John Piper: Is it ever appropriate to call out prosperity gospel teachers by name?

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The following is an edited transcript of the audio provided by Desiring God:

Is it ever appropriate to call out prosperity gospel teachers by name?

Mark Driscoll does it. I tuned in one time and he actually played a clip from Joel Osteen.

My problem is that I don’t read these guys enough and don’t know them well enough. If I read a whole bunch of books by so-and-so and had actual quotes that I could quote and arguments that I could give, I would feel more adequate to say something.

So that’s one criterion: I don’t feel like I’m in their world enough to know them well enough.

Secondly, if I knew that somebody I knew or my church was being swayed away by somebody that I felt was preaching a gospel different from our gospel, I would probably get real specific with the church, for the church’s sake.

So the first reason may be owing to laziness. I don’t think it’s owing to cowardice.

I think that what happens when you name names is both good and bad. The good is that people are warned, and they now know that if they’re going to turn on that TV program they’re going to be alert to watch for error and be more protected, maybe.

The downside is that it so quickly becomes a personal thing rather than a principial thing. And I just want people to get the principles so right that they’ll spot them everywhere, you know? Or they’ll spot it in me!

You see, I think everybody loves the prosperity gospel. I heard R. C. Sproul say one time—I forget just how he said it—something like, “Everybody believes in the prosperity gospel, and you can tell by the fact that as soon as you take away some benefit they get mad.” Their wife dies, they get mad. They lose their job, they get mad. So they really were loving prosperity! They really were loving health! And who doesn’t, right?

So I’m guilty a lot. And I want to give principles that will enable people not just to spot some TV preacher, but me. “Piper, you’ve just departed. You’ve just fallen in.”

I don’t know if anybody noticed it, but did you see the tweet that I did about a video clip we put up on our website about the prosperity gospel? I looked at about 5 minutes of it again and said, “Whoa, this is strong.”

So I tweeted and I said something like, “Piper goes on and on about the prosperity gospel. Doesn’t he know how rich he is?” That was my tweet. Which is what I could imagine an adversary would say. And I just want people to know how fragile and imperfect I feel when it comes to criticizing things like this.

I’m an American. Look at this: this chair probably cost hundreds of dollars. Shirt. Pants. Water in a bottle. This container cost more than the water! Why are we putting it in here? It’s a ridiculous waste of money. We’re recording here with computers. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to set this thing up. What are you complaining about you rich, no-count, western pastor?

I just want to be self-critical as much as I am other-critical.

The name that I want to name in terms of criticism is “John Piper, sinner in need of grace, loving the gospel, wanting to protect the church.” I really don’t want to go after particular people unless it is absolutely necessary.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

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  • Keystone

    “I really don’t want to go after particular people unless it is absolutely necessary.”
    ~~~John Piper

    Absolutely necessary is NOT a Biblical criteria here.

    Too many churched people are taking their cues from Driscoll, Osteen, Piper, Lucado, Warren, and all the rest….instead of using their Bible and seeing what it has to say. (That is NOT to say all these guys eror)

    We are REQUIRED to point out false doctrine.
    Indeed, the burden is greatest on those who know the Bible and what God has to say with authority on any subject.

    I bought a home, and a week later the neighbor came over and knocked at the door. I thought the prior owner lived 30 miles away, but this man was the prior owner (the realtor was 30 miles away). He asked me if he could dig a hole in my lawn out front. I asked why.

    It seemed the home had been on the market before and taken off.
    His daughter sent him a statue of Jesus Christ, with directions to bury him upside down on the lot for sale. After the sale, Jesus was to be dug up and placed in a prominent spot in your new home. Since he lived next door, he wanted Jesus out of my ground to put in a prominent spot at his house.

