states the fact that if you don’t address the email to my email account it won’t come to me. My server doesn’t receive the email nor do I. All I would be stating is that you must get the email address right for me and my server to receive the email. We work together and the order is paramount – My name first, followed by the address of the server; but notice it will go to the server first and then the server gives it to me; but if you didn’t address it to me the server will not get it.
      In the same way Jesus is stating that you must come according to God’s plan of salvation to be saved which is by the grace of God through faith in Christ otherwise you will not be received by God.

  2. Good thoughts. I also think it would be helpful to do a careful study of the concept of hardening. It is likely a reference to the process of hardening soft clay into a permanently waterproof, solid shape. What is not inherent in the meaning of the word is why or how a vessel became the shape that it is.

    The shaping or crafting of the vessel is an entirely different step from the decision that it is as good as it is going to get, and setting it aside to harden. A potter might reshape a piece of clay multiple times, and only when it is suitably formed will he allow it to harden. When God hardens an individual in their sin, he is giving up on reworking them into something more beautiful. He is acknowledging the sad reality that this particular clay is flawed by foreign substances, or no longer malleable, and is not useful for turning into an intricate, beautiful work of art. Rather than throwing it out, he crafts a simple pot, such as those used for sanitary purposes.

    Eventually, the potter takes his hands off and allows his vessel to harden in its current, less than glorious state. Allowing the sinner to retain the shape they have stubbornly chosen, acknowledging that this clay has picked up foreign substances that mar its ability to be smoothly shaped, does not indicate that God was the one who deliberately marred his own clay. In fact, he would be a very unwise potter who would deliberately infect his material with imperfections.

    The second thought that hardening brings to mind is that those vessels not set aside to harden are those which remain malleable to the touch of the master’s hand. Not having absorbed the marring bits of stone, metal and debris that spoil its potential, the more yielding, malleable clay allows the master to continue his patient, expert craftmanship.

    The concept of hardening, contrary to Calvinism’s claims, contradicts the theology of Divine Determinism.

  3. An additional comment to the above. See these three verses.

    John 6:44-45
    “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” “It is written in the prophets, ‘ AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT OF GOD.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”‭‭. John‬ ‭6:44-45

    John 14:6
    “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
    ‭‭John‬ ‭14:6‬ ‭NASB‬‬

    John 12:32
    “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.””
    ‭‭John‬ ‭12:32‬ ‭NASB‬‬

    These three verses appear to contradict each other at first glance. One says no one can come to the Jesus unless through the Father. Another says no one comes to the Father but through Jesus. One says the Father does the drawing. Another says Jesus does the drawing. When one pulls one verse out of context as the Calvinist does, and says that the father must irresistibly drag (their definition of draw (greek -helko, or elko) a person and regenerate him before he can come to Christ, then we have a real problem and real contradiction here between these various verses (BTW, I’ve read a ton of Calvinist literature and heard a ton of sermons and not once have I heard this contradiction addressed by a Calvinist).

    But read and understand in context, that Jesus is teaching the truth to this specific audience at this specific time, the truth being that he and the father are one …
    John 14:7 … “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” John 14:9 … “Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” John 14:10,11 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.”

    Understanding this, and that Jesus is teaching this particular audience and correcting them on their assertion that they can be a follower of the father father and Moses but at the same time reject the son, he says you must know the father and be drawn by Him in order to come to Christ (No once can come to Me unless the father who sent Me draws him), but if you were truly of the father and truly knew the Father you would come to Christ (everyone who hears and learns from the father comes to the Christ), then the contradiction goes away. Jesus and the Father are one, and a Jew at the time Jesus is speaking to them can be drawn by the father and come to the son, later, after Christ’s death and resurrection, one can be drawn by Jesus and come to the Father.

    Unfortunately for the Calvinist when they pull this verse out of context and make it say what they want it to say to match Augustinian philosophy, they are stuck with Jesus irresistibly dragging (same greek Helko, or elko) all men to himself and Jesus being confused on who is doing the irresistibly dragging, the Father in one place, Jesus in another?

    1. Nice post andyb2015

      Thank you!

