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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Matthew Richards's picture

Watched this online and agree. I am sure there will be a lynch mob assembled--would expect nothing less.

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Oy vey. He continues drifting further and further from the ranch. I hear his posse coming, though, to save the day. Now Piper does say some true things which are quoted in the article, those are not up for debate but this is a prime example of one of John Piper's characteristics, taking what is plain and confabulating it. We do make a decision when we believe the gospel and to say other wise is simply an attack on the prima facie of Scripture. No, our decision is not all that is involved but we still do make a decision and Mr. Piper is wrong, once again.

Larry's picture

Quote:
taking what is plain and confabulating it.
Huh? He takes what is plain and then converses or chats about it?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Larry wrote:
Quote:
taking what is plain and confabulating it.
Huh? He takes what is plain and then converses or chats about it?
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.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Alex said:

Quote:
this is a prime example of one of John Piper's characteristics, taking what is plain and confabulating it. We do make a decision when we believe the gospel and to say other wise is simply an attack on the prima facie of Scripture. No, our decision is not all that is involved but we still do make a decision and Mr. Piper is wrong, once again.

I think you have a point, Alex. We do make a decision, but God coaxes us and enables us to make that decision.

The statement below, though, is a better example of making the simple confusing. Instead of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (a simple idea), he complicates it with a sort of emotional, nebulous, unmeasurable idea. Did I really find satisfaction in all that Jesus is when I turned to him in faith? Or did I merely sense my guilt and lostness before a holy God, understand that Jesus died and rose for me, and was drawn to trust in him alone and to turn away from my sin to him? That's how I describe it. Simple. Piper does confuse (and emotionalize) the simple.

Quote:
"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,” he said.

Piper gave his definition of salvation, explaining one concept in three different ways. He said that saving faith is “Seeing and savoring Jesus, being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus, and trusting Jesus,” and that those three things are “equivalent realities.”

Although the Psalms and other portions talk about finding satisfaction in God, that is not the crux of salvation.

It is not in making the Gospel more complex that we can prevent tares from growing around the wheat. The tares ARE going to be there. Let's expect what Jesus said rather than trying to preclude it.

Good grief, I know people who are fruitful strong Christians, tried and true, who were saved with the defective "ask Jesus into your heart" message. If it is even close, the elect will make the transaction.

"The Midrash Detective"

Lee's picture

Let's just do a quick exploration of some of the more common salvation passages.

But first--defining decision:
"The act of reaching a conclusion or making up one's mind."
"A determination arrived at after consideration."
"A choice made between alternative courses of action in a situation of uncertainty."
"The process of making a choice after thinking carefully."

Now, some passages of note--
Acts 2:37-38 "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

Acts 16:30-31 "And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house."

Acts 9:6 "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do....[Acts 22:12-16 ] And one Ananias...[said ]...And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord....[Rom. 10:13 ] For whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved."

Repent, believe, call. Is it just me, or do these fall under the definition of decision?

If Piper were IFBx I'd likely conclude he wasn't expositing Scripture but bolstering his paradigm. But we know that could never be.

Lee

Larry's picture

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?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

What you refer to is the most common or basic properties of the word but it also extends to this use:

http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/confabulation ]unconscious filling in of gaps in memory with fabricated facts and experiences, commonly associated with organic pathology. It differs from lying in that the patient has no intention to deceive and believes the fabricated memories to be real.

I will say that my choice of the word could be replaced by a more definitive one for my point so substitute as you like. My point was that Piper was filling in with things he believes are true but are not though, unlike one who deliberates to add untruths, he is convinced these are genuine ingredients to believing the gospel, though his error is not benign in the least.

G. N. Barkman's picture

The core issue is: 1) Does the sinner's making a decision trigger regeneration? Or, 2) Does regeneration trigger the sinner's decision?

G. N. Barkman

Alex Guggenheim's picture

I suspect a heavy pursuit of this sub-text will not serve the interest of the thread's creation but my guess some will pursue it anyway, oh well. Besides, regardless of where one places regeneration, a decision is still being made and Piper is still wrong.

Lee's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:
The core issue is: 1) Does the sinner's making a decision trigger regeneration? Or, 2) Does regeneration trigger the sinner's decision?

The issue is not as you described. It is this--any individual who repents towards God (Acts 20:21), believes on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), or calls on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:13) is regenerated (saved). All semantic acrobatics aside, that is plain Scripture.

