[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 14 is included in this post.]
Critique 14: PIPER’S STACKING OF THE DECK: SIHON KING OF HESHBON AND THE CANAANITE KINGS
Seeking to build upon what he perceives to be a successful case in point with Pharaoh, Piper throws his net wider, saying,
The Exodus is not a unique instance of God’s acting in this way. When the people of Israel reached the land of Sihon king of Heshbon, Moses sent messengers “with words of peace saying, Let me pass through your land; I will travel only on the highway” (Deuteronomy 2:26-27). Even though this request should have lead Sihon to treat the people of God with respect, as God willed for his people to be blessed rather than attacked, nevertheless “Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him; for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand, as at this day” (Deuteronomy 2:30). In other words it was God’s will (in one sense) that Sihon act in a way that was contrary to God’s will (in another sense) that Israel be blessed and not cursed.
Similarly the conquest of the cities of Canaan is owing to God’s willing that the kings of the land resist Joshua rather than make peace with him. “Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Joshua 11:19-20)… What seems more plain is that when the time has come for judgment God wills that the guilty do things that are against his revealed will, like cursing Israel rather than blessing her.
The chief problem with Piper’s view, especially in regards to Pharaoh and his enlistment of seedy characters like Sihon of Heshbon and the Canaanite kings to support his view, is he wholly ignores the fact that these individuals were already evil!
By now the discerning reader will no doubt see a common theme that runs throughout Piper’s examples. Everyone is already evil.
- The ten wicked kings who align with the beast
- Herod, Pilate, Judas, self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees
- The wicked sons of Eli
- Sihon of Hesbon and Canaanite rulers
- The Assyrians (Piper uses them as an example in other writings)
- Joseph’s jealous, vindictive brothers (Piper uses them as an example in other writings)
All of these examples are of persons already in a self-chosen state of open rebellion against God, having no doubt spurned his previous offers of light and correction (Rom. 1) prior to God’s decision to exploit their evil and obstinate characters towards his own ends. At times those ends involve judgment falling upon his own chosen people just as it fell upon Pharaoh. For instance God’s utilization of wicked Assyria as a tool to judge his own people, demonstrates that sometimes the wickedness of others can converge with God’s own will for judgment. This does not posit any moral contradiction as does Piper’s view. God’s exploitation of the wickedness of others towards his own ends is simply another example of our initial thesis— namely God’s consequent, accommodating will. God’s morally perfect will is that sin never transpire, but given that God’s knowledge is not ignorant of man’s fallen ways, God sees fit to accommodate himself to less than ideal situations while all the while seeking to usurp the intentions of evil in a manner that accords with his own wise counsel in light of such rebellion.
Therefore while it may be said that God’s purposes (i.e. judgment for sin) may convene at times with acts of evil that stem from wicked, obstinate characters like Herod and Pilot, that is a far cry from besmirching God’s character and insisting that he privately and unconditionally determined the wicked acts of all people at all times via sovereign, irresistible decrees.
In point of fact, let’s just assume for the briefest moment it is true that God unconditionally determined the sins of people like Pharoah, Eli’s wicked sons, Herod and Pilot. Does that therefore mean that God equally determined the sins of Mary and Martha? Does it mean God predestined the sins of Lazarus, John and Phillip? Does it mean when Jesus told us to pray, “Father…do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil…” Jesus really meant, “Father… do not lead us into the temptations of sin and evil that you decreed we commit?” To even ask the question is to reveal the utter nonsense of the Calvinist all-or-nothing view of God’s sovereign determinations. A belief in universal, divine determinism is a morally inane theology to be wholly repented from rather than defended.