      Additionally I would point out that the Calvinist has no certainty that any of the promises in scripture apply to him.
      He may be elected for eternal torment
      One of those Calvinists whom Calvin’s god holds out salvation as -quote “greater condemnation”

      Making all of these verses in scripture totally theoretical for the Calvinist.

  4. John Piper
    -quote
    “I do not have all the intricacies worked out yet”

    br.d
    Neither does Joanne Rowling – the author of Harry Potter
    All together – she’s received a couple dozen official international recognition awards – for “intricacies” she’s worked out so far.

    Making stuff up – requires working out a whole lot of “intricacies”! :-]

  5. I think there are many questions left unanswered regarding Christ’s earthly ministry (including John 6).

    Why did Jesus select only Galileans as His apostles? And He referred to them as His “little flock” (Luke 12:32).

    Why did Jesus say “I was not sent except/only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”? Didn’t He know that would tick off (provoke/anger) those from the House of Judah (who God never divorced)?

    Romans 10:19 (NKJV)….
    But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.”

    Is that a “foolish nation” from God’s perspective or from Judea’s perspective?

    Why was Jesus, for the most part, welcomed in Galilee (north of Samaria, which was north of Judea)?

    John 4:45 (NKJV)….
    So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast.

    And why was His life in jeopardy in Judea?

    John 7:1 (NKJV)….
    After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him.

    My point is to simply point out that there a many questions unanswered regarding Christ’s earthly ministry (this includes John 6). A lot of us are just speculating (which is healthy). Others are just passing down the traditions they have been taught themselves (via colleges and seminaries).

    I am of the opinion that something else is going on entirely. Things that we haven’t even considered. Now I believe Piper is wrong (about many things). I think Calvinism is wrong. But this doesn’t mean that my Traditionalists brothers are right either. The first law of science is “I do not know”. I believe that is the best way to approach the scriptures as well. With an open mind and open heart.

    1. Amen. The best we can do is continue reading, studying and praying for greater understanding of God and his plans. Digging through scripture to find weapons with which to defend our cherished belief systems is not an appropriate use of scripture.

      1. Agreed wholeheartedly Phillip and TSOO. Starting with what scripture actually says with no presuppositions and keeping what is written within its context is a good start though don’t you think?

      2. Andy, I do not think it is possible to come to scripture without any presuppositions, even had we lived in a cave and knew nothing whatsoever about the history or teachings of scripture. We still have presuppositions about what is possible, acceptable or good, what the meanings of ‘all’, ‘believe’ and ‘salvation’ are, etc.

        I think the more we realize how much we bring to scripture, the more we can grant that our understanding is unavoidably limited and slanted. That is not meant to be discouraging, but simply to remind us that we must remain humble, teachable and willing to consider possibilities that are foreign and/or uncomfortable to us.

        I believe that the whole concept of needing a systematic theology is questionable. If we have the faith of a child, we have all that we need for God to work in and through us. Indeed, I feel somewhat as if I have traded in my carefully researched theology for my old, childlike faith – and I am much better off for it.

  6. Andy B

    Dont forget to impose “all KINDS of men” to that verse.

    John 12:32
    “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.””
    ‭‭

  7. Thank you for this article it is Very helpful in how I can approach those I care about who hold to calvinism. Love that you pointed out the Holy Spirits role after pentecost & how Piper is honest in his lack of understanding.

    TSOO, I believe that the whole concept of needing a systematic theology is questionable. If we have the faith of a child, we have all that we need for God to work in and through us. Indeed, I feel somewhat as if I have traded in my carefully researched theology for my old, childlike faith – and I am much better off for it.

    Reggie, I agree 100% with you I didn’t grow up in the church I had no preconceived notions of anything theological when I cried out to the Lord! It was only after I experienced His love and gracious gift that I even heard there were sides. I will never forget my feelings at that moment it was one of “Who cares about sides I’m forgiven and loved by the One and only God of creation!! But of course that innocent bliss started wearing off in discovering through reading God’s Word & hearing what “others” taught didn’t line up with what I knew I’d been taught by;
    John 16:13 NASB — “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.

