Connecting the Dots: Bill Maher and John Piper?

You have probably seen by now one of the ads for Bill Maher’s new documentary “Religulous.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s a movie that was produced for the expressed purpose of denigrating religion. The fundamental point seems to be that having faith in any religion is ridiculous—thus “Religulous.” In the trailer for the movie, the following exchange takes place between Maher and a person dressed up like Jesus.

Maher: Why doesn’t [God] just obliterate the devil and therefore get rid of evil in the world?

Jesus Impersonator: He will.

Maher: He will?

Jesus Impersonator: That’s correct.

Maher: What’s he waiting for?

The whole point of the exchange is to show how ridiculous it is that the Christian God will not do anything about evil in the world even though He’s supposed to be both good and all-powerful. Even though it’s delivered with sarcastic humor, Maher is asking a serious question. At bottom the exchange is really about the classical question of theodicy, and the whole thing is framed in a way to discredit the Christian faith.

In a recent blog post, John Piper answers Maher’s question, though he doesn’t mention Maher’s name. Nevertheless, the title of Piper’s essay reads like an allusion to “Religulous”: “Why not destroy the devil now?” Piper gives an answer that is (as you might expect) grounded in God’s passion for His own glory. God is most glorified by allowing Satan to remain for a time. He writes:

“The glory of Christ is seen in his absolute right and power to annihilate or incapacitate Satan and all demons. But the reason he refrains from destroying and disabling them altogether is to manifest more clearly his superior beauty and worth. If Christ obliterated all devils and demons now (which he could do), his sheer power would be seen as glorious, but his superior beauty and worth would not shine as brightly as when humans renounce the promises of Satan and take pleasure in the greater glory of Christ.”

Maher’s question deserved a serious answer, and I am grateful that Piper took the time to write one. You should read the rest.

“Why Not Destroy the Devil Now?” – by John Piper (desiringgod.org)

138 Responses to Connecting the Dots: Bill Maher and John Piper?

  1. John October 21, 2008 at 12:44 am #

    Why don’t we just say what the Bible says: “I don’t know” instead of drawing a picture of some narcissistic divine being who only cares about himself?

    Seriously, does Scripture ever say that God allows evil to exist and does not destroy Satan right now so he can receive more glory? It seems to me, that whenever that question is addressed in Scripture, we’re left more with a sense of “We honestly don’t know” instead of what Piper says.

    I think people will appreciate our honesty as opposed to our modern standards and mindset that thinks we have to have an answer for everything. If you think you have this question figured out and think a little platitude and cliche statement captures the essence of it, then you go ahead and say it. But as for me, my answer will continue to be that I honestly don’t know and we’re not really given a reason. What do you expect though when we have a subculture so obsessed with systematic theology that they think they have to have everything figured out and an answer to everything?

  2. Chris October 21, 2008 at 1:54 am #

    John,

    The reason we don’t say “I don’t know” is because we do know. God has clearly revealed in His word that everything He does is for His own glory. To ignore that fundamental principle about God is to ignore the nature of God Himself, and no, He’s not narcissistic, He’s God. When you speak something into existence from nothing you have the right by creation to glorify yourself by it. Now HOW God brings glory to Himself through Satan would be a better (note “better,” the issue still probably has an answer) question to answer “I don’t know” to, but I digress. After all, the whole book of Job documents God bringing about His purposes and glorifying Himself through the suffering of his servant, brought about by the devil.

    As for saying that “the glory of God” is cliche, I have to say that you have it all wrong, brother. The Christian can find much peace and confidence in the fact that even though I don’t have everything figured out, I know God has a purpose in it, and that purpose is to glorify Himself. I’m not called to understand everything, but with that thought at the core of my theology, I can be sure that I won’t stray too far. That’s the point. It’s not about being “right” as much as it is giving God the most amount of glory and praise possible.

    Chris

  3. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 2:58 am #

    John: why are you even here? You seem to disagree with every single thing that Denny posts and yet you rarely offer anything of value. Today you offer us the abundance of your ignorance and skepticism about God and then, just for good measure, heap scorn upon God’s self glorification.

    There are good reasons that we can and do know about why God does not destroy all evil right now. 2Peter 3:9 and Matt 13:29 tell us very clearly that God is being patient in order that all those whom he has predestined to come to him will in fact come to him. There is every reason to believe that God does this to “make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—” (Romans 9:23)

    Piper is correct that this (not yet destroying Satan in order to save all those who are yet to believe) will resound in the greater glory of Christ. If anyone is obsessed, it would seem it is you.

    “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. ….I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: …..Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (John 17: 4,5,22,24)

    Narcissism indeed! Shame on you John.

  4. Darius October 21, 2008 at 8:41 am #

    I would have to agree with the last two posts, I don’t see any indication John that you know who God is, but I do hope He is patient with you and brings you to a fuller knowledge of Him.

    To answer your question (why do we have to have an answer?): because thousands of believers and unbelievers walk away from God because they can’t answer that very question. They believe God either doesn’t care or doesn’t know what’s going on. It is absolutely necessary to tell those who don’t understand evil that it is humanity’s fault, not God’s and that He tarries because His glory has not yet been maximized. He could have wiped every human off the planet during the Flood and destroyed Satan too, but He saved a remnant to show the abundance of His love to both humans and the angels. Angels are in His presence, but they still don’t understand the depths of His love and mercy.

  5. CH October 21, 2008 at 9:57 am #

    John,

    The ironic thing is that Piper’s answer reveals as much mystery as it offers an answer. It’s a beautiful paradox.

  6. Mike October 21, 2008 at 10:14 am #

    SO I guess, I’ll talk on subject….

    I think this movie is pointless, those who think that religion is stupid will be encouraged in that belief and those who hold to ridiculous ideas will hold on to them even more greatly, and those who responsibly and in a sober spirit hold thier beliefs will be unaffected.

    Bill is asking questions in a sarcastic tone which deserve to be answered in an intelligent way, he however has gone out of his way to find people who cannot do that. The questions that he raises DESERVE answers. If Piper can offer at least one… then GREAT. If you disagree offer an alternative (part of the beauty of our religion), don’t chide a man for seeking answers… be he informed (Piper) or sarcastic (Maher).

    Now… as far as depending on God’s kingship and control to soften the hard edges of the problem of evil, it’s either God has a greater purpose than this temporary evil… or he has NO power to do anything. Every other option leaves God as injust or unloving. Scripture bears a great witness to God’s power so I am bound to agree with Piper here.

  7. Don October 21, 2008 at 10:37 am #

    Maher is an atheist and more, a militant atheist. He looks at all the crazy and “crazy” things in religion and wants to toss them ALL out. It is not in his mindset that there might be a baby in what he sees as bathwater.

    We should pray for him. If Anthony Flew can become a believer, anyone can.

  8. William October 21, 2008 at 11:06 am #

    I partially agree with John… in the sense that I don’t see where scripture asserts that God’s ultimate impetus in creation/redemption/defeat of Satan is his own glory. I know the classic answer is to point to numerous passages that say God is glorified in this or that… but we are confusing result with motivation. Clearly, everything works out to the glory of God. However, I don’t think a clear case can be made that God is motivated by his own glory in consistency with his ontology (Edwards’ closed teleology… and Piper’s). In fact, Edwards’ closed teleology cannot make sense of God as free.

    I am more comfortable saying that whatever God does pleases him… and that is what he wants us to know. Even Edwards (Augustine as well) admitted that we must leave room for a mysterious planning/motivation on the part of God. I particularly like Augustine’s take on it… he basically says it is dangerous to posit an ultimate end to God’s action in time. He argues that it is better to simply say “it pleases him” and leave the ultimate ends mysterious.

    Thanks John for being willing to challenge a sensitive paradigm.

  9. Brian (Another) October 21, 2008 at 11:08 am #

    I don’t know who Anthony Flew is, but spot on, Don! In an interesting associated post, Dr. Mohler wrote about Richard Dawkins’ recent offer to post ads on buses:

    There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.

    The keyword that Mohler rightly pointed out was probably. That doesn’t sound quite a sure or militant as Dawkins normally projects. But Mohler made a funny observation:

    Maybe this represents a new “seeker sensitive” approach on the part of the atheists.

    BTW, Mike, good words. And congrats on your upcoming 6 month anniversary. Don’t forget it (‘cause she sure won’t ;-).

  10. William October 21, 2008 at 11:14 am #

    I am curious John, what your answer to the theodicy question would be. I think we agree that Piper is wrong but we may not agree on what is right… if we disagree, I would like to hear your side… if we agree, then all the more encouraging.

  11. William October 21, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    …and CH: How does Piper maintain any sense of mystery in God’s plan?

  12. volfan007 October 21, 2008 at 11:24 am #

    When man fights against the truth, he will become sarcastic and angry and eventually bitter. The very fact that Maher is intent on putting on God and faith down shows that it’s striking a chord with him. He’s fighting against the pricks. He sees the light, but he does not like the light. He knows that God is real, and that there’s something about Jesus that is real, but he does not want to admit it. It makes him feel better about living in sin for all religion to be wrong and “ridiculous.”

    Every problem that man has with God, or the Bible, or with the Christian faith can really be attributed to a sin problem on the part of the man. He doesnt really have a problem with errors and contradictions in the Bible….he has a sin problem. He loves the sins that he’s living in, and he doesnt want to repent. So, he tries to justify his behavior, by denying God, or calling the Bible “erroneous,” or by saying that all religion is just an opiate of the people.

    Man has a sin problem, and it oozes out of people in all kinds of ways. And, they dont want to admit that it is wrong…that they are sinful.

  13. Mike L October 21, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    Mike said:
    “I think this movie is pointless, those who think that religion is stupid will be encouraged in that belief and those who hold to ridiculous ideas will hold on to them even more greatly, and those who responsibly and in a sober spirit hold their beliefs will be unaffected.”

    Well said Mike, but I guess that it depends on your point of view on who has the “ridiculous” ideas, and who has beliefs “in a sober spirit”. Both could be said about the other point of view, depending where the reader stands….so “I don’t know” is a very honest and legitimate answer.

    The movie asks good questions that some will answer based on their own spiritual journey and what they have come to know as true, and many will claim that the other persons answer is wrong and judge the other person based on their differences like some have done here, which is unfortunate.

    I do not think that the movie is pointless. I’m not sure if those offended…(and remember we are talking about ALL faiths in this movie)…are threatened more by the questions, or the answers, or both. I guess that it depends on your faith. In other words, like Mike alluded to in an earlier post… it should not matter if they are truly comfortable in their own faith.

    I say let everyone make up their own mind and do not judge another because they come to a conclusion that is different than yours.

