With Mark Driscoll Gone, We’ve Only Got John Piper To Show Us the Insanity of Hypercalvinism

With Mark Driscoll Gone, We’ve Only Got John Piper To Show Us the Insanity of Hypercalvinism November 6, 2014
John Piper

John Piper has done a 180 on cancer. That’s according to T.C. Moore at Theological Graffiti, who has smartly tracked Piper’s flip. Here’s the deal:

On the eve of his own surgery for prostate cancer in 2006, Piper called cancer a “gift from God.” He scolded fellow cancer-sufferers not to “waste their cancer” by ignoring God’s design of it. In other words, if you’ve got cancer, God wants you to have cancer.

But recently, Piper joined the evangelical chorus in criticizing Brittany Maynard for ending her own life before cancer killed her. In that post, Piper wrote that cancer “opposes the ultimate goodness that God designed for this creation. It is an enemy.”

So, which is it? Is cancer a gift from God that is part of God’s design, or is it an enemy that is not part of God’s design? It seems that Piper doesn’t know. That’s because his theological position is completely untenable.

When Augustine invented the doctrine of predestination — a noble attempt to protect God’s sovereignty — he argued persuasively that God’s foreknowledge equals God’s forecausal. Because God is sovereign, and God cannot be wrong, then it follows that for God to know something is going to happen, it is necessarily going to happen. QED, God’s foreknowledge of an event causes that event to happen.

As Moore notes, many Arminian/Wesleyans believe that God has complete knowledge of the future, but argue that doesn’t mean that God causes those future events to happen. What Arminians have not successfully done in over 1500 years is refute Augustine’s argument that if God knows it’s going to happen, then it’s going to happen, which is the same thing as making it happen.

But here’s where things really unravel. If, as Piper believes, God is completely sovereign and timeless, with complete and perfect foreknowledge of all future events, then Piper must believe that God knew that Brittany Maynard was going to commit suicide. Indeed, then God caused the neurons in her brain to make the decision to euthanize herself, just as much as God “foresees molecular developments becoming cancer,” which is what Piper wrote in 2006. Piper wrote that God could stop the cancer or not. Surely God also had the power to stop Brittany Maynard from committing suicide. Since God did not, Piper must believe that God ordained that suicide to happen.

You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to be a hyperCalvinist, you’ve got to go all the way with it.

Which makes me wonder, why is John Piper writing blog posts protesting Brittany Maynard’s decision? Is he trolling, or did he actually think that she had some choice in her own fate? If it’s the latter, then maybe he’s reconsidering his own hyperCalvinism. But somehow, I doubt that.

UPDATE: If you’re wondering how Piper’s view is received by a non-Christian, here’s a Facebook post that a friend sent me:


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  • Ric Shewell

    Zing. Got him.

  • Scott Paeth

    This is a continual problem when dealing with questions of foreknowledge and salvation. I had it just the other day with my Catholic students in my Barth and Aquinas seminar. On the one hand, if we’re damned, it’s because we freely chose against God. But if God’s foreknowledge amounts to God’s fore causality (as Aquinas specifically argues), then we in fact have no real freedom, and God’s blessing of us in fact MAKES us worthy of salvation, and conversely, others worthy of damnation.

    I’ve long believed a Calvinist can reasonably affirm a doctrine of universal salvation, as one possibility in maintaining God’s sovereignty. But the Arminian answer to this necessarily precludes universal salvation as a possibility, and thus risks thwarting God’s sovereign saving will.

    Of course, the real answer is that this is a fundamental paradox of the Christian faith. We hold things in tension with one another, and are not capable of convincingly supplying a definitive answer. We get in trouble when we try to.

    • “God’s foreknowledge amounts to God’s fore causality (as Aquinas specifically argues)”

      If it’s not too much trouble, do you have a citation for that?

      Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to challenge you on it. Just curious about the source, because I was under the impression St. Thomas says the opposite at Summ. Theo. 1-2, q. 10, a. 4. (And of course I’m sure he’s capable of saying both in different places.)

      • Scott Paeth

        Well, I’ll let Tony tackle the Augustine, but we were just reading this in the Summa the other day, and the issue is that, according to Thomas, God wills the good for all creatures, but does not will every good for every creature, and he only wills the good of salvation for some creatures, not for all. And for those for whom he wills that particular good, he also blesses them with the capacity to be worthy of that good, through his endowment *making* them better and therefore worthy of salvation, while in other cases choosing not to endow them with the capacity to achieve it.

    • Brian Estrella

      Scott, your comment struck me funny: “Of course, the real answer is that this is a fundamental paradox of the Christian faith. We hold things in tension with one another, and are not capable of convincingly supplying a definitive answer. We get in trouble when we try to.”

      Funny, not because I disagree but funny because “not supplying a definitive answer” is the very thing that got R. Bell into ‘trouble’ with a segment of Christians. He did a very good job of highlighting the tensions but, well…you know how that went down.

      • Scott Paeth

        Well, some people need definitive answers. They don’t deserve them, and there is no necessary connection between those answers and reality, but they want them nonetheless.

