Kline Was on to Piper Back in ’94

After reading This Post, much of the long and meandering comment thread that followed, a few follow-up posts, and taking-in all I could stand of the related videos, I was reminded again of This Outstanding Article and its final paragraph:

The assault on classic covenant theology of which Fuller has become a vociferous spokesman is being endorsed by some prominent leaders within even the broadly Reformed wing of evangelicalism. For example, in the foreword to Fuller’s The Unity of the Bible, John Piper, a popular lecturer at Reformed gatherings, tells us that “no book besides the Bible has had a greater influence on my life” than this one—an influence that has led him to dismiss covenant theology as not essential to a Reformed theology. It is imperative, therefore, that we who would maintain the Reformed faith recognize the Fuller theology for what it is: a radical renunciation of the Reformation, a subtle surrender to Rome. May we continue to cherish covenant theology, and in particular its precious doctrine of the righteousness secured for us by the active obedience of Christ. As Machen said: “No hope without it!”

*My emphasis

And I was reminded again of Kline’s greatness.

Kline knew.

***Update
Kline was still on to Piper two years later. Rube has shared this quote from Kline’s Kingdom Prologue lectures:

Piper is supposed to be a great Calvinistic preacher and so on, and he hates the idea of the covenant, and he hates the idea of works, and so he is destroying the gospel in the stuff that he writes, and whatever good things he is saying in some books it makes me cringe then when his books are urged upon people to read, because mixed in with them is this stuff which undercuts the gospel of saving grace, because he has no room for the idea of works, and that means there’s no room for the idea of Jesus’ works either, as the meritorious ground of your salvation.

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18 Responses to Kline Was on to Piper Back in ’94

  1. Wayne says:

    Wow! That’s all I can say to Kline’s thoughts on Piper. Brilliant!

  2. Zrim says:

    Insofar as Piper, a form of Anabaptist, really descends from the Radical Reformation instead of the Protestant Reformation, I doubt his is “a subtle surrender to Rome.”

    Still, and speaking of Machen, you gotta love confessional instincts like Kline’s.

  3. Rick says:

    Z,
    I think that statement was aimed more at Fuller and the drift from classic covenant theology, which is a drift away from the Reformed doctrine of justification. I don’t think It wasn’t aimed as much at Piper, who seemed to be drifting in to the Reformed understanding of things – but proved to reject covenant theology.

  4. sean says:

    Zrim,

    I’m not so sure those are confessional instincts on Kline’s part, as you would mean it (i.e. confessional maximalism), but an immovable commitment to the COW and strict justice in the garden. I can line you up a fairly well respected group within the confessional reformed community who would balk at the idea of strict justice, and it’s just that group that gives me reticence to go as far as Clark in pushing for confessional maximalism. I don’t trust their instincts. Let’s see Murray’s novel conception of covenant adjudicated against, then we can talk.

  5. RubeRad says:

    In Kline’s lectures on Kingdom Prologue, (1996?) he rips Piper pretty good:

    Piper is supposed to be a great Calvinistic preacher and so on, and he hates the idea of the covenant, and he hates the idea of works, and so he is destroying the gospel in the stuff that he writes, and whatever good things he is saying in some books it makes me cringe then when his books are urged upon people to read, because mixed in with them is this stuff which undercuts the gospel of saving grace, because he has no room for the idea of works, and that means there’s no room for the idea of Jesus’ works either, as the meritorious ground of your salvation

    Also, he addresses Murray, but more gently. Murray redefined “covenant” to be essentially gracious, but it wasn’t until others picked up that ball and ran with it that people started to go off the rails wrt the worky nature of Adam’s relationship with God.

  6. Rick says:

    Rube – that’s even better. I may update the post.

    As for Murray: he’s did a lot of great work – but he really muddied the waters on this with his view. The original “Covenant Theology Under Attack” criticized him on it – but in order to be published in New Horizions he needed to take out those references…but that gave us the Piper reference.

  7. mboss says:

    Forgive me if I’m off base, but is Kline’s critique a more sophisticated way of stating my gut reaction to some of Piper’s writings that he seems at times to confuse law and gospel (e.g. “Don’t Waste Your Life” or “Desiring God”)?

  8. Rick says:

    boss,
    Well, yes. The confusion of (or lack of contrast between) law and gospel, a monocovenantalism, is what Kline is critiquing in the article.

  9. sean says:

    And to this day the OPC struggles with this error because of it’s fondness/allegiance to Murray’s invention and the subsequent building on it. Whether it’s Gaffin’s union and what it may or may not mean-depending on who you ask. Acquitting Kinnard (sp?), but letting so cal presby have at Irons. Then Mark Garcia nailing CJPM for it’s lutheran law/gospel “error”-more of Gaffin’s union implications-and the fallout continues

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  11. Rick says:

    Sean,

    One wonders if Machen’s death-bed telegram ever made it through.

    Here is the original article.

  12. sean says:

    Rick,

    Yeah, I doubt Murray realized his invention was going to undermine justification, but his successors sure enough have realized the implications and in Sheppard for certain and less so in Gaffin have tried to capitalize upon the turn as a way forward for a uniquely “reformed” way to understand and talk about justification. As so often happens the wheel is now square.

  13. David says:

    Perchance the problem of distinction between Law-Gospel in Piper can be seen in his use of WSC 1. While it is true that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever, this is in fact Law and not Gospel. Piper seems to have elevated this to the Gospel. For as Heidelberg Catechism 3-5 point out the Commands to Love God and neighbor function to show us our misery and not as a summary of the Gospel.

  14. elnwood says:

    Funny, I recently read a Reformed blog that said that Meredith Kline is a heretic (http://reformedcovenanter.wordpress.com/2009/01/14/the-heresies-of-meredith-kline/, cf. Reformed Standard), and here Meredith Kline is saying that John Piper is destroying the gospel.

    There certainly is a lot of name-calling (at best) going around the Reformed sphere.

  15. Zrim says:

    Eln,

    “Reformed” is a weird name for people like us who are so incorrigible, isn’t it?

    But where Reformed Covies accuse us two-kingdomites of heresy all we say is that they are Calvinism’s version of Methodism who won’t ‘fess up to their inner evangelical. You decide which one is more uncharitable and overdone.

  16. John Yeazel says:

    Don’t forget us confused Lutherans who cannot decide whether they are more Reformed or Lutheran. I am tired of any form of self-justification, self-sanctification or self-glorification. The enemy is so subtle, wiley and crafty that we have to be on our guard 24 hours a day. But Christ has done all that work for us- I can now safely rest in that and guard the post he has assigned me to in my remaining days on earth. May all the glory go to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgements and inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever Amen. (Romans 11:34-36)

  17. Mark Seifrid accused John Piper of being ‘nearly Tridentine’ on justification. In the interests of shameless plugs, you can read the quote here:

    http://restlessandreforming.blogspot.com/2009/07/mark-seifrid-piper-nearly-tridentine-on.html

  18. Derek says:

    Piper has essentially repented from the views he put forth in Future Grace regarding the Covenant of Works.

    See here: http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/john-piper-future-grace-recantation-468/

    David Wells also mentioned this in a theology class I took.

    Also, it’s hard to read ‘Counted Righteous in Christ’ and Piper’s response to Wright and think that he doesn’t believe in the Cow.

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