  14. John October 21, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    Darius,

    I’m sorry that you think I don’t know God. Of course, that’s coming from a guy who thinks America is the savior of the world, there are no racists in America, Christians only vote for Republicans, it is a good thing for current African Americans that their ancestors were slaves, and fuses politics and Christianity like John Hagee or Jerry Falwell. So actually, thank you for saying what you said. It gives proof to me that my Christianity is real because I sure don’t want it to look like most of the people’s on here.

    Greg, so if I disagree with Denny, I shouldn’t be here? Wow, I never saw those rules anywhere. I never said God doesn’t want to be glorified. In fact, I guarantee you that most of the people on here don’t even know what “glory” means, and if they did they might change their views. The basic question is: Does God want to glorify himself FOR himself, or does God want to glorify himself FOR THE SAKE OF other people? I would hope that on top of the entire OT, the incarnation itself would provide us with an easy answer, but Piper and many others like him refuse to think so because for some reason (an illogical one, mind you) this gives man glory and doesn’t make you “God-centered.” Whatever. I refuse to get in a Bible verse war with you, but every single passage you cited does not answer the original question in the slightest, so keep looking.

    William, thanks for the thoughts. I have some thoughts, but it would currently take to long to post and I have too much stuff (homework) to do. I agreed with your previous post for the most part (the ‘motivation’ part was really good). I think as much as God wants us to love our neighbor, to esteem others as more important as ourselves, and the way Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of man for our sake, and the fact that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, would make this motivation for God us (humanity, all of humanity, mind you) instead of himself. This doesn’t give us glory or make me “man-centered” at all, it just means that Christ died for me and became a man for me, apart from any other “chief end” where his work and love for me is diminished. Indeed, if all God cared about was himself and his glory, then things would be a wee bit different with the freedom of humanity and the nature of evil. It sounds nice and pious, but it just doesn’t hold up to a shred of evidence, both scripturally and practically.

    More later

  15. bprjam October 21, 2008 at 11:52 am #

    I’ve always been unsatisfied with the “glory of God” argument as well. If God is truly intensively infinite, how can He ever generate “more” glory for Himself? For that matter, how can any creature steal “glory” from Him? From an extensive standpoint, not only would it be like a speck stealing my glory, but from an intensive standpoint, it would be akin to me stealing glory from the fabric of the universe – no matter how much I try to steal, it still all belongs to the universe of which I am a part. From my standpoint (which I do not consider to be uninformed), Piper’s explanation is unsatisfying.

    But when we are talking to non-Christians (i.e., the uninitiated), why don’t we start with love? Why not start with the fact that we are so bound up in evil that to destroy evil would be to destroy us as well, but that God’s love for us is such that he wills for all to be saved, and so preserves us in the hopes that we will turn to Him and find Him, though he is not far from each of us? In my experience, that kind of self-sacrificing Glory makes nonsense of the common wisdom about glory, and resonates much more with God’s presence on earth in Christ.

    However, I also highly agree with Mark that the diversity of Biblical answers within our faith is a strength. I don’t necessarily disagree with Piper, I just don’t find his answer useful. But I praise God that people like Piper are present to offer a view that resonates with some in a way my view does not.

  16. Paul October 21, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    Has anyone that has commented about this movie actually seen it yet?

  17. John October 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Darius, apparently bprjam and William don’t know God either. Will you pray for them too? Ben Witherington doesn’t know God either, so pray for him too.

  18. Darius October 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm #

    John, most of what you said is hogwash, and you know it, liar. Most of what you attributed to me is not true, but does stay true to your sub-Christian behavior on this blog. I find it hard to believe that you truly know the Christian God based on the unending verbal vomit you spray onto others with whom you disagree, especially when you direct it at Denny. The faith you have is not one transformed by Christ, at least not outwardly toward your supposed brothers in Christ.

  19. Darius October 21, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    “I refuse to get in a Bible verse war with you, but every single passage you cited does not answer the original question in the slightest, so keep looking.”

    As of yet and not surprisingly, you have yet to give any Biblical evidence for your view, John. It’s not enough to deny certain verses, you have to show us why we should believe you and why your view is from the Bible and not just your own personal taste.

  20. Darius October 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm #

    bprjam, yours is an insightful comment (as opposed to John’s, where are usually inciteful :)). However, I would quibble with you on a point. No one (at least, not I) is saying that God’s glory can be stolen or limited or isn’t in full existence yet. What I am saying is that it hasn’t yet been fully revealed to either humanity or the heavenly beings (i.e. angels and demons). And even if you say that it was fully revealed at the cross (which is a reasonable argument), God still is waiting for more of humanity to take notice of that glory. Otherwise, if He wiped out evil right now, He would, as you mentioned, wipe out most people. He tarries so He can maximize the amount of glory and worship given to Him by us, His creation.

  21. Darius October 21, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    “Has anyone that has commented about this movie actually seen it yet?”

    Nope, and I don’t intend to since Bill Maher is one of the most disgusting, unfunny “entertainers” alive.

  22. Don October 21, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    Anthony Flew was the most famous atheist in the UK and recently became a believer and wrote a book about it.

    “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind”

  23. Brittany October 21, 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    Back off of John already. He asked a sincere question and only received vitriol in response (and calling into question whether he has faith at all – way over the line). John, like all of us, has had his moments here on Dr. Burk’s blog, but he’s not any more trollish or “inciteful” than anyone else here – he just has an easily dislike-able, minority viewpoint. Chillax!

  24. Darius October 21, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Brittany, I will assume this is the first thread you’ve read, otherwise, seriously???? He rips Denny every chance he gets like a 12 year old. It’s legitimate to point out that acting in such a manner on a regular, unrepentant basis indicates that possibly he doesn’t understand what a faith in God should entail or what it should look like in our lives. There is a difference between the occasional trollish behavior that many of us are guilty of (but we apologize) and unrepentant ad hominem attacks.

  25. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    “Greg, so if I disagree with Denny, I shouldn’t be here? Wow, I never saw those rules anywhere.”

    I simply asked you a question Why are you here when all you do is gripe and complain and find fault with everything? Don’t get a persecuted martyr complex or you will turn into Micheal Spencer. If you disagree fine but don’t just take cheap shots and then run away. Instead offer some positive evidence for your case.

    “I never said God doesn’t want to be glorified. In fact, I guarantee you that most of the people on here don’t even know what “glory” means, and if they did they might change their views.”

    Another cheap shot. You’re good at that.

    “The basic question is: Does God want to glorify himself FOR himself, or does God want to glorify himself FOR THE SAKE OF other people?”

    At least now you are asking a legitimate question. The triune God had a shared glory before the foundation of the world; before there was anyone else. The Creation, fall, and redemption through the incarnation, substitutionary death and resurrection of the second person of the Trinity is both an expression, and in a lesser way, sharing that glory with others. So you may have a very small point but the sharing or giving of that Glory is limited to the benefits of Christ’s righteousness extended to sinners it is in no way a sharing of the ultimate glory that the triune God has as part of His essential nature which is incommunicable. That’s why Isa 42:8 says: “I am the Lord! That is my name! I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols.”

    “I would hope that on top of the entire OT, the incarnation itself would provide us with an easy answer, but Piper and many others like him refuse to think so because for some reason (an illogical one, mind you) this gives man glory and doesn’t make you “God-centered.””

    As I noted God will not and cannot share the glory of His essential nature with created beings because they are contingent and God is self existent and eternal.

    “Whatever.”

    That would be cute if you were a 14 yr old girl: Are you?

    “I refuse to get in a Bible verse war with you, but every single passage you cited does not answer the original question in the slightest, so keep looking.”

    How very convenient for you.

    Blessings to you John but I expect better of you, really.

  26. Brian (Another) October 21, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    Y’all need to calm down. I for one enjoy commenting and getting involved in (as Dr. Mohler would call it) intelligent Christian conversation. I think it would be interesting to sit and talk face to face. With few exceptions, I doubt we would here the same things we type (anonymity. ’tis often the bane of the internet). If you find someone’s point religulous (why should atheists have the market on a catchy slogan. If you disagree with someone’s religious conviction/belief, you find them religulous), either ignore it or find a way to ask in a civil manner.

    And, just to chime in, doesn’t Romans 3 speak of our unrighteousness (or evil) being for God’s righteousness? For His glory?

  27. William October 21, 2008 at 2:12 pm #

    Ah ha! An actual argument! Thank you Brian. Everyone this could be a really edifying discussion if we can stop with the personal attacks and just deal with the issue.

    That said, Brian, I have an answer for your question about Romans 3 but since it is scripture, I would like to take another look. I am actually between meetings right now but I would love to pick this up in a bit.

    I’m sure someone else could weigh in on it 😉

  28. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    Good comment Brian (Another); except that you are hardly any less anonymous than I am. I do agree that if we were all face to face there would be a different dynamic but there might also be less candor as people sometimes do not want to say what’s really on their minds in a face to face discussion. Anyway I would like to see the conversation elevated as well so I’m with “y’all”. My point to John was not so much go away but to make his points and then back them up with reasoned argumentation instead of just drive by comments that denigrate the conversation. I like a little back and forth disagreement because it makes me think and evaluate the reasons for my positions. Denny has a great blog and I commend him for his almost infinite patience he shows w’all (is that a word in the big T) 🙂

  29. William October 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    Greg,

    W’all is not a Texas word yet… but maybe if I put on my cowboy boots and say it enough it will be. I’ll give you the credit.

  30. Darius October 21, 2008 at 2:45 pm #

    To be fair, Brian is significantly more transparent and accountable with his identity than you are, Greg. Just click his link to find out what I mean. That isn’t to say that your comments need accountability, just that you are about as anonymous as John.

  31. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 2:52 pm #

    Darius I actually did check it out before I posted that’s how I knew he was in Texas. I am from Texas north which is Alberta but the point is unless you want to post your full name and specific location you are for all intent and purpose, anonymous. I have a good reason for remaining anonymous but if you are coming to Alberta let me know and I’ll buy you a steak.

  32. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    Romans 3:5… But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is he? (I am speaking in human terms.) 3:6 Absolutely not! For otherwise how could God judge the world? 3:7 For if by my lie the truth of God enhances his glory, why am I still actually being judged as a sinner? 3:8 And why not say, “Let us do evil so that good may come of it”? – as some who slander us allege that we say. (Their condemnation is deserved!)

    I think the notion that God is glorified by judging sin is inherent in this passage however the point that is being made is that anyone who takes that and twists it to say that their sin results in God’s glory THEREFORE… “we should increase our sinning to give God more glory” is condemned in the strongest terms and that position is flatly denied as slander.