  • Tony Simoncini

    Tony, I doubt it as well, but this just points to the lack of continuity with the Calvinist position. You can’t have it both ways, but on countless theological and philosophical issues they want to. And, no matter how well your post points this out, they will argue you just don’t get it… or point to mystery which is something most will argue against when it fits their position. I have always felt from reading and intimate conversations with many Calvinist friends that nailing Calvinism down is like nailing jello to the wall… impossible.

  • R Vogel

    This reminds me of a conversation I had recently revolving around some of the more controversial positions of Peter Singer at Princeton. I argued he is simply arguing to the logical conclusion of his philosophical position regardless of how unpopular those conclusions may be. John Piper obviously does not share either his honesty no his courage.

  • frankemanuel

    the hypercalvinist is wrong simply because, as one of my parishioners once astutely said: God’s not an asshole like that. It just astounds me that people still pay attention to the likes of Piper. I gave that up a long, long time ago.

    • “God’s not an asshole like that” is not much of an argument.

      • frankemanuel

        Good. Because arguing with Piper and his ilk is really just a waste of time.

        If I did want to construct an argument I’d take the time to articulate what I understand to be the theories of religion involved and talk about the problems with how theories of authority are being malformed as well as its inability to deal with theodicy in a way that leads to an idea of God that is worthy of worship and adoration. Which my parishioner would simply distill into the God is not an asshole proposition. Cuts to the chase.

        • I wouldn’t call myself one of Piper’s “ilk,” because I am not Baptist and certainly not as conservative as he is. However, using Scripture is usually a good idea in defense of a theological position. Tony failed to do that. His argument is basically, “Piper can’t possibly bring his two views together, therefore, the Calvinist position is incorrect.” I realize it’s not that simple, but Tony’s “gotcha!” is not impressive.

          • frankemanuel

            Using scripture is a horrible approach. You can use scripture to support whatever view you want. It gets you nowhere. There is no scriptural silver bullet that works or we would have seen it already. Besides it is a poor understanding of scripture that uses it to proof text your way through an argument. Does it really work for you that the Bible is a tool for God’s kids to beat the crap out of each other? That doesn’t work for me. I love the Bible far to much to throw proof texts at you, Piper, or anyone else, as if my interpretation carries the weight of God. Hence the better starting point is Piper’s malformed theory of authority. But nice try at baiting me into an argument.

            • I actually wasn’t baiting you into anything. My response was in regards to Tony’s lack of biblical support for anything. But by your tone and response, it seems you wanted a fight to be picked…

              • frankemanuel

                Why would you assume Tony would have that much disdain for scripture?

                • Frank, I don’t assume that. It’s just what I’ve observed from this post, and I realize I could be wrong.

  • Yeah, whenever I discuss this issue with a friend of mine who is a hypercalvinist, I always say, “Look, I have no choice but to NOT believe in predestination… You know, because I was predestined not to…”

  • RobinMavis_AHGET

    God can be all knowing – aware of every POSSIBLE action and outcome. But I can’t figure out how people get from that to since he knows everything he causes everything to happen.

    • Ben Hammond

      That idea is more along the lines of “middle knowledge,” which is different from the kind of sovereignty that Calvinist, or even the classic Armenian position, hold too.

      • Professor Umnik

        Yes. Molinism – but leave the Armenians out of it.

    • Dean

      Are you an open theist? That’s what an open theist would say. God knows every POSSIBLE outcome, but not the precise outcome of the product of human choices. I think that is the only way you can preserve libertarian freedom, otherwise humans would not have the power of contrary choice.

  • The overriding emphasis on the sovereignty of God really makes it impossible for us to relate to God in any meaningful way. To remove God from us, to make him so “other” and alien, drives a wedge between us and God which undermines the work of Jesus. And the hypercalvinists wind up doing damage to their own innate human empathy in order to prostrate themselves before the cold idol of their own systematic theology. I suppose their idea is that our affections change to see things “God’s way” when we cease to be reprobates. But if we are stifling love and empathy, we are going down the wrong path. I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of Hans von Balthasar’s treatment of Christ’s descent into hell – how, by degrees, Jesus lowered himself to be in solidarity with our pain and isolation. In this view, it’s theologically correct to say that God has experienced every level of human suffering – even experiencing hell. Salvation doesn’t come from repressing our affinity for our fellow creatures – it may require a rejection of the things that destroy us. One of the things we should reject are conceptions of God which are antithetical to God’s nature.

  • You should probably distinguish between a Calvinist and a
    Hyper-Calvinist. Piper is not “hyper.” And Piper probably has no problem
    saying cancer is both a gift and an enemy, just as the Apostle
    Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was both a gift (because it taught him grace
    and dependence) and an enemy (because of the pain it produced).

    • By the way, as I stated in another comment, I am not one of Piper’s “ilk,” but it’s unfair for you to assert things about Piper based on two different sound bytes, especially since he is not able to defend himself. Why not write or call Piper and have a conversation before posting this?

      It is also unfair to give the reaction of a non-Christian, as if that has any relevance here. Piper (or any other Calvinist) does not evangelize the lost by saying, “Do you have pain? God caused it. Trust him.” No, we would talk about the gospel and the love of Christ, how God in Jesus bore our sins on the cross and rose from the dead for our justification. How Jesus suffered hell on the cross so that we will not have to suffer hell. Why post a non-Christian’s reaction to a complex issue of theology when a non-Christian doesn’t even believe the gospel?

      • Ben Hammond

        I think it’s helpful too see how others perceive what is being said. If a Christian feels that their statements are loving/good/etc and someone who does not consider themselves a Christian feels that those same statements don’t communicate that at all, it’s worth including in a conversation. Considering criticize from the ‘outside’ is a very healthy way to approach events like this. It doesn’t mean that the latter would be the deciding factor, but it’s helpful to bring in as many perspectives/angles/reactions to statements like this as possible.

        I think “hyper” is similar to the notion of “New” Calvinist, which Piper certainly is. He is not classic Calvinist or classic Reformed. He represents a more recent, Evangelical version of Calvinism.

        • Thanks for your response, Ben. Many Christians disagree with one another, and that is fine to not buy into Arminian, Calvinist, etc., theology. I’m just saying using a non-Christian’s view of Christian doctrine to disprove said Christian doctrine is silly. Non-Christians view the gospel as foolishness.

          A hypercalvinist is actually defined quite differently: http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/articles/hypercal.htm.

          • Ben Hammond

            Thanks for the generous response.

            I don’t think the inclusion of the statement near the end of the post had anything with disproving Piper’s statement — it was simply to demonstrate how someone from that perspective sees it.

            The article on hypercalvinism was interesting. Don’t have much to say about it other than while reading it I kept thinking: I understand that there are much more nuanced ways of talking about Calvinism than how a hypercalvinist does (such as the good and worthwhile views that fill a great number of books; and the diverse figures that claim the title — like Brueggemann), but philosophically most Calvinist explanations that come from a five-point perspective (which obviously is not all Calvinists, etc) seem to point in that direction in a practical sense (as in, “God actually does love the non-elect; more than you do, but…). i.e., there can be discussion about direct-cause vs proximate-cause vs originating-cause, but in the end, if the originator of the cause is sovereign in the classic/traditional Reformed sense it’s difficult to get away from the the flattest and simplest (and often called unfair) notion that God caused it — whatever is being objected to.

            • Good point, Ben. And it may be that many Calvinists don’t even know the differences themselves and are unable to articulate them. The nuances are sometimes hard to distinguish.

              I guess I would just like to see less of the “I wouldn’t want to worship that kind of God” arguments. They are so subjective, and, though I understand they come from real emotional or spiritual wrestling, I think we can respect other Christians enough to say, rather, “I’m not really okay with that idea of God, but I do understand there are many Christians who believe that. Therefore, I want to understand what has convinced you this is what the Bible teaches about the nature of God.” I think our discussions would be more productive that way.

              • Ben Hammond

                I can definitely agree with this. I often find myself defending positions I don’t agree with, or even don’t like, for the very reasons you mention.

          • Professor Umnik

            That novel definition of so-called Hypercalvinism has made the rounds for a number of years. Phil Johnson just borrowed it. He likes to try to balance on that middle-ground, just like John Murray used to, and failed; he only regurgitates what he has been told – that Jesus has made a “Well-meant offer” to everyone, or desires to save everyone, when in fact, there are untold numbers who have never, or will never hear the gospel (Acts 16:6-7). If that is not ordained by God, then how did it come to pass? God can’t control the future, or that is, Providence? If He can’t, then you have too small a god. I s God only reactive, or does he have a plan? Is it only a contingency plan?

            The sad thing is, is that Phil Johnson thinks he’s an orthodox Calvinist, and that he speaks for orthodox Calvinists. He’s bought into the leaven of John Murray, his antecedents and his descendants.

            God ‘offers’ no one anything. He confers salvation on His people, whom He foreordained to receive it (Acts 13:48), and he opens the understanding of the chosen sheep to understand it. I don’t remember Jesus offering Paul salvation and leaving it up to him.

            Paul is not the only example. Why would a tax collector, involved in the days’ business, get up straightaway from his occupation, when a man, whom he did not know from (the first) Adam, calls him? That, gentleman, is the call – the effectual call. It is the same call that called only certain animals in sevens and twos into the ark, and none others. It is the effectual call that drew 153 fishes into the net on the other side of the fishing vessel, and no more. There is an outward call, and there is an inward call, accompanied by the Holy Spirit with power to draw you into the net, if you are chosen. “You did not choose me, but I chose you…”

            In fact, even when the gospel is preached, if Jesus does not miraculously give you ears to hear, you will remain deaf to it. It’s not your choice. John 3:7-8, Matt 13:11.

            God loves whosoever He ordained to be in Jesus Christ .
            The rest, or the remainder, will receive unremitting wrath from Heaven, which has been held in abeyance until that day of doom that God has determined; to mete it out everlastingly on rebellious sinners – those who have not fled (or were not drawn) into the arms of Jesus Christ, the Savior.