Now, your core tangent may be as you described, but it is not the core issue.

Lee

Ken Woodard's picture

You had to bring Scripture into this Theological discussion.

Pastor Joe Roof's picture

There are a lot of untransformed people out there who never evidence being a new creation in Christ. Yet they hang their hopes on some qucik prayer decision they made at some time in their life. While I cannot see inside a person's heart, the Apostles in God's Word made it clear, that people people in this situation ought to be deeply concerned about their standing before God. They ought to examine themselves to see whether or not they are in the faith.

Also, when you read testimonies of saving faith before the modern revivalist movements, the terminology in these testimonies usually does not describe some decision like is often called for today.

I do think the churches need to be careful about being satisfied and declaring themselves successful because they have a number of people who recited a prayer for salvation even though there is often no evidence of salvation.

In Jesus time, people declared they made decisions to follow Him but then it was exposed that they really did not follow Him.

So, it seems to be that there is more to it than quick-prayerism decision making that is so often touted today.

JohnBrian's picture

Lee wrote:
G. N. Barkman wrote:
The core issue is: 1) Does the sinner's making a decision trigger regeneration? Or, 2) Does regeneration trigger the sinner's decision?

The issue is not as you described. It is this--any individual who repents towards God (Acts 20:21), believes on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), or calls on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:13) is regenerated (saved). All semantic acrobatics aside, that is plain Scripture.

Now, your core tangent may be as you described, but it is not the core issue.

You are using the terms regeneration and salvation synonymously. Monergists do not use them that way, and is why we insist that http://sharperiron.org/forum/thread-regeneration-precedes-faith ]regeneration precedes faith .

I agree with your statement except for your synonym-izing regeneration and salvation. I would put regeneration at the beginning of your statement, affirming that the individual who is regenerated will: repent towards God (Acts 20:21); believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31); call on the name of the Lord, and be saved.

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Greg Long's picture

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.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Pastor Joe Roof wrote:
There are a lot of untransformed people out there who never evidence being a new creation in Christ. ...So, it seems to be that there is more to it than quick-prayerism decision making that is so often touted today.
While what you say may contain some truths it does not approach the issue at hand which is that when we believe we do make a decision. It is true that the parts of the process of our believing on Christ is not summarily only a decision but there is no salvation without a decision.

Piper exacerbates an already unnecessarily confused issue with taking on the element of decision making out of its contexts and creates a false division and/or contention and then adds ingredients one cannot even find in the Scripture with regard to believing the gospel unto salvation. A decision is made and without it there is no salvation and John Piper's inconsiderate words need to be disclaimed.

BTW what testimonies are you talking about and I was saved "after the revivalist period" and I certainly made a decision. So now based on this post-revivalist view we are to question the salvation of everyone who testifies they made a decision and are conscious of it. I will also tell you that before the revivalist period there are many testimonies of those who were practicing a very Jesus-satisfied life but never made a decision to believe on Christ as Savior.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that Mr. Piper demonstrates strong asceticism in his teaches which makes it no surprise to me he attempts to include this the gospel formula. He isn't the first and he won't be the last and though he is sincere, he is sincerely in error.

Alex Guggenheim'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

I believe you need to watch how you describe my view of John Piper's teachings, here you are implying you know my motive and you do not and cannot and that is a sinful thing to do. More importantly, it is not about John Piper, though personal considerations may anecdotally become involved, it is about his doctrine.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Surely there can be no question that salvation involves and includes a decision on the part of the sinner. Perhaps other questions would encourage helpful discussion of this issue:

1) Why does the sinner make a "decision" to trust in Christ and follow Him?
2) When does the sinner make such a decision, before or after he has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit?

G. N. Barkman

James K's picture

Let's not make more into this than what it is.

If I decide to go to the store for my wife, I may or may not actually go to the store. Maybe I decide to and then not actually. The same is true with salvation. Simply deciding to believe in Jesus isn't the same thing as actually believing in Jesus.

Piper appears to be addressing this usage. A person should not think he is saved because he decided to believe. This doesn't nullify that an actually decision needs to be made for salvation. I agree that some people overstate things, but let's try to focus on what he actually said.

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.

handerson's picture

that Piper's linguistic paradigm of "being satisfied" in Jesus will eventually encounter the same problems that the previous paradigm has. Where people once doubted whether or not they have made "the decision" properly to be saved, they will now doubt whether or not they have "been satisfied" enough to be saved. And where they once may have taken comfort in their decision instead of Christ, they will now take comfort in their emotions instead of Christ.

In my mind, the solution is to turn people back to Christ from the human tendency to stray from him--it's not going to come from simply changing the terminology by which we describe the relationship.

Jay's picture

I was curious about Piper's translation of Jn 6:35, so I went and retranslated it myself. This is what I came up with, and I'd appreciate any feedback you all might have on it.

Quote:
John 6:35
[And ] Jesus said to them, 'I myself (double pronoun - Egw eimi) am the bread that gives life. Those who are coming to me will not ever (ou mn - double negative) be hungry [again ], and those who believe in me shall not ever (the double negative 'ou mn' is here as well) be thirsty at any time.

It's a little wooden, but I was trying hard to capture the meaning and avoid the typical English translations. Bracketed words are words I supplied to add clarity or to add a more complete meaning that the Greek conveys but English would not.

This passage reminded me a lot of Matthew 5:6 as I was translating it, and there is an OT verse as well, but I don't know the reference off the top of my head.

I think Piper's point - and I agree with Greg Long (and others) that Piper can be confusing in how he presents material - is that once we see ourselves as the sinful creatures that we are, we become aware that the only hope we have is in what Jesus did, and therefore realize that we must keep going back to 'the bread that gives life' for cleansing and forgiveness, just as OT Israel had to keep going back to the Temple with new sacrifices to atone for their sin.

As for the whole 'delighting in God as salvation' thing, Piper does a pretty good job in explaining that in his book 'Desiring God', which is available for free as a PDF from Desiringgod.org.

"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

Jay's picture

I went and looked at Piper's introduction to see if there's a succinct definition of what he meant available. This is a little more than succinct, but I think it's pretty clear what he's getting at.

Desiring God, p. 11-12 wrote:

The older I get, the more I am persuaded that Nehemiah 8:10 is crucial for living and dying well: “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” As we grow older and our bodies weaken, we must learn from the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter (who died in 1691) to redouble our efforts to find strength from spiritual joy, not natural supplies. He prayed, “May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives.” When delighting in God is the work of our lives (which I call Christian Hedonism), there will be an inner strength for ministries of love to the very end.

J. I. Packer described this dynamic in Baxter’s life: “The hope of heaven brought him joy, and joy brought him strength, and so, like John Calvin before him and George Whitefield after him (two verifiable examples) and, it would seem, like the apostle Paul himself…he was astoundingly enabled to labor on, accomplishing more than would ever have seemed possible in a single lifetime.” But not only does the pursuit of joy in God give strength to endure; it is the key to breaking the power of sin on our way to heaven. Matthew Henry, another Puritan pastor, put it like this: “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”

This is the great business of life—to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God. One of the reasons this book is still “working” after seventeen years is that this truth simply does not and will not change. God remains gloriously all-satisfying. The human heart remains a ceaseless factory of desires. Sin remains powerfully and suicidally appealing. The battle remains: Where will we drink? Where will we feast? Therefore, Desiring God is still a compelling and urgent message: Feast on God.

I never tire of saying and savoring the truth that God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied are one experience in the Christ-exalting act of worship—singing in the sanctuary and suffering in the streets. Baxter said it like this:

Quote:
[God’s ] glorifying himself and the saving of his people are not two decrees with God, but one decree, to glorify his mercy in their salvation, though we may say that one is the end of the other: so I think they should be with us together indeed.

We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us.

Link to the book: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/desiring-god

"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

Jay C. wrote:
I went and looked at Piper's introduction to see if there's a succinct definition of what he meant available. This is a little more than succinct, but I think it's pretty clear what he's getting at.
Desiring God, p. 11-12 wrote:

The older I get, the more I am persuaded that Nehemiah 8:10 is crucial for living and dying well: “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” As we grow older and our bodies weaken, we must learn from the Puritan pastor Richard Baxter (who died in 1691) to redouble our efforts to find strength from spiritual joy, not natural supplies. He prayed, “May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives.” When delighting in God is the work of our lives (which I call Christian Hedonism), there will be an inner strength for ministries of love to the very end.

