Tuesday, March 04, 2008

John Piper On Self-Determination and Arminian Heresy

It's always sad to me when I see a man of God (or so I think) from a different theological perspective whom I believed to be above this kind of intra-Christian exclusivist language to charge full steam ahead into the abyss of ignorance, or worse, the territory of theological lies.

Recently, John Piper, well known Baptist Calvinist Pastor from Minnesota and popular author, spoke at the "Resurgence Conference." The title of his message was, How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels. Already, if you're like me, you're expecting trouble. The series of quotes below are from that message. I'll at least initially leave extensive commentary to others, and only note points of interest. But to check the context and accuracy, you may see Piper's blog or the Resurgence blog, where outlines or transcripts are located:

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibr ... e_Gospels/
http://www.theresurgence.com/national_r ... nd_context

In part of his opening statement he said, "My working out of my salvation tonight is in the defense and confirmation of the gospel."

Piper lays out "Six Aspects of the Gospel Without Which There Is No Gospel." These include:

1. The gospel was planned by God beforehand
2. The gospel is an objective physical event in history
3. The gospel is an objective accomplishment—the purchase or obtaining of redemption for all who would believe
4. The gospel is an offer to be made to all that what Christ accomplished is free and may be had only by faith in him
5. The gospel is an application through faith to specific people of what Christ accomplished
6. The gospel is an eternal and infinitely happy future destiny

NOTE: Does any of this, so far, sound like something Arminians DON'T believe?!

He continued, "There are many today, as in every day, who bring to the Bible the presupposition that sinful man must have the power of self-determination in order to be held accountable by God. This is not a biblical presupposition."

NOTE: What Piper describes is not Arminianism, but Semi-Pelagianism. But do you think HE knows the difference? Do you?

But then he adds, "We don't usually think about Arminianism as a threat to the atonement. It usually comes in at the point of the accomplishment of the gospel and the offer of the gospel, not the point of the plan of the events of the gospel. But here we see that there is an intrinsic incompatibility between the basic Arminian presupposition and the gospel as including a set of planned sins against the Son of God. That presupposition is that for humans to be morally accountable agents they must have the ultimate power of self-determination at all those points where they are found blameworthy or praiseworthy."

It's downhill from here. He continutes, "That presupposition pushes people away from believing that God has the right and power in righteousness and wisdom to infallibly plan the death of his Son through the sinful acts of morally accountable men. But the Bible teaches that he did. There is no atonement and no gospel without God-planned sins against the Son of God. He died at the hands of sinful men by God's design. That is an essential part of the gospel."

He continued, "This is typical Arminian teaching. It diminishes the glory of the cross and encourages people to take into their own hands what belongs to the work of the cross, namely the purchase of their own rescue from unbelief."

NOTE: This is not only wrong, but it is blatantly false, and a man like John Piper should know that. NO Arminian worth his salt would EVER say such a thing, and for Piper to make this charge he is either: (1) completely ignorant of Arminian teaching, or (2) lying through his teeth willfully.

He further charged that "God is allowed to rescue them from the guilt of sin by the cross, but not from the bondage of unbelief by the cross. The cross does not obtain or accomplish that. I must provide the decisive impetus for overcoming my unbelief, the cross did not accomplish that. In that way part of the gospel is undone."

NOTE: If any of you actually understand this twisted logic, let me know...?

Piper further said: "The accomplishment of the cross is offered freely to be received by faith alone apart from works of the law, meaning, any work of the heart or hand at all, anything other than faith."

NOTE: But, that's what Arminians believe, right...?

He says, "Arminianism (Wesleyanism) teaches that God helps all people overcome their deadness of soul and leaves to the decisive will of man whether to follow that grace and trust Christ and as a consequence be born again. In other words regeneration does not cause faith; faith, in an act of ultimate self-termination, chooses to agree with God's grace and believe and thus be born again."

NOTE: Wait -- is he defending the Gospel -- or CALVINISM?! Insisting regeneration precedes faith is CALVINISM, not the gospel....

Piper continued, "How serious is this? Must one believe that faith is decisively caused by God through regeneration? Or can one be saved believing that faith causes regeneration?"

NOTE: Indeed, how serious is this? If Arminians reject regeneration preceding faith, does that mean we believe and preach a "false gospel?"

His summary goes something like this: "The issue comes down to this: Is the heart relationship to God one of utter reliance on God's grace in Spirit-wrought humility, such that God gets the glory for all of my salvation, both accomplishment and application?"

NOTE: Uh, yeah -- Arminians BELIEVE that John -- but Semi-Pelagians DON'T. LEARN from someone other than Calvin.

He asks, "Can the heart be truly humble and reliant in this way while the mind espouses a theology that claims that the human will is taking credit for what the humble heart is really depending on God to provide?"

NOTE: Again, not what Arminians teach....

