Monday, March 13, 2006

Extracts from John Piper on Open Theism

Open theism may help conceal deep idolatry in the soul. One of the great needs of our souls is to know if we treasure anything on earth more than we treasure Christ. Treasuring anyone or anything more than Christ is idolatry. Paul said in Colossians 3:5, "Put to death therefore what is earthly in you . . . covetousness, which is idolatry." If covetousness is idolatry, then desiring earthly things more than we desire God is idolatry. That means we must be more satisfied in Christ and his wisdom than we are in all our relationships and accomplishments and possessions on earth.

All of life is meant to be lived to reflect the infinite value of Christ (Philippians 1:20). We show his infinite worth by treasuring him above all things and all persons. Believing in his all-ruling, all-wise sovereignty helps reveal our idolatries in times of pain and loss. Not believing that God has a wise purpose for every event helps conceal our idolatries. Thus Open Theism, against all its conscious designs, tends to undermine a means of grace that our deceptive hearts need.

(for full article see http://www.desiringgod.org/library/fresh_words/2002/041002.html)

5 comments:

Edgar said...

>>All of life is meant to be lived to reflect the infinite value of Christ (Philippians 1:20). We show his infinite worth by treasuring him above all things and all persons. Believing in his all-ruling, all-wise sovereignty helps reveal our idolatries in times of pain and loss. Not believing that God has a wise purpose for every event helps conceal our idolatries. Thus Open Theism, against all its conscious designs, tends to undermine a means of grace that our deceptive hearts need.<<

I am not sure I would agree with John Piper's assessment of Open Theism here. True, Open Theists do not believe that God has a "wise" purpose for every event, because if he has and this is considered as "a means of grace that our deceptive hearts need," then, why resist evil? Why help a girl being raped if God has a wise purpose for every event? Why fight terrorism when their evil activities are God's "means of grace"?

If Jesus is the exact representation of God (and he is), then Open Theism offers the best biblical model of theism since. John Piper's concept of God seems to portray a God who decrees evil BECASUE he wants to use evil for a wise purpose. On the contrary, during Jesus life on earth we saw him fighting the evils around him and being disappointed for people's lack of faith. If Jesus is the exact picture of God, John's Piper's concept of God does not reflect the Jesus of the Bible for I see Jesus always in opposition to evil; he never use evil for a wise purpose.

timgough said...

Hi. Thank you for you comments. I think you may find it helpful to re-assess your definition of 'means of grace’ I would point you towards B. Milne, Know the Truth, pp. 283-296. -To use your example, helping the girl being raped just might be God's means of grace against an evil activity.-

Also, you say Jesus never used evil for a wise purpose. I would point you first to his inseparable purpose and operation with the Father, and with this, the evil act of Jesus' crucifixion - which led to a good and wise purpose. Or indeed to several times in the Old Testaments 'what you meant for evil, the LORD meant it for good.' Or in Job, (4 I think) 'do I suppose to receive good from the LORD and not evil?' Or to Amos, 'Will disaster come upon a city unless the LORD has done it.'

Also you must remember some of the preemies of Open Theism, which allows God to be thwarted, to stumble, to make mistakes, and to not know the future. Is this really the 'best biblical model of theism’? Does your biblical God know the future? Can his plans be frustrated? Does he make mistakes? Is he not totally perfect? And is he not totally sovereign?

Thanx again for you comment.

Tim.

Edgar said...

Hi Tim,

>>>Hi. Thank you for you comments. I think you may find it helpful to re-assess your definition of 'means of grace’ I would point you towards B. Milne, Know the Truth, pp. 283-296. -To use your example, helping the girl being raped just might be God's means of grace against an evil activity.-<<<

Hi, Tim. That’s not what I meant with my example. Following Pipers thoughts, I picked him up as saying (and I could be wrong) that “believing that God has a wise purpose for every event” is a means of grace that our deceptive hearts need. Thus, not believing this is to undermine such means of grace. I didn’t mean at all “helping the girl being raped just might be God's means of grace against an evil activity.” Again, as I understand Piper (feel free to correct me), he is saying that believing that God has a wise purpose for the terrorists attack is a means of grace that our deceptive hearts need. Not to believe thus is to undermine such means of grace.

>>>Also, you say Jesus never used evil for a wise purpose. I would point you first to his inseparable purpose and operation with the Father, and with this, the evil act of Jesus' crucifixion - which led to a good and wise purpose. <<<

When I said, Jesus never used evil (and I mean, moral evil) for a wise purpose, what I meant is that he never used moral evil as an instrument to carry out a wise purpose. He does not deliberately or intentionally use moral evil to come up with something wise, much less causing evil to carry out a wise purpose. But of course, God can bring something good or wise out of evil, even moral evil, done by any created being. In other words, God can bring something good OUT OF the evil done to a girl. But he does not plan or bring any evil to a girl so that he can achieve a purpose.