    I agree we all need to thoughtfully continue to read His Word, but this site is so helpful in strategically giving me tools to authentically engage. It is said to know a counterfeit bill you need to study real money.. I love that analogy in approaching Scripture.
    1 Corinthians 2:13 NASB — which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

    Thank you doesn’t convey it properly,🙏

    1. Right on Reggie!, I Love it!

      I bet that when you cried out to the Lord you believed that God sent his Son to die for your sins, and not only your sins but for every sinners sins. I bet that you realized that he was risen from the dead that you might have eternal life, and at that moment realizing by the grace of God in Jesus Christ anyone can cry out to the Lord and be saved, and that’s what was so appealing. I bet you thought, Wow! what a Savior! I bet you thought I need to tell the rest of my unsaved family that they can be saved too. I bet you thought I need to tell my friends how they can be saved too. And this is the gospel that you ACCEPTED.

      And then comes along a Calvinist and subtly says – Yea, hath God said? Did Jesus really die for everybody

      “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his SUBTILTY, so your minds should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth ANOTHER JESUS, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or ANOTHER GOSPEL, WHICH YE HAVE NOT ACCEPTED, ye might well bear with him. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

  8. Brothers/Sisters,

    The below is taken from wikipedia….

    “Piper’s soteriology is Calvinist and his ecclesiology is Baptist. He affirms the distinctively Calvinist doctrine of double predestination, which includes ‘unconditional reprobation’ or damnation as a corollary to the Augustinian doctrine of unconditional election, and he subscribes to the Leibnizian view that God decreed this universe to be the best of all possible universes.

    Piper believes in justification by faith alone apart from works of man, and his teachings emphasize the need for the active and inevitable perseverance of the believer in faith, sanctification, and enduring sufferings, which he believes is evidence of God’s saving grace. According to Piper, a once-professing Christian who does not faithfully persevere until the end demonstrates that he was mistaken about his election and was never a true believer in the first place.

    Piper describes himself as an ‘optimistic premillennialist’ and holds a post-tribulation view of the second coming of Jesus and of the Rapture, which teaches that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation. Because of this belief, he maintains that Romans 11 teaches that a mass in-gathering of ethnic Israel will be saved when the hardening of their hearts is removed at Jesus’ second coming. He therefore advocates the importance of hoping in the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s return.

    Piper does not deny of the typical hermeneutical frameworks, but is furthest from dispensationalism, and closest to Covenant Theology, or a New Covenant theology in matters of the Law and covenants, but agrees with the dispensationalist belief that there will be a millennium. He says that the Law was meant by God to reveal sin and show man’s inability to live up to God’s righteous standards. Christians, living under the New Covenant, are not under the Old Covenant law but able to fulfill its intent through faith in Jesus Christ.

    Piper teaches that God has only one covenant people, mostly believing Jews in the Old Testament, and now that people consists of all the followers of Christ, or the Church, whether Jew or Gentile. Piper asserts that Israel has rights from God to dwell in that land, but not because they are merely Jewish, and Jews who reject Jesus as Messiah have no divine right of claim on those promises. Piper also believes that all Christians, Jew or Gentile, will inherit the earth, including the land of Israel, when Christ sets up the millennial kingdom in the Second Coming.”

    I find I have very little in common with Piper. I disagree with him entirely regarding Calvinism. And by that I mean every single petal of the TULIP. I disagree with him regarding pre-millennialism. I disagree with him regarding Covenant Theology. He probably can’t tell the average Joe what the gospel is (let that one soak in). Maybe there are some biblical truths Piper has stumbled upon, but it wouldn’t be something that isn’t glaringly obvious to even the most novice bible readers.

    Now here’s the hoot (again, taken from wikipedia)…..

    “Piper attended Wheaton College (1964–1968) majoring in literature and minoring in philosophy. Studying romantic literature with Clyde Kilby stimulated his poetic side, and today he regularly composes poetry to celebrate special family occasions as well as annually composing story-poems (based on the life of biblical characters) for his congregation during the four weeks of Advent.

    In college, he was originally on the pre-medicine track, only to decide to go into ministry during a bout of sickness, while listening to the sermons of Harold Ockenga over the radio from his hospital bed. He then completed a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. While at Fuller, he took several courses from Daniel Fuller and through him discovered the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Along with C. S. Lewis, Edwards and Fuller are noted influences in Piper’s life and ministry.