AND, ""Arminianism in its popular form (most of evangelicalism) says we are unable without divine assistance to believe, because we are dead in trespasses and sins, but God gives assistance to all, making it possible for us to believe but not bringing us to believe. That is left for our decisive determination. At that point we are ultimately self-determining."

NOTE: No, that's what most Evangelicals believe -- but that's the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism, NOT Arminianism...

FINALLY he charges, "Arminianism/Wesleyanism recognizes more truth about our sinful and helpless condition apart from grace, and gives more credit to grace, but stumbles intellectually over the implications of sovereign grace. It cannot bring itself to embrace the apparent implications of faith as a gift of God, namely, unconditional election. It appears to them unjust and unloving. Historically, a charitable view of a good heart behind this mistaken theology have been encouraged."

Okay -- what say ye all??

J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.


www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Dale,

I want to ask you about the following statement from Piper:

Piper: "Arminianism in its popular form (most of evangelicalism) says we are unable without divine assistance to believe, because we are dead in trespasses and sins, but God gives assistance to all, making it possible for us to believe but not bringing us to believe. That is left for our decisive determination. At that point we are ultimately self-determining."

You responded: "No, that's what most Evangelicals believe -- but that's the heresy of Semi-Pelagianism, NOT Arminianism...."

Piper draws a contrast between (A) "making it possible" vs. (B) "bringing us to believe," which I inferred from Piper as to mean "'effectually' bringing us to believe," which is a buzz-word for IG, being a preemptive regeneration or preemptive new birth. So my question is this. Is there an option (C)? My understanding of (A) was that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8), goads the unregenerate heart (Acts 26:14) and even opens th heart "to respond" (Acts 16:14), thus making it possible to respond, in conjuction with the power of the living and active, faith-producing Gospel. (Heb 4:12; Rom 10:17) So my understanding is that when God offers salvation, He gives opportunity to receive it, and from such, our accountability arises. I don't consider this to be "self-determinism" so much as it is a form of "limited self determinism" since 1 Cor 10:13 states that God controls our options, limits the scope of our choices, and provides alternatives. In that way, I infer a God-imposed limitation upon man, so that what we determine, falls within the scope of God's established parameters, though without God deciding for us which way to take.

My concern is this. People like Piper straddle between Low Calvinism and Hyper Calvinism. Sometimes they sound like Supralapsarians, when they get into a fatalistic paradigm whereby God determines all things, like an author writing a book, where as one Calvinists describes, God's foreknowledge is nothing more than the "transcript of His decrees." To me, such a completely determined system, results in the most rigid form of Hyper Calvinism, inevitably making God the author of sin. So often I see Calvinists explaining foreknowledge from the standpoint that it must be "causal," with the result that God is the primary acting agent which causes everything, though somehow without being guilty of sin, on the grounds that despite scripting sin, God executed it through secondary causes, which would do no more to exhonerate God, than would it exhonerate a conspirator who hired a hit-man (secondary cause) to complete a contract killing.

The other issue with Piper, is that Calvinists have this notion that by accepting Christ's offer of grace, apart from God unilaterally imposing His choice upon us, somehow robs God of glory, when yet Rom 3:27 clearly states that faith in Christ does not give man any grounds to boast (or take credit). My understanding of imputed righteousness is that when we trust in Christ, His righteousness is imputed to us, not that we generate self-righteousess through faith, as Calvinists seem to presume.

Those are my thoughts.

God bless and great post,


J. Dale Weaver, M.Div. said...

Thanks Richard:

I see your point, and you make a good case for a "third" way to understand how we come to faith (IG vs. PG).

My concerns when I wrote this, were primarily with Piper's misrepresentation of Arminianism in its classical or Reformation sense.

Calvinism is so obsessed with making anything LESS than Theistic determinism THE only acceptable view that they simply don't care what others are saying, and therefore misrepresent it with abandon.

My understanding of Reformation Arminianism is that man has NO input to his own salvation with regard to its means -- God draws, convicts, and ultimately, through PG enables man to believe. In other words, God allows man to use faith to believe. In that sense, salvation is obviously ALL of God, for man would not be able to believe were it not for God's enabling grace.

Still, God leaves the choice in the hands of the one He has enabled. God does so with the foreknowledge of whether the one will believe or reject Christ. But, contrary to the very small and narrow view of God that Piper's Calvinism demands, this neither "wastes" the Blood of Christ on the "non-elect" nor limits God's sovereignty. In fact, His our view of His sovereignty is enhanced, in that God KNOWS the future, the choice of His creature, the future of His creation, and yet remains sovereign over all. Picirilli referred to this "middle knowledge" as the Reformation Arminian view -- which I'm sure you are already familiar with.

Sorry to be long-winded -- my main point was to stress that, contrary to Piper's charge, Arminians absolutely DO believe that Salvation is ALL of God, and REJECT the Semi-Pelagian idea that we somehow contribute anything. It's a false charge which is beneath the stature of someone like Piper.


PS -- Enjoy your blog!