[StriderMTB’s lengthy article, “The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s ‘Two-Wills’ View,” has been divided into 30 parts and edited for serial publication on this website. Here is a link to the original post. After the entire series is published, it will be made available as a single article on this site. Critique 16 is included in this post.]
Critique 16: MORE EVIDENCE OF DOING THEOLOGY IN AN ECHO CHAMBER: DID GOD DETERMINE ISRAEL’S DISOBEDIENCE AND DEFIANCE JUST SO HE COULD HARDEN THEM FOR COMMITTING THE VERY ACTS OF DEFIANCE HE DETERMINED FOR THEM?
There is little doubt that the general disposition and consciousness of many Jews in Christ’s day was to stay entrenched in an old “wineskin” passing away and stubbornly defy God’s terms for true, righteous standing—which was believing loyalty in the Messiah. In response Israel’s defiance will be judicially judged. Therefore the question that presents itself is, did God extend Israel covenantal grace and patience prior to his judicial hardening of her?
Well if we want to take Scripture seriously, yes he did. As Paul makes clear by quoting Isaiah, “But to Israel he says: All day long I have spread out My hands to a disobedient and defiant people (Rom. 10:21).”
As such we must categorically reject any theology that would suggest God determined Israel’s disobedience or hardened Israel prior to his judicial hardening of her. Yet Piper’s Calvinism posits just this scenario given its commitment to theological determinism that every choice, for or against God, was determinatively rendered certain by God in the past. Consequently Piper must concede God determined that Israel disobey and defy him, so that he in turn could determinatively harden them—in response to Israel taking on the very posture of disobedience he determined. This makes any need to explain anything meaningless and irrelevant. In virtue of the book of Romans being an epistle of deep and thorough explanatory scope and intention, we can confidently state Paul’s starting place was not one of theological determinism.
Piper next zeroes in on the words of Jesus, but almost immediately Piper’s determinism ensnares him again in meaningless exposition—his very words becoming the victims and casualties of his own theology.
He writes, “[Jesus] explained that one of the purposes of speaking in parables to the Jews of his day was to bring about this judicial blinding or stupor. In Mark 4:11-12 he said to his disciples, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.” Here again God wills that a condition prevail which he regards as blameworthy. His will is that they turn and be forgiven (Mark 1:15), but he acts in a way to restrict the fulfillment of that will.”
Firstly if judicial blinding and hardening means anything, it means people are blinded and hardened as a just consequence for freely rejecting God’s previous offerings of grace, light and truth. But remember Piper cannot say any of this without the logic of his own position boomeranging back upon him and invalidating his reasoning as nonsense. For in order to remain consistent with the very nature of exhaustive determinism and maintain internal, theological cohesion, Piper is forced to believe God judicially hardens persons— not in response to them freely hardening their own hearts— but for being determined by God to harden their hearts. In other words God hardens them in response to hardening them. He judges people for doing the very thing he determined they do. In Piper’s theology no one is truly in control of what they do. This is a problem that plagues Calvinism on many fronts. The inescapable conclusion is that Piper’s judicial hardening turns into determinative hardening and judicial judgment gets traded in for arbitrary judgment.
Furthermore as we have already noted, Israel was being judicially blinded as an act of judgment due to having hearts that were callous and unwilling to draw close to God despite his past graceful initiatives. As Jesus declares, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mk. 6:7-8).
It is once again imperative we interpret difficult scriptures concerning judicial blinding in the light of proper, historical setting. Only in doing can we rightly discern why such divine action was taken. Repeatedly the scriptures make the case that God’s blinding and hardening is a consequence of not seeing, not hearing and not responding to God’s previous revelations. It’s an action that justly confirms people in their unwillingness to not see, not hear and not believe– it is not a cause of such unwillingness.
In point of fact it is not at all clear Jesus purposed to speak in parables in order to cause or “bring about judicial blinding” as Piper tries to argue above. It is much more likely Jesus’s choice to speak in parables and his quoting of Isaiah to that effect refers to the just consequence of the Israelite’s’ entrenched unwillingness to hear, rather than the cause of such unwillingness. Scholars have made note of how the Greek can lend itself to consequential result and not cause. For example:
“(Gk hina) can indicate purpose or result. Thus Jesus’ quotation of Is 6:9-10 either offers the reason for His teaching in parables or describes the result. Matthew 13:13 reads ‘because’ (Gk hoti), and thus states the result of the hearers’ unwillingness, not its cause…Jesus’ parables had two distinct purposes: (1) to reveal truth to those who were willing to hear and believe, and (2) to conceal truth from those who willingly rejected truth because of their calloused hearts (v. 15). The hiddenness component of Jesus’ teaching may seem harsh, but since greater exposure to truth increases one’s accountability to God in judgment (11:20-24), the concealment may represent God’s graciousness toward those whom He knew would be unresponsive.”
Little caveats like that above may seem insignificant but they are “game changers” in assessing the merits of Piper’s view. Far from being evidence that God possesses two conflicting wills wherein he intentionally seeks to thwart (or as Piper says, “restrict the fulfillment”) of his moral will by “sovereignly” decreeing every violation against it, the above passages demonstrate that God has a morally perfect will and a consequent will that accommodates itself to an un-decreed reality of human freedom and stubborn rebellion.
 See HSBC Study Bible Notes on Mark 4:11-12 and Matthew 13:10-13