    Piper received his Doctor of Theology degree in New Testament Studies at the University of Munich, Germany (1971–1974) under Leonhard Goppelt. His dissertation, Love Your Enemies, was published by Cambridge University Press and Baker Book House. Upon completion of his doctorate, he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel University and Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for six years (1974–1980).”

    Now here’s the question(s). Knowing what we already know, if Piper had a degree in dentistry (or medicine), would you go to him? If you needed a medical procedure, would you let him be your Surgeon? If you needed medication, would you let him fill out your prescription? If Piper had a degree in Engineering, would you walk into his building? Cross over his bridge? If he had a degree in aviation (if he was a pilot), would you board his plane? If he was a Financial Planner, would you give him your money? Just take Piper’s opening sentence in the article above…

    “The teaching that I want to try to persuade you IS BIBLICAL and, therefore, true and precious is that the new birth is the result of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit preceding and enabling our first act of saving faith.”

    Wrong. Right out of the gate and he’s wrong. That opening statement is just as UNBIBLICAL as stating that 25 people were on the ark (there were only 8. Genesis 7:7, 1 Peter 3:2)

    All those hours of schooling. All that time reading. All that time of studying.

    And he is wrong (just like the religious leaders during Christ’s earthly ministry). It would appear that Piper finally received his doctrine in philosophy after all. Because if you believe man can’t believe until regenerated, that only the elect will be saved and the non-elect lost, that Christ died only for a tiny fragment of mankind, and that God determines every minute detail of your existence (up to and including every sneeze), then you aren’t really a Theologian, but rather a bloviating Philosopher, regardless what that piece of paper hanging on the wall says.

    1. Just need to provide some clarification to my earlier post.

      “Piper describes himself as an ‘optimistic premillennialist’ and holds a post-tribulation view of the second coming of Jesus and of the Rapture, which teaches that the Church will go through the Great Tribulation.”

      I am definitely pre-millennial regarding Christ’s second coming and establishing/restoring the kingdom to Israel. Where I disagree with Piper, if I understand correctly, is the church going thru the great tribulation. I am pre-trib and not post-trib. It is called a time of Jacob’s trouble for a reason.

      Now I don’t necessarily agree with the “Left Behind” series which teaches that millions will disappear from the earth. I lean that by the time the rapture takes place, there just won’t be that many “Christians” on the planet. For example, when judgment came the first time (the flood), how many out of mankind were “caught up”? Only 8. Now I don’t believe 8 is the magic number, but I also don’t see millions upon millions of people suddenly disappearing.

      Just my opinion. Hope that helps.

  9. Good Summary Phillip. I think you nailed it on so many fronts.

    “Piper believes in justification by faith alone”
    I’ve been thinking lately, that someone like Piper, although he proclaims “sola fide”, does not truly believe in justification by faith alone. What he actually believes in is “sola eklektos.” In the end, for a Calvinist, what is their answer to the question “why is one person saved and the person next to him not saved?” It’s not because one person had faith and the next one didn’t, because neither of them had the ability to receive the gospel by faith. The core, first, and foremost reason is because one person was elected and the next person was not elected for salvation. Even if they want to argue that faith is in there somewhere, they still can’t proclaim faith alone. Their cry would have to be “eklectos”, “paliggenesia,” “fide” For Piper, faith is not alone, it’s just third in line after election and pre-faith regeneration.

    If anyone doubts this, just read the what Piper believes about assurance of salvation.
    “According to Piper, a once-professing Christian who does not faithfully persevere until the end demonstrates that he was mistaken about his election and was never a true believer in the first place.”
    For the Bible believing non-Calvinist, his assurance comes from scripture which assures us that we are saved as a result of placing one’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. What assures salvation for the Calvinist? Is it faith that Piper cites in his belief statement for assurance? No. It all comes down and is dependent on election and outward proofs of election, not faith and certainly not faith alone.

    1. Andy,

      Precisely. I read that quote as well (from wikipedia). Very telling.

      So, for the Pied Piper its….

      Justification thru faith alone, thru regeneration alone, thru election alone.

      Even A.W. Pink’s “The Doctrines of Election and Justification” responds to the question “How May I Know I’m Elect”. Its not “How May I Know I’m Saved?”, but “How May I Know I’m Elect”.

