Calvinist bedtime reading? Or just a paranoid Turk with poor spelling?
Calvinist bedtime reading? Or just a paranoid Turk with poor spelling?
John Piper is at it again. Shortly after the OKC tornado, he made the following tweet (which was later deleted):
Your sons and daughters were eating and a great wind struck the house, and it fell upon them, and they are dead. -Job 1:19
Just as night follows day, Rachel Evans promptly called him on it.
First, some thoughts on Piper.
This is not the first time he has done something like this. He’s developing a pattern. I really wish he would think ahead of time before speaking when people are hurting. It damages the witness of all believers. Pat Robertson does this thing too often as well. They remind me a tiny bit of those folks from Westboro Baptist who hold out their “God hates gays” signs any time someone dies. I do think Piper and Robertson are genuine believers, I’m not so sure the Westboro folks are (no one knows but God). However, they have similar attitudes towards suffering and their understanding of the wrath of God. I bet the Westboro crew is on their way down to Oklahoma right now.
As Christians, our job is to mourn with those who mourn. We are to help and comfort those in need, even when we don’t think they deserve it. It is not for us to assign blame.
Now on to Rachel Evans.
She takes things things too far. Although her post made some good points, she too damaged her Christian witness, placing her criticism of Piper in front of the fact that he’s a fellow believer.
Piper’s god is like an abusive father, filled with unpredictable rage. His family must walk on eggshells, afraid of suddenly enraging him. Should he be provoked, this god will lash out with deadly, earthquakes, tsunamis, violence and war.
Two things here:
First, this is not a quote Piper would agree with. Evans should not attribute a belief to Piper that he would reject, or to which he would at the very least give a nuanced explanation of. The most that can be fairly said is that from Evan’s view, Piper’s theology inadvertently leads to a misunderstanding of God’s character, and this misunderstanding leads to an inaccurate picture of God who is abusive, full of rage, etc.
The second thing is that she refers to Piper’s “god” in the lower case. She does this throughout the post. This implies that Piper worships a false god. Despite our differences, all Christians worship the same God.
Just like Piper, Evans needs to think ahead of time before speaking.
And I suppose I do too.
Jerry Walls recently did a lecture at Evangel University on what’s wrong with Calvinism. It is a very good presentation. Walls co-authored the book Why I’m not a Calvinist. If you’ve read the book, you will recognize some of the material in his presentation, as he follows a similar train of thought. The video is about an hour long.
Here’s a chart I made that shows some of the differences and commonalities of various theological viewpoints as they relate to Calvinism and Arminianism. It’s not perfect, and is only intended to give a general idea of what the theologies emphasize as important. If the image is difficult to read, you can click on it to enlarge. Comments and criticisms are welcome.
Here’s the final, part 3 of the series by Jerry Walls – “Why it Matters”.
I don’t usually get into politics on this blog. Discussing theology provides plenty of opportunity for disagreement on its own. But I’m curious if readers think Todd Akin’s theology has in any way contributed to the pickle that he’s currently in.
For those who are unaware, Akin is the candidate who recently implied that female rape victims have the ability to use their body to prevent themselves from becoming pregnant. He has since apologized for making the comment. In the wake of the controversy, many prominent Republicans (including Romney and Ryan) have urged him to withdraw from the race. Akin has so far refused those calls.
Akin comes from a conservative Calvinist background. He is a current member and former elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. He holds a MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary. The PCA is a conservative Reformed denomination that broke off from the mainline Presbyterians in the 1970′s. They hold to the Westminster Confession of faith, and do not permit women in any leadership roles. Well known PCA theologians include R.C. Sproul, and John Frame. Former MO senator Jim Talent is also a member of the denomination.
I can’t prove it by any means, but wonder if Akin’s ill-advised quote is rooted in Calvinist and Complimentarian theology. In addition, his refusal to withdraw from the race seems to be consistent with a view where all actions are decreed by God. I think Akin sees himself as anointed by God and guaranteed to win the Senate seat.
As a personal disclosure, I tend to lean conservative in my political views, but do disagree with Republicans on some issues. I think Akin ought to step aside now to give a stronger Republican candidate a chance to run for the seat.
Here’s part 2 of the series by Jerry Walls. “The Heart of the Matter”
Dr. Jerry Walls (co-author of Why I’m not a Calvinist) has started a video critique of Calvinism. Good stuff. Walls is one of my favorite Arminian apologists.
[This post is from Jerry Wall's facebook page. He addresses the nature of God's love in Calvinism - why some Calvinists claim that God loves everyone, while others do not. Good stuff.]
