The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s “Two-Wills” View (Part 5)

, 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 7 and 8 are included in this post.]


Critique 7: IS GOD A MORAL ARSONIST? A CRITICAL DISTINCTION BETWEEN ARMINIANISM AND CALVINISM: REDEEMING EVIL FOR GOOD VS. DECREEING EVIL FOR GOOD

The Piper Theodicy on God’s two-wills cannot reasonably affirm any of the above magnificent truths (see previous critique) about God’s sovereign decision to create man with genuine moral freedom and God’s sovereign glory over our misuse of freedom [i.e. evil] by redeeming evil events rather than justifying evil in virtue of decreeing all evil. Therein lies a critical distinction between Calvinism and Arminianism. Piper can’t meaningfully say God redeems the evils that occur any more than an arsonist can be praised for putting out a fire he started!

In Calvinism God is nothing more than a moral arsonist—> turned hero—> turned moral arsonist—> turned hero, flip-flopping himself throughout human history. All meaningful trust in God’s nature is lost, crushed under the weight of an extreme doctrine of divine sovereignty that ultimately justifies all evil in virtue of conceiving and decreeing all evil. All one must do is take truth to an extreme and it becomes error. This Piper does and does so exceedingly well.

Piper may be reticent to admit that his view entails God justifying all evil in virtue of decreeing all evil, but it goes to the very core of his hermeneutical approach in justifying why evils occur. They occur because God needs them to occur in order to meet an insatiable need to maximize his alleged glory via decreeing and thus authoring all things. So when Piper says God willed in one sense to influence men to do what is against his will in another sense he really means God decided before the foundation of the world to purposely thwart his moral character and moral will by intentionally conceiving of every vile evil throughout human history and rendering them certain via an irresistible decrees that no person can resist.

In other words the only reason why God’s moral will for good is not realized in any given situation, is because his will of decree determined that it not be realized. That is to say Piper thinks God’s perfect will could have occurred if only his decree had not determined that it not occur. Piper divorces God’s decretive will from his moral nature and in so doing presents a contrariety within God, despite his every protest to the contrary.

There is one more point that needs mentioning. And that is, if exhaustive, divine determinism is true then there exists no exceptions where God has not causally determined something to occur. Therefore it is rather pointless to understand why God would bother telling us of examples wherein he has determined or purposed that something occur. It would be like a puppeteer reminding not only his audience but also his own wooden marionettes that marionettes only move when they are acted upon by having their strings pulled. Why bother making a point of a universal given if both parties are already fixed and locked into a relational dynamic? It is impossible for any exceptions to exist given the very nature between a puppeteer and his puppets. Perhaps Piper would say God’s intention is that we be more aware and more appreciative of his glorious sovereign control over everything we think, desire and do—and so God seeks to remind humanity from time to time of this universal law. But obviously given the nature of universal, meticulous, divine determinism, it is likewise pointless to assume that God’s aim could be our awareness or appreciation of divine determinism over all things because “all things” would necessarily include whether or not we will be appreciatively aware of the fact that he has determined all things! No matter a Calvinist spins it, there is a self-defeating nature to divine determinism that cannot be escaped. Or as William Lane Craig aptly puts it,

“There is a sort of dizzying, self-defeating character to determinism. For if one comes to believe that determinism is true, one has to believe that the reason he has come to believe it is simply that he was determined to do so… When you come to realize that your decision to believe in determinism was itself determined and that even your present realization of that fact right now is likewise determined, a sort of vertigo sets in, for everything that you think, even this very thought itself, is outside your control. Determinism could be true; but it is very hard to see how it could ever be rationally affirmed, since its affirmation undermines the rationality of its affirmation.”[12]

So in returning to Piper’s example of Revelation 17:16-17, if everything we think and do was irresistibly determined by God, then it only seem reasonable to ask why God even bothers to make a point of saying he has willed to “put it within the heart” of evil kings to “carry out his purpose” and bring judgment upon the evils of the harlot, Babylon?

Henshaw alludes to this very point when he states,

“Even if God had irresistibly influenced them to be of one purpose it does not follow that this is always how God operates. In fact, the fact that the text specifically tells us that God put it into their hearts would seem to suggest that this is not how God usually operates. If God always controls man’s thoughts and will, then there would be no need to make a point of it here. The fact that the text makes a point of God’s involvement suggests that this is not always the case.”[13]

Lastly take further note of the clause that follows the clause Piper thought to make much of: “…for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled” (Rev 17:17).

That second clause is critical to note because it compliments scripture elsewhere that speaks of God purposing that unrepentant, wicked persons be delivered up or “given over” to their own evil and impurity. For example in Romans 1:24–29 we read,

“Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity… This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions…And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice…”

Similar to Jacob Arminias’ explanation concerning Christ’s predetermined death at the hands of “wicked men,” in what condition did God find these ten kings when he purposed to exploit them and use them as his tool of judgment on the harlot? Surely it was as obstinate sinners “filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed and wickedness” in line with Rom 1:29. Consequently God judicially purposes that these evil “kings” should be handed over to their own obstinate ways and their authority be surrendered over to the beast until God’s judgment on the harlot is finished. Calvinists are extrapolating far outside what the text permits in suggesting God unconditionally willed (in any sense) their evil before they were born. Any sense of moral justice is utterly lost in such a view for one simple reason: In Calvinism God judges people as sinners unconditionally—that is to say before he even considered them as sinners. More on this to follow in the next critique.

Critique 8: THE NATURE OF THE UNCONDITIONAL: UNDERSTANDING THE HINDGE ON WHICH THE DOOR OF PIPER’S CALVINISTIC SOVEREIGNTY SWINGS

The aforementioned points in the preceding section need to be explored further because Calvinists will often say God is just to send all to hell on the basis that all have sinned. But in Calvinistic thought every sense of justice is carried away in the winds of divine determinism. For in Calvinism, God did not foresee people’s sin and on that basis consider people as sinners deserving of his judgment. Rather God first decreed people to be sinners and only then did he consign them as sinners deserving of his judgment for the very sins he decreed they must commit.

We cannot ignore the hinge on which the door of Calvinist sovereignty swings. Calvinists insist God’s sovereign will is unconditional. In other words, he does not consult or condition his decrees on any foreknowledge of human decision. The Westminster Confession, which operates like an infallible paper pope for many Calvinists, states, “[God] hath not decreed any thing because he saw it as future.” [14] Therefore for God to unconditionally will anyone to do any evil means he willed their evil before he even regarded them as fallen sinners. That’s bad enough, but it gets even worse for the Calvinist when one considers the fact that the very fall of man into sin was God’s unconditional decree. In essence it is God’s eternal decree that damns people, not their rebellion or sin that defines them or distinguishes them from others. Piper can’t rebut this because he argues elsewhere, “Double predestination, is simply the flip side of unconditional election. Just as God chooses whom He will save without regard to any distinctives in the person…so also he decides whom He will not save without regard to any distinctives in the individual.”[15]

The moral framework of Calvinism is once again rendered unintelligible. This leads to our next line of critique.


[12] Craig, William Lane: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/molinism-vs-calvinism#ixzz3D4g5Hq7l

[13] Henshaw, Ben. See: http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/NT/Rev17_17.html

[14] CITED

[15] See: Piper, John. http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-does-piper-mean-when-he-says-hes-a-seven-point-calvinist