Search this blog

The following is an interesting video clip (from 2007) where John Piper is talking about the potential Achilles’ heel of the gospel-centered resurgence.

As you watch it, I’d encourage you to avoid judgmentalism (if the things he mentions don’t apply to you) or defensiveness (if the particular examples are something you seek to do in moderation and any critique feels like fundamentalism). Rather, I’d encourage humble self-examination, and to see if the Lord might be using this older, wise, father-brother in the faith to exhort us and encourage us in a new direction.

View Comments


56 thoughts on “Piper on What Could Make the Gospel-Centered Movement Unravel”

  1. dkm says:

    Great post. Great points. I love this guy.

  2. Ray Ortlund says:

    A word from the throne.

    “If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:21

    1. Ray,

      That verse is the kicker for me, because it rightly connects means and ends. The end is our Master. He is who we want everyone to know, see and love. The means is holiness. The more we come to know and love the One whom we serve, what He did to make us His servants, and what is now ours, the less we want what the world wants, and the more that will be clear in the way we live.

      What I struggle with is how narrow Piper’s references are here. They’re kind of the easy marks. They’re necessary, in America. But what about other aspects, like more joy in Jesus winning our salvation than in the Giants winning the World Series? What about our churches being unified by our identity in Christ, rather than our political persuasion or ethnicity?

      The more I understand the greatness of Christ, the more I see how my life needs to reflect Him. It’s more reflected in the way I want to dress, and in the way my whole person – countenance, hands and feet, mind – reaches out toward the world, for His sake. It’s a both/and.

  3. Tom Hicks says:

    I submit that the problem is still doctrinal. Much of the church has tossed the law of God in favor of experience of worship, subjective leadings of the Spirit, being under “grace” while not being pointed to the law as a guide in sanctification. We need to recover the biblical grid for evaluating T-shirts, movies, which is the revealed moral law of God. If we get the law of God right, we will also get Christian liberty (from the doctrines and commandments of men) and Christian freedom (from the bondage to sin and misery). Most importantly, we need to recover the biblical connection and motivation from the gospel of free grace to faithful obedience to God’s revealed commandments.

    1. Russ says:

      Right on Tom, but let our focus be on the spirit of the law not the letter. The letter is kept if we walk in the spirit. Leonard Ravenhill use to frequently say the following in regards to entertainment, and I think it could be applied to many other areas of our lives uproot the self life within us.

      “Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy”

      Rather than having full joy in our Great and Awesome God , we turn to the world in an attempt to fill the void.

      Galatians 5:16

      But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

      1. pduggie says:

        But piper is saying there is a clear an obvious movement of God that is causing people to experience Joy. This is new and exciting and wonderful.

        But apparently it still isn’t ‘full’ enough to keep us from turning to the world to fill the void.

        Why is that, in Piper’s view?

  4. James says:

    Thanks for the post Justin,

    I don’t know why Piper would put pornography next to drinking beer or going to the movies. One is obviously wrong, but the other two could be legit. However I do see his point, which is that we want to avoid the grey areas becuase if you live there you will be lulled into other sins.

    1. Andy says:

      His actual words were “a big appetite for beer,” and “carelessly attended default weekend movie,” so I think he’s on pretty solid ground here. He’s not denouncing beer or movies, he’s pointing out that many of us are still pleasing ourselves, rather than desiring to glorify God in all we do.

      1. James says:

        Thanks for the clarification, I agree.

    2. Craig Hurst says:

      Paul did not tell us to avoid “grey” areas. He gave us instruction on how to lovingly operate within them.

      1. James says:

        Craig what I meant was that Christians should avoid things that injure their consciences. And I would clasify those things as “grey”. I see your point that it is inevitable that all of us do things that are in that grey area. For some, doing certain things is sin and for others it is not, but we should not be dominated by anthing as the Bible teaches.

      2. John Thomson says:

        I agree but would add that a clear conscience does not necessarily mean the activity is fine. Conscience gets hardened. We need consciences made tender by the word of God then they are better guides.

  5. Ryan says:

    This is so right on. I can personally attest to having these “hanging wires” in my very own life, and I’ve (at times, very) slowly seen them connect.

    The beautiful truths about God’s beauty, majesty and grace often trump those other beautiful truths about His holiness, our sin (and its offensiveness) and the impending judgement every man must face. One seems to be naturally easier to sing about and dwell upon…

    Continue to pray for this (my) generation. The wires can connect. And by his grace and mercy, they will (Phil. 1:6)

  6. Mark says:

    I generally agree with Dr. Piper, but overall I think this younger generation has seen a healthy correction to the legalism of their parents or at least a re-ordering of their spiritual priorities. Many in the 35 and under generation are far to tolerant of what media they consume and far too accepting of sexual sin, coarse language and drunkeness. Unlike their parents generation they are more concerned with the do’s, not the dont’s, of the Christian life. They realize unbelievers around them aren’t going to be drawn to their faith because Christians don’t cuss, consume alcohol and avoid “R” rated movies. If that ever worked, it certainly doesn’t now. I mean is there anything so lame as “Christian” movies and radio stations? “Safe” for the whole family? Since when is the gospel “safe.” What draws people is honesty, genuiness, and a living out of the gospel through words and deeds.

    A great example is the standard rant against “R” rated movies used by preachers for years. They make me cringe everytime because they fail to take into account the complexity of a piece of art. In my opinion, a truly artistic movie (this can often seem like an oxymoron) can have adult content (language, violence, and, yes, even sexual content) and still be redeeming. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our homework and just blindly go see any movie (much less an “R” rated one). Jeffrey Overstreet and others at Christianity Today do a great job of looking movies from a Christian perspective. And if Christians truly want to start reaching the lost and impacting the culture, they have to start making movies and other works of art that are honest, real, and, yes, that sometimes contain adult content.

    Sorry if I’m reading too much into Dr. Piper’s comments, but I have been extremely frustrated of late with the Christian baby boomers railing against the evils of alcohol, “R” rated movies and the like, while they do nothing to serve their church, help those in need or share the gospel with those around them. I’ll take Christians who are struggling with too much tolerance of sin over ones who think avoiding alcohol, cussing and R rated is the Christian life.

    1. Jacob says:

      “And if Christians truly want to start reaching the lost and impacting the culture, they have to start making movies and other works of art that are honest, real, and, yes, that sometimes contain adult content.”


      I’m sure that’s what the Holy Spirit is waiting on–not us giving them the Word and Him speaking through that, but us making movies that unbelievers will respect! Give me a break!

      1. Mark says:


        I apologize for the snarky nature of my previous post and the lumping together of all “Christian” artists. There are a lot of incredible artist in film and music that are exploring Christian themes and ideas in a real and honest way.

        And I’m not saying we make art with adult content in order to gain acceptance in mainstream. I’m saying we make movies, music, and other forms of art with real themes, real depth, and real honesty. If you do that, you’re going have to portray sin, suffering, rage, and all of the emotions we experience as humans. If you want to see some adult content, just pick up your Bible. It’s full of violence, sex, and “adult themes.”

        1. John Thomson says:

          ‘just pick up your Bible. It’s full of violence, sex, and “adult themes.”

          I agree Mark, but never in a way intended to titilate or gratuitously. It is never salacious. Its intention is never to feed baser instincts. Violence and sex are not used voyeuristically.

          Two things need considered of every artistic cultural activity a) the intent of the artist b) the effect on me. These questions will help us make better choices.

    2. Randall says:

      Thank you, Jacob.

      You say “in my opinion” – well, it’s not your opinion, or mine, that matters. It’s what God’s word has to say about it. Perhaps that’s what the baby boomers who ‘rail’ are actually look at.

      And why, Mark, even if you are 100% correct (and I don’t think you are), do you have to dump on and criticize your Christian brothers and sisters who minister to people through music and movies? That just hurts when we in the family beat each other up while embracing the creators of things that are often diametrically opposed to what we say we believe.

    3. Wayne Wilson says:

      “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”

      Art has limits.

    4. Gary says:

      Mark, and I am growing frustrated with the under 35 crowd who, in ditching the legalism of their parents, seem to have embraced antinomianism.

  7. Wesley says:

    I feel what Dr. Piper is presenting is correct and i am part of the 35 and under crowd (barely). He seems to be simply saying what Chandler, for instance, often talks about with ‘compartmentalizing’ our faith. When we have areas of our lives where God and the Bible don’t get to tell us what to do or affect/change behaviour then we have a real issue. At BEST, we lose the fullness of what God has intended for us; at worst, the lack of concern for the things of God and pursuing personal holiness – not out of guilt or obligation but out of love for a God who gave all for my salvation – could indicate there is actually no true heart change/regeneration at all!
    It’s funny though how hard people will push back on this and try to justify so much of their behaviour as though God is ‘cool’ with disobedience. That obedience will look different in some cases for all of us, but if you KNOW certain things rob your affections for Jesus and you continue in them b/c they are not “sinful” then those “lose wires” Piper is speaking of can cause devastating consequences on a long term tradjectory. So, no, people aren’t won to Christ b/c we do or don’t drink beer or see R-rated movies, but they are drawn to Christ by people who are 100% sold out to following Him and being changed by Him however He seeks to shape and mold b/c what He makes is always a clearer image of Himself in all His fullness (Eph. 4:13).

  8. David says:

    If we truly desire to know Christ Jesus more and more we MUST let go of this world and it’s “attractions”. Simply because we have Christian liberty doesn’t mean it’s beneficial. And why continue to live in something that’s not God glorifying and Christ honoring? We must realize that God HATES sin. He has no mercy for sin. “If your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

    1. There’s liberty
    2. Don’t use that liberty to indulge in darkness (some may call it art, I don’t care, it’s enjoying sin)
    3. How can you enjoy God if you’re enjoying sin
    4. Separate yourself from the world so you can grasp a hold of Christ
    5. Ask yourself how you’re different than the world. If you’re not, repent.
    6. Stop the pride that’s rising up in you right now

    I love you all!!!

  9. Chris Lewis says:

    Thank you Dr. Piper. I receive that with a grateful and humbled heart.

    “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing us salvation for all people, TRAINING us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.” Titus 2.11-12

  10. Aaron Britton says:

    I think it’s an issue of celebrating sin and embracing wickedness. The act of seeing something or being exposed to something in the context of a story is not necessarily wicked. As other posters have said, the bible is full of this. We’re not supposed to celebrate difficult passages in Genesis, for instance. . .but we also should not avoid reading them or avoid reading parts of David’s story.

    The issue is, what are you doing with the input? I fully accept Dr. Piper’s critique and respect everything he says. I would want to hear him out on how previous generations have perhaps been avoiding the grit and realism of Holy scripture and how some younger folks have been accused of “going over the line” when they are simply teaching stories from the bible (Driscoll comes to mind). . . many of our R rated movies are not obscene, comparitively speaking, if we put them up against stories that are in the bible.

  11. Clint says:

    More specifically…light beer and The Office will bring New Calvinism to its knees.


    Actually, I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Piper.

    1. Andy says:

      Or craft beer and Mad Men.

  12. JT Caldwell says:

    What is *the* Gospel Centered Movement? Piper talked about various movements, but didn’t name names. I’d like to hear the whole message. What’s it’s title?

  13. Brian says:

    I’m a young guy (young-ish anyway) at 32 and I love this guy. I also think that his concern is spot-on. It’s exciting to see, hear about, and read about so many like-minded men and women in my age-group and younger stand up to be leaders in the global church, homes, communities, etc. but we need older men in our lives to speak to us this way. We need men who care deeply to say things that are going to ruffle feathers. May we not be the seed that falls among thorns where the cares of this life choke out the word…

  14. bob in IN says:

    1.) Piper is right on.
    2.) Let’s not call this a “movement” please?

  15. This coming from a man who probably watches just as much TV a week than…Oh, what? He doesn’t have a TV? Since when!? Hmm, nevermind then.

    Seriously, Lord help us!

  16. Frank Qin says:

    I recently reread my notes and some key passages from John Owen’s well know discourse “Mortification of Sin in Believers”. In it I find clarity in showing me the necessity of always, universally mortifying my indwelling sin. Owen has many helpful points, and it is a wonder that one who lived over 300 years ago could know my own heart so well. From his vantage point, I expect that he would agree with Piper, although he’d probably be even more rigorous in calling us to holiness. Owen is no legalist and he, like Piper, would call us from “gospel principles” and not “legal motives.”

    Here’s a sample from Chapter 8: “Whilst there abides a treachery in the heart to indulge to any negligence in not pressing universally to all perfection in obedience, the soul is weak as not giving faith its whole work; and selfish, as considering more the trouble of sin that the filth and guilt of it”.

    I am grateful for these brothers in the faith who know my savior better than I. I need frequent reminders and encouragement in the pursuit of personal holiness as it is sine qua non to my pursuit of knowing Christ himself.

  17. Scott C says:

    “And if Christians truly want to start reaching the lost and impacting the culture, they have to start making movies and other works of art that are honest, real, and, yes, that sometimes contain adult content.”

    It seems to me that Hollywood is the new Temple of American culture. So we want to come in and set up a few tables in the court and sell our wares and make it easier for people to worship?

    I don’t think we will make an impact until some in the Church are willing to be crucified for overturning tables and preaching a gospel message the gatekeepers of the Temple and all its happy worshippers really don’t want to hear.

    1. Mark says:

      Take a look at James Davidson Hunter’s book To Change the World. I think it shows why it is important that we not disengage from the centers of our culture. They are the means by which people are influenced, both good and bad.

      1. Scott C says:

        I disagree. How many people have come to faith in Christ through watching a well made Christian film? I doubt very many. How many people have come to faith through the old fashioned and unfashionable preaching of the Word? Paul said preach the Word in season and out of season. Faith comes by hearing and they can’t hear unless “preachers” are sent not “film makers.”

  18. John Thomson says:

    Questions I asked a recent YF group.

    List all the Christian values you can think of in a Bond movie. Now list all the anti-Christian values.

    List all the Christ-like virtues of James Bond. Can you think of any contrasts?

    How consistent is it to admire James Bond on a Saturday night and then worship Jesus Christ on a Sunday morning?

  19. John says:

    I’ve heard before the argument that since the Bible is R-rated, then being exposed to such things is okay. The difference is, the Bible doesn’t glory in such things, nor engage in as much detail as a film.

    There is a difference in reading, “and they crucified him” and watching the Passion. The same would be true for reading, “Abraham took his wife and knew her” and watching the marriage bed scene in Braveheart. There is an “unexplicitness” to the Bible in many places where Hollywood, and dare I say, our own sinful hearts, would want the explicit. Where it is explicit (e.g. Judges 19), I think it’s meant to turn our stomachs because of the nature and expression of sin.

    I think that is the difference between what the Bible recounts and what movies depict.

    Then again, I’m just a 33 year old fuddy-dud who doesn’t even drink light bear! ;-)

    1. Reader says:

      Do you drink black bears? ;)

      1. John says:

        HA! Actually, I prefer brown–Russian brown ;-)

  20. jpm says:

    I don’t drink beer b/c I go to Southern Seminary and we have to sign that pledge….otherwise my pap is an alcoholic and who knows if I’ll ever drink. I think moderation is ok, but I’ve seen friends obsess over micro-brews. We aren’t dealing with alcoholism, just obsessive hobby behavior. I don’t think they’ve ever even been buzzed. I see how that could be a loose wire like Piper said. I can’t even put a pg-13 movie with certain actresses in front of my eyes. Lust has been the biggest plague in my life, and I didn’t grow up watching massive amounts of hardcore porn. I just have a built in studio in my mind. I agree with Piper on movies…if I hadn’t watched so much ‘ok’ filth, I’d be a better, happier, godlier man. And I have friends who are CRIPPLED by porn and have sidetracked their whole life from the ministry. That is definitely a loose wire. My own hobby for cigars is another case in point. He didn’t mention it, but it’s ‘cool’, and ‘permissible’. I’m not addicted, I smoke rarely, but I spend time collecting and learning, and after focusing on such minute things the glory of God seems completely disconnected from my ‘hobby’. I think I agree on all his points: the ‘movement’ to recover the glory of God in the gospels is short-circuited by little obsessions and big sins. I have a friend who won’t go to treatment for drug addiction because it is run by charismatics and not Reformed Christians, but just got busted for xanax!?!? Not to judge, but just to show the disconnect Piper is talking about.
    I don’t know that vacating the theaters, teetotaling, being smoke-free, throwing away TVs, etc. is the answer, but I don’t think a further embrace of said things will be the answer either.

  21. Mike Mileski says:

    Justin, why would you post this? I question the wisdom in posting this as-is, without the context of the rest of the sermon.

  22. Looselycult says:

    I would also caution here that the pendulum can also swing just as quickly too far to the other side into legalism as well which can short circuit this movement just as quickly.

  23. John Thomson says:

    Piper speaks the truth but how do we change attitudes for this is the question. Below are a few suggestions.

