John Piper on God Ordaining All Sin And Evil Part 1: An Arminian Response to Piper’s First “Question”

[Updated on 9/24/12]

John Piper preached a sermon on God’s sovereign control over all things.  In this sermon, Piper highly praises the works of Jonathan Edwards and relies heavily on his accounting of sovereignty to explain how God can decree and ordain all evil in this world, and yet not be rightly called the author of all sin and evil.  Thankfully, Piper is uncomfortable with calling God the author of sin, while still maintaining that God ordained and decreed all sin for His glory.  How does Piper do this?  The answer will likely surprise you.

First, Piper makes it clear that he believes that those who hold to God’s sovereignty in the context of Calvinistic exhaustive determinism have a far superior world view (a “God-entranced world view”) to those who define God’s sovereignty in a non-deterministic sense.  He writes,

But when a person settles it Biblically, intellectually and emotionally, that God has ultimate control of all things, including evil, and that this is gracious and precious beyond words, then a marvelous stability and depth come into that person’s life and they develop a “God-entranced world view.” When a person believes, with the Heidelberg Catechism (Question 27), that “The almighty and everywhere present power of God . . . upholds heaven and earth, with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things, come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand” – when a person believes and cherishes that truth, they have the key to a God-entranced world view.

So my aim in this second message is to commend to you this absolute sovereign control of God over all things, including evil, because it is Biblical, and because it will help you become stable and deep and God-entranced and God-glorifying in all you think and feel and do.

First, we must point out that Arminians do not have a problem with God being in control of all things, including evil.  Arminians define this within the bounds of God’s permission.  God permits evil.  Evil does not take God by surprise.  But God does not control things in such a way that His creatures sin irresistibly (i.e. of necessity).  Piper may not claim this either, but the logic of his position demands it.  Even his quote of the Heidelberg confession leaves little room for any other conclusion, especially when it says, “yea, all things, come not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.”  Apparently, Piper includes sin and evil in the “all things” since he uses this definition of sovereignty as a spring board to his following point that,  “…my  aim in this second message is to commend to you this absolute sovereign control of God over all things, including evil, because it is Biblical…”  So it seems clear that according to his use of the confession that Piper believes that all sin and evil comes by “[God’s] fatherly hand.” 

If not for the way Piper uses the confession, the Arminian could hardly disagree that God is in control over all things including the evil that takes place in the world.  Again, this would be in the context of God’s permissive will and His setting limitations on evil and the extent to which evil can impact His creation and His ultimate plan, with a view towards God’s ultimate just judgment of all sin and evil at the end of time.  In this sense, God would “govern” evil, without necessitating it.  But that is quite a different thing than saying that sin and evil comes by God’s “fatherly hand”, for if sin and evil comes by the hand of God, how can anyone resist what God’s fatherly hand sets out to do? [1]

It seems from this that God must then be the “cause” of all sin and evil in a sense that goes beyond mere permission (and in a sense that should trace not only sin but responsibility for sin back to God’s “fatherly hand” from which it necessarily proceeds; indeed, sin would have its very origin from God).  That Piper sees sin as absolutely necessitated by God’s decree is made clear in his eventual quote of Charles Spurgeon,

When Spurgeon was challenged that this is nothing but fatalism and stoicism, he replied,

‘What is fate? Fate is this – Whatever is, must be. But there is a difference between that and Providence. Providence says, Whatever God ordains, must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains anything without a purpose. Everything in this world is working for some great end. Fate does not say that. . . . There is all the difference between fate and Providence that there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man.’

So Piper approvingly quotes Spurgeon, who clearly argues that all that God ordains “must be”.  This includes sin.  Therefore, all sin and evil in this world is the unavoidable and necessary result of God’s eternal decree.  Obviously, no man has any power to resist God’s eternal necessitating decree.  Therefore, when a man sins, he sins irresistibly in accordance with an eternal decree that he is powerless to resist.

Piper quotes numerous passages of Scripture that he believes support his contention that God controls all evil (natural, animal, and moral).  It seems to me that all of these passages could just as well fit with the Arminian view of God’s sovereignty over evil as I described it above (See Daniel Whedon’s response to such passages below).  I will only focus on a few passages that I think Piper severely misuses.  Concerning Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt, Piper writes,

For example, all the choices of Joseph’s brothers in getting rid of him and selling him into slavery are seen as sin and yet also as the outworking of God’s good purpose. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph says to his brothers when they fear his vengeance, ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.’

It seems to me that Piper is quickly softening his language here.  To say that the sinful actions that led to Joseph coming to power in Egypt was also the “outworking of God’s purpose” is quite a different thing than saying that those sins were necessitated by God in accordance with an irresistible eternal decree.  Piper makes reference to the insufficient response that an open theist might give to the way Piper sees God’s sovereignty at work in these passages, but does not really interact with the Arminian view as I described it above.  However, it seems that in his response to the open theist, Piper intends to undo any Arminian interpretation of this passage that would see it in the context of permission and using sinful actions to accomplish His will, while in no way causing those sinful actions,

But this will not fit what the text says or what Psalm 105:17 says. The text says, “You meant evil against me.” Evil is a feminine singular noun. Then it says, “God meant it for good.” The word “it” is a feminine singular suffix that can only agree with the antecedent feminine singular noun, “evil.” And the verb “meant” is the same past tense in both cases. You meant evil against me in the past, as you were doing it. And God meant that very evil, not as evil, but as good in the past as you were doing it. And to make this perfectly clear, Psalm 105:17 says about Joseph’s coming to Egypt, “[God] sent a man before them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave.” God sent him. God did not find him there owing to evil choices, and then try to make something good come of it. Therefore this text stands as a kind of paradigm for how to understand the evil will of man within the sovereign will of God.

Piper’s points concerning this passage hardly undermine the Arminian understanding of God’s sovereignty with respect to sin.  It doesn’t really support Piper’s case that God meant their sinful actions for “good” while they “were doing it.”

Why would it?  This only means that throughout the whole process, God was working ultimate good out of their actions that they intended for evil.  But this doesn’t mean that God caused them to sin so that He could bring good out of it.  Rather, at every step of the way, God was working out His plan to get Joseph to Egypt, even through the sinful free choices of his brothers.  In this way, God was “sending” Joseph to Egypt by ensuring that Joseph got to Egypt even through the sinful free will choices that God in no way caused Joseph’s brothers to commit.

God is so wise that even the free will choices of His creatures cannot thwart His ultimate purposes, and God can use those choices, even sinful ones, to accomplish those purposes.

Furthermore, it is doubtful that Piper’s appeal to Joseph being “sent” in Psalm 105:17 lends any support to his contention, since this Psalm is speaking in generalities (as Psalms often do), without concerning itself with philosophical specifics like the exact inner workings of what was involved in Joseph being “sent”. 

So we conclude that while Joseph’s brothers’ intentions in their actions were to get rid of Joseph forever, God’s intentions in (or through) their actions were to get Joseph to Egypt.  This in no way means that God caused those actions.  But this will not do for Piper.  He seems to want this passage to say something more, though appears hesitant to come right out and say it.  He makes specific reference to the language in a seeming attempt to more directly involve God in the actions of the brothers,

The text says, ‘You meant evil against me.’ Evil is a feminine singular noun. Then it says, ‘God meant it for good.’ The word “it” is a feminine singular suffix that can only agree with the antecedent feminine singular noun, “evil.” And the verb “meant” is the same past tense in both cases. You meant evil against me in the past, as you were doing it. And God meant that very evil, not as evil, but as good in the past as you were doing it. (emphasis mine)

Surely, Piper does not mean to say that God means evil for good as evil.  But this is what we would have to conclude from Piper’s language when he writes, “And God meant that very evil, not as evil, but as good in the past as you were doing it.”  Again, I would suspect that Piper would shy away from the claim that God means evil as good in the sense that God actually considers evil actions as good.  But if that is not what Piper is expressing, his point cannot stand.  Rather, God means evil for good in that the evil will still accomplish God’s purpose in getting Joseph to Egypt, which will ultimately result in the “good” of Joseph saving his family and the Egyptians from starvation.  There is no reason to believe that Joseph did not mean that God had the end result in mind, in saying that God meant their evil actions for good (the good of how God would use Joseph in Egypt), even while they were doing them

Biblical scholar Brian Abasciano gives a helpful illustration as to how God might intend for something other than what Joseph’s brother’s intended by their actions without in anyway needing to cause those specific actions or even approve of the motive behind them,

Normally, when one person does an action and means something for it and another person who does not do the action also means something for the action, there is no suggestion that the person who did not do the action somehow really did do it or irresistibly caused the other person to do it. If my son chooses to sign up for baseball, and means to have fun by it, and I mean for him to learn discipline by it, it does not mean that I made him sign up or that I irresistibly caused him to sign up or somehow irresistibly caused him to desire to sign up. He means it in the way appropriate for the person actually doing the action, and I mean it in a way appropriate to someone who has authority over the situation and power to stop the action. Any number of examples could be thought of for this, including ones with an evil purpose in the perpetrator of the action vs. a good one in someone who has power to stop or allow the action. (quoted from a  discussion thread)

Piper is placing a burden on the language of the passage that the language alone cannot be made to bear.  Strangely, Piper seems to plainly undercut his point here at the end of his sermon when he tries to prove that God ordaining sin does not make Him the author of sin.  He quotes Edwards approvingly,

God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet . . . it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all consequences. . . . God doesn’t will sin as sin or for the sake of anything evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that he permitting, sin will come to pass; for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. (emphasis mine)

Later he writes,

“It is evident from what has been said that it is not because he delights in evil as evil. Rather he ‘wills that evil come to pass . . . that good may come of it.’” (emphasis mine)

Here, Piper, following Edwards, seems to be plainly focusing on the end result of evil being good, rather than viewing the actual evil acts as being “good” as they are being done (and notice the subtle language of permission here; more on that later).  If that is the case, all of Piper’s comments about specific language use (i.e., the word “it” referring back to their evil actions) fall to the ground (and it should be pointed out again that the view I am advocating is the traditional Arminian view which affirms God’s exhaustive foreknowledge in contrast to the “openness” view which denies God’s foreknowledge; the latter being the view that Piper is most directly attacking).  But it may be that Piper is saying that the word “evil” in the passage has reference to their intentions and that God willed or “meant” their evil intentions for “good”.  This can hardly be determined from the language.

It may be that both their intentions and their actions are meant by the word “evil”, with the focus from God’s perspective being on His meaning for their actions, resulting from their intentions, to bring about the good result of getting Joseph to Egypt.  But even if we say it has reference only to the specific evil intentions of Joseph’s brothers, it still does not create any problems for the Arminian view as shown above.  God can mean for their evil intentions to bring about the good that God intends (getting Joseph to Egypt and saving many from famine and ultimately reconciling Joseph to his family, etc.) without in any way causing those actions or decreeing them from all eternity.  Piper’s focus on the language meaning that God’s intention for their evil as being for good “while they were doing it” simply cannot demonstrate that God had some part in their evil actions while they were doing it.

Another passage Piper makes use of to demonstrate that God decrees sin is Acts 4:27, 28.  He quotes Edwards to make his point,

The death of Jesus offers another example of how God’s sovereign will ordains that a sinful act come to pass. Edwards says, ‘The crucifying of Christ was a great sin; and as man committed it, it was exceedingly hateful and highly provoking to God. Yet upon many great considerations it was the will of God that it should be done.’ Then he refers to Acts 4:27-28, ‘Truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur’ (see also Isaiah 53:10). In other words, all the sinful acts of Herod, Pilate, of Gentiles and Jews were predestined to occur.

But this is not what the passage says at all.  The passage seems to be specifically referring to Christ’s death.  That is what was foreordained by God.  Just as with Joseph, God used the sinful actions of evil men to accomplish Christ’s sacrificial death, but this does not mean that God caused or necessitated their sinful actions (or evil intentions).  To say that the foreordination spoken of here has specific reference to every sinful choice leading to Christ’s death in the sense of God causing every one of those choices is to read far more into the text than the text is actually claiming.  Really, all God had to do was give Christ over to their power, knowing that, given the opportunity, they would, of their own free will, put Him to death (or hand Him over to be put to death, see footnote #2 below).  But God handing Christ over to them and giving them power over Him to the point of putting Him to death is not the same as God causing them to hate Christ and kill Him.  Piper seems to anticipate this basic response and relies on Edwards again to provide the answer,

Edwards ponders that someone might say that only the sufferings of Christ were planned by God, not the sins against him, to which he responds, ‘I answer, [the sufferings] could not come to pass but by sin. For contempt and disgrace was one thing he was to suffer. [Therefore] even the free actions of men are subject to God’s disposal.’

But this is also easily answered by simply understanding this passage as God handing Christ over to the power of those who already hated Him.  This would obviously accomplish Christ’s suffering of contempt and disgrace without in anyway forcing us to assume that God caused those who killed Christ to treat Him with contempt.  The verses preceding those quoted by Edwards support the contention that God’s foreordination encompassed no more than God handing His Son over to those who were already bent on killing Him,

You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:

 ‘Why do the nations rage

 and the peoples plot in vain?

 The kings of the earth take their

 stand

 and the rulers gather together

 against the Lord

 And against his anointed One’

This fits perfectly with the interpretation I am suggesting.  The “rulers” and “kings” were already “gathered together against” the Lord and His Messiah.  All God had to do was hand Christ over to them so they could deal with Him as they wished.  Piper’s interpretation would have us answer the question, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” with “because God caused them to, irresistibly controlling their intentions and actions in accordance with His eternal decree.”  This would hardly seem to be the intended answer to this rhetorical question.

We find further support for our interpretation, against Piper’s, in the parallel account found in Acts 2:23,

“This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Emphasis mine) [2]

Piper quotes a few more passages [3] and then writes,

“Therefore I conclude with Jonathan Edwards, ‘God decrees all things, even all sins.’ Or, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:11, “He works all things after the counsel of His will.’”

It is important to review Piper’s view before proceeding.  According to Piper, all evil and sin “comes…by [God’s] fatherly hand,” falling under God’s providence in such a way that these sins “must be” (i.e. these sins happen of divine necessity), and that God “decrees all things, even all sins” (shockingly, even going so far as to claim that this divine decree of all sin and evil is “gracious and precious beyond words” and alone can produce Piper’s coveted  “God-entranced world view” producing “marvelous stability and depth” in our lives).  With this in mind, it is puzzling to read how Piper and Edwards proceed to vindicate God of the charge that such a view would seem to plainly imply as a logical necessity: that God is the author/originator of sin.

With this in mind, we proceed to the first of Piper’s “Two Questions”, which asks: “Is God the author of sin?”

Piper again relies entirely on Edwards to make his argument,

Edwards answers, “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing . . . . it would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin.” But, he argues, willing that sin exist in the world is not the same as sinning. God does not commit sin in willing that there be sin. God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission, but not by his “positive agency.

God is, Edwards says, “the permitter . . . of sin; and at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted . . . will most certainly and infallibly follow.

Since Piper relies on Edwards to explain how God can decree and necessitate sin and yet not be properly called the author of it, we shall here rely on early Methodist theologian Daniel Whedon to refute both Piper and Edwards:

In regard to Edwards, we may here note the very remarkable fact that, although his whole work aggressively maintains necessitation, yet when he comes to this point he defends only the theory of non-prevention!  He seems to forget to which side he belongs, and quietly exculpates his opponents, the non-preventionists, from charging God with the authorship of sin.  He makes two suppositions as follows:

1. “If”, says he, “by author of sin be meant the sinner, the agent, the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing;” (356) then- no matter what “then.” For that is an imaginary “if.”  The real question is: Suppose by “author” is meant necessitator of sin, the necessitator of all sin, the necessitator of the sinner to be the “sinner,” “the actor,” “the doer”; what then is the answer of Edwards?  Nothing.

2.  “But if,” says he, “by the author of sin is meant the permitter, or not hinderer of sin, and at the same time a disposer of the state of events in such a manner…that sin, if it is permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow:” (356) then God is no author of sin.  That is, the non-prevention theory- the theory of his opponents- does not make God the author of sin.  This is a generous exculpation of us Arminians!  But what does Edwards say in defense of his own theory, namely, of Necessitation?  Nothing.  He simply defends the position of his opponents, and leaves his own system defenseless and naked to its enemies.  He has demonstrated Calvinism; he now defends only Arminianism [4]. (The Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, pp. 343, 344)

Exactly.  For all of Piper’s arguments that God decrees and necessitates sin, he is only able to avoid making God the author of sin by following Edwards in arguing like an Arminian.  Just like Edwards, Piper has extensively argued for decretal necessitation of sin (even to the point of suggesting that all sin and evil actually originates by God’s “fatherly hand”), but now defends only the Arminian position of permission and non-prevention.  Not only does this contradict his own arguments to this point (which actually do imply that God is the necessitating author of sin), but it also vindicates the Arminian perspective on God’s sovereignty in relation to sin as well as the Arminian interpretation of the same passages that Piper previously used to show that God ordains all sin and evil.  Again, Whedon drives this point home in his response to Edwards’ use of the same sorts of passages,

Edwards next proceeds to the Scripture argument.  He adduces the cases of Pharaoh, of Joseph’s brethren, of the king of Assyria, of Nebuchadnezzar, and of the crucifiers of Christ to prove- it is not very clear what.  These passages, it is at present sufficient to say, have terms of causation that seem to ascribe authorship of sin to God.  These passages either prove God’s necessitation of sin, or his mere permission or non-prevention.  By Edwards own argument they cannot mean the former; for he asserts there is nothing but mere permission.  If there is nothing but mere permission, then they make nothing against Arminianism.  He quotes but does not analyze them on this point, very much as if he meant, non-committally, to have a causation and necessitation of sin, by the reader inferred, which he thought best not explicitly himself to express. (ibid. 346)

So, for all of Piper’s arguments we are left with the Arminian theory of non-prevention to account for God’s ordaining sin in such a way as to avoid making God the author of sin. How does Piper avoid the implications of his theology?  He avoids them by adopting the Arminian perspective, the very perspective he has worked so hard to argue against in his sermon.  But as Whedon points out concerning Edwards, Piper’s permission and non-prevention solution likewise cannot comport with Piper’s overall theology,

It is not merely permission, not-hindering, non-annihilation, non-prevention, privative non-interference, nor the sole arranging that sin, if not prevented, will take place, that Necessitarianism teaches.  It teaches that God is the necessitative first cause, through a straight inevitable line of necessitating second causes, of man’s existence, and of his very acts, and of his final damnation for the being and act.  Necessitated to be what he is, to do what he does, of that necessitation God is the original necessitator who not only negatively precludes any different results from any possible existence, but positively necessitates that sole result to come into existence.  That is, God necessitates his existence, his nature and sin.  Man has no adequate ability for different existence, choice, act, or destiny. (ibid., pp. 343, 344)

We are left with only two possibilities.  Either Piper is truly relying on the Arminian non-prevention position to escape the force of his own Calvinist logic in making God the author of sin, thereby defeating his previous arguments to the contrary, or he is using “permission” in a manner that is contrary to normal usage and understanding.  This second possibility is hinted at when Piper says, “God has established a world in which sin will indeed necessarily come to pass by God’s permission.” (Emphasis mine)  But what does this mean?  Can Piper’s attempt to mix permission and non-prevention with necessity succeed? 

To say that God “permits” sin to come about “necessarily” is nothing more than saying that God “established a world” in which sin happens of necessity.  In the Edwards/Piper/Calvinist scheme, man is powerless to control his nature.  Man is powerless to choose or act contrary to “strongest motive force.”  Man, likewise, has no control over which motive will indeed be the “strongest” and so irresistibly move his will in a certain direction.  All these things are necessitated by the eternal all-encompassing decree of God.  Adam’s sin, mankind’s consequent fallen nature, and every subsequent thought, motive, desire, and act are necessitated by eternal divine decree. A person can no more resist or act contrary to the eternal divine decree than he or she could create a universe.  How then can we speak of God merely “permitting” these “necessitated” sinful acts? [5]

Even if we speak of God “permitting” the person to sin in accordance with his nature without, perhaps, actually causing the nature to produce the sin, the point is undone when we remember that man’s nature was necessitated as well as the cause and effect relationship between the “nature” and “act” that “infallibly” produces not only the sin, but the specific sin that was decreed to be performed by the person from all eternity.  This must include the sinful intentions as well, since all things come by God’s “fatherly hand.” [6]  To say that God “permits” sin to “necessarily” come about sounds much nicer and far less offensive than saying that God simply necessitates or causes sin, but it amounts to the exact same thing; whether we soften the language or not, it still reduces to necessitation or exhaustive determinism.  Daniel Whedon puts his finger on the problem well when he writes,

In the question of responsibility for an intended effect, be it here noted, it makes no difference through how many intermediate necessary causes the causation has to pass from the first cause to the last effect.  No matter how long the series of mediate necessitative causes, or how many the terms in the series, the first intentional causer is the responsible author of the final intended effect.  If the necessary mediate causes are billions and billions, the intentional causer is as truly the responsible author of the effect at the far end as if it were an immediate voluntary act or a simple volition.  The whole series is responsibly one act; the final effect is the one act.  The line of causation shoots through the whole series, and binds the first cause to a responsibility for the last effect.

Suppose a boy upon a high scaffold intentionally so arranges a number of standing bricks in a row, that when he pushes down the first, that shall push down the second, and the second the third and so on, so that the last brick, according to his purpose, shall fall upon the head of a sleeping man, and fulfill his intention of murdering him.  Would the act be less guilty or the boy less responsible than if he had crushed the man with a single brick, or assassinated him with a dagger, or willed him to an actual death by a volition?  Or if the bricks were a small number, would the increase of them be a score, a hundred, or a thousand, diminish the responsibility?

It would be no moral exculpation of this boy to say that he merely “so disposed” the bricks that the murder, “if permitted or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow.”  The statement would be false, for he did more than this.  He necessitated and non-alternatively caused the brick to fall; and so was the author of the murder- the murderer.  The causative force from his finger ran in a right line through all the bricks and murdered the man.  The intention of the act ran through all the bricks and achieved the crime.  He had excluded from each and every brick the adequate power or possibility for any other effect.  Mere permission and necessitation are thus very different things in the question of responsible authorship…The first cause is the responsible cause of the last effect.  If the first cause is a living being, he is not only the cause. But he is the causer.  And if he intended that the last effect should exist, then he is the intentional causer that the last effect should exist.  And if this first supposed causer is a supposed God, and the last effect is sin, the supposed God is the intentional causer of that sin.  But surely the intentional causer of a thing is author of that thing.  God then, according to necessitarianism, we charge, is the responsible author of sin.

And by the same doctrine it is further true that God is as truly the author of sin as if the sin were his own immediate intentional act.  God is hereby the responsible author of the final effect as truly as it were his own act, or his own simple volition.  From the Will of God to the act of the sinner the line of causation through all intermediates is a straight line.  And to all the purposes of just responsibility it is a short line- a point. (ibid., pp. 344-346- emphasis mine)

Considering Piper’s prior arguments that sin is decreed by God in such a way that it “must” happen even to the point of all sin and evil originating by the “fatherly hand” of God,  it is truly difficult to grasp what Piper is trying to teach us.  It truly seems like his use of “permission” language serves only to obfuscate the very dogmas he has labored so hard to defend for the sake of avoiding the unavoidable implication of his teaching. This may be an example of what Whedon calls, “the use of words to conceal thought.”

Piper quotes Edwards further,

God may hate a thing as it is in itself, and considered simply as evil, and yet . . . it may be his will it should come to pass, considering all consequences. . . . God doesn’t will sin as sin or for the sake of anything evil; though it be his pleasure so to order things, that he permitting, sin will come to pass; for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence. His willing to order things so that evil should come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good, is no argument that he doesn’t hate evil, as evil: and if so, then it is no reason why he may not reasonably forbid evil as evil, and punish it as such.

As we have already demonstrated, Edwards’ scheme has no real room for mere permission, but only necessitation.  Therefore, it is odd to see Edwards argue that God ordering (i.e. necessitating) “things so that sin should (i.e. must) come to pass, for the sake of the contrary good” is no argument against God hating and somehow “forbid[ing]” that very evil that He necessitated, and then punishing his creatures for doing that very evil that God decreed for them to do.

Again, we will rely on Whedon to counter the argument,

But by Edwards’s argument, God does will and necessitate ‘sin as sin.’  God necessitates sin as being what it is.  Its sinfulness, its malignity, its blackness, its depravity of source in the dispositions, its atrocity of external act, all are necessitated by him.  As the sinner wills it, so the necessitarian deity wills it.  As the finite sins it so this infinite sins it.  God necessitates, wills, decrees, foreordains whatsoever comes to pass; the sinfulness of sin, sin as sin, come to pass.  God, therefore, necessitates, wills, decrees, foreordains the sinfulness of sin, sin as sin…But God ‘was willing to order things so evil should come to pass,’ Edwards adds, and necessitates in the sinner, not for its own sake, ‘but for the sake of the great good that by his disposal shall be the consequence.” (370)  To this Edwards very justly anticipates the reply that, ‘All that these things amount to is that God may do evil that good may come.’ (372)  If God may truly necessitate sin in the sinner, necessitate the sinfulness and guilt of that sin, and then necessitate an endless hell for the necessitated sin, all for some good and glorious end, then the maxim of the sons of Loyola, that the end sanctifies the means, is a fundamental maxim of divine administration.

God is then admitted to be the Author of Sin, and he is justified in being the Author of Sin.  The fact is granted and excused.  In order to make a beneficial crime holy, the method is (as is well quoted by Professor Bledsoe from Pascal) ‘simply taking off their intention from the sin itself and fixing it on the advantage to be gained.’  Edwards makes the supposed divine necessitation of sin, guilt, and damnation all right and holy, by simply taking the divine intention from them and placing it on the good result to be obtained.  If this is the divine morality, why not the human?

…But Edwards has his reply: ‘For God to dispose and permit evil, [he should say cause, necessitate, predestinate, and will sin,] in the manner that has been spoken of, is not to do evil that good may come, for it is not to do evil at all.’ (372)  Certainly it is ‘to do evil’ unless the goodness of the result changes the ‘do evil’ and makes it good.  But the doctrine that the ‘do evil’ is made good by what ‘good may come,’ is the very pith and infamy of the Jesuit maxim.  The maxim stands in opposition to the true doctrine that intrinsic evil cannot by any result be transmuted into good. (ibid. pp. 348, 349)

Conclusion

We have so far examined most of John Piper’s sermon on God ordaining all sin and evil.  We will examine the rest, along with Piper’s second “Question” in a future post.  Piper has argued strongly for the view that God necessitates all things, even all that is sinful and evil, by an irrevocable eternal decree.  He tells us that all things, including all that is evil and sinful come by God’s “fatherly hand” leading us to the inevitable conclusion that all such things have their origin in God Himself. 

Piper informs us at the onset that this realization is something that is very important for our Christian maturity.  Indeed, it is “gracious and precious beyond words” and will produce in our lives “a marvelous stability and depth” and is, in fact, the “key to a God-entranced world view.”  It would seem that this assertion carries with it the suggestion that those who reject Piper’s view of providence that has God causing all sin and evil are stuck with a view of God inferior to that of Piper and his followers.  The only way, according to Piper, for us to “become stable and deep and God-entranced and God-glorifying in all [we] think and feel and do” is to embrace “this absolute sovereign control of God over all things, including evil, because it is Biblical.”  This is a ridiculous assertion, to say the least [7].

Piper then proceeded to the Scripture argument to prove his view of providence that every sinful act proceeds from God’s “fatherly hand” and seemingly eschewed any view of providence that would have God merely permitting those sins while still working through or around them to accomplish His ultimate purposes.  But when it comes to the thorny issue of vindicating God of the logical implication of his view of providence that would make God the responsible author and originator of all sin and evil, Piper can only rely on the Arminian non-prevention view to relieve the difficulty.

Stranger still is Piper’s further attempt to seemingly meld necessity and permission in such a way as to have his cake and eat it too.  He argues for necessity against permission only to eventually argue for permission and later affirm both necessity and permission, or something like that. But as we have seen in this examination, both Edwards’ and Piper’s view, when wholly unfolded, cannot avoid the logical implications that have troubled Calvinist determinism since its inception.  In a view that makes God the necessitating first cause of all things, even sin and evil (so that all these things happen as they “must” in accordance with an irresistible eternal decree), no amount of clever verbiage (i.e. “the use of words to conceal thought”) can evade the fact that this peculiar view of sovereignty makes God the responsible author of all sin and evil.

If Piper wants to properly rely on the Arminian non-prevention/permission view to escape the implication, then we welcome him to the Arminian camp; if he wants to cling to the supposed “God-entranced view” of absolute sovereignty that makes even sin and evil originate by God’s “fatherly hand”, then he will be stuck with the unavoidable conclusion he wishes to avoid.  Thankfully, despite Piper’s inconsistencies, he is ultimately not willing to accept the logical implications of his claims and call God the responsible author of sin. [8]

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[1] It is possible for an Arminian to claim that sin comes from God’s fatherly hand, but only in the loose sense of permitting that sin while in no way originating it (i.e., it could perhaps be thought to pass through His hands in the sense that it could not happen if God did not permit or allow it- see note #4 below).  Clearly, Piper’s and Edwards’ view of God’s ordaining all sin and evil would necessarily imply that God not only permits sin, but decrees it in a sense that prior to creation God Himself thought up every sin that would be committed, with no influence outside of Himself, and decreed for each of those sins to be carried out along with the sinful intentions and the sinfulness of those intentions in such a way that they “must” take place in an unavoidable and irresistible manner.  As noted in the post, this is clearly what is implied in Piper’s use of the idea that such things come from “God’s fatherly hand.”  If Piper should mean it in a way that an Arminian could be comfortable with the phrase (though I can’t imagine any Arminian purposely framing God’s permissive will in such an awkward way), he would simply be using it in a manner that is inconsistent with everything else he says about God’s ordination of all sin and evil as the post points out in numerous places.

[2] It should be noted that “to you” is not in the original, but seems to be plainly implied and is for that reason supplied by the NIV.  This is especially so given the context and the last part of the verse, “…and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”  For this reason it does seem to plainly imply that God handed over Christ by allowing those who wanted to kill Him opportunity to do so.  However, it could be argued that the “handing over” does not refer specifically to God handing Christ over, but to the human action of the Jews handing Jesus over to the Romans or even Judas handing over Jesus to the Jewish authorities. But regardless of who did the handing over, the point would still stand that the sinful intentions of those who handed Christ over did not need to be formed by God in order for God to have planned and ensured that the handing over and the subsequent results (the crucifixion) took place.  Instead, God would only need to provide for them the opportunity to carry out their sinful intentions.

[3] In bolstering his case with a few more passages of Scripture, Piper continues,

“These specific examples (which could be multiplied by many more instances) where God purposefully governs the sinful choices of people are generalized in several passages. For example, Romans 9:16: ‘So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.’ Man’s will is not the ultimately decisive agent in the world, God is. Proverbs 20:24: ‘Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, How then can man understand his way?’ Proverbs 19:21: ‘Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the LORD will stand.’ Proverbs 21:1: ‘The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.’ Jeremiah 10:23: ‘I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.’”

I will briefly comment on these passages: 

Romans 9:16 is actually a reference to man’s will in relation to salvation and not to sin.  It is certainly not a general statement intended to convey the idea that every desire and act of man is necessitated by divine decree, nor would any Arminian claim that “Man’s will is…the ultimately decisive agent in the world.”  Indeed, the passage is not addressing man’s role in receiving salvation by faith (an act of “will”), but God’s ultimate prerogative in deciding who will be saved and through whom His salvation will be mediated.  This does not conflict with Arminianism at all, for Arminians hold that God has the sovereign right to decide the terms of salvation.  It is the terms of salvation that man has no say in for God can save anyway He wants, as the Scriptures say, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” This in no way negates God’s right to save conditionally (through faith in His Son, rather than by works or heritage), nor does it teach that God controls man’s every thought, desire and action.

Proverbs 20:24 is a general statement of God’s providence over the affairs of a man’s life.  No Arminian would disagree.  Joseph Benson’s comments on the passage are excellent, 

“Man’s goings are of the Lord — All men’s purposes and actions are so entirely subject to the control of God’s overruling providence, and so liable to be frustrated or changed, as he shall see good, and to be directed to ends so far distant from those they thought of and intended, that it is impossible for any man to know what shall be the event of any of his undertakings. The intention of this proverb is, to show that the events of human life are neither ordered nor foreseen by man’s, but only by God’s providence; and therefore that men should only mind to do their duty, and then quietly depend upon God for a good issue to their endeavours.”

Another way to look at this passage is as a simple acknowledgement that this world is God’s and as the Creator He alone should be looked to for understanding, guidance and direction.  Since God is the Creator, governor and the author of life, we cannot understand the right way on our own, but should look to Him for wisdom.

This principle can be seen in Christ’s parable of the man who stored up great wealth for his future and died despite his plans (Luke 12:13-21).  The following passages give us further insight,

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

This verse makes it clear that man does make his own plans.  The point is that God can overrule our plans, either for good (in protecting us from the wrong course) or for ill (in bringing discipline or judgment on us for not relying on God to guide us, as in Christ’s parable).  The word “directs” can also mean establish, which can further mean that while we are the ones who plan, it is God who grants success. 

Likewise, we see the same basic principle in Psalm 37:23,

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he will make his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

So while Proverbs 20:24 teaches us an important lesson concerning God’s providence, it does not support Piper’s view of exhaustive meticulous divine control.  Proverbs 19:21 lays down the same basic principle, but again contradicts Piper’s assertions by acknowledging that man does indeed make his own plans; the point again being that the plans of man cannot finally frustrate God’s ultimate plan, nor can they succeed unless God permits.  Passages like these teach us that God is in no way threatened by the free will decisions of His creatures, but they do not teach us that God meticulously controls our wills so that all that we think and do is in accordance with an irresistible eternal decree.  Indeed, they contradict such a notion in acknowledging that people do come up with their own plans, though it is up to God as to whether or not He will let those plans succeed.

Proverbs 21:1 can be understood as a statement of the king’s personal submission to God’s sovereignty and rule in His life, relying on God to guide and direct him to rule wisely.  To use this verse as support for God irresistibly controlling man’s every decision like a water course runs aground on the following verse, “All of man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (vs. 2)  For more on this passage see my post, Does Proverbs 21:1 Teach Calvinistic Determinism?

Jeremiah 10:23 is little different than the passages we have already examined.  We will again rely on Joseph Benson’s commentary for further insight,

“That the way of man is not in himself — The prophet must here be considered as acknowledging the superintendence and dominion of the divine providence; that by it, and not by their own will and wisdom, the affairs both of nations and particular persons are directed and governed. His words in this verse, taken in connection with the following, may be thus paraphrased: Thy providence, O Lord, superintends all events; all that happens comes to pass through thy permission or appointment. It is not in man to hinder that which has been once resolved on in thy decrees. We know, therefore, that it is not in our power to divert those judgments which are coming upon us, but thou canst moderate and limit them as thou pleasest. If, then, it be thy will that we should feel the awful effects of thy justice, chastise us, but spare our weakness; correct us, but with judgment, not in thine anger, &c. Theodoret applies this to Nebuchadnezzar, and explains the passage thus: ‘We know, O Lord, that the prince whom thou sendest against us comes not without thy orders; that the success of his arms, and the good fortune of his enterprise, proceed only from thee: but deliver us, O Lord, from this terrible enemy; and if we have merited chastisement, may we receive it at thy hand. Punish us as a father, and not as a judge.’ The words, however, are applicable to us all, as well as to Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews. We are not at our own disposal, nor able to direct our own way by our own wisdom, either in matters temporal or spiritual. Nor are we at liberty to choose what line of life we please, or to ensure to ourselves the success and prosperity we may desire. We are under God’s government, and at his disposal, and have continual need of his direction, and of the influence of his grace, without which we shall certainly err from the right way, and shall neither choose nor perform what is truly and lastingly good, and for our happiness.”

