So, John Piper has now responded to Austin Fischer’s book “Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed” (Wipf & Stock, 2013). (For those of you who don’t know, Austin is Teaching Pastor at The Vista Community in Belton/Temple, Texas and his book is a run-away seller about his spiritual and theological journey in and out of Calvinism.)
Of course, you should read Austin’s book before making up your own mind whose right in the current debate about it–John or Austin. But see their very differing views of it at
Predictably (IMHO), John is arguing that Austin misrepresents his and Edwards’ view of God. Austin is arguing that he is simply saying what that view looked like to him when he stepped back and considered it biblically, theologically and logically.
In other words, Austin is saying “If I were a Calvinist, this is how I would have to think of God….” In other words, he is using an argument Calvinists themselves have LONG used against Arminianism–namely, the “good and necessary consequences” argument. Here’s how it goes: “IF you believe A and B is a ‘good and necessary consequence’ of A, then it is valid to say you also believe in B.” HOWEVER Austin (and I) go out of our way to say we KNOW Calvinists do not actually believe the “B” we see as a good and necessary consequence of the “A” they acknowledge believing. However, we say that “B” is what WE WOULD HAVE TO BELIEVE if we believed “A” and that Calvinists have not demonstrated how that is not the case–how it is that they can be reasonable and NOT believe “B.”
So, John Piper has said in the past that Arminians “must say” that the cross of Jesus does not actually save anyone but only gives people an opportunity to save themselves. (Don’t ask me where; you can find that yourself. John and I have e-mailed back and forth about it so I know he said it!) That’s the form of argument I outlined above EXCEPT that he collapses “B” into “A” with the “must.” The “must” MEANS “if they are going to be logically consistent…” because NO Arminian has ever said what he says they “must” say.
In other words, John was there (and elsewhere) using the familiar “good and necessary consequences” argument to defeat Arminianism. (I happen to believe there is no logical connection between the “A” and the “B” in his argument, though.)
Austin was (in his book) simply using the same form of argument against Calvinism. Namely: IF you say that God “designed, foreordained, and governs” everything that happens including sin and evil, you are logically saying (as a good and necessary consequence) that God is the author of sin and evil. However, Austin is careful (as I have been careful) to say that almost no Calvinist actually believes God is the author of sin and evil. He’s saying if HE were a Calvinist HE would have to believe God is the author of sin and evil because that is the “B” that is a good and necessary consequence of the “A” that Calvinists DO actually believe.
And, of course, both Austin and I are saying that it’s only reasonable to move from “only A” to “A and B” and that reasonable people will tend to do that.
Now, someone (maybe you!) will say “Who cares about being reasonable if the Bible says ‘A’ but not ‘B?’ Simply believe “A” and deny “B” even if “B” is a “good and necessary consequence of “A.” But wait! Listen! Pay attention! John Piper and all other Calvinists have been saying for a long time that ARMINIANS are not allowed to do that! One of their main arguments against Arminianism has always been that it’s logically inconsistent. They can’t play by double standards. If they value logical consistency they must pay attention when someone points it out in their own theology. They can’t just use the “good and necessary consequences” argument against others’ theologies and then turn around and say it doesn’t matter for their own theology! (Which is what I think they often do.)
Read Austin’s response to Piper. It’s irenic without backing down one iota. It’s reasonable and invites conversation. It’s respectful of Piper. Piper needs to admit that he misrepresented Austin’s view rather than the other way around (IMHO).