Dr. John Piper is a famed theologian and retired pastor. But he has made some rather shocking statements for a 5-point Calvinist. The title of this article is one of them. He told those words to a young woman who had grown up on the mission field and who was living with a young man to whom she was not married.
A reader sent me a short video (under 2 minutes) of clips from Dr. Piper making that statement and others like it. You can see that video collage of messages from Dr. Piper here.
That comment found in the title of this blog sounds like Piper believes in works salvation. And so do the other comments in this video, including:
- “No one had told this missionary daughter that her salvation might be imperiled by unrepentant sin.”
- “Believing doctrinal truth in your head saves nobody…If you say, ‘But I’m justified because I believe the doctrine of justification by faith, I believe that doctrine,’ but it doesn’t change your life, and you go on and live like the devil, James would say, “You’re not justified. You’re not justified.”
- “Claiming to be born again when you are not born again—because there is no fruit, no evidence, no validation in your life.”
- “People that claim to be saved that don’t change are not saved.”
- “I want to know what it is to believe because I’m required to believe in order to be saved. And this world is so filled with crazy ideas about what believing is: believing is doctrine, just believing a fact like He died for your sins. It is not enough. It is not enough.”
- “You are not born again unless there is evidence in your life.”
- “I think if you don’t believe in Jesus as your financial advisor, you are not saved.”
Some of those quotes are given without context. Even so, I cannot see how any words that preceded or followed could soften the works-salvation ideas found there.
When I graduated from seminary thirty-nine years ago, no Calvinist that I was aware of would make some of those comments. Today, such comments are more common among Calvinists. Of course, even today there are many Calvinists who would be horrified by some of those comments.
It is one thing to say that God guarantees to change your life and to keep you on the straight and narrow. That is wrong, terribly wrong. And it quickly undercuts assurance. But at least you could believe that and believe in justification by faith alone apart from works for a short time.
(You could believe both until as a new believer you discovered that there is still sin in your life and that it is quite possible that you could fall away. Then you would either stop believing in guaranteed perseverance or you would stop believing in justification by faith alone. You cannot believe both of those things once you realize that faith in Christ does not guarantee your perseverance.)
It is quite another thing to say one’s salvation “might be imperiled by unrepentant sin.” That is the language of works salvation. That implies that salvation can be lost.
Do you find it odd for a Calvinist to say that believing in the doctrine of justification by faith is not enough to be justified, but it must be combined with good works? I do.
How is it possible that a leading Calvinist with a doctorate in theology does not know what it means to believe in Jesus?
I have heard Dr. Piper speak in person and I found him to be a powerful speaker. He conveys a strong love for the Lord Jesus Christ and for people. He is a compassionate person. He strikes me as a very nice guy. But that is what makes comments like these so jarring.
What a joy it is to know with certainty that you have everlasting life that can never be lost. That is the beauty of John 3:16 and a hundred other faith-alone verses in the NT.