Why John Piper Continues to Teach Fundamentalists

He never ceases to amaze. He has influenced untold scores of people across various doctrinal persuasions. He has helped bring an emphasis of personal love for God that is much needed in our time. He is John Piper, evangelicalism’s very own rock star. His impact has been felt not only in evangelicalism, but within the ranks of fundamentalism. And this is not a circumstance that everyone can agree with. In fact, some fundamentalists despise him.

Yet, John Piper continues to exude Christian maturity with a charitable spirit. His recent blog entry highlights 20 reasons why he does not take potshots at fundamentalists. Reading his response about those who have criticized him the most certainly is thought provoking. I could only imagine his biggest critics reading it, staring at the computer with their mouths wide open like the time Jesus said, “let him without sin cast the first stone.”

Piper’s twenty reasons show that he really has a deep appreciation for fundamentalism – its lack of trendiness, its adherence to the Bible, and its emphasis on personal obedience. In fact, his blog entry isn’t just a response to his critics, it is more of a vindication of fundamentalism in general. Because of the tone in which it is written, Piper is actually teaching all of us something that we so desperately need.

John Piper teaches us the truth about zero neutrality

Mark 9:38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
40For he that is not against us is on our part.

There really is no neutrality in the Christian life. One is either for Christ or against Him. Those who are for Him will have the same goals, same desires, and same motivations. The outcomes, though, may be different. But this is human nature – we’re all different. We have different styles, different opinions, and different emphases. Modern fundamentalism has focused in on these secondary things and made them landmarks over which to separate. Piper is a continuationist. He is post-tribulational. He doesn’t mind contemporary music and style. He even…get this…he even wears one of those ultra-neo headset microphones! But seriously, John Piper does things a bit differently than those in fundamentalism. This does not mean he is against Christ, nor does it mean he is against us! It really only means one thing: he is different. After all, we’re all different. Whether you separate from him or not ecclesiastically, or even personally, know this: John Piper is for Christ, and consequently he is on our side.

John Piper teaches us that unity and separation are both important

Ephesians 4:2With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Romans 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

II Thesalonians 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.
15 Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.

Historic fundamentalism was distinguished by other conservative movements in that it separated from liberalism. But we know that liberalism then is not what fundamentalists call liberalism now. You are considered liberal by the vast majority of fundamentalists today if you use a different English translation than the KJV, if you have drums in your church, or if you meet in small groups. However, true liberalism is an undermining of God’s revealed truth: a denial of the Bible’s inspiration, the miracles of the Bible, Christ’s deity, His resurrection, etc. So real liberalism is an enemy of Christianity.

From such an ideology we are unquestionably commanded to separate. Now there are those who will accuse Piper from not being separate enough. But if you read the charges carefully, what gossip rags like these talk about is a matter of secondary separation: “he spoke on the same stage as so-and-so, and so-and-so talks to Catholics.” Secondary separation can be useful, and is sometimes necessary, but will always be a matter of opinion.

But in the stream of authentic fundamentalism, John Piper has taken it upon himself to defend fundamental truth. His book, The Future of Justification, is a response to Anglican bishop N.T. Wright’s position on the doctrine of justification. Certainly this is a fundamental doctrine, and John Piper has done us all a service by defending it. Also, Piper responded to the ecumenical document, A Common Word, and its subsequent Christian response in a short video. Again, in his “20 reasons” blog, Piper points out his appreciation of fundamentalism’s no-compromise mentality, and it seems he himself is in line with the same thought.

It is true that much of evangelicalism has fallen into the false unity trap and compromised on many levels. It is equally true that modern fundamentalism has elevated the doctrine of separation to a level not found anywhere in scripture. John Piper, it seems, has found a biblical balance between both extremes.

It is hard to find a fundamentalist who rails against others yet obeys the biblical mandate to “admonish them as brothers.” To do so today is seen as a wholesale endorsement of a person’s ministry. Piper has challenged error, and he has done it in a charitable spirit much more compatible with the Bible than is seen in the majority of fundamentalist “warning” ministries. As Piper says, “truth frees us from the control of Satan, the great deceiver and destroyer of unity.” While fundamentalists strive to be as separate as can be, John Piper has taught us that the real motivating force behind separation is actually unity.

John Piper teaches us that identifying primary doctrine practically impacts the Christian life

I Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:  

I Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

C.J. Mahaney said of Piper: “no one in modern evangelicalsm has helped evangelicals recover the Reformers’ emphasis on the glory of God than John Piper.” It is likely that John Piper’s doctrinal emphasis is what attracts so many fundamentalists to begin with. His influence has become so dominant that the FBFI had to draw a resolution about it.

Young fundamentalists believe in the historic tenets of fundamentalist, but they sense a great divide between philosophy and application. We were constantly told that this is the most biblical movement of which one can be a part. But I would conjecture that I get more doctrinal and biblical content in one John Piper sermon than I have in several Bible college classes combined. And I am not exaggerating.

Not only is there doctrinal content, but Piper’s emphasis on loving God is so good that it is literally seeing numbers of people gain a better appreciation of personal obedience. When I played a sermon of Piper’s for a friend to listen to, she could not believe that it was so good. After all, we had been taught that any one who isn’t a KJV-only-pretrib-dispensational-fightin’-fundamental-Baptist was a liberal. Yet we both got so much more from his stuff.

The Bible does talk about things that are of first priority (KJV, “first of all”, I Cor 15:3). Piper has nailed that. He doesn’t try to defend his particularities nearly as much as he does exalt the glory of God. This is something that we can all learn from. Fundamentalism is good when it makes much of God, much of doctrine, much of the Bible, and much of living the gospel while militantly defending the faith and separating from error. But since modern fundamentalism has shifted its focus to being militant against style and secondary differences, it has sadly fallen away from doctrinal, biblical, and deovtional content. John Piper has taught us that when we identify what matters most, we will all live our Christian lives better in a practical sense, and that will logically direct us toward the right degree of separation.

I am anxious to see what the hyper-fundamentalists think of Piper’s response. Personally, I think it should cause them to repent, but I don’t hold out much hope. What I can predict is a backlash including sermons and articles about how John Piper only cares about love and unity and such. Hopefully, not too many dirt-sheet making fundamentalists will even know about this, and allow for more biblically sympathetic fundamentalists to enjoy the benefits of John Piper’s ministry. Whatever position you hold, and however far you would like to separate from him, thank God for a man like John Piper. For some, it is a humbling task. But humility is something we all need if we’re going to learn.


6 comments so far

  1. Dan Morehead on

    “evangelicalism’s very own rock star”…ha. Thanks for the post.

  2. James on

    Good post, all for Christ. Amen

  3. godisntreal on

    god isnt real look at the proof around you morons

    • George on

      WHICH IS?

  4. TJ on

    Thanks for that comment, ‘godisntreal.’ May God bless your day.

  5. Terry on

    If I were a Christian I probably would be the type to listen to the words of John Piper. But thankfully I see the light and understand that the biblical message John Piper preaches is so seriously flawed that only a person without the abiliyt or will to see sense would believe.

    I truly hope for the day that Christians can have their eyes opended as well…so that we can all work for the betterment of this world.

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