Piper says holy God ordains unholy acts of sin
John Piper, like most calvinists, is far too vague on the truth of the Bible when it comes to the use of isolated Bible verses to support his false doctrines and blasphemies. For example, let’s have a look at his reply to a question on whether or not God ordains sin. Unless otherwise stated, I will quote from Piper’s “Does sin have a necessary place in God’s plan for the universe”. (In other words, Piper teaches that God’s plan for the universe is imperfect without sin! That sin has a necessary place in God’s ultimate plan! That is, sin perfects all things? Sin puts the finishing touch on God’s creation?)
A podcast listener named Brandon writes in: “Pastor John, in your book Spectacular Sins, your main point is that God can and does ordain that sin happen in order to accomplish His glorious purposes, of which I agree. But it raised a question in my mind. Since God uses sin to accomplish His purposes, is it true to say then that there are some of God’s plans that only sin can fulfill? Does this mean that there is a need or necessity for sin in his ultimate plan?”
“My answer is yes. In God’s ultimate plan, sin has a necessary place. And I will try to explain why from the Bible. ….. So why do I say that in God’s ultimate plan sin has a necessary place? I say it because of three passages of Scripture, for starters. And there are others.” So sin is necessary? Then why doesn’t God command us to do it?
At this point Piper lists three passages that he claims demonstrate the necessity of sin in God’s ultimate plan. I won’t go into these, other than to say that they don’t demonstrate such, unless you remove the free will of man and the foreknowledge of God from the discussion. Piper doesn’t believe in either free will of man or the foreknowledge of God. He says “God does not foreknow the free decisions of people to believe in him because there aren’t any such free decisions to know. …. As C.E.B. Cranfield says, the foreknowledge of Romans 8:29 is “that special taking knowledge of a person which is God’s electing grace.” Such foreknowledge is virtually the same as election: “Those whom he foreknew (i.e. chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” (from “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism” Piper, 1998)
Piper then invokes the holiness of God to demonstrate his argument for the necessity of sin in God’s ultimate plan. (Although it is difficult to understand how the necessity of sin can in any way uphold the holiness of God!)
He says, “And at this point it is very important that we stress the holiness of God when we say this. God’s holiness is not the least compromised or impugned by the fact that God wills for unholy acts to take place.” (Does Piper really believe this blasphemy he has just written? That God’s holiness is not compromised nor impugned by God willing for sin to take place? This is God who cannot permit sin to come into His presence, who Piper says “wills for unholy acts to take place”! It’s a bit like a policeman telling the bank robber to go rob a bank!)
“We can see this, for example, in the book of Isaiah. Few books lift up the holiness of God like Isaiah. You remember chapter 6. “One [angel] called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). That three-fold “holy” is one of the strongest biblical statements there is about the unimpeachable holiness, purity, sinlessness of God.
“Yet it is Isaiah who in 63:17 says, “O Lord, why do you make (cause) us wander from your ways and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?” So God is ordaining for whatever the rationale and reason here that there be a season in which this people not fear him.” Is God really ordaining that His people not fear Him? Is this what this verse is actually saying, or has Piper got this interpretation totally wrong? Clearly Piper’s God is not the God of the Bible for the God of the Bible says: Serve the Lord with fear (Psalm 2:11) and Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God (Deuteronomy 10:20).
I determined then to look up the various commentaries on biblehub.com (https://biblehub.com/commentaries/isaiah/63-17.htm) to see what others taught about this. There’s a range of comments from calvinist to not so calvinist writers; I will quote the main ones documented on their “Comment” page. I note that even Gill, who is quite calvinist in his teachings, fails to support anything to do with the necessity for God to ordain that His people not fear Him.
Pulpit commentary – Verse 17. – Why hast thou made us to err from thy ways? Confession is here mingled with a kind of reproach. They have erred and strayed from God’s ways, they ‘ allow; but why has he permitted it?