  33. Darius October 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm #

    Okay, I see what you’re saying. Yes, by that definition, I am signficantly less anonymous than Brian or yourself, but he is more accountable than either of us, since he links his comments (at least, the nice ones :)) to his blog.

  34. micah the pilot October 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm #

    I don’t have anything to quote, but some questions to ponder (or rip, as appropriate)

    1. Maybe it’s simple enough to say that God doesn’t want to destroy Satan and his works at this moment.

    1.b This would presume that destroying his enemies is not his chief purpose.

    2. If God were to destroy Satan now would he not therefore have to destroy all of his works?

    2.b How many of Satan’s works/children would immediately perish yet in the human perspective still have time for redemption?

    3. Hasn’t God already destroyed the works of Satan?

    3.b Is our finite and view of time sufficient to even discuss (let alone insufficient to explain) how an infinite/atemporal being exists? Without this discussion devolving into metaphysics, it should be sufficient to say that while we may understand our temporal nature as a progression along a line or a changing singularity (depending upon your philosophical bent) both are grossly insufficient for discussing an atemporal entity and how it interacts with temporal existence.

    3.b example: If our little minds can comprehend that when we witness a supernova we are witnessing an event that happened in long past times, how hard is it to comprehend that the occurrence of the destruction of Satan and his works and the appearance of the destruction of Satan and his works are two entirely separate events, even in time?

  35. Brian (Another) October 21, 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    Greg:

    I didn’t mean to misrepresent there (D’oh!). I only meant that the anonymity of the internet in general (of which I am part) causes problems. I was definitely not trying to allude to someone being more or less anonymous. Just as a general application, because we are anonymous we have a tendency to say things that perhaps we shouldn’t/wouldn’t (and that is a “we”, there are no fingers going in any direction here!). By and large, unless I see someone more than once, face to face, I have a tendency to divorce my attitude and actions away from my normal Christian sensibilities simply because I don’t “know” this person. To paraphrase what has been said here before (I think by you, actually), just because I know you like 70’s country and tofu doesn’t make you much less anonymous (it does to a small degree). But there are some things that can make it more “real” though, I think (providing a real e-mail to the blog owner, telling your friends where you comment, keeping a consistent moniker*, etc.). Not foolproof, but it’s far more than the random posted by: Anonymous comments that can be seen on any number of sites.

    Again, sorry, I meant the anonymity of not being face to face. That was not a nod towards anyone.

    And if I make it up to Alberta, I will take you up on the steak. Alberta’s not that big is it? 😉

    You make it to Denton and I’ll return the favor.

    * – Greg the anonymous troll is a good example ;-).

  36. Adam Omelianchuk October 21, 2008 at 3:31 pm #

    I think one of the problems with Piper’s answer is that God NEEDS the devil to maximize his glory, and that undermines God’s aseity.

    The devil question is simply answered within the larger answer to the “vessels of wrath” theology that Edwards/Piper espouse. If God’s display of wrath is necessary for his full self-glorification, and if his self-glorification is necessary, then wrath is essential to God. God would not be God without expressing it. Therefore, a world containing sinful creatures to be damned then becomes necessary for his self-actualization.

    The whole premise of the Edwards/Piper theodicy is that God ordains evil to bring about fuller more excellent presentation of himself to his creation. However, this makes creation necessary, and worse, it makes it something evil.

    Furthermore, it is very unclear how exactly God’s justice would be displayed. Is justice displayed when the criminal is compelled to do what is wrong by the judge? If you say “Who are you talk back to God?” then we can take justice to be exactly that, and there would be nothing unjust about a pro-life priest getting a nun pregnant, compelling her to have an abortion, and then publicly censuring her for doing so.

  37. Scott October 21, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    This is my first time here and this is one of the saddest excuses for Christian dialogue I’ve ever seen. People telling other people they aren’t Christians, calling them liars, etc. Wow, where is the civility? Where is the “speaking the truth in love.”

    Obviously many of the commenters here disagree with John who I thought raised honest objections to Piper’s post. Is Piper worshipped this much that he cannot be agreed with? Can someone not disagree? Why can’t an honest dialogue without personal attacks be had?

    And if indeed John doesn’t know God (which I would not say based upon his comments), then is this the way to persuade him to follow the Prince of Peace? Seems like some pretty ineffective evangelism to me.

    I don’t mind disagreement, but wouldn’t it be better to have more light than heat?

  38. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 3:42 pm #

    Thanks Brian, I’d love to show you Alberta but it is actually very close in size to Texas so that would take a while. A steak I can do for sure. Let me know if you are coming.

  39. Joey October 21, 2008 at 3:51 pm #

    I think the issue at hand is still unanswered: God is more glorified and his attributes more clearly displayed because of evil. It’s a matter of perception and communication.

    How do we know God the depths of God’s love without the cross? Or the nature of his holiness without sin? God has chosen to interact with us in this way. Could he have done it another way, probably. But that is beside the point. What has he communicated to us in scripture, as to why evil exists? I believe the evidence strongly supports Piper’s statement.

  40. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 4:05 pm #

    Adam
    I haven’t seen Piper or Edwards use the phrase “God NEEDS the devil to maximize his glory” where do you get that from? There is a huge difference between needing to do something and choosing to do something. Grace for instance is a good example of something that God is not required to do and yet it brings him great glory. Justice OTOH is part of God’s nature and He cannot deny his own nature, but it is not as though Justice is something over and above God that constrains Him. It is much more helpful to criticize actual positions rather than a straw man caricature.

  41. William October 21, 2008 at 4:13 pm #

    Greg,

    Adam is actually rephrasing (intentionally or not) a legitimate argument against a closed teleology. It is argued that God has to do certain things in order for a closed teleology to work. Not that he will merely do them because he is a certain way… rather that implicitly he must do them. He is not setting up a straw man. (but you are right that Edwards does not explicitly say this)

  42. Adam Omelianchuk October 21, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    Greg, I wasn’t making a straw man. If you challenge the idea that Piper doesn’t believe God ordains evil to maximize his glory, then I think you are the one who is misrepresenting Piper. I represented his position as follows:

    The whole premise of the Edwards/Piper theodicy is that God ordains evil to bring about fuller more excellent presentation of himself to his creation.

    The devil is simply a subset of the category of evil. I went on to make the argument against Piper is this way:

    The devil question is simply answered within the larger answer to the “vessels of wrath” theology that Edwards/Piper espouse. If God’s display of wrath is necessary for his full self-glorification, and if his self-glorification is necessary, then wrath is essential to God. God would not be God without expressing it. Therefore, a world containing sinful creatures to be damned then becomes necessary for his self-actualization.

    My charge of necessity follows from the premise Piper affirms. If you can show how “grace” (a free [libertarian?] decision) is involved in these decrees, I would be interested.

  43. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm #

    William Thanks,
    I’m not familiar with the “closed teleology” argument but I would challenge anyone to show why God is constrained to create anything in the first place. The uncreated, self existent, Trinitarian God is a perfect example of unity within diversity. That God chose to create is not to say that He must do so. That said, having freely chosen to create, one would expect that God would do so in a way that will resound to His greatest glory. Don’t you think so?

  44. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 4:35 pm #

    Adam Your whole post was predicated in the notion that God needed to do what he did. You even put NEEDS in bold caps. This is where your argument falls down.

    “If God’s display of wrath is necessary for his full self-glorification, and if his self-glorification is necessary, then…”

    Big ifs there Adam can you substantiate the “necessity” of creation for God’s “self actualization” in the first place? I think not.

    “If you can show how “grace” (a free [libertarian?] decision) is involved in these decrees, I would be interested.”

    Oh no you don’t: As the challenger, the onus is squarely on you to demonstrate the lack in the trinity before Creation that “necessitated” Creation.

  45. William October 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    Greg,

    I don’t have a problem saying that “it is reasonable to suggest that God would operate in such a way to bring about glory to himself.” I just think it is a stretch to say that this is absolutely the case. Sure he can and may… but scripture tells us nothing other than that he created because it pleased him and that he is (not intends) to be ultimately glorified in creation.

    “Closed teleology” is not a commonly used term and I apologize for not defining it. It refers to Edwards’ (and others’) view that because God is rightly to be glorified above all else, then God himself, because he is by nature consistent with reality, *must* seek to glorify himself. As a result of this, Edwards’ asserted that God, by necessity, created the best of all possible worlds (the one world/history/reality in which he would be absolutely the most glorified of all possible worlds/histories/realities).

    That all sounds fine until you realize that it simply is not taught in scripture, nor is it necessary, plausible or explicit from a philosophical perspective. It is certainly possible that God created the most glorifying reality but it doesn’t make much sense to say with certainty that he did. Besides, would it not be more “glorifying” to say that God could have created an even more “glorifying” reality than this one? Is this the best God can do in glorifying himself? Sounds kind of like “restricting” his greatness if we say he does everything because he has to do that which is most glorifying. (Understand that this is the idea underlying Piper’s view of sovereignty etc. …even if you don’t see it explicitly in the statement(s) that got this whole thread started.)

    The best approach, in my oppinion, is to do what the biblical authors do… simply recognize that whatever the ultimate impetus (be there any) God has in creating and sustaining reality at it is, all we can be sure of is that he does as he pleases and all things will result in his glory (but let’s not confuse result with motivation).

    This is certainly an almost criminal representation of Edwards’ idea (because it is so short) but understand that this is the thinking behind Piper’s statement. It just goes too far in my oppinion.

    …but I appreciate what Piper is trying to do.

  46. William October 21, 2008 at 4:52 pm #

    The above post is not thorough so if anyone who knows Edwards’ views would like to elaborate that would be great… I would but I have to go to class 😉

  47. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 5:12 pm #

    William:
    Thanks for a thoughtful response.

    “Edwards’ asserted that God, by necessity, created the best of all possible worlds (the one world/history/reality in which he would be absolutely the most glorified of all possible worlds/histories/realities).”

    Not to nit pick but the above statement in no way necessitates God creating the world in the first place. It only says that having done so (Created) surely we can expect and be assured that God has done so in such a way that it will result in the “most glorified of all possible worlds/histories/realities).”. Unless you want to argue for a plan B Creation, I’m not sure why this is so contentious. Perhaps it’s no small accident that so many Arminians have decided to embrace the full consistency of their position and have moved toward Open Theism. Have a good class.

  48. Brian (Another) October 21, 2008 at 5:36 pm #

    I am by far the diminutive theologian of this site. So in keeping with that……Another aspect (and may I not get struck by lightning) is the Beavis and Butthead theory. Take their conversation:

    Beavis: Why do things have to suck.
    Butthead: Because if everything were awesome, how would you know it’s awesome. You have to have things that suck to know that something is awesome.

