John Piper: Salvation Not 'A Decision'

“Believing in Jesus is a soul coming to Jesus to be satisfied in all that he is. That is my definition of faith on the basis of John 6:35. This is not…a decision

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James K's picture

Of course this is another topic, but this is not how Monergism and Synergism were originally thought of. All Christians affirm Monergism. Catholics affirm synergism.

John, what you are trying to push is a rather recent concept of Monergism.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Richard Pajak's picture

Larry wrote:
Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Maybe on some occasions he does but on others he is the master of confabulating what is plain by doing far more than just "chatting" about it and it continues to injure many souls.
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/confabulate ]Confabulate means to talk informally http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/confabulate ]or chat/converse. It doesn't appear to mean "doing far more than just 'chatting.'" So I am not sure what you are trying to say here. What do you think he does, particularly here? Do you mean he confuses things?

You conveniently omitted its other definition which is my understanding of the term, that of 'filling gaps in one's memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts'.
Much better to speak in plain simple English rather than using big and confusing terms.

Richard Pajak

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I don't believe one should assume the language of others is poverty stricken nor that they do not delight in discoveries of new riches in ther vocabulary. I believe it is better to esteem than to approach with lesser assumptions.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Since some have considered a more broad view of Piper's theology, here is a very good article from 5 Point Salt (the author is a classic 5 Point Calvinist):

http://5ptsalt.com/2012/01/06/how-christian-hedonism-uniquely-denies-the... How Christian Hedonism Uniquely Denies the Necessity of the New Birth

He deals with John Piper's re-articulation of the "5 Points" where John Piper modifies them with his erring Christian Hedonism and here is a sizable excerpt from the article which conveys its core:

Quote:
On January 4th, 2012, Dr. Piper posted http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/christian-hedonist-calvinism ]this interesting, short article:

“What would the doctrines of grace sound like if every limb in that tree were coursing with the sap of Augustinian delight. (that is, Christian Hedonism)?

* Total depravity is not just badness, but blindness to God’s beauty and deadness to the deepest joy.

* Unconditional election means that the completeness of our joy in Jesus was planned for us before we ever existed as the overflow of God’s joy in the fellowship of the Trinity.

* Limited atonement is the assurance that indestructible joy in God is infallibly secured for us by the blood of the covenant.

* Irresistible grace is the commitment and power of God’s love to make sure we don’t hold on to suicidal pleasures, and to set us free by the sovereign power of superior delights.

* Perseverance of the saints is the almighty work of God not to let us fall into the final bondage of inferior pleasures, but to keep us, through all affliction and suffering, for an inheritance of fullness of joy in his presence and pleasures at his right hand forevermore.”

What would the doctrines of grace sound like? I’ll answer that. Like complete unorthodox heresy.

Listen brethren.

Total depravity is regards the necessity of the new birth, not joy.

It means the depravity of man extends to the whole being of a man, that, being born in sin, he requires the new birth to be reconciled to God.

Unconditional Election regards the necessity of the new birth, not joy.

It means that God chose to save some not at all based on their own merit, and therefore the new birth is required to be saved.

Limited Atonement regards the necessity of the new birth, not joy.

Christ came for and with a purpose, and He accomplished it, to redeem those given to Him by the Father to be redeemed….not all mankind- and the new birth, regeneration, is required.

Irresistible Grace is about the necessity of the new birth, not joy.

Because God chose to save some, He does indeed! They will be saved. How? Regeneration, the new birth! New creatures!

Perseverance of the Saints also regards the necessity of the new birth, absolutely not ‘joy’.

Those whom God has chosen to be redeemed, will be, and they will continue in belief by the upholding power of the Holy Spirit of God Himself. They will sin, they will stumble, but they will persevere, and be preserved – and it will not be because they pursued the hedonistic joy of God.

Bottom line? You must be born again!

In this short article by Dr. Piper, the necessity of the new birth, as usual in Dr. Pipers teaching as well as that of new Calvinists in general, is conspicuously absent. It is standard, New Calvinism teaching. It is subtle. It sounds so pious and right, yet it is incredibly harmful to Christians in understanding the whole counsel of God.

Brethren, there is more to Christianity than the pursuit of joy in God. If you follow that path, you may indeed be ignorant of whether you are even saved at all. I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous New Calvinism is, and Christians should be running as fast and as far from these guys as possible.

Larry's picture

Quote:
You conveniently omitted its other definition which is my understanding of the term, that of 'filling gaps in one's memory with fabrications that one believes to be facts'.
No, I didn't "conveniently" leave it out. It is actually listed in both links I gave. I did not quote that meaning here because it made even less sense than the normal or common meaning of it.

The usage you reference is a psychiatric use of it to refer to filling in memory losses with fabrication. I doubt that even Alex, with all his dislike for Piper's theology, is suggesting that Piper has a memory loss and is filling that in with a fabrication. There's no indication of any memory loss on the part of Piper. I imagine that Alex believes that Piper remembers just fine, and that Piper is saying something incorrect. Not having listened to it, I don't know what Piper actually says.

I think Alex used a word that he was confused about, and he comes very close to admitting that. His later statement says that he thinks Piper is mistaken, but not intentionally lying.

The fact is that the word "confabulate" according to its dictionary definition does not seem to have any legitimate application here unless you believe that Piper was chatting or conversing informally, or that he has a psychiatric condition of memory loss and just makes stuff up to fill in the memory gaps. Neither makes sense.

You are correct that it is "Much better to speak in plain simple English rather than using big and confusing terms." We don't sound as smart when we do that, but we communicate better.

James K's picture

Alex, you disagree with both of those positions. Is your point simply that some calvinists dislike what Piper espouses? I think he far too often tries to come across as cutting edge and so gets caught saying things like he did above. The question is whether or not it is biblical though is it not?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Larry wrote:

I think Alex used a word that he was confused about, and he comes very close to admitting that. His later statement says that he thinks Piper is mistaken, but not intentionally lying.
No Larry, I am quite familiar with its definition and in fact, it was you who demonstrated ignorance of its additional meaning which resulted in your confusion. But I do realize for some talking about the loose employment of a word is much more important than the issue itself so if that is you I will pardon myself from that end of this discussion and if that is not you, then I am sure you will pardon yourself from this end of the discussion as well.

And that is, btw, how it was used, loosely, with that definition. I invited you or anyone else to use a more effective word if they so chose but that was my preferred word.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

James K wrote:
Alex, you disagree with both of those positions. Is your point simply that some calvinists dislike what Piper espouses? I think he far too often tries to come across as cutting edge and so gets caught saying things like he did above. The question is whether or not it is biblical though is it not?

James,

One of those falls within orthodoxy (the classic 5 points), the other (Piper's modification) which 5 Point Salt calls heretical, does not and I agree with its classification. In fact, this is the very meaning of the Greek word and the context of the warning in 2 Peter 2:1b where it states:

Quote:
They will secretly introduce destructive heresies

The word for secret, here, is (παρεισάγω) pareisagó which means to place something along side of something else (in order to hide it). Get the picture? It is behind the façade of orthodoxy that false teaching is introduced. The erring Teacher depends on orthodoxy in order to introduce his (or her, unfortunately to the many in the body of Christ asleep at the wheel) parasitic philosophy.

We don't deal with error, as you know, by putting up orthodox expressions to justify, minimize or hide it, even if our favorite Teacher is asserting it (I am not saying he is your favorite I am just using that for the extreme case). And I believe the taking of license by Piper, here, is alarming enough to have more than one articulate Calvinist no longer lamenting Piper's excesses but now seeing them as "unorthodox heresy". And this isn't the first time he has modified an orthodox expression in order to subtle introduce his novel and erring doctrine of Christian Hedonism.

While I may disagree with some theological expressions, if they fall within orthodoxy they are objected to on different grounds.

Larry's picture

Quote:
No Larry, I am quite familiar with its definition and in fact, it was you who demonstrated ignorance of its additional meaning which resulted in your confusion
Just to be clear, I wasn't ignorant of the "additional meaning." It isn't "additional," and as I already pointed out, it is in the links I gave above.

My confusion stems from the fact that neither usage makes sense in this context. It seems incredulous that you are arguing that Piper's comments can be described by a psychiatric term dealing with memory loss and making stuff up to fill in the gaps of history that have been lost. But I suppose it's possible. On the other hand, perhaps Piper hasn't forgotten anything and just believes something different than you do.

But I am glad to put that to rest.

My guess is that, as someone has already said, Piper is arguing against decisionism, not making a decision per se. And if that is true, then he is right, and that is a good thing. If that is not true, then I am not sure what he is saying.

James K's picture

Alex, I understand your point, but you disagree with 5pt calvinism (so do I). You have said it lacks exegetical support. That is the issue that should deal with Piper's points. A covenantist would disagree with many of my positions, and I rightly could not care less. They may fall within orthodoxy, but hardly an exegetically true position.

