Right and Wrong Presuppositions

by Mike Ratliff

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20 ESV

Secondary separation has become a very controversial topic in the Church lately. Remember when John Piper became publicly defensive after he invited Rick Warren to be the keynote speaker at his pastor’s conference? What did he say? He tried to make the case that it was wrong for anyone to separate from him because they had a problem with the theology of Rick Warren and now he and Rick Warren were buddies. I believe I was not alone is publicly stating that the issue was not in friendship per se, but the fact that John Piper was actually validating the theology of Rick Warren and intermingling it with that of his own. So, do we separate from John Piper because he is a friend with Rick Warren or do we separate from John Piper because we disagree with his theology? Ah, now we are getting to the point. If our theology contains the presupposition that it is impossible for someone to be theologically at peace with Rick Warren and still be theologically sound then we have a starting place, but not a firm foundation for separation. 

Believe me, I have fielded dozens of questions from people from all over the world since this happened. Most have been about Dr. Piper’s theological soundness. Is it possible to be completely Orthodox, as we have believed John Piper to be for many years, but for that Orthodoxy to have been nothing but a façade? If that were the case, then that would make John Piper a hypocrite. When he broke the news of Rick Warren’s participation in that Pastor’s Conference things certainly began leaning that way. I have heard all the apologies in his defense, as have you. Look at his track record. Look at all those years of service and his testimony and his preaching and his books. Again, these are presuppositions. Are these proofs of John Piper being an Orthodox leader in the Church in our time? Are these the fruits by which we shall know? Are we to know if a person is a true brother or sister in Christ by what they say or by both what they say and what they do? It is by both. If we have that presupposition then when we look at the testimony of someone like John MacArthur or John Piper or Al Mohler, et cetera, we cannot simply look at his or her doctrinal statement. No, we must also look at what they do and do not do.

Now we come again to critical area of placing presuppositional values on what makes up a genuine brother or sister in Christ and what doesn’t. Last week I listened to a radio show from a link sent to me by some friends. The person doing most of the talking threw everyone under the bus who was Reformed in theology, but who used and/or recommended any modern version of the Bible. That was his basic starting point. I also heard him condemn several of those he listed, whom I know personally and are not apostate or heretics in any way, simply because they were on the advisory board for the English Standard Version of the Bible. You see this fellow’s presupposition makeup was that only those who use the King James Bible were not apostates. That was his starting point. Then if they met that criteria, he dug from there and pointed out all sorts of things he didn’t like about their ministries, most of which were simply petty things that any Presbyterian would disagree with a Baptist about or vice versa.

On the other hand I did agree with him on what he said about Mark Driscoll and the Acts 29/Missional ministries, but to blatantly call John MacArthur a heretic and wolf in sheep’s clothing simply because he uses and recommends Bible versions other than the KJV is simply the fruit of a wrong presupposition.

What is the right presupposition? Is there a dividing line? There most certainly is. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post (1 Corinthians 1:20). You see, the dividing line is in how the Gospel is handled and how important it is in the ministry of these men. If the Word of the Cross is the driving force in their ministries and all they do flows from that then they will be used by God as He expresses His saving power and true wisdom through them. On the other hand, those men whose ministries are marked by resemblance and emphasis on the wisdom of this world then what you have is religious people who look like Christians, but who have darkened minds. They evaluate the gospel as weakness and folly and we see this in how they preach and minister. This is painfully obvious in the seeker-sensitive churches. They misuse and abuse the Gospel to the point that it is no longer recognizable. Those churches are not true churches.

Now, we must ask, why would John Piper desire to intermingle his ministry with that? If we have the correct presupposition that the way to evaluate any minister or ministry is through the Gospel and how it is preached and handled then what we have with John Piper joining with Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren and other emergents makes his Orthodoxy highly suspect. We must not separate from John Piper because of his friends, but because of his failures in Orthodoxy based upon the Biblical Standards that we hold in our God given presuppositions that the Apostle Paul gave us in 1 Corinthians 1:20.

Soli Deo Gloria!

37 thoughts on “Right and Wrong Presuppositions

  1. Mike, I was sent this article a while back. It speaks of the er…problems with the KJV that no one seems to care about. It was a shock to me, yet it made quite a bit of sense. I don’t know what the truth behind all this is, but if you are one who reads something that is not the KJV and are being called a heretic, this might be an article you may want to read…interesting.