    Not that either of those two read a bible, but it casts light on one of the products of sin is that God is glorified from the plan that involves it (all things work for good). And, if for no other reason, we can see a glimpse of His glory through a comparison of what is dark.

  49. Adam Omelianchuk October 21, 2008 at 6:47 pm #

    Greg,

    You are missing the point. Obviously, God needing evil to glorify himself is absurd. But that is precisely what is implied by the Edwards/Piper model. By necessity, God MUST glorify himself, and because God ordains everything we have a theology that teaches God must have the devil doing what he does to glorify himself. If he did not, he could not glorify himself fully. However, given the premise of necessity, that cannot be.

    My argument is that if an implication of a proposition is false then the proposition itself is false. Since the idea of God needing evil to glorify himself (the implication) is false the idea that God ordains evil to bring about fuller more excellent presentation of himself to his creation (the proposition) is false.

  50. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 21, 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    That logic is faulty Adam. You’re working back wards from what you perceive to be an implication but from what I am sure is not positively presented as fact by Piper or Edwards. You have failed to meet the challenge I gave you in the last post. Namely: As the challenger, the onus is squarely on you to demonstrate some lack in the trinity before Creation that “necessitated” Creation.
    Care to give it another shot?

  51. Adam Omelianchuk October 21, 2008 at 9:23 pm #

    Greg,

    The logic is not faulty. You are not understanding it. Here is how it works:

    (1)The premise of the Edwards/Piper theodicy is that God ordains evil to bring about fuller more excellent presentation of himself to his creation. (citation)

    (2) If premise (1) is true, then God is most glorified

    (3) Necessarily, God must glorify himself in all that he does

    (4) God created the world

    (5) God ordained that evil (and by extension the devil) be

    (6) God displays his wrath against all that is evil

    (7) God is manifestly glorified
    _______________________

    (8) God is needs the devil in order to most glorify himself

    The necessity of the devil (5) follows from the necessity of God to glorify himself (from 3). To glorify himself is defined by (1)–that God sets things in place to display his attributes in manifold ways.

    I answered your challenge in the argument I already gave against (8). Here is again:

    If God’s display of wrath is necessary for his full self-glorification, and if his self-glorification is necessary, then wrath is essential to God. God would not be God without expressing it.

    God cannot express wrath within the Trinity. The Persons can know about it, but cannot “display” it. For wrath to be displayed, there must be something for wrath to be against–namely a fallen creation. Thus, the fallen creation is as necessary as God’s nature to glorify himself.

    If you deny this, then you deny the idea that the devil is needed to maximize God’s glory (1)–which you should.

  52. Rob October 21, 2008 at 10:47 pm #

    Wow. I just happened upon this blog tonight. I am ashamed. Christian Charity? Correcting one another in love? Please consider that you bear the Imago Dei, and therefore image God or fail to do so with all you say, especially in a public arena.

    For his namesake,
    Rob

  53. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 2:10 am #

    Again Adam you have failed to show that there was anything lacking within the community of the Trinity that compelled or necessitate God to create anything at all. Wrath is not a positive or necessary attribute of God so the “NEED” to exercise it is not apparent prior to Creation and in no way compelled God to create the Devil to complete some lack in the Godhead. I think you have a highly problematic view of the nature of God.

    The fact is that The Devil and Evil do exist, and Arminians such as yourself are not excused from the necessity of explaining why God created the world knowing that evil would come to exist. Either God created the world and ordained that evil would exist for His own good purpose and ultimate glory: or, (as you would seem to have me believe) God was unaware that evil would be the result of His creating and unable or unwilling to exercise divine sovereign control over His creation.

    Thanks for the link to the Piper article. I read it with great delight. This is from the closing section:

    “God is more glorious for having conceived and created and governed a world like this with all its evil. The effort to absolve him by denying his foreknowledge of sin (as we saw this afternoon) or by denying his control of sin (which we have seen this evening) is fatal, and a great dishonor to his word and his wisdom.”

    You would do well to heed what he says.

    “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?
    What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?”

  54. Adam Omelianchuk October 22, 2008 at 8:15 am #

    “Wrath is not a positive or necessary attribute of God so the “NEED” to exercise it is not apparent prior to Creation and in no way compelled God to create the Devil to complete some lack in the Godhead. I think you have a highly problematic view of the nature of God.”

    Greg, you have a lot of trouble understanding my argument. I am not TAKING the position that God NEEDED to create anything. I am saying that is the problem with the Edwards/Piper view. I am the one saying that this is a “highly problematic view of the nature of God.” If you think I hold this view, you are making a straw man.

    “Either God created the world and ordained that evil would exist for His own good purpose and ultimate glory: or, (as you would seem to have me believe) God was unaware that evil would be the result of His creating and unable or unwilling to exercise divine sovereign control over His creation.”

    If you don’t think God needs the devil to glorify himself through expressing his wrath then you don’t need to believe God ordains everything for his ultimate glory. I do not hold to a meticulous view of divine sovereignty of control over creation. You do. And since you apparently believe God controls everything to glorify himself (by necessity) it stands to reason God needs the devil to just that, and therefore, you end up contradicting yourself. When you do that, I have every right to ask you how wrath isn’t essential to God’s self-actualization.

    “God is more glorious for having conceived and created and governed a world like this with all its evil. The effort to absolve him by denying his foreknowledge of sin (as we saw this afternoon) or by denying his control of sin (which we have seen this evening) is fatal, and a great dishonor to his word and his wisdom.”

    I deny God’s control over my sins because I believe he is good and just. I am the reason why I would go to hell if it were not for his good mercy. In Calvinism that is not the case. God is the reason you go to hell, and apparently you think the Bible teaches that… for his glory of all things.

  55. Nick S October 22, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    Just wanted to say this thread was **much** more edifying to follow as soon as all the mug-slinging ended…

  56. Ferg October 22, 2008 at 10:14 am #

    I genuinely find no flaw in John’s first post.

    Adam, your points are well received.
    I don’t feel the need to join in the debate cause I find the premise that everything Satan does is willed by God as absolutely rediculous.
    People will flutter around it and say but the mysterious will of God and this verse and that verse etc, I still don’t buy it. Scripture taken as a whole speaks to me a massive opposite to the God of Reformed Theology. To think that from the beginning of time he decided to make humans, then make them rebel against him and then make some choose and some not, sending people to eternal damnation for his glory, ludicrous.

    It sounds like a Machiavellian dictatorship rather than a Father who has chased after us from the beginning to show us how deeply he loves us and wants us to join the relationship of the Trinity.

    Remember God has always loved us, we just don’t realise it. Man was reconciled to God, not God reconciled to man. Jesus didn’t have to convince God that we’re alright, God sent him to show us that he is the most amazing loving holy and righteous Father and creator.

  57. William October 22, 2008 at 10:21 am #

    Greg,

    I don’t have time for a full response to #45 other than to say that Edwards did in fact assert that God created a “most glorifying” world by necessity. Meaning he did this because he must be consistent with reality. Again, I have no problem saying that it is reasonable that he might have done this… I am just saying we cannot know if he did because (1) nothing is necessary for God and (2) scripture simply does not tell us. Therefore, the best policy in answering cosmic why’s is to simply say “because it pleases God.” This may sound like a cop out… but really it is just an unwillingness to go beyond scripture when nothing (not reason, philosophy etc) demands it. In fact, I think that the case has been made that reason demands us to allow God to create whatever world he wants… most glorifying or not.

    By the way… I am a staunch Calvinist/neo-Augustinian. I disagree strongly with Arminianism. It is important to understand that there are many who believe my position is more purely Calvinistic than Piper’s. Piper is often called a neo-Calvinist for his strange emphasis on ideas that are simply not present in Calvin (like the “best of all possible worlds” stuff). I really think that Piper is better described as Edwardsian (Johnathan Edwards).

    If you ever have time, you should read the first few chapters of Calvin’s Institutes. I think you would see a much different Calvin than you have seen before (unless of course, you have already read this… in which case, way to go) and I think you would enjoy his work. Most people never really read Calvin for Calvin’s sake, apart from the current language used to describe his views.

  58. William October 22, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    …and Adam,

    Quote from #51: “I deny God’s control over my sins because I believe he is good and just. I am the reason why I would go to hell if it were not for his good mercy. In Calvinism that is not the case. God is the reason you go to hell, and apparently you think the Bible teaches that… for his glory of all things.”

    Again, I wish I had more time but I must say this is a strong misunderstanding of Calvinism. I agree with much of what you have said but this is simply not true. Calvinism teaches that man goes to hell of his own accord… not by God’s restriction. You have misunderstood election at this point. In Calvinism, all men are already going to hell by their own decision, God simply chooses who to save from his (the man’s) own self. That is actually pretty generous if you think about it (but it is also more complex than this).

    Don’t throw out Calvin and Augustine just because Piper takes them to illogical conclusions.

  59. Adam Omelianchuk October 22, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    William,

    Well, will save that one for another day. Thanks for your posts, though. 🙂

  60. William October 22, 2008 at 11:54 am #

    Adam,

    That is probably a good idea… I appreciate your willingness to stick with the issue and not attack the person.

    Blessings

  61. D.J. Williams October 22, 2008 at 12:16 pm #

    Ferg said…
    “To think that from the beginning of time he decided to make humans, then make them rebel against him and then make some choose and some not, sending people to eternal damnation for his glory, ludicrous.”

    Ludicrous is right. What was that idiot Paul thinking in Romans 9:22-24? 🙂

  62. CH October 22, 2008 at 12:27 pm #

    William,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be more against how sure Piper is about his position rather than the position itself.

    Are you saying that Piper’s/Edward’s position could be the case, just that it is not clear that it is the case.

    Also, I’m having a little trouble seeing how your view is much different than Piper’s. Isn’t saying “because it pleases God” essentially saying the same thing as Piper?

    I’ve enjoyed the interaction between you and Greg. I’m just trying to get a clearer of picture of where you are coming from.

    Thanks!

  63. CH October 22, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Another thought I had…

    Isn’t saying “nothing is necessary for God” overstating the case a bit. It is necessary that God does nothing against his character, right?

  64. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 1:32 pm #

    Adam:

    “I am not TAKING the position that God NEEDED to create anything. I am saying that is the problem with the Edwards/Piper view.”

    What you are doing is accusing Piper of that, and you have yet to demonstrate that to be the case either by necessity or by quotation. I an simply pointing out that there was nothing lacking in God which COMPELLED God to create the world in the first place. That does not mean that He was not free to do so, and in fact He has created a world that does contain evil.

    “What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?” Romans 9:

    Notice the word “choosing”? There is nothing that compels God to do this in the sense that you seem to be using the term. OTOH I think Piper and Edwards are using the word necessary in a way that you are not. The necessity that they talk about is the manifestation of the world as it is, in able for us to see God in His fullness. God is already full and “NEEDS” nothing. This is what you started and predicated your critique with, and where I think you are off. God has simply chosen this world the way it is so that He can demonstrate to Us the fullness of His being which in turn results in the greatest Glory for Himself. John’s initial charge of Narcissism is therefore false because we are also the beneficiaries of the knowledge of who God is. To say that God’s ultimate goal is to bring glory to Himself is not to say that is His only reason for doing so.

    I said: Either God created the world and ordained that evil would exist for His own good purpose and ultimate glory: or, (as you would seem to have me believe) God was unaware that evil would be the result of His creating and unable or unwilling to exercise divine sovereign control over His creation.

    To which you replied:
    “If you don’t think God needs the devil to glorify himself through expressing his wrath then you don’t need to believe God ordains everything for his ultimate glory. I do not hold to a meticulous view of divine sovereignty of control over creation.”

    Your view flatly contradicts the vast majority of the Bible which claims that God does indeed exercise sovereign control over everything: every sparrow, every hair on your head. Joseph said to his brothers: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

    Adam: “I deny God’s control over my sins because I believe he is good and just.”

    Your refusal to take God at his word although seemingly humble, smacks of arrogance and pride. I can’t help but wonder why you don’t also take credit for your salvation since it’s all up to you and your “libertarian free will” to decide. God is reduced to helplessly sitting there waiting and wondering, wringing His hands to see who, if any, will respond to Jesus’ example. And you think Piper has problems?

    Arminians also need to account for the presence of evil in the world. Unless you are also prepared to deny God’s foreknowledge then you have exactly the same problem of God knowingly creating beings whom He knew would turn away from him and become evil. This make God responsible for evil just as much as the Calvinist position. The main difference between the Calvinist and the Arminian theodicies is that at least the Calvinist position acknowledges that God has done what He has done with an ultimate purpose and an assured outcome. The Arminian OTOH, is stuck with a God who does not “know” what His creation will do and is waiting (cap in hand) to see what the sinner will decide and how it will all work out. That is why many Arminians who wants to be consistent also fall into the error of Open Theism.

  65. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm #

    William Just a short note to say thanks for your posts.

    I agree with much of what you say but I have a slight disagreement with point #2 “scripture simply does not tell us.”
    Scripture tells us a lot, and what theologians do is piece those things together in a coherent manner. We would not have the doctrine of the Trinity if theologians had not done exactly that. I agree there are limits and that speculation can go too far. I’m not convinced that Piper and Edwards have crossed that line.

    I do have a copy of the institutes and started re reading it this morning, but this time from the beginning. Thanks for the challenge.

    Have a good day all.

  66. Adam Omelianchuk October 22, 2008 at 2:30 pm #

    Greg, I’m statisfied with ending it here. I don’t think you have overcome my argument at all with your post, so I will let what I’ve written stand.

    Cheers, Adam

  67. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 2:41 pm #

    Sorry to hear that Adam. I was looking forward to hearing a defense of the libertarian free will position and how that relives God from the charge of creating evil.

    I wonder if Joseph’s brothers would also deny God’s control over their sins because they believed he is good and just?

    Blessings
    Greg

  68. John October 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm #

    There is a difference between God causing evil to happen and God letting it happen. The Joseph story is filled with mystery about how God’s intentions and human actions work together, and it is hardly a text I would go to for support of my Calvinistic views (though virtually every Calvinist I’ve encountered goes to it). It never says anything like God caused the brothers to do it, overrode their freedom, etc. And we must not abandon the social situation, the great pain and awe Joseph’s brothers must have felt. This could be his way of just saying that he forgave them, that God has worked it out for good, etc. In any case, I don’t know how it proves that God ordained from before time began this evil act of selling someone into slavery, but it does prove that God works through evil acts to accomplish good, very good, things. I find it strange that you say “vast majority of the Bible” and then quote one really ambiguous example. If you think God causes people to sin, and controls your own sin, then you’re entitled to that, but you’re going to have a really tough time proving your point from the Scriptures. God is not capricious nor arbitrary, and he does not delight in the death of the wicked. If he ordained and caused all this sin and evil, then he would delight, for it is his perfect will. The logical fallacies are simply insurmountable given this position.

  69. CH October 22, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    Wow John, way to brush aside centuries of Biblical thought without even so much as an attempt to deal with the scriptures or arguments made.

    Joseph’s story isn’t the only support for the Calvinist view of God’s sovereignty. Look at Ephesians and Romans. Look at the story of Moses and Pharaoh. Look at the Gospels. Look at Job.

    C’mon man, deal with specific texts and arguments. Don’t just make nebulous appeals to mystery (knowing full well that Calvinists also embrace mystery). All of your supposed objections have been dealt with at length by many different scholars and theologians. If you are going to refute their ideas put in the effort to deal with specifics. Otherwise your comments are ignorant.

  70. Michael Metts October 22, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    “Greg The Anonymous Troll”

    lol

  71. Ferg October 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    Well put John. This whole issue boils down to how you view the God of scripture as a whole. Is the God of scripture, the God fully revealed in Jesus Christ, a God who has women raped, people needlessly kidnapped & slaughtered, ritualistically abused for years all for his ultimate glory?
    Did Jesus ever preach that gospel? he attributed all ailments to the work of the devil, not the work of his father.
    Did Jesus come to undo the work of his Father?

    If calvinism is true, there has to be a sense that Jesus came to undo the work of his Father, and that actually there is more to the Father than the outrageous love revealed on the cross, because hiding behind that is the vengeful God who is looking forward to bringing himself some glory by pouring his wrath on people and sending them to hell.

    Greg, do you honestly believe that God causes all our sins?
    So if if I put my wife down God wants this to happen? yet I’m responsible?

    What kind of a Father wants his children to behave in the ways the world is in?

    It is entirely incomprehensible for me to believe that God wants children to be raped.

  72. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 3:42 pm #

    What the Arminian wants to do is to arouse man’s activity: what we want to do is to kill it once for all – to show him that he is lost and ruined, and that his activities are not now at all equal to the work of conversion; that he must look upward. They seek to make the man stand up: we seek to bring him down, and make him feel that there he lies in the hand of God, and that his business is to submit himself to God, and cry aloud, ‘Lord, save, or we perish.’ We hold that man is never so near grace as when he begins to feel he can do nothing at all. When he says, ‘I can pray, I can believe, I can do this, and I can do the other,’ marks of self-sufficiency and arrogance are on his brow.
    C. H. Spurgeon

  73. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 3:48 pm #

    Michael #66

    “Greg The Anonymous Troll” lol

    It’s a term of affection as well as a badge of honor. 🙂

    Blessings

  74. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 3:54 pm #

    John: Take a boo at this article and note the number of Scriptures cited to back up the assertions. They are many and varied.

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/ProblemEvil.htm

    “It never says anything like God caused the brothers to do it, overrode their freedom, etc.”

    In fact it says precisely that John, read it again.

    “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”

  75. Ferg October 22, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    Greg, was Spurgeons quote a response to me or a general post?

    Do you believe God wants children to be raped for his glory?

  76. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    No Ferg it was just a general post.

    Do I believe that “God wants children to be raped for his glory?”

    Couldn’t you find a more loaded question Ferg? 🙂

    I believe God ordains all things and that what men intend for evil is in fact meant by God for ultimate good. Same point that Joseph made about his brothers, same point that Peter made about the death of Christ in Acts, same point Paul makes in Romans 8:, same point the bible makes over and over again. Do I think God actually does these things Himself? No! I think he uses secondary agents. What I draw comfort from is that all this evil in the world is not simply random acts of senseless violence but it all has a purpose, and will ultimately resound to the glory of God.

  77. Ferg October 22, 2008 at 4:43 pm #

    I appreciate your honesty Greg. Could I find a more loaded question? probably not! I don’t want to either, but I do think that we have to use the basest example as tragedies like rape and abuse happen all the time and they are real pains that people have to deal with.
    Issues that we as followers of Jesus have to pastor people through and I believe it’s so important that we have a true understanding of our Father as we explain to others what his heart is for them.
    We find comfort in differing aspects in the problem of pain, but I’m sure as brothers in Christ we can take comfort from the fact that we who are so unworthy have been saved and redeemed by a Father who loves us more than we can ever ever imagine.

  78. Darius October 22, 2008 at 4:47 pm #

    Ferg, Christ dying on the cross is infinitely worse or more unjust than children being raped (as bad as that is). And if God pre-ordained that to work for good, don’t you think He can allow any evil violence to work for His ultimate glory and the good of mankind? Furthermore, one has to realize that God is keeping this world together and keeping humanity halfway civilized, without Him we would completely destroy each other. So it’s not a matter of wanting people to be raped or whatever the violent act, it’s a case of humanity being fortunate that we’re not all killed or raped.

  79. Ferg October 22, 2008 at 5:01 pm #

    Yeah, I’ve heard that before but I don’t think it’s a good thing to say to a mother “You’re lucky all your kids weren’t raped and killed, be blessed that it was just one”. “Oh and this is for God’s greater glory, you may not understand it but it’s true, God brings about these things for his glory”.

    I also don’t really understand the logic of God keeping things from going a certain way when he has it the way it is and it can never be different to that anyway.

    I would think that Isaiah sums up God’s view of people who rape kids
    Isaiah 30:1
    “Woe to the obstinate children,”
    declares the LORD,
    “to those who carry out plans that are
    not mine”

    God has never needed evil to bring about goodness. he is infinitely good and I truly do not believe that evil has anything to do with God. He is fully revealed in Jesus.

  80. Darius October 22, 2008 at 5:06 pm #

    He doesn’t make it happen, but He does form it to His ultimate will. The evildoer is responsible for doing evil, not God. God put Christ here on earth and, while He wanted everyone to immediately repent, He knew that the Jews would crucify Him, so He used that to His higher purpose.

  81. Ferg October 22, 2008 at 5:11 pm #

    you can’t really believe that God has everything mapped out and wills everything to happen yet doesn’t make it happen.

  82. Darius October 22, 2008 at 5:12 pm #

    Obviously, there is a ton of mystery in it all. The one thing that we can be certain of from Scripture is that no matter what happens, God is in control and nothing happens that He doesn’t at the very least allow.

  83. John October 22, 2008 at 5:14 pm #

    CH,

    Way to interact with my comment (sarcasm). “Centuries of Biblical thought”? Just because your favorite church history theologians believed this way does not mean that it has been the dominant view throughout church history. In fact, it hasn’t. Augustine kind of got the ball rollin, Anselm picked it up a little bit in the medieval period, and Luther, Calvin, and Edwards made it full-fledged. If you’re going to make a blanket statement like “centuries of biblical thought” and imply that my view is foreign to “biblical thought” and history, then you need to familiarize yourself with the evidence. If this were such an important issue, then Christ’s teachings would have been permeated with it, but we don’t have a trace of such a barbaric and monstrous view of God in the Gospels…we just have to distort a couple of things Paul said and try to make 1 or 2 gray OT examples black and white.

    It’s not ironic that the only people I’ve encountered that believe this way are mainly white, middle-class Americans. Go preach this rubbish in Rwanda (you know, poor and oppressed people, whom Jesus came for, not those who are healthy) and see what they say; they would want no part of this God, absolutely none.

  84. John October 22, 2008 at 5:15 pm #

    Darius,

    I think we can find some common ground with your last statement. Thank you for that.

  85. Darius October 22, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    Ferg, let’s keep our own opinions out of it for a second and look at what Paul had to say about it.

    Romans 9:14-23
    “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

    “You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—”

    If we honestly just read this text for what it says and leave out our own presuppositions about God, it’s pretty clear that God ordains and directs bad things to show His glory. He even destroys people to do just that (of course, they are guilty because all have chosen to sin). It’s something we won’t understand on this side of heaven; the idea that God chooses some for heaven or hell yet we have free will. In our finite minds, this doesn’t make very much sense.

  86. D.J. Williams October 23, 2008 at 8:04 am #

    John said…
    “It’s not ironic that the only people I’ve encountered that believe this way are mainly white, middle-class Americans. Go preach this rubbish in Rwanda (you know, poor and oppressed people, whom Jesus came for, not those who are healthy) and see what they say; they would want no part of this God, absolutely none.”

    I think you need to get out more, then. I’ve got some decidedly non-white, non-middle class folks at my church I’d like you to meet.

  87. Darius October 23, 2008 at 8:27 am #

    I would agree with DJ. It’s actually white middle class Americans who least believe this. Strong Christians in Rwanda believe much more in this Scriptural view of God. After all, if one has gone through what African Christians have gone through, you have to rely on God being in complete control and knowing what He’s doing.

  88. John October 23, 2008 at 8:58 am #

    Darius,

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Evidently you don’t get out much. And I like how you just put in “Scriptural view of God” all casually and everything, as if it’s even the truth, and as if you even know Christians in Rwanda. Like I said, about the only people I’ve met that can believe in this stuff are white, middle to upper-class Americans. You honestly think Africans or whomever believe this? You’re profoundly mistaken. Believe it or not, people who have been oppressed, tortured, and don’t have food to eat don’t want much to do with a God who causes it all to happen and willed that their father be slaughtered and their mother’s breasts be cut off. I understand God may allow this to happen to some BELIEVERS to further his name, but you can’t use a slippery slope and say he does in every single little case.

    DJ, sorry, I guess you must have friends that are upper-class or something. Good for you for having friends that aren’t white. Thanks for reading and indicating that I said ALL who believe this way are white and middle-class, not just MAINLY. People represent others so well on here.

  89. Darius October 23, 2008 at 9:12 am #

    John, you are sorely mistaken. It is primarily someone like you (white middle class American) who lives such a cushy life that they can believe that God stays out of it and that it’s all of their own doing. A Rwandan survivor knows that God is no god at all if He isn’t in control.

  90. John October 23, 2008 at 9:49 am #

    I’m glad you’re the authority here Darius. How many people do you know in Rwanda? Have you ever been to Rwanda? Have you even met anybody from Rwanda? Have you ever traveled outside of the US of A?

  91. CH October 23, 2008 at 10:06 am #

    John,

    Since you seem to be an expert on Christians in Rwanda, how many do you know? Are you speaking from experience or are you only giving your impressions, as if they are authoritative.

    If it is so hard to believe that someone that has gone through horrible things would embrace the sovereignty of God, I think you should read some of Solzhenitsyn’s writings.

    And since you think experience is the great decider of truth…I know many people who have embraced a Calvinist view because of the trials they have gone through. I would even bet I know more people like that than the ones you claim don’t believe it because of the horrible things that have happened to them.

    I’m stooping to your level John, but even your own games fail to prove your point.

  92. D.J. Williams October 23, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    John,

    It seems kind of odd to make a sweeping generalization about Calvinists being white suburbanites and then criticize me for lack of nuance in my representation of you.

    Sorry to burst your bubble, man, but most of the kids in my youth group are far from suburbianites with little cushy lives. They not only believe in God’s sovereignty, but they embrace and celebrate it.

  93. John October 23, 2008 at 12:01 pm #

    DJ,

    You’re funny, as if youth group kids really know what that entails. And don’t go talking like since I’m not a Calvinist I don’t believe in God’s “sovereignty”. This is such a common mistake that Calvinists make and I am tired of seeing it. They act like if you don’t believe and think like they do, then you don’t believe God is sovereign. Sorry bro, but wrong answer and try again. The problem with Calvinism is that it emphasizes sovereignty above everything else, and acts as if this is the defining and most important attribute of God, to the de-emphasis of others. I hate to break it to you, but I believe in God’s sovereignty and I’m not a Calvinist, so you need to re-think how you word these things.

    CH, yes, I know people there and people that have gone there. And there you go again, like DJ, thinking that because somebody is not a Calvinist means they don’t believe in nor embrace the sovereignty of God. I hate to break it to you, but non-Calvinists can believe in sovereignty of God too. I don’t know why Calvinists can’t accept this and represent it correctly. You act as if anyone who doesn’t believe in your system doesn’t believe God is sovereign. That’s sad. It’s akin to me saying that anybody who doesn’t believe in Arminianism doesn’t believe in God’s love. For me to say this would be absurd, just as for you excluding all systems other than Calvinism that believe in God’s sovereignty is equally absurd. It’s like me saying, since you all are Calvinists, “Gee! I can’t believe you don’t believe in God’s love. I think God is love, but you don’t. If we neglect God’s love, as you guys do, then we neglect loving others and God’s gift of Jesus to his creation. We also neglect 1 Cor 13 if we neglect love, and that’s what you guys do since you’re Calvinists. I know some people though who do believe in the love of God, believe it or not.”

    I’m sure you agree that this is just silly, as are your statements about “sovereignty.”

  94. Darius October 23, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    Perhaps John, you should look up the word “sovereign.” By definition, you don’t believe God is sovereign.

  95. Darius October 23, 2008 at 12:08 pm #

    John, why does evil happen then? How would you answer this question? Is God just surprised by it and before He knows it, it’s happened? Or does He only have so much power and time and can’t involve Himself in every single part of life on Earth? Or perhaps He enjoys seeing humans squirm in pain?

  96. John October 23, 2008 at 12:19 pm #

    Ok Darius, since I don’t believe in Calvinism, then I don’t believe God is sovereign. That makes perfect sense.

    And by definition, you don’t believe God is love.

    Fair?

  97. CH October 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    You see John, I used to be very hostile to Calvinism. Most of my life in fact. And the thing is, you sound almost exactly like I did when I would argue against Calvinists.

    What changed my mind? Someone pushed my ideas to the logical conclusion and revealed to me that my ideas were logically inconsistant. I was trying to have it both ways and couldn’t. I was left with either God isn’t sovereign or that he is, he just doesn’t exercise it at all times.

    This second choice may sound good, but once I was put in that position I was forced to realize Scripture doesn’t leave me with that option. Try as you might, Scripture does not support the “sometimes sovereign” God.

    Take the plunge John, engage with Darius’s question, push your beliefs to their logical ends and see if they remain consistant.

    Based on your understanding of God can you really say that God is sovereign?

  98. John October 23, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    Darius,

    I think that’s a question that every generation has had since the beginning of time and we’re not given a clear answer in Scripture for. I think to a degree evil happens because of the freedom God has given to his creatures, but this doesn’t mean he’s not in control, for he could wipe anybody out at any moment and he controls the universe. As far as if God can do anything then why doesn’t he stop it, I don’t know and I don’t really think we’re given an answer. In Job, it’s because of cosmic warfare, not because God caused or willed it. Your theology seems to allude to enjoying seeing humans squirm in pain, so I don’t know why you mention that about me. I don’t think God is surprised by anything since he knows the hearts, thoughts, and plans of man.

    My point is that we don’t have to have a little platitude and cliche answer for every single thing. John Piper does not have the whole mystery solved by his cliches. This is a question every generation has wrestled with and the Bible just isn’t very clear on. So lets quit acting so prideful as to think we’re the enlightened ones and know all the answers when truthfully the matter is much more gray instead of black and white, okay? That’s all I ask from the Calvinists. Quit talking like I don’t think God is sovereign since I’m not a Calvinist, and I will quit saying you don’t believe in the love of God, okay?

  99. CH October 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    John,

    Your position creates more problems than it solves. And I find your attempts to continually brush aside Scriptural peeks at why evil exists less than compelling.

    Piper’s statement is far from a platitude or cliche. It’s a statement of general principle that helps us to understand, to the extent we can, why evil exists. I completely agree that we cannot fathom the full extent of the “why” of evil. I don’t think Piper’s statement answers all questions. What it does do is offer an anchor or foothold, something to stand on even when we don’t understand why things are happening the way they are.

  100. John October 23, 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    CH said,

    “You see John, I used to be very hostile to Calvinism. Most of my life in fact. And the thing is, you sound almost exactly like I did when I would argue against Calvinists.”

    Interpretation: “You see John, I was once ignorant like you and didn’t know the answers to all of this, but now I have been enlightened to the full truth. I was once wrong like you, but now I’m right, so just believe like me and you can be right too and in the enlightened crowd.”

    I hate to tell you CH, but my story is the exact opposite. I was once an “enlightened” Calvinist who believe exactly like you did. What changed my mind? Someone pushed my ideas to the logical conclusion and revealed to me that my ideas were logically inconsistent. I’m serious about this, dead serious. The logical inconsistency is absolutely astounding. It took someone I respected to challenge me on my believe and re-think and re-look at a few things. I noticed how gray the matter was, and how the evidence favored the exact opposite of what I had always believed and taught. In fact, the majority of non-Calvinists I know were once Calvinists and now are not (these are mainly people in the academy, not lay level).

    So what do you want CH, sovereignty or love? If you believe in one you can’t believe in the other. Of course, this is by your logic, since you can’t have both. Because obviously if you emphasize sovereignty to the degree that you do, then you can’t believe in God’s love. So which one is it? Which one is the most important for you? Which one trumps the other, since it can’t be both, that would be “illogical,” right?

