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on March 9, 2011
As the title suggests, _Rethinking Retirement_ by veteran pastor-theologian John Piper challenges traditional views of retirement. At the outset of this small booklet of roughly 30 pages, Piper lays his cards on the table: "Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement." (p. 6)

It will likely come as no surprise that Piper specifically targets baby boomers in this booklet since many of them are near or in retirement right now. Identifying as a baby boomer himself, Piper points out that research shows the baby boomer generation to be generally a selfish generation (p. 23). This may mean that counter-cultural efforts are required if Christian baby boomers are to finish the Christian life well in America. Says Piper, "Millions of Christian men and women are finishing their formal careers in their fifties and sixties, and for most of them there will be a good twenty years before their physical and mental powers fail. What will it mean to live those final years for the glory of Christ?" (pp. 24-25)

The question, then, has to do with a "theology of time." How do Christians use their time at the end of life in ways that please God? If they've worked a long, hard, productive life, will God be happy if they rest, play, and travel in their last years?

Piper's answer is that God is pleased when we use our time in retirement - indeed, at any point in life - to make him look glorious (p. 9). To operationalize that a bit, God is pleased when we do things in retirement that show that we are more in love with him than we are with the typical, American retirement lifestyle. When we serve others more than ourselves.

Wearing his pastor hat, Piper spends some time in this booklet dealing with a fear that presumably afflicts many Christians (count me in), namely, the fear of not finishing life well (p. 10). He notes that there are two responses to this fear, each being spiritually damaging. One response is to say that finishing life well doesn't matter. The other response is to say that it does matter and then to rely on one's own efforts and strength to persevere well onto the end (p. 11). Piper forges a middle-road response to this fear, affirming the necessity of perseverance for salvation, but denying any reliance on our own strength to achieve it. He says, "So what is the right way to overcome the fear of not persevering in old age? The key is to keep finding in Christ our highest Treasure. This is not mainly the fight to do but the fight to delight." (p. 17)

Along the way, Piper offers some inspiring stories of Christians who finished their lives well including Raymond Lull, Polycarp, Charles Simeon, and J. Oswald Sanders. It was the latter who said, "O God, don't let me waste my final years! Don't let me buy the American dream of retirement - month after month of leisure and play and hobbies and putzing around in the garage and rearranging the furniture and golfing and fishing and sitting and watching television. Lord, please have mercy on me. Spare me this curse." (pp. 27-28)

I myself am just entering my 30s, but I have been thinking a lot about retirement. This is in part because of the prognosticators who are saying that my generation will not be able to retire due to the ageing population and the lowering worker-to-retiree ratio, which will require that productive citizens work longer to pay for the government entitlements (e.g., social security, healthcare) promised to retirees.

But the more important question is whether the retirement lifestyle is pleasing to God. Piper's small booklet offers a hard-hitting and convicting answer to this question. It whets my appetite for more detailed reflections on this subject.
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on November 11, 2013
What's the stereotype of the Calvinist? Depending on who you talk to, you'll probably hear something like this: he's a grumpy, joyless, theological nitpick who obsesses over an acronym and secretly (or maybe not so secretly) relishes the thought of people spending eternity in Hell.

But should this be the case?

Should the so-called doctrines of grace really lead to a lack of grace among God's people?

John Piper certainly doesn't believe so. Instead, he firmly believes that our doctrine should bring us joy. So, with that in mind, he's penned this short book, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace. In ten easy-to-read chapters, Piper sets TULIP--total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints--in its historical context, offers a brief biblical survey for each, as well as the personal and historical testimonies of many faithful men of God who truly did believe that these truths are essential to our faith.

Piper's goal is less about defending the five points of Calvinism for the sake of defending Calvinism as it is helping readers better see God--not just for the sake of knowing what He is like, but enjoying Him. "[T]o enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring," Piper writes. "If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy, as when the fog clears and you find yourself on the brink of some vast precipice." (8)

What's most helpful in the book is, I believe, Piper's honesty about his own view of the five points. One can't help but come away from the book thinking Piper isn't as much a fan of the modern construct of TULIP as he is the realities they point to:

* He sees the implications of the doctrine of total depravity--of man's open and continual rebellion against his Creator--and it causes him to wonder at the mercy of God.
* He sees the necessity of understanding exactly for whom Christ died, but not so he can rejoice in the fate of those who die apart from Christ, but because the definitive nature of the cross should cause us to rejoice and to realize that Christ's sheep are far more numerous than we might be tempted to believe.
* He sees the unconditional nature of election as being a wonderful beacon of hope, for if salvation depended on anything but God loving us simply because He loves us, we'd be doomed.

Piper's point again and again is simple: when we see the five points rightly, they should cause us to give thanks for the wondrous grace of God.

"If we want to go deeper in our experience of God's grace this is an ocean of love for us to enjoy. God does not mean for the bride of his Son to only feel loved with general, world-embracing love. He means for her to feel ravished with the specificity of his affection that he set on her before the world existed. He means for us to feel a focused: 'I chose you. And I sent my Son to die to have you.'" (52)

Not too long ago, I was roped into an online conversation about the angry perception of Calvinists and the problem of TULIP. One gentleman pointed out that he sees a consistent problem with TULIP--that it leads not to joy but to condemning anger. When reading this book, I had this person in mind. Is this the kind of book I'd give to this man? Did it perpetuate the stereotype he believes is more or less true of many who hold to the five points--is this yet another "angry Calvinist" manifesto?

Although he doesn't shy away from calling into question certain interpretations of Scripture's teaching, Piper's language is far from combative. Instead, there's more of an earnest sense of wonder that permeates the book's pages. Piper desperately wants to see the love of God in the five points of Calvinism; to see the doctrines of grace manifest their fruit: faithful joy in the lives of God's people. Five Points is the kind of book I want to give to the person who struggles with the idea of Calvinism. It's readable, challenging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, faithful to God's Word.
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on November 19, 2013
John Piper, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace (Ross-Shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2013). Ppb, 94 pgs. $8.99.

A Review by Brian H. Cosby

Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church, recently articulated 12 sources God has used to reinvigorate Reformed theology among a younger generation in our day. Among them, he named John Piper. Piper, said Dever, is probably “the single most potent factor in the recent rise of Reformed theology.” As part of the young, restless, and Reformed movement myself, I concur.

Piper’s new book, Five Points, summarizes the basic doctrines of Reformed theology in a clear, accessible, and winsome way. If you’re wondering, “What are the ‘five points of Calvinism’ all about?” this book is for you.

John Piper served as Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 33 years before stepping down earlier this year to devote his time to the ministry he founded, Desiring God. He is an award-winning author of a number of books including Desiring God, Don’t Waste Your Life, God’s Passion for His Glory, and Finally Alive.

Although the so-called “five points of Calvin” didn’t actually come from John Calvin in its present-day form—they find their roots in the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619—Calvin certainly affirmed all five in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559). The five points, known by the acronym TULIP, are:

1. Total Depravity
2. Unconditional Election
3. Limited Atonement
4. Irresistible Grace
5. Perseverance of the Saints

After a pastoral introduction and some historical context, Piper goes through each of these, though not in this order. While he values the traditional order of TULIP, he says, “people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians” (14). Thus, the order Piper outlines throughout the book is:

1. Total Depravity
2. Irresistible Grace
3. Limited Atonement
4. Unconditional Election
5. Perseverance of the Saints

Like many pastors and theologians, Piper acknowledges that these labels have been and continue to be misunderstood. For example, “Perseverance of the Saints” might communicate to some that we are the ones who make it to the end by our own effort and works; that God starts us in the right direction, but it’s up to us to continue on to glory. This would be the opposite teaching of perseverance.

Piper also gives some rationale and defense for this book, placing his starting point with Scripture: "I do not begin as a Calvinist and defend a system. I begin as a Bible-believing Christian who wants to put the Bible above all systems of thought. But over the years—many years of struggle—I have deepened in my conviction that Calvinistic teachings on the five points are biblical and therefore true, and therefore a precious pathway into deeper experiences of God’s grace" (9).

Two points from the book stood out particularly to me. First, the God-ness of God. I came away with a greater appreciation of the truth that God is self-sufficient, complete in himself from all eternity. He does not need us, but loves us when there was no condition in us to love. In an age that is brimming with narcissism and self-help “guides,” we should be radically God-centered in our theology and worship.

The second point that I found particularly helpful in Five Points was the personal and historical testimonies at the end of the book on the “doctrines of grace,” as the five points are oftentimes called. Piper pulls back the curtain to his own life experience with these five points and this only gave the book a raw, down-to-earth, practical side—helping the reader experience these doctrines for himself. They are not ethereal ideologies, but concrete and living truths we can experience now.

I highly commend Five Points to those who have no idea what all the fuss is about, but also to the highly trained pastor, wanting to somehow communicate biblical doctrine in a clear and pastoral way.
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on December 8, 2011
Point: Don't waste your final years by living for meaningless pursuits which quickly fade. Live to love Christ.

Path: Piper encourages believers to persevere to the end through evading two deadly traps. One trap is believing that perseverance in unnecessary. The other trap is that perseverance puts or keeps God on our side. Both are false views.

Sources: By using examples from the ages and Scripture passages, Piper shows the danger and foolishness of living the "American Dream."

Agreement: Why do we expect and feel as though we deserve retirement? Have any of the great individuals of history ever retired?