J. I. Packer described this dynamic in Baxter’s life: “The hope of heaven brought him joy, and joy brought him strength, and so, like John Calvin before him and George Whitefield after him (two verifiable examples) and, it would seem, like the apostle Paul himself…he was astoundingly enabled to labor on, accomplishing more than would ever have seemed possible in a single lifetime.” But not only does the pursuit of joy in God give strength to endure; it is the key to breaking the power of sin on our way to heaven. Matthew Henry, another Puritan pastor, put it like this: “The joy of the Lord will arm us against the assaults of our spiritual enemies and put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.”

This is the great business of life—to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God. One of the reasons this book is still “working” after seventeen years is that this truth simply does not and will not change. God remains gloriously all-satisfying. The human heart remains a ceaseless factory of desires. Sin remains powerfully and suicidally appealing. The battle remains: Where will we drink? Where will we feast? Therefore, Desiring God is still a compelling and urgent message: Feast on God.

I never tire of saying and savoring the truth that God’s passion to be glorified and our passion to be satisfied are one experience in the Christ-exalting act of worship—singing in the sanctuary and suffering in the streets. Baxter said it like this:

Quote:
[God’s ] glorifying himself and the saving of his people are not two decrees with God, but one decree, to glorify his mercy in their salvation, though we may say that one is the end of the other: so I think they should be with us together indeed.

We get the mercy; He gets the glory. We get the happiness in Him; He gets the honor from us.

Link to the book: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/desiring-god[/q...
He says many things but the plain Gospel.

James K's picture

Alex, was the context of the above limited to the plain Gospel? Was Piper trying to explain how a person is saved?

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

Jay C. wrote:
I went and looked at Piper's introduction to see if there's a succinct definition of what he meant available. This is a little more than succinct...

Understatement much?

Lee

G. N. Barkman's picture

It seems that Piper is saying, "Salvation is not obtained by merely making a decision," something akin to "Try Jesus." He goes on to say that some of his hearers have not "waved the white flag of surrender to Jesus."

Isn't this another way of saying that saving faith is more than raising a hand, walking an aisle, praying a prayer? He is saying that saving faith includes surrender to the authority of Christ. Since the essence of our alienation from God is our sinful rebellion (defying God's authority, deciding for ourselves what is right and wrong, "for me"), salvation is a change of attitude toward God's rightful rule. Saving faith includes repentance, which is a change of mind regarding sin. No longer defending and justifying it, we now acknowledge it, and agree with God's perspective concerning it. As sinners, we formerly defied Christ's authority. "We will not have this man to rule over us!" As believers, we now acknowledge His rightful rule, and become lifelong repenters who evaluate every action in the light of His revealed will.

Unquestionably, many who have "made a decision for Christ" know nothing of this kind of repentant faith. Biblical assurance of salvation is not based upon what I did, ie "made a decision." It is based upon what God has done and is doing. When we see clear evidence that God has changed our hearts, made us a new creation, and is continuing to mold us into the likeness of His dear Son, we will have true evidence of salvation.

Piper is correct, and this message needs to be proclaimed widely.

G. N. Barkman

Lee's picture

JohnBrian wrote:
...I agree with your statement except for your synonym-izing regeneration and salvation. I would put regeneration at the beginning of your statement, affirming that the individual who is regenerated will: repent towards God (Acts 20:21); believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31); call on the name of the Lord, and be saved.

I do not understand this straw you grasp. A regenerated individual is a born again individual, is an individual who is a new creature in Christ, is saved. How is it that saved cannot be the synonym that covers this phenomenon?

Lee

James K's picture

Alex, Jay posted something that had to do with how Piper explains delighting in God. He...even...said...that...

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.

JohnBrian's picture

Lee wrote:
I do not understand this straw you grasp. A regenerated individual is a born again individual, is an individual who is a new creature in Christ, is saved. How is it that saved cannot be the synonym that covers this phenomenon?
Regeneration is what CAUSES salvation, and is what God does.

Monergism affirms that God is the active agent in saving His people (the elect).

Synergism affirms that God is the passive agent in salvation - you know - the Christ that stands at the door knocking, waiting and hoping that someone will open the door and let Him in. If they don't open the door, he goes away sad.

The difference between these views is significant for HOW one does preaching and evangelism, so it's not a straw as far as I am concerned.

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