John Piper on Preferring God

In his sermon series “The Un-wasted Life”, John Piper frequently describes the believer’s relationship with God as a “preferring” relationship. He defines the “Un-wasted Life” as one that “treasures” or “prefers” Christ above all else.  He describes the “essence of evil” as “preferring” created things over the Creator, and as “preferring His gifts over Him”.  At Passion 2017 Piper said: “The ultimate essence of evil is the loss of taste for God as our all-satisfying life and joy, and the preference for other things above God himself.”

At the 2015 Conference for Pastors, Piper said: “And the bottom of sin, the root of all sinning, is such a heart — a heart that prefers anything above God, a heart that does not treasure God over all other person and all other things.”  So while Piper sees sin as a subjective preference that does not treasure God above all things, Scripture defines sin objectively as transgression of the Law of God:  ‘Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law’, and ‘All unrighteousness is sin…’ (1 John 3.4 and 5.17).

In Piper’s explanation of a believer’s relationship with God he evidences two grave errors. One is the characterization of salvation as a voluntary choice made by man, and secondly, as a choice driven by a desire for a treasure providing maximum personal pleasure.

“Prefer” is defined as an action taken by one to promote or advance one thing over another, to like something as better or best over others, or to give priority to one thing over another. “Promote, like, and give” are voluntary actions taken by man in consideration of other options. To prefer is to make a voluntary choice. In using this term to refer to the salvation of man Piper thus offers a salvation by choice rather than a salvation by the grace of God.

From Scripture we know this is not possible, Natural man, in and of himself, cannot and does not voluntarily weigh and choose God over other options. It is God who chooses man. It is God who “prefers” man, not the other way around.

John 1:13 “born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”

John 15:15 Jesus said to His disciples: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you”

Romans 3:10, 11 “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God.”

Romans 3:23, 24 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

For Piper to use terminology that conveys the notion of salvation as a voluntary choice on the part of man is a serious misrepresentation of the Gospel and is utterly false teaching leading unwitting listeners to self rather than the Cross for their temporal or eternal security.

Equally troubling is Piper’s advocacy of personal pleasure as the ultimate motivation behind one’s choice of, or preference for, God. The very use of the term “treasuring” God above all things not only conveys the same voluntary action that is inherent in the use of “preferring”, it also clearly establishes maximum personal pleasure as the fundamental motivation  for which man should choose God over other created things. Hedonism, of course, should not surprise us as Piper’s salvific reason d’etre, as that has been the hallmark of his “Desiring God” ministry for over thirty years. Elsewhere Piper says, “The pursuit of pleasure is an essential motive for every good deed. If you abandon the pursuit of full and lasting pleasure, you cannot love people or please God”. Such an assertion is false teaching on Piper’s part, and utterly contradicts Scripture

1 Corinthians 13:5 “Love…does not seek its own.”