Double-Talk From a Double Predestinarian

Dr. John Piper recently responded to the question, “What did the death of Jesus on the cross accomplish for the non-elect? Anything?” His reply, oddly, raises more questions than it answers. Despite his views on unconditional election and reprobation, Piper frames his answer in terms of God giving those who aren’t chosen a “chance” at salvation. Ted Kaczynski, aka the Unabomber, was identified partially by his unusual, but correct use of an oft-misquoted proverb that’s very applicable here: “You can’t eat your cake and have it too.”

To understand the issue, the reader should understand that Piper is a 5-point Calvinist, and believes that whether one is saved or not is strictly up to the choice of God, with no input from man or conditions fulfilled by man whatsoever, and that God unchangeably chose or rejected each individual before the world was ever made. He also believes that Christ didn’t die for the ones that weren’t chosen in any sort of way by which they could be saved (this is commonly called “limited atonement”), and that whether one accepts the gospel or not is entirely dependent upon whether he has been “regenerated” by God beforehand (per Calvinism, one who is regenerated inevitably will believe the gospel, one who isn’t regenerated never can). With that said, let’s examine Piper’s response.

In one sense, as soon as we sin we should be punished eternally. We shouldn’t get another breath. There should be no reprieve. There should be no time given to us. So clearly then, in some sense, the time given to us is grace. And grace for a sinner requires some kind of payment or purchase or warrant from a holy God. And Christ would be the one who provides that.

So I’m inclined to say, “Yes, the fact that the non-elect, the unbelievers all over the world are still breathing and have another chance to believe is a gift, just like the offer of the gospel is a gift. And that offer is provided by the cross.”

I’m not sure I agree with that logic. I do believe God, in His just nature, punishes sin; and that atonement is required to escape one’s being punished. But now there has to be some sort of payment for delaying that punishment? I also did a double-take when I read this. The guy who regularly stresses double-predestination just used the phrase “chance to believe?” Read on, it gets weirder.

Now here’s the catch. Romans 2:4 says, “Don’t you know that the patience of God is meant to lead you to repentance? But you, by your hard and unrepentant heart, are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when the righteous judgment of God is revealed.”

So if a non-elect person spurns-which they do-they spurn this grace, the grace itself becomes added judgment. Which makes me wonder, “In what sense was it grace?” In some sense it is. It’s a real offer, it’s a real opportunity. But if you spurn it, if you reject it, it backfires and mounts up with greater judgment.

I would agree with Piper’s sentiment that one who spurns God’s grace opens himself up to harsher condemnation. What’s confusing about his answer is his use of terms like “real offer” and “real opportunity.” Per Piper’s own views, whether you will believe and be saved or not has already been unconditionally and immutably settled before you were ever born.

Previously, Piper insinuated that the non-elect are given a “chance to believe” (“chance” apparently not implying randomness, but being used in the idiomatic sense to convey opportunity). But the only “chance” involved is the [to us] unknown factor of whether you are already one of the chosen ones: If you are one of the elect, there’s no chance that you won’t believe; if you’re one of those who have been unconditionally rejected with no possible appeal or recourse, there’s absolutely no chance that you will. And whatever you are, your position as elect or non-elect can’t and won’t change. It’s not a matter of there being a “chance” of backfire for the unchosen in the Calvinistic view, such “grace” cannot do anything but backfire.

It’s like the more kindness is shown to a person that they resist, then the more wicked they show themselves to be. And the more wicked they show themselves to be, the more judgment falls upon them.

I think the answer is yes. I think real grace, real common grace, real offer of salvation-right now, just watching this-is grace. And if you’re a non-Christian, grace is being offered you at this very moment in my warning you that, if you spurn this, judgment will be greater.

Again, I’d largely agree with the sentiment. The question is how can this kind of statement square with Piper’s divinely fatalistic views? It’s also notable that Piper isn’t just talking about how people perceive things, but about things that God intentionally does.

And that’s a gift to you right now that God may be pleased to then use to awaken you to say, “Whoa. I don’t want to multiply my judgment. I want to respond to this moment of grace.”

That’s what I think the upshot of this conversation should be: respond to the grace. You’re alive! There’s still a chance to believe and be saved.

Again, per 5-point Calvinism, if you’re not among those elected to salvation, tough beans. God hasn’t chosen you, Christ didn’t die for you, and the Holy Spirit most certainly won’t regenerate you. You are lost without remedy, condemned already beyond repair, there isn’t a single ray of hope, and you never had a prayer. The accessibility of salvation to you is absolute zero. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. So how can a person to whom salvation isn’t even remotely applicable have any sort of “opportunity” to be saved?

Put even more simply, if Christ didn’t die for the forgiveness of one’s sins in any sense, then there can never be an “opportunity to be saved” for him, because there is no way to be saved unless Christ died to forgive his sins.

Such doublespeak is strong cause to question Piper’s personal theology. If his determinist views are so repugnant that he has to “balance” them with concepts that flatly contradict his doctrine, then he’s essentially embraced cognitive dissonance. If you reject universalism, but believe that God still genuinely offers salvation to all men, then which is more consistent and less convoluted to believe?

1. Christ died provisionally for the sins of all, such that any who believe in Him will be forgiven.

2. Or Piper’s view, where if you’re not one of the elect, you’re given an “opportunity” that you can’t possibly take, to accept an “offer” of salvation from God that isn’t really His will that you accept, just so you’ll have a “chance” to obtain faith that isn’t even accessible to you, wrought by a Savior who didn’t die to forgive your sins, but whose death fortunately did provide “grace” that will inevitably backfire and condemn you even more. Makes perfect sense. Where do I sign?

Does Paul Support Calvinism’s View of Irresistible Grace in 1 Corinthians 4:7?

The following is a comment I made in response to a Calvinist appealing to 1 Cor. 4:7 to show that unless faith is an irresistible gift from God, it would give us reason to boast.  Links to the original debate are provided below.

Real quick. This post is in response to what I would call some irresponsible proof-texting of a passage, on the part of Dominic, in order to get the passage to say more than it actually does. It seems to me that you are doing the exact same thing with 1 Cor. 4:7,

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?”

First, in the context of the passage, Paul is addressing those at Corinth who thought they were more spiritual than others, when, in fact, they were not (as discussed in 1 Cor. 2). They were, in fact, proving to be unspiritual and unable to move onto maturity due to their quarreling and favoritism (1:10-12, cf. 3:1-5). Some thought they were better than others due to the fact that they believed they had gained deeper revelation from a certain apostle that others had not received. In that context, Paul is probably speaking of receiving revelation from certain apostles and not “faith” from God.

Much more could be said concerning context, but it is clear from that alone that this passage does not give you what you want from it. It might be better to focus on what it does not say. Nowhere does Paul speak of the gift of faith in this passage, or the gift of salvation. Nowhere does Paul correlate the inability to boast with the reception of an irresistible gift. Rather, Paul actually points out that they are boasting, though they have no grounds for boasting. This is important because faith (though not specifically addressed in this passage) excludes boasting, not because it is impossible to boast, but because one cannot legitimately boast in faith, since faith is simple trust and the receiving of a free and unearned gift (Rom. 4). So too, these Corinthians had no legitimate grounds for boasting, though they were indeed boasting.

So it is not an issue of “can you boast” but “can you legitimately boast” or “do you have proper grounds for boasting?” Paul’s answer in both cases is “no”. And why is that? Because it is senseless to boast in something that we receive freely from another as an unearned and undeserved gift. On that basis alone, boasting is excluded. If you didn’t earn it, or deserve it, then you have no legitimate grounds for boasting (and faith doesn’t earn or merit anything). Paul never goes beyond this simple point, and neither should we. Yet, Calvinists insist on things that go far beyond what Paul says here and in Rom. 4 concerning faith, boasting and works (and in the process turn faith into a work, contrary to Paul’s simple definitions). The fact that faith is simple trust in another (Christ) to do what we cannot do for ourselves (save us), and is for that reason the receiving of a free and unearned gift, excludes boasting. Period. No more is needed to explain the nature of faith and its antithesis (works).

So Paul is simply stating in 1 Cor. 4 that the Corinthians have no grounds for boasting over each other, since whatever they have has been received and not earned. And if it has simply been received then all legitimate grounds for boasting are cut off (cf. Rom. 4). Period. But you are reading your Calvinistic presuppositions into Paul’s words, rather than allowing Paul to speak for himself on the matter. You are, in a sense, going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), in order to support your doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election. Thankfully, there is nothing in Paul’s words, or definitions of faith and works, to support such doctrines

Addressing Dominic’s Response to the Purpose of Regeneration in Calvinism

Responding to Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith 

Summer Slow Down

Unfortunately, I am very busy right now and have very limited access to the internet.  I am in the process of moving, which has also severely limited my time.  I hope to be at it again as soon as possible, but posting and responding to comments will be very slow for now.  Please be patient.  I am not ignoring anyone.  Thank you.