an important question

I’m not going to make my blogging simply a point-counterpoint with Dave Doran, but he asks an important question today that does get to part of the current controversies roiling Fundamentalism.

Is it possible to appreciate this man’s [Piper’s] heart for the Word, expository preaching, people’s souls, and God’s glory without being questioned about one’s fundamentalist convictions?

I think the answer is no, given Piper’s notable errors on matters that are fundamentalist convictions.

For one, Piper is clearly wrong on the divisive issue of charismatism. His associations with charismatics and his teaching on these doctrines call for censure, not approval.

For another, Piper is clearly wrong in his support of the blasphemer. I think you know who I mean. This is in spite of quite clear evidence and even direct argumentation by John MacArthur. If we are going to praise Piper and hold him up as an example for young men, you can’t really divorce this from the mix. He is who he is and he is clearly wrong on this point. His support of the blasphemer is one of the reasons, I believe, that some professing fundamentalists are unwilling to be as clear and straight-forward as MacA.

Finally, the music Piper allows, apparently with delight, in his ministry points to serious error in his thinking. While exact definitions on musical points may be questionable to some extent, no fundamentalist ministry I know of would tolerate the kind of music Piper tolerates. If we are ‘expressing our appreciation’, we are lifting up a man whose whole philosophy of ministry is quite widely different from fundamentalist philosophy. These differences are significant and can’t be dismissed as trivial or side issues.

So I would answer the question, No. No, because ‘heart for the Word, expository preaching, people’s souls, and God’s glory’ is much too subjective and isn’t the standard upon which a ministry should be evaluated or appreciated. “He has a good heart!” Right. So did Billy Graham.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

UPDATE: It occurs to me that this points to a critical problem we have in Fundamentalism. The tail seems to be leading the dog. Men like Piper are appealing on some fronts, but the leadership, especially the leadership in our institutions, have either failed to significantly point out the serious errors (and the seriousness of the errors) or they have in fact been leading cheerleaders for men of this sort. I am not sure how this is helpful for the upcoming generations.


  1. Don,

    This is a perfect example of the point I was making yesterday. For several of the men I had in mind – you know the “all fundamentalists are legalists” types – Piper is one of the untouchables. Typically the slightest word of criticism is seen as unsophisticated, nit-picky and holier-than-thou. Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe men on all sides should be held to a Biblical standard.

    How ironic is it that the same men rant against the old-timers who put (in their opinion) legalistic preachers on a pedastal? They see Piper and his crowd as nearly exempt from criticism while relentlessly hammering others for failing to recognize faults.

    I agree, we should not repeat the wrongs of the past. How about excusing the wrongs of the present? Apparently that’s perfectly OK!



    Thank you for having this discussion. Anyone who finds it unimportant probably doesn’t spend much time around preachers and missionaries in my age group(mid-30’s). For those of us who do – it is unavoidable.

  2. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! While there should be many things to be thankful about with any true believer, we should hold up only those who are faithful to the Word. This ought to doubly apply to those in pastoral ministry who should know better.

  3. Here’s why, I believe, DMD and others exalt Piper despite his problems. Now as I say that, I put a giant disclaimer, because DMD can answer himself, and I’ve once before tried to read DMD’s mind and was wrong and had to apologize. I don’t know if it is a new thing in fundamentalism or not, that is, what DMD and others do in sweet-talking Piper and his type, because I am not old enough to know that and I’m not enough read in fundamentalist materials to know.

    Here goes.

    1. Fundamentalists think that by speaking nice of Piper, he might move their way.
    2. There is a lot of criticism about a lack of criticism of “revivalist” fundamentalism. Why not start with those IFBx who butcher the gospel, before you get to Piper and the like? So, at least Piper gets the gospel right (they would say) [Piper does believe regeneration precedes faith, that is, the new birth precedes faith].
    3. Piper is “careful with the text” unlike a wad of fundamentalists and how can we admire that in the midst of the serious exegetical fallacies of fundies? So everything is a matter of degree. If we’re going to admire fundies for their music with their abundant bad exposition, than we can choose to ignore Piper’s music with his abundance of good exposition.
    4. Piper lets Noel wear pants. I’m using that in a symbolic way, but he isn’t obsessed with these ridiculous shibboleths that many, many fundies have.
    5. If we’re going to put up with the Van Gelderen’s Keswick teaching, then we can sort of overlook Piper’s no tongue-speaking continuationism—they’re kind of similar anyway.

    I’ve reasoned it for you. I’d be interested in what Dave would shoot down here.

    By the way, this all is continued good evidence for me why I’m not a fundamentalist. I go after everything that I don’t believe is scriptural, equal opportunity—fundamentalists, evangelicals, snake-handlers, all of them.