            Is God going to be sad, or regretful through eternity because His ‘loved’ ones are in Hell, where He judicially sentenced them to be? I think not. Heaven is a place of rejoicing, over both his gracious Mercy, and His perfect Justice.

            Ask yourself this: Would God be just had He determined not to save a single person remaining in the first Adam, who were corrupted by the leprosy of Original Sin?

            God demonstrated two aspects of Himself – mercy, and justice. Is he happy with the result? Would God rather that He did not demonstrate His justice? He’s omnipotent. Could He have saved more than He did, but failed? Should He be countermanded by another more powerful and just than He? Maybe you over here, or you over there? Who shall be the first to throw a stone at God?

            Would He have been happier with a larger flock than the small flock He has? Did He have to settle? Is He satisfied, fulfilled? …is He frustrated…?

            The love of God can only be found in Jesus Christ. Are you sheltered in Jesus, or are you outside the sheepcote exposed to God’s wrath?

            Someone impugned God, saying He does not love his enemies. Then who were we? Children of wrath we were, just like the others.

            He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

            • Dean

              Man I just read this. Psychopathy comes to mind. Were you one of those kids who burned ants with a magnifying glass when you were a child? For some reason, that is what comes to mind when I read your post.

      • Dean

        I disagree, I think it’s a bait and switch and I’ve seen it done before. Calvinists should 100% preach what they believe about double predestination and election and they should do it up front and vocally. If it’s the truth, why hide the ball on this, are they embarrassed by it like John Calvin was?

      • Jackie Heaton

        Actually I believe the non Christian’s comment goes a long way to explain why he/she isn’t a Christian. Sorry, but too many “believers” have created such a toxic impression of Jesus that a lot of folks out there aren’t going to go anywhere near a church. Thank heaven for Quakers and Unitarians or I”d have been out of here years ago.

        • Jesus created a toxic impression of himself without anybody’s help.

          Proof #39 – Realize that Jesus was a jerk

          • Jim Watson

            The god described at the website is truly imaginary. The Jesus described at the website is imaginary as well. For instance, Jesus told His disciples to go preach the good news of salvation to His enemies. That is certainly an act of love (as if dying for their sins wasn’t enough evidence of His love for His enemies). The website completely ignores all that Jesus has done, ignores the very definitions that the website used to define a “jerk”, and then came to the invalid conclusion that Jesus is a jerk. Nicely done, but completely illogical in its presentation and conclusions. The only people who would accept that nonsense are the people who accepted it before they read it.

            Your statement was fine until you decided that you had to provide “proof”. At that point, you call your own opinion into question due to the invalid nature of your “proof”.

    • Thank you for an excellent answer to this article. You said the truth well.

  • Dustin Leimgruber

    The author is misunderstanding how God ordains things through secondary causes. Check out this article that explains it concisely. http://www.preaching.com/resources/articles/11688984/

    • Dean

      Begging the question. The question is did God know that Adam and Eve would eat the fruit? That’s a question both Calvinists and Armenians need to answer. I would say he was hoping they would not. Any other answer absolutely implicates God in the origin of Evil. Not to mention, where the hell did the serpent come from? C’mon dude. We’re not a bunch of 16 year olds who might read your pithy article and be along our merry way. Everyone here has thought about this every which way for years, there’s no Calvinist argument I haven’t heard and they all sound incredibly weak and usually very defensive. But maybe that’s just because I’m reprobate and therefore a lost cause. I think that’s the most irritating idea about the concept of the reprobate. Nothing in scripture tells me that anyone can possibly be a “lost cause”, that sounds more like a lie of the Devil than an integral part of Christian theology.

      • Dustin Leimgruber

        One chunk of Scripture that addresses two of your concerns is Revelation 13:5-9. In it you can see God allowing evil as well as the reprobate. “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear” Evil being allowed here, or in the garden, or in the entire book of Job which addresses this question, or anywhere else at all does not make God the author of evil. He uses secondary causes for his own glory. God creates and uses people like Judas and Pharaoh for his glory. I encourage you to read any of the texts connected with them to see that God indeed uses them in this way. After that I would go to Romans 9 to see Paul address your argument about human agency and God’s design which uses the reprobate through secondary means for his glory. Although Calvinism does not make sense to us immediately from our own wisdom, it is a thoroughly Biblical understanding of how God works.

        • Dean

          Here’s the thing. The problem with a lot of Christians is that you get so immersed in your theology that you can’t think like a normal person anymore. It comes across in how you use language too, you are equivocating all over the place. Let me make it simple for you. Does your God have maximal sovereignty over creation and everything that has happened and will happen in the universe? Yes or no? IF you answer yes, how can your God not be responsible for the Holocaust? You can tap dance all you want, you can make up nonsensical concepts like compatibalism, but you cannot shirk the axiom that with ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility, all you can do is assert otherwise, but there is no coherent argument for taking a contrary position.

          I don’t think we need to understand everything in the bible and about gods plans on this side of eternity, but when something makes absolutely no sense you should take that as a hint that you’re on the wrong track.