  2. Yes, White has done some good work in this area with Riplinger, Mars etc. I’m gonna follow the link and see what else I can gleen. Thank you!


  3. Dawn Marie, I just read most of that article about the KJV from that link in your first comment. I think this is why I like to do my own translations when I am doing serious exegetical studies. I realize that most people cannot do that and I also recognize the need for good, solid translation that everyone can read with no compromises. I see the older translations as full of political compromises that the newer ones do not have, but then there are other prejudicial issues with the translators, et cetera. Again, that is why I like to do my own and use as many references as I can.


  4. You are blessed to be able to do that Mike. I can’t imagine how much easier it makes things on you when you read. At least you know what you are reading is in the original language and that you don’t have to rely on others to tell you what it says. What an awesome skill to have!


  5. Thank You Mike. May God bless your ministry. Fight the good fight, hold fast to that which is truth. 1Ti 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1Th 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

    May I place you on my blog roll?



  6. That’s why I’m a GBO proponent! Yep Geneva bible only! Anyone else is an Anglican reprobate!!!! LOL
    What is missing always in those…um …discussions, is the part about being lead by the Holy Spirit. Folks have their favorite lamp (bible) but must always go to a peddler of oil (Holy Spirit) to get re-filled…foolish really.
    Again, Mike, thanks for your work! Oh, and just let me know when you are ready to look for suitable abodes in N.W. Penna. LOL


  7. Wow! Let me correct that. No, I don’t mean the Holy Spirit is the peddler of oil. Rather, because they seek not the Holy Spirit they chase after oil peddlers. Sheez! I scared myself with that one!


  8. Mickey, you have it right, if we roll everything back to root presupposition then we see what is really behind what they are doing and saying. Also, as you said, if they carry forward to their logical conclusion with what they are doing, it all goes to nothing. It certainly does not glorify God.


  9. Thanks for this Mike. I am wondering if John Piper has given any comment about Rick Warren and the Daniel plan he is doing and doctors he is bringing into his congregation? I am sure someone has asked — of his friends and associates– and I wonder where the response is. If you know of one could you please let me know. I find the silence about it really bizarre. May the Lord continue to bless you.


  10. I have been worried about Dr Piper for quite some time.
    1. He is a continuationist. This seems to frequently lead to compromise of the gospel.
    2. His view of the lack of necessity of believers baptism by immersion for membership at his church.


  11. Doug,
    There is no ‘membership’ in the letters to the body of Christ. That is a man made tradition. Paul didn’t baptize many people nor did he require baptism for some sort of ‘membership’.
    God makes people ‘members’ of His chosen people group, the Ekklesia, nothing else or no one else.
    I find it more disturbing that Piper would ‘require’ than wouldn’t and that there is a ‘membership’ when there shouldn’t be.
    Membership is a man made ‘club’.


  12. Brent and and Doug, I actually think that new believers should be baptized as soon as possible after their profession and that has little or nothing to do with official membership in a list of believers, but everything to do with being baptized into the Body of Christ. Of course, the thief on the cross wasn’t baptized was he? 🙂


  13. Mike, I agree.
    The problem as it always has been is men start setting time lines, rules, etc. that are ‘extra-biblical’ or ‘twisted-biblical’ like the Pharisees of the past and the ‘Judiazers’ of the early Ekklesia and the current ‘Judiazers’ and ‘Pharisees’ that teach the same.
    Not you Doug, the men that ‘teach’ and ‘instruct’ and ‘require’ those things.


  14. Thanks for this, Mike. I now understand predisposition in terms of the starting point of your faith, the bias, the reasoning or doctrine from which everything you say hinges.

    Here is my Scriptural predisposition on Piper’s being impressed with Rick Warren’s doctrinal statement, his being enamoured by Warren’s “brilliance” and his endorsement of Warren as a “true brother” in the gospel.

    2 John 1:
    10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. 11 Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.

    Piper may have written a thousand books, but if he shares in this wicked work…he still does not understand the gospel. Warren is a works oriented, protestant pope with corporate skills and false political and religious alliances which means that everything that he touches with regards to Christ’s completed work, will be contaminated by the poison of his error.

