Heidelcast 3a: A Gentle Rebuke to Brother John (UPDATED)

UPDATE: added to the two Heidelcast episodes audio clips from the video linked below.


These episodes grew out of the decision Desiring God Ministries to invite the de facto leader of the self-described Federal Vision movement to speak at the 2009 DGM conference. Part of the justification for the decision was the claim that the FV doctrine is the natural result of being presbyterian (and baptizing infants). Since, by that time, most all of the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council had repudiated the FV doctrine (including the heart of the error, “in Christ by baptism, stay in by works”) root and branch some sort of response seemed necessary.

One of my concerns about the original invitation has been justified in the years since. I worried that those who don’t know what the FV is would conclude that there must not be much to it since, some reason, DGM would never invite a speaker who is not trustworthy. First, that simply doesn’t follow. Organizations make mistakes (sometimes more than once). Popes and councils err. A regional synod in Jerusalem acquitted the heretic Pelagius, who was later condemned by the ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) and by the entire Western Church afterwards (including all the Reformed Churches). Second, more than one person has said to me since 2009, “Well, DGM invited this person to speak so the FV can’t be that serious.” Again, non sequitur but that response illustrates the danger of misunderstanding the FV and its proponents and it illustrates the necessity of reminding people continually that yes, it’s a serious error that corrupts the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here is the original post. The feedback on that post indicated that more explanation was necessary so I recorded these two episodes.

Heidelcast episode #2: A Gentle Rebuke to Brother John (pt 1)

Here’s an introduction to the FV movement.

Here’s the video to which I referred above.

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  1. Thanks for posting this. DG’s response to these concerns has always bothered me. John Piper’s video interview response was especially concerning (the one with Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll).

  2. I had a friend that recommended John Piper to me. So I listened to three of his (fairly recent) sermons. I thought they were absolutely dreadful. He uses emotional blackmail. He used a lot of extremely flowery adjectives to describe God and His sovereignty, which played into that emotional blackmail technique. I do believe that he gave a tip of the hat to the gospel, but he ripped that back away from you as he inferred that you must ‘feel’ all those things that he is ‘feeling’ about the magnificence of God, otherwise maybe you really aren’t a believer.

    Then I read his view of infant baptism and it all made perfect sense. Of course it was all going to have to turn back ‘onto you’.

    To me, he is merely just another typical, ‘a lot of God and a little bit of you’ type preacher. Only usually it turns out the other way around. A lot of you, and a little of God.

    I’m happy for your critique of him.

  3. In 2003 I attended DGM’s annual conference, which they held in honor of Jonathan Edwards’ 300th birthday. After all the lectures were done, as well as one particular speaker’s ostentatious hand waving, the celebration of Mr. Edwards’ memory left one impression on me: Too much John, not enough Jonathan.

  4. Good stuff! I remember passing this and other items like this along only to be accused of theological nit-picking or to harsh a judgement towards softy’s of Feveral Vison.

    This is I believe even more relevant today than in 2005-2009. This is due to the ever present idea in so called “Reformed Baptist” and also in the Reformed world itself that Federal Vision was then & is now just “not a big deal.” This is evident and has shown its fruit in several ways. The studied ambiguity around this has not only hit the pews, it has blossomed in the pews. In an emergent world of social justice and the whole “do/be the gospel” business this is no shock. Although most NAPARC churches put (at least back in 2006 ish) their official stamp of disapproval on FV, it was for the most part a stamp without any teeth. One need only look to the PCA to see this is very clear. The current Reformed environment is where Piper types with their great leanings toward Q.I.R. E. (Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience) are more likely to put the emphasis on….”Are you Desiring God enough” rather than on “Look to, trust in Christ and what He has done and is doing on your behalf”. Is it really any wonder that FV (even though in 2013 in the pews it will hardly ever go by that name) is not only allowed to flourish but indeed promoted? I believe that the current Gospel Focused or as some charge “antinomian” vs. Neonomian debates in Reformed circles are also very much tied to all this.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    What I find odd is that the DGM Folks [sometime during the Warren/Piper fallout in 2010] decided to edit out all of Piper’s explanation of Doug Wilson & FV from the clip “Why I invited Doug Wilson” on their youtube and on the DGM site. You go to that clip now, no mention of the FV. Previously Piper dismissed the FV as differences about the non-essentials and a Presbyterian thing on that clip.

    Luckily, the Piper, Driscoll, and Chandler clip on youtube isn’t a DGM clip and they can’t make it disappear or can it be re-edited by them.


    FYI – Doug Wilson was a Keynote Speaker @ the 2012 DGM Pastors Conference as well

  6. I listened to these yesterday and found them very helpful. What I found particularly good is that the strengths of John Piper’s ministry were fully recognised, which is something that is not always done by his Reformed critics. Nevertheless, the weaknesses were not airbrushed by pretending that he either holds or properly understands the Reformed position, which is something that his Reformed admirers are prone to do.

    One aspect of this which really intrigues me, though it is somewhat tangential to this discussion, is why does Dr Piper want a man speaking at his conference who defends American chattel slavery? In light of Dr Piper’s own work against racial segregation, you would assume that he would run a mile from someone who advocates Southerner-than-thou mythology (I say mythology because the historical method and analysis employed by Steve Wilkins and Doug Wilson is truly appalling). I realise that Doug Wilson denies being a racist, but his support for Neo-Confederacy and the moral legitimacy of American slavery (according to Alexander Stephens the Confederate States were founded on the notion that blacks were inherently inferior to whites) is hardly congruous with what Dr Piper himself teaches on the importance of rejecting racial segregation.



  7. Since Doug Wilson was a Keynote Speaker @ the 2012 DGM Pastors Conference then I guess it is very safe to say that John Piper has been very comfortable with Wilson’s trajectory and at this time continues to have no concerns. Good to know.

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