The Petals Drop: Piper’s Problems

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

|

May 3, 2015

The Omni Argument Against Calvinism has had several objections lodged against it over the past few weeks, but so far, none of these objections have had any “teeth in their bite” (so-to-speak). One complaint that I found particularly interesting was against the second premise of my argument. Here is the argument in its entirety:

1. If 5-point Calvinism is true, then for any person x, if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell, then x will go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

2. If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient, then for any person x, God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause x to go to Heaven and not suffer eternally in Hell.

3. There is at least one person who will not go to Heaven and suffer eternally in Hell.

4. Therefore, one cannot affirm both (i) that 5-point Calvinism is true and (ii) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient.

 The most common objection to my argument is a protest to the second premise regarding God’s desires. I state that an all-loving and maximally good (omnibenevolent) God would not desire for anyone to suffer in hell for eternity – especially for “choices” they were powerless to make! Moreover, I reference scripture such as 1st Timothy 2:4, which clarifies God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Competing Desires

Many Calvinists affirm that God does desire the salvation of all people, but not really! Not when you consider God’s “competing desires!” This raises the question: What in the world does it mean to state that God has competing desires?

As a limited, weak, and finite human, I know what it means to have “competing desires.” I have a desire to have six-pack abs. I also have a desire to eat pizza every day. The desire to stay physically fit is greater than my desire to eat pizza on a daily basis; therefore, I choose not to eat pizza very often. If I had the power to eat pizza every day and have six-pack abs, you had better believe I would be eating pizza constantly! I do not have this power because there are restrictions and limitations external to me that do not allow me to have both of my competing desires. That is to say, I cannot eat pizza every day and have six pack abs. This is because pizza is high in calories, carbs, and fat, and my metabolism does not work the way it used to. These things are not up to me; therefore, my greater desire to stay fit overcomes the lesser desire to eat pizza every day.

Consider God and his so-called “competing desires.” As I mentioned above, 1st Timothy 2:4 clearly states God “desires all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” This seems to be in concurrence with the famous passage of John 3:16, “that God so-loved the WORLD,” and that “WHOEVER believes…” Moreover, 1 Tim 2:4 is in harmony with the pronouncement that “Christ died for all,” made in 2nd Corinthians 5:14-15. According to The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, “Salvation has been provided for all, but only those who accept it are saved.”[1]

If we are to take these scriptures seriously we must affirm that it is, in fact, God’s desire for universal salvation. Not only is this Biblically obvious, but when simply thinking logically about a Maximally Great Being, this would be the intuitively obvious conclusion to reach as well. A maximally good and loving being would legitimately desire all people to flourish[2] and avoid eternal hell (which makes the Holocaust look like a picnic)!

Since most Christians (including Calvinists) would affirm that many people do experience eternal hell, we are left scratching our heads as to why God’s desire for universal salvation is not achieved. The Molinist answers because of human libertarian free will (which allows true love to be attained), but the Calvinist responds to this problem by stating God has a greater desire than His desire for universal salvation. What is this greater competing desire? His own glory! The Calvinist contends that indeed, God does have a “mini” desire for universal salvation, but it is dwarfed by His greater desire for His own glory.

According to the Calvinist, God is glorified by sending people to suffer the horrors of eternal hell for so-called “choices” they could not make; “choices” they were powerless to make! They also contend that God is glorified by saving some to avoid hell and experience paradise for eternity. God’s competing desires are his glory and universal salvation, God wants both but he cannot have both, so one must give way to the other. It seems that the Calvinist is left contending that, “God must play the cards He’s been dealt!”[3]

Sinful Desires?

With that said, however, the philosophy of Calvinism raises more questions: Why would God even have a desire for something which would detract from or negate His glory? Anything that does not bring glory to God is evil. It seems the Calvinist inadvertently contends that God has a desire (albeit a lesser one) to sin!

Moreover, if God cannot have both of His desires, then it seems that He is not omnipotent, UNLESS, God’s glory and universal salvation are logically incompatible. This is like stating that God’s glory and his desire for all to be saved are on the same logically fallacious level as triangles with four corners and married bachelors. That is to say, a man might have the competing desires to be married and to be a bachelor but it is logically impossible to be a married bachelor. Therefore, he must choose one of the two options since these two concepts are mutually exclusive.

The idea that God’s glory and universal salvation are logically contradictory is far from obvious. If it is, again, it seems as if “God is forced to play the cards He’s been dealt!”[4] Moreover, I ask the question once more: If God’s glory and universal salvation are logically contradictory, why would God desire anything at all – even a little bit – that would logically negate His glory altogether? This does not seem like the kind of thing an omniscient or perfectly good God would have a desire for.

One Desire

John Piper says, “The difference between Calvinists and Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is.”[5] He states that the Arminian (notice he doesn’t deal with Molinism) claims God desires humans to freely choose to love God more than universal salvation. One error Piper makes here is that he does not recognize that this is exactly what salvation is! I contend that these are not “competing desires,” but rather, it is ONE desire: For all people to FREELY choose to love God! That is to say, salvation is found in a TRUE LOVE relationship with God. True love is attained when two people freely enter into a marriage covenant. If one is kidnapped against their will, and forced into a relationship against their will, then true love is not a part of that relationship. We are left with something akin to “Stockholm Syndrome.” This would be psychological trauma, NOT true love.

Since it is logically impossible to force someone to freely do something, then God cannot do this as God cannot do the logically impossible (i.e., creating something that is not contingent upon Him). Thus, God cannot force someone to freely love him in a real and genuine sense. However, when one freely chooses to love God (since God loved them first), they are saved. This is the ultimate good a human can experience and it brings God ultimate glory – much more than a “puppet show!”

Jesus Paid It All

Piper also contends that according to Calvinists, God has these competing desires for all to be in Heaven and the greater value of “the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation.”[6] There are several problems with this view if one is a theological determinist, but here is what really strikes me and demonstrates this “competing desires” objection is ridiculous:

If the Calvinist contends that it is logically impossible for God to have both His desire of glory and His desire of universal salvation, then the atonement of Christ was simply NOT enough!

If one holds to this view they can no longer sing the chorus, “The Cross Was Enough,” or, “Jesus Paid it All.” In fact, if one holds this position, Jesus merely picked up part of the check and left the “non-elect” and unconditionally hated to suffer in hell into the infinite future to pick up the rest of the tab! Now the Calvinist is left with stating that the Cross of Christ PLUS the damned in hell is what it takes to secure salvation for a few. Accordingly, Jesus’ atonement is only a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition to save the elect.

It seems that on a Calvinist view, we should not be angry at the damned, but rather, we ought to be extremely grateful that they would suffer eternal hell in our place. In fact, when the Calvinist praises Jesus for all He has done, they should probably take a quick minute to thank the damned in hell as well! Obviously, this is utterly preposterous, but I’m using sarcasm to make the point that the cross WAS both necessary and sufficient to secure salvation for mankind. The cross was enough! God does not need anyone to suffer in hell into the infinite future to receive His glory.

Calvinists appeal to the “competing desires” objection to desperately try to affirm both God’s desire for all to be saved and that God loves all people, all while simultaneously rejecting universalism. However, this objection falls flat when considering God’s omnipotence and the all-powerful atonement of Christ. If one is committed to Calvinism, I think it’s better for him to simply “bite the bullet,” as Arthur Pink has done, and be honest about the true implications of Calvinism. They ought to come clean and honestly admit that according to their beloved philosophy of Calvinism, God does NOT love all people![7]

Therefore, if one believes that God really does love all people, then they ought to reject the philosophy of Calvinism.

Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5)

Tim Stratton


NOTES:

[1] The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1981, P. 358

[2] Jerry Walls, Why No Classical Theist, Let alone Orthodox Christian, should ever be a Compatibilist, Philosophia Christi, Volume 13, No 1,

[3] James White quotes William Lane Craig out of context here. Craig means that God cannot do the logically impossible by forcing people to freely love Him. According to the Calvinistic “competing desires” defense, God is in the same boat. By affirming the competing desires objection, the Calvinist is in the same boat too.

[4] Ibid.

[5] John Piper: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/are-there-two-wills-in-god

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jerry Walls makes a great case against Calvinism and quotes the Calvinist, Arthur Pink. Walls states that Pink “bites the bullet” and admits the Calvinistic view of God entails that God does not love all people. Walls encourages all Calvinists to come clean and be as honest as Pink: https://youtu.be/Daomzm3nyIg (46:20)

 

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About the Author

Tim

Stratton

(The FreeThinking Theist)

Tim pursued his undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Kearney (B.A. 1997) and after working in full-time ministry for several years went on to attain his graduate degree from Biola University (M.A. 2014). Tim was recently accepted at North West University to pursue his Ph.D. in systematic theology with a focus on metaphysics.

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