    If Piper was a true believer in “Christ finished the Work at the cross”, he would have stopped the Warren heresy at the gates, he could not have endorsed the Federal Vision heresy (mixing works with grace) and he would not be writing books on Christian hedonism.

    Matthew 16:12
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

    Galatians 5:8-10 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.


  15. Yes! That’s it exactly Carolyn! When we learn to examine our own faith presuppositionally, we are able to view that of men like Piper or Warren or whoever, examining what they say and do and then we see that they are not coming from the the same presuppositions at all. Now, we must make sure that our faith is firmly planted on the solid foundation of Christ and the Word of the Cross and, if so, then we are able, through the light of the Word of God, to see these things in its brilliant light. I find it incredibly amazing how easy it is now to read what these people write or listen to them and spot the errors and it doesn’t take very long at all to see where their error started. At some point they left the Orthodox path of truth and went a different way. They have erred. Unfortunately, so many of those so popular right now have no point to go back to, they have no presuppositional base other than the philosophies of this world, which leads them only to darkness. This is why men like Rob Bell will never be convinced by are arguments or pleas. No, unless God gives Him that new heart of faith and he begins there, he will always remain in darkness.


  16. Yes tragically…the most well educated and theologically polished… so much access to the gospel and yet so far away. Christ has this to say to them:
    Matthew 21:31
    “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.
    Matthew 21:32
    For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.


  17. Thank God He has opened our eyes and hearts and ears to hear His Good News! Thank God, He alone has given us the power to preach the Good News to those who haven’t heard and to those who have and haven’t believed!


  18. Mike, not sure if this is the right place to comment. I remember someone I know from the online world some years ago. He was a dispensationalist believer at the beginning and did his ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary. He then moved to do a ThD at a Reformed seminary, knoew some Arab Palestinian friends, became a Reformed amillennial covenant theology anti-Israel type of believer. Note he was Reformed at that stage: he recommended Christianity Explored courses (which at least the English Christian world, this marks you as Reformed as opposed to the generic evangelical/charismatic), and all the classic Lutheran and Presbyterians works and Mark Driscoll. Very typical of the “Young, Restless, and Reformed type” except he was very positive towards Brian McLaren at the same time. I watched him descending into a Rob Bell support over the years until one day he turned around and claimed Ken Silva was neofundamentalist etc and Rob Bell is a good man of God who is still orthodox and being relevant. It was around 2007 and not long after, he was kicked off from the place I frequented. I guess if he hasn’t repented of his beliefs he would have been a fullblown liberal universalist from the speed he changed doctrine.

    I wonder why that happened? Someone who held Reformed doctrine for a time, and he talked like John Piper (before 2010) back in his Reformed days, then ended up being fully liberal and Emergent at the end? Any comments will be great.


  19. Joel, you and I are not God. We cannot see into the heart of anyone, but Jesus did say that by their fruit we shall know them… I think the fruit of apostasy has been growing in this fellow’s life for quite some time. I am sure you summarized your history of him quite a bit, but it appeared to me that he was follower of men rather than a seeker after the Truth of God. We all have that tendency if we are not very careful and fortunately those who are truly of God are promised to be upheld and kept from this slide into apostasy. In 1 John 2:19 we are told that those who do as this person did, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.“God’s Word clearly shows us that genuine believers persevere because of God working in them to sustain them. When we witness what you described then what other conclusion can we come to but that we have witnessed a disingenuous brother or sister falling away?

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff


  20. I saw this quote this morning…

    “Let us beware of attaching an excessive importance to ministers of religion because of their office. Ordination and office confer no exemption from error. The greatest heresies have been sown, and the greatest practical abuses introduced into the church by ordained men. Respect is undoubtedly due to high official position. Order and discipline ought not to be forgotten. The teaching and counsel of regularly appointed teachers ought not to be lightly refused. But there are limits beyond which we must not go. We must never allow the blind to lead us into the ditch. We must never allow modern chief priests and scribes to make us crucify Christ again. We must test all teachers by the unerring rule of the Word of God. It matters little who says a thing in religion–but it matters greatly what it is that is said. Is it scriptural? Is it true? This is the only question. “To the law and to the testimony–if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20).

    ~ J.C. Ryle


  21. Everyone has a story. Everyone has false worldly predispositions that they need to shaken loose from. My story may be a little more dramatic than some, perhaps a little less dramatic than others, but all for the same purpose…to remove the impurities of false faith…

    to shake us loose from worldly predispositions….sandy soil, fluid, shifting, self concerned…

    I understand the Factor P very well having built my Christian faith on a worldly Predisposition from my youth. It began with Guideposts and Norman Vincent Peale’s power of positive thinking(self), moved into Latter Rain movement (self), was enveloped into the fog of WOF (self) and flowed naturally into the experience-oriented hype of Hyper Charismania (self).

    And on this, I built my Christian faith. It looked pretty good to me, believe it or not. With involvement in Christian community, a working knowledge of the Bible and a belief that I was going to heaven because I believed Christ was my Saviour. (That’s Canadian for Savior…)

    But the factor P was still there…sandy soil…fluid, movable, shifting, elusive and changing.

    I believe, because of my desire for Truth and his mercy to expose my sandy soil, he allowed the winds and the rain to beat upon my house. The sandy soil gave way and to my astonishment, my great Christian house was violently cast down into a heap of rubble. The details are unimportant. The results were devastating.

    Yes, I understand the P Factor very well. In light of where I came from, and given my introduction to Christianity, parental sanctions of false teachings and my own predisposition to worldly success through the medium of money, the crash was predictable if my Christianity was ever to be proved genuine. The winds were necessary to remove false reliance.

    God, who is rich in mercy, helped me to start building again on the solid rock of his Word, eleven years ago, with the help of good teaching from ODMs. And that’s how I got here. Built on the solid, immovable rock of Christ, my faith is dependent on Christ, it is finished by Christ, the eternal, unchanging Word.

    The winds of change, or weather, evil, or disaster can beat upon my house and it will never fall again because the present house has NOT been established by the arm of flesh.

    Jude 1

    24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling,
    And to present you faultless
    Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
    25 To God our Savior,
    Who alone is wise,
    Be glory and majesty,
    Dominion and power,
    Both now and forever.

    And I understand the trouble and grief that false brethren who are autonomous and carry the worldly P Factor can give you, Mike. They are very disruptive, all the while thinking they are doing God a service.

    I liked what you said yesterday: “Now, we must make sure that our faith is firmly planted on the solid foundation of Christ and the Word of the Cross and, if so, then we are able, through the light of the Word of God, to see these things in its brilliant light. I find it incredibly amazing how easy it is now to read what these people write or listen to them and spot the errors and it doesn’t take very long at all to see where their error started.”

    That makes me think this is what Christ had in mind when he said:
    Matthew 7 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    @Angie. Excellent quote…yes!


  22. Carolyn, I know some believers who are struggling with health issues and yet when I attempt to give them comfort from the perspective of Jesus saying, “My Grace is sufficient,” well, they don’t want to hear it. No, they want healing because they have the power of positive thinking and God wants us all to be healthy and happy, et cetera. Since they have been in their health issues for awhile, as I have, I am puzzled why they resist the truth. I finally had a breakthrough the other day when I sent a link to some devotionals to one of these dear ones. The link was of a blog of devotionals written by people who themselves walk in victory before the Lord even though they suffer from chronic illnesses and chronic pain. I am an epileptic and I have permanent shoulder pain because my right shoulder joint is so badly injured from the seizures. In any case, my testimony is that God has taken not only these things, but also dealing with the meds and the side affects with them (depression, et cetera) and has grown me in the Lord. I am more mature in Christ now than before this started. I am more a slave under the Lordship of Christ than I was before. I am a far better Apologist than I was before. My presuppositional stance is eternal because I know that all truth comes from God and we have His complete revelation in His Word. Nothing else is the Truth and what we see around us is simply temporal. Therefore, my health issues are secondary at best to all of that. That is what I have been trying to get those I know who are suffering to understand. Those who grew up on and have embraced the theology of Norman Vincent Peale and those who came after have been deceived and blinded. It is tough to break through that, but God can do it and it may take Cancer or a Heart Attack or a Stroke or a chronic illness of some kind, but eternity is what matters not this life that is but a vapor.


  23. Amen, Mike! Our perseverence in striving with others for victory is based on two immutable, eternal things…Who God is and what he says. You are right…our present health issues are nothing in the light of eternity!!


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