The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s Two-Wills View (Part 16)

, posted by stridermtb

[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 22 is included in this post.]

Critique 22: DOES GOD NEED TO GET PERMISSION FROM HIMSELF?

Repeatedly we see the logical incoherence of the Calvinist position espoused by Piper and how the Scriptures are rendered unintelligible and meaningless in a context of exhaustive, theological determinism. Time and again Piper either conveniently ignores or inexcusably dismisses the “boomerang effect” his Calvinist theology has in coming back around and knocking down whatever proposition he just erected. There is no denying the fact that Calvinism–despite its best intentions to accurately reflect the biblical data–is terminally plagued by cognitive dissonance. Calvinist theologians like Piper consistently refuse to fully pursue the ramifications of their beliefs and even go so far as to shamefully shield others from grasping the most troubling logical implications of Calvinist theology. This is accomplished by cloaking it in the garb of Arminianism when convenient.

For example, Piper often tries to dial back the moral dilemma that arises out of Calvinism by re-couching God’s relationship to evil and sin in Arminian terms as divine permission for evil to come about. This will be dealt with more fully below. Suffice it for now to say this revisionism is grossly misleading in light of his private view that sovereignty means God unconditionally decrees and wills every evil choice and event in human history— and does so irresistibly. In a Calvinist worldview there is no other way to interpret divine ordination of all evil. A few quotes will suffice to demonstrate this central Calvinist tenant:

JOHN CALVIN:

“Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” [22]

“The hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external actions; nor would God have effected by the hand of man what he decreed, unless he worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted.”[23]

“Men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction.”[24]

VINCENT CHEUNG:

“God controls everything that is and everything that happens. There is not one thing that happens that he has not actively decreed – not even a single thought in the mind of man. Since this is true, it follows that God has decreed the existence of evil, he has not merely permitted it, as if anything can originate and happen apart from his will and power.”[25]

“Those who see that it is impossible to altogether disassociate God from the origination and continuation of evil nevertheless try to distance God from evil by saying that God merely “permits” evil, and that he does not cause any of it. However, since Scripture itself states that God actively decrees everything, and that nothing can happen apart from his will and power, it makes no sense to say that he merely permits something – nothing happens by God’s mere permission.”[26]

EDWIN PALMER: “He has foreordained everything ‘after the counsel of his will’ (Eph. 1:11): the moving of a finger, the beating of a heart, the laughter of a girl, the mistake of a typist – even sin…Although sin and unbelief are contrary to what God commands…God has included them in his sovereign decree (ordained them, caused them to certainly come to pass).”[27]

JOHN FRAME: “The Reformed [Calvinists] agree that God knows what would happen under all conditions, but they reject the notion that this knowledge is ever ultimately based on man’s autonomous decisions. Human decisions, they argue, are themselves the effects of God’s eternal decrees.”[28]

GORDAN CLARKE: “I wish very frankly and pointedly to assert that if a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it was the will of God that he should do it… Let it be unequivocally said that this view certainly makes God the cause of sin. God is the sole ultimate cause of everything. There is absolutely nothing independent of him. He alone is the eternal being. He alone is omnipotent. He alone is sovereign… [29] The Bible therefore explicitly teaches that God creates sin.[30]

A.W. PINK: “Plainly it was God’s will that sin should enter this world, otherwise it would not have entered, for nothing happens except what God has eternally decreed.”[31]

JOHN PIPER: “Everything that exists–including evil–is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly… He wills that evil come to pass that good may come of it.[32]

Many more examples could be cited in making the point that Calvinism teaches man’s desires, affections and subsequent actions are irresistibly determined and rendered certain by God’s will, and he can no more avoid doing what God has decreed than he can create a universe or sprout wings and fly to the moon. For any Calvinist to say otherwise would be to put in jeopardy their understanding of divine sovereignty. There is no question that Piper unreservedly holds to divine determination in all matters of human choice and decision to commit evil. But later when Piper attempts to explain such a scenario for the mass consumption of his followers, he obscures the most controversial element of his argument by inexcusably dropping the language of decree and conveniently picking up Arminian language of permission, saying “God has established a world in which sin will indeed come to pass by God’s permission.” [33]

Given the fact that Piper believes: A) God’s foreordaining mind is the conceptual origin of everything that occurs, and B) God has decreed every thought, desire and choice of man, it is quite silly and disingenuous for Piper to then say “God permits” what he has decreed, as if God had to act as a middleman between His decree and the outworking of His decree. Does Piper think God needs to get permission from himself? To even need to ask such a question is to reveal the inconsistency and ineptitude of Piper’s Two-Wills View.

We will deal more with this later, specifically addressing how Piper looks to Jonathan Edwards, presumably thinking Edwards can extricate him from the logical dilemma. But Edwards only ties the noose tighter.


[22] Calvin, John. Inst. I.xvi.8. 1539 edition. Quoted in A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[23] Calvin, John. Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (tr. J. K. S. Reid) (London, 1961)175f. (OC 8.358) See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[24] Calvin, John. Inst. I.xviii.l. 1559 edition. See A.N.S. Lane, “Did Calvin Believe in Freewill?” Vox Evangelica 12 (1981): 73

[25] Cheung, Vincent. “Problem of Evil,” See:

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/ProblemEvil.htm (March, 2013)

[26] Cheung, Vincent. “Problem of Evil,” See:

http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/ProblemEvil.htm (March, 2013)

[27] Palmer, Edwin. H. The Five Points of Calvinism, 24-25

[28] Frame, John. “Scientia Media,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., ed. Walter A. Elwell. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1075.

[29] Clarke, Gordan. Religion, Reason, and Revelation, (Philadelphia, PA: Presbyterian & Reformed), 1961, 221

[30] Clarke, Gordan. Predestination. (The Trinity Foundation), 1987. 18

[31] Pink. A.W. The Sovereignty of God, 2009, 162

[32] Piper, John. See: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/is-god-less-glorious-because-he-ordained-that-evil-be

[33] Piper, John. See: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/conference-messages/is-god-less-glorious-because-he-ordained-that-evil-be