Cambridge commentary – 17. Render: Why shouldest Thou leave us to wander, O Jehovah, from Thy ways; and harden our heart so that we fear Thee not? etc. Israel had rejected God’s guidance, and He had given them up to their sins; how long was this to last?
Ellicott commentary – (17) Why hast thou made us to err . . .—The prophet identifies himself with his people, and speaks as in their name. Have their sins led God to abandon them, and to harden their hearts as He hardened Pharaoh’s?
Benson commentary – Isaiah 63:17-19. O Lord, why hast thou made us to err — Suffered us to err; from thy ways — Thy commandments. And hardened our heart from thy fear — That is, the fear of thee? Why hast thou withdrawn thy grace, and left us to our own hardness of heart?
Barnes commentary – O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways? ….. Calvin remarks on the passage, ‘The prophet uses a common form of speaking, for it is usual in the Scriptures to say that God gives the wicked over to a reprobate mind, and hardens their hearts. But when the pious thus speak, they do not intend to make God the author of error or sin, as if they were innocent – nolunt Deum erroris aut sceleris facere auctorem, quasi sint innoxii – or to take away their own blameworthiness. But they rather look deeper, and confess themselves, by their own fault, to be alienated from God, and destitute of his Spirit; and hence it happens that they are precipitated into all manner of evils. ….
At all events, this is the doctrine which was held by the father of the system of Calvinism; and nothing more should be charged on that system, in regard to blinding and hardening people, than is thus avowed. It is not to be supposed that this result took place by direct divine agency. It is not by positive power exerted to harden people and turn them away from God. No man who has any just views of God can suppose that he exerts a positive agency to make them sin, and then punishes them for it; no one who has any just views of man, and of the operations of his own mind, can doubt that a sinner is voluntary in his transgression.
Jamieson commentary – 17. made us to err—that is, “suffer” us to err and to be hardened in our heart. They do not mean to deny their own blameworthiness, but confess that through their own fault God gave them over to a reprobate mind.
Matthew Poole – Made us to err from thy ways, commandments. It is the language of the godly among them being troubled, and therefore complaining that so gracious a Father should leave them to such exigences.
Made us to sin by withdrawing thy Spirit and leaving us to ourselves. It is not to be understood as if God did force them to it
Gill commentary – O Lord, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?…. These are the words, not of wicked men among the Jews, charging all their errors, hardness of heart, and wickedness they were guilty of, upon the Lord, as if he was the author and occasion of them, and led them into them; but of the truly godly, lamenting and confessing their wandering from the ways, commands, and ordinances of God, the hardness of their hearts; their want of devotion and affection for God; and their neglect of his worship; not blaming him for these things, or complaining of him as having done anything amiss or wrong; but expostulating with him, and wondering at it, that he, who was their loving and tender Father, that he should suffer them to err from his ways, and to wander from his worship, by withholding his grace and withdrawing his presence from them; by leaving them to the corruptions and hardness of their hearts; by chastising them sorely, and suffering the enemy to afflict them in such a severe manner as laid them under temptation to desert the worship of God, and cast off the fear of him.
Not one reputable commentary can be found that states that it was God who ordained their wandering from His ways and ordained their hardness of heart! Even Gill, a declared calvinist, teaches that it was the decision of God’s people to wander from God’s pathways. Piper is out on a limb on his own here. He has taken a verse out of context without scriptural consistency, and made it say what he wants it to say regardless of the truth (which he conveniently ignores at his peril).
Piper continues: “With a partial explanation, perhaps, given in the next chapter, where he says, “There is no one who calls on your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have handed us over to our iniquities” (Isaiah 64:7).” By the way, Isaiah 64:7 cannot be shown to give support for Piper’s teachings here, either. People can teach any heresy they wish by using individual Bible verses taken out of context and ignoring Biblical consistency.
