John Piper Is Back (with Guns Blazing)

Maybe you don’t like the war-metaphor “with Guns Blazing,” but it is a biblical one (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). John Piper is back in the pulpit after a five month sabbatical, and in his first sermon he goes to war with the New Perspective on Paul and its denial of the imputed righteousness of Christ.In particular, Piper confronts the imputation-denying theology of N. T. Wright. In a letter posted on the Desiring God website last week, Piper announced his plans for a book that would challenge Wright’s views. But this first sermon offers a foretaste of the forthcoming work that will be a more thoroughgoing rebuttal of Wright. I just finished listening to the sermon, and I commend it to you for your careful consideration: “The Man Went Down to His House Justified (Luke 18,9-14)” (mp3 audio).

I think that Dr. Piper has grasped what is the heart of the matter in this controversy. Many evangelical proponents of the New Perspective (NP) have argued that God produces righteousness within a Christian (be it faith, faithfulness, obedience of faith, etc.) which then becomes the “basis” for one’s justification. NP advocates claim that this is not a Pelagian or semi-Pelagian stance because the righteousness is God-produced.

In this sermon on Luke 18:9-14, Piper argues that looking to one’s God-produced righteousness as the basis of one’s acceptance before God is precisely what the Pharisee did in Luke 18. In the parable, the Pharisee “thanks” God for producing in him his righteousness, and yet the Pharisee does not go away justified but condemned.

Piper says that any person who looks to their own God-produced righteousness as the basis of their acceptance before God will be condemned just like the Pharisee. Thus, any person who embraces the NP’s or N. T. Wright’s view of justification will be condemned just like the Pharisee.

I am in full agreement with Dr. Piper on this one. I think that many proponents of the NP confuse an Augustinian view of grace with the Protestant (and biblical!) view of righteousness. As I have written elsewhere, one can be Augustinian and still be outside of the Reformation.

I, for one, thank God that Dr. Piper is back. I have missed him and his God-exalting exposition of the biblical text. What a model for all of us who aspire to be teachers of God’s people. I look forward to hearing and reading more from him in the coming months.


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