    I was curious about this and said to dig away. He measured from two trees and dug at the intersection made. Lo and behold, Jesus was buried upside down. My neighbor thanked me, took the icon, and left. A little research found this was a Catholic tradition. Jesus Christ was now a Realtor!
    (Ironically, I drove by and found this spot, to meet my needs precisely, two days after Jesus hit the dirt; MY realtor had no clue the place was on the market yet. My neighbor was convinced his daughter knew her stuff.)
    My best friend is a Deacon in the Catholic church and was appalled.
    But the Catholic bookstore has Jesus the Realtor for sale in spades downtown.

    At Christmas, the neighbor had me over for dinner and we discussed God. They are “nondenominational and attend no church”. They watch Joel Osteen on TV.
    I explained that I heard him in Tampa with a full stadium of people, and he rarely mentioned Jesus Christ in the presentation. He always mentioned ME and how I could become prosperous as the Bible states. (Jeremiah..I know the plans I have for you, etc). We also ate an extraordinary meal on premise in Tampa, since my neighbor there, is as rich down there as they come and got first class treatment; we did not wait in line, but entered a roped area, ate prime rib and every seafood there is, and more….before Joel did his magic.

    I explained to my neighbor next door here, that Jesus said “The poor you will ALWAYS have among you, so apparently, Osteen’s opinion that prosperity is for all, is out of sync with what Jesus says. I let that sink in as a final remark.

    In Florida, I watched a pastor in a Baptist church claim to his audience he was blind. I am attracted to the handicapped for I do not hear. I watched him wave a military sword and go on and on about salvation…..from Ephesians 6:10-20, the Armor of God. He told this super hyped audience to all come forward and jump the sword and they would be saved.

    I was appalled as the entire church began to move forward and prepare to jump the sword he laid on the floor to get saved. He also turned to his aids and…I read lips well and sit up in the first row…..told his peons to move all the plants out of the way for the huge numbers to pass by. I was told this guy was blind. How did he see his aid… or the plants that needed moved?
    One woman weeped as she jumped, assured now she was going to heaven.

    I had purchased books in the bookstore and left them as a first time visitor, explaining i would get them after service.
    “What did you think of our pastor?”, the bookstore woman inquired after service.
    “He is an utter and complete fraud”, I replied. I also told her why.
    (He wore a Jim Jones smock to the floor, but serve latte instead of Kool Aid).

    Piper wonders about calling fraudulents by name. Go to Galatians.

    Paul Corrects Peter at Antioch
    When Peter came to Antioch,……. I told him face to face that he was wrong. He used to eat with Gentile followers of the Lord, until James sent some Jewish followers. Peter was afraid of the Jews and soon stopped eating with Gentiles. He and the other Jews hid their true feelings so well that even Barnabas was fooled. But when I saw that they were not really obeying the truth that is in the good news, ………..I corrected Peter in front of everyone and said:
    Peter, you are a Jew, but you live like a Gentile. So how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews?

    We are Jews by birth and are not sinners like Gentiles. But we know that God accepts only those who have faith in Jesus Christ. No one can please God by simply obeying the Law. So we put our faith in Christ Jesus, and God accepted us because of our faith.

    When we Jews started looking for a way to please God, we discovered that we are sinners too. Does this mean that Christ is the one who makes us sinners? No, it doesn’t! But if I tear down something and then build it again, I prove that I was wrong at first. It was the Law itself that killed me and freed me from its power, so that I could live for God.
    ~~~Galatians 2:11-19

    See that? (stuff after “……………” is my emphasis)
    “I told him to his face he was wrong!”
    “I corrected Peter in front of everyone.”

    Driscoll did too.
    Osteen is wrong he said.
    He corrected Osteen in front of everyone apparently.

    Piper is wrong.
    He is to always be prepared to give a reason for his hope. But do it with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)…..especially when telling Victoria and Joel they are wrong about their preaching.
    It is incumbant upon all of us to recognize false teachings and correct them and label the false teacher and why. Otherwise, those with less Bible knowledge will believe the deception to be truth.