    So based on your understanding of God, can you honestly say that God is love? I can say that God is sovereign, and I heartily affirm it, thank you very much. But take your system and position to it’s logical conclusion, and tell me if you can say if God is love or not. Extrapolate this Calvinistic view of God and tell me if you can believe in mission, or prayer, or evangelism…honestly, can you?

    Logic my friend, logic. The Calvinistic system is the least logical of all. I mean, logically, why would you want to do mission or pray, or evangelize? God already has it all mapped out anyways! It’s gonna happen regardless! This is logic CH.

  101. Darius October 23, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    “Your theology seems to allude to enjoying seeing humans squirm in pain,”

    Where has anyone said this? This just shows that either you don’t actually know what Calvinism is or you like throwing in straw men.

    “So lets quit acting so prideful as to think we’re the enlightened ones and know all the answers when truthfully the matter is much more gray instead of black and white, okay? That’s all I ask from the Calvinists.”

    Believing in truth is prideful? When it comes to this issue, if your god is so small as you say, then I, as a Christian, am required to attempt to show you the truth.

    “In Job, it’s because of cosmic warfare, not because God caused or willed it.”

    I’m glad you brought up Job, though it is a bit ironic. If you read the whole book, it is pretty clear that Job views God as in control of everything, willing it all to happen. Yet He doesn’t view God as some kind of cosmic monster.

    The Bible is pretty clear, He ordains everything and to deny this is to deny Him.

  102. Darius October 23, 2008 at 12:47 pm #

    “In fact, the majority of non-Calvinists I know were once Calvinists and now are not (these are mainly people in the academy, not lay level).”

    They obviously never accurately understood Calvinism or the implications therein.

  103. CH October 23, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    Hmmm…considering you just described a bunch of hyper-calvinist perspectives I think my logical integrity is intact.

  104. Darius October 23, 2008 at 12:48 pm #

    “So what do you want CH, sovereignty or love? If you believe in one you can’t believe in the other. Of course, this is by your logic, since you can’t have both. Because obviously if you emphasize sovereignty to the degree that you do, then you can’t believe in God’s love. So which one is it? Which one is the most important for you?”

    This is such a false dichotomy. But it is becoming quite clear that your eyes are blinded to this, and nothing we say will have any affect on you.

  105. Darius October 23, 2008 at 12:55 pm #

    “Logic my friend, logic. The Calvinistic system is the least logical of all. I mean, logically, why would you want to do mission or pray, or evangelize? God already has it all mapped out anyways! It’s gonna happen regardless! This is logic CH.”

    It has nothing (or little) to do with logic, and everything to do with what is Biblical. In our finite minds, full sovereignty of God can’t exist with God’s infinite love. But if we allow the Word to inform and instruct us, all things are possible. God is sovereign AND loving because He “works everything together for good for those who love Him.” Furthermore, He wants everyone to come to Him, but many reject Him. All would reject Him if it were not for His loving grace.

  106. D.J. Williams October 23, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

    John said…
    “You’re funny, as if youth group kids really know what that entails.”

    Wow, John. Perhaps you’d like to tell me what my youth group kids know. I’m all ears. After all, I’ve only spent 3 1/2 years with them. You’ve seen them referenced on the internet. Obviously, I’ll defer.

  107. William October 23, 2008 at 2:58 pm #

    CH,

    Regarding your questions #62 and #63… Those are good questions and answering them would be a good way to clarify the issue a little bit. However, this thread has deteriorated and I don’t think we should continue that here. I would be more than happy to discuss it over email (let me know).

    …or perhaps we can meet again on a different thread. Do you have a blog or some other place to discuss?

  108. Ferg October 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm #

    DJ, Darius al, apologies for not writing further, but I don’t want to join in the degeneration of this post!
    blessings.

  109. Darius October 23, 2008 at 4:01 pm #

    Ferg, for one, what degeneration? I thought everyone, including John, has remained pretty civil. Two, please respond to #85. How do you read that text?

  110. John October 23, 2008 at 5:33 pm #

    I don’t understand the “degeneration” and “deteriorated” posts either Darius. It seems to me to be a pretty good post. The only thing I don’t like about it is that I’m the only non-Calvinist chiming in, getting attacked by 4 or 5 Calvinists every time I say something 🙂

  111. John October 23, 2008 at 5:37 pm #

    Also, Darius, I really don’t appreciate the recent remarks about you thinking that I don’t know God. Even above, you put “if your god…” with a lower case “g”, indicating it’s not the true God.

    These are insulting, and just downright mean. I don’t agree with you a lot, but never would I stoop this low.

  112. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 23, 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    John: if you walked into a biker bar and shouted “all bikers are Gay!”, I think you would get a reaction. This is essentially what you have done and continue to do on this blog for practically every post. Either suck it up and roll with it or run away, but PLEASE don’t start whinning.

  113. Darius October 23, 2008 at 5:54 pm #

    Well, while I was not trying to insult, I was trying to make the point that if the God/god that you worship is as small and incompetent as you make Him/him out to be, then we are definitely talking about two different gods or at least one which you need to get to know a whole lot better. The god/God I know is, as Paul said it, the potter and we are His clay. If He chooses to allow people to suffer (even sets up circumstances for that), then I know that He is doing so to both further His glory and His plan.

    Take World War II for example. Can anyone doubt that something that important happened except by the will and plan of God? Millions of people suffered and died, but it was the “Lord’s purpose that prevailed.”

  114. John October 23, 2008 at 6:08 pm #

    Greg,

    Am I whining? I never whined, I just told Darius I didn’t appreciate him telling me that I don’t know the real God. And no, your biker analogy is ridiculous. At least I have something in common with people on here…namely, we share a common bond in Jesus Christ.

    In any case, was my post even addressed to you?

    Darius,

    Well I suppose that if the god/God you worship is as barbaric as you propose and this god/God has it all mapped out, and this god/God ordained that people go to hell from before time began out of his good pleasure, then we are indeed talking about two different gods, or at least one in which you’ve severely misunderstood according to the Bible.

  115. John October 23, 2008 at 6:09 pm #

    I assume you’re just living up to your name Greg 🙂

  116. Darius October 23, 2008 at 6:34 pm #

    John (and Ferg and any other people who believe God isn’t in control of all things), could you please for once give some Biblical evidence that serves as a warrant for your belief that God flies by the seat of His cosmic pants? I have given Romans 9, and you have ignored it, which shows that you probably base your beliefs on your own opinions and not on the Word of God. That is indeed a dangerous thing to do.

  117. Ferg October 23, 2008 at 6:57 pm #

    Darius,
    to be honest, I don’t have the energy to get into a discussion at length with someone who claims

    “Can anyone doubt that something that important happened except by the will and plan of God? Millions of people suffered and died, but it was the “Lord’s purpose that prevailed.””

    The Lord’s purpose prevailed???? What purpose? The slaughter, rape, torture of millions of people? Hooray for God’s mysterious will. that is plain outrage to pin something like that on Jesus.

    Romans 9 is a complex chapter, but you can’t use it on it’s own to say that God causes everything that happens. Everything points to Jesus and it cannot be reconciled with him. It means the God revealed on Calvary was only half of God. The loving half – the other have who hates people and wants to send them to hell is concealed.
    Paul is not concerned with individual salvation in this chapter – it’s about the jewish nation. Paul is saying that God can choose who he wants, telling the Jews that he can choose gentiles based on their faith. The individual examples Paul uses are representative of nations, that’s why he used them.

    You seemed to leave out Pauls conclusion that points to free will being a determining factor

    “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone.” 33As it is written:
    “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble
    and a rock that makes them fall,
    and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”

    God’s process of hardening some and having mercy on others is not arbitrary: God expresses “severity toward those who have fallen [the nation of Israel] but kindness toward you [believers] provided you continue in his kindness” (11:22). God has mercy on people and hardens people in response to their belief or unbelief.

    I find it interesting that calvinists so often use the potter and clay analogy but forget the earlier potter clay analogy in
    Jeremiah 18

    This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

    5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it.

    This issue is much bigger than Romans 9 Darius. It’s about what the whole of scripture says about God. And about all of history pointing to Jesus, a Jesus who came to do the work of his father. That is to provide a way of salvation for all.

    Do you not see the Fathers heart burning for all of mankind? A Father who sent his son to die, and raise from the dead, so they would know how much he loves his creation?

  118. John October 23, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    Darius,

    Nowhere, not in one place, did Ferg or myself say that God is not in control. It’s God ordaining and causing all things to happen that we don’t believe in and do not believe the Bible speaks to. Why, in your mind, do you have to have a God who ordains and causes all things in order for him to be in control? This is faulty logic, and it’s dead wrong.

    Romans 9 is about Jews and Gentiles, not individuals God damned and saved from before time began, so I don’t see how that pertains to the current discussion.

    Do you believe that God wants all people to come to know him? Evidently you don’t, or you wouldn’t believe God, from before time began, chose some for eternity in heaven and others for eternity in hell, which means he only loves the “elect” (a totally misunderstood term by Calvinists). So, since you believe this, then you base your beliefs on your own opinions and not on the Word of God, which is dangerous (1 Tim 2:4,6, 2 Pet 3:9). Look at these texts and tell me that God doesn’t want everybody to come to know him. If, in his good pleasure from before time began, chose some for heaven and others for hell, then he could care less about everybody coming to know him. Do you not see the logical inconsistency with this? Where are your texts? Freedom of choice is literally on every single page of Scripture, and is so obvious that it doesn’t need explicit proof-texts to affirm it. In fact, every single Gospel assumes some type of choice by the characters and by the reader, and not once are we given a picture of a God who has arbitrarily chosen some and not others, or a God who already has everything mapped out. However, Calvinism has about 3 or 4 (misunderstood) texts they refer to, and then they read everything else in light of those few texts, thus twisting and distorting all kinds of stuff to make it say what they want it to. This, my friend, is dangerous.

    And by the way, Darius, you somewhat imply (or sound like) this is such a huge issue that it possibly determines between saved/not saved. Well, I would direct your attention to history and current times. First off, the Bible is not a systematic theology textbook, and both systems fall up short to a degree. Second, all kinds of people throughout every single generation have disagreed about this (think Calvinists are the only important church history guys? Check out Chrysostom, Arminius, Wesley, Erasmus). Modern scholars who are very respected evangelicals who publicly deny Calvinism: Scot McKnight, I.H. Marshall, Ben Witherington, David DeSilva, John Goldingay, Terence Fretheim, William Klein. These are all God-loving, people-loving, well-respected Evangelicals whom others, such as (I would venture to say) Denny Burk, would not question their Christianity for a split second.