Several days ago, we had a rather energetic discussion on this page in response to classic Calvinist theologian Arthur Pink’s forthright claim that God does not love everyone. Most Calvinists are not so forthright, I observed. By way of seeking further clarity, let me lay bare the logic of Pink’s view and why it is perfectly understandable why he made that claim. Consider the following argument.
1. God truly loves all persons.
2. Truly to love someone is to desire their well being and to promote their true flourishing as much as you properly can.
3. The well being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him.
4. God could determine all persons freely to accept a right relationship with himself and be saved.
5. Therefore, all will be saved.
Now I think it is clear that the conclusion of this argument follows from the premises. The argument is not formally valid in stating every premise, but the essential premises are there. (If anyone wants to see the formally valid version, I have spelled it out in my essay “Why No Classical Theist, Let Alone Orthodox Christian Should EVER Be a Compatibilist” that was published last summer in Philosophia Christi). Consequently, anyone who denies universalism and rejects the conclusion, must deny one or more of the premises. So it is not so surprising in light of this argument why Pink said what he did. He simply denied premise one.
Now when I said most Calvinists are not so forthright, I meant that they usually affirm premise one. So they must deny one of the others. One popular strategy is to deny, or fudge, on premise two. One of my favorite examples here is DA Carson, who says he is often asked by young Calvinist pastors whether he tells the unconverted that God loves them. His answer: “OF COURSE I tell the unconverted that God loves them.” Now how does he do this since for all he knows the unconverted he is speaking to are not elect? Well, he distinguishes between the love God gives to all persons and his “selecting” love which is only for the elect. He loves all in the sense that he gives them temporal blessings (“the rain falls on the just and the unjust”), and invites them to believe the gospel (“whosoever will may come”) even if they are not elect and CANNOT come. So, in short, all the unconverted are loved at least in the sense that rain falls on their gardens, so Carson can say, OF COURSE I tell the unconverted God loves them. Now the question is how honest this really is. Is it truly loving to someone to water their garden for 75 or so years before dispatching them to eternal misery for choices they were determined to make? If Carson were clear what he means when he assures the unconverted that God loves ALL of them, would anyone buy it? So in short, Calvinists like Carson affirm premise 1, but subtly deny premise 2. And I would argue that anyone who denies 2 will end up denying 1 also.
The other move Calvinists can make is to deny premise 4. They can admit that SO FAR AS THE NATURE OF FREEDOM IS CONCERNED God could save all persons, since freedom and determinism are compatible on their view. But perhaps God can’t save everyone for other reasons. Like what? Well, a classic answer given by Calvin, Aquinas, and Piper is that God would not be fully glorified if some were not damned. So, ironically, God needs evil and sin fully to glorify himself, fully to be God. God is more glorified in determining some people “freely” to sin and blaspheme, and then punishing them forever, than he would be by determining them “freely” to worship and obey him. This doesn’t sound so good when you think about it, and more importantly does not sound like the God of love who seeks out the 100th lost sheep and rejoices when a sinner repents. So perhaps it makes sense why Pink and others just deny premise 1 rather than resort to denying 2 or 4.
Arminians and Calvinists define some theological terms differently. This has a tendency to cause us to talk past each other when discussing theological issues. Here are some of the words that Arminians and Calvinists have different meanings for:
Arminians – A plan of God to establish parameters for the way something will work. For example, God can decree for humans to have and make decisions.
Calvinists – A plan of God to cause things to happen in a predetermined way.
Arminians – God chooses Christ. Those who follow Christ benefit from his election.
Calvinists – God chooses certain individuals to be saved. The chosen are elected.
Arminians – Faith means to trust God. Because of God’s drawing grace, it is possible for each person to trust God.
Calvinists – Faith is an ability that God gives to the elect but not to the reprobate. A person cannot trust God unless God causes him to to so.
Arminians – God has passive knowledge of our future choices. His knowing is based on our doing.
Calvinists – God foreknows the future because he has rendered it certain. His knowing is based on determining what will happen.
Arminians – Free will is the God enabled ability to make choices. A person can do one thing, or he can choose to do something else.
Calvinists – Free will means to follow one’s strongest desires. When a person makes decisions his strongest desires determine what he does.
Arminians – God loves each person with an infinite amount of love, and desires for each person to be saved and to be in relationship with him.
Calvinists – God has a special kind of love for the elect that he does not have for all people. God may love the reprobate in some sense, but this is not a kind of love that enables them to be saved.
Arminians – Sovereignty means that God does what he wants to do. God sovereignly created a world where creatures have the ability to make choices.
Calvinists – Sovereignty means that God deterministically causes every thing that happens. If God does not ultimately cause everything, he can’t be sovereign.
Arminians – The world is inclusive of each and every person that has or ever will exist.
Calvinists – The world is all of the elect people from all over the world, not all people.