Over the last decade Pastor Richard Coekin, Director of the Co-Mission group of churches in south east London, has enthusiastically promoted the teachings and practice of New Calvinism in the UK. The invitation to Pastor John Piper to be the keynote speaker at the London Men’s Convention 2018, in Central Hall Westminster, is the latest example of a celebrity pastor from the USA being offered a platform to propagate the doctrines of New Calvinism.
Young, Restless, Reformed
The story of New Calvinism started in the USA in 2006, when Collin Hansen, a junior editor of Christianity Today, published an article describing what he believed was a revival of Reformed theology that was taking place among young Christians in the USA. Hansen came to this conclusion after travelling around the USA, visiting leading churches and institutions, and talking with theologians, pastors, and church-goers.
Hansen’s book, Young, Restless, Reformed, A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists, published in 2008, tells the story of what he calls a ‘Calvinistic resurgence’ among young people in the USA. He is especially impressed by the Passion Conference, a large annual event based on contemporary worship, with John Piper the keynote speaker. Twenty thousand college students, who enjoy the Passion style of contemporary worship led by Christian rap artists, are eager to hear Piper’s reformed message.
The Darkness of a Passion Conference
A feature of the annual Passion Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, which involves preaching and singing, is that most of the events take place in darkness. Preaching in the dark at Passion 2016, Piper started his address by affirming the importance of following his message in the Bible: ‘What I say doesn’t matter unless you can see it in the Book – namely, the Bible.’
Realising his faux pa, for his audience could not see their Biblesbecause of the darkened auditorium, Piper said: ‘It’s probably too dark to see your Bible’. Rather than demanding that the lights of the auditorium be turned on, he suggested that his audience use the flashlight of their mobile phone to follow in the Bible.
Why would a conference that claims to be Christian, which claims to worship the true God of Light, in whom is no darkness at all, worship the God of Light in darkness? The answer is because the Passion Conference is worshipping another god. Why would a conference that claims to be Christian, preach Christ, the Light of the world, in darkness? The answer is because it preaches a false Christ. Yet this is the Conference which tells us everything we need to know about the real John Piper.
The purpose of the darkness is to generate an atmosphere that is conducive to the worldly clubbing scene that has a strong attraction to the lusts of the flesh. Darkness combined with psychedelic strobe lights produce a sense of ecstatic revelry and of moral abandonment. Sin and dishonour is lurking at the door.
In his book, Hansen identifies three leading New Calvinists: 1) John Piper is referred to as the chief spokesman for the resurgence of Calvinism among young people; 2) Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church, Seattle, are quoted as evidence of the missional emphasis of New Calvinism; 3) Tim Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, and a leader of The Gospel Coalition, is named as the leading cultural analyst of the New Calvinism, and widely regarded as its intellectual powerhouse.
With this background it is not difficult to understand why Richard Coekin is so keen to promote New Calvinism in the UK. To achieve this aim Coekin has formed a close relationship with Piper. It is no surprise that Piper is listed among the Friends of Co-Mission.
John Piper video of Rivive 2015 highlights https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0vK3B5Ragw
Piper’s Christian Hedonism
In his best-selling book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (1986), Piper carefully laid the foundation for the philosophy of Christian Hedonism. Piper openly admits he wrote Desiring God ‘to be a philosophy of life that he believes is biblical’ (pp23-24). In a review of Desiring God, Pastor Michael Butler says ‘Piper’s statement is crucial to the cautious Christian reader as there is a strong warning from Scripture regarding the dangers of philosophy. Furthermore, can one trust what a man believes to be true and therefore read his book without a critical eye?’
The focus of Piper’s first Passion Conference address in 1997 was Christian Hedonism. Preaching to a large audience of young people, he declared: ‘So my call to you now, in the name of God Almighty, is that you might make it your eternal vocation to pursue your pleasure with all the might that God mightily inspires within you.’ Over the years, through many Passion Conferences, Piper has sought to persuade hundreds of thousands of young people to follow the way of Christian Hedonism. The details of Piper’s Christian hedonism is discussed in the book, Christian Hedonism?—A biblical examination of John Piper’s teaching (2017).
Piper at Revive 2015
In the UK the philosophy of John Piper is being fervently promoted by a network of about 20 churches referred to as the Co-Mission. The Revive gathering is Co-Mission’s annual bible festival that brings together adults, children and young people from the multiple church congregations that comprise Co-Mission. Revive 2015 was promoted as delivering relevant bible teaching, great music, fun entertainment and plenty of time to relax together. ‘We had a fantastic time this year with John Piper teaching us from the Bible about what it means to “Live in the Light: Money, Sex and Power”.’
Piper’s three talks, delivered in the big tent, were about living in the light with regards to money, sex and power. The talks have been turned into another Piper book, entitled, Living in the Light; Money, Sex and Power, published by the Good Book Company in 2016, and dedicated to ‘Richard Coekin and Co-Mission with admiration and thankfulness’. The Good Book Company, which distributes Piper books, announced that they have signed a book deal with Piper. A contradiction in Piper’s ministry that is difficult to miss is to see him preaching about ‘living in the light’ in a darkened tent. Yet perhaps this is no surprise, for as we saw above an essential feature of Piper’s preaching at a Passion Conference is preaching in the dark. Our video John Piper in the Dark illustrates this point. The image of worship in the darkened tent with the bright sun light outside presents a parable of how darkness dominates the mindset of Piper and his Co-Mission friends.
Co-Mission’s commitment to contemporary worship
It is not difficult to see that Co-Mission appears to be modelling its worship style on the Passion Conference. At Passion 2017, John Piper was fulsome in his praise of Passion’s worldly style worship. He said: ‘One of the things I love about Passion is that Passion celebrates a majestic, holy, glorious, just, beautiful God, and His Son by the Spirit. And then it works its way out in the lyrics of the songs…’ Worship leaders at Passion 2017 included Hillsong United, and Christian rap artists Tripp Lee and Lecrae, among others. By his frequent attendance of Passion Conferences we learn much about Piper’s approach to worship, for we see with our own eyes the style of worship that he enjoys and endorses.
Rivive 2015 features contemporary worship in the darkened big tent with psychedelic lighting. Piper, with his love of Passion Conference worship of a must have felt very much at home. Co-Mission, following the example of Passion, is deeply involved in producing contemporary worship songs and has published its first CD.
‘Co-Mission’s first album was recorded live at our annual Bible Festival – Revive – in 2016. With music from a band made up of musicians from across the network, accompanied by 1,000 voices, this album will contain 13 new and original songs to resource the church.’ The album is available to buy now as digital download or limited edition CD.
To learn more about Piper’s false teaching read our book, Christian Hedonism: A biblical examination of John Piper teaching. Also read ‘Cracking the Insidious Code: