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Why John Piper is Wrong about Prophetic Dreams

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John Piper (theologian)

John Piper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wrote the other day about how thousands of Muslims become Christians because they claim to have seen Jesus in a dream. As I was googling “Muslims Jesus dream” to find testimonies about this to link to, I also came across criticism of this phenomena by reformed pastor John Piper. Piper says that he is “very suspicious” to these claims because the Biblical model of evangelism is not hearing the Gospel through dreams but through a preacher:

“Jesus coming to them in their head, preaching the Gospel to them that they have never heard of before, and believing and being saved… that I am suspicious of… big time,”

“The Gospel needs to be heard. How shall they believe unless they hear and how shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach unless they be sent. That’s a pretty significant argument in Romans 10… It says, how shall they preach unless they be sent? It doesn’t say, oh they can preach in a dream when they are not even there.”

I think there are several problems with this argument. First of all, dreams and visions are a very common way for God to communicate to people in the Bible. As Jack Deere write in his awesome book Surprised by the Voice of God:

According to the Bible, dreams and visions are the normal language of the Holy Spirit when God speaks to hos prophets. Numbers 12:6 says, “When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.” Joel promised that one day drams and visions would be common among the people of God, saying, “And afterward, I will pour our my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29). The apostle Peter claimed that the coming of the Spirit on Pentecost began the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Acts 2:16ff.).

Thus, we shouldn’t be very surprised when Jesus tells us stuff in dreams. It seems though that Piper’s argument is that when it comes to non-believers, the rules are completely different. Piper probably has no problem with a pastor receiving knowledge from God in a dream, but Jesus sharing the Gospel in a dream – no way! That’s the job of the preacher! Step away Holy Spirit, you’re taking my job!

There’s a lot of Biblical examples of non-believers receiving dreams from God – Pharao, Nebuchadnessar and Pilate’s wife for example. Piper himself mentions Cornelius in Acts 10, who got saved after an angel told him to meet the apostle Peter. Piper’s point however is that the angel did not share the Gospel himself but referred to the preacher instead.

And of course, God wants us to connect with the church and not only rely on our own dreams and visions. I’m not saying that the thousands of Muslims that have seen Christ in a dream should be without further teaching and support from Christians; on the contrary, I really think that should be a top priority. But Piper is basically saying that God refuses to share the Gospel himself, that He can tell you anything in a dream besides the Gospel. Think about that. He can give you encouragement, tell you what Bible book He wants you to read, reveal something in your future – but not tell you how to get saved! For a pastor that emphasizes the sovereignity of God, that’s a really, really weird argument.

Just look at Abraham. The guy grew up in an idol-worshipping culture and family, but God started to speak to him and called him to be the father of His people. He became righteous by faith, a faith that no human being gave him, only God himself. Now, I guess Piper would say that Abraham was an exception from the rule since not so many were there to share the Gospel with him. But isn’t the same situation present in many Muslim nations? Missions organizations are struggling in the Middle East because of prejudices and even hatred. Isn’t it amazing that God then Himself is doing some evangelistic outreach?

Perhaps some stories are exagerated, perhaps some are even made up, we should always be aware of that. That’s not Piper’s point though, he’s against this phenomena per se because it doesn’t fit with his theology. But seriously, when thousands of former Muslims testify that they have become Christians because Jesus spoke to them in a dream, who are we to say “that never happened”? I have a better idea: rejoice, praise God and do more evangelism so that you can take back your job from the Holy Spirit. 😉


  1. luaydpk says:

    In Islam Allah is name of God, and David, Abraham, Jesus is prophet of Allah, them pray to Allah, as said in Qur,an.

  2. Jake E. (Genuine Geek - on LumberJocks) says:

    J Piper has more problems than this. It seems strange that Jesus is not allowed to talk to people directly and call them into faith. As the article rightly states, God is used to talking directly to people. There are many more texts too, ones that now talk of angels where the older manuscripts have God himself doing the talking. Many places that mention angels in the Bible are have been re-interpreted to say that because of a false sense of God’s holiness – making him a God who cannot commune with humans directly. That’s not the Jesus I know, my understanding of Jesus is that he is God, and so he can do things any way he wants too, with or without doing it the way it was done when our now 2000 year old scriptures were written.

  3. Hhmmm….In my BTCL class I’ve been told that some of the missionaries from Denton Bible have gone out to tribes that no one has ever visited only to find a “church” there. The people have said that God spoke to someone in a dream and that they started a church. Our church is huge on Piper so I’m unsure about these statements. I guess I’ll have to do some research.

  4. unkleE says:

    I agree with you. John Piper seems to be a very genuine man, very committed to obeying God, but his theology stops him believing the Bible sometimes or recognising the Spirit. Very sad!

  5. krevbot says:


    I appreciate your thoughts, and think this is something that needs to be talked about in an honest, loving, and prayerful way.

    My question would be how do you treat Romans 10:14?

    Also, what Biblical evidence do you see of someone in the New Testament being saved through a dream? Piper references the Cornelius type dream, and agrees that those occur, but a salvific dream…do you see one in Scripture?

    I’m not trying to argue for sake argument, and I hope my comment comes across as it is intended: lovingly seeking the truth with you.

    Grace and Peace.

    • Hi brother! Thanks for your comment.

      As I think I wrote above, to become a disciple of Christ one always need counseling and preaching from the church, since God wants to cooperate with His people. That is, even former Muslims that have met Jesus needs further understanding through the church. For this very reason I think it is an incorrect interpretation of Rom 10:14 that salvation requires preaching on one certain occasion, or that prophecy must be totally absent during the whole process. I also think it is incorrect to interpret it as a universal statement, that all conversions in world history will immediately happen after a sermon, rather than an encouragement for Christians to preach the Gospel.

      I think neither you or Piper would disagree with that some people have been saved by reading the Bible. Personally I know several who just have found a Bible, read it and became saved. Now, this never happens in the Bible itself. No one gets saved after watching a Christian television show in the Bible. But I think it is very problematic to automatically interpret Biblical silence as equal to Biblical impossibility.

      The closest we get to a person who gets saved after reading the Bible is the Ethiopian whom Philip meets on the road. Still, it is firstly when Philip meets him that he fully understands and get baptized. Likewise, many Muslims that see Jesus in a dream only get glimpses of him and receives full understanding through a church.

      Yet, God is not restricted to that. Abraham became a Jew not by any man but through God speaking to him directly (and prophecy cannot be limited to prophetic dreams only). Why wouldn’t God be able to do that? He is the best evangelist, and He is totally free to preach the Gospel to whoever he chooses.


  6. Mike says:

    Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, not a preacher in sight. Christ can do as he wishes in bringing those that the Father has given him, to himself. It is the Holy Spirit, not man that transforms. I respect and listen to John Piper, but, would disagree with him on this.

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The author

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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