Regarding the crucifixion of Christ. The moral evil in the crucifixion of Christ was not intentionally planned out by God. If he did, then God does plan moral evil. I don’t see the Scripture requiring us to believe that God or Christ intentionally planned the moral evil aspect in the crucifixion. The moral evil in the crucifixion of Christ was an independent choice and act of those who crucified Christ. They were not caused by God nor moved by God to crucified Christ; it was their own choice and action.

>>>Or indeed to several times in the Old Testaments 'what you meant for evil, the LORD meant it for good.' <<<

Like I said, God can bring something good out of evil and Genesis 50:20 is a case in point. As John Sanders wrote, “It is the glory of God to be able to bring good out of evil human actions.” And let me ask you, did God desire the sinful act (moral evil) of Joseph brothers?

>>>Or in Job, (4 I think) 'do I suppose to receive good from the LORD and not evil?' <<<

It’s in chapter 3. But Job was not referring to moral evil. The “evil” mentioned is actually best translated as “adversity.” But for the sake of argument let’s take it to mean “moral evil.” Do we need to take that statement of Job as a theological statement? I don’t think so. That statement of Job was not a theological statement; rather, it is only Job’s perception of God. There are many statements Job made in his book about God like: God makes fun of the despair of innocent people (9:23), and God ignores wrongdoings (24:1-12) are we going to take these statements as theological statements as well?


>>>Or to Amos, 'Will disaster come upon a city unless the LORD has done it.'<<<

First, it’s not “moral evil” but calamity. Second, the calamity or disaster spoken of by Amos is a judgment from God because of their iniquities (3:1,2).

>>>Also you must remember some of the preemies of Open Theism, which allows God to be thwarted<<<

Was it God’s will for man to sin? If not, then his plan was thwarted because man sinned. Is it God’s will for you to lie? If not, then God’s will is thwarted because you lie (sometimes). The moral evil here in you country (the UK), including the marriage of two men, do you think this is EXACTLY the plan of God and the will of God? If not, then God’s will is thwarted.

>>> to stumble, to make mistakes,<<<

I don’t think Open Theism teaches that God stumbles and make mistakes. I need more info on this.

>>>and to not know the future.<<<

Open Theism says that God knows the future as consisting of certainties and possibilities. It doesn’t say that God does not know the future. He knows the future but he knows it as partly open and partly settled.

Thanks for letting me to comment here in your blog.

Blessings,

EDGAR

timgough said...

Hi
Thanks for clarifying what you meant by evil as 'moral evil' which is more specific - but please note my original arguments were against your phrase 'he never use evil for a wise purpose.' Not against your clarified term 'moral evil.' So when you say, >> >But Job was not referring to moral evil.<< < and >> >First, it’s not “moral evil” but calamity.<< < your actually responding to arguments I never made. The argument I was making was against the idea that God doesn't use 'evil' to bring about a wise purpose.

And thank you for clarifying your understanding of means of grace, I'm much happier with this clarification.

A couple of areas I would like to express a differing opinion on:
I do believe that the crucifixion of Christ was planned by God for his ultimate glory, for several reasons. One of which is this passage from acts:
'for truly in your city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate along with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.' [Acts 4:27-28]
(I think I may make a new post on the blog with some other thoughts on this - watch this space!)

When it comes to Job, I feel that we need a pretty good reason to pick and choose what we take to be theological statements and what not. Job is not one of the rebuked friends, but a man who honoured God zealously, and I see no reason to take what he says as a non-truth statement about God.

I do believe it was the will of God for man to sin. In order to bring about the glorification of his Son. However man still actively chooses to sin within this, making him responsible. This is the paradox I spoke of in the previous post. That God is completely sovereign, yet man responsible.

Yet I believe it to be the case that it always leads to the greater good, so in Rom. 9, God patiently endures vessels of wrath prepared for destruction -in order- to show the riches of his glory.
Also think of Pharaoh, God hardened his heart and yet holds him responsible. Or 1 Peter 2:8, 'They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.'

I think this is one of those truths in scripture which are so hard to swallow, in our humanness we cannot see the justice in this. But I also feel scripture is clear on God's sovereignty and mans responsibility together. I don't fully understand them, but God gives me a way of accepting them. Namely Jesus Christ on the cross, sinless, yet taking the Fathers wrath. Not only does God want to show his wrath, and punish sin, but he also takes it and pays the cost. And in this huge act of mercy and grace, he has chosen a people for himself. Praise God!

Thanx again! It’s always a pleasure to receive your comments.

Tim

EDGAR said...

Hello Tim,

I would wish you will never change in the way you response to my posts. i admire your patience and your humility which other Christians whom I've encountered were not able to uphold in discussing differences in theological stance.

Just this one for now: You said, "I do believe it was the will of God for man to sin."

if it is God's will for man to sin, then (1) Why did he warn adam not to sin (Gen. 2:15-17). Was God's warning a mere pretense? (2) if it is God's will for man to sin, which is true then, it is his will for us to sin (your statement) or it is not his will for us to sin but to be sanctified (1 Thes. 5:22; 4:3)?

Blessings,

Edgar