          • Dustin Leimgruber

            I noticed that in all of your comments so far you have not depended on Scripture, the only source of our understanding of who God is, and have instead depended on what is rational to you. I have also noticed that you have not responded to any Scripture references that show the character of God. Also I could also be relying solely on philosophical arguments to answer you, I prefer to lean on a higher authority and ask you to do the same. Look to the writings of the post exilic prophets who asked the same question about the holocaust in their own day. They could not fathom that if God was all powerful and loving how he could allow something as awful as the exile to occur. They could not see in their position how he would use it for his glory, but he did. I also think your running into trouble trying to claim both that we can;t understand everything, but if something does not make sense to us we should dismiss it. You are correct that we will not understand everything. However you are making the mistake Job’s friends made when they said that Jobs suffering only made sense in their frameworks of him earning it through particularly bad sin. God’s answer to Job is not to explain why he allowed the evil that happened, but simply to tell him that he didn’t have to understand everything. Look at the Bible first to see what can be known about God’s character, his complete sovereignty and dominion even over evil being one of the clear things, and after you have formed your theology because of what Scripture says and not what immediately makes sense to you, come back and engage. What I have to say is of no greater value than Scripture so I don’t want to trip you up in a philosophical debate outside Scripture.

            • Dean

              Dustin, do all Calvinists share a set of talking points on this issue? Are you telling me that if I spend an hour or two giving you every scripture verse supporting the Arminian view that you would then change your mind? You are being totally disingenuous when you make this type of accusation, you already know the versus I would use, there are websites that put all of them together side by side, comprehensively, like pretty much every single verse you can ever think of. If I can come up with more versus than you would that mean that I win? This is a philosophical debate, it’s not an exegetical one at all, and the fact that you think it is means you haven’t thought about it long enough. The question is do you believe that God creates people in his own image for the express purpose of eternal torment so that he can reveal the fullness of his character to the Elect and do you think that kind of god (1) is worthy of worship (and yes, you are free to use both your heart and mind on this one w/o fear of being struck by lightening, it hasn’t happen to me yet anyway) and (2) can such a God be reconciled with the life, death and ministry of Jesus, who died for people while they were his enemies. I just don’t see how it can, and if you think suppressing your natural human tendency to sympathize with the plight of the reprobate means that your conscience isn’t working properly due to the effect of the Fall, I can’t help but feel a little bad for you. Let me put it this way, what the Gospel says to me is that there are none who are godforsaken, there is truly hope for everyone in this world, anyone who thinks they are in should be concerned that they might be out, and no one is beyond redemption, not even murderers like St. Paul or John Calvin. As John Wesley said, whatever Romans 9 says, it can’t possibly mean that. That pretty much sums up what I think.

              • Dustin Leimgruber

                I will repeat my response that this like every theological issue is a Biblical issue and stating that “it’s not an exegetical one at all” shows you are not getting your idea from the only authoritative source but something else. Instead of stating that both sides have arguments, actually make arguments from Scripture.

                • Dean

                  Let me put it another way, it is impossible to understand scripture without an understanding of the world in which we live. We all come to scripture with the baggage we carry from culture, from class, from our upbringing, from the literature we read, from what our parents taught us, from what we learned in school. I’m acknowledging that, while you seem to not see that at all. I fear you are in the more precarious situation. The exegetical arguments have been made, you can find them on the internet and they will no be convincing to you because of your own preconceived notions on what the Bible is suppose to do and say. If you can’t understand your biases and presuppositions, you’ll never understand how someone can possibly read the Bible and not come to the same conclusion as you do. So as you can see, this is where these kinds of conversations always end up. I just hope you can see beyond your very small box one day and realize that the Bible cannot be systematized, it is not a textbook. If if were such a document, then as NT Wright says, God gave us an extremely poor instruction manual.

                  • Dustin Leimgruber

                    You are very much correct to value culture in understanding God, but your issue is that you start with your own culture and impose it on the Bible, rather than the proper starting point of understanding the culture in the Bible so that your own presuppositions can be brought into line with the will of God. If you start with your own culture, which certainly disagrees with the Bible as all cultures do at certain points, the Bible will never make sense and you cannot see any systematic order or purpose precisely because there are so many cultural points you are not willing to concede. When you make this error the Bible serves only as a mirror for whatever culture reads it. If you were raised in one of many cultures that have arminian leanings like a majority of American evangelicals, you look at Romans 9 and have to quote Wesley and say “whatever Romans 9 says, it can’t possibly mean that”. Instead of looking into the context of the Bible and seeing that Romans 9 means exactly what it looks like it means, you make Wesley more authoritative than the inspired word of God and throw it aside. With this approach, the Bible is absolutely meaningless and just a tool of whatever culture picks it up. If the culture does not believe that Jesus is the Messiah they say “Whatever John 3:16 means it can’t possibly mean that”. If the culture thinks that human life does not have intrinsic value they say “Whatever Exodus 20:13 means it can’t possibly mean that”. If the cultural opinion shifts, then what was once black is now white. I encourage you to examine your own culture, not to impose it on the Bible, but so you can see where your own presuppositions are getting in the way of you interpreting the Bible correctly and understanding God.