Note especially that in none of these passages is any such principle “generalized” that “God purposefully governs the sinful choices of people” as Piper claims (in the strict sense of God irresistibly causing those choices; unless, of course, Piper means only that God governs sinful choices in the Arminian sense by allowing them while working through them or around them to accomplish His ultimate plans).

[4] Whedon is clearly referring to the fact that all Edwards’ can come up with to make his view of God authoring all sin and evil seem acceptable is to use the language of Arminians and in a sense vindicate the Arminian view in the process.  However, it would be a mistake to think that Whedon sees Edwards’ argument here as being the same as the Arminian argument based on the rest of his language that makes permission as an Arminian would use it (and in the normal sense of the word) incompatible with the consequences of His view of determinism.  He makes this clear in the next cited quote in the post as well as with the example of the boy and the bricks.  The point being that both Piper and Edwards try to ward off the charge of making God the responsible author of sin by appealing to permission, but in such a way that it cannot really succeed in avoiding that exact conclusion.  In other words, as Robert Shank put it in “Elect in the Son” regarding the way Calvin often spoke of permission, “…what the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away.”  This is exactly why Whedon says that Edwards’ system, despite his appeals to permission, is still “defenseless and naked to its enemies.”  Such a view of permission as Edwards and Piper describe would be like saying that someone who controlled the mind and actions of another to sin in such a way that the person being controlled had no power to avoid sinning “permitted the sin” because he “allowed” the person to think and act just as he was irresistibly controlling the person to think and act.  Again, that is hardly how anyone would understand “permission” and it is not how the word is normally used.

[5] Piper tries to further explain this so called necessitated “permission” by drawing on Edwards’ illustration of the sun “causing” darkness by simply falling beyond the horizon,

“‘If the sun were the proper cause of cold and darkness,’ he says, ‘it would be the fountain of these things, as it is the fountain of light and heat: and then something might be argued from the nature of cold and darkness, to a likeness of nature in the sun.’ In other words, ‘sin is not the fruit of any positive agency or influence of the most High, but on the contrary, arises from the withholding of his action and energy, and under certain circumstances, necessarily follows on the want of his influence.’”

To this Whedon replies,

“Edwards next defends a necessitating God from responsibility for sin by the distinction between positive and privative causations.  The sun by his direct ray is the positive cause, and, so to speak, the responsible author of day.  But he is the author of night with her darkness, damps and monsters by privation, that is, simply by the withdrawal of his light, and so not the responsible author.  So God is not the direct and positive, but only the privative and so the irresponsible cause of sin.

But, we reply, necessity makes God the positive and not merely the negative cause of sin.  God according to necessity positively sets all first causes and materials in existence and action, just as the boy arranges the bricks and throws down the first, which throws down all to the last (see the story of the boy and the bricks above).  The first start given secures the whole, excluding all but the given result.  The line of causation from God’s finger streaks through all second causes and secures the result.  Sin is an act directly necessitated, and so not by privative but positive causation.” (Whedon, 346, 347)

In another place in a discussion on the meaning of “cause”, Whedon writes,

“Edwards says of cause: ‘The word is often used in so restrained a sense as to signify that only which has a positive efficiency or influence to produce a thing or bring it to pass.  But there are many things which have no such positive productive influences, which are yet causes.’ (68)  He instances as real causes the absences of preventatives.  The absence of the sun is the cause of the failing dew in summer, and of the freezing streams in winter.  Mr. Mill maintains the same doctrine, including the absences of preventatives under the term cause.  He further adds: ‘The state of the whole universe at any instant we believe to be consequent of its state in the previous instant; insomuch that if we knew all the agents which exist at the present moment, their collection in space and their properties, in other words, the laws of their agency, we could predict the whole subsequent history of the universe.’  From which it would seem to result. That every previous thing is the cause of every subsequent thing, and everything that does not exist is the cause of everything that does exist!” (ibid. pg. 49)

[6] Recall Piper’s previous quote of Edward’s on the crucifixion,

“Edwards ponders that someone might say that only the sufferings of Christ were planned by God, not the sins against him, to which he responds, ‘I answer, [the sufferings] could not come to pass but by sin. For contempt and disgrace was one thing he was to suffer. [Therefore] even the free actions of men are subject to God’s disposal.’”

Here it seems that Piper wants to exclude nothing from the decreed sin of putting Christ to death, including the sinful intentions behind the act itself (i.e. the “contempt” and desire to shame and “disgrace” Christ).

[7] Such a claim would naturally lead us to believe that only Calvinist Christians throughout history have properly experienced and understood God’s grace and love.  This means that Calvinists like John Piper have had an experience of God far superior to that of great men of faith like John Wesley and so many other non-Calvinists who dedicated their lives to Christ and His gospel.  This would also include all of the ante-Nicene church fathers, the earliest Christian writers (some of whom were taught by the apostles themselves, or those who were directly discipled by them), who rejected every feature of what would later come to be called Calvinism; men like Polycarp, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, and others, many of whom faced horrible torture and death for their faith. 

According to Piper’s grand assertions, these men lacked the “key to a God-entranced world view” along with the “marvelous stability and depth” that Piper and those who hold to strict exhaustive determinism apparently possess (To see a similarly bizzare claim see here).  Perhaps we are being too hard on John Piper and he just got carried away with his rhetoric, but influential Pastors need to be very mindful of the implications of their words.  The fact that so many Calvinists today who look up to Piper as a great expounder of Biblical truth seem to tend towards a similar spiritually elitist attitude may well illustrate the point.

[8] However, he does not seem to shy away from the idea that God is the author of sin in this excellent exchange with Thomas McCall, though he does make it clear that he does not want anyone to feel they need to view God as the author of sin if they are not yet ready to accept that supposed Biblical truth.

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39 Responses

  1. Calvinism gives me a headache.

  2. Piper’s “entranced,” all right; but with what is the question.

    Along the same lines as the sermon above is John Piper’s rhetorically titled article “Are There Two Wills of God?” I critique it at my site, xCalvinist.com, under the “Supplement” tab following chapter 21.

  3. “But when it comes to the thorny issue of vindicating God of the logical implication of his view of providence that would make God the responsible author and originator of all sin and evil, Piper can only rely on the Arminian non-prevention view to relieve the difficulty.”

    Even though God made a plan that people would do evil, people are still responsible for the evil that they commit. They act according to their desires and they take delight in doing evil. Moreover, they are not forced to do what they do.

  4. A reader,

    It really seems like you did not read the whole article. If you had, I don’t think you would have replied the way that you did. I understand if you didn’t want to read it all, as it is very long. However, it would be best not to comment unless you do read it all, since your points are addressed in the article. You wrote,

    Even though God made a plan that people would do evil, people are still responsible for the evil that they commit. They act according to their desires and they take delight in doing evil. Moreover, they are not forced to do what they do.

    This is what I would call the typical Calvinist slight of hand non-answer. In traditional Calvinism that Piper is defending, God decreed all things from eternity. That includes our “desires” and even our “delight” in the evil that God irresistibly decreed for us to commit (as I made clear in the article). So your answer doesn’t really help much. It just deflects attention from the problem. You can say we are still responsible, but you can’t really explain why, except to say that God says so. If that is all the answer you have, you are welcomed to it.

    To say they are not forced to do what they do is also a very unhelpful reply in my opinion. Are they able to resist God’s eternal decree for them to sin? No. Are they able to resist God’s eternal decree for them to desire to sin, or to act according to their desires? No. The decree is irresistible and their desires are irresistible. Could they in any way help having the desires that they have or acting on those desires which act on them in an irresistible manner? Again, no. So your answer really seems to just try to deflect attention away from the main problem without really addressing it in any meaningful way. Despite your comments, the implications remain just as I described them in the article and just as you quoted them above.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  5. Satan doesn’t need Piper to carry it out to the logical conclusion, neither did he need Calvin (who also couldn’t bring himself to go the whole way and make the logical conclusion to his thesis). Satan just needs to plant the seed in the minds of the undiscerning, knowing what fruit will spring forth from it. I think this article was thorough and did a good job pointing out the error being taught. I just think these kind of teachers don’t really need to be debated with, they need to be rebuked (just what I see in the Word). The early church fathers condemned this teaching that had already began working its way into the church by the time Polycarp and Irenaeus came around. Irenaeus called this teaching of “making God the author of evil” an impiety that was beyond the pale of even the church heretics at that time. We just need some men of God to step up and publicly rebuke the spirit behind this doctrine and those who teach it (with the authority they have from Christ to do so). I have listened to some interviews with Piper on the internet and have looked a little into this sermon series, and I think Piper is going farther with it than even John Calvin allowed himself to. If his teachings take root (and they seem to since he has such a large following) it won’t be long before we have an explosion of iniquity in the church as people will begin to say “God made me do it,” in order to avoid personal responsibility for sin, instead of “the devil made me do it,” like they used to. What won’t be permissable? I know what calvanists will say, they will say anyone truly born of God won’t live in sin like that…but how can they say that now that their God ordains and decrees their sin, and even takes pleasure in it?

    I am having a hard time with this teaching which is penetrating the church right through Piper’s influence, mainly because it makes me so angry and sick to my stomach. How are people not screaming for him to stop and pleading with him to restrain this madness? This is actually what reaction Irenaeus said Polycarp would have had if he would have heard such a thing… He said he would of covered up his ears and started lamenting to God and would have run out of the room. I use them as an example only to show that it didn’t take much discernment to see this evil for what it was in the early church, not because I think these men were infallible.

  6. “But there is an even bigger problem for Piper’s use of this Psalm. The section of the Psalm that Piper appeals to seems to have specific reference to Joseph being brought before the king from prison to interpret the king’s dream (verses 18-22).” I disagree with you here simply because the section he appeals to was actually verse 17, which is clearly outside the scope of 18-22.

    On another point, when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12), was it not because (note that the root of because is the word cause) of Pharaoh’s hardened heart that he refused to let the Israelites go and instead increased their labor? So we could say God did not cause Pharaoh to sin but rather Pharaoh’s hardened heart caused him to sin. But then we have to ask did God cause Pharaoh’s hardened heart? Obviously based on Exodus 9:12 God did in fact cause the hardened heart. So if God caused the hardened heart which caused the sin then perhaps we would be correct to say that sin can occur as a result of something God causes. So God does not cause the sin but rather causes the circumstances which He, in his omniscience and perfect wisdom, knows will result in sin through which his purposes will be accomplished.

  7. Consider Romans 1:28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Surely God knew as a result of Him giving them up sin would increase not decrease. God did not cause the sin but caused circumstances (by giving them up) that would result in sin.

  8. Colby,

    On verse 17, I agree with you. I took a second look at the verse and see that I must have misread it initially. I think my eyes must have jumped to verse 20 or something. I do think verse 17 probably has reference to Joseph being sent to Egypt. Thanks for taking the time to look at the verse, and thanks for pointing it out to me. I will update the article accordingly when I get the chance. Still, I addressed Joseph being sent to Egypt as well, even though I thought that particular verse did not say that.

    You wrote,

    On another point, when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12), was it not because (note that the root of because is the word cause) of Pharaoh’s hardened heart that he refused to let the Israelites go and instead increased their labor? So we could say God did not cause Pharaoh to sin but rather Pharaoh’s hardened heart caused him to sin. But then we have to ask did God cause Pharaoh’s hardened heart? Obviously based on Exodus 9:12 God did in fact cause the hardened heart. So if God caused the hardened heart which caused the sin then perhaps we would be correct to say that sin can occur as a result of something God causes. So God does not cause the sin but rather causes the circumstances which He, in his omniscience and perfect wisdom, knows will result in sin through which his purposes will be accomplished.

    The Arminian view is typically that God hardened his resolve. However, that resolve began in Pharaoh’s own heart, and was tied to his rejection of God’s rights over His people (the Israelites). So I can agree with your assessment to a degree, since you say “will result in sin”, rather than “must result in sin.” There is a big difference there. I would say that the hardening was resistible and contingent on Pharaoh’s response to God’s actions rather than irresistible. Moreover, that does not reflect the view of Piper. In Piper’s view, everyone is a God hater unless God works irresistibly on their hearts. In that case, one wonders why God would ever need to “harden” one’s heart at all.

    Consider Romans 1:28 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Surely God knew as a result of Him giving them up sin would increase not decrease. God did not cause the sin but caused circumstances (by giving them up) that would result in sin.

    Again, there is a big difference between “would result in sin” and “must result in sin.” Furthermore, God can execute judgment on people by withdrawing His influence (giving them over), as a result of continued stubborn rejection. That does not mean He is causing the sin that results and it certainly doesn’t mean He is responsible for it. Also, there is no indication that such a giving over would necessarily be permanent. Indeed, it might serve to bring them back to God as they fully experience the unpleasant consequences of their sin. In a similar manner, the hardening of Israel was not permanent. Paul makes it clear in Romans 11 that the hardened Jews could be grafted again into the elect body (the olive tree). He also states that God’s favor on the Gentiles might provoke them to jealousy so that they would embrace Christ and return to God.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. I appreciate you handling my comments with grace. I do not intend to speak for John Piper being as I am not him, although I do deeply appreciate his passion for the glory of Christ above all else and can appreciate that his ministry facilitates more people growing deeper faith and love for Christ (including my own) in a single day then my ministry will in my lifetime. And that’s okay because as Jesus says, we must each follow Christ.

    There’s so much in your reply to chew on I don’t know where to start, but here we go.

    “The Arminian view is typically that God hardened his resolve”
    In sticking with the Pharaoh example, I’m not sure what difference it makes what God hardened. In either case, God did something and that something had a direct influence on Pharaoh’s (sinful) behavior. If Pharaoh was already hardened enough to prevent the Israelites from leaving (and therefore accomplish God’s purposes) God wouldn’t have had to harden anything. The fact God hardened something seems to be suitable evidence the situation would not have played out the same way had He not. When you say “that resolve began in Pharaoh’s own heart” I guess you mean (to use Daniel Whedon’s brick analogy) the first brick placed on its end was Pharaoh’s pre-sinful heart. Even if that is the case it appears without God’s intentional act of hardening his resolve (i.e. placing a brick somewhere in the middle of the line of dominoes) the last brick never would have fallen and if that’s the case I struggle to see how your theology avoids God’s direct involvement in a situation which resulted in God’s ultimate glorification through (not in spite of) sin.

    That said, acknowledging God’s hand in orchestrating a situation and blaming God are two different things because one acknowledges God’s sovereignty to do what He will and one charges him with wrong. See Job, who said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) and later told his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” and was commended: “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22); “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) Blaming and acknowledging are two entirely different things.

    “In Piper’s view, everyone is a God hater unless God works irresistibly on their hearts. In that case, one wonders why God would ever need to “harden” one’s heart at all.”
    I would agree with Piper on the basis of Psalm 14, “2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one”, and Psalm 53:1-3, which is also quoted by Paul in Romans 3:11 (“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God”), and Ephesians 2 where we are described as being dead in our sins and living according to the spirit of disobedience but God made us alive, and Colossians 2:13 which says pretty much the same thing. I’ve never known a dead person to be able to do much of anything, although I can certainly understand a formerly dead person choosing to seek God after they are “made alive” again by that very God.

    “one wonders why God would ever need to “harden” one’s heart at all.”
    I would suggest the “hardening” you reference was directly related to a specific action (or inaction as the case may be) God meant for Pharaoh to take. Even if God had not hardened Pharaoh’s heart (resolve) and Pharaoh let the Israelites go on Moses’ first attempt that certainly wouldn’t mean Pharaoh loved God. One act of obedience doesn’t make you a God lover.

    “there is a big difference between “would result in sin” and “must result in sin.” ”
    I’m not sure there is. If I hold a coffee mug in my hand and let it go it “will” fall. Could I correctly say it “must” fall? Surely it does not have to fall (there are places where it wouldn’t), but I could correctly say because of the laws it’s bound by it “must” fall. But even those physical laws were created by God for his purposes. How is saying “man must sin” any different? The decree “man must sin” doesn’t mean there’s not some other environment in which man would not sin. As such “would result in sin” and “must result in sin” are not different at all given the environment.

    Let me use another analogy. I molded a coffee cup from a certain type of clay knowing that upon reaching 500 degrees the type of clay I used would crack. I then made another coffee cup from a different type of clay that could sustain 1000 degrees. I baked both cups to 750 degrees and the heat cracked one but made the other stronger. Was I the cause of cracking the first cup or was the heat? To complicate things let’s suppose I created both types of clay as well as their physical properties and the heat too.

    (As a side note, I believe this is what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” God knows how much heat you can handle and will strengthen you but not crack you.)

    Everyone has a choice. Everyone has free will. But no one will choose God unless He makes them alive first. I used to have a problem with this belief because I thought true love required a choice. I reasoned, I wouldn’t want a wife who didn’t choose me. I wouldn’t want a wife who loved me because I forced her to. What I didn’t realize is that’s a bad analogy, because I could never do for my wife what Christ did for me. I could die for her, but I couldn’t save her from eternal darkness and instead provide her an eternity of complete joy and fulfillment like Christ does. While the Bible refers to the entire Church as Christ’s bride, I am referred to as God’s adopted child. And I realized that if my son was unconscious in the second floor of a burning house I wouldn’t simply throw him a ladder and ask him to come out. I wouldn’t give him a choice: “Do you want to die in there or do you want to come out and live with your mom and dad?” No father would do that. I would do everything in my power to rescue him because he’s my son and I love him. Believe me, when my son found out what I did to save his life the love would be authentic.

  10. Colby,

    I intend to respond to this, but it may take me a few days. Hopefully on Friday. BTW, I appreciate Piper as a person and pastor, I just do not appreciate his Calvinism.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Colby,

    You wrote,

    In sticking with the Pharaoh example, I’m not sure what difference it makes what God hardened. In either case, God did something and that something had a direct influence on Pharaoh’s (sinful) behavior. If Pharaoh was already hardened enough to prevent the Israelites from leaving (and therefore accomplish God’s purposes) God wouldn’t have had to harden anything.

    So in your view, God had to make him more sinful?

    The fact God hardened something seems to be suitable evidence the situation would not have played out the same way had He not.

    Granted.

    When you say “that resolve began in Pharaoh’s own heart” I guess you mean (to use Daniel Whedon’s brick analogy) the first brick placed on its end was Pharaoh’s pre-sinful heart. Even if that is the case it appears without God’s intentional act of hardening his resolve (i.e. placing a brick somewhere in the middle of the line of dominoes) the last brick never would have fallen and if that’s the case I struggle to see how your theology avoids God’s direct involvement in a situation which resulted in God’s ultimate glorification through (not in spite of) sin.

    That is not how I would describe things. As I said before, that something will happen, does not mean it must (more on that below). In other words, I don’t see God’s hardening as irresistible, so the analogy of the brick doesn’t accurately reflect my view, though it may reflect your view (since a brick is passive to the laws of nature that irresistibly work on it).

    I would say that God’s hardening was indirect and resistible. For example, God hardened Pharaoh’s resolve by giving him relief from the plagues. That relief allowed Pharaoh to do what he freely wanted to do, prevent the Israelites from leaving. In other words, the plagues could have overwhelmed Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, even though Pharaoh did not want to let them go. God worked indirectly on Pharaoh (i.e. He didn’t directly control his will) to harden his resolve to do what he freely wanted to do. In that way, we could even say that God actually preserved Pharaoh’s free will through hardening, rather than overriding it through the overwhelming influence of the plagues. This is the view of Biblical scholar Dr. Brian Abasciano, given in his second book on Romans 9 (specifically dealing with Romans 9:10-18). Here is a relevant excerpt from his conclusions based on over 60 pages of intertextual exegesis on the hardening of Pharaoh,

    “Furthermore, the text most fundamentally depicts the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart as a strengthening of his will in the sense of emboldening him to carry out what he already wanted to do of his own free will, despite the fearsome power of God displayed against him and the destructive consequences it would bring upon him, making him stubborn. Moreover, the text frequently appears to present the nature of the divine hardening as indirect and natural – typically, strategic actions that lured pharaoh to boldness – rather than as a direct, supernatural work in Pharaoh’s heart. Thus, Pharaoh’s own freely oppressive and rebellious will was made to serve as its own punishment in the execution of ironic and poetic justice.” (Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9:10-18: An Intertextual And Theological Exegesis, pg. 139)

    That said, acknowledging God’s hand in orchestrating a situation and blaming God are two different things because one acknowledges God’s sovereignty to do what He will and one charges him with wrong. See Job, who said “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) and later told his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” and was commended: “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22); “In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10) Blaming and acknowledging are two entirely different things.

    But the Job narrative makes it plain that it was Satan that wanted to harm Job and not God. Not only that, but there is a big difference between bringing adversity on someone and causing them to sin (let alone causing someone to sin and then punishing him for the sin that you caused him to commit). Job really doesn’t help your case any. It isn’t even really relevant.

    I wrote,

    “In Piper’s view, everyone is a God hater unless God works irresistibly on their hearts. In that case, one wonders why God would ever need to “harden” one’s heart at all.”

    You responded,

    I would agree with Piper on the basis of Psalm 14, “2 The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. 3 They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one”, and Psalm 53:1-3, which is also quoted by Paul in Romans 3:11 (“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God”), and Ephesians 2 where we are described as being dead in our sins and living according to the spirit of disobedience but God made us alive, and Colossians 2:13 which says pretty much the same thing.

    You misunderstood my point. I wasn’t disagreeing that all men are sinners. I believe that, and I hold to total depravity. I was saying that if we are already in rebellion against God, then why would God need to harden us to get us to rebel against Him?

    I’ve never known a dead person to be able to do much of anything, although I can certainly understand a formerly dead person choosing to seek God after they are “made alive” again by that very God.

    This is based on a misunderstanding of what the Bible describes as being dead in sin (or spiritual death). Nowhere does the Bible describe deadness in sin in the context of the inability of a physical corpse to do anything. I have written quite a bit on this and the ordo salutis on this site (I can direct you to those posts if you like). Furthermore, the Bible clearly places faith before regeneration and never places spiritual life before faith.

    I wrote,

    “one wonders why God would ever need to “harden” one’s heart at all.”

    You responded,

    I would suggest the “hardening” you reference was directly related to a specific action (or inaction as the case may be) God meant for Pharaoh to take. Even if God had not hardened Pharaoh’s heart (resolve) and Pharaoh let the Israelites go on Moses’ first attempt that certainly wouldn’t mean Pharaoh loved God. One act of obedience doesn’t make you a God lover.

    I wasn’t suggesting that. But if Pharaoh is already a God hating rebel, why would that change unless God made it change? But if you are saying that the hardening had reference to God causing Pharaoh to act in a particular way, then that would make better sense. But in Piper’s view God controls our wills directly anyway. So I still struggle to see why God would need to “harden” Pharaoh as if that were some sort of special act of God (which is how the narrative seems to portray it).

    I wrote,

    “there is a big difference between “would result in sin” and “must result in sin.”

    You responded,

    I’m not sure there is. If I hold a coffee mug in my hand and let it go it “will” fall. Could I correctly say it “must” fall? Surely it does not have to fall (there are places where it wouldn’t), but I could correctly say because of the laws it’s bound by it “must” fall.

    But this is to confuse the issue. All you have said is that if something must happen, then it will happen. Granted. But it does not follow that if something will happen, then it must happen. Big difference.

    But even those physical laws were created by God for his purposes. How is saying “man must sin” any different? The decree “man must sin” doesn’t mean there’s not some other environment in which man would not sin. As such “would result in sin” and “must result in sin” are not different at all given the environment.

    If the environment necessitates sin, then “must sin” is correct. And if something must happen, then it will happen. Agreed. But again, it does not follow in the least that if something will happen, then it must happen. Big difference.

    Let me use another analogy. I molded a coffee cup from a certain type of clay knowing that upon reaching 500 degrees the type of clay I used would crack. I then made another coffee cup from a different type of clay that could sustain 1000 degrees. I baked both cups to 750 degrees and the heat cracked one but made the other stronger. Was I the cause of cracking the first cup or was the heat? To complicate things let’s suppose I created both types of clay as well as their physical properties and the heat too.

