Confronting the Problem(s) of Calvinist Assumptions – Response to John Piper’s article, “Confronting the Problem(s) of Evil.”

Confronting the Problem(s) of Calvinist Assumptions – Response to John Piper’s article, “Confronting the Problem(s) of Evil.”

Sure, Scripture is cited. You can read a Jehovah’s Witness publication and find Scripture cited there, too. (In fact, I don’t know how Calvinists can legitimately complain when Jehovah’s Witnesses do the very same proof-texting that Calvinists do, without it resulting in hypocrisy.) Calvinists are already fully engulfed in a “world-view” which dictates to them, what an acceptable God must otherwise be, and the magic word is “sovereignty.” To a Calvinist, God cannot be “truly sovereign” in the sense of someone depicted like the father of the prodigal son (or as I might add, God, as depicted in the “Book of Job,” specifically noting the divine permission explicit at Job 2:3, 6). A “real God,” worthy of the Calvinist’s adoration, must be an all-determining Being. So for Calvinists, they are not deriving their theology from Ephesians 1:11. Rather, they are looking for a “proof-text,” in order to justify their already established world-view. The verse in question does not say that God causes all things to happen. The word used is “works,” and Paul is not teaching absolute Determinism, as the backdrop of the context at large. In fact, we see the same thing at Romans 8:28, in which “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” In neither passage, is there a Calvinistic expression that everything which exists, results from an unchangeable decree, in which God is the only independent Being in the universe, in which He thinks everyone’s thoughts for them, so that people do only what is fixed and decreed. That may be Calvinism 101, but it’s not what you see in either of the alleged, “proof-texts” for Calvinism. For a glimpse into the actual workings of God’s sovereignty, compare with 1st Corinthians 10:13, and you’ll see the type of divine sovereignty that is perfectly consistent with divine permission and free will. God controls the parameters and provides alternatives, but nowhere is it suggested that God decides whether a person will take the “way of escape” or not. Unsurprisingly, 1st Corinthians 10:13 (or Jeremiah 32:35) does not appear in the article as one of the alleged “proof-texts.” The article reads like a guided tour by one of the familiar Jehovah’s Witness articles.

The purpose of a human author’s fictional story is to use “the fictional” in order to speak to “the real,” so that real people could otherwise benefit from fictional characters and fictional situations. When Piper (or whoever the actual author of the article is) is confronted with the question of how a fully scripted world makes us totally different from the fictional characters of a story, he offers nothing more than Special Pleading, insisting that it’s just different for God. In fact, the author totally abandons any defense from logic when he confesses ignorance in the form of divine mystery, which is a Calvinist’s favorite escape hatch: “Of course, Christians who submit to Scripture will receive both strands of biblical teaching, regardless of whether the details and mechanics can be fully worked out and comprehended.” (Jehovah’s Witnesses similarly insist that “Scripture” demands their teachings as well.) Calvinists use the word “Scripture” as blunt instrument to beat people into submission to Calvinism. Yet, what we actually see are assumption-laden proof-texts, which are never questioned, but are simply taken as fact, and built from there.

Piper writes: “Before exploring the analogy philosophically, it’s necessary to anticipate one of the chief objections to its use. Put simply, some might argue that the analogy breaks down because we human beings are more ‘real’ than fictional characters in a story.” (Confronting the Problem(s) of Evil)

Piper suggests that God causes human characters “exactly as we are,” “doing exactly what we’re doing,” which “includes the specific intentions, desires, and acts.” So, then, these human characters merely possess the illusion of doing their own willing and deciding, when yet they are born pre-packaged for every choice that they will ever make. Piper thus concludes, “God is not doing any violence” to the individual. Calvinism is a riddle of this type of Double-Talk.

Piper continues: “It is not as though God creates us and then places our desires, intentions, etc. inside of us. There simply is no ‘us’ until these things are in place. God cannot manipulate us until we exist, and once we exist, he has no need to. He has created us (presumably) exactly as he wants us. And he further sustains us exactly as he wants at every step along the way. But at no point does he ever so act as to do violence to our wills.” (Confronting the Problem(s) of Evil)

6 of 1, or a half dozen, what’s the difference? Piper mentions “presumably,” because Calvinism otherwise requires that God created Ted Bundy, exactly as he is, in total, from the moment of creation, thereby relieving God of ever doing “violence” to his will, when causing his horrific crimes in the pre-packaging of his being. Thus, Calvinism has God creating people with their will. So, then, what about the demons? What about the devil? Were they pre-packaged monsters as well, having been born as innocent angels, only to turn bad, at the predetermined point, according to the pre-packaging specified in their will that was inalterably formed within them? So God never does evil; God simply creates the characters that inalterably do evil. Do you see the difference? I don’t. Again, the whole idea of a fictional story is that it is meant to speak to real people, to impact our reality. But if we are the fictional characters of God’s story, then who are the real people who our fictional choices supposed to impact? If all creation, human and angelic, are similarly, fully pre-packaged characters in a divine story, then it seems that we exist as a story that God is reading to Himself.  Besides this, when a fiction-author writes a novel, and uses evil characters, these evil characters are drawn from a collection of actual evil characters in the real world. Otherwise, how would a human author know what evil was, unless it was first witnessed. But in the alleged, Calvinistically imaged “divine novel of our universe,” from where did God witness evil, and replicate it in human and angelic characters? If it didn’t otherwise exist, then God would have had to of thought-it-up from nothing. That would mean that demon-possession simply is the product of the divine imagination, and scripted a fully pre-packaged angel-then-demon accordingly.

Piper concludes: “We need a Sovereign Author who crafts each chapter, paragraph, and sentence (no matter how horrible) into a fitting narrative, one in which evil exists to be crushed underfoot. And we need a Consoling Character, a very present help who identifies and suffers with the brokenhearted, entering into our pain and loss with love that will endure long after the last tear falls.” (Confronting the Problem(s) of Evil)

Piper needs such an author, in order to fit his world-view. I’d like to see Piper explain this, in light of Jeremiah 32:35, because there, God specifically denies authorship. Perhaps when Piper speaks of “Scripture,” that’s not the verse that he has in mind.