Essays in Honor of John Piper
Edited by Sam Storms and Justin Taylor
For the Fame of God’s Name is at a collection of essays by some of America’s most eminent theologians and pastors, written ‘in Honor of John Piper’. Clearly, these men are great admirers of Piper’s ministry and want the world to know it. They obviously believe that in John Piper the Church of Jesus Christ has a great spiritual teacher that needs to be made known yet more widely, and honoured for his unparalleled contribution to the Christian Faith in our day.
However, for the sake of truth, we must raise our concerns that John Piper’s ministry is likely to mislead Christian believers. We single out three stands in Piper’s teaching to make our point, and encourage our readers to evaluate Piper’s teaching in the light of biblical truth.
Published in 2010 by Crossway, For the Fame of His Name, is made up of essays written by 27 leading theologians in the USA. Key contributors include: D. A. Carson; Sinclair Ferguson; David Michael; Wayne Grudem; Albert Mohler; Justin Taylor; C. J. Mahaney; David Powlison; Mark Dever; John MacArthur and David Mathis.
Front page blurb
This sets the tone for the adulatory character of this book:
‘John Piper has had a profound impact on countless men and women over his thirty years of pastoral ministry. From his online ministry with Desiring God to his preaching ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church to his writing ministry in over thirty books, his faithful service has encouraged, challenged and corrected many who are thirsty for God’s Word.
‘Piper’s influence does not stem from his own abilities and accomplishments but finds its source in his consistent and humble leading of others to Scripture, where the breathtaking sovereignty and glory of God are displayed in all their wonder. We rejoice and are changed as we encounter glorious truths about God in Piper’s ministry.
‘It is in this spirit that friends and colleagues of Piper honor him by presenting essays covering topics central to his ministry, prayer, suffering, the sovereignty of God, justification, Jonathan Edwards, Christian Hedonism and more… Our hope and prayer is that the reader’s gaze is turned to a man who has labored so faithfully for the fame of God’s name.’
Back page blurb
This is at pains to emphasise Piper’s scriptural credentials. Mark Noll, Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, says that the authors of this book ‘offer the best sort of tribute by seriously engaging the Scriptures to which Piper is committed, earnestly expounding the classic Calvinistic doctrines into which Piper has breathed such life, and zealously promoting the glory of God to which Piper has devoted his ministry’ (my emphasis).
David Wells, Research Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes:
‘His has been a God-centered ministry. In this he has sometimes been unconventional, but the explanation is always that he has insisted on seeking to be true to the truth of God’s Word’ (my emphasis).
In chapter 1, David Michael, Pastor for Parenting and Family Discipleship at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, offers a personal tribute to Piper and prays to the Lord Jesus: ‘Aim more lives in a Godward direction and take pleasure in bringing forth generations of Christian hedonists with a God-entranced vision for their lives. Engage them in the dangerous duty of delight, and inflame them with a passion for your glory’ (my emphasis), p22
David Mathis, Executive Pastoral Assistant of Bethlehem Baptist Church, makes the point that while Pastor John loved and proclaimed Reformed theology, ‘our ultimate authority is always Scripture and Scripture alone. It was clear to us seminarians that Pastor John not only believed in Sola Scriptura but practiced it.’ p39
So what are we to make of this book in praise of John Piper, and, by implication, of his doctrine of Christian Hedonism?
Piper’s commitment to the Scriptures
We see how Piper’s admirers make much of his commitment to the Scripture. Yet any serious evaluation of Piper’s ministry shows that he is skilled in twisting Scripture to make it conform to his agenda of Christian Hedonism. Pastor C.W. Booth of www.thefaithfulword.org/ has spent years evaluating Piper’s Christian Hedonism and published numerous online articles on the subject. The Faithful Word .org is a Bible study tool and a doctrinal reseach aid for clergy and serious laymen. Booth writes:
At least two times in [the book] Desiring God the statement is made, “God threatens terrible things if we will not be happy” (pages 9, 289). What evidence is given, what Scripture is quoted, to support this allegation? If there is no legitimate Scripture to back up this frightening allegation, it amounts to little more than scare tactics and abusive attention-grabbing verbal stunts. Such approaches to Bible study are not edifying, not helpful, nor are they in compliance with the Word when it says to accurately divide the Scriptures.
