The Folly of Doing Theology in an Echo Chamber: A Thorough Examination of Piper’s “Two-Wills” View (Part 29)

, 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 36 is included in this post.]


As he nears his closing remarks Piper tries to pull the threads of his points together by summarizing his thoughts as follows:

“[The] Scriptures lead us again and again to affirm that God’s will is sometimes spoken of as an expression of his moral standards for human behavior and sometimes as an expression of his sovereign control even over acts which are contrary to that standard.

This means that the distinction between terms like “will of decree” and “will of command” or “sovereign will” and “moral will” is not an artificial distinction demanded by Calvinistic theology. The terms are an effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation.”

It is now time to bring this discussion to a close by summarizing why Piper’s attempted exposition is anything but an on-target “effort to describe the whole of biblical revelation.”

Firstly notice again how Piper shrewdly and subtly obscures the controversial determinism of his theology by recasting it as God’s “sovereign control even over acts which are contrary to that standard.” Since even Arminians believe God remains sovereignly in control[48] or better put in charge of his universe, despite acts of evil that are contrary to his holy standard, it is beyond question that Piper is again pulling up short when he most needs to follow through. There is no question the Scriptures reveal a God who is sovereign over evil (in terms of sovereignly allowing free moral agency) and possesses the capability to overrule the intentions of evil and exploit evil for our good and therefore his own purpose. But that is not what Piper means. He sees God’s sovereign control over evil in terms of God unconditionally and irresistibly willing every instance of evil that is simultaneously contrary to his good and holy nature.

But that is not what Piper said, was it?

Of course not, for that would be to speak too plainly and truthfully. If it was merely Piper’s first or even second lapse into unspecific, general terms to define the most controversial aspects of theology, we could assume it was unintentional and dismiss it out of hand. However, Piper repeatedly seeks to find shelter for his theology, when it is most naked and exposed to controversy and critique, by hiding it behind safe, general terms that all Christians can appreciate. It is beyond question in my mind that Piper’s proclivity to obscure meaning when he most needs to be forthcoming and own up to the full ramifications of his theology is intentional and deliberate. Piper is a Calvinist until the moral repugnancy and logical absurdity becomes even too indigestible for him to absorb— and then he converts to Arminianism in the name of Calvinism. He conveniently chooses to swap jerseys when he most needs to pick up his soiled, filthy one out of the laundry and air it for all to see. This is called theological integrity and fairness.

I am not accusing Piper of being morally dishonest, but I am charging him with having a deliberate strategy to soften Calvinism and re-work it linguistically in order to make its abhorrent elements more palatable and easier to swallow. It is what makes Piper’s theological approach dangerous. Bad theology always has a longer shelf life when it is cloaked behind unspecified, innocuous theological terms.

Despite his every protest to the contrary, Piper’s classy Calvinist attempt to distinguish between God’s “will of decree” and “will of command” does indeed collapse into an artificial distinction. There is room in town for only one “sheriff” in Piper’s theology: God’s will of decree. It would be more accurate to define Calvinism’s attempt to distinguish between God’s two wills as being God’s effective, sincere will vs. his flaccid, insincere will.

As noted throughout this critique, the incontestable problem that arises with Piper’s view is it presents a world in which all of God’s commands are actually commands issued against what he has already decided should occur. Already decided–that is critical to see. In Piper’s Calvinism it is understood that nothing arises apart from God’s initial sovereign decree. God’s will is the initiating, divine origin for every part and parcel of our world.

Therefore, God first conceived of every evil and then issued commands against them. This is a critical point not many understand. In Piper’s Two-Wills view God first conceived of and decreed all the evils that must occur, and then issued moral commands against those decreed evils. Thus from the very beginning God’s commands are not really commands against evil and rebellion—they are commands issued against his decrees, decrees that determinately render certain, if not necessary, every act of evil.

Thus God has created a dualistic universe in which he is friend and foe, hero and villain. Everything that stands in rebellion and opposition to God in the Scriptures is actually God standing in opposition to himself. There is no other way to look at it if we are going to insist that divine sovereignty means God has decreed the very acts of rebellion and evil that stand in opposition to his commands and moral nature. In Piper’s Two-Wills View, God doesn’t really oppose sin and evil anymore than an author can be said to oppose actions taken by characters in a script that flows out of his authorial intent. In the end, evil itself owes it creative origin and allegiance to God’s decretive intent and mind.

In that sense Piper’s theology is much more ambitious, troubling and shrouded in darkness then he wants to let on. Like a lawyer writing a brief, Piper has flicked through the Bible driven by a strange, unwavering obsession to persuasively “prosecute” God as the determinative, sovereign instigator behind every foul evil on the earth— allegedly for God’s glory. Thankfully his case crumbles under the cross- examination of Scripture, and there is no need to pull God’s bloodied and battered glory out from under the rubble of a fallen, wicked world of rebellion— a rebellion the Bible anchors in wills other than God’s.

The “young and the restless” of the Reformed Calvinist movement are in desperate need for a true apprehension of God’s glory. Indeed the well-known Piper adage, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him,” doesn’t even compute in Piper’s view, since according to the dictates of his own theology, he must concede God is ultimately the one, not us, who determines who is satisfied in him and to what extent that satisfaction will be.

Moreover Piper’s famous adage ultimately falls short because Piper utterly fails to understand that God is most glorified when he looks like Christ. And Christ long ago put to rest the notion that any will— whether divine or demonic— could simultaneously be both the source for moral evil and the deliverance from moral evil. “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:24). No matter how it is sliced, diced and re-packaged, Calvinism cannot escape, what William Lane Craig defines as its “self-defeating nature.”[49]

Thank God Piper is wrong about God. Thank God the Scriptures do not present a fractured portrait of God who is both: hero and villain, redeemer and enslaver, savior and moral arsonist. Thank God we can retain a divine warfare view against evil rather than a divine blueprint for all evil. Thank God the Scriptures inform us that God is omni-competent, not omni-causal; that in his sovereignty he can macro-manage his ultimate purposes without micro-managing all things. Thank God we don’t need to believe God’s mind is the origin of conception for every act of Satan and then punt to inexplicable mystery in order to extricate God’s glory from the rubble of moral ruin. Thank God we can look at Jesus and be left with no “mystery” as to his moral nature and sovereign opposition against evil. Indeed Jesus is the definitive revelation of God (John 14:8–9; Col 1:15–19; 2:9). When we behold Jesus, we are beholding nothing less than unsullied, undiluted, perfect theology. To propose a theology that unavoidably presents a God who marinated every vile evil in the ancient, primordial stew of his own decree is a God unrecognized in the life and ministry of Jesus and therefore is a caricature of God that is unworthy of holy worship and Christian affirmation.

It is Calvinism’s egregious view of God’s sovereignty that is its foremost error and gives us little reason not to toss it in the rubbish heap of theology gone to seed.

[48] Arminians have never argued that God is caught unawares or caught off guard by evil. Historically Arminians have always argued that the full witness of Scripture posits a God who’s ultimate control over all things is best understood within the confines of God’s permission and a sovereign determination to impart a degree of genuine freedom to morally responsible agents.

[49] Craig, William Lane: