Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

PARADOX FILES, Vol. 3 - John Piper

John Piper gets a THEOparadox T-shirt.

The following is taken from a sermon on Romans 9, found at this link

In the sermon, Piper says...

My aim here this morning is not to analyze how this can be, but to urge us all to embrace the paradox of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility. The sad thing is that some embrace the sovereignty of God over the human will and say: "It is wrong to portray God with his arms stretched out, inviting and calling." And others embrace the responsibility of man and say, "If God invites and calls and beckons, then he can't really be sovereign over man's will, and man really is ultimately self-determining and God is not really in control of all things."

Both of these are sad mistakes. It is sad, because one group rejects something deep and precious that God has revealed about himself for our strength and hope and joy and love - namely, his absolute sovereignty. Oh, how sweet it is when all around our soul gives way, and we need a reliable and firm rock in a world that sometimes seems utterly out of control and meaningless and cruel. Oh, how sweet at these times to know that God is not good and helpless, but good and sovereign. And the other group (who embrace the sovereignty of God) sometimes rejects something utterly crucial for understanding the justice of God in dealing with people, and they fail to see how we should plead with people and persuade people and invite people and woo people with tears, to Christ, and on behalf of Christ.

So my aim is not to explain the paradox but simply to underline it with three other examples (and there are many more), in the hope that God will cause your mind to submit to his word, whether you can explain it all or not.

In Matthew 11:25 Jesus says, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children." And then in verse 28, he says, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." He has hidden the truth from some, and he invites all.

In John 6:35 Jesus says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." And one verse later he says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." All are invited to Christ. And the Father gives some to Christ.

In Acts 13:38 Paul says to the synagogue in Antioch, "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed." And in verse 48 Luke says, ". . . And as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." All are invited to believe and be forgiven. And as many as were appointed to life did believe.

I am not explaining it this morning. I am simply proclaiming it. This is what it means for God to be God. Man is not the final, ultimate sovereign over his own life. God is. God is the potter. We are the clay. But on the other hand, God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). He holds out his hands all day long to Jews and the Gentiles of the Twin Cities. He calls, he beckons, he invites.


  1. the hope that God will cause your mind to submit to his word, whether you can explain it all or not...
    how many people need to accept God word and submit to it even if they don't understand all and not take only what they think God is saying....

  2. That T-Shirt is HILARIOUS! And the quotes of course testify that he does indeed deserve the award.

    I am seeking permission to narrate this Piper article, "Are There Two Wills In God?" In this article, he skillfully navigates the tension that verses like 1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9, and Ezekiel 18:23 create when read alongside verses like Romans 9. He affirm the universal love of God in these texts while not simultaneously bashing the declaration of sovereign, individual, unconditional election. This article is devastating to its opposition and necessary for honest, Bible-loving Calvinistic Christians who are tired of the standard "world doesn't mean everybody" Calvinistic answers. Even John Calvin accepts the non-Calvinist definition of 2 Peter 3:9.

    As soon as I get permission to narrate this I'll post it on my blog.

  3. Natasa,

    Good point. Our willingness to obey must not depend on our mind's ability to understand. It is our natural tendency to delay obedience to a command until we understand why - but God calls us to simply trust Him and obey. And He always gives us as much information as we NEED to know.


    The article you refer to is very good, and it shows that Piper is more committed to Biblical thinking than He is to repeating the standard answers given by other theologians. He shows a great deal of respect to the Arminian view, and I've found (in the "Two Wills" article and in others) that he sometimes "absorbs" the Arminian position into the Reformed view. Rather than turning it into an either/or situation, he allows some points in the Arminian view to stand - but in a lesser sense. Instead of using intellectual acrobatics to deny the opposing view, he simply accepts it and makes it a subpoint within the Reformed view. In this way, Piper shows that he sees even the most Arminian-slanted interpretation of key Scripture passages as NO THREAT WHATSOEVER to classical Calvinism, and he thereby frees himself to teach whatever Scripture teaches on any subject. It's sheer brilliance!

  4. Love the shirt! Piper certainly deserves it. Few things I've ever read have been as helpful as the article Chris referred to, "Are There Two Wills in God?"


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