As folks continue to tell me that John Piper is really just saying what the best lights of the Reformed tradition have always said, I keep thinking of the following transcript. In fact, it was while listening to this Desiring God Pastors’ Conference that I first became fully aware of how far off Piper’s system actually is. I think quoting a portion will make for a nice explanatory addition to my post, “What Precisely is the Disagreement with John Piper?”
The following is from the panel discussion at the Conference. The question being discussed is essentially, “What is the difference between your understanding of Sanctification and that of the Puritans, John Owen, J. C. Ryle, or J. I. Packer?” Piper answers,
Number one, a profound rejection of the Covenant of Works. You know I’m persuaded that there is no such thing. And Dr. Fuller really didn’t persuade me of that, I just never could find it; I never could find it in the Bible. And when I went out to Gordon and had—who’s the old testament guy out there gets upset about this?—Meredith Kline just turned red in the face when he was talking to me like the whole universe was going to collapse if what I said was true, namely the cross would collapse—that the fundamental issue on the Covenant of Works for Meredith Klein and most covenant theologians is, you’re wrecking the Atonement if you say that Adam was not asked to earn eternal life, which then the Second Adam purchases by earning it through obedience, passively and actively. Then you have destroyed the fabric of the Bible, the Atonement, and ethics. So, one profound difference for all those three people you name is that Fuller and I reject their structure.
Okay, so that’s a theoretical difference. The structure of the Covenant of Works is gone. Now practically. I’m not sure how this works out, because I benefit so from these guys who have this profound difference. I mean Owen, I was reading him the other night, and he said more clearly than any theologian I’ve ever read, he said Jesus earned our salvation by fulfilling the Covenant of Works and he just said it very, very clearly. And I think the practical implication is that running through my system now is not a meritorious effort on the part of Jesus who fulfilled the covenant that Adam blew by not earning, but rather Jesus becomes a Christian hedonist, in that he knows that God is most glorified in him when he is most satisfied in God. And if you buy my definition of faith as being satisfied with all that God is for us and Jesus, that simply means Jesus glorified his father through trusting him all the way through the cross, for the joy that was set before him. Never did he relate to his father as an employer, the job description by which he would earn wages called eternal life. God never taught Adam or his Second Adam to do the Galatians heresy. I learned to say it that way from Dr. Fuller. And I think that’s exactly right. He never commended the Galatian heresy as a wise way to live. Rather, he commanded faith, and faith is seeking to be so satisfied in God that if you have to die in order to get the fullest benefit of God, you’ll die; if you have to die to bring the redeemed into heaven, you’ll die; if I have to die to carry this church to obedience, I’ll die. But I will not sacrifice the joy of the fullest experience of God in that ministry and in that destiny. And so—and that’s my sanctification.
That’s the essence of practical sanctification. If we are holy to the degree that we are cheerful givers, rather than begrudging givers, you cannot make people holy without making them happy. And, therefore, my goal every Sunday is the advancement and joy of faith, and that’s Philippians 1:25. Now I read parts of Owen that are almost exactly like that. You read pages 82 to 85 of Mortification, in Volume 6—brought it along. He talks almost just like that. So, I’ve wound up saying the Puritans are inconsistent. They don’t carry through the Covenant of Works thing. Or maybe they have a way of making it consistent, I’ve just not seen it. But I don’t find the structure—the theoretical thing—right. So, there’s a difference between me and those guys. (“Sanctification by Faith Alone,” 1994; 00:19:20-00:24:38 [Transcribed by yours truly])
I suggest listening to the whole Conference, especially the three lectures by Dr. Fuller. Truly enlightening, and helps understand Piper’s overall system.