    Not sure what you are trying to illustrate here (except that you apparently like coffee). Are you describing your view, or trying to describe mine? In accordance with your last sentence, you alone would be the responsible cause of the clay cracking. That would be a fitting description of your view, but not mine.

    (As a side note, I believe this is what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” God knows how much heat you can handle and will strengthen you but not crack you.)

    But there is no guarantee here that we will take the way of escape or endure temptation, only the promise that God will empower us to do so. God’s promise, coupled with the fact that we do not always escape or endure temptation, is a strong argument against determinism and for libertarian free will.

    Everyone has a choice.

    How do we have a “choice” if our thoughts, desires, and actions are predetermined by way of an irresistible eternal decree? In your illustration, did the clay have a “choice” as to whether it would crack or not?

    Everyone has free will.

    Free in what sense? Free to do exactly what God has programmed it to do? Free to act in accordance with an irresistible eternal decree? When you define free will as an irresistibly necessitated will, then one wonders what sort of freedom you can possibly be describing.

    But no one will choose God unless He makes them alive first.

    I agree that no one will choose God unless God enables them, but reject the Calvinist assertion that this enabling must be regeneration. Again, the Bible nowhere places spiritual life before faith. Rather, it everywhere puts faith before spiritual life. And Calvinists believe that once regenerated we have no choice but to choose Christ (how do you “choose” without a “choice?”), unless you believe that a regenerated person can reject Christ.

    I used to have a problem with this belief because I thought true love required a
    choice.

    I do believe that a genuine loving relationship requires fee will, but that is not why I believe in free will; nor is that why I believe that faith precedes regeneration; nor is it why I reject the notion that God causes us to sin and then punishes us for the sins that He causes us to commit.

    I reasoned, I wouldn’t want a wife who didn’t choose me. I wouldn’t want a wife who loved me because I forced her to. What I didn’t realize is that’s a bad analogy, because I could never do for my wife what Christ did for me.

    So does that mean you would want a wife that didn’t choose you and was forced to love you?

    I could die for her, but I couldn’t save her from eternal darkness and instead provide her an eternity of complete joy and fulfillment like Christ does.

    I am not sure what you are getting at here. It just seems like an assertion that Christ would be satisfied with “love” or a relationship that He causes irresistibly, rather than a love and relationship that is based on genuine freedom and trust.

    While the Bible refers to the entire Church as Christ’s bride, I am referred to as God’s adopted child. And I realized that if my son was unconscious in the second floor of a burning house I wouldn’t simply throw him a ladder and ask him to come out.

    That is a strange way to frame things. Rather, God enables us to respond freely for Him or against Him. God desires us to trust in Him, but to trust in Him freely. Burning buildings and unconscious sons do not really describe the Biblical scenario. God doesn’t just want us to “live” in a vacuum. God wants us to “live” in a relationship with Him. Indeed, that relationship is the only source of life. So God cannot just rescue those who want nothing to do with Him, because God cannot have a relationship of trust and love with those who reject Him. You could rescue your son out love and still have no relationship with him. That is not the case with God.

    Furthermore, you base this analogy on what the Bible says about those who are already in a loving relationship with Christ (those who are already saved) and then try to use that as a spring board for why or how God would save us in the first place.

    I wouldn’t give him a choice: “Do you want to die in there or do you want to come out and live with your mom and dad?” No father would do that. I would do everything in my power to rescue him because he’s my son and I love him. Believe me, when my son found out what I did to save his life the love would be authentic.

    To say he would have an authentic love after he found out what you did is to load the analogy in a major way. What if he wanted to die? What if he wants nothing to do with you? Your analogy begs the question in numerous ways. It has emotional appeal, but it simply does not reflect the Biblical reality of how God saves through a genuine trust based relationship. And let’s not forget that in the Calvinist view, God doesn’t even try to save most of His creation. There are many in the burning building that God just ignores completely. How do you fit that into your analogy?

    For example, suppose the building was full of people and you could save them all by force just as well as you could save a few by force. But instead, you figure it would enhance your glory to only save a few and to let the rest burn (after all, the one’s who are saved would appreciate what you did more if they knew that even more perished in the flames. Perhaps it would help to make them feel more special as well). So for the sake of your glory and to amplify the appreciation of the few you decided to save, you only save a few and let the rest burn. What would we make of you then? Maybe you won’t like the way I have framed this, but that’s the trouble with such analogies I guess.

    I apologize for the long response, but you gave me a lot to respond to. We will probably just have to agree to disagree. I truly hope that you and Piper will both change your views, but I count you as brothers and I respect your freedom to disagree. At least you can better understand why I do not find Piper’s arguments to be convincing or Biblical.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  12. Thanks Ben. I do appreciate your thoughtful response. I should say I’m not Piper and as such cannot make the claim that I agree with him on everything. Though I’ve never read anything he’s written that I fully disagree with, I haven’t read everything. It does seem as though the basic Arminian objection I hear is not that they disagree with what Piper says as much as they disagree with the implications of what he says (if they follow the logic to its “good and logical conclusion”, as I’ve heard said many times). The disconnect though is that between what the Calvinist argues the Bible teaches and the “good and logical conclusion” of what they argue the Bible teaches stands a paradox. I think Arminians would refer to it as a contradiction, but Calvinists do not see a contradiction. I think in order to embrace the Bible you have to be willing to embrace paradoxes (the Trinity being the best known perhaps).

    I think the biggest problem I see isn’t the theology Arminians or Calvinists subscribe to but a lack of empathy on both sides for the understandings of the other. For example I can totally understand how an Arminian can read Romans 8:28-30 and understand “foreknew” to mean “those God foreknew would choose him if given the opportunity”. But I can also totally understand why the Calvinist could read Romans 8:28-30 and understand “foreknew” to mean “those God loved (knew) before the foundations of the world”. The lack of empathy is my concern. I don’t think you’re denying truth by being an Arminian, I think you should be commended for understanding Scripture to be authoritative and standing on what you understand it to say. A lot of people (most!) do not see Scripture as being authoritative and I have a problem with that.

    In my well-meaning effort to build empathy let me try to illustrate using an example (stick with me). So Arminians would probably insist that if Calvinists start at “A” (God wills that sin would occur) they have no option but to logically end up at “C” (God causes sin/man cannot be held responsible). But Calvinists would argue that since between “A” and “C” stands a paradox called “B” they actually end up at “7” (God does not cause sin/man can be held responsible) and not “C”. Maybe you can visualize this paradox as a sort of worm hole, if that helps. So the Calvinist sees the Bible teaches both “A” and “7” and embrace both, but are accused of saying the Bible teaches “C”, which it clearly does not and they acknowledge it does not.

    Personally, I don’t see God as a puppeteer but as the handler of a rolling ball maze. That is, he’s created an environment, a ball, and forces that act on that ball (even Satan is a force, whom we know was created). As an analogy (though still flawed) that fits pretty nicely with Proverbs 21:1. And yet I still embrace Proverbs 21:2 where man his held responsible for the condition of his heart.

    As for my analogies, C.S. Lewis (can’t recall which book) said something to the effect of “if an analogy does not help you throw it out.” So feel free to do that with mine if they do not accomplish their intended purpose.

    You wrote,

    I would say that God’s hardening was indirect and resistible. For example, God hardened Pharaoh’s resolve by giving him relief from the plagues. That relief allowed Pharaoh to do what he freely wanted to do, prevent the Israelites from leaving. In other words, the plagues could have overwhelmed Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, even though Pharaoh did not want to let them go. God worked indirectly on Pharaoh (i.e. He didn’t directly control his will) to harden his resolve to do what he freely wanted to do. In that way, we could even say that God actually preserved Pharaoh’s free will through hardening, rather than overriding it through the overwhelming influence of the plagues.

    I agree with this. I think sometimes Arminians misunderstand what Calvinists believe (I’m sure that goes the other way too). Maybe the problem we’re dealing with is the meaning of the word “irresistible”. I would say Pharaoh could have resisted too, but because of the pressure he was under he did not resist and would not have resisted under said amount of pressure. I believe everyone can freely choose life as well but not everyone will (I don’t know any Calvinist who would disagree with this, actually). The reason they won’t choose life given the option is because it has no allure to them. For this reason no one who wants to choose life will be left out. If I say, “Oh that cake is so irresistible!” and smash my face in it, that doesn’t imply I couldn’t decide not to. But if someone knows I love chocolate cake and I haven’t eaten in three days then it may be a 100% guarantee that I’ll choose to partake. That’s why we say “irresistible.” Not because I’m handcuffed and someone shoves chocolate cake down my throat. In other words, God applied the exact amount of pressure that would result in Pharaoh not resisting and he relieved him of that pressure when he wanted Pharaoh to resist. Could he have resisted even under the immense pressure he was under? Absolutely. But I think God exercised his knowledge of Pharaoh’s heart and knew Pharaoh’s breaking point.

    You said,

    But the Job narrative makes it plain that it was Satan that wanted to harm Job and not God. Not only that, but there is a big difference between bringing adversity on someone and causing them to sin (let alone causing someone to sin and then punishing him for the sin that you caused him to commit).

    I agree with this.

    Job really doesn’t help your case any. It isn’t even really relevant.

    Oh but it is especially relevant. Job acknowledges God’s fatherly hand in his suffering which is all the Calvinist does. Job could have said, “Though Satan slay me, I will hope in the Lord.” But he didn’t. He said “Though he [God] slay me, I will hope in him.” It’s as if he’s able to look past Satan and see God’s loving hand governing all. This is of paramount importance to the Calvinist perspective in everything.

    You said,

    Furthermore, the Bible clearly places faith before regeneration and never places spiritual life before faith.

    Isn’t this what all the debate has been about for 400 years?? 1 John 1:5. The key is in the verb tense. “Everyone who believes [as in, presently]…has been [as in, already] born of God.”

    You said,

    Not sure what you are trying to illustrate here (except that you apparently like coffee).

    I do enjoy a good cup of joe.

    You said,

    Free in what sense? Free to do exactly what God has programmed it to do? Free to act in accordance with an irresistible eternal decree? When you define free will as an irresistibly necessitated will, then one wonders what sort of freedom you can possibly be describing.

    I’m a software developer so I get the programming concept fully and that isn’t an accurate description of how I understand God to be actively working. Again, I would be more in line with the rolling ball maze than hard-coding behavior. The phrase “irresistibly necessitated will” is somewhat loaded and I’m not sure what meaning you are putting to it. However, I would suggest it’s much closer to if I put a plate of asparagus and a chocolate chip cookie in front of my two-year-old son, I know which one he’s going to take every time. In that way the chocolate chip cookie is irresistible to him (although the asparagus is better for him). If it is necessary for him to take the chocolate chip cookie for me to accomplish my goal then it is necessitated. But again, he is free to choose the asparagus, although I know he won’t and as a result of that my goal will be accomplished.

    You said,

    For example, suppose the building was full of people and you could save them all by force just as well as you could save a few by force. But instead, you figure it would enhance your glory to only save a few and to let the rest burn (after all, the one’s who are saved would appreciate what you did more if they knew that even more perished in the flames. Perhaps it would help to make them feel more special as well). So for the sake of your glory and to amplify the appreciation of the few you decided to save, you only save a few and let the rest burn. What would we make of you then? Maybe you won’t like the way I have framed this, but that’s the trouble with such analogies I guess.

    I understand the mental hurdles here. My problem with Calvinism as it relates to salvation was I had a hard time understanding why a loving God wouldn’t save everyone if He had the power to do so. I thought He owed it to everyone to save them if He could. But then, He doesn’t owe anyone anything. We all deserve destruction, and if He let us all be destroyed it wouldn’t diminish his glory or justness or character or love one iota. The fact that He saves anyone is more merciful than I can possibly imagine. So the question to be asked isn’t, “Why don’t you save everyone, God?” but “Why did you save me?”

    To be clear, I don’t think Paul speaks to this very cleanly. Just as God never explains himself to Job but instead proclaims his sovereignty and power by asking, “Did you form the mountains?” (my religion professors in college hated God’s response to Job), Paul says something similar in Romans 9:19-24,

    19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

    It’s hard theology, I’ll give you that.

