The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s “Two-Wills” View (Part 25)

, 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 32 is included in this post.]


Critique 32: AUTHORSHIP OF EVIL AND THE INCOMPATABILITY OF PIPER’S COMPATIBILISM

In the previous section we noted how John Calvin provides the critical baseline for theological determinism asserting, “the hand of God rules the interior affections no less than it superintends external action.” That is to say God is the primary agent that rules and causes all things—including the very desires and “interior affections” that give rise to sinful actions. This makes the typical, standard defense of the Calvinist compatibilistic model a moot point. In other published writings Piper tries to preserve human responsibility for sin by re-couching human freedom in compatibilistic terms as the freedom to act in accordance with one’s strongest desire.[41] The move is then made to assert that we are slaves of sin and can do no other than act in accordance with our sinful desires. But to argue that human beings are free to act according to their sinful desires is to only go half-way in a deterministic paradigm. It wrongly gives the impression our sinful desires and subsequent choices exist within a wide range of other possible (sinful) desires—each as equally possible to choose as another. But this would be inconsistent with meticulous, divine determinism. Can a Calvinist hold that he or she can desire to do something other than that which God decreed he or she would desire to do?

No—they cannot. For to believe such a thing would put in jeopardy the very foundation of divine sovereignty John Calvin first established and every subsequent (logically consistent) Calvinist must affirm. In Calvinism, God decrees our very desires (“interior affections”) to secure his prior decree. That is to say every person’s desires and subsequent choices must fall within the scope of God’s prior predeterminations. Thus man is not really acting freely in accordance with his desires, for (as Calvin was honest enough to admit) “the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined” having “worked in their hearts to make them will before they acted.” Hence freedom is illusory and moral accountability is undermined no matter how Piper or Edwards might try to spin determinism with lofty verbiage.[42] In a Calvinist paradigm there are only predetermined effects that co-op the instrumentality of human wills to bring about predetermined ends. William Lane Craig astutely recognizes the pervasive problems inherent to Calvinistic determinism, saying,

“Universal, divine, determinism nullifies human agency. Since our choices are not up to us but are caused by God, human beings cannot be said to be real agents. They are mere instruments by means of which God acts to produce some effect, much like a man using a stick to move a stone… these intermediate causes are not agents themselves but mere instrumental causes, for they have no power to initiate action. Hence, it’s dubious that on divine determinism there really is more than one agent in the world, namely, God. This conclusion not only flies in the face of our knowledge of ourselves as agents but makes it inexplicable why God then treats us as agents, holding us responsible for what He caused us and used us to do.”[43]

The implications are staggering. We strive for sanctification because the Word tells us to be holy as He is holy. The Bible commands us to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Col 3:5); to let no unclean word pass through our lips (Eph 4:29); to cast out every imagination that sets itself up against the will of God (2 Cor 10:5); to run the race with endurance by casting aside the sins that entangle us (Heb 12:1–3)— and yet Piper’s theological determinism demands that we simultaneously believe God determined every time we give in to the flesh, every vile word that proceeds from our mouth, every lustful imagination that leads to sin, and every sin that entangles us. The view is so morally repugnant, un-glorifying and dishonoring to God, words utterly fail to capture its horror. Anyone that denies this is either being intentionally duplicitous or suffering from a self-imposed, intellectual delusion that trades in moral reasoning for baseless assertions and twisted theological loyalty.

Just because Piper has a unique (unnerving) skill set to redefine the most contemptible and vile aspects of his view in lofty, lyrical display doesn’t mean the implications are any less loathsome and un-glorifying to the majesty of our Heavenly Father. For example, Piper attempts to tip-toe around God’s moral nature being the anchor point for all sin (in his view) by parroting a phrase out of the Heidelberg Catechism which states, “all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” Not only does Piper flirt again with the fallacy of a false dilemma (because acts that God does not predetermine are not thereby accidental acts of equal, random unpredictability and void of volitional intent) but his view inescapably makes God the ultimate author of all that occurs—including sin.

This leads to our next area of critique— Piper’s attempt to shield God from the very acts of evil he determinatively initiated and caused by shrewdly redefining authorship along instrumental lines rather than initiating lines of origin. We return to the quote before where Piper quotes Edwards as stating, “If by ‘the author of sin,’ be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing… It would be a reproach and blasphemy, to suppose God to be the author of sin.

I am glad to see Edwards (and Piper) affirm in principle that if God were said to be the author of sin, it would be a reproach against God and blasphemous. We have already dealt with the discordant logic of Edwards’ move to absolve God of authorship by appealing to God’s alleged “permission” of sins to come about. Now Edwards subtly tries to redefine “authorship” as the agent, actor or doer of sin. Edwards is saying nothing more than: “God doesn’t commit the act of adultery, he only deterministically authors who will commit adultery and renders it infallibly certain that they do. Undoubtedly Edwards would also reason God doesn’t rape girls, God only deterministically authors who will rape girls, how girls will be raped, which girls will be raped and when they will be raped— and all by God’s alleged “fatherly hand” and unto his glorious “mosaic.” In the Edwards and Piper theological landscape God contracts out his evil to other parties and we are somehow supposed to believe that absolves God of agency, authorship, causation and responsibility.

For Edwards to admit that God eternally conceived of sins and instigates all sins via sovereign decrees, but that God isn’t the author of those very sins because “he is not the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing” is merely a product of Edwards imagination run amuck and nothing more. Edwards and Piper’s view is equal to saying a husband who conceived of, planned for and hired an assassin to kill his wife can’t be indicted for murder because he was not the “agent” or “doer” who directly pulled the trigger.

In the Calvinist paradigm how are we anything more than God’s instrumental “hired help” operating under a binding, irrevocable contract to bring about all the evil of the world?


[41] Piper, John. A Response to J.I. Packer on the Called Antinomy Between the Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility. See: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility

[42] Piggy-backing on Jonathan Edwards, Piper writes, “Moral necessity is the necessity that exists between the strongest motive and the act of volition which it elicits… God so disposes all things (Eph. 1:11) so that in accordance with moral necessity all men make only those choices ordained by God from all eternity.” See: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-response-to-ji-packer-on-the-so-called-antinomy-between-the-sovereignty-of-god-and-human-responsibility When Piper speaks of God “disposing” all things, he of course means God determines all things necessarily via irresistible divine decrees. In essence Piper is stating God necessitates the necessary motives to guarantee a necessary, moral outcome via divine decree. For Piper to still hold that it is both reasonable and just for God to hold us accountable for the desires and actions he necessitated, is without biblical merit and exists in a fanciful world of his own creation. It is morally ruinous to God’s holiness and glory and exists as nothing more than an infectious poison of deception that must be eradicated from the Church at all costs.

[43] Craig, William Lane: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism