The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s Two-Wills View (Part 17)

, 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. Critiques 23 and 24 are included in this post.]

Critique 23: SOVEREIGNTY MISCONCEIVED: DOES GOD SOVEREIGNLY INTERRUPT HIS OWN SOVEREIGNTY?

Throughout his article Piper is seeking to steer our attention towards passages of Scripture that may well prove God’s sovereign involvement in our life— but what kind of sovereignty and what kind of involvement? Arminians do not deny God’s sovereignty. We just deny the horrid, morally inept view of Calvinism. So the choice is not between a God who is sovereign, and a God that is not. The real question is how do we rightly understand God’s exercise of sovereignty. That is the larger issue that sometimes gets blurred given Piper’s propensity to assume there exists only one viable description of sovereignty in town— the Calvinist one. Piper’s key error is always assuming as true what he is trying to prove and then pointing at Scriptures that speak of God’s will and involvement in our lives as if they prove his underlying, guiding assumptions— namely exhaustive, meticulous, divine determinism.

So lets proceed to look at the next batch of passages in question and ask ourselves whether they commit us to Piper’s theological determinism, or speak of a different sort of sovereignty wherein we can rest assured that as our hearts remain faithful to God, his guiding presence and providence will establish our steps for the sake of our eternal good and his eternal glory. Furthermore it is to our benefit to consider whether Piper upholds a view of sovereignty that recognizes and affirms our moral choices and moral responsibility as image bearers of God, or instead, posits a raw power that strips us of genuine possibilities of choice and renders our wills as nothing less than intermediate automatons of a divine will we cannot resist. The later of course would make warnings against sin meaningless.

For example Piper reflects on James 4:15 in the following way:

James warns against the pride of presumption in speaking of the simplest plans in life without a due submission to the overarching sovereignty of God in whether the day’s agenda might be interrupted by God’s decision to take the life he gave. Instead of saying, “Tomorrow we will do such and such . . . you ought to say, `If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that'” (James 4:15).

Two comments are in order. Firstly, if Piper’s underlying assumptions on God’s sovereignty are correct then every aspect of every day’s agenda was meticulously planned out and decreed before the world began. As such it is meaningless for Piper to speak of any part of any current “day’s agenda” being possibly “interrupted by God’s decision.” Every day’s agenda is God’s agenda. It is incredible that Piper, a man whose intellectual and theological prowess is so highly esteemed in the Young, Restless and Reformed community, could be so neglectful and thoughtless in his reasoning. Given his own view, if God were to interrupt the normal agenda of any day, for any reason (regardless if it’s to give life or take life), God would in actuality be sovereignly interrupting his own sovereignty. And that is patently absurd.

Secondly, given Piper’s view on divine sovereignty, it would mean every sin of pride we commit is a sin of pride we were divinely determined to commit. Therefore it is again absurdly meaningless and irrelevant for Piper to say, “James warns against the pride of presumption in speaking of the simplest plans in life without a due submission to the overarching sovereignty of God…” Obviously, assuming Piper’s thesis is true, if someone were to be pridefully presumptuous by not submitting to God’s “overarching sovereignty” it would only be so because they were determined to be pridefully presumptuous by God’s “overarching sovereignty.” Therefore what would be the point of James warning?

Critique 24: SOVEREIGNTY RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD: HOW WE CAN AFFIRM GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY WHILE DENYING GOD’S DETERMINATIVE CONTROL OVER ALL THE DETAILS OF OUR LIVES?

Piper then moves on to discuss how New Testaments saints “lived in the calm light of an overarching sovereignty of God concerning all the details of their lives and ministry.”

Now when Piper asserts the NT writers viewed God’s sovereignty in a manner that concerned “all the details of their lives” does he mean to suggest the writers of the NT believed God determined every detail of their lives— from their sinful lusts and food tastes down to the timing of their daily bowel movements? Piper doesn’t explicitly state such details, but we would have to say, “yes” since he holds divine sovereignty entails that nothing can occur that God isn’t determinatively controlling— from every “besetting sin” down to the movement of every “dust mote seen suspended in a sun beam” when one pulls back their curtains.[34] But what is the evidence Piper presents that the writers of scripture shared his all or nothing, deterministic view of God’s sovereignty? He writes,

“Paul expressed himself like this with regard to his travel plans. On taking leave of the saints in Ephesus he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” (Acts 18:21). To the Corinthians he wrote, “I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills” (1 Corinthians 4:19).”

And again, “I do not want to see you now just in passing; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits” (1 Corinthians 16:7).

As is obvious Piper is again assuming his theology in toto everywhere he looks. Arminians believe wholeheartedly that God has plans and purposes for our lives, and when we obediently submit to God and surrender our lives to him, we believe God is faithful to lead, guide and direct our steps by the Holy Spirit and providentially open and close doors of travel and opportunity in accordance with his overarching purposes— even if that involves us suffering persecution. Apparently so did the writers of Scripture, like Paul. To even suggest that these passages can be extrapolated to fit into the underlying narrative of Calvinism and serve as evidence that our Heavenly Father sovereignly decreed all human decision— from fathers reading bedtime stories to their children, to fathers raping their children— is an extrapolation of the most extreme kind, and it deserves to be called out for what it is: blind obsession and deception.

If that sounds too mean-spirited or unpalatable for some to swallow, than perhaps one’s sensitivities are misplaced. Nothing less than the holy character of God is at stake.


[34] In this linked YouTube video Piper argues that every dust particle and every sin that besets Christians is being determinatively controlled by God. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSSLLpVChng