Who Is John Piper – By Barnabas Piper

“Barnabas Piper:”

Barnabas Piper is one of Dr. John Piper’s two sons. His interview with RNS speaks loudly about what went wrong in the Piper household, and apparently, a lot went wrong with both Barnabas and his brother Abraham.[1] [2] [3]

Religious New Service [interview]: What is one thing people would be shocked to learn about the Piper household?

Barnabas Piper: Depends on who you ask. Those who are huge fans might be surprised to know that our family has a lot of tensions and quirks. We have dysfunction and conflict. We don’t always get along very well. It’s not the idyllic repository of peace and knowledge they might have painted a picture of in their heads.

Much more has already been written about all that has taken place in the Piper home. It’s not a pretty story, and I have little to add other than to highlight two insightful and often overlooked comments made by Barnabas Piper. One involves theology, and the other revolves around child-rearing.

#1) Theological

Religious New Service: What is one thing people would be shocked to learn about the Piper household?

Barnabas Piper: Depends on who you ask. Those who are huge fans might be surprised to know that our family has a lot of tensions and quirks. We have dysfunction and conflict. We don’t always get along very well. It’s not the idyllic repository of peace and knowledge they might have painted a picture of in their heads.

Religious New Service: A while back, your dad rather publicly enacted church discipline on your brother, and even excommunicated him from the church. Did you support this at the time?

Barnabas Piper: I understood. “Support” might be a bit too strong because it was too sad to be supportive of. My brother at that time was not a believer, by his own admission. So it was a case of removal from church membership after years of trying to restore him. Also to say my dad did the discipline isn’t quite fair. It was a decision by a board of elders. In all, I understood why it happened based on the church’s membership standards, but I always felt the sense that it had to do with the “manage your household” criteria out of 1 Timothy too. And that made it feel like something unique to a family in our position.

^

It was both comments — “at that time was not a believer . . . . trying to restore him,” that came across so strange. Barnabas is speaking about his brother’s behavior as a “young man.” Abraham’s ex-communication took place at the age of 19. Now, Abraham was either a believer or not a believer at a point in time. [4] He was either a rebellious believer at the age of 19 or he was never an actual believer in the atoning work of Christ. He was either a professor of saving faith, or a possessor of saving faith at the age of 19. Therefore, Barnabas seems to be saying that “at that time” when he was 19, he was not a believer.

However, you don’t “restore” someone who was never a believer. “After years of trying to restore him” implies that he was a believer and that he needed to begin living as a believer.

“After years of trying to restore him” is an odd way of speaking about salvation or coming to Christ. But it is not an odd way for some who hold to the theological ideology of Dr. John Piper — “Calvinism.”

It is one thing to say some only profess Christ, and later come to the realization they never were actually believers in the work of Christ for them on Calvary. That is not “restore.” That is putting one’s faith in the work of Christ and being “born-again.” for one’s salvation. The wording used by Barnabas does not fit that scenario.

There have been numerous articles on whether a “5-point Calvinist” can actually hold to the doctrine of eternal security. Merely google the numerous articles — “Calvinism Eternal Security” – which address this issue. There is a reason for the endless list of articles that appear — the Calvinistic teaching of “The Perseverance of the Saints.” [6] [7]

Barnabas Piper clearly understands and reflects his father’s position and teaching about Saving Grace – or not so saving Grace! [8]

^

#2) Child-Rearing

Religious New Service: What was the biggest negative you experienced growing up in the Piper household? . . . 

Barnabas Piper: The biggest negative was not connecting with God in a personal way. My dad’s view of, and relationship with, God is so big and so powerful that it looked like the only way to come to God. But it didn’t work for me. It wasn’t until I was out of college and things kind of fell apart for me that I encountered God’s grace and the person of Jesus in a profound way on my own.

What Barnabas Piper states about his rebellion against his parents and home life is instructive! It highlights at least one of the causes accounting for what is sometimes seen by members of a local church.

As stated by Barnabas Piper, some pastors “lose their children” because of their theological ideology. Some pastors see life and living through “Calvinist Glasses” that allow for the possibility of constructing an unreachable high and holy God. The message sent and received is that if a believer loves God anything less than they do, anything less than total commitment, there can be no relationship with Him. No matter what your age, situation, background, growth, the period in life they found Christ, or lifelong experiences — if you don’t desperately love Jesus for all that He is — AND NOW —  you have woefully fallen short of what it means to be a Christian — and you may not even be saved!

With that approach, the average “Joe” just can never measure up. The choices are – love God desperately and be satisfied in Him alone, or fly coach, be second class —at best — maybe you are not a Christian at all. There is little to no room for real struggle, ups and downs, less than “all our hearts.” It is all or nothing!

There is little room for progressive sanctification — experiencing great success in one area and significant struggles in another, periods of dryness and periods of great communion, times of severe struggle and times of great victory, for periods of great service and periods of hindered service, et al.