                    • Dean

                      Absolutely. I agree with almost everything you say here, except that I don’t quote Wesley on Romans 9 as an authority, I quote him because I agree with him. I find it strange that you can’t tell the difference. In fact, I find it extremely unlikely that you would be a Calvinist except for the fact that you have read a lot of Calvinist literature, in my opinion, it is nearly impossible to get TULIP from a straightforward reading of the scriptures, which is why Calvinism has always been a minority position in the faith. I suppose this plays directly into the system itself (Limited Atonement), so I guess that only serves to affirm your position rather than cause you to question it. But then again, I find with most Calvinists, that’s exactly what happens with almost every argument against Calvinist doctrine. Things that a normal person would decry as a shock to their conscience, a Calvinist would simply say is a product of fallen man’s inability so see the truth. But have you wondered why almost all prominent Calvinists are white, male, middle-class, college educated, socially conservative and really like hierarchy and authority?

                      1. Tim Keller
                      2. John Piper
                      3. Mark Driscoll
                      4. Justin Taylor
                      5. James White
                      6. RC Sproul
                      7. Al Mohler
                      8. John MacArthur
                      9. Matt Chandler

                      Don’t these guys seems like carbon copies of each other? Do you really think their backgrounds have nothing to do with the fact that they have embraced Calvinism? I find that to be too much of a coincidence. I also find it really hard to believe that the resurgence of New Calvinism has nothing to do with the strong personalities of this movement. One millisecond after Mark Driscoll leaves his entire church collapses. It is really really hard to get people to embrace the concept that a loving God created some for eternal destruction and that is somehow “glorious”, preach that every day and see how many people show up, it’s just nonsense in my opinion. Even John Calvin himself was embarrassed by it. Try this, play a few Robert Morey and James White videos on election at church next Sunday and see what kind of reaction you get from your congregation, those guys really tell it like it is. Something tells me that 90% of folks in Calvinist pews have no idea what they’re signing up for.

                    • Dustin Leimgruber

                      I noticed that you continue to make arguments without even a single reference to Scripture. The only times you have mentioned Scripture in this conversation was to say that you don’t believe Romans 9 was true, which must mean that Paul was lying when he starts the chapter off by saying “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit” Instead of going to the Bible as an authority, you continue to rely on your own presuppositions such as calvinism cannot be true because it is a minority opinion. If you know the story of Elijah you will know that he held the minority opinion in Israel that the Lord is God which was true regardless of how many people agreed with him. Truth is not defined by a majority vote but God who graciously reveals it to us in His word properly interpreted. You also assert that calvinism cannot be a correct interpretation because the most popular calvinist preachers share an ethnicity. What do you notice about the following list?

                      The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

                      Matthew 10:2-4

                      If your presupposition is true, then you cannot trust the entirely of the New Testament because it was put together by a group of ethnically homogeneous men. God has worked through an ethnic group to spread the gospel to all kinds of people before and He is doing it again as the gospel is spreading through reformed theologians all throughout the world to people who are not white, male, middle-class, college educated Americans.

                      I have noticed throughout the tone of the discussion that you seem to have a picture painted of me that you have been attacking. I have not been defending myself, because the attack has been against someone else entirely. I have wondered if you had some bad experiences with someone who was reformed and you may think I am a carbon copy of that person. If you actually want to know who I am feel free to continue the conversation if Scripture will be our authority. If you want to understand where I am coming from, you can see my sermons at PierpontChurch.com Rather than the heartless brainwashed wasp you may think I am, I think you’ll find the opposite. My preaching and teaching, which is reformed, has only served to be a blessing to the church and impress God’s goodness, grace, and sovereignty. If you would like to continue the conversation in a constructive way searching for God’s truth through Scripture I will continue, but if it is more of the same presuppositional thinking, I will use this time more wisely somewhere else.

                    • Dean

                      I didn’t mean to offend you, I find most Calvinists I engage to be very aggressive and dogmatic, such that I am conditioned to respond in the same way. But I would encourage you to consider the possibility that you might be wrong. It is really hard for Christians to do that, particularly pastors, because there is a lot tied up in the specific type of theology you embrace and maintaining an appearance of certainty, certainty that I don’t think is justified from any honest person of faith. I don’t mean to sound patronizing, it’s just that I used to believe everything you did and the further I dug, the more I realized how untenable fundamentalism was, and Calvinism in particular. I certainly don’t mean to suggest you are heartless, but I do find it odd that the New Calvinist movement is extremely homogeneous, especially since American Protestantism is marked heterogeneous. But here’s the thing, there are two posts I read today from blogs that sum up pretty well what I think and rather than have me rehash what they say, I would just point you toward them and you can take it however you would like, one is on biblicism at Peter Enn’s blog (which I know you guys don’t think very highly of) and another from Roger Olson (whom I know some of you at least grudgingly respect). Both authors have helped me a great deal in shedding my fundamentalists paradigms while maintaining my faith in Jesus Christ, which I think is no small feat. Again, quoting you scripture will do nothing to elucidate my position as you already know every scripture verse I would give you and you already have responses to each one. I would rather engage in why we read the Bible the way we do because certainly, there is diversity in that respect whether you would like to admit that or not.