A person's joy is not God's supreme goal. It is a byproduct. Piper flubbed this one, but not because some covenantist said so.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Lee's picture

Larry wrote:
... Piper is arguing against decisionism, not making a decision per se. And if that is true, then he is right, and that is a good thing. If that is not true, then I am not sure what he is saying.

OK, somebody threw this term across my desk a number of years ago without definition, and it was what eventually drove me to an internet discussion forum, and this forum in particular, as it seems to be the re-occurring issue du jour of this forum and in independent, fundamental, never-varying-a-bit Baptist circles in general.

Please define. You say he is correct with his mumbo-jumbo if it is against decisionism, when in reality you are "not sure what he is saying." What is this "decisionism" that is so insidious and where is it outlined in Scripture as the despicable monster you and a plethora of others make it out to be?

Anyone else please feel free to chime in. I really would love a concise Scriptural definition on this one.

Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

James, I think Alex's point is to show that even the larger theological tradition Piper identifies with does not support his view of the desires/affections/joy in God, etc. (Whether Alex is right about that is another question)

For my part, I think it's unfortunate that Piper says some things the way he does. But what is a "decision"? Isn't it the expression of the will? What is the will? Isn't my will pretty much "what I desire"? And isn't "what I desire" pretty much "what I find joy in"?
Similarly, what is repentance? That's a long standing debate, but I'm pretty sure that in Piper's view, it's also an intentional act of the will/affections.
So denying that salvation is a decision seems incompatible with Piper's own system. Perhaps in this case he simply meant that it is not a superficial decision, or that it is more than a "there was this moment and that was it" thing... that is, God has a much bigger agenda than getting us to "make a decision" then forget about it.

Maybe the best way to settle that question is to a) revisit the context of his remarks or b) ask him?

DavidO's picture

Lee wrote:
where is [decisionism ] outlined in Scripture as the despicable monster you and a plethora of others make it out to be?

Where are Emergence or Mormonism or abortion outlined in scripture as some great heresies/sins?

Jay's picture

A few people I know linked to http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/know-a-christian-who-seems-to-love... ]this article this weekend. I'm quoting it here because I think it provides a good illustration of the point that Piper is making.

Quote:
What should you do if you know someone who seems to be more excited about movies than Jesus?

Many professing Christians give little evidence of valuing Jesus more than the latest movie they have seen. Or the latest clothing they bought. Or the latest app they downloaded. Or the latest game they watched. Something is amiss.

We are not God and cannot judge with certainty and precision what’s wrong. There is a glitch somewhere. Perhaps a blindness going in, a spiritual deadness at heart, or a blockage coming out. Or some combination. Christ doesn’t appear supremely valuable. Or isn’t felt as supremely valuable. Or can’t be spoken of as supremely valuable. Or some combination.

Here’s my suggestion. Instead of dampening their enthusiasm for movies, clothing, apps, and events, let that go as an expression of God-given personality. Instead, model expressive joy in Jesus. Over time, if there is no resonance from their heart with your joy, query them humbly:

Quote:
I love your enthusiasm for the things you get excited about. You’re so free and expressive about good movies and nice clothes and cool apps. It seems odd to me that you don’t seem to be as expressive about the way you feel about Jesus and what he’s done for us. Have you thought about why that might be?

The point of this query is to help them see that the problem is not joyfully loving good created things. The problem is the apparent absence of similar affections for Christ.

If similar affections for Jesus are not possible, then the specter of idolatry becomes serious. But they may sense this themselves without your having to start with that indictment, if you draw their attention not to the excitement that’s there, but to what’s missing.

We don’t want them to lose their exuberance about anything good. We want Christ to be supreme in their hearts so that all their exuberance comes under him and for his sake. When Jesus is felt as supremely valuable in our hearts, all other values gradually become properly ordered and purified.

So Piper's points are twofold-

1. People love stuff more than Jesus. That's idolatry.
2. Christians who love stuff more than Jesus need to check their priorities.

Is that controversial?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Lee's picture

DavidO wrote:
Lee wrote:
where is [decisionism ] outlined in Scripture as the despicable monster you and a plethora of others make it out to be?

Where are Emergence or Mormonism or abortion outlined in scripture as some great heresies/sins?


Are we purposefully trying to muddy the waters?

The idolatry of Mormonism (faith plus works) is clearly delineated in Scripture.

The idolatry of Emergence (universalism [Rob Bell, et. al. ] and other syncretizational tendencies) is clearly condemned in Scripture.

