[*] FBFI and Piper

I ran into this at the Sharper Iron forums:
FBFI Resolution 05-02: On the Ministry of John Piper
While recognizing much that is commendable in the ministry of John Piper, including his emphasis on a passionately God-centered life and his identity as a theological conservative, the FBFI has some genuine concerns about his doctrine and practice. John Piper teaches in his local ministry that miraculous sign gifts are continuing. Piper has also failed to separate from the Baptist General Conference which has deliberately chosen to tolerate the heresy known as open theism in its membership. He also enthusiastically endorses Daniel Fuller, who has championed the attack on the inerrancy of scripture in our generation. The great popularity of Piper’s writings, especially among younger fundamentalists, requires that FBFI warn its members concerning Piper’s non-separatist position and, for those who read his works, to do so with careful discernment.
OK -- the resolution says 3 things about Piper that are supposed to raise concerns. (I underlined them)

The first one seems to be classic Baptist nit-picking. You mean Piper has the audacity to preach that miraculous signs are still being manifetsed in the Church? If you look here, you can find this summary at the end of Piper's long discussion of this topic, from 1991:
I have come to the point of seeing that the risk lies in the other direction. It would be a risk not to seek spiritual gifts for myself and my church. It would be a risk not to pray with the early church, "Grant your servants to speak your word with boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through your holy servant Jesus." Disobedience is always a greater risk than obedience.

Much of my experience disinclines me to "earnestly desire spiritual gifts" especially the gift of prophecy. However, I do not base my prayer for such spiritual empowering on experience, but on the Bible. The Scripture is sufficient for all circumstances by teaching us the means of grace to be used in all circumstances. And I agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones that one of the means of grace needed in our day is the extraordinary demonstration of power by signs and wonders.
I would encourage anybody who wants to criticize this position (and I would be one of them) to go and read all of what Piper writes in this particular essay, because he is not proposing any kind of heresy or errancy in putting forth his view. We may not like it, and we may refrain from exhorting this view of Scriptural and practical reasons, but that doesn't make Piper a theological persona non grata.

The second point underlined above is that Piper has never separated from the BGC in spite of its association with Open Theism. I would propose that the BGC cannot be reformed from its error unless men like John Piper stay in the body to refute errors and turn a brother away from sin. At the same time, I would also note that you cannot find open theism in Piper -- it is without any evidence. So to say, "well, he hasn't made his church find a new fellowship so he must be in cahoots with those Open Theists," is to make him guilty by association, not by example or evidence.

However, the last point is somewhat distressing. There is no doubt that Piper was a student of Fuller and openly calls him a "hero". But it is hard to say that Fuller "championed the attack" on inerrancy in this or any generation as Fuller was pretty strict to demand that the Bible is, in fact, "inerrant". The question is whether Fuller's definition of "inerrant" is actually "full" enough. To put a fine point on it, Fuller is often quoted as saying, "A communication can be in error only if it fails to live up to the intention of its author...if they fulfill this intention we regard them as inerrant. (The purpose of biblical writers was) to report the happenings and meanings of the redemptive acts of God in history so that men might be made wise unto salvation." As Geisler points out, this view of inerrancy makes almost any text an inerrant one, but does that mean that Fuller was himself opposed to reading the Bible as if it were without any errors?

There is a great essay on this by Dr. Greg Bahnsen, in which the discussion of this issue between Fuller and Clark pinnock is reviewed and examined. In the end, Bahnsen (as you can imagine) states that the inductive method proposed by both men in regard to Scripture is inadequate for the task that they are undertaking. He says in summary:
After a sober consideration ... it ought to be quite clear that neutral and presuppositionless reasoning does not and cannot have full control in Fuller's or Pinnock's inductivism. The very use of that epistemology commits one to a great deal of unargued philosophical baggage. By its use one wittingly or unwittingly endorses certain crucial assumptions. And in connection with a commitment to inductivism, one inescapably must face difficult philosophical questions pertaining to epistemology and ontology, questions that can be left unanswered only at the price of theoretical arbitrariness and disrespect for the very justifying considerations that inductivism demands for our every commitment -- from beginning to end.
Lastly, Bahnsen wrote this about the Fuller-Pinnock debate:
The classic inter-school encounter between Pinnock and Fuller points beyond itself to the basic and inescapable need for a presuppositional apologetic, rather than the allegedly pure inductivism espoused by Pinnock and Fuller. {Emph Added}
Bahnsen's point was that (at this point in time) neither Pinnock nor Fuller were assailing the inerrancy of Scripture but were employing an apologetic system to establish the inerrancy of Scripture. Fuller may have been, in retrospect, an advocate of what the limits of inerrancy were, but (within the limits of my own scope of reading) I am not aware that he ever advocated that the Bible was not inerrant. I am also unaware in any case that Piper ever advocates for errancy -- or that he advocates for the merely-limited inerrancy Fuller advocated.

In all of this, I wonder what the the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International is trying to warn us about? Maybe I'm missing something here ...

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| UPDATE |
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I found this blog entry by Paleoevangelical, and it offers a very important link for the discussion, above.

One important addendum/correction to my blog entry would be: apparently, Fuller has abandoned inerrancy. I was unaware of this, and my ignorance is my own fault. I'm pleased to stand corrected, but sad that it is a correction which demonstrates how one influential man has compromised his view of Scripture.

Other than that, I'm going to follow this discussion with interest.

3 comments:

Peter Bogert said...

A long discussion about this kind of thing was held here some weeks back: http://getnewhope.blogs.com/personal_trainer/2005/03/some_thoughts_a.html#comments

centuri0n said...

Rev. Peter --

I appreciate the link and I am flattered you stopped by. Thanks for noticing me. :-)

Glennsp said...

The FBFI obviously haven't a clue what they are talking about. John Piper has obviously upset someone in the FBFI and they are throwing a tantrum.
Best to ignore them until they calm down.