Personal App: Am I merely seeking to save my life in my everyday pursuits and goals?
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on September 1, 2013
As a 60+ Boomer with one more young child, a realistic look at our country's economic situation has me convinced that retirement won't be an option for me. Even though I enjoy my profession (most of the time) there are days when I long to be doing something that will have more impact but also feel great uncertainty about how I could then provide for my family. John Piper succinctly reminds me about the promises of God and His faithfulness. He provides historical examples of believers who trusted God into old age and delighted in Christ as we all should at every stage of life. Piper gives a challenge, but not specifics. Clearly it's up to me to still pray diligently to know God's will for these times and to feel the urgency to follow where He leads.
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on July 20, 2014
Outstanding, but read at your own risk!! This booklet is not for the faint of heart & may devastate your personal retirement plans. But who wants to sit back & "take it easy" while serving our Lord & Savior in the midst of spiritual warfare? We can 'rest' when we get to heaven. A must read!! Ray H
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on November 15, 2013
The topic of Calvinism and the acronym known as TULIP most often associated with and used to describe that theological system has certainly seen its share of scholarly books written about the purported pros and cons contained in its approach. Many volumes grace my own bookshelves on this topic so who really needs yet another book on how to understand Calvinism, right? The answer is I submit is there is still room to discuss the issue of God’s sovereignty and grace and Dr. John Piper in his latest book Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace does a tremendous job of explaining why we should care.

Unlike other more voluminous books on the subject, Five Points is Piper’s effort to break the issue down to its basic roots, focusing on the so what of TULIP in a very practical and useful manner. As he rightfully notes at the outset of the book, “These five points are still at the heart of biblical theology. They are not unimportant. Where we stand on these things deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions.” For those unfamiliar with what TULIP stands for, the acronym is broken down as follows: (T) Total depravity, (U) Unconditional election, (L) Limited atonement, (I) Irresistible grace, and (P) Perseverance of the saints. In this book, Piper engages each element of TULIP while also providing a personal testimony of the impact of this issue in his own life, concluding the book with testimonies from some great church leaders of yesteryear as to why this issue is so important to include its impact on their lives and ministries.

For a book just shy of 100 pages, it is nevertheless packed full of valuable insight. Piper is very gifted at taking a rather complicated theological issue and breaking it down to its component parts in a way that both scholars and laymen will find helpful. In his discussion of total depravity, Piper aptly comments “total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sinful, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.” A rather depressing statement some may say, but as Piper also notes, this reality check leads to the real thrust of this book, namely a discussion of God’s grace towards filthy rebellious sinners.

I appreciated how Piper mixed up the order of TULIP choosing to discuss the topic of irresistible grace immediately after the chapter on total depravity. Such an approach immediately shifts the focus of the discussion where it belongs, that of identifying the solution to the problem and how that solution plays out in our lives. Our movement from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God is definitely not due to anything act we could conjure up or perform. When you think about it that is really a good thing for it places us at the foot of the cross as the starting point for how to deal with this sin problem. Piper rightly comments “One of the most wonderful statements about how all of us were brought from blindness to sight – from bondage to freedom, from death to life – is: “God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” This irresistible grace draws us to the light found at the cross where the penalty of sin was paid on our behalf.

Arguably, one of the thornier issues when it comes to Calvinism is that of unconditional election or the idea that God elected certain people from before the foundation of the world to be His. Numerous debates have taken place on the veracity of this concept as well as how it works. In its simplest form, election is the idea that God chose whom He would save. It is unconditional as Piper notes because “there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save Him.” Admittedly, this is a difficult topic to grasp and it really comes down to simply having faith in God’s sovereignty and the fact that while hard to understand, this is nevertheless a truth found throughout Scripture. Piper does an excellent job of walking the reader through this element of Calvinism. For example, He engages passage such as Romans 8:28-33, Romans 9, and Ephesians 1:3-6. Romans 8 is perhaps the most important passage on this subject and Piper spend a good amount of time and effort discussing this passage. He aptly states “what this magnificent text teaches is that God really accomplishes the complete redemption of his people from start to finish. He foreknows (that is, elects) a people for himself before the foundation of the world, he predestines this people to be conformed to the image of his Son, he calls them to himself in faith, he justifies them through that faith alone, and he finally glorifies them.” Quite frankly, that is TULIP in a nutshell.

Those desiring to better understand Calvinism and how God’s grace operates in the life of the believer from beginning to end will truly appreciate Piper’s book. It is informative without being too scholarly, short without overlooking the relevant issues and it will provide the reader with an excellent overview of this topic and why the reader should care. While it will not stop the age old Calvinism/Arminianism debate, it will provide some valuable food for thought in a way every reader will appreciate.

I received this book for free from Christian Focus Publications via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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on July 3, 2016
Disclaimer: while this review is critical in nature, it’s not my place to judge Piper’s motives, sincerely, or faith. All believers will stand before Jesus Christ soon to give an account —starting with myself. The critical standard applied to Mr. Piper’s book should be equally applied to this review based on the Word of God.

John Piper confesses some of the theological implications of embracing Calvinism. He writes, "Where we stand on these things [five points of Calvinism] deeply affects our view of God, man, salvation, the atonement, regeneration, assurance, worship, and missions" (location 74; Amazon Kindle).

Because the theological implications of embracing Calvinism are radical, a wise and prudent person should meticulously examine the Word of God as a Berean (Acts 17:11).

This review is written with a bias. God's Word is the absolute, final standard for faith and practice. Therefore, no creed, tradition, or church theologian (to include John Piper) decrees doctrinal truth for the church.

God's Word is applicable for church doctrine when established principles of interpretation are observed. These are not limited to a consideration of context, genre, rules of grammar, and drawing out the author's intent.

Today's Calvinism was started by Augustine [link] (354-430). He was an influential theologian of the Roman Catholic Church. Augustine's beliefs were further refined over hundreds of years into what is today called Calvinism.

CHAPTER THREE, TOTAL DEPRAVITY

The first pillar of Calvinism (of five) is called Total Depravity. The entire system stands or falls based on the integrity of this structure.

If total depravity were true, this pillar would withstand intense scrutiny imposed by a rigorous examination under the microscope of Scripture. Should this doctrine be in error, the entire structure supporting Calvinism collapses.

The test of legitimacy must include the entire structure and not select portions of it. This is because Satan regularly packages theological lies by including enough kernels of truth to deceive. In the Garden of Eden, Satan mixed truth with lies to perpetuate the greatest fall that man has ever experienced. This tactic continues to be used by Satan.

The question before us is not if man is sinful (Romans 3:23), but the extent of man's depravity. Do the spiritually dead have the ability to accept the gracious offer of salvation made available to all (Matthew 11:28; John 3:16; Acts 13:39; Romans 10:9-13; etc.)?

In this chapter, Piper used 31 passages to make his case for the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. To avoid writing a book, only his primary proofs texts will be examined.

Before we begin, lets cover two different methods of biblical interpretation. They are eisegesis (Italics) and exegesis (italics). In the book, Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth, Roy Zuck defines eisegesis as, "reading into Scripture something that is not there" (1991, 216-217). This involves assigning a different meaning than the author intended. This practice is frequently used to illegitimately authenticate false doctrine.

In contrast, exegesis is defined as "the determination of the meaning of the biblical text in its historical and literary contexts" (Zuck, 1991,19-20). It's impossible to practice exegesis when a predefined theological grid dominates the interpretation process.

This is the first verse that Piper cites: "But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23, ESV). An exegetical understanding of this verse within context conclusively establishes that Paul IS addressing the subject of Christian liberty and NOT the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity.

Piper writes, "Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondary in relation to man" (Location 162). Piper's conclusion has no place for church doctrine. Piper's eisegesis is dishonorable. It substitutes the author's intended meaning with a counterfeit. If Calvinism is true, the test of legitimacy is an exegetical driven interpretation.

The primary passage used by Calvinists to support the doctrine of total depravity is Romans 3:9-12. Therefore, it will be covered in more depth. Before we quote some of Piper's commentary, let's examine it:

"What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:9-18; ESV).

In verse nine, Paul states that both Jews and Gentiles are guilty sinners: "For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin." The verses that follow (v. 10-17), contain Old Testament poetry with hyperbole (Psalm 5:9; 10:7; 14:1-3; 36:1; 53:1-3; 140:3; Proverbs 1:16; Isaiah 59:7-8; Jeremiah 5:16) to support this premise (universal effect of sin). An exegetical interpretation considers that poetry and hyperbole are included in this passage (v. 10-17).

In the book, Grasping God's Word, authors Duvall and Hays (2005, 353) state the following facts related to Old Testament poetry: "If we want to understand the author's of the Old Testament, it is critical that we recognize figures of speech when they are used and that we interpret them as figures of speech and not as literal realities."

In these verses, Paul uses a figure of speech called hyperbole (italics). According to the book, How to Read the Bible as Literature, hyperbole means, "[a] conscious exaggeration for the sake of effect" (Leland Tyken, 1984, 99-100). This speech contains purposeful exaggeration to make a point. These exaggerations are unintended to be taken literally. For example, someone may like pizza so much that they claim to have the ability to smell it a mile away —this clearly is an exaggeration to make a point. It would be unreasonable to take this speech literally.

Now please consider carefully what Piper writes, "The totality of our rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9-11 and 18" (location 173). Did you spot a grievous error in Piper's hermeneutics? If we are after the author’s intent (exegesis), we don't dare skip verses (v. 12-17) that further communicate the author's purpose. Because Piper has hijacked this passage for an interpretation different than Paul intended (eisegesis), he throws out key verses to conceal his action.

Calvinists want us to believe for the sake of their theology that Paul is teaching the doctrine of total depravity and literally, "None is righteous, no, not one." But this is an exaggeration (Old Testament poetry containing hyperbole) to make a point (universal effect of sin, verse 9). Should we take this Old Testament poetry literally, we have to be consistent and take all poetic verses literally.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that Piper is correct and Paul intended these verses (10-18) to be taken literally (ignore hyperbolic poetry) and therefore be applicable to every human being that lived. So let's apply them:

“None is [right now] righteous, no, not one" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 10). Paul’s claim that none are righteous would contradict the book of Romans, which has been summarized as the “righteousness of God.”

"No one understands" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 11). "No one seeks for God" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 11).

"All have turned aside" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 12). "Together they have become worthless" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 12).

"Their throat is an open grave" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 13). "Venom of asps is under their lips” (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 13).

“Their feet are swift to shed blood" (both saved and unsaved, to include Paul and all Christians; v. 15). Note: some verses are intentionally skipped; you get the point!

Calvinists may claim these descriptions are universally applicable to every human being. But when pressed, they would likely make Christians an exception. But Paul doesn't make this qualification. Calvinists usually throw out verses 13-17, or change the rules mid stream to exclude the most wicked (not universal to every human being). This is because most unsaved have never been "swift to shed blood." All people don't have the "venom of asps ... under their lips.” The burden of proof is strong that Paul is using hyperbole (and Old Testament poetry) to exaggerate so that his readers have no doubt that all men are guilty sinners (Romans 3:9b).

Paul is not writing the Calvinist construction of total depravity that didn't exist until Augustine (354-430). This doctrine has been grafted into Romans 3:9-12 by Calvinists by theological necessity. The Calvinist teaching of total depravity is a defilement of Paul's argument.

Another blow to Calvinists is verse 12: "All have turned aside; together they have become worthless" (3:12a). They have "turned aside" which is not depravity acquired at birth. "They have become worthless,” describes a process that occurred over time (see also Matthew 13:15).

Paul began building his case that all men are guilty sinners starting in chapter one. A careful examination indicates that Paul's point was not depravity from birth. Paul described a pattern of sin that became more severe over time: "who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" (1:18b). "For although they knew God [no relationship], they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they BECAME futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools" (1:21-22). This is more admissible evidence to the court of exegetical truth that Paul didn't believe in the Calvinist construction of total depravity.

Calvinists quote Psalm 51:5 for proof that all mankind are born sinners: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin [literally] did my mother conceive me" (51:5). This is the only verse in the entire Bible that teaches this. However, there are serious problems with an interpretation that ignores the figurative language of poetry.

In the book, Grasping Gods Word, the authors write, "Likewise, we cannot approach Psalm 51 with the same method that we use in Romans 3" (348-349). The authors previously wrote why: "One of the problems many Christians today encounter when they tackle Old Testament Poetry is that they attempt to interpret these texts with methods that are geared for New Testament letters" (348). One final quote: "it is critical that we recognize figures of speech when they are used and that we interpret them as figures of speech and not as literal realities” (353).

If Calvinists were consistent, they would have to teach from the same chapter that God literally washed David of his sin ("wash me thoroughly from my inquiry," 51:2). God literally blotted out David's iniquity ("blot out my transgressions," 51:5). And David continues, "purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (51:7). There is more poetry inside Psalm 51 including the inability of David to open his lips (v. 15).

Not only is Psalm 51 rich in poetry, the book of Psalms is. Please consider this verse: "The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies" (58:3). If we took this verse literally (ignored genre), we would have to conclude that babies speak lies the day they are born.

Calvinist ignore genre to teach that babies are born sinners before they even commit their first sin. This wrong teaching is necessary because their doctrine of total depravity requires it.

If we are not born sinners, what condemn us is sinning and not depravity acquired at conception. While Romans 3:23 establishes the universal extend of sin, the issue that Paul taught was that we HAVE all sinned: "for all have sinned." Similarly, in Psalm 51, David's issue was the infringement of the law. Please consider David's statement, "For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (51:3-4). God holds man accountable for the act of sinning.

Another serious blow to Calvinist depravity taught from Romans 3:9-18 is a consideration of the verbal aspect. Let's dive in for a closer look at one verse.

"No one understands [Greek participle]; no one seeks [Greek participle] for God" (Romans 3:11). The two participle verbs ("understands" and "seeks" are in the Greek present tense. Is Paul writing that no one "understands" and "seeks" God as a lifestyle, once, or is this question unanswerable? The answer is important. Because if Paul is describing a way of life, then Calvinists have an additional problem because this passage does not inform us if sinners can occasionally seek God.

Here is three reasons that when combined offer substantial evidence that the action is ongoing: Every English translation consulted (NKJV, ESV, NIV, NASB) has these verses in the present tense ("understands" and "seeks") and NOT the past tense ("understood," "sought").

Secondly, Young's Literal Translation has a helpful rendering: "There is none who is understanding, [clearly ongoing action] there is no one who is seeking [clearly ongoing] after God."

Another reason is that there are biblical accounts of people seeking God or an implied capacity to do so (Genesis 4:26; Deuteronomy 4:29; 30:15; 1 Chronicles 16:11; 28:9; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 55:6-7; Psalm 9:10; 22:26; 27:8; 34:10; 40:16; 63:1; 105:4; 119:2; 119:19; Jeremiah 29:13; 33:2-3; Amos 5:4; Proverbs 8:17; 11:27; Matthew 7:7-8; James 4:8; Hebrews 11:6; Acts 8:26-39; 10:34-35; 17:26-27). There are no accounts (without adding assumptions to the text) that people are incapable of seeking God. The fact that most people don't regularly seek God is not proof that none do.

