Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Frank Turk and John Piper

This most recent phase of the issue I'll discuss here started when Frank Turk, aka centuri0n, wrote an open letter to John Piper last week.
Apparently his plan is to write one per week this year, and that's fine by me.  I have enjoyed them all so far, but the letter to Piper left me scratching my head a bit.  Apparently I am not alone.

Criticising Piper is still dangerous ground in many circles these days, but it is becoming more acceptable, and I think that is a good thing.  He is good in many areas but there are also areas in which we must turn away from him.


I don't necessarily have a big problem with Mike Ratliff's post, tbh.  If you ask me, Turk is in the wrong by giving Piper a pass.  Warren is a bad, bad influence and we would all do well to give him the theological left foot of fellowship.  Yes, we're not part of his church, but that doesn't mean we don't cut him out of ours!
Piper himself, as others have pointed out, has been devolving into the bizarre and even occasionally dangerous.  Bizarre - inviting Warren to speak and looking past Driscoll's behavior (I'd say the Warren thing is worse).
Muddled - he apparently can't figure out whether he's a full Calvinist or not.  I do not agree with everything in that video (in particular that the Arminian view of the extent of the atonement is heretical) but I post it for the sake of Piper's statements, particularly those beginning at 7m 16s.
And it's not so much the out of context "you must be born again into a Christian Hedonist" stuff - it sounds terrible, but I know what Piper means b/c I read the book "Desiring God".  Didn't like the book much, but I read it.

The dangerous - Piper wrote "The Future of Justification", and it was a good rebuttal to the New Perspective on Paul.  Then he writes "Future Grace" and seemingly takes it all back while muddying up the waters mightily.  Now that's dangerous.  http://trinityfoundation.org/PDF/197a-PiedPiper.pdf

Thing is, many of the commenters on Mike Ratliff's post should be ashamed of themselves for their behavior and quick triggers.  Turk has his part in bringing this upon himself, however, in his inexplicably gentle treatment of Piper and Warren.  If Turk had been in the mood to write an open letter praising someone, I can think of better addressees.  Also, since it was an open letter, it would have been acceptable ISTM to throw in a few caveats about Piper, since Turk has said multiple times that he doesn't necessarily expect the addressees to read the letter.  Further, there's nothing wrong with a mixed-bag letter.

For more on this issue, see my and Matt's from Vox Veritatis recent interactions with Defending.Contending. on the topic of separating from those who like Mark Driscoll.  Let's just simmer down a bit, people.

34 comments:

Frank Turk said...

Apparently John Piper is a menace and must be stopped.

Rhology said...

But you, sir, are far, far worse. Get off my blog.

Ken Silva said...

"Apparently John Piper is a menace and must be stopped."

Hmm, apparently John Piper is beyond critique.

There, I fixed it.

Frank Turk said...

Just sayin', Ken: when one has to separate from the man and throw out his books lest one be soiled, "menace" is a somewhat watered-down term. "Menace" would be an improvement.

Does someone have to separate from a heretic in order to be saved? Any word on that one -- because it clears up a lot of problems if we can get that clarified.

Rhology said...

I'd also like to know how many degrees of separation are necessary between the heretic and the Christian.

To take a previous example linked in the post, Matt Slick of CARM likes Mark Driscoll based on 2-3 sermons he's hard from MD and a brief interview he had with him.
DefendingContending sees fit to stop linking to CARM.

So, in the analogy, I'd like to know if I need to stop treating Frank like he's my brother, lest I be soiled and give positive evidence against my claimed status of 'saved'.

Rhology said...

*heard from MD

Matt said...

Does someone have to separate from a heretic in order to be saved? Any word on that one -- because it clears up a lot of problems if we can get that clarified.

A good question. To add "separation from a heretic" as a condition for salvation would be to add works to faith as the means of justification. I think a better question is epistemological - can one be justifiably regarded as a Christian if one does not "separate from a heretic"?

Of course, this begs the question of what it means to be "connected to a heretic" such that "separation" is required. Is the nature of such a connection:

1. Fellowship with that person?
2. Some form of personal contact?
3. Sitting under the teaching or authority of that person?
4. Reading that person's works?
5. Agreeing with (and endorsing) that person in some areas?

And if one holds to one of more of these conditions, what is the Biblical support for such a position?

Matt said...

But even if an answer to the above were given, it would not serve to clarify things, as it still remains to be asked what a "heretic" is. Is a heretic a person who simply espouses an unorthodox position on an essential doctrine? If so, then I know some well-meaning Christians who are heretics because when asked to explain the Trinity, they give a Modalistic explanation. Never mind that they have never taken the time to seriously think through the doctrine, nor that they have ever been exposed to solid teaching on the matter. But they espouse a wrong belief, and ergo are to be condemned (on this view).

Is a heretic a person who espouses an unorthodox position on an essential doctrine, though holds to other essential doctrines more fundamentally, such that if he were to systematically carry out all of the implications of his fundamental beliefs, that he would come to reject his unorthodox position? I would like to think that Piper falls into this group, especially regarding his remarks in Future Grace, but I don't know enough to make a judgment on the matter. People are inconsistent, and people also hold to some beliefs more fundamentally than others. If one holds to the Gospel most fundamentally (evidenced in one's preaching and teaching on the matter), and holds to a "heresy" less fundamentally, then that person would, if they were to carry out the implications of their most fundamental beliefs, eventually come to reject that heresy. Is such a person a heretic? Such a person espouses a heresy, but his own belief structure contains the seeds of the rejection of that heresy.

I personally believe that a heretic is a person who holds to an unorthodox position on an essential doctrine so fundamentally, that if he were to carry out all of the implications of his fundamental beliefs, that he would end up rejecting the other essential doctrines as well. Of course, it is conceivable that many heretics have not carried out the implications of their beliefs to this point, and thus simultaneously espouse orthodox and unorthodox positions on essential doctrines.

This is where the epistemological question comes into play, because people of the second and third categories are often indistinguishable at first glance. So how is one to tell if one is a heretic? I would argue that personal interaction is required - to talk to the person, and walk through their beliefs, and try to get them to carry out the implications of what they believe, until they come to a point of making a decision about the Gospel, on the one hand, and their unorthodox position, on the other.

Unfortunately, such interaction is not always possible, especially with public figures. So we have to be cautious. It is one thing to refute an idea, and another to condemn the person who espoused the idea. I am a full supporter of exposing and refuting the erroneous notions contained in Future Grace, lest Christians be led astray by them. But it is another thing to pronounce judgment on Piper without knowing which of the above categories he falls into. And if one cannot pronounce judgment on Piper in this regard, how much less can one pronounce judgment on those who approve of or endorse Piper in various areas! As for what to do about Piper, I can only say that personally, I would not enter into a partnership or association with him without discussing his beliefs to my satisfaction. But that does not mean that I would not recommend certain of his works to others, with appropriate caveats. Others, of course, may have different convictions on the matter.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Frank Turk: "Apparently John Piper is a menace and must be stopped."

Rhology: "But you, sir, are far, far worse. Get off my blog."

I assume you were being sarcastic, Rho, and I had a good LOL at your sarcasm.

Coram Deo said...

Wow Rho, actual comments from Isengard! Looks like your little blog hit too close to home for Frank.

Beware lest ye be formally excommunicated by the Grand High Poobah of anti-watchblogging discernmentalism himself!

Since DefCon has been pulled into the discussion, and since I'm a contributor there, your readership should know that we've not taken a backseat to anyone in taking Piper to task for his aberrent theology and his ongoing habit of providing a large stage for professing believers who leave much to be "desired" in the area of Christian orthodoxy.

In Christ,
CD

Rhology said...

TUaD,
Yep, sarcastic.


CD,
I think Frank ventured over here partly b/c I tweeted him the URL. The man has definitely figured out Twitter.
You got the "little" part (of "little blog") right. :-)

I know your tongue was most probably in cheek, but Frank hasn't excomm'd anyone in this discussion, nor suggested anything of the sort, just to be clear.
I never doubted you for a second about DefCon and Piper. And I don't think you and I would have a quibble about the danger of some of the things Piper has been doing and saying recently. I think where we'd part ways is what we should do about it, and more specifically what we should do about ppl who stubbornly go on liking Piper.

Grace and peace,
Rhology

zacswan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Angi said...

I keep thinking about 1 Cor. 15:33, “Be not deceived : evil communications corrupt good manners.”

We are directly identified by who we associate with. If no separation takes place from the ones who err then we are like Peter warming himself by the fire, thus denying the Lord Jesus Christ.

If a doctor is some sort of quack and does not practice sound medicine we would immediately let all of our friends and loved ones know NOT to go to said doctor. And going even further, if said doctor was a part of a medical practice with multiple doctors we would most likely avoid them all just because of the association.

How much more important our souls than our bodies!

Angi said...

I submitted a comment twice, by mistake, please remove the first one by zacswan.
thanx

Rhology said...

No problem, Angi! :-)

Also, I wonder if you'd like to comment on my previous comment:

I'd also like to know how many degrees of separation are necessary between the heretic and the Christian.

To take a previous example linked in the post, Matt Slick of CARM likes Mark Driscoll based on 2-3 sermons he's hard from MD and a brief interview he had with him.
DefendingContending sees fit to stop linking to CARM.

So, in the analogy, I'd like to know if I need to stop treating Frank like he's my brother, lest I be soiled and give positive evidence against my claimed status of 'saved'.

Angi said...

Well, I do not know what the answer is for you, but for me whenever there are "red flags" associated with leaders/preachers/teachers or just people in general I hold them at arm's length. I make it a matter of earnest prayer, giving the Lord Jesus Christ time to change my heart or theirs. If they continue in unBiblical practices and seem to be unteachable then I have to separate.
We are obligated as saints to rebuke, reprove, exhort, etc., with all longsuffering, but that doesn't mean for eternity.
Iron sharpens iron and if the object is not being sharpened then....there has to be a time when we shake the dust off of our feet so to speak and move on.
Nothing or no one on this earth is perfect, I realize that, but as Christians our goal and striving is toward perfection and we must keep our eyes on Him Who is perfect. Man will always disappoint and fail.

Did I answer your question?

Rhology said...

Angi,
You made a very, very serious charge. You said:
thus denying the Lord Jesus Christ

Then you repeated in this last comment your commitment to separate from false teachers, but that wasn't my question to you.
I'd like to ask you to clarify, please, with respect to my specific question.

Angi said...

I was referring to Peter denying the Lord Jesus Christ while warming himself by the fire.

I believe I would need to separate from him (or anyone). Leaving time for the Holy Spirit to work.
If, after a time and much prayer, the Lord allows I would resume fellowship.

Rhology said...

OK let's go with that.

Let's say you separate yourself from Peter, but the apostle Thomas doesn't.

Do you separate yourself from Thomas b/c he doesn't separate from Peter?

If so, let's say Bartholomew separates from Peter but not from Thomas. Do you separate yourself from Bartholomew b/c he won't separate himself from Thomas?
To all of these, please add the Why.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

The debate between Frank Turk and Puritan Reformed (Daniel Chew) has started: Here

They are debating the question:

“It is necessary for Christians to separate from false churches that do not proclaim the Gospel and the essentials of the Faith.”

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

They are debating the statement:

“It is necessary for Christians to separate from false churches that do not proclaim the Gospel and the essentials of the Faith.”

Frank is arguing that it's not necessary.

And Daniel is arguing that it is necessary.

Coram Deo said...

I never doubted you for a second about DefCon and Piper. And I don't think you and I would have a quibble about the danger of some of the things Piper has been doing and saying recently. I think where we'd part ways is what we should do about it, and more specifically what we should do about ppl who stubbornly go on liking Piper.

I don't know why you would think that.

I don't recall having written about, nor commenting upon the subject of secondary/tertiary separation.

Maybe you have me confused with one or more of my co-bloggers.

In Christ,
CD

Rhology said...

CD,

You are right. I briefly reviewed the posts about Driscoll, CARM, and DefendingContending and you didn't say that. You got pretty close once, but I misremembered.

Please forgive my mischaracterisation of your position.

Coram Deo said...

NP Rho,

Thanks for setting the record straight, brother.

In Him,
CD

aztexan said...

Man, I log out for a few days, and just look at all the drah-muh I miss!