    So why is it such a big deal to you? Why act like if I don’t believe like you do about God and adopt more of a view like Scot McKnight or I. Howard Marshall then it’s questionable on whether I’m a Christian or not? If you honestly think this way, then you need a reality check.

  119. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 23, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    John: “I’m the only non-Calvinist chiming in, getting attacked by 4 or 5 Calvinists every time I say something”

    Would you like a hanky? Perhaps a glass of warm milk and your blanky.

    “was my post even addressed to you?”

    As one of your so called attackers I just naturally assumed I should join the pile on. 🙂

    Calling God “some narcissistic divine being who only cares about himself?” (notice all lower case) (which you did in launching the opening salvo), is at least as insulting as leaving off the capital G. In fact it is close to blasphemous. So no whine before it’s time: OK? 🙂

    Darius has raised a good challenge. We’ve already had one Arminian exercise his libertarian free will and run away. If your going to stay and play the thorn, John; at least try to make a positive contribution.

  120. John October 23, 2008 at 7:39 pm #

    Greg,

    I put a smiley face after that first comment. Grow up and quit acting like a 5 year old. Asking me about a hanky and warm milk? Real mature Greg, you just revealed a lot about yourself and your maturity level, thanks for that…very telling

    How old are you anyways? 12? No no, I’ll give 13 🙂 Okay okay, maybe a freshman in high school 🙂

    You noted how I put all those letter in lower case, well you obviously don’t know anything about current scholarship and writing. Even all conservative scholars put references and personal pronouns referring to God in lower case. So, this explains a lot about where you’re at 🙂

    Have you even been reading Greg? I’ve given my responses above. If you don’t want to interact with them, then don’t say anything.

    You sure have a good name about yourself Greg, for you’re definitely living up to it. Grow up or don’t comment! We’re trying to have a discussion here and can do without your immature remarks.

  121. Darius October 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm #

    Ferg, let me throw something simple at you. How do you suppose the end times will come? I mean, even if the Left Behind series is way way off (and it probably is), Revelation (and history) tells us that humanity will become extremely hostile toward God and Christians. At such a point where God sees no value in allowing the world to continue, He will bring His people home. Is He just sitting around hoping that Satan decides to step up the attacks so He can bring His people home soon, or do you believe that He is directing all of history toward the Second Coming, bad with the good? For example, WWII was likely a huge step toward the Second Coming, and Satan attempted to wipe out all of God’s Old Covenant people, but God saved a remnant. People choose to do evil, but God works it for good. Denying this is to deny a huge part of who God is. God isn’t just some passive onlooker hoping that things work out.

    Similarly, look at the Old Testament. A faithful understanding of the OT shows us that God ordained a lot of evil so that He could reveal His ultimate plan in Christ. Now, this is where the mystery is. The Israelites chose to chase after evil, yet God also hardened their hearts or allowed them to wander. With Christians, He does all the work, so why not with the Jews as well? With me, He planted the faith, He called me to Him, and He saved me. I then work out my faith (not faith by works, mind you) as a witness to His Spirit inside me.

  122. Darius October 23, 2008 at 9:24 pm #

    John, I am not necessarily doubting your salvation (at least, not based on this issue). I just am concerned that you risk a situation like 1 Cor 3:10-15. Furthermore, you aren’t able to enjoy the opportunity to worship God for all that He is: a glorious, all-powerful, omnipotent Father who both loves us and directs our path. He chooses whom to save and whom to not save, this is clear from Scripture. Everyone deserves damnation, that is also clear from Scripture. So praise be to Him that He has chosen you and me for His Kingdom work!

  123. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm #

    John: first of all there were a couple of smiley faces 🙂 :)in my post as well and the two long posts before mine posted while I was typing so take a deep breath and stop being such a total jerk.

    You are not discussing anything. All you are doing is throwing insults and ignoring the substance of the issue. That’s how you started with the very first post and you continue to obfuscate and whine. Your big response to Romans 9: was to dismiss it with one whole line and the positive presentation of your Arminian position consisted of “(1 Tim 2:4,6, 2 Pet 3:9)” no text, just the bare verse numbers and the outrageous assertion that freedom of choice is “so obvious that it doesn’t need explicit proof-texts to affirm it.” Your kidding right?

    As for capitalization. You are all hurt when Darius didn’t capitalize God but when you blasphemously referred to God as “some narcissistic divine being who only cares about himself?” not only did you not capitalize the divine pronoun: but worse, and much worse than that, you clearly implied that Piper worships a false god. If you want respect then show some yourself. I rarely hear Calvinists say that Arninians are not saved but I hear the opposite all the time. You set the tone on this post right from the start so quit your crying and “Play the man, Mr. Ridley”.

  124. Ferg October 24, 2008 at 7:15 am #

    You didn’t respond to anything in my post Darius, did you notice that? I’m not saying that’s a sign that you can’t I’m just saying that you would be the first person to say to me “You need to respond to what I said before we move on” – hence my minimalistic response to Romans 9 (we’d be here for a year doing an exegesis on it).
    Revelation is not set in stone that it is about the end times, it could have easily been about 70ad and the fall of jerusalem as well Darius.
    God knows what he’s at, and I do believe he is all powerful and sovereign, the world will end when God wants it to. I don’t and will never speculate, if only the Father knows, then I’m not gonna try figure it out.
    Again, you are alluding to the fact that God needs to use evil to bring about his plans. He doesn’t. And why would he? What kind of a loving God ordains evil for his own benifit?
    The world has always been hostile to God.

    We’ve already had one Arminian exercise his libertarian free will and run away.

    Greg, I’m not an Arminian, and I’m still here. You can feel free to comment on my post 117.

  125. CH October 24, 2008 at 8:39 am #

    William, if you are still checking this thread I’d love to discuss things further. You can email me at cjh1030@hotmail.com

    If you aren’t checking this, I’ll catch up with you in another thread.

  126. Brian (Another) October 24, 2008 at 12:10 pm #

    Ferg (or william, etc.):

    Isn’t there a difference between desire and knowledge? As in, it seems at odds to say God is sovereign but somehow escape to say that He doesn’t know about evil. Which it sounds like what is being said. But this is a set of comments on a blog, so in-depth analysis is difficult to come by.

    To touch on a comment made, What kind of a loving God ordains evil for his own benifit?, again, here it is getting into a why. God causes all to work for good (that’s the why, the what is that He causes all things to word). He ordains our footsteps. He knows when the smallest sparrow falls. God has a sovereign plan, is all-knowing and we won’t deviate from His plan. I think part of the reason that people get passionate about this is because it gets to our core being and it affects the “why are we here” thought going through our minds.

    I read the following two things and immediately thought of this particular post:

    Adrian Warnock on one point Calvinism
    Seth McBee on people are different

    Blessings, y’all!

  127. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 24, 2008 at 4:59 pm #

    Thanks for the invite Ferg.

    I answered your question and I hope you will do the same for me.

    Do you believe God knew that evil would result from His creation before he created anything?

    “The Lord’s purpose prevailed???? What purpose?”

    This leads me to my next question:

    Assuming an affirmative response to the first question; Either God had a purpose in creating a world in which He knew for certain that “The slaughter, rape, torture of millions of people” would be the result, or He did not. Which one is it?

  128. Ferg October 24, 2008 at 6:24 pm #

    “I answered your question and I hope you will do the same for me.”

    Where did you respond to me?
    You responded to John, not me.

    God has a purpose in us being in relationship with him and becoming his adopted sons. In his full sovereignty he decided to allow us free will.
    We rape and torture and slaughter, God doesn’t. He doesn’t will it, he doesn’t like it.
    Do you honestly honestly believe that our loving Father in heaven fully revealed in Jesus ordains the raping of babies?

  129. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 24, 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    Ferg:

    “Where did you respond to me?”

    It was back a bit so perhaps you forgot. Asked #71 answered #76 You even thanked me for my honesty. I hope I will be able to thank you for yours as well.

    Let’s take them one at a time.

    #1. Do you believe God KNEW that evil would result from His creation BEFORE he created anything?

  130. Ferg October 24, 2008 at 7:25 pm #

    I believe God knew there was a chance yeah. Relationship is all about risk and God is a God who risks as that is what genuine true love is all about. Risking the fact that we might reject him. We did. But look at the amazing lengths he’s gone to to show us how wrong we were and how merciful loving and kind he is.

  131. Darius October 24, 2008 at 7:34 pm #

    “Do you honestly honestly believe that our loving Father in heaven fully revealed in Jesus ordains the raping of babies?”

    He directed the Israelites to commit genocide of whole people groups, including children.

  132. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 24, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    Thanks Ferg.

    A chance?

    Either He knew for certain, or He didn’t. You seem to be leaning toward He didn’t.

  133. John October 25, 2008 at 11:14 am #

    Greg,

    It’s pointless to have these conversations with you. The only thing you’re trying to do is trap us in our words, I suppose for some type of Christian ego thing or something. We’re not pressing you to admit that God caused 6 million Jews to die in WWII, or 50 million babies aborted between 1973-present, which is the logical conclusion your system takes. If I had to choose between God limiting himself in his foreknowledge and the gross, barbaric view of God that affirms he caused and ordained these things to happen, I’ll choose the former every day of the week. You need to learn how to actually dialog with somebody, and conversing with you is pointless.

  134. Greg The Anonymous Troll October 25, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    John that tension you are feeling is not me trying to trap you. Rather, it’s the illogic of your own un-scriptural position hitting home.

    “We’re not pressing you to admit that God caused 6 million Jews to die in WWII, or 50 million babies aborted between 1973-present”

    Actually you are and I have given straightforward answers, which is more than I can say for you.

    You know what they say: when you can’t stand the heat….

    “You need to learn how to actually dialog with somebody”

    That is rich coming from you.

  135. John October 25, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    Greg, you’re funny. I get a good laugh whenever I read you. Thanks

  136. Ben October 28, 2008 at 5:40 pm #

    Having seen the movie, I think it’s worth noting that Bill Maher is not an atheist. He’s an agnostic, a skeptic. He wonders how in the world people can be CERTAIN about God and the afterlife and the nature of the universe and all that. Especially when billions of other people are CERTAIN about something different.
    I feel the exact same way, which is why I really liked Religiulous, despite its faults. Bill Maher is the only popular entertainer I have seen pubicly express that point of view and try to get religious people to answer all of the questions that it implies.

  137. Bradley Cochran October 28, 2008 at 10:51 pm #

    Sweeeet. Thanks for helping us connect the dots.

  138. Bradley Cochran October 28, 2008 at 10:52 pm #

    I tried to post a few thoughts about Maher’s movie, but I’m hoping that someone will make a youtube video or something with a good response to all his rhetoric.

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