    By the way, if you read my latest Jackhammer on revival, I make the point that MacArthur saw the Jesus Movement as revival and that the Jesus Movement is to the late 60s and early 70s what Driscoll and his group is to the 2000s to 2010s.

  4. Well. I do not know one preacher that i would agree with 100%. The bottom line I believe would be. Does the preacher preach the Gospel in a way that God is going to use it to bring a lost sinner to salvation.

    • Hi Charles,

      I don’t agree with myself 100%. And remember, if you will, Charles Templeton. An apostate who formerly preached the gospel and saw souls saved under his ministry. So no, just preaching the Gospel isn’t sufficient.

      We do need to be discerning and warn the flock of the dangers when the ministry of others might impact them negatively. I don’t disagree with noting and using good materials from some like Piper, but I wouldn’t recommend him to someone else without carefully explaining exactly what the errors were and showing where the pitfalls were.

      I have heard of some whose copy of Desiring God is more dog-eared and bookmarked than their own Bible. There is something wrong with that approach.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Brief thought experiment: If Piper were Arminian, would any of the things Don lists be overlooked? My answer: Not a chance. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” as they say. For some people Calvinism covers a multitude of other failings.

  6. Hi Nathan

    Thanks for your contribution. Good questions.

    Well, I am not saying don’t appreciate the good that such men do, although we may debate what is good and what isn’t.

    For example, I have been listening this week to a series of messages by Alan Redpath. He is of course old news and a man who I wouldn’t agree with on a number of points. (I think he was very Keswick, for example.) He pastored Moody Church following Harry Ironside through the years in which the Graham controversy heated up. I suspect he made the wrong decisions with respect to that controversy. But I really profited from these messages (in fact, I am planning a blog about them shortly). My point is that I am not against appreciating or using men I disagree with.

    Here is what I am against: I am against setting any man up as the ‘hero’ of anyone, except Jesus Christ. We have a situation in our Bible schools today where young men are being enthusiastically encouraged to follow Piper, Mahaney, et al, with NO caution or discerning word being offered. I know this is true because my sons are on the receiving end of this at BJU. It is very troubling.

    It is also very troubling to hear professors teaching new versions of fundamentalist history to the youngsters. See my posts on Bauder’s appearance at International Baptist College last fall.

    I do think that there is a tendency of older types (I really do feel old these days – body breaking down and all) feel defensive and put upon by the energy and aggression of the young. The young on the other hand feel alienated as you suggest by the way the older types handle it. I think this is part of the process of life. It is extremely doubtful that this can be entirely eliminated. I suggest that you store conversations like this away in your memory banks for thirty years or so and see how you get on with your next generation.

    Having said that, we should try to eliminate as much as possible this generational conflict, don’t you think? The young should try to learn patience and should respect the opinions and experience of their elders. The elders should be open to the inquiries and energies of the young. I have no problem with that. I probably fail at that a good deal, but that is the ideal I am striving for. I have two preacher-boys as sons and want them to emulate my thinking as much as possible. (I think that’s also natural. And of course I don’t want them to totally emulate me!)

    I am not sure I am answering all your questions! Or your comments!

    So bear with me on that. I am going to do some work next week on the comments on this thread and try to summarize what we are all saying and offer my own observations. I appreciate your contribution.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  7. The President of Arlington Baptist College resigned this May, and one of the reasons, too much fussing in the Fundamentalist rank over hair, music, activities, separation , etc. We have trouble in our own ranks.

    On the other hand, I agree that we as older seasoned preachers should be clear with the young men about the positions of ministries of preachers that they want to follow.

    One church elder said to me, “We are using Piper’s church material for the children’s ministry.” I said that is good, but do you know Piper’s position on spiritual gifts

    We as seasoned pastors hopefully have learned to take the good from all teachers of the Word. But always view what they say with the Word ourselves.

    While I have said, your position theologically will come out in your teaching of the Word. How you view Scripture theologically will determine your position on a number of doctrine.

    But we do as Elders have a responsibility to the younger men in ministry.

  8. Jeremy says:

    “but the leadership, especially the leadership in our institutions, have either failed to significantly point out the serious errors (and the seriousness of the errors) or they have in fact been leading cheerleaders for men of this sort. I am not sure how this is helpful for the upcoming generations.”

    I must wonder, is the problem that the leadership hasn’t pointed out enough of the errors or that they have exhibited so little of the profitable aspects of Piper’s ministry?

  9. Note: two comments in this thread have been deleted at the commenter’s request. He has a good reason for the request, totally unrelated to the thread in question. I am happy to oblige him.

  10. d4v34x says:

    Cover up!