    Thanks for sharpening me.

  13. Colby,

    I won’t have a chance to look this over or respond until sometime next week.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  14. Sorry that should actually be 1 John 5:1

  15. Colby,

    Not sure if you have had the chance to read through my response yet, but I realize I may have been a little too combative and short at times. I apologize for that. You seem to be a really nice person with genuine concerns, and you are clearly just trying to work through these issues. Sometimes I get frustrated with the same sort of arguments that do not seem to grapple with the real issues, but I need to be careful not to allow that frustration to influence how I interact with people. You deserve better than that. Maybe you did not find anything wrong with the way I responded, but I felt I should apologize just in case. I wish I had more time to discuss these issues, but I have very little time at the computer and that can factor in to coming across as short or impatient at times. I would be happy to continue this conversation with you, with the caveat that it might take me awhile in between responses.

    May God bless you as you continue to seek Him and His truth.

  16. Colby,

    No offense, but I’m not really interested in your assessment of the differences between Arminians and Calvinists, why they believe as they do and how much empathy you think they should have for each other’s view. I’m glad you have thought about these things, but for me, it is just an unnecessary distraction from the focus of our conversation. I also find it strange that you felt you had solid grounds to make a judgment concerning my supposed lack of “empathy” for how Calvinists believe. I am not sure how you felt you were able to rightly draw such conclusions about me. But again, I just see that as a distraction. In other words, I have empathy for why you believe as you do, but I still disagree with you. Let’s stick to the disagreement.

    You wrote,

    I think Arminians would refer to it as a contradiction, but Calvinists do not see a contradiction. I think in order to embrace the Bible you have to be willing to embrace paradoxes (the Trinity being the best known perhaps).

    Bad example. The Trinity is not a contradiction. It is a legitimate mystery. While we cannot comprehend a tri-personal Being (since we have nothing in our experience to draw on), there is nothing illogical about a Being existing in three persons. All you have done is used an example of a legitimate mystery and tried to alleviate all blatant Calvinist contradictions by pointing to something that is not a contradiction at all.

    I think the biggest problem I see isn’t the theology Arminians or Calvinists subscribe to but a lack of empathy on both sides for the understandings of the other.

    Let’s avoid generalities and focus specifically on the differences between your arguments and mine.

    For example I can totally understand how an Arminian can read Romans 8:28-30 and understand “foreknew” to mean “those God foreknew would choose him if given the opportunity”. But I can also totally understand why the Calvinist could read Romans 8:28-30 and understand “foreknew” to mean “those God loved (knew) before the foundations of the world”.

    Actually, I agree more with what you call the Calvinist reading here, and it is completely consistent with my Arminian theology.

    The lack of empathy is my concern. I don’t think you’re denying truth by being an Arminian, I think you should be commended for understanding Scripture to be authoritative and standing on what you understand it to say.

    If Calvinism is true, then I am certainly denying truth in being an Arminian.

    In my well-meaning effort to build empathy let me try to illustrate using an example (stick with me). So Arminians would probably insist that if Calvinists start at “A” (God wills that sin would occur) they have no option but to logically end up at “C” (God causes sin/man cannot be held responsible). But Calvinists would argue that since between “A” and “C” stands a paradox called “B” they actually end up at “7” (God does not cause sin/man can be held responsible) and not “C”. Maybe you can visualize this paradox as a sort of worm hole, if that helps.

    Nope, because the way Calvinists describe things there is no room for legitimate paradoxes or worm holes. By the way, I have read numerous Calvinist books (written by Calvinists) and numerous Calvinist articles. I have had hundreds (probably thousands) of interactions with Calvinists on all sorts of theological topics. I own nearly as many books on Calvinism as I do on Arminianism (maybe even more). I appreciate your efforts to instruct me, but I really have already heard all these things from the horse’s mouth. So maybe we should just get back to our specific disagreement.

    Personally, I don’t see God as a puppeteer but as the handler of a rolling ball maze. That is, he’s created an environment, a ball, and forces that act on that ball (even Satan is a force, whom we know was created).

    Does the ball in a ball maze have any power to act or move contrary to the way the master of the ball maze moves it? Why all these analogies? A ball in a ball maze has no more power to move counter to being moved than a puppet has power to act in a manner contrary to how the puppeteer moves it. So why the problem with seeing God as a puppeteer? In the end, you believe that we can only move as moved (or “forced” to move) and only act as we are acted upon. We have no power of self-movement. It doesn’t matter if you talk about robots, or puppets, or ball mazes, or cups in a kiln, or programs. It all amounts to the same thing.

    As an analogy (though still flawed) that fits pretty nicely with Proverbs 21:1. And yet I still embrace Proverbs 21:2 where man his held responsible for the condition of his heart.

    I disagree with your interpretation of Proverbs 21:1, so I don’t see this as evidence for Scripture affirming contradictions or justifying our calling contradictions “paradoxes.”

    As for my analogies, C.S. Lewis (can’t recall which book) said something to the effect of “if an analogy does not help you throw it out.” So feel free to do that with mine if they do not accomplish their intended purpose.

    I think they accomplished the purpose of demonstrating that your arguments are very problematic.

    I agree with this. I think sometimes Arminians misunderstand what Calvinists believe (I’m sure that goes the other way too). Maybe the problem we’re dealing with is the meaning of the word “irresistible”. I would say Pharaoh could have resisted too, but because of the pressure he was under he did not resist and would not have resisted under said amount of pressure. I believe everyone can freely choose life as well but not everyone will (I don’t know any Calvinist who would disagree with this, actually).

    But again, you fail to grapple with the difference between “will not” and “cannot”, just as you did not grapple with the significant difference between “will happen” and “must happen”. You seem to understand “irresistible” quite well, since you like the ball maze analogy in which God creates “forces” that act on the ball. Not only does God create these forces, but moves those forces to move the ball in such a way that it must move just as it does. Those things that caused the ball to move are “irresistible”. The ball has absolutely no say in the matter. It’s really not that complicated.

    The reason they won’t choose life given the option is because it has no allure to them. For this reason no one who wants to choose life will be left out.

    This ignores the important details. Those who did not want to choose life had no power or ability to “want” to choose life. Those who want to choose life had no power or ability to not want to choose life. We have no more power or control over our desires and wants in Calvinism as we do over our actions. We can only want as we are caused to want, just as a ball can only move as it caused to move. It would be nice if you grappled with this issue rather than trying to side step it and obscure it.

    If I say, “Oh that cake is so irresistible!” and smash my face in it, that doesn’t imply I couldn’t decide not to. But if someone knows I love chocolate cake and I haven’t eaten in three days then it may be a 100% guarantee that I’ll choose to partake.

    “May be” kinda gets rid of the 100% claim.

    That’s why we say “irresistible.”

    No it isn’t. If it is not irresistible, then it is wrong to call it irresistible. Words have meaning. One could say that a cake is irresistible, even if it isn’t really; but one couldn’t rightly say it was irresistible. Rather, that would be a bit of hyperbole. But the Calvinist isn’t using hyperbole. He means that it really cannot be resisted, just like a ball in a ball maze cannot resist the way it is moved about by the maze master.

    Not because I’m handcuffed and someone shoves chocolate cake down my throat.

    Irrelevant. What if someone had a mind control device instead of handcuffs? He used that device to cause you to irresistibly desire and eat cake. He controlled your mind in such a way that to avoid eating cake was impossible. Yet, he also controlled your mind in such a way that you did not know you were being controlled. Does any of that make the eating of the cake any less irresistible than if someone shoved it in your face while handcuffed? Of course not, so let’s stop playing games. You seemed to have learned well from Piper that if you can hide a concept in enough words, examples, and analogies, maybe you can make it mean something other than it actually means. Unfortunately, it is still the same, no matter how colorful you get in describing it.

    In other words, God applied the exact amount of pressure that would result in Pharaoh not resisting and he relieved him of that pressure when he wanted Pharaoh to resist. Could he have resisted even under the immense pressure he was under? Absolutely.

    So if Pharaoh could have resisted, but freely chose not to, then the blame is rightly on him rather than God, and that is exactly the Arminian view (except that your words here are not quite in line with the way I described Pharaoh’s hardening)..

    But I think God exercised his knowledge of Pharaoh’s heart and knew Pharaoh’s breaking point.

    So are you now saying Pharaoh was not able to resist based on God’s knowledge of his breaking point? You can’t have it both ways.

    Job really doesn’t help your case any. It isn’t even really relevant.

    Oh but it is especially relevant. Job acknowledges God’s fatherly hand in his suffering which is all the Calvinist does.

    That is completely false. The Calvinist does far more than that. The Calvinist holds that God decreed everything from eternity. Everything. God decreed our every thought and action so that we could no more avoid thinking and acting as we do than we could create a universe. That includes every evil and sinful thought and action as well. If we are going to have this discussion, you need to be honest about what Calvinism entails. These are not just logical conclusions that I am wrongly drawing out from what Calvinists have said. No, these are the very things that Calvinists have said, including John Calvin. Maybe you just aren’t very familiar with Calvinism.

    Job could have said, “Though Satan slay me, I will hope in the Lord.” But he didn’t. He said “Though he [God] slay me, I will hope in him.”

    Again, this is a major red-herring. I already acknowledged that God can bring calamity on a person. Arminians only contend that this is often through permission or non-prevention (though not always). That is much different than the Calvinist view. Job illustrates the Arminian non-prevention view very well. It does nothing to support the Calvinist view. The Calvinist view makes the narrative nonsense. God would basically be talking to Himself and arguing with Himself through Satan.

    In Calvinism, Satan is nothing more than a hand puppet (or a rolling ball in a maze). Satan’s every thought, desire and action was decreed by God from all eternity. Satan had no more power to resist God’s eternal decree than to create a universe. Satan had no say in any of it. God thought the whole thing up in eternity and then acted it out in time like a sophisticated puppet show (or balls in a maze game, if you prefer).

    But we are not really talking about calamity, are we? We are specifically talking about God’s relation to sin. That is why your reference to Job is irrelevant and a distraction (except to further highlight the problems with decretal determinism).

    It’s as if he’s able to look past Satan and see God’s loving hand governing all. This is of paramount importance to the Calvinist perspective in everything.

    That would be a pretty good example of the Arminian view, but that is not the Calvinist view at all. If you read the post, you would know this. You did read the post, didn’t you? Clearly you saw that I addressed how God can still govern evil in Arminianism and how that is very much different than in Calvinism. Again, this is just a distraction. Please grapple with what Calvinism really teaches, in all its glory, or stop wasting our time. All you have done is parroted Piper in talking like an Arminian in order to hide the unavoidable implications of Calvinism.

    1 John 1:5. The key is in the verb tense. “Everyone who believes [as in, presently]…has been [as in, already] born of God.”

    I wrote a post a long time ago debunking this nonsense. This verse in no way says that regeneration precedes faith. All it says is that the one who is believing [presently-as you note] has been born of God. That would be just as true if faith preceded regeneration as well. 1 John 5:10 illustrates this quite well,

    “…the one who does not believe God [presently] has made [as in, already] Him a liar.” The construction is the same. If your logic holds, then we would need to conclude that the making God a liar came before the not believing. But of course, it is the unbelief that makes God into a liar. That is made even more clear as we keep reading, “…because he has not believed in the testimony God has given concerning His Son.”

    That this is the best Calvinists can come up with illustrates how difficult it is to find any support for the Calvinist ordo salutis in Scripture.

    Even worse, John 1:12-13 is definitive in placing faith before the new birth. Scholar Brian Abasciano puts this succinctly when he writes,

    “John 1.12 indicates that people become children of God by faith. That is, upon believing, God gives them the right to become something that they were not prior to believing – children of God. John 1.13 then clarifies that they become children of God not from human ancestry (that is the significance of ‘not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh [which equates to sexual desire that might lead to procreation], nor of the will of a husband [who was thought to be in charge of sexual/procreative activity]’), but from God, describing their becoming children of God as being born of God. ‘Becoming children of God’ and ‘being born of God’ are parallel expressions referring to the same phenomenon (it would be special pleading, and a desperate expedient at that, to argue that becoming God’s child and being born of him are distinct in the Johannine context or that the text would allow that a person could be born of God and yet not be his child), so that God’s act of regenerating believers, making them his own children, is a response to their faith.” ((Excerpt from footnote #153 on page 191 of Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.10-18: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis, by Dr. Brian Abasciano, paragraph breaks added for easier reading)

    I’m a software developer so I get the programming concept fully and that isn’t an accurate description of how I understand God to be actively working. Again, I would be more in line with the rolling ball maze than hard-coding behavior.