Both the sovereignty of God and the free will of man are found from Genesis to Revelation. A God who remains sovereign while giving man a free will is greater than the Calvinist view of God where everything had to be preordained in advance to remain sovereign.

Under the subtitle, "Natural man not seeking God" (location 173), Piper writes,
“It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God . . . Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God" (location 173). So what proof does Piper offer for this doctrine that denies a free will? Piper quotes John 3:20-21: "For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:20-21).

This passage offers no proof of total depravity. In fact, Jesus states why they don't come to the light: "lest his works should be exposed" (3:20), and the reason given is not the Calvinist teaching of depravity. If Calvinism is true, why does Piper quote Jesus who doesn't even agree with Him?

Jesus said, "yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life" (John 5:40). The ability to reject Christ is the ability to choose.

"If anyone’s [open ended] will is to do God’s will [implies a possibility], he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority" John 7:17

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing" (Matthew 23:37)! Not only were they unwilling, Jesus desired to grant them spiritual life and protection.

To believe that God made man without the capacity to believe in Christ is to believe that God hates people more than He loves them. How would you feel if in hell for all eternity, knowing that while on earth God made you incapable of believing the Gospel? I'm sorry, but this is the God of Calvinism.

Under heading #2, Piper writes, "In his total rebellion everything man does is sin" (location 184). Once again, Piper appeals to Romans 14:23. If you recall we covered this passage earlier where Paul writes about Christian Liberty and not the false doctrine of total depravity.

Piper doesn't believe the Bible only has meaning in context based on practice in this book. The Bible declares unequivocally that what condemns sinners is their commission of sin. Why not just believe what Romans 3:23 teaches? "for all HAVE sinned and [therefore] fall short of the glory of God."

Piper continues his disgraceful eisegesis. He quotes Romans 7:8, where the Apostle Paul describes his daily battle with the flesh: "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out" (Romans 7:18). Piper cut the passage from its context and transformed it into a Calvinist description of the unregenerate where everything they do is sinful.

In the book, Grasping God's Word (Duvall and Hays, 2005, 119) the authors write, "In fact, we would go so far as to say that the most important principle of biblical interpretation is that context determines meaning. When we ignore the context, we can twist the Scriptures and 'prove' almost anything" (119).

It's an accepted fact in the Christian academic community that the Bible only has meaning in context. Piper justifies Calvinism by hijacking passages from their inspired context and twisting them into Calvinist proof texts.

CHAPTER 4, IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

For the doctrine of irresistible grace, Piper teaches a contradictory doctrine. The unsaved are capable of resisting the will of a sovereign God and the unsaved are not capable of resisting the will of a sovereign God.

Piper writes, "The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that every influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. It means that the Holy Spirit, whenever He chooses, can overcome all resistance and make his influence irresistible" (location 254).

Notice Piper's skill as he carefully knits words together to conceal the contradiction. The Holy Spirit draws the unsaved, but the Holy Spirit does not allow them to overcome their resistance. Where is the God of love in Calvinism? Calvinists may object that God's grace saved them. But what about most who will spend an eternity in hell because God drew them to heaven's door but did not allow them to come in? This carrot dangling God is found in Calvinism, but not in God’s Word.

God desires that all be saved: "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). So what does Piper say about this verse? He is mute.

"For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). By implication, only a few of the many called are chosen.

Piper acknowledges that the unsaved can resist the Spirit's will. He quotes: "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you" (Acts 7:51). Notice that Paul (unlike Piper) doesn’t attribute their rejection to total depravity. This verse teaches that the Holy Spirit convicts the unsaved and that the spiritually dead have the capacity to resist the Spirit's call.

Piper writes, "the doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is sovereign and can conquer all resistance when he wills" (location 254). Let's paraphrase what Piper is saying. Those who will get saved, have no choice but to get salvation. So heaven will be filled with people that never chose God out of free will. Piper's statement was followed by three passages out of context. Piper's strategy is called text proofing. If Piper's theology is biblical, why not take his readers to salvation accounts and allow the context to validate his teaching? These are the verses:

"All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done” (Daniel 4:35)? Context: Because of pride, God temporarily removed Nebuchadnezzar as King; he lived with beasts and ate grass. Nebuchadnezzar eventually humbled himself before a sovereign God. Therefore, God reinstated him as King. The verse Piper quoted contains the words of Nebuchadnezzar after his kingdom was restored. Nebuchadnezzar praises God and acknowledges His sovereignty.

The context doesn't support Piper's thesis (God can irresistibly change people's will to be saved) without adding presuppositions. While a sovereign God removed Nebuchadnezzar as King, it took seven years for Nebuchadnezzar to humble himself before God.

"Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases" (Psalm 115:3). Context: The heathen nations are described by the psalmist: "their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see" (115:4-5). In contrast, the passage quoted (115:3) describes how God is different than the false idols of the surrounding nations. While a sovereign God does as He pleases, His actions are within the bounds of His Holy character. The context does not support Piper's assignment that God can force the unsaved to believe.

"I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). In this verse, Job is answering God. Once more, the context does not match Piper's designation.

In location 265, Piper writes that irresistible grace has to be true because the doctrine of total depravity is true. This logical fallacy has been called unsubstantiated Inference. The premise he appeals to (total depravity) was not established in his last chapter. Nevertheless, doctrine for the church should come from multiple passages that make explicit declarations in context. Plucking verses and stuffing them with pretexts is not God's design. The Bereans were commended because they searched the Scriptures. Our doctrine should come from Scripture; Piper assigns Calvinism to Scripture.

He writes, "except for the continual exertion of saving grace, we will always use our freedom to resist God" (location 265). Here is his proof text: "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8). Verse seven tells us why these people "in the flesh cannot please God." The reason given is NOT total depravity. "THE MIND THAT IS SET on the flesh is hostile to God." Man has the ability to set their mind on the flesh or on God.

Paul went on to write to believers: "For if [conditional] you [believers] live according to the flesh you will die, but if [conditional] by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Romans. 8:13-14).

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44). Please consider a few facts about this verse. It doesn't state that Jesus only draws the elect, nor how many people are drawn. Piper writes, "again, some may object, 'He draws all men, not just some. Then they may cite John 12:32" (location 277). Piper goes on to write, "there is no word for 'people.' Jesus simply says: "When I am lifted up, I will draw all to myself." When we see that we have to ask from similar contexts in John what this "all" probably refers to" (location 277).

The academic community rejects the hermeneutics that Piper practices in this instance. To define the word "all" in this passage, the near and far context must be considered. This is because words have a range of meaning defined by their context. Piper's suggestion to go to another context blindly without an examination of the current context (in my opinion) is sloppy, and reckless.

It's impossible to translate word for word from Koine Greek to the English language because of differences in syntax. There are hundreds of helping words added to English Bible translations for accuracy. So Piper's excuse to exclude the word "people" which is implied is unfounded. Jesus was not drawing all aliens from another planet, but “people”. The context from the previous verse (v. 31) further confirms that Jesus describes people. So John 6:44 should not be interpreted independently of John 12:32.

Six different English translations (NKJV, ESV, NIV, NASB, KJV, NET) were consulted. All had the words "all people" for John 12:32 (except KJV, “all men”). Not one Bible commentary consulted made Piper's outrageous claim. The same God who loves the world (John 3:16), who did not spare His only Son offers eternal life to everyone. God draws all men to Jesus Christ (John 12:32) and a similar teaching is found in John 1:9.

In objection to the plain teaching of John 12:32, Piper points his readers to John 11:50-52 where he argues that Jesus died for the elect. This passage doesn't state that Jesus died ONLY for the elect, nor does it say that Jesus did not die for everyone. Two verses here teach that Jesus died for Israel as a nation. Please consider them: "Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die FOR THE PEOPLE, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die FOR THE NATION" (John 11:50-51). Jesus did die for the nation of Israel and also for the world (see John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, Hebrews 2:9, etc.).

Verse 52: "and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad" (11:52). Jesus died for the nation of Israel even though most rejected Him. This death includes "the children of God who are scattered abroad." This statement does not exclude the possibility of dying for all men; thereby, it is not a contradiction.

Based on Piper's interpretation of John 11:50-52, he re-writes John 12:32, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all the children of God to myself" (location 289). God's Word doesn't need to be changed to match a theology.

Having thrown out John 12:32, Piper makes the point that those saved are granted salvation by the Father. This makes most unsaved ineligible because God chose to not save them. In the religion of Calvinism, God decides who is saved. Man has no decision-making ability (irresistible grace).

For John 6:44 (already covered), 6:64-65, and Judas, Piper writes, "What was ultimately decisive was that it was not 'granted him' to come. He was not drawn by the Father. The decisive, irresistible gift of grace was not given" (location 313). Piper's theology requires front loading presuppositions to be true:
1). God only draws the elect with a "gift of grace.”
2). God did not draw Judas
3). Therefore, Judas was never eligible to be saved.

Here is Piper’s proof text: “But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him). And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:64-65).

In verse 64, Jesus states their unbelief excludes. He identifies one group of people and a single person. The first group is unbelievers whom Jesus knew: "for Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe." The single person is Judas: "who it was who would betray him."

In verse 65, Jesus explains why the Father must grant access for one to be saved. Jesus points back when He says, "THIS IS WHY I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Therefore, let's follow the advise of Jesus and look back and determine who the Father grants access to when He says, "no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father" (6:65).

In verse 27a, Jesus commands (Greek imperative) the unsaved, "do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life." This command places no restrictions on eligibility. In verse 28, the unsaved ask what action is required to be saved. In verse 29, Jesus answered, "This is the work of God, that YOU [unsaved] believe [required action] in him whom he has sent.” Jesus is not playing games with the unsaved. He offers what they can accept.

"For this is the will of my Father, that everyone [exclusion of no one] who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (v. 40). "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes [open ended] to me I will never cast out" (v. 37). "...but my Father gives you [the unsaved] the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (v. 32b-33). An examination of these verses indicates that the Father grants access to "everyone," "whoever," "you" (the unsaved) and "the world."

Review cut short because of space limitations. For more reviews, please visit my website under my profile. Thanks for reading; your feedback is welcomed. All praise goes to JESUS CHRIST!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon February 18, 2014
We will leave it to future church historians to determine the reach and impact of the recent renewal of Reformed theology. While we do not know if, when or how it will fade out, we do know that John Piper has been one of the men at the forefront of the movement. His books, his sermons and his conferences have been instrumental in raising awareness of Reformed theology and in making it downright exciting. In his new book Five Points, Piper offers his explanation and defence of Calvinistic doctrine.

One of Piper’s great strengths in representing and defending Calvinistic theology has been in not merely defending this doctrine, but in making it lead to wonder and to worship. “My experience is that clear knowledge of God from the Bible is the kindling that sustains the fires of affection for God. And probably the most crucial kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation.” Of course this is what the five points of Calvinism are about—“not the power and sovereignty of God in general, but his power and sovereignty in the way he saves people,” which is exactly why these doctrines are commonly referred to as the doctrines of grace. He insists that he does not begin here as a Calvinist who sets out to defend a system, but as a Christian who holds the Bible above any system of thought.

As with many modern Calvinists, Piper does not love the TULIP acronym that has become synonymous with Calvinism. He steps away from the acronym and the standard order, saying “I have found … that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.”

1) We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
2) Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
3) Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
4) Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
5) And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.

In short, here is how he explains each of the points:

1) Total Depravity: Our sinful corruption is so deep and so strong as to make us slaves of sin and morally unable to overcome our own rebellion and blindness. This inability to save ourselves from ourselves is total. We are utterly dependent on God’s grace to overcome our rebellion, give us eyes to see, and effectively draw us to the Savior.

2) Unconditional Election: God’s election is an unconditional act of free grace that was given through his Son Jesus before the world began. By this act, God chose, before the foundation of the world, those who would be delivered from bondage to sin and brought to repentance and saving faith in Jesus.

3) Limited Atonement: The atonement of Christ is sufficient for all humans and effective for those who trust him. It is not limited in its worth or sufficiency to save all who believe. But the full, saving effectiveness of the atonement that Jesus accomplished is limited to those for whom that saving effect was prepared. The availability of the total sufficiency of the atonement is for all people. Whosoever will—whoever believes—will be covered by the blood of Christ. And there is a divine design in the death of Christ to accomplish the promises of the new covenant for the chosen bride of Christ. Thus Christ died for all people, but not for all in the same way.

4) Irresistible Grace: This means that the resistance that all human beings exert against God every day (Rom. 3:10-12; Acts 7:51) is wonderfully overcome at the proper time by God’s saving grace for undeserving rebels whom he chooses freely to save.

5) Perseverance of the Saints: We believe that all who are justified will win the fight of faith. They will persevere in faith and will not surrender finally to the enemy of their souls. This perseverance is the promise of the new covenant, obtained by the blood of Christ, and worked in us by God himself, yet not so as to diminish, but only to empower and encourage our vigilance; so that we may say in the end, I have fought the good fight, but it was not I, but the grace of God which was with me (2 Tim. 4:7; 1 Cor. 15:10).

Each of these points is not only explained and defended, but also celebrated. The passion that has marked so much of Piper’s ministry is fully present here; his desire is to elevate God and to draw his readers to see and revel in the glory of God. As the book draws to a close he provides a personal testimony of “What the five points have meant for me.” Here he describes how rightly understanding God’s sovereignty in salvation has led him to stand in awe of God and has led him into the depth of true God-centered worship; how these doctrines make him marvel at his own salvation; how they make him alert to any man-centered alternatives to this good news; how they make him hopeful that God has the will, the right and the power to answer prayer; and so much else.

Five Points was edited and published on the far side of the Atlantic and as with Finally Alive before it, I immediately noted a difference—a good difference. I consider Five Points as readable and enjoyable a book as Piper has ever written. He covers those five doctrines that have been the subject of so many books, but does so with a kind of fire, an infectious enthusiasm for the display of God’s splendor. This is sound doctrine in the hands of a skilled and passionate writer and it makes a great combination.
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on December 29, 2013
I'm not sure I agree with every point he makes. I want to do more meditating on it. But I substantially agree and in the areas I am not fully convinced, I see his point and will not fight him on them. As always he he clear, humble and mostly convincing. But then he is expositing God's word, not laying down his own ideas.
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