[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 11 and 12 are included in this post.]
Critique 11: PIPER’S REPEATED MISSTEPS INTO MEANINGLESSNESS: DOES GOD DELIBERATE OVER RESTRAINING OR PERMITTING HIS OWN PREDETERMINATIONS?
The key point to be raised is does anything Piper has said in terms of God restraining or permitting sins make sense in the context of his own theodicy? Indeed it does not. It is manifestly meaningless. Firstly as alluded to already, Piper must concede that the very sins Eli’s wicked son’s were judged for (not to mention the sins of all Israelites) were in fact the very sins that God willed they commit and rendered certain through his decrees.
Secondly in the case of Abimelech, we are forced to assume that God decreed Abraham would lie about his wife, just so he could subsequently decree for Abimelech to desire Sarah as his wife, only to subsequently decree to intervene at the last minute to keep all his decrees from unraveling into some un-decreed outcome.
In Piper’s “God entranced world view” all life is nothing more than God’s cosmic screenplay and we are all his marionettes having our “strings” pulled and spitting out our lines blissfully unaware that every word and every action was predetermined by God.
Thirdly if all acts of sin and evil originate in the decretive mind and will of God, then what does Piper truly have in mind when he speaks of God restraining sin and evil in some instances, but in other instances willing or permitting evil “because he intends for evil to run it’s course?” What is God restraining or not restraining? What exactly is God allowing to run it’s course?
We have already touched on this but it bears repeating because Piper continues to repeat the same incoherency and fall prey to the same self-defeating, mental vertigo. If God determinatively decreed everything we do, then God must be deliberating over whether or not to restrain his own decree or permit his decree to “run its course!”
And therein is why the Piper Theodicy is utterly absurd and inane. It is utter meaningless to speak of God deciding what evils to permit or restrain if God already determined all that will or will not occur in the first place. Yet time and again Piper goes to great lengths to shield this fact by importing words and concepts that blurs this simple breakdown. Given the full scope of what he truly believes, Piper should be more forthright, honest and consistent and say, “God has the right and the power to restrain what he has decreed in some instances, and in other instances he retains the right to not restrain what he decreed because he intends that his decree run its course.”
But of course Piper knows to put it this way indeed sounds quite silly and allows the reader to come perilously close to questioning, if not apprehending, the moral and logical bankruptcy of the Calvinist position he espouses. Whether intentional or not Piper and his mentor Jonathan Edwards, are both a masters at shielding the utter horror of what he believe by obscuring meaning with words, redirecting one’s attention away from logical deduction, and substituting in a spiritual fear of departing from their special and private interpretation of divine sovereignty.
Critique 12: IF GOD SAYS HE TAKES NO DELIGHT IN THE DEATH OF THE WICKED, HOW CAN GOD BE SAID TO DELIGHT IN PUTTING ELI’S WICKED SONS TO DEATH?
We have already demonstrated Piper’s lapse into meaninglessness by appealing to Eli’s son’s as evidence for God willing (decreeing) sin. But he has one more follow-up point to make. Piper’s zeal to hold tenaciously to his absurdly confusing view of God willing what he has not willed becomes all the more strained and telling when he tries to make the argument that God’s stated desire to put to death Eli’s sons for their blasphemous debauchery is also evidence for his view, saying,
“God “desired” to put the sons of Eli to death, and that the word for desire is the same one used in Ezekiel 18:23 when God says he does not “delight” in the death of the wicked…This is a strong warning to us not to take one assertion, like Ezekiel 18:23 and assume we know the precise meaning without letting other scripture like 1 Samuel 2:25 have a say. The upshot of putting the two together is that in one sense God may desire the death of the wicked and in another sense he may not.
In other words Piper assumes that since the scriptures declare on the one hand that “God takes no delight in the death of the wicked but that the wicked should turn from his way and live” (Ezekial 18:23), yet on the hand 1 Samuel 2:25 states that “God desired to put to death” Eli’s sons as a just consequence for their past sins, then it must therefore serve as evidence that God really does possess two wills in the exact manner as Piper envisions them.
Piper is greatly overstating his case. The real “upshot” is that God truly is longsuffering, genuinely not desiring any to eternally perish, but that “the wicked should turn from their wicked way and live.” However not even Arminians interpret that to mean God’s patience towards sinners is infinite and without end. The scriptures are replete with examples, from the Flood to the Canaanites, to Eli’s sons, and onward into the Israelites’ exile into Babylon, that there comes a point where not even God can stomach the impenitent disregard people have of him, and so he judiciously enacts consequences that may end their lives.
For instance God desired to give his people a special land for their inheritance, but when Israel rebelled and repeatedly spurned opportunities to repent God consequently willed to judge them by dispossessing them from the land through exile. Does that mean God never really meant for them to live in the land in the first place? Does it mean God possesses two wills as Piper envisions those wills– i.e that God both willed and did not will that Israel should obey him and live in the land he chose for them?
Not in the least. It means God sovereignly chooses to accommodate his will to a paradigm of human freedom that he alone chose to bestow upon his world. That God can be said to possess one desire in one state of affairs, and then be said to no longer possess that stated desire in a different stare of affairs is no evidence of Piper’s “two divine wills” anymore than my saying “I desire to eat as much chocolate as I can, until I get sick, then I don’t desire to eat any chocolate” is evidence that I possess two conflicting wills concerning my desire or love for chocolate.
There is no reason why we cant say God initially desired that Eli’s sons repent and “turn from their wicked way and live,” but the time came when God could no longer “stomach” their willful disregard of all that is holy and sacred in the priesthood, and so God consequently confirmed them in their disobedience and justly desired to put them to death.
Piper cannot affirm any of this because the most problematic, logical fallout of his view is not that God delighted in putting to death Eli’s sons for their unspeakable acts of evil; rather God delighted in his decree that Eli’s sons commit those unspeakable acts of evil! Make no mistake about it: God delighting in decreeing sin is the final conclusion of Piper’s view when all the lofty, cosmetic terminology is stripped away.
The reason is simple. Eli’s sons only chose to do evil in the exact manner Piper thinks God predetermined they would for his glory. Piper’s sad view of God is akin to a judge saying he justly desires to sentence a serial rapist and murderer to death row, only to reveal later that he (the judge) was the mastermind who determined who would be the victims and perpetrators of those very crimes. It’s hard to believe, but this is a fair depiction of his Calvinist view given that he holds before the dawn of time God gloried in decreeing, not just the vile acts of Eli’s sons, but all acts of evil so that he could later delight in judging them for those very vile acts.
Once again another example by Piper fails to serve as critical evidence in demonstrating what he needs to prove: that Scripture demands and obligates us to the view that God, for the sake of manifesting his glory, has unconditionally and determinatively decreed every act of rebellion, sin and evil since the foundation of the world.