Many people have asked me to listen to and respond to John Piper’s comments about me and about Arminianism on his episode 238 (of his podcast “AskPastorJohn”) entitled “Where’s the Arminian John Piper?” You can find it by Googling it or going to Piper’s web site. Many of you heard it and asked me to respond. That was months ago now. I finally got around to listening to it. Here’s my response.
John (he calls me Roger so I’ll call him John, we know each other personally) was kind in his comments about me. I have no complaint about anything he said about me. I thought he was generous to a fault.
However, I still think John does not understand Arminian theology. I wish he would read Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities or one of the essays I’ve posted here about Arminian theology being evangelical and God-centered.
I don’t expect John to say “Okay, I was wrong, Arminian theology is God-centered as I understand God-centeredness.” But I would like him always, every time he talks about Arminian theology, to at least describe it as Arminians describe it and then go on to say why he disagrees. Instead, he simply says things like “the distinguishing core [of Arminianism] is human freedom to be the decisive factor in salvation.” (That’s a paraphrase of what he says, but I think it’s accurate as to his meaning.)
That is, of course, NOT what Arminians believe. And free will is NOT the “decisive core” of Arminian theology.
The decisive core of Arminian theology is God’s love for all people.
I wish John would at least admit that his own Calvinist theology has its own problems–especially from non-Calvinists’ perspectives. Yes, I have admitted that here and elsewhere about Arminianism!
The decisive difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is NOT free will but the character of God.
And, I suspect, the most basic, underlying difference is nominalism/voluntarism versus realism.
John talks (in the podcast) about Charles Wesley’s great hymn “And Can It Be.” The congregation sang that the last time I visited Bethlehem Baptist Church. I wrote on my visitor’s card “Thanks for singing my favorite Arminian hymn.” Okay, that was cheeky, but I couldn’t resist.
John seems to think that “And Can It Be” is a Calvinist hymn because of the phrase “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray, my chains fell off….” Doesn’t he know that for Wesley the “quickening ray” was prevenient grace? I’m sure he does. He must.
I’m not saying a Calvinist can’t sing “And Can It Be;” I’m saying it’s wrong to represent it as Calvinist. A Calvinist can certainly interpret it his or her own way (e.g., the “quickening ray” as irresistible), but he should not claim it as a Calvinist hymn.
John goes on to say that he believes Arminianism can never energize great worship. Is he saying the Methodist revivals of the 18th and 19th centuries weren’t great worship? And what about Pentecostalism? Or is he simply saying no non-Calvinist worship is great worship by definition? That doesn’t seem to be what he was saying.
I want to close this post by saying “thanks” to John for being kind in his comments about me. My only complaint about his podcast “Where’s the Arminian John Piper” is his continuing misrepresentation of Arminianism. Let me say it again: true, classical Arminians ONLY care about free will because it’s the only way to protect God’s goodness (short of universalism).