Tuesday, January 29, 2013

John Piper - Jesus Doesn't Love Everybody the Same

NeoCalvinism is the increasingly popular form of evangelical irrationalism that embraces both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility in the matter of eternal salvation.  Stated another way, this system simultaneously embraces both particular redemption and the well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity (WMO).  Since these two precepts are so evidently contradictory, NeoCalvinism attempts to reconcile the two by positing that God has two types of love – love for the sheep and love for everyone else.   Rather than reconciling the two, two loves theology ends up undermining the WMO.  We have recently posted an article dealing with the irrationalism upon which MacArthur’s Two Loves of God theology is founded.  In the following video, we find John Piper grappling with the same issue.  Our analysis seeks to draw out the irrationalism in this system by highlighting the ramifications of these statements on particular redemption and the WMO.

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"Jesus doesn’t love everybody the same way.  And the way he loves his sheep and his disciples and his children is different from the way he loves those who reject him." (John Piper)  
NeoCalvinism always makes this linguistic turn that seems to place the blame for God's not loving one man as much as he loves another on any particular man's acceptance or rejection of him. While it is true that man’s sin has separated him from God, it is likewise true that salvation is by the mercy of God and that all those chosen by God unto salvation were at one time or another, rejecters of God. The truth is that since the fall of humanity in Adam (Romans 5:12) all men are sinners by nature (Ephesians 2:3), are in their natural state enmity with God (Romans 8:7), are dead in trespasses and in sins (Ephesians 2:1), and are therefore unable to extricate themselves from this hopeless plight. This is the very fount from which flows a salvation that is ever and only born of the sovereign mercy and grace of God.

Piper’s language seems to be some sort of latent baggage from the old “tunnel-of-time” explanation of election from which many of the NeoCals sprang. The love of God is not in any way dependent upon anything in man. If the rejection of God was a determining factor in election then none would be saved because the fall ensured that all men are conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5) and rejectors of God by nature (Ephesians 2:3). The simple bible fact is that God chose a people in eternity past to set his love upon (Ephesians 1:4) and these are the objects of his love and they shall be saved (Romans 8:29-39, Matthew 1:21). Rejection of God is man’s default position based on his spiritual deadness (Ephesians 2:1). It follows then that even those who are saved by God are those who were God haters by nature and that salvation then is ever and only attributable to the sovereign choice of God, not to the rejection or acceptance of man (Romans 9:16, Titus 3:5).
"Listen to John 17:9. This is the way Jesus prays for his own, his own, people. John 17:9, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world. But for those whom you have given me out of the world and they are yours.” So that’s who he’s praying for. That’s a love that he doesn’t have for the world. It’s called, you could call it intercessory love." (John Piper)  
Piper refers to Jesus's love for his sheep as “intercessory love” as a means of underscoring a unique aspect of God’s saving love for his people – and with this position we heartily agree. But when you consider that Piper also believes that the gospel is a WMO of salvation to all of humanity – one runs into insurmountable theological problems.

Stated more plainly – if salvation is based on the intercession of Jesus, and Jesus only loves the elect with intercessory love, salvation cannot be offered to the non-elect because Jesus did not intercede for them. If Jesus does not have intercessory love for the non-elect, then Jesus did not intercede for the non-elect and apart from the intercession of Christ, there is no salvation – neither is there any basis upon which to offer man salvation. The moment that Piper affirms that God’s love for the elect is an intercessory love, he unwittingly affirms that the gospel is not a WMO. That statement is worth repeating...

The moment that Piper affirms that God's love for the elect is an intercessory love, 
he unwittingly affirms that the gospel is not a WMO.
"Jesus today is in heaven interceding for you.  He intercedes for you.  He bought this intercession on the cross and he applies his own blood, before the father, interceding for you, to see to it that you will make it to the end," (John Piper) 
Here we see a little more about this intercessory ministry of Christ on behalf of his sheep. It involves the application of “his own blood” and makes certain “that you will make it to the end.” This is the language of election and particular redemption, but it is also the death knell of Piper’s WMO-based philosophy of ministry. The gospel is not an offer of salvation to all of humanity; it is the proclamation of the finished, particular, intercessory work of Christ to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). It does not offer eternal salvation to anyone, it proclaims the eternal salvation of God’s people and provides assurance that those who believe this good news are among them (John 3:16, I John 5:1).
"...which is what he said he did for Peter just as Peter denied him.  Do you remember that? “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned,” not if you have turned, “when you have turned strengthen your brothers.” I know you’re goin' down, I know your comin up, because I’ve prayed for you, that your goin’ down would not be a stayin’ down. That’s the authority of the prayer of Jesus for his own. He did not pray that for Judas. If he had, Judas would be in heaven, and he isn’t." (John Piper)
The example of Judas raises an incredibly problematic issue for any NeoCal: If Jesus did not pray for Judas, did not intercede for Judas, and did not apply his blood for Judas, then did he extend a well-meant offer of salvation to Judas?

And so we find ourselves once again at the Kobayashi Maru of NeoCal soteriology. For the purpose of making that point abundantly clear, consider the following:

  • If Jesus interceded for Judas and his intercession was for the sheep – then Judas will be in heaven, and Piper’s assertion that he is not in heaven is incorrect. 
  • If Jesus did not intercede for Judas, then Judas was not of the sheep and thus he is in hell, and Piper’s assertion that Judas is not in heaven is correct, HOWEVER, this also means that:
  • If Jesus offered eternal salvation to Judas, then the offer was insincere since Jesus knew that there was no intercession upon which to make the offer, and thus, Piper’s assertion that the gospel is a WMO is incorrect. 
In short – the “two-loves” theology of NeoCalvinism is a train wreck of contradictions. We have said many times before that those who promote this type of irrationalism would do the world a great service by admitting up-front that their system is based on contradictory precepts and bald-logical contradictions. Such honesty might cause some of God’s children to look elsewhere for answers. Instead these glaring theological blunders are cloaked in the lofty academic language of “antinomy” and soft peddled to the na├»ve as “mystery.”

Teth prefers the clarity of more direct terminology – malarkey.


  1. In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), John Piper endorses the conditional false gospel. “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins. Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.” Piper then goes on to disagree with Arminians for not teaching that Christ died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with the Arminians about propitiation and substitution and punishment.

    Piper’s false gospel does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone . It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe. But can we call Piper an Arminian, since he does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect? My answer is that it does not matter what we call Piper’s false gospel, if we see that it misses being gospel in two important and related ways. First, the false gospel fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and when it does that, it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished. Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that replaces punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. It has punishment without any intention of Christ to save anybody in particular at all.

    Is Arminianism the gospel, or is the gospel needed?

    Piper’s punishment- in- general gospel (with faith purchased extra for the elect) is no gospel in a second and important way. The mainline Reformed gospel makes the important atonement to be something other than the punishment of Christ. It makes the real reconciliation to be the Spirit Christ purchased giving people faith to believe, even if they happen to believe a message that says Christ died for every sinner.

    The alternative here is to either claim that people who have never heard the gospel are saved, or to claim that general punishment for nobody in particular is the gospel. In any case, it is not the good news about the real meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection. If we jump ahead to the things Christ has bought for believers, even including their believing, without telling it straight about the punishment of Christ specifically for the elect, then we will continue to love a gospel which has no election in it and no punishment to release the elect from guilt. If we jump ahead in that way, we jump over why God’s love for the elect is never described apart from the death of Christ.

    If the death of Christ is not that which saves any specific sinner, then the death of Christ does not save sinners. If the atonement is Christ purchasing faith to give elect sinners a portion in a general punishment, then the punishment of Christ was not for salvation. The false gospel which nullifies election also nullifies justification by the punishment of Christ.

    The false gospel which nullifies justification by the punishment of Christ nullifies justification by the righteousness of Christ. It talks about justification by the imputed righteousness, but without ever talking about God’s imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ. It won’t say whose sins were imputed to Christ.

  2. It sounds like both of you don't have ears to hear or eyes to see....

    1. Keith,

      Thanks for taking a moment to stop by and interact with my blog. Would you mind taking a moment to explain why you believe both Piper and I lack the ears to hear and the eyes to see?