                      Anyway, merry Christmas! Probably a good time to avoid theological nonsense and just appreciate what God has done for us.



  • S_i_m_o_n

    Through all the straw men and false dichotomies I couldn’t find a rational argument here.

  • NateW

    I don’t understand why we need to speak about whether or not God knows/ordains “the future.” The only moment of time that I have ever experienced is “right now.” The only moment of time that I will EVER experience is “RIGHT NOW.” The only moment of time that any living soul has ever or will ever see is… “NOW.”

    There literally is no such thing as “the future” except insofar as we imagine it. God is not concerned with the future because it is now and shall eternally remain entirely, vainly, theoretical.

    God is radically, eternally, present with us. He has always been radically eternally present. He always will be radically eternally present.

    It boggles the mind to think like this, but just open yourself up to the notion that right now is all there ever will be, for everyone… and all the questions about whether God “foreknows” or “predestines” anything other than this very moment become marvelously irrelevant.

    • Tyler Josephson

      Questions about the future are relevant, for hope, for faith (about things that have not yet come to pass).

      Or, consider prophecy.
      Or consider God’s promises.
      Questions about the future are significant in theology.

    • NateW –
      You nailed it. All we have is what we’ve been given: the here and now. Any and all speculation on anything else is nothing but theological folly. We speculate about salvation as if the NOW is insufficient for our consideration.

  • voted4bush


    Oh, I’m sorry. I
    could barely get through the smoke from the multitude of burning straw-men in
    this drivel passed off as a blog article.

    Anyone who seriously believes that Piper is a Hypercalvinist
    is either completely ignorant of theology and isn’t qualified to write a blog
    article on the subject, or is being completely dishonest…which again
    disqualifies them from writing a “Christian” blog article. Then
    again, this author, Mr. Jones, is writing on the “Progressive Christian Channel”
    which shows our issue in true form.
    Apart from being a complete oxymoron as a term, the viewpoint of “Progressive
    Christian” is a self refuting position and the over-realized moral outrage of
    Mr. Jones and the others screaming “Hyper” is downright sad. In demonstrating their disdain, perhaps
    hatred, of Piper they also demonstrate their disdain, perhaps hatred, of the
    Bible, the Christian message, and any sense of integrity. To misrepresent a man and the position he
    holds is dishonest, also known as lying.
    That is not Christian behavior no matter how much you disagree with
    someone else’s theology.

    The sophomoric rhetoric and vast ignorance aside, Mr. Jones,
    shame on you. Your seemingly personal witch-hunt
    of Piper is childish and reeks of an internal instability dripping in a
    teenager’s whine. Am I being harsh? Of course I am; appalling behavior requires
    harsh correction. Repent of your sin against
    this man. Oh, but that’s right, you’re
    doing your own “Progressive” thing.

    • Scott Paeth

      Gee, your subtle and carefully reasoned arguments have totally persuaded me.

    • Jackie Heaton

      Great rant. Is there any actual scripture to back it up?

  • Guest

    1) We must be willing to deal with tensions in Scripture, which means that “if you believe X you must go all the way with X to Y” is a rhetorical trick than an exegetical arguement.

    Tony, I’d be much more interested in hearing your logic-proof, perfect-flow version of the Maynard situation than the ever-so-easy out of bashing “hypercalvinists,” of which Piper is certainly not (which you know, but choose not to acknowledge because it doesn’t work for your narrative).

    2) While we certainly care what non-Christians think in regards to our tone and witness, to an extent, a one-off opinion from an atheist online is not an argument for right/wrong theology.

  • Brandon Smith

    1) We must be willing to deal with tensions in Scripture, which means that saying “if you believe X you must go all the way with X to Y” is more of a rhetorical trick than an exegetical argument.

    Tony, I’d be much more interested (genuinely) in hearing your logic-proof, perfect-flow version of the Maynard situation than the ever-so-easy out of bashing “hypercalvinists,” of which Piper is certainly not (which you know, but choose not to acknowledge because it doesn’t work for your narrative).

    2) While we certainly care what non-Christians think in regards to our tone and witness, to an extent, a one-off opinion from an atheist online is not an argument for right/wrong theology.

  • Dean

    While I understand “real” Calvinists have their own technical definition of hyper-Calvinism, I have yet to hear someone make a distinction between the two in a coherent fashion. It usually quickly devolves into rapid hairsplitting and use of obfuscating terminology. I’m fairly certain Tony knows this and that’s probably the point he’s making. In fact, I would argue that the five-points necessarily lead to hyper-Calvinism and the only way you can avoid that is to backtrack and make words mean different things than we normally understand them to mean. For example, an oft used Calvinist trope is that God loves the reprobate, but he loves them differently than the elect. The way he loves the reprobate is that he bestows upon them Common Grace, which means they get to enjoy the good things of this world for a bit followed by eternal conscious torture for eternity. I guess that’s great if you live in suburban Minnesota, but if the lottery of birth put you in an Islamic portion of Sub-Saharan Africa and you die as a reprobate 13 year old after a life of starvation and misery, well, I guess you were just dealt two shitty hands in row. But hey, as they say, you can’t win if you don’t play right? In other words, God really does HATE the reprobate, and the hyper-Calvinist announces that, while “real” Calvinists apologize for it.

