@JohnPiper, your hope is God, not the Bible

John Piper, the well known pastor, confuses me. Adrian Warnock, who is attending Piper’s current conference, quotes him as saying “Your God is whatever you find most joy in” and “We deserve to go to hell for not preferring God above all things”. Great! But on the same day Piper tweets “My only hope is The Book” – note the capitals. (To be precise, the tweet is from Piper’s ministry, quoting Piper.) Does this mean that the Bible is Piper’s God? Does it mean that he deserves hell for preferring the Bible to God? He certainly doesn’t deserve my respect as a teacher for this kind of heretical teaching.

John Piper preaching today

John Piper preaching today – how many feet above contradiction?

Sadly this kind of confusion is all too common in more-or-less evangelical churches, where the Bible is treated as God. We read in it that “the Word was God” (John 1:1), but forget that for John the Word or Logos was Jesus Christ, not the Bible. In fact nowhere in the Bible does the word “word” clearly refer to the written Scriptures, although sometimes it does refer to the gospel message or other teaching from God which is written in the Scriptures.

So let’s stop thinking and behaving as if the Bible is God. It is a book of words from God, and of words of men inspired by God. (I don’t want to get into a discussion here of exactly what that means.) Yes, we can find our hope in this book, but our hope is not the book, it is the God whose good news for us is written in the book. John Piper, you need to remember this, and preach it.

20 thoughts on “@JohnPiper, your hope is God, not the Bible

  1. Personally, I think you are taking him way out of context, but I wasn’t there…so I cannot be sure. You don’t wish to get into discussion of what the bible actually is, so I’m not allowed to give my opinion that it is truly God’s inspired, Holy words….I seriously doubt Piper believes or was implying that the BOOK is GOD….but is simply/ ( miraculously) God’s spoken words to us written down on paper….that is without error.

  2. Clearly I am not in a position to form a view on what John Piper said and in what context, nor on what Adrian felt he said. .

    On principle, and decoupling from the specific, I would agree with the point you make. The Written Word shows us the Living Word, and it is the latter we must seek to know. and encounter. Sometimes the Trinity becomes an implied Father Son and Holy Book.

    By contrast , a Roman Catholic young lady who worked for me some 25 yrs ago, when discussing the place RCs give to Mary the Mother of Jesus, explained it in terms of Father Son and Holy Mother. Hmm!

  3. Hi Peter,

    I think I agree with Gary – I’m not a big fan of John Piper, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t fall foul of the charge you accuse him of. A 140 character sound bite on twitter can sound very different when in the context of a whole talk.

    When I was studying Hebrews last year, one of the interesting things I liked was how the writer describes Jesus (his life and mission) as God speaking to us. But he also describes a kind of continuity between God’s action in history and in revelation, as the whole of scripture is about Christ and, indeed, Christ speaks through the scriptures. To put your faith in the scriptures is to put your faith in the God who inspired them and continues to speak through them. So I would probably want to nuance/clarify what Piper said, but I think if taken in the sense in which he intended it it’s not heretical!

  4. Gary, Colin and Phill, thank you for your comments.

    Yes indeed, the quoted words are out of their original context. But it was not me who took them out of context, it was someone from Piper’s own ministry, whoever tweets at @desiringGod. Even there it might have had some more context as part of a twitter stream, but Adrian Warnock retweeted it out of that context.

    I accept that Piper’s intention was not heretical, and that was most likely clear from the full context. But his words could certainly be misunderstood, and taken as encouragement by audience and Twitter followers to give excessive reverence to the Bible. So it was unwise for Piper to say those words, and wrong for his staff to retweet them out of context.

  5. This is belated, but Peter, I agree with you. I’ve a high view of scriptural authority, but I wish people would not use ‘Word’ to refer to the Bible. I’ve heard it put, and have said, that in John 1, we do not read ‘The Word became paper and dwelt among us’.

    On the other hand, though he’s very knowledgeable, I’m not a totally uncritical admirer of John Piper.