      Sadly, we have allowed our Calvinist/Arminian brothers blur salvation and election. If someone believes the reason he is saved is because he is one of God’s elect, then he’s lost. This is what Israel believed. I’m saved because God says I am. I’m saved because I believed/accepted/received what Paul preached…

      1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NKJV)….
      Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures….

      Praise our wonderful Savior!

  10. Reading Piper’s description of the process of regeneration makes my heart sink within: “The teaching that I want to try to persuade you is biblical and, therefore, true and precious is that the new birth is the result of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit preceding and enabling our first act of saving faith.”

    It sounds so spiritual, put like that, so warm and cozy, when in reality he is sly declaring that God only loves a very limited number of people, provided atonement for the sin of only those few and intended for all others, without fail, to be hopelessly damned. I would that all who read or repeat this philosophy understand the ugly underbelly of what they so freely cite, the cruel, ugly and tyrannical portrait with which it paints a good and loving God.

    Most so-called Calvinists do not get this. They do not understand the ferocity of people’s anger against them, but are assured they are simply being ‘persecuted’ for telling the truth. In reality, they are meeting the natural response of those who are told, ‘God may have heartlessly damned you to hell in eternity past, but I don’t care, as long as I’m in.’ Because that is what your words convey, dear Calvinist.

    Compare that with the genuinely true and precious gospel message that draws all who are weary and heavy laden:

    God loves you, without a question. The burden of sin separates us from him and from all that he desires for us. He provided an atonement for that sin, even your sin, because he desires that all people turn from wickedness and live. Come, accept his love and forgiveness and abundant gifts, which he so desires to shower upon you. All day long, he holds out his arms, calling you to come.

    These are the precious words of life which draw all men to God. They ring with limitless love, power and hope, compared to the futile “If you’re lucky, you might be one of the chosen few who receive God’s favor.”

  11. If Piper had just said…

    “The teaching that I want to try to persuade you is biblical and, therefore, true and precious is that the new birth is the result of the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit…..”

    ….that would have been scriptural. But, being as sly as the Serpent in the Garden, he adds…

    “……preceding and enabling our first act of saving faith.”

    Just like the Evil One who takes some truth (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil”) and mixes in a lie (“you will not surely die”).

    1. Exactly as it struck me. Why? Why are they so eager to add such a dastardly doctrine to the truly beautiful and precious message of the gospel? Tragic.

  12. From the pen of R. C. Sproul…..

    “When I began to wrestle with the Professor’s argument, I was surprised to learn that his strange-sounding teaching (regeneration precedes faith) was not novel. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield – even the great medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas taught this doctrine. Thomas Aquinas is the Doctor Angelicus of the Roman Catholic Church. For centuries his theological teaching was accepted as official dogma by most Catholics. So he was the last person I expected to hold such a view of regeneration. Yet Aquinas insisted that regenerating grace is operative grace, not cooperative grace. Aquinas spoke of prevenient grace, but he spoke of a grace that comes before faith, which is regeneration.

    These GIANTS of Christian history derived their view from Holy Scripture. The key phrase in Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is this: ‘…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have you been saved)’ (Eph. 2:5). Here Paul locates the time when regeneration occurs. It takes place ‘when we were dead’. With one thunderbolt of apostolic revelation all attempts to give the initiative in regeneration to man are smashed. Again, dead men do not cooperate with grace. Unless regeneration takes place first, there is no possibility of faith.

    This says nothing different from what Jesus said to Nicodemus. Unless a man is born again first, he cannot possibly see or enter the kingdom of God. If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to GIANTS of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself.”

    Notice how Sproul mentions these names with such reverence. Augustine! Luther! Calvin! Edwards! You can just hear the “oohhs and aahhs” coming from his audience who bow in humble admiration. Who are “we” to question these GIANTS?

    But Sproul saves his best “bully” tactic for last.

    “If we believe that faith precedes regeneration, then we set our thinking and therefore ourselves in direct opposition not only to GIANTS of Christian history but also to the teaching of Paul and of our Lord Himself.”