    1. Slightly more mature Christians, those in their 30’s and 40’s need to set an example to others in self-discipline re movies, music and artistic expression. They need to show a limited and judicious use of the arts.

    2. There needs to be clear teaching on how to assess artistic expression. It is certainly not a choice between disney or R-rated. Many disney films may in a saccharine way purvey poison while some (and only some) R-rated (I assume this is the equivalent of over 18 in the UK) may viscerally convey a very wholesome message. In this regard he coarsening elements of these (violence, explicit sexuality, coarse language) needs discussed. How acceptable is it simply for the sake of entertainment to view films whose end may be wholesome but whose means may be corrupting.

    3. There needs to be an emphasis on being honest with self. Too many movies are viewed under the guise of a) keeping ourselves relevant b) for education motives. The reality is most are viewed purely for entertainment. Entertainment is not wrong a) in small doses b) where not defiling.

    4. Two issues need to be dealt with separately. a) the time we devote to the arts b) discrimination in what we watch. We need to teach ourselves about self-discipline in trivial pursuits.

    5. We need to find and advance trivial pursuits for younger Christians that are wholesome. This means Christians opening their homes to younger Christians. Creating game nights, discussion nights etc. It also means giving time to pursuits such as kayaking, hill-walking etc by parents and Church leaders for the young.

    6. Last, but by no means least, Saturday night solid teaching meetings for young people need to be available most Saturday evenings in Winter. In Scotland we have far too few of these. Young folks cannot meet Christian young folks in a Christian context and so it is little wonder they meet them in pubs, cinemas, dancing clubs etc.

    Any other suggestions?

  24. Stephen says:

    There’s a proverb that goes something like “if you want to know what water is like don’t ask a fish.” I think what Dr. Piper is getting at is how difficult it is to swim against the current of our entertainment-driven sex-saturated popular culture. Dis-enculturation is really heard. Newbigin and Richard Lovelace are both good on this, as of course are the Puritans.

  25. Anon says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the over-arching theme, and I part ways with Piper on the particulars.

    Ultimately it comes down to the application of “in the world but not of it”.

    Jesus seemed to exhibit ‘in but not of’ in His consumption of alcohol, in that He was always missional.

    The sad part is that Piper is not reaching the artistic community. I do not know of one single legitimate artist that has come out of his church, let alone any songs that people in his church are writing that are being sung anywhere else. Attacking particulars always loses great artists.

    My brother recently attended the Desiring God Conference. He told me the speakers were unbelievable, and that the worship service was shockingly bad. He said, “it seemed like everyone in the audience was bringing their best to the Lord except for the musicians on stage”.

    They probably tell their artists not to listen to “secular” music. What a joke. I wonder if they live in “secular” homes and hire “secular” plumbers to fix the leak.

    How are you going to grow film directors that love God and are missional if you tell them not to watch movies?

    The doctrine of common grace tells us that God has given humanity gifts, regardless of their persuasion. Because I believe that non-Christian artists have a gift from God, I don’t credit Satan, nor do I become so short-sighted that I cannot see past their sin and hypocrisy to their sincerity.

    I love Piper, just like I love my dad, who was also saved out of the hippie counter-culture. My dad broke all his “secular” records because they represented Egypt to him. Not a problem, he was weak in faith for that thing. But now that I am older, producing records and artists from all over the world, both mainstream and worship, writing music for film, television, and the church (some of you probably sing my songs), my dad and I enjoy his old fav songs and bands. He has become strong in faith.

    It is not disrespectful to say, “Dad, I love you, but you’re off on this one”, especially when there is no clear, concise apostolic teaching to support it.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Many of these assumptions are false. Piper no where says here not to watch movies, nor are musicians at Bethlehem told not to listen to “secular” movies.

  26. Steven Galloway says:

    Is there a link to a transcript of the entire sermon? Thanks.

  27. JT Caldwell says:

    It’s not clear from this video byte that Piper is referring to “the Gospel-Centered Movement.”

  28. Anthony Jaramillo says:

    What a great message of warning that I really needed! It’s always good to be on guard for sin in my own life, especially in this form.

    Can someone please provide a link to this sermon in its entirety? I can’t seem to find it on the DesiringGod site and I would love to download it and listen to the whole thing!

Comments are closed.

Search this blog


Justin Taylor photo

Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Justin Taylor's Books