  6. John Piper confuses me too. He’s the high priest for Five Point Calvinism yet he would make quips like “We deserve to go to hell for not preferring God above all things”. According to his writings (albeit I’ve read only snippets), the unsaved cannot turn (prefer) to God due to their total inability, while those who are elected cannot resist God’s grace. His quote makes no sense to a Five Pointer.

  7. Dan, thank you for the comment. But I don’t think Piper is inconsistent here. He is consistent with the Calvinist position that God has predestined each of us to do good or evil, to be saved or damned, but still holds us responsible and punishes us for evil and rewards us for good. I don’t think this concept is compatible with the biblical picture of a God of justice and love, but that is another issue.

  8. Peter, please come back on line. So much of your stuff is indeed, Gentle Wisdom. I’ve just discovered you and It’s sad that your voice has been silent here since Sept 2014.

    However, while I agree that the Bible is not our God it does seem that the attitude that would so sternly revoke respect from Piper as a Bible teacher on the basis of a tweet, however ill founded, seems neither wise nor gentle. Hopefully in these 9 months of blogging silence wisdom and gentleness have been restored through repentance.

    I’m not that familiar with Piper’s actual work. I’ve only read half of one of his books. As a Presbyterian I am aware of his Calvinist reputation. But reputation doesn’t really mean much.

    From my own, albeit limited, reading of the Institutes I don’t think that John Calvin himself can be accused of being a 5 point TULIP ‘Calvinist’. TULIP is more than a bit blunt, brutal, crude and suspiciously systematic to convey the subtlety of Biblical narrative regarding these issues.

    The Westminister Confession itself has a ‘little’ logical loop on the subject that indicates that God is not the author of evil and neither is the liberty of the creature or second causes destroyed but rather this liberty is established.

    Very mysterious stuff that is quite resistant to ‘either / or’ logic. It does not compute intellectually. The mystery of sovereignty and freedom holds together in the Character and works of the Creator, not in our theologizing regardless of whether our theologizing favours ‘Armenius’ or ‘Calvin’.

    The best work I’ve ever read on the apparent contradiction between the reality of God’s absolute sovereignty and the reality of human freedom and genuine responsibility is J.I. Packer’s, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

  9. Dear Peter and Bloggers,
    I come from a fairly non-doctrine prioritising perspective. While it is important, (to get to know God using the tool of the bible) is it not more important to be focussing on the outworking of faith ito character (putting on – putting off etc), the gospel, looking after widows and orphans and feeding the poor rather than to spend valuable time on this? After all, by own admissions, there are comments of criticism – also left on this article itself, that are suppositions about John Piper’s views which are not based on a clear knowledge of them..

    Is there not a danger that in being too secure (too secure as opposed to secure in the knowledge of His goodness) that we feel a liberty to criticise others for the sake of the love of doctrine instead of focussing on loving mankind who are His great love.
    I recall a very godly pastor who once was sharing how he was preparing for a sermon and in his thinking strayed onto some negative thoughts about some events related to congregation members who had in the past hurt him. He was taken ill very shortly after and very sick until he repented of those thoughts at which time he recovered as well. God is holy and man are made in His image, and we criticise those made in His image. Is that not wrong?
    Should our response not be to honour John Piper for what he has done good and then (if necessary) with regard to any serious doctrinal issue to question that privately before going public (and if so) only in a very respectful, question orientated way?

  10. {rtf1ansiansicpg1252
    {fonttblf0fswissfcharset0 Helvetica;}
    {colortbl;red255green255blue255;red255green255blue255;red0green0blue0;}
    deftab720
    pardpardeftab720partightenfactor0

    f0fs22 cf0 cb2 expnd0expndtw0kerning0
    outl0strokewidth0 strokec3 Dear Peter and Bloggers,
    I come from a fairly non-doctrine prioritising perspective. While it is important, (to get to know God using the tool of the bible) is it not more important to be focussing on the outworking of faith ito character (putting on – putting off etc), the gospel, looking after widows and orphans and feeding the poor rather than to spend valuable time on this? After all, by own admissions, there are comments of criticism – also left on this article itself, that are suppositions about John Piper\’s views which are not based on a clear knowledge of them..