^

While I stated the other revolves around child-rearing, it also revolves around preaching and teaching. The impact of what Barnabas Piper describes is not only about him personally, but it goes well beyond the walls of his home.

When a pastor, such as John Piper, infuses this type of thinking in his home, be assured it is also taught in the local church setting. As people pick up on this “pastoral home tone,” it infects other families with that same all-or-nothing level of Christian living!

Insecurities and doubts intrude after a sermon and throughout the weeks that follow. Those sitting under a pastor’s ministry began to absorb the same tone and attitude. They may begin to wonder why they feel so different about their relationship with Christ. No longer is our understanding about our relationship with Christ as Dane Ortlund [7] so warmly states . . . . .

“[Justification] is the most counterintuitive aspect of Christianity, that we are declared right with God not once we begin to get our act together but once we collapse into honest acknowledgement that we never will.”

“Intercession is the constant hitting ‘refresh’ of our justification in the court of heaven.”

“Christ turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness…to avert his gaze from our sins.”

“Christ continues to intercede on our behalf in heaven because we continue to fail here in earth. He does not forgive us through his work on the cross and then hope we make it the rest of the way.”

“Our prayer life stinks most of the time. But what if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room? Few things would calm us more deeply.”

~ “Gentle And Lowly” Chapter 8

Why? Because a God who is unreachable and may no longer really like us anymore, no less love us, is the tone of sermon after sermon. The spirit felt is that maybe we can never attain and be totally committed as we sincerely pursue — and as some claim, they themselves have attained, from the pulpit!



P.S.

Barnabas repeatedly cites how many PKs he has spoken with around the country. He speaks of how many PKs have fallen away, and how many live their lives for Him. Whether Barnabas Piper’s experience accurately reflects the PK world, I have no way to assess it. While I have seen PKs rebel against the home life of their parents, my experience says that it is not as typical as Barnabas Piper would like to suggest and thereby increase his comfortability with his own response.

Ruth and I raised four PKs. I made it clear to our family that I would leave the ministry before watching any of our children rebel against all we believe and I preach. If I can’t sell a love for the Lord at home, then I will not sell it to others.

I want to say THANK YOU to the hundreds of PKs who were examples in the church to other families, fellow teens, and their brothers and sisters. Thank you for being than youthful example, and surely for those and others who struggled in the arena, fought the good fight (and it is a good fight), and were not bitter, but enjoyed the ministry, along with mom and dad! 

A special thanks to our four PKs! 

When mom and I die, we are leaving behind four more soldiers to take our place, and 13 engaged or in training should our Lord tarry!

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

1. https://faithit.com/marriage-is-over-barnabas-piper/

2. http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/11/19/barnabas-piper-pushes-back-at-john-piper-on-divorce-and-pastor-david-derksen-writes-a-grace-filled-book-on-divorce-and-infidelity/

3. https://churchleaders.com/news/394762-not-desiring-god-john-pipers-son-criticizes-his-upbringing-to-925k-tiktok-followers.html

4. Becoming a believer takes place at a point in time. That is why it is called “born-again,” compared to marriage/wedding, spoken of as “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” and illustrated by the thief on the cross — “the guy on the middle cross said I can come.” [5]. We are then called on as believers to live out that new birth, that union with Christ, our salvation, and the declaration that nothing can now separate us from the love of God which is found iin Christ Jesus.

5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xk9wgJBoEd8

6. There are many who are “Calvinistic” in that they question one or two of the five points — the “L” and the “P” of T-U-L-I-P. They do not hold to or significantly divert on the “Limited Atonement” and “Perseverance of the Saints.”

7. Those who are “5-Point Calvinists” in the full sense hold to Calvin’s understanding of the doctrines of grace. Likewise, their preaching reflects the tone and spirit of Calvinism. There is a repeated emphasis on the possibility of not really being a Christian and even the hint that you may have lost your position in Christ. I say hint, because with some, the sermon is fogged up with affirmations that they are not saying what they are saying — They are not saying you can lose your salvation, but it sure sounds like that is what they are saying!

Dane Ortlund’s book “Gentle and Lowly “is so popular because it is such a contrast to such preaching found across America’s pulpit today!

8. If you want to see the double talk, reconcile these statements . . . .

“It follows from what was just said that the people of God WILL persevere to the end and not be lost. The foreknown are predestined, the predestined are called, the called are justified, and the justified are glorified. No one is lost from this group. To belong to this people is to be eternally secure.”

Our faith must endure to the end if we are to be saved. . . . Obedience, evidencing inner renewal from God, is necessary for final salvation. . . .There is a falling away of some believers, but if it persists, it shows that their faith was not genuine and they were not born of God. . . . The fact that such a thing is possible is precisely why the ministry of the Word in every local church must contain many admonitions to the church members to persevere in faith and not be entangled in those things which could possibly strangle them and result in their condemnation. God justifies us on the first genuine act of saving faith, but in doing so he has a view to all subsequent acts of faith contained, as it were, like a seed in that first act.”

Link: To the full PDF by John Piper On Perseverance of the Saints

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