Friday, February 24, 2006 

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

In the hopes that I will not eventually wear out this topic, I am going to bring up John Piper's theology again. This time I specifically want to talk about the subject that I only briefly referenced in the previous post -- the controversy over at Rhett Smith's blog concerning Piper's article, "Don't Waste Your Cancer." Rhett Smith had originally posted on his blog an article that was critical of Piper's theology and questioned his pastoral counseling skills. He wrote two more posts which can be accessed here and here, in hopes of clarifying what he said in the previous post and bringing the controversy to a close by calling for unity among believers. But today he posted yet another article on Dr. Piper's article that is again critical of his theology. This time, however, he employs the words of Tyler Williams in an article he wrote on Codex Blogspot entitled, "Cancer, John Piper and the Falleness of Creation." In this article, Williams says he "takes issue" with the first two points in Piper's list, "You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God" and "You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift" (you will have to go to the DesiringGod.org link to read Piper's explanations about which the following by Williams is discussed). Mr. Williams goes on to say this about those two points:
Now, perhaps I am just coming from a different place theologically than Piper (actually, I know I am), but I find the notions that God "designs" people's cancer and that cancer is a "gift from God" to be offensive. What is more, I find that Piper's proof-texting of Scripture to be troubling. In the book of Job, God does allow "the adversary" (הַשָּׂטָ֖ן, hasatan) to inflict Job, and his so-called friends did see his suffering as from the hands of God and due to his own sin. But, in the same way it is fallaciouss [sic] to see all suffering as the result of sin, so it is not the point of the book of Job to then attribute all suffering to the direct agency of God. Similarly, his series of proof-texts for his second point are perhaps relevant to part of his point that cancer is not a "curse." But saying that cancer is not a "curse" is not the same as saying it is