    And again, it amounts to the same thing, regardless of what illustration you personally prefer.

    In your further comments you misunderstand “necessitated”, which again causes me to wonder how much you have looked into this debate. To say that something is necessitated in this context is to say it happens of necessity. In other words, it must happen. There is no way it can’t happen. Our wills are necessitated because they act just as God decreed for them to act with no power or ability to ever act otherwise.

    The ball in a ball maze rolling to the right when the maze master tilts the board to the right is a necessitated action. There is no way that the ball can roll left. It is not just that the ball will roll right. Rather, it must roll right. It is impossible for it to do otherwise. Your cookie illustration again conflates and confuses “will happen” (certainty) with “must happen” (necessity). Big difference.

    I understand the mental hurdles here. My problem with Calvinism as it relates to salvation was I had a hard time understanding why a loving God wouldn’t save everyone if He had the power to do so. I thought He owed it to everyone to save them if He could.

    I don’t think that at all. But the point is that this analogy (though it accurately reflects Calvinism) doesn’t comport with your loving father analogy, rendering that analogy invalid and unhelpful.

    But then, He doesn’t owe anyone anything. We all deserve destruction, and if He let us all be destroyed it wouldn’t diminish his glory or justness or character or love one iota.

    Agreed. However, Piper does teach that reprobation serves to somehow maximize God’s glory in salvation. That is how he makes sense of the fact that God reprobates most of humanity. I am glad you disagree.

    The fact that He saves anyone is more merciful than I can possibly imagine. So the question to be asked isn’t, “Why don’t you save everyone, God?” but “Why did you save me?”

    That might be the question you prefer, but you still need to grapple with the other question if you want your emotional analogy about the father to be effective. The moment a counter example shows a different side of the issue, you want to change the “question”. Now why is that?

    I didn’t even go as far as I could have in the analogy. It would be more accurate to say that God put the people in the house, rendered them unconscious, set the house on fire and then saved only some, leaving the majority to burn (remember your points about the kiln and God causing all the factors?). Now when we put it like that, it just doesn’t quite tug on the heart strings the same way.

    To be clear, I don’t think Paul speaks to this very cleanly.

    Maybe because Paul didn’t hold to Calvinism.

    Just as God never explains himself to Job but instead proclaims his sovereignty and power by asking, “Did you form the mountains?” (my religion professors in college hated God’s response to Job) Paul says something similar in Romans 9:19-24,

    To some extent, yes. Both are touching on God’s sovereignty, but there is much more in Paul’s response that spans the length of three chapters (9-11). This context is vital to properly understanding Paul’s words here. If Paul’s answer to the Jewish charge that God is unjust in rejecting them was simply that God can form them to hate Him and talk back to Him and then rightly rebuke and punish them for doing just as He irresistibly formed them to do (unless you want to say that the clay has some say in how it is formed here), then he sure spent a long time making his point (in Romans 9-11), when this simple rebuke should have been quite enough. Thankfully, that is not what he meant to convey at all, so of course I cannot agree with your use of this passage to support your views.

    It’s hard theology, I’ll give you that.

    It’s wrong theology, I’ll give you that.

    As I said, we will probably just have to agree to disagree. We seem to just be spinning our wheels here. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for trying to understand why I so strongly disagree with you.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  17. Hey bro, already forgiven and forgotten! Take it easy!

  18. Hi … Not sure if I am just plain stupid or blind or both! But I cannot seem to find Part of this fantastic article. Am I missing something … Or is the answer in the follow up replies?

    Blessings
    David

  19. Ralph,

    There is no Part 2 yet. That is on my “to do” list. Is that what you meant? Or did you mean that part of this article (Part 1) is missing? This article ends with footnote #8.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  20. If what Piper is saying is true then we must conclude that when God says not to do evil, in most instances he really does not mean it. If a commandment is not meant to followed then God is a double talker.

    We would also have to conclude that the people who were being disobedeint prior to the flood were doing the will of God and God repented that He made man because of the evil He made them committ?!

    If God is making man sin, then man cannot be responsible. If you want to say that God is making man sin then committ to your belief and say that He is the author of sin. Don’t half step.

    It is simple, when God commands people not to do something that is what he means (Adam and Eve also). How he works everything out is a mystery. Man will not be able to figure out everything, some things are too lofty.

  21. […] not how the word is normally used.” See Ben Henshaw’s thorough critique of Piper’s sermon at: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-pa…  (June, […]

  22. […] [2] For a thorough rebuttal of Piper’s attempt to justify all sin and evil being authored and grounded in God’s will of decree I would highly recommend: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-pa… […]

  23. […] devastating critique of Piper’s sermon and reliance on Edwards ill-conceived theology at: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-pa…  (June, […]

  24. […] John Piper on God Ordaining All Sin and Evil Part 1: An Arminian Response to Piper’s First &#8… […]

  25. […] John Piper on God ordaining All Sin And Evil Part 1: An Arminian Response to Piper’s First &#8… […]

  26. Reblogged this on Know The Son First and commented:
    Good Article…

  27. […] [2] For a thorough rebuttal of Piper’s attempt to justify all sin and evil being authored and grounded in God’s will of decree I would highly recommend: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/john-piper-on-god-ordaining-all-sin-and-evil-pa… […]

  28. […] A big thank you to John Piper for doing the honors again, […]

  29. i am so glad i read most of the debate from ben and colby. i had a similar encounter in life with a calvinist. for 1 yr and a 1/2. I EVEN WENT TO THEIR CHURCHES. i was just sharing my ”relationship with Christ” but he at the end admitted that tulip was an essential and we could not agree to disagree. he believed he had the only truth and i was wrong! i had to quit that friendship for my own peace. now i have a new friend who is reformed and doesnt know why i am so put off with calvinists and their doctrine . even though she claims she is not a calvinist. i could not believe i could get so frustrated with a doctrine and this person and i guess i am not healed from them yet. i do forgive him. i wish i could get my new friend to read colby’s debate to see how this calvinist debates. i think that colby and my calvinist want desperatly for me to believe their tulip so that they can solidify their belief because it sits on such shakey ground , a doctrine built on sand instead of Jesus attitudes and compassion and love and justice who was the exact image of our Father in heaven.
    you ben were so gracious to colby but i dont know why you’d spend so much time and energy on him -generally speaking they will never ever change their doctrine because of rote answers they have learned and possibly they have been brainwashed by their worship of man’s ( calvin’s ) doctrine instead of looking at Jesus and will try to get everyone to believe their ( 2nd conversion i call it =tulip) . they will keep doing that until they want to ”experience and know” God’s L O V E .

    i have read some testimonies of x-calvinists who were steeped in that doctrine for their life or 14yrs and it seems the only way out is to long for the L O V E of GOD.
    THX BEN FOR EXPLAINING WHAT YOU BELIEVE AND AGREE TO DISAGREE!!!

  30. […] John Piper on God Ordaining All Sin And Evil Part 1: An Arminian Response to Piper’s “Fi… […]

  31. The only argument you really have is that the doctrine of God’s ultimate sovereignty even over sin and evil is that it is not “logical.” I see nothing Biblical to sustain the Arminian position. Sure, you picked out the two passages that can be looked at by both camps and given reasonable answers to but I noticed you stayed away from the DOZENS of other passages that argue for God’s ultimate sovereignty even when it comes to sin and evil. Just because human logic and reason can’t put it together doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Calvinism is Biblical. Piper uses at least 45 other passages to prove his point and all you came up with (for the most part) is “it doesn’t make sense in my finite human mind.”

  32. Zach,

    You write: The only argument you really have is that the doctrine of God’s ultimate sovereignty even over sin and evil is that it is not “logical.”

    I never denied that God is “sovereign over sin and evil.” Of course He is. Did you even read the post?

    I see nothing Biblical to sustain the Arminian position.

    And I see nothing Biblical to sustain the Calvinist position. So now what?

    Sure, you picked out the two passages that can be looked at by both camps and given reasonable answers to but I noticed you stayed away from the DOZENS of other passages that argue for God’s ultimate sovereignty even when it comes to sin and evil.

    I addressed far more than two passages. Did you read the footnotes? Is there a certain passage you have in mind?

    And again, I do not deny God’s sovereignty over sin and evil. But I do deny the bizarre and contrived Calvinist understanding of “sovereignty” which wrongly equates sovereignty with exhaustive determinism. For example, I affirm God’s sovereign right to create free creatures and hold them accountable for their free choices and actions, as A.W. Tozer put so well,

    “God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God

    Just because human logic and reason can’t put it together doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    So I guess it could be true that God both exhaustively foreknows all things (Calvinism and Classical Arminianism) and has very limited knowledge about the future (Open Theism). Right? Seems illogical, I know, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, right? Or why not just say that Arminianism and Calvinism are both fully true- completely compatible? Seems illogical I know, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, right?

    If your tactic is to deny the proper use of logic to determine truth, then it will be hard for you to mount any sort of meaningful argument as meaningful argumentation will always require logic (especially the law of non-contradiction, which is, of course, the main “logical” problem with Calvinism).

    Calvinism is Biblical.

    That’s just an assertion on your part. I will just counter assert that Arminianism is Biblical. Now what? Oh wait, better yet, I will just assert that both Calvinism and Arminianism are true, since logic doesn’t matter anyway.

    Piper uses at least 45 other passages to prove his point and all you came up with (for the most part) is “it doesn’t make sense in my finite human mind.”

    If that is the way you see it, then I guess it is useless to try to convince you otherwise. But for me, my argument certainly was not just: “it doesn’t make sense in my finite human mind.” My argument did indeed challenge the logic of Piper’s arguments. Why should his logic not be challenged? But it also looked at the main passages he referenced and demonstrated that his interpretation is not required. That is where the battle needs to be fought. Anyone can quote Scripture. It is a very different thing to “prove” your Theological position from them. Do you really think I can’t just as well produce dozens (or even hundreds) of passages which “prove” Arminianism and flatly contradict Calvinism? But I get the feeling you will somehow disagree with the way I interpret those passages. See the problem?

    Or, I suppose, we could just accept that the Bible proves both Arminianism and Calvinism to be true even though that seems illogical to our “finite minds”. We can’t be troubled by such “apparent contradictions” and we are certainly forbidden to apply “human logic” to the problem. So we should probably just “embrace the tension” and affirm that even though we do not fully understand, since the Bible plainly teaches Arminianism and Calvinism, they must both be true.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  33. These drive-by Calvinists are super interesting. They swing by, make a comment attacking you and your exegesis, make a lot of unsupported statements, and then LEAVE FOREVER. What do they hope to gain? Are they just venting? Are they trolling?

  34. […] main biblical examples referenced from our Calvinistic brethren seeking to support their case for theistic determinism of all things (sometimes referred to as […]

  35. A wonderful article above! Thanks!
    It has long been my observation that Calvinists often function like double-agents.

    In the context of good events, they express without hesitation, univocal, assertive, unambiguous, Calvinistic language.

    However, in the context of sin/evil events, carefully watch, and you will observe the language shift from being univocal to equivocal. And they may often camouflage themselves behind the language of a theology they call heresy. Arminian, Molinist, and Open-theist language are all fair game.

    Language in this case becomes a very observable barometer.
    It tells you that something is up, which the author feels the needs to navigate around. Calvinists often become obscurantists in this process – shifting semantic weights the same way a cunning money-changer shifts the weights he puts on his scales, in order to take advantage of his unsuspecting customer.

    The trick to the game hinges upon his ability to manipulate language.
    No other Christian social structure mentors its disciples in the subtle use of language the way Calvinism does. And this becomes another tell-tale sign.

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