Every instance of true salvation in Scripture is accompanied by a decision of some sort, and the presentation of salvation calls for a decision of some sort--repent, believe, call, etc.

So what is your point?

Lee

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Jay C. wrote:

So Piper's points are twofold-

1. People love stuff more than Jesus. That's idolatry.
2. Christians who love stuff more than Jesus need to check their priorities.

Is that controversial?

No doubt everyone with objections are all just too stupid to see this is ALL Piper is asserting. Oy vey.

DavidO's picture

Lee wrote:
Are we purposefully trying to muddy the waters?

The idolatry of Mormonism (faith plus works) is clearly delineated in Scripture.

The idolatry of Emergence (universalism [Rob Bell, et. al. ] and other syncretizational tendencies) is clearly condemned in Scripture.

Every instance of true salvation in Scripture is accompanied by a decision of some sort, and the presentation of salvation calls for a decision of some sort--repent, believe, call, etc.

So what is your point?

My point is you are requiring the opponents of decisionalism to meet a burden you do not hold yourself to even in your response to me. Mormonism itself is not outlined, nor is emergence outlined. You require decisionalism to be outlined?

The objections of the opponents of decisionaliwm would parallel your statements above: Scripture clearly condemns the error(s) of decisionalism. James is a good place to start.

I do admit that this is somewhat peripheral to Piper's specific statements in these articles, but I didn't bring it up.

Jay's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
No doubt everyone with objections are all just too stupid to see this is ALL Piper is asserting. Oy vey.

Alex,

This will probably be my last comment directed to you on this thread.

That article is a very, very basic summary of Piper's Christian Hedonism; he is saying that we should seek to prioritize God above all things and then giving advice to other Christians on how to confront idolaters. That's Scriptural. I'm not sure why you insist that he's teaching some kind of aberrant doctrine, and was hoping that providing a very simple example would be helpful to you and the others here. It appears as though you're more interested in attacking Piper than understanding what he's saying, so there's no point in weighing your criticism that Piper is "drifting further and further from the ranch."

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Lee,

The term decisionalism is another point of contention in the larger discussion regarding Calvanism and Arminianism. The issue comes down to control. This is the point John Brian was trying to make earlier. This is why monergists speak of irresistable grace and are more likely to refer to someone's receiving Christ than accepting Christ.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Lee's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Lee,

The term decisionalism is another point of contention in the larger discussion regarding Calvanism and Arminianism. The issue comes down to control. This is the point John Brian was trying to make earlier. This is why monergists speak of irresistable grace and are more likely to refer to someone's receiving Christ than accepting Christ.

Is there an "official" definition of decisionalism or is it one of those things that means whatever you want it to mean whenever you are on the stump about something (like Pharisaism, legalism, and other)?

In reference to DavidO: My concern is definition. I must not have made that clear.

Mormonism is clearly defined so its antagonism to Scripture is clear to anyone who wishes to see.

Emergence is defined, though somewhat loosely, and its antagonism to Scripture is very discernible.

Not sure what the word games on these are about in comparison with decisionalism, which, to date, I've heard no cogent definition of. How would I expect to determine its agreement to Scripture or antagonism to Scripture if, when you ask 10 people for a definition you receive 11 possible answers?

Piper is against decisionalism and waxes eloquent on it (we think), and we have to spend 50 posts discussing it with nobody being sure what he is trying to communicate yet. Do you see my concern for a clear definition?

Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Jay C. wrote:

So Piper's points are twofold-
1. People love stuff more than Jesus. That's idolatry.
2. Christians who love stuff more than Jesus need to check their priorities.

Is that controversial?

No doubt everyone with objections are all just too stupid to see this is ALL Piper is asserting. Oy vey.

How about just answering the question? It's a pretty good one.
In any case, it's a real argument, and "I guess we're all stupid, Oy vey" is not a real counterargument.

Personally, I think Jay's observation speaks to the "shallow decision" sense of what Piper may have meant. I don't see much point in speculating about what exactly he meant, though. The terms he used are regrettable, but who doesn't overstate his/her own point once in a while? Sometimes we use hyperbole to emphasize differences between things and the hyperbolic statement doesn't stand well on it's own... only side by side with the thing it is responding to.

Some of Jesus' statements are pretty odd if we take them out of context... (hate your father and mother, for example).

(I anticipate someone blowing a gasket... What? Now you're comparing Piper to Jesus?! Of course. Every Christian ought to be very comparable to Jesus.)