Screw that "Christian Hedonism" trip - I've got free access to Christian Discernment Fight Club right here on my computer! I'll be content to remain a spectator til I can enlist a few fellow-warriors to join me in condemning as heretics certain prominent, militant Arminians who purport to be "christian" teachers. Seems I'm one of the few willing to stand on that hill (mountain, imo), but my time to rumble in the discernment e-ctagon is coming, I just know it!

I'm off for a workout: a couple of whupass Ian Paisley sermons followed by a Trinity Review, then a Gordon Clark lecture cooldown. I HOPE that makes me "guilty" by association, of something horrible, in the eyes of someone out there. And I hope they make my day by letting me know of their disapproval. You're going doooowwn, heretic! Put 'em up, sucka!

Matt said...

I'm off for a workout: a couple of whupass Ian Paisley sermons followed by a Trinity Review, then a Gordon Clark lecture cooldown. I HOPE that makes me "guilty" by association, of something horrible, in the eyes of someone out there

I wouldn't be surprised if that earns you the disdain of some Van Tillians somewhere. Heaven help you if you decide to read something by Vincent Cheung...

Coram Deo said...

Fr. Tex,

Although I can see where your monk robes might be employed as a good offensive/defensive weapon, and your opponents won't be able to pull your hair due to your high and tight Martin Luther-esque bowl-cut, the minute you wade into the ring bringing that weak Clarkian stuff I've got two words for you broseph: 1) Tap 2) Out.

*sniff*

In Him,
CD

P.S. - beware of Matt's dark influences; I have it on good authority that he quietly hums one-hit wonder Wang Chung's "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" while mentally replacing the refrain "Wang Chung" with "Vincent Cheung".

He's a very dangerous man with very dangerous ideas.

:0)

aztexan said...

Matt, might you have had good ol' CD in mind? LOL

Do I smell a blood-soaked rematch of the Clark-Van Til controversy a-brewin' here? If so then CD, my friend, I'm afraid at this point I'd have to side with the Clarkians; so far as I've investigated the matter (here and there, nothing extensive) I must side staunchly with the Clarkians. "Well-meant offer," "paradox" this and "tension" that - such irrational goobledygook makes me wanna hurl, broseph. Jus' keepin' it real, y'owsayn.

And I gotcher wang chung, pal. :-)

Rhology said...

Cheung is fun, but like all pasttimes, he should be taken in moderation.

Matt said...

He's a very dangerous man with very dangerous ideas.

None more dangerous than the truth. ;-)

Matt, might you have had good ol' CD in mind?

I'm not familiar with CD's position on the issue. Rather, I had in mind certain Van Tillians who would not be loath to compare Cheung's Scripturalism to Jim Jones' Kool-Aid.

"Well-meant offer," "paradox" this and "tension" that

That kind of talk coming from Christians is like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard.

aztexan said...

Per Matt: That kind of talk coming from Christians is like fingernails scraping on a chalkboard.

AGREED.

Coram Deo said...

If so then CD, my friend, I'm afraid at this point I'd have to side with the Clarkians; so far as I've investigated the matter (here and there, nothing extensive) I must side staunchly with the Clarkians.

Bro'sup,

I trust that after you've carefully and prayerfully studied the matter, and thoroughly considered the theological and philosophical positions undergirding each, that by the grace of God you'll be led to the truth, to the praise of His glory.

In Christ,
CD

James Swan said...

When he posts his open letter to Dr. O, let me know.

zilch said...

Man, I log out for a few days, and just look at all the drah-muh I miss!

Just imagine how drah-maa-tic it is for us atheists, aztexan!

Rho & Co: Darwin below, you guys sound for all the world like a bunch of Trotskyites debating Leninists about what constitutes "pure" Marxism. Come to think of it, the parallel is not lame: you've both got your Scripture, which purports to be the Truth, and are trying to reconcile that with life in the universe, which perversely insists on being more complicated than your Scripture.

Sorry for the intrusion here. I just thought that since, based on experience here, logic doesn't work with you, and love not either, I'd try laughter. You can regard me as more to be pitied than censured, if you like.

cheers from chilly Vienna, zilch