    Is there not a danger that in being too secure (too secure as opposed to secure in the knowledge of His goodness) that we feel a liberty to criticise others for the sake of the love of doctrine instead of focussing on loving mankind who are His great love.
    I recall a very godly pastor who once was sharing how he was preparing for a sermon and in his thinking strayed onto some negative thoughts about some events related to congregation members who had in the past hurt him. He was taken ill very shortly after and very sick until he repented of those thoughts at which time he recovered as well. God is holy and man are made in His image, and we criticise those made in His image. Is that not wrong?
    Should our response not be to honour John Piper for what he has done good and then (if necessary) with regard to any serious doctrinal issue to question that privately before going public (and if so) only in a very respectful, question orientated way?}

  11. Martin, thank you for your comments. I certainly want to be positive, and I take the point that I may have been too critical in suggesting that Piper was giving “heretical teaching”. My intention was to write in “a very respectful, question orientated way”, although admittedly without requesting private clarification from Piper first. Of course if Piper’s answer was that the Bible was his god, that would be heretical, but I’m sure Piper would not say that explicitly. The problem was that he seemed to imply it.

    Please don’t assume that anyone commenting here does not properly understand Piper’s theology. At least one of them recently completed a theology degree at a seminary where I’m sure Piper’s works were studied.

  12. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit…all the same. Therefore, the Word is God, Jesus Christ is God. God spoke his word and said let there be light. He was saying let there be Me. God is light Jesus is light the Word is a lamp unto our feet. All the same!!! Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father!! Love you all!!
    Psalms 138:2 magnified his word above his name

  13. Ok, now we know the tangible bible isn’t God because it’s perishable and God of course isn’t. God is Spirit. Let’s not get what we see in the natural confused with the spiritual. If someone ask me if the bible is God I will say yes, because of course the reference isn’t being made to the actual material but to the very truth that God , the bible, the Word is Alive and the living Word. What’s his Name? Christ Jesus, I AM. Jesus said, Before Abraham was, I am. God said let there be light! Let there be God! Let there be Christ! Hallelujah!

  14. What an interesting debate though totally contradictory with The Word of God.

    John 1:1 destroys your discussion teaching us In the beginning was The Word, and The word was with God, and THE WORD WAS GOD.

    If one does not understand that THE WORD is God and totally identifies HIM, His Church, His Body, His Bride, they are lost and will not HONOR CHRIST and HIS WORD in it’s entirety.

    God is The Word and The Word is God. There is no debate.

    I could care less what John Piper thinks rather only what THE WORD of GOD states.