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Well when someone claims they are wasting time with me I am not the fool to chase them down I simply honor their attitude. As to the claiming Piper is simply asserting two points is prima facie wrong and needs no rebuttal but the objections already posted are its rebuttals since they rest in the more of what Piper said with which Jay did not interact in any substantial manner. And if these were simply Piper's points and they can be reduced to these statements then why didn't he just say this? Because he said much more. Attempting to reduce it avoids the substance of the objections. This is what is called minmizing in order to justify.

Jay's picture

Alex, your article starts out with:

Quote:
In a recent post, I mentioned theological reductionism. Christian hedonism is such an example. It basically reduces biblical teaching for the Christian to the pursuit of joy, which is self-centered and, at the very least, devalues the Biblical imperatives of Christian instruction regarding our training in righteousness. It is a gelded theology.

Dr. Piper is well known for the phrase, ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.’ I’ve recently read a book of his entitled God is the Gospel, which continues the promotion of his ‘Christian’ hedonism.


Piper is very clear that the source of supreme happiness is God, and it is not wrong to seek supreme happiness since God Himself is that most Supreme Being. So "Christian Hedonism" isn't about selfish desires to value something other than God - it's a cooperation with God to fulfill His own purpose in Glorifying God. Piper is very clear in Desiring God that this is not a inherently wrong desire since God seeks His own Glory (see Chapter 1 - "The Happiness of God: Foundation for Christian Hedonism" at http://cdn.desiringgod.org/pdf/books_bdg/bdg.pdf)

If that's wrong, then how does it err? Is Christianity about 'training ourselves in righteousness' or is it about God getting the Glory for everything he's done?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ed Vasicek's picture

Greg Long wrote:
I appreciate John Piper's ministry in so many ways, and I don't have it out for him nearly as much as Alex does, but I agree that Piper clouds this issue. The clear NT question of "What must I do to be saved?" is Repent and Believe. Sometimes repentance is emphasized (Lk. 5:32; Acts 2:37; 3:19; 5:31; 17:20; Rom. 2:4; 2 Cor. 7:10), sometimes faith/belief is emphasized (Jn. 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9; Eph. 2:8-9), and sometimes both are mentioned (Mk. 1:14-15; Acts 20:21; Heb. 6:1). It is never "Savor Jesus" or "Treasure Jesus" or "Desire Jesus" or any of the other words that he emphasizes so much.

I think Piper is arguing against decisionalism--basing one's assurance of salvation on a decision made (praying a prayer, walking an aisle) rather than on biblical evidences of regeneration such as found in 1 John--and on that point I agree with him. But I wish he would focus more on biblical terminology when talking about salvation rather than his unique terminology.

Preach it, brother! Right on.

His terminology is not just unique, but so emotional. It is like so much gobbledegook we hear in the world. Sargento has a passion for cheese, etc.

As far as speaking against praying a prayer, etc., here's the thing. The people who think they are saved and aren't are very unlikely to examine themselves. The people who are truly saved are the ones most likely to examine themselves, IMO. So I do not think a tirade against easy believism, etc., is going to reach the right people anyway. It's like Ann Landers said about slobs, "The slobs of this world don't know they are slobs." Same thing with the unregenerate who think they are regenerate. I am not saying that we should not warn them, we should. I am saying that warning them will rarely -- if ever-- correct the problem, IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

Jay's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Jay before I allow myself to continue am I to assume you no longer claim you are wasting your time and wish to pursue further dialog? I realize it may seem obvious but I am getting mixed signals and need clarity on the matter.

Kind of. You said that I wasn't willing to interact (I think that was the term you used - not sure offhand) with the link you posted. I read some of it and found that it wasn't representing Piper's argument correctly, so I didn't see any point in continuing to read it. I may weigh in on this thread some more, though, depending on what happens.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Thanks Jay. Until you are more emphatic in your confidence I will forgo interacting with your posts for the sake of safety on my part as well. I don' t want to assume anything in this case. But as a courtesy I will say that your post befote this pertaining to CH does not represent the common articulation of the primary objections

James K's picture

Glad I clicked on the new comments here. So much more has been offered to the discussion.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Lee's picture

James K wrote:
Glad I clicked on the new comments here. So much more has been offered to the discussion.

Since you're glad you jumped back in, jump to #50 and provide a concise definition of "decisionalism" for me so I will know what Piper was referencing with his verbal fog.

Lee

James K's picture

I thought I did in Post #19.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

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