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John Piper: Hell-less preaching is powerless preaching

ht: Colin Adams

Thought this morning from reading Genesis, in TOTC by Derek Kidner, p72:

"It is the serpent's word against God's, and the first doctrine to be denied is judgement. If modern denials of it are very differently motivated, they are equally at odds with revelation: Jesus fully re-affirmed the doctrine."


  1. Thanks for this post Dave! Truth is powerful and I've completely lost my desire to listen to preachers who are afraid to preach the whole council of God. I thank God for you and John Piper.

  2. Dave,

    It's great to listen to Piper. I'm glad that you post stuff by him. Sometimes, you post stuff and it's really good.

    This video leaves me with a couple of questions:

    The thrust of the Edwards quote leaves us with the idea that people will adopt Annhilationism to escape the wrath of God. Edwards calls Christians who adopt Annhilationism wicked. Do we think that evanglicals who are Annhilationists are wicked?

    Let me put this more pointedly. Is unity on the doctrine of hell, as an alternative benchmark, to say the historic gospel, the way that you think we should cash out evangelical unity? Perhaps you believe it was historically part of the true gospel?

    Is UCCF conservative enough therefore?

    If everything that Piper says as a motivating reason for disempowered pulpits is also true of something else, then would that make it possible that his logic is mistaken? I feel like a heretic to ask this, but is it possible that Piper is confusing "Truth" with "Hell"?

  3. Tom,

    I think Piper makes a good point about this issue. That's as far as it goes. As with all Piper youtubes they're segments from much longer sermons that need to be held within the broader context of 30 years of preaching etc. And I think we can speak boldly about things without having to provide a million caveats.

    Am I saying this should be put in the doctrinal basis?

    No - though, neither should my own convictions about prophecy, tongues etc. What I post here are my conviction which I hold whilst warmly enjoying fellowship within UCCF and within my local church - neither of which needs to presume total agreement on everything. In fact, because our unity is essentially doctrinal we're free to disagree robustly.

    For the purposes of the DB this is fine: k. "The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory."

    But that doesn't mean I don't have views that fill in detail on that, just as everyone else does.

    I don't think Piper is saying that THE ONLY reason for lack of power in preaching is that people wont speak about hell. But, he is saying - one of the many reasons why preaching lacks power is that hell is often sidelined, ignored, or less so denied.

    Much as with the recent debate on here about complimentarianism and egalatarianism - I think it is true that beliefs are sometimes adopted to avoid believing things that we might not like, like differing views on role of women, or more seriously - the reality of hell. Is that always the reason?No.

  4. So, do any of us think that annhilationists are wicked?

  5. Depends on why.

    Those warnings about people going after teaching because it satisfies their itching ears is no joke.

    We all have our errors. Let's not hide behind the spirit of our age - some error needs to be called out and identified, and with kindness, patience and gentleness corrected - doesn't it?

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  7. Yeah, it depends on why, but it also depends on how. This how is not good, I don't think you should big it up.

    It's exactly because I take the 'kindness, patience and gentleness' seriously that I'm asking about this. Is an unqualified generalised labelling of a major group of evangelicals as "wicked" how this kindness, patience and gentleness looks in practice?

    You offered (I think) 2 Timothy 4:3 as a justification for correction. Is that the same question as the one I'm asking? John Piper is a wonderful teacher, we need him, to correct us. I'm in no doubt about that role that he has. I love his books. I think I have them all. Unfortunately all that doesn't stop your point being a non-sequitur.

    I'm not asking if we should not correct or not. I'm asking if we want to go down this route of pegging (all - by omission of an actual qualification) Annhilationists as wicked. It's a question of means rather than ends.

    Do we want to correct, by labelling people as wicked, with, from what I can make out, little if no qualification. I'd like to be able to grant you that he qualifies it, but he doesn't pause and say something like, "Some people adopt Annhilationism because they think that's what the bible says...but I'm not talking about them."

    I agree with Piper that we need to talk about hell more. I'm there. I agree 100%. But I can't stand the polarising and possibly divisive presentation of the opposing position.

  8. I was referring to the end of chapter 2 of 2 Timothy.

    How much do we evangelists (or Christians generally) speak about hell? If there is a need for warning one way or the other which way is it?

    That said - the way we speak of it does matter - hence my other recent posts on the subject.

    Wasn't it Schaeffer who said given an hour with someone he'd spend 90% of it talking about hell?

    Personally that feels like it goes out the other way too far, probably if we just talked a whole lot more about Jesus that would be a start, but it is also Jesus who treads the winepress...

    When was the last time someone challenged what I believed and pointed out that I might be believing wrong because of sin - i.e I'm slipping into evil with itching ears - which is the 2 Tim 4 bit? Given how corrective NT preaching is I'm disturbed at how uncorrective 21st Century preaching often is.... whilst we assent to the existence of hell I'm not sure how moved we are by that... just as we assent to the existence of the new creation but are not very excited by that...

    Tangenting slightly...Pondering Jonah, here's the guy who sits down in Jonah 4 to see if God will actually burn the place after all. Am I not doing the same as I bunker down in my house and don't bother to evangelise - my action says I want Exeter to go to hell, though I'd not preach that or confess to 'believing it'. I think my behaviour indictates there that I neither take God's grace or God's judgement seriously enough.

    As for Piper - we don't have to accept everything he says. If his logic is a bit off somewhere then I'm not surprised - who isn't. Schaeffer had his problems. Piper has his problems. Both lived in their times and contexts. Both observed issues. Piper is after all talking about the US context in which he's preaching. Maybe it's different over here, maybe...

  9. Of, course, we need to talk about hell. And with actions and words - good for you for being honest.

    But be careful, that your desire to talk about hell doesn't push you into being unbiblical in the other direction - the serious sin of being insensitive and unloving.

    Perhaps this is a bigger danger for the reformed Christian? Usually they are stronger on knowing their doctrine, and quite good at talking about their faith. But they can be like aliens in no-mans land when it comes to building and growing friendships with people who don't believe.

    What starts with an earnest desire (to talk about hell perhaps) can end with cutting peoples ears off. Emotional sensitivity and being natural, and normal to win people for the gospel, can take a back seat. The conversation dries up...

    What if you had called your post, "How can I talk about hell and stay friends afterwards" ?

    I think we're coming around to why I'm questioning Piper's generalisation of Annhiliationists. We don't need polarising inputs, we need honest, loving, genuine conversations with friends, and we need to work at those friendships. I'm concerned that this is one of the subjects that Christians are very bad at talking about.

  10. Let me back all this up with a full quote from 2 Timothy 2..

    "And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

    Nothing about call

  11. I share your concerns, which is why I've done several posts on the subject. Trust me - it's not that I have a burning desire to speak of hell. The previous post to this one was How should we feel about hell - where I majored on the anguish we should have about people, and the sense of worship towards God.

    In the vast majority of cases I don't think speaking the gospel (with or without hell) should shut down the friendship. Because we surely speak as those compelled by love, speaking in love, speaking because of love.

    2 Tim 2 isn't about hell but about the need to speak kindly and patiently. 2 Tim 4 isn't about hell but about the tendancy of people to go after teachings they like instead of the truth. I applied both to this subject.

  12. There are two threads here - one of Christians who ignore or deny hell, and the other about how we do evangelism. Worth distinguishing a little between them.


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