The Bondage of Whose Will?

Recently there has been considerable heat generated in Evangelicalism over the Calvinism-Arminianism debate. The Southern Baptist Convention has been moving to ground the doctrine of the denomination in Arminianism[1]. Following this, there was a post on Christian Post, an Evangelical news website, by John Piper declaring that “It’s sin not to like the true doctrine of election. It’s sin not to like what God likes.”[2] This post by Piper came out just days after the issue was raised in the SBC, and people started signing things.

You might be wondering at this point where in the world I am going with this post, and why I’m bothering to write it. Well, I have been following this entire thing, and the last post (in refutation of John Piper) got my blood boiling.  On the front page, once again of Christian Post, the title ran “No, John Piper . . . It’s NOT a Sin![3] This article was frustrating to say the least, and rhetorical at best.

I think there were two major problems with George Sarris’ response, and even if nobody reads this, I need to get them off my chest. Firstly, he starts off by saying that, “If he [Piper] had said that it is sin not to like the true Biblical doctrine of election, I would not have been nearly as concerned.” Sarris then proceeds to continue his entire post without actually saying what that doctrine actually is. Furthermore, he goes on to say that, “As a committed Calvinist, however, Dr. Piper is not referring to the Biblical doctrine. He is referring to the Reformed doctrine of election as stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith.” Sarris then goes on to quote extensively from the Westminster Confession.[4] The issue I believe with the entire focus of this article is precisely that the article is not focused on the issue, but that instead the article is intended to make the reader assume that John Piper is not getting his theology from the Scripture, but that instead he is getting it from the Westminster Standards! This is classic theological rhetoric. The reader, after Sarris is finished, will be left assuming Piper to be creedal before being biblical.[5] Not only that, but the reader is not presented with a single Scripture reference refuting any of the quotations made from the Westminster Standards. The assumption is, because they are Reformed, they must not be Biblical.

The second point which got me hot under the collar, perhaps even more than the first, was that Sarris went to Church history in order to refute Piper’s point. Church history! I don’t believe that is the battle you want to take up, my friend. Sarris said this, “I am glad that Dr. Piper is confident in his beliefs. However, he should be very much aware that only a relatively small percentage of Christian believers throughout history have actually believed what he believes […]That view was not held by believers in the Early Church up to the Reformation – as can be seen by the fact that it has never been the belief of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was formulated by John Calvin and his followers in the 16th century, and quickly repudiated by Jacob Arminius and his followers as grossly misrepresenting the gracious nature and character of God. It was not held by Martin Luther or John Wesley or the Reformers who followed in their steps.” Quickly repudiated? Apparently people no longer understand that the Canons of Dordt exist. Not to mention the fact that the Romanists hold a more “Calvinistic” doctrine of sin and depravity than do Arminians[6]. I would also like to add that Martin Luther wrote an entire book on the subject, one that I would recommend the author of this article read[7]. There is so much historical misunderstanding, and on the part of Martin Luther, lying, that I don’t even know what to do about it. The biggest problem is that Evangelicals at large no longer study the history of Christ’s Church, and so most people just believe articles like this.

Instead of accusing John Piper of being a confessionalist, and grossly misrepresenting Church history, why can’t we actually discuss the doctrine from the Biblical texts themselves? I post for the consideration of the reader some texts of Scripture. Doubtless these have been read by you before. However, I would like to pose them for contemplation and reflection as this point of doctrine is discussed within our churches. Here are several which I find to be especially pertinent:

John 6:35-40; Romans 9:6-24; Ephesians 1:3-14; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Timothy 1:8-12

I could continue, but I feel that the above texts will suffice. This discussion need not be rhetorical, but Biblical. These are the passages, along with many others. Now they must be understood exegetically. We needn’t twist history, or the positions of our opponents. I am saying this with all due respect, but most of all an earnest desire to see men of God carefully study the Scriptures and engage in scholarly debate.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Hankins, Eric. “An Introduction to “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”.” Southern Baptist Convention, 30 May 2012.  Al Mohler wrote a well-balanced response, as a member of the SBC with Calvinistic leanings, which can be read here.
  2. Piper, John. “Is It Sin for Me Not to Like the Doctrine of Election?” Christian Post. N.p., 4 June 2012. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://www.christianpost.com/news/is-it-sin-for-me-not-to-like-the-doctrine-of-election-76009/>.
  3. Sarris, George W. “No, John Piper . . . It’s NOT a Sin!” Christian Post. N.p., 11 June 2012. Web. 14 June 2012. <http://blogs.christianpost.com/engaging-the-culture/no-john-piper-its-not-a-sin-10312/>.
  4. I would like to say that I have no problems with the Westminster Standards on this point, as I myself am Reformed in soteriology, amongst other things.
  5. Anyone who stops and reads the name of John Piper’s church will realize that he does not affirm the Westminster Standards. It doesn’t take much to figure that out.
  6. The Church sided with Augustine over Pelagius, and even reaffirmed Augustine’s views of original sin, in large degree, in the Council of Trent. Here is an excerpt from the declaration of that Council, translated by J. Waterworth, concerning original sin, “If any one asserts, that this sin of Adam,–which in its origin is one, and being transfused into all by propogation, not by imitation, is in each one as his own, –is taken away either by the powers of human nature, or by any other remedy than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath reconciled us to God in his own blood, made unto us justice, sanctification, and redemption; or if he denies that the said merit of Jesus Christ is applied, both to adults and to infants, by the sacrament of baptism rightly administered in the form of the church; let him be anathema: For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved. Whence that voice; Behold the lamb of God behold him who taketh away the sins of the world; and that other; As many as have been baptized, have put on Christ.” Read the rest here.
  7. The Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther.
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