[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 28 is included in this post.]
Critique 28: CAN THE WICKED REST ASSURED THEIR EVIL ACTS AND LIVES ARE “LIVED OUT IN THE HANDS OF GOD” JUST AS EQUALLY AS THE RIGHTEOUS SAINTS THEY PERSECUTE? ANOTHER INANE QUESTION THAT ARISES OUT OF PIPER’S MISHANDLING OF MATTHEW 10:29
Piper appeals to Matthew 10:29 to strengthen his earlier contention that God sovereignly willed (i.e. unilaterally conceived and determinatively willed) with one will everything he hates by another will. But notice again the sanitized, sterilized language Piper adopts to buffer his view that God unconditionally determined all things—including all sin. He writes,
“Jesus had no quarrel with this sense of living in the hand of God. If anything, he intensified the idea with words like Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”
What “sense of living” does Piper have in mind that Jesus has no quarrel with? Piper is not forthright in saying. That is no surprise. But obviously if exhaustive determinism is true, he means Jesus had no quarrel affirming that people do only what God determined—whether good or evil. So why not just say that? We can only assume that speaking candidly is too unnerving for Piper. Therefore, it should be no surprise to again see him intentionally obscure meaning and present the most troubling and dark implications of his theology in the most inoffensive euphemisms and lofty language possible. Rather than directly declare that he thinks Jesus taught that all lives lived—whether good or evil—were equally decreed by God’s hidden will, Piper chooses to neuter theological determinism as being nothing more than people “living in the hand of God.” To put it in such neutered, spiritual terms makes it more difficult to disagree with him, doesn’t it? Piper is no dummy–he knows this. His choice to cloister the nefarious elements of Calvinistic determinism behind such language is intentional and wrong.
In re-couching his view in this way he is attempting to redefine the nature of the debate, such that anyone who disagrees with him must by consequence reject the view that our lives are “in the hand of God.” And what Christian would want to reject that? Indeed believing that our lives, and the whole universe for that matter, exist in the palm of God’s hand is a poetic, anthropomorphic description of our foundational trust in God. But that belief does not then entail that everything that occurs in the universe was or is determinatively moved by God’s hand.
The Scriptures speak of other wills, both human and demonic, that exert a considerable amount of influence in the world. Yet we can take heart in knowing that God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, “has overcome the world”(Jn 16:33). God ultimately reigns over the world as one in charge as opposed to one determinatively controlling all the strings like a puppeteer. God is omni-competant and sovereignly chooses not to be omni-causitive.
Lastly Piper’s mentioning of Matthew 10:29 is no aid to his theological determinism. Jesus’s point is not to suggest that God has predetermined every decision of men. Rather it is that his disciples “not be afraid” that they might suffer bodily harm through persecution (v. 26, 28.) Because they are children of their Heavenly Father, Jesus’s point is to communicate that no persecution can come to them without their Father’s consent. To make this point all the more poignant Jesus points to sparrows, which are of considerable lesser value than his disciples, to demonstrate the comforting truth that if God must consent to the fall of sparrows, how much more must he consent to the persecution of his faithful children.
No doubt this passage has comforted a great number of suffering believers throughout world history. But notice the verse immediately preceding verse 29. Implicit is the teaching that the wicked and rebellious (who would be the persecutors) have great reason to be worried and fearful. Instead of feeling comforted, they ought to be afraid because a future destruction of “both body and soul” awaits them (Mt 10:28). The Scriptures tell us why in other passages: “They rejected the plan of God for their lives” (Lk 7:30) being “stiff-necked…and always resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51).” Even denying their Master who bought them” (1 Peter 2:1). Therefore their “sin remains” (Jn 9:41).
Once again if Pipers’s view is correct, and Jesus’s statement is further evidence that God deterministically controls all things by his hand, then it would mean all people–including the wicked and unbelieving can rest assured in the comforting knowledge that all their vile, evil acts of rebellion were decreed by God and therefore they too are just as equally “living in the hand of God.” And that is quite ridiculous. Nonetheless, it is the logical fallout of believing God has deterministically and irresistibly rendered certain all things.
In conclusion Matthew 10:29 is not teaching that everything that occurs in the world was predetermined by divine fiat. In its context it is a teaching that God’s sovereign relationship with evil, specifically persecution, should be seen in terms of consent and allowance (the Arminian position) and not exhaustive, irresistible decrees (the Calvinist position). The former retains God’s moral character whereas the latter does not. If God is the conceptual origin, source and author of all evil then God’s character becomes morally indistinguishable from the very evils he unconditionally decrees.