What Precisely is the Disagreement with John Piper?

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I have received multiple comments over the last two weeks that prove I have not been nearly as clear as I’d hoped to be with reference to John Piper and Salvation Sola Fide. (I am a pretty rough writer, I know.) They are generally of the sort, “Piper does not teach that we are Justified by works, but by faith alone,” or “Piper says all the time that good works are simply the fruits and evidences of faith, just like we do,” or “Piper teaches that all who are Justified will in fact be saved on the Last Day—no exceptions.” What makes this so difficult is that I agree with each of these statements. I have never questioned these nor claimed that Piper thinks otherwise. Though we do disagree in some measure on the meaning of the terms, and explicitly on the implications of the concepts, I am positive that all in this discussion agree on the following very important propositions:

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Right vs. Possession: A Last Bit of Shelter For John Piper?

Bright-sun

Introduction

I concluded my most recent post with this plea: Either Defend What Piper Actually Wrote, or Stop Offering Shade. Dr. Mark Jones was kind enough to respond in his post, “Piper ‘Plagiarizing’ Thomas Goodwin?

The content of his response was largely just pointing out (1) that not everyone in the Reformed Tradition has agreed that Adam was offered life by merit, and (2) that Thomas Goodwin wrote something on Sanctification so close to Piper, that it is possible there is plagiarism (obviously in jest).  Indeed, the words are very close. The content? Not so close. I hope to show this below.

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A Plea: Either Defend what Piper Actually Wrote, or Stop Offering Shade

Shade

Introduction

In Mark Jones’ recent post, “A Brief Wrap-Up,” we read the following:

[P]lease note that I firmly believe, with all my heart, that we are as justified as we will ever be when we first believe. We cannot ever lose our justification. When Christ returns we will enter heaven based purely on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Along the way to heaven we will do good works that God has prepared for us in advance to do. These works are not optional (Rom. 8:13), but they do not have the merit to justify us before God. They are simply the path we walk on to eternal life. I agree entirely with Zacharias Ursinus in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism on good works.

I also agree entirely with Ursinus (see HERE) and agree entirely with this brief summary. In fact, this was my understanding when I first read John Piper’s controverted post; I was nevertheless quite concerned by it.

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Salvation Sola Fide: Zacharias Ursinus and the Heidelberg Catechism

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This post is a continuation of “Part 3” of the series below, assessing the tradition with respect to John Piper and his defenders:

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 1

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 2, “Salvation”

Rachel Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 3, Beginning at the End: The Marrow Men

Salvation Sola Fide: Martin Luther and the Fruits of Faith

Salvation Sola Fide: John Calvin and the Causes of Salvation

Salvation Sola Fide: Zacharias Ursinus and the Heidelberg Catechism

I our first post in this series, “Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper,” we showed from the Heidelberg Catechism and its principal (or sole) author, Zacharias Ursinus, that the instrumental cause of the whole of Salvation is faith. We read the following from the Catechism:

20: Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?

A: No; only such as by true faith are engrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits.

We discussed that these “benefits” are the two-fold grace of Justification and Regeneration/Sanctification/Glorification, the first answering to our guilt in Adam and the second to our corruption inherited in Adam. As the Catechism says, we receive both of these benefits by Union with Christ through faith.  And as Ursinus comments,

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Salvation Sola Fide: John Calvin and the Causes of Salvation

John Calvin

This post is a continuation of “Part 3” of the series below, assessing the tradition with respect to John Piper and his defenders:

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 1

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 2, “Salvation”

Rachel Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 3, Beginning at the End: The Marrow Men

Salvation Sola Fide: Martin Luther and the Fruits of Faith

Salvation Sola Fide: John Calvin and the Causes of Salvation

“[W]e cannot look on personal holiness, or good works, as properly federal and conditional means of obtaining the possession of heaven, though we own they are necessary to make us meet for it.” ~The Marrow Men

Introduction

As we continue in our series to consider John Calvin, it needs to be noted up front that, like Luther, Calvin often puts Salvation for Justification and Justification for Salvation. And like Luther, for good reason. As we argued in Part 1 one of this series, the benefits of Justification and Regeneration/Sanctification are inseparable and are together granted by Union with Christ through the instrument of faith.  Thus Calvin writes:

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Salvation Sola Fide: Martin Luther and the Fruits of Faith

Luther

This post is a continuation of “Part 3” of the series below, assessing the tradition with respect to John Piper and his defenders:

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 1

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 2, “Salvation”

Rachel Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 3, Beginning at the End: The Marrow Men

Martin Luther: Good Works, the Fruits of Faith

“’For in Christ I have all things at once, neither need I anything more, that is necessary unto salvation’ [Luther]. And to us it is evident, that this is the believer’s plea, viz: Christ’s most perfect obedience to the law, for him, in answer unto its demand of good works for obtaining salvation….” ~The Marrow Men

Finding passages from Martin Luther consonant with the above is perfectly simple. On every other page we see him extolling the message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone. He is even one of those simple rubes that puts Justification for Salvation and Salvation for Justification with no explanation, contrary to our more refined Reformed Scholastic forebears (yes, sarcasm). He teaches that the Gospel is only purely preached if good works are not added as conditions—why?—because faith apprehends the whole Christ, which is the whole of our salvation:

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Rachel Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 3, Beginning at the End: The Marrow Men

Reformation

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 1

Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper: Part 2, “Salvation”

Introduction

As we move on to the third phase of our response to John Piper’s defenders, I would first like to react to the most recent Calvinist International post on the topic, “Assessing Piper’s Critics: Love Hopes All Things” by Mark Jones and D. Patrick Ramsey. The piece makes a good foil for moving forward with the series.

The main point of the piece is that “The Aquila Report”, R. Scott Clark, and Rachel Miller “continue their onslaught against a foe that doesn’t actually exist” by uncharitably reading Piper’s words. To my mind, they make this point in part by uncharitably reading Clark to be arguing (in his vast corpus of work on the subject) that “works just are,” and by even more uncharitably arguing that Rachel Miller just “doesn’t seem to be able to understand” the distinction between Right and Possession. But my favorite line of the piece is the following:

If someone wants to carefully examine, in Latin, the language of Twisse, and then argue he’s saying something totally different to Piper, we’re willing to listen. [Italics mine]

Thus the bar is set: Twisse in Latin.

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