    Now if these folks want to believe “regeneration precedes faith” that’s their prerogative. Free will. But don’t try to tie your “myth” to the teachings of Paul and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Regarding Sproul (from Wikipedia)…
    He obtained degrees from Westminster College, Pennsylvania (BA, 1961), Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary (M.Div, 1964), the Free University of Amsterdam (Drs., 1969), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (PhD, 2001). He taught at numerous colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and in Jackson, Mississippi, and Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale.

    Now to address Sproul’s errors (and I have no theological training).

    Ephesians 2:4-9 (NKJV) in context…..
    But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

    First. The phrase “even when we were dead in trespasses” is not associated with when He “made us alive together with Christ”, but rather with “His great love with which He loved us”. God loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sin.

    Second. Notice “made alive together with Christ” is the equivalent of “have been saved”. They are synonymous. That’s what the text says. Notice how interchangeable the phrases are in context…

    Ephesians 2:4-9 (NKJV) in context…..
    But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved (made alive together with Christ) through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

    We are NOT “made alive together with Christ” because we believe. But we are “made alive together with Christ” AFTER we believe. The guilty criminal (sinner) must first be acquitted/pardoned of his crime (sins) BEFORE he is granted new life (made alive together with Christ). This not only makes basic sense, but is supported by scripture….

    Colossians 2:13 (NKJV)….
    And you, being dead in your trespasses (guilty) and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him (by grace you have been saved), (due to) having forgiven (pardoned) you all trespasses (thru faith).

    Now how clear is that? When we were separated from God because of our sins, God saved us by uniting us to Christ because our sins have been forgiven (pardoned) thru faith. That is precisely what that portion of scripture is saying and aligns perfectly with Ephesians 2:4-9.

    Now regarding Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. When Jesus said “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” all He is stating is that only children of God will enter into the earthly kingdom. And how does one become a child of God? Only thru faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26).

    Now that is so simple a child could understand it. However, Sproul misses the mark entirely because he has been so badly influenced by what he calls the GIANTS in “church history”.

    So, once again, all that schooling. All that reading. All that time studying. All that research. And yet he is wrong. Not even close. Just another man with a degree in philosophy.

    God bless, brothers/sisters.

    1. Thank you Philip

      I notice a pattern always with Calvinists – which you outline.

      It is the same pattern that author Erich von Däniken followed in his book “Chariots of the gods”.
      Daniken believed that the angels referenced in scripture were actually aliens visiting earth from other worlds.

      But watch the process he follows to convince you that that is taught by scripture!

      Before he ever goes to any text in scripture, he puts all his focus on convincing you of his premise.
      This consumes a significant portion of the book.

      Once he’s got you convinced – then he takes you to scripture texts – and uses them as proof-texts.

      But by that time, the reader is already convinced and simply sees aliens in the text the same way one sees a butterfly in an ink-blot.
      He can then argue that scripture demands his belief system.

      1. Its called Brainwashing…

        “….the process of pressuring someone into adopting radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible means.”

        I am not familiar with some of the colleges/seminaries the article listed, but Westminster College and Whitefield Theological Seminary? “Gee, I wonder what they believe (insert sarcasm)?” He might as well of gotten a degree/doctorate in Tiddlywinks. It would have been more useful (and less damaging to the body of Christ).

        Now I know folks like Piper and Sproul are (or “were” in the case of Sproul) probably God fearing men and deep down they mean well, but this should be a lesson to all of us. Just pick up your Bibles and spend time with Him (and ask questions. Gobs and gobs of questions). If you don’t see it supported by scripture, challenge it. Walk away from it. And don’t be intimated by someone with a piece of paper hanging on their wall because, most likely, they (like Piper and Sproul) are just regurgitating what they have been taught themselves.

        2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)…..
        Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

        Acts 4:12 (NKJV)…..
        Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.

        Blessings.

  13. I’ve been trying to comprehend why Calvinists are so in love with the sound of their own voices for 40 years.
    Ultimately, I think it’s lust. It’s gnostic. To be the revealer of special secret truth. Same with the secret Rapture crowd . They crave the rise they get out of people when told unconventional things.

    It’s one thing to have theories It’s quite another to actually *Teach God doesn’t love everyone .

    They are false teachers and everything they spew out will be burned as rubbish. This has been the plague of Christianity sine the 1st century. Going beyond what is written to draw disciples after yourself.

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