    It’s probably fitting to take a page out of James White’s rhetorical book here when he describes Arminianism leading the Open Theism by saying that the only consistent Calvinist is the hyper-Calvinist.

    • Professor Umnik

      God will send reprobates to Hell. You can call it love, but it won’t change things. Romans 9:13.

      • Dean

        I’m glad you cleared that up for me. So in other words, God hates the reprobate from before they were even born. Let’s just be sure we preach that honestly. That’s all I’m saying.

        • Professor Umnik

          That’s why Infralapsarianism was invented – to mitigate the false perception of the ‘unjust’ God.

          • Dean

            I like your use of the word “invented”, it is apropos for Calvinism in general. I have often said that if there any clear indication that Calvinism can’t possibly be true is that the rabbit hole it takes you leads you to concepts like Infralapsarianism and Supralapsarianism and whatever the hell other sarianisms are out there. We’ve now gone so far now from the Sermon on the Mount you have to ask yourself whether you’re really wandering in the desert and just don’t know it.

  • We should note that the Scriptures don’t provide the requested answer which Piper doesn’t address. Romans 9 gives those who cannot trust God’s control reason to experience confused anxiety.

    But is Piper’s flip-flop on cancer really the fault to focus on here? Think of what Piper doesn’t stand against that is acting as a cancer on this world. Couldn’t we find something more important to criticize?

  • Kevin Miller

    I think you’re selling Kevin DeYoung short, Tony. He’s as hyper-Calvinist as they get. And here’s an example of him at his finest: https://vimeo.com/110856631

    • The kind of “forgiveness” DeYoung talks about in that clip isn’t recognizable as Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross. Jesus said *to the Father* “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He didn’t say, “I forgive you all, but just wait – because my Father is going to give you all what you deserve.” The kind of “forgiveness” that urges us to seek solace in the knowledge that God will vindicate us is a species of desire for revenge – one that is simply delayed. The idea that forgiveness is a two-way street, both for us and for God – it just leads to an endless list of karmic scorecards. You’re often going to have folks who wronged you who don’t think they have – and what do you do in those situations? I think forgiveness is something we should do for the health of our own souls – irregardless of the remorse of those who’ve trespassed against us. When we forgive it is not only on the basis of justice – that the wrongdoing has been paid for, either by a scapegoat or by hell. The scorekeeping must be set aside. Radical forgiveness demands that we put all that aside.

    • Al Cruise

      After listening to Kevin Dr Young, it doesn’t seem to me like he is on the path to heaven. I speak from 40 years of outreach ministry and being with people at their final moments of life.

      • Professor Umnik

        Be specific. “It doesn’t seem to me…” is not a rational argument.

  • John Gottshall

    I don’t know a lot about John Piper except that he’s beloved by many who are passionate about Christ.

    I’ve been reading your stuff for a while and u obviously have a lot of insight into the heart of God.

    That’s why it really surprises me that u don’t seem to have any problem slandering one of God’s anointed.

    Oh I know u want to make people aware right?

    When David was on the run from a king who was trying to murder him he still wouldnt slander king Saul.

    Has John Piper done anything worse than that to u or anyone u know?

    • Johnny Number 5

      Ummmm, John Piper has done plenty to smear Christians he disagrees with. See Bell, Rob.

      • John Gottshall

        I didn’t realize that.

        Hmmmm well in that case I guess the scriptures don’t apply.

        Good luck with that when you stand before the Judge

  • simeonberesford

    I don’t think Hyper-Calvinist is a thing, John Calvin only allowed for two positions. You could either agree with him or you could be wrong.

  • Diane Smit

    Tony: “God’s foreknowledge of an event causes that event to happen” is not at all logical to me. I have a couple of sincere questions. I haven’t been involved in theological discussions since college. . . and have never understood the belief that because God knows the future, He causes and/or pre-ordains the future. I can’t connect this with man’s free will. The 2nd question comes from the 1st – if God not only knows that Jane Doe will become a disciple, but “causes” her to follow Him, why are Calvinists also passionate about witnessing to her? I know these are the most basic of questions, but your article made me think about these issues again. Would someone pass along a link or two that deal – simply – with these questions? Or, give me a quick lesson in what you believe – as a Calvinist (hyper or not)? Thanks for any responses.

  • Professor Umnik

    Why don’t you challenge a real Calvinist theologian? Piper is just a popular preacher. There are more serious contenders out there. Getting into an elementary schoolyard tussle does nothing for your camp in this crusade against your faulty perception of this bug-a-boo, this strawman, of ‘Hypercalvinism’. Why can’t you just admit that you do not understand Calvinism at all, and that you are tilting against windmills?

    • Dean

      Like who? I’m just curious who your Calvinist heroes are, after all John Calvin murdered someone, it’s kind of hard to top that.