On page 289 of Desiring God, we are told that those who will not be happy enough will suffer the curses described in Deuteronomy 28:47-48;
“What language shall we borrow to awaken joyless believers to the words of Deuteronomy 28:47-48? ‘Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart…therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you…and he will put a yoke of iron upon your neck, until he has destroyed you.’ How shall we open their eyes to the shout of Jeremy Taylor [17th-century Church of England divine]: ‘God threatens terrible things, if we will not be happy!’?”
But is Desiring God quoting Deuteronomy 28:47-48 in a legitimate manner? Does Deuteronomy 28 really threaten believers with curses, “terrible things”, and destruction if they are “not happy” enough?
No, bluntly stated, Desiring God does not properly quote, nor interpret Deuteronomy 28 in a manner that any Christian should find legitimate or proper. And nowhere in all the Bible is there a passage of Scripture, when quoted and interpreted in context, that says God will curse and destroy believers for not having sufficient gladness or happiness.
In a keynote address given to the prestigious New Canaan Society in 2015, entitled ‘It Is Right to Live for Maximum Pleasure: Eight Reasons from the Bible’, Piper again used Deuteronomy 28.47-48 and added the amazing statement, ‘You go to hell if you are not happy in God.’
Dr Peter Masters, Pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, comments:
A special matter for concern is Dr. Piper’s use of Scripture, because his books appear to establish every point with a host of relevant quotations. He takes the reader through every step with biblical validation. This obviously commends his viewpoint to readers, but the Scriptures quoted never actually support the thesis Dr Piper presents. I do not for a moment suggest that his use of Scripture is devious or manipulative, but he is clearly so carried along by his ‘vision’ that he sees corroboration where it is not to be seen. Here are some examples of this.
In Deuteronomy 28.47-48 we read – ‘Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies.’
This is quoted in support of the idea that the pursuit of enjoyment of God is the key motivating action for all other Christian virtues. However, the text does not actually say this. It is obvious that the force of the charge is that the Israelites had forgotten their privileges, and refused willing obedience to God. [‘Christian Hedonism’: Is it Right? by Peter Masters, https://www.the-highway.com/christian-hedonism_Masters.html]
The above evaluation is an example of how Piper twists Scripture to support his ideology of Christian Hedonism. Other significant examples are discussed in my book Christian Hedonism?
Piper’s promotion of contemporary worship
For the Fame of God’s Name avoids any discussion of Piper’s influence on the contemporary Christian worship scene, which is on full display at the annual Passion Conferences in Atlanta, Georgia, where Piper has been keynote speaker on many occasions since 1997. He regularly preaches in a darkened auditorium to many tens of thousands of young people, aged between 18 and 25. He has consistently used the Passion platform to promote his ideology of Christian Hedonism. An analysis of his Passion sermons shows that he seldom calls his young audience to repentance (see video Piper in the Dark). By his presence at Passion, Piper has endorsed the worldly worship scene of Passion, characterised as it is by wild revelling that is a feature of ‘Christian rap’, ‘holy hip-hop’ and the band Hillsong United. [Piper preaches in the Dark https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_QDtKkZDhYk ]
Ever since the publication of his book Desiring God in 1986, the focus of Piper’s ministry has been to promote his philosophy of Christian Hedonism, described in some detail in Christian Hedonism?: A biblical examination of John Piper’s teaching (2017).
Those men, who have praised Piper’s ministry in such glowing terms in For the Fame of God’s Name, have become partakers of his false ideology of Christian Hedonism. Although many errors of Piper’s ministry are blatant, it seems these men, for whatever reason, are reluctant to speak out against Piper’s false teaching and defend the Gospel of Truth.
This book tells us much about the state of Christianity in the USA. Despite the obvious errors in John Piper’s influential ministry, the great and the good in American theology are so given over to Piper’s flawed ministry that they are unwilling to offer any challenge. Instead, by their participation in For the Fame of God’s Name they have most unwisely endorsed the false gospel of Christian Hedonism. The apostle John writes: ‘For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds’ (3 John 11).