Piper continues: “So Isaiah, on the one hand, gives the highest testimony of God’s holiness and spotlessness and sinlessness and, on the other hand, gives one of the clearest statements of how God wills that sin happen in certain situations.” I note that other commentaries deny that “clearest” statement of “how God wills that sin happen in certain situations”. But calvinists so often claim to have the clearest statement of their heresies, or that their teachings are ultra-clear, or any other statement designed to convince us by their confidence! However, Piper’s efforts here to demonstrate such from Isaiah 63:17 fail miserably!
Piper concludes: “So I would say on the basis of the Bible, three things that many people find hard to put together, but the Bible does, so I try:
1) God is absolutely sovereign and governs all things including the existence of sin.
2) The absolute, unimpeachable holiness and sinlessness and purity of God.
3) The complete responsibility and accountability of all human beings to believe and to do the things they know are right to believe and do.”
Of course, without the free will of man (which God has certainly permitted by His sovereign will), these statements above by Piper will certainly be hard to put together. It is certain that God has governed the existence of sin in that he has permitted it (by His sovereign will) to occur by the free will of some of His creatures, including man. God commands (and has always commanded) that man not rebel (commit unholy acts, sin) against Him. If man (by his own free will) commits unholy acts (sin) against holy God, then complete responsibility and accountability for that sin rests entirely with man who has committed that sin by his own free will. All that is required for God to remain sovereign, in spite of the freedom of will granted to mankind, is to require judgment be made for every act of free will that all mankind has committed for all time. And it will be so.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 – 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things [done] in [his] body, according to that he hath done, whether [it be] good or bad.
By the way, there are other occasions where Piper conveniently strays from scriptural accuracy in order to support his false teachings. For example, in “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism” Piper, 1998, Piper says “Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.
The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man.” So does Romans 14:23 really say that?
Romans 14:22-23 – 22 Hast thou faith? have [it] to thyself before God. Happy [is] he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. 23 And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because [he eateth] not of faith: for whatsoever [is] not of faith is sin.
The context of this passage is that some people couldn’t eat some foods (such as meats offered to idols) because they believed it to be wrong, while others could eat such foods because they didn’t see it as being wrong. That is, some had faith that wouldn’t condemn them if they ate certain foods, while others who had doubts about the food they were eating should not eat if they believed that eating such food was wrong.
Thus, “Have you the faith to believe that the eating of such foods is acceptable? Then eat it before God without guilt. Happy is the person who doesn’t condemn himself through the eating of something he believes is permissible. On the other hand, he who has doubts about the eating of such food will be condemned if he eats it, because he does not have the faith to believe that it is permissible to eat it. For to eat food when you don’t have faith to believe you can eat it is a sin. That is, if you eat something you believe you shouldn’t eat, then it is a sin.”
So, if you had the faith to eat certain foods, then it was OK but if you lacked such faith, it was not OK to eat it. But Piper has turned this into a teaching that anything we do without faith is a sin. He says that “This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.” But, how can he get this interpretation from a passage that simply discusses the eating or otherwise of certain foods depending upon whether you felt right about eating such foods or not? Lacking faith to eat certain foods did not in any way make you a lesser Christian; instead you were just one who had more of a conscience about the eating of certain foods. The one who couldn’t eat foods offered to idols wasn’t necessarily a lesser Christian than the one who could eat such foods. How has this anything to do with “natural ‘virtue’ that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace”?
Note that the one who had faith to eat such foods should not, by eating such foods in their presence, offend the brother or sister who lacked such faith. Please read the whole passage (Romans 14:13-23) for the proper context.
Piper, like other calvinists, uses verses and passages out of context and with dubious connections at best to support his false teachings. Either he should learn to exegete better or start listening to others who have a greater desire to understand the truth of Scripture. Unfortunately, there are so many gullible people today who like nothing better than to listen to those self-proclaimed “teachers” who say the words they want to hear. They never bother testing (or proving) all things as commanded by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:21. The church today desperately needs more people who seek the truth of God’s word without the need to twist it to suit their own selfish needs and desires. False teachers like Piper say the “right” things, but not necessarily the truth. And only the truth sanctifies!
John 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
If you wish to read further, please try the following links.