Whenever I’m tempted to simply ignore John Piper, the spiritual leader of the “young, restless, and reformed” movement of new Calvinists, fellow Arminian† Roger Olson, a Wesley-loving Baptist, reminds me of why I shouldn’t. As always, Olson puts the problem with Piper’s theology in sharp relief:
Now, again, let’s step back and take a bird’s eye view of Piper’s and other Calvinists’ divine determinism. If everything without exception is from God, planned, designed and governed by God for a reason such that God is not merely permitting it but actively willing it and rendering it certain (and I demonstrate in Against Calvinism this is the traditional Calvinist view and I am confident it is Piper’s as well), then the holocaust and the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of an innocent two year old child are also “from God” in that sense.
IF that’s true, then, I ask, why ever be upset about such things? Why react emotionally or with righteous indignation as if something happened that shouldn’t have happened? After all, God’s ultimate purpose in everything is his glory. (I demonstrate that that also is the traditional Calvinist view and I have asked many Calvinists if it’s their view and the answer has always been yes.) So, one who believes that has to say that the holocaust and the kidnapping, torture, rape and murder of a two year old child glorify God. Then why object to them? Why oppose them? Why blame the perpetrators? Why try to prevent them?
† For my Methodist readers who don’t know, we are “Arminian” Christians. John Wesley even published a magazine entitled, The Arminian. Among other things, Wesley strongly disagreed with Calvin’s (and now Piper’s) strict determinism—that everything that happens, good or bad, is determined in advance by God, including the salvation or damnation of individuals. Wesley was a big believer in God’s sovereignty, and he even believed at times that God sent natural disasters as punishment against people. But he didn’t believe that this ever precluded human freedom.
If what Piper says is true, then we Christians ought to resign ourselves to what, in non-Christian terms, we would call fate: whatever happens is from God, so it must be good. While this determinism fits nicely within the logic of Calvin’s theological framework, it makes no sense biblically.