John Piper and his companions of fools

Who we choose to hang around with, learn from, and be yoked in fellowship with is important. You know that. But lest we attempt to diminish our personal and professional associations into mere “the verses are just a warming about possible temptation but I’m strong enough to handle it” territory, in fact, we have a biblical duty to separate from false teachers and from repeatedly disobedient brethren. (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 7-11, 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:11- source). Here is a good verse and then a commentary on the subject.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

Matthew Henry says of this Proverbs verse,

Multitudes are brought to ruin by bad company: A companion of fools shall be broken (so some), shall be known to be a fool; noscitur ex socio—he is known by his company. He will be like them, will be made wicked; it comes all to one, for all those, and those only, that make themselves wicked, will be destroyed, and those that associate with evil-doers are debauched, and so undone, and at last ascribe their death to it.

And one more from The Bible Knowledge Commentary:

One way to become wise is to associate with wise people, including companions and teachers. Conversely to associate with fools brings problems. The influence of good and bad associations is a common theme in Proverbs (1:10–11; 2:12; 4:14–17; 16:29; 22:24–25; 23:20–21; 28:7).

Though no doubt Dr Piper has shown decades of sound exegetical practices, hasn’t seemed to disqualify himself morally, and has preached truth, the issue is not a one-time blowout of the Perry Noble or Tullian Tchividjian variety, it’s an accumulation of things that once listed, seem more weighty together than they do separately. A teacher can fall by a thousand paper cuts, too. I’ll finish this essay by expounding on these matters, but let’s review some of the other issues that have been piling up.

Watchmen, well, watch, And when you watch, you see things. Here’s what I see.

Piper’s continuationism is a problem. Not that someone who holds to continuationism is necessarily false but at some point the adherent to continuationism departs from orthodoxy as he progresses down that road. This is because the Bible does not teach both continuationism AND cessationism. At some point, the truth emerges and the other doctrine falls away. As the Spirit grows us in sanctification, He corrects errors. To continue with error unchecked is a problem and it means you’re on the wrong path.

For example, this from a Piper sermon in 1990, who was teaching that there are fresh prophecies today (continuationism) and the authority of scripture:

Nothing I say about today’s prophecies means that they have authority over our lives like Scripture does. Whatever prophecies are given today do not add to Scripture.

So, one can prophesy from God but what God had said has less authority than when He spoke before? We can hear from God and prophesy what He said but it does not add to scripture? These are contradictory statements. And we know since God is perfect, that if there is confusion or error it is not on the part of God.

Another problem is Piper’s Admitted fascination with manifestations such as tongues, prophesying, and miracles. He sent 50 people along with himself to personally check out a Vineyard Conference so that they could ‘test what was prophesied and manifested there against scripture’. He met with Paul Cain (who Piper said later was a charlatan…who really prophesied…but who was mistaken in his prophesy over Piper…but is a real prophet…I’m getting whiplash), and he met with charismatic heretical preacher John Wimber for the same reasons. We know that cessationism is the orthodox stance, but if Piper was unsure, then it’s the scriptures one turns to in order to clarify one’s thinking. One does not send one’s own congregants to a place that might be false simply to have the experience to test against scripture later. One does not meet with a modern-day prophet who might be false simply to hear what they have to say. This is akin to standing in a bonfire just to feel the heat, or rubbing one’s self with acid because it might only be vinegar. Dabbling is dangerous. Dabbling with your own sheep is unconscionable.

“Dr. Piper has shown a pattern of hesitation and uncertainty on issues like this for decades, said Phil Johnson in 2013 and gave some examples going as far back as 1990. The issue to which he was referring was Piper’s charismatic fascination. Piper never really denounced the excess of the charismatic movement, in fact, Piper admitted he prayed for manifestations of them in his own life.

Piper has of late been waffling on women teaching men in the church. Part of the art of discerning is not solely listening to what teachers say. What teachers say has to match with what teachers do. Piper has been softly strong on women not teaching men in the church. I say “softly strong” because this seems to be a pattern with Piper. Regarding the women teaching in authority, Piper makes exceptions for the occasional woman in Sunday School, because he feels like that is OK and he’s “not going to be picky”. He makes exceptions also for men to listen to female Bible teachers, “unless she starts to become like a shepherd” to the man, (another exception).

However what Piper most often says when asked directly is that he is a complementarian who submits to 1 Timothy 2:12. (except for the aforementioned exceptions, of course.). However, in practice, Piper has and continues to teach biblical material to mixed audiences on stage alongside women who are either ordained, or are recognized Bible teachers. At Passion Conference in the past he has stood alongside Beth Moore, and recently, has taught on stage alongside Christine Caine, who does call herself a pastor and overtly operates in that function. Both Moore and Caine have preached on Sunday at the pulpit in churches when substituting for the regular preacher. Moore notably does so at Osteen’s arena at Lakewood. So Piper is a complementarian in name only because he says one thing and does another.