  15. This discussion is most interesting though we must look at the truth.
    If we do not believe The Word is God and the complete unadulterated Word of God inspired by The Holy Spirit why honor it at all as far as I am concerned.
    The gentlemen claiming to be a Presbyterian obviously does not know The Word of God or he would not be claiming to be of any denomination with a man written doctrine and or theology causing the division Paul warned against.
    This is quite simple is it not according to our Holy Bible. If one can not grasp these basic most simple Biblical truths how will they ever get to the answers of more meaty topics such as this.
    The Church was always only termed for it’s local to prevent what we are now facing from happening.
    The Church today has no resemblance of The Biblical Church all being embedded within the government through and in tax exemption which should never have been or be.
    “Come out of her my people”. Is what will bring His Bride together as we repent from all of the false doctrines and theology’s creating denominational division from the likes of Luther, Wesley, etc.etc.etc. who reformed nothing according to THE WORD OF GOD merely creating weakened forms of Catholicism enabling the mass to be deceived today and led directly back into Catholicism/The Beast and it’s one world governmental, legal, religious, 666, social justice, despot/anti christ worldly system of deception.
    The question is simply this. Are we going to honor The Word of God which is God or man.
    I use to speak with George W. years ago via phone after I had read The Seven Lamps of Fire. When I located and called him for the first time being ever so excited to find a man who was published speaking the truth I asked him what are you going to do about it. He simply implied I am very old now you take the baton and go and run with it for we were definitely on the same page.
    God then sent me to Finland where The Beast reigns supreme. I went with a heavy message against the church state combination where in Finland controls the Parliament controlling the presidency with 83% of Finn’s being Lutheran paying taxes to belong with more than half not even believing in God due to the paganism rapped up within Lutheran doctrine which is very deep.
    My message was stern and correct to “Come out of Her my/God’s people”.
    When I first was going on trips for 3 mo. increments for this is all I was allowed legally. I did not have the solution for I was yet learning. I ended up living in Finland for years and learned much much more concerning The depth of this Beast which I can explain later if anyone is interested.
    I finally saw The Biblical solution for as we come out of this Beastly Babylonian system of division caused by false man made doctrines and theology’s as embedded within the government through tax status we must and will repent just as in The Book of Nehemiah, then cleanse The Church and Body/Bride of Christ of all of the false man made doctrines and theology’s creating denominations and even supposed non denominations and then getting and standing corrected accordingly to The Word of God as opposed to man for as George and The word teaches us Christ is coming back for His Bride and a spotless one at that for Christ would never become married to the whore that exist today fornicating with the world which is The Vatican as all protestant denominations are in bed with today.
    I am so sick of mans opinions and clever ideas on how to do church.
    The Church accordingly to The Word of God was only and always termed simplistically for it’s local such as The Church in Ephesus, Rome, Phillipi, The church from within Priscilla and Aquila’s house greets you Paul wrote as we do not go to church for we are The Church.
    Is this not simple enough for us and a great place to start to alleviate the divisions among us but I find no leaders that are willing to acknowledge even this simple truth due to nothing but pride, self, flesh.
    We will next have to eliminate the singular pastoral platform for it within itself is contrary to The Word of God for a bishop is the same as an elder, same as a pastor eliminating the catholic form and structure of hierarchy and dictatorship allowing The Holy Spirit to move and lead as it wills rather than man. Church will no longer be scheduled once a week on Sundays for two hours for we will no longer go to church but will rather be The Church functioning as The Body, a family with the members being identified by the gifts of the spirit as described in 1 Cor. 12 etc.etc.etc.
    We will place deacons under the elders, women will be in submission and not be placed by men in positions of non Biblical power and authority.
    I hope we are getting the point for this is only the beginning.
    We will sell all we have as in the Book of Acts, which I believe took place four times for an example of how The Body should live, dwell and function distributing as all have need having all things in common going from house to house daily breaking bread.
    We will acknowledge and honor The Sabbath being Saturday and if you believe The Sabbath is not an issue re read The New Covenant Hebrews 3 and 4 to be the most simple to understand and descriptive.
    This is only the beginning.
    Persecution will come forcing us together as in The Book of Acts and we will be united as one The True Church, Body, and Bride of Christ.
    I have and hold the solution and it is The Bible/The Word of God in my hands, heart, soul, mind, body and spirit.
    We must look for men and women who want to and will honor The Word to the cost of themselves being first and foremost there pride for fear of rejection which is a mild form of persecution but often the most painful.
    From all my travels where I am now in Colorado dealing with the likes of Andrew Womach and all of his heres’ys
    I have found very, very few who truly Love The Lord and HIS WORD and will honor it before man then again only a remnant will be saved and we can trust it is getting smaller every hour of every day.
    The bottom line is will we honor God or Man it is our choice and only time will tell but as we know the time is at hand.
    It is time to get out our loin cloths, start eating locust and honey and screaming from the rooftops.
    George just died and I guess it is time to grab the baton the question is who will enter into the race and fight the good fight enduring until the end.
    This is when and where the pavement hit’s the road and the dung hits the fan which will get rather messy to say the very least.
    “Hallelujah” Amen

  16. Jeff, thank you. Unfortunately I don’t have time to look into the details of what you wrote, but God bless you for your work in Finland and for insisting on the separation of church and state.

    Many Christians, such as John Piper, seem to treat the Bible as God. But you are the first person I have seen more or less explicitly writing that it is. Do you know of others who teach this, or is it your own personal understanding?

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