John Piper participates in and promotes Catholic mystical practices such as Lectio Divina and Contemplative Prayer. (CP). The practice of CP came in full force the more conservative quarters of the faith about 6 years ago. Suddenly many Bible teachers who claimed a conservative stance or belonged to a conservative denomination were doing CP. This kind of prayer is not a generalized prayer where the believer contemplates God or a verse after reading it, then prays about it. CP stands for a specific practice that is embedded in several false believing traditions, such as Hindu and Catholicism. We might know what contemplation is and we might know what prayer is, but combined and in certain contexts, they mean something very different.

However when asked about the legitimacy of CP, Piper defined it in the simple way, saying,

This is where, when you read your Bible, you pause and you see in and through the words to the reality with your heart, and you apprehend spiritual reality.

To claim that contemplative prayer is simply meditating on a verse and praying about it at the height of the problems that were coming to the fore with CP is either ignorant or disingenuous. Neither is a good place to be for a matured and seasoned pastor of the word of God. Piper should know what CP is and why it’s important to refute it. That he didn’t and that he participated in a session of it along with Lectio Divina, another Catholic mystical practice, shows a lack of discernment that is particularly unwise, given that Piper ministers to tens of thousands of impressionable youth at Passion Conferences.

Which brings us back to the concept I’d opened with: Piper’s associations. Once again this winter Piper will appear at Passion Conference 2017, along with Beth Moore, Christine Caine, Hillsong United, Christy Nockels…. As I’d mentioned, we have a biblical duty to separate from false teachers. (2 John 1:10-11, Romans 16:17-18, Ephesians 5:11). This is one of the ways that the less mature can observe faith in action. It’s one of the ways we explicitly show false teachers where the dividing line of orthodoxy dwells. It’s one of the ways we protect orthodoxy and keep a fortress around it, pure and strong. John Piper destroys each of these arguments every time he lends his own credibility to the false teachers. His is a credibility that is rapidly diminishing, though. When you drop a glove in the mud, the mud doesn’t get glovey, does it. The Bible is clear about the devastating impacts of continued association with wolves. I bring your attention once again to the verse at the top and the two short commentary warnings about it.

Wise commenters have said that none of us who point out issues with Piper are saying Piper never did anything good. To the contrary. I personally don’t click with him but I know many respectable theologians who do. And that’s the reason we’re so perplexed. There was good there, so why so much bad? The commenter said at the now deleted blog,

In order to make any sense, there’s assumed good – there’s a reason we’re bewildered by it. There’s enough good plainly visible that these incidents strike us as inconsistent. How can someone who is so good on X be so clueless on Y. Or more, how can someone so good on X turn around and be so awful on X a week later?

Indeed. With so many great, solid pastors and teachers out there, I’d say skip Piper and move on to someone who isn’t either spending his week clarifying and re-clarifying things, or who possesses a God-given dose of discernment, or who isn’t a Charismatic, who doesn’t yoke himself in spiritual endeavors with false teachers, or who says what he means and does what he says. The fact that Piper is “all of the above” should give any discerning person a long pause.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)


Further Reading

Jeff Maples: Is John Piper Disqualifying Himself as a Teacher?

Sunny Shell: Why I No Longer Follow John Piper of Desiring God ministry

Christine Pack/Sola Sisters- Has John Piper Lost His Mind?

Lighthouse Trails: John Piper Says No to Catholic Contemplatives But Yes to Protestant Contemplatives

John MacArthur wrote an entire blog series addressing the doubt and error Piper brought into the conversation regarding Piper’s admitted “confused, heart-wrenching uncertainty” and confusion-causing stance on modern day prophecies, miracles, and tongues.

Series- A Response to John Piper:

2 thoughts on “John Piper and his companions of fools

  1. Phil Johnsons assessment of pipers pattern of hesitation and uncertainty hits the nail on the head. That characteristic is one that I personally will not tolerate in people I learn from. In my mind, it’s an automatic disqualification because of shows a lack of understanding of the scriptures at best, and a desire not to be seen as dogmatic on biblical truth at worst. A fence rider.

    I also liked your example of mud not getting glovey. Perfect!



    1. Thanks! I love Phil Johnson. he is usually crystal clear. I thought Tom Chantry’s essay was also the clearest I’ve read in a long time on the Piper issue. The penny dropped for me when I read that Chantry assessed the inconsistency of Piper’s discernment by saying “He’s Charismatic.” it IS as simple as that.

      I was on the fence about Piper, especially since someone I respect thinks so highly of him. But I crossed him off my list forever when Piper waffled on Roman Catholic heresy. A few years ago he said that the Catholic scheme of justification at core is a heresy. Yay, finally an unequivocal stance on a core doctrine! oops, I wooped too soon. Piper later “clarified” his remarks by apologizing for using the word heresy, awww, “such a strong word” and defined heresy (rather than justification) and then said one can deny the imputation sometimes and still be saved. He said,

      Any church which “rejects the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as an essential ground for our justification would be a church whose error is so close to the heart of the gospel as to be involved in undermining the faith of its members.”

      No. Justification by faith IS the Gospel, and denying justification by faith is an unrecoverable error in which the person has no faith.

      I have NO USE or any theologian who won’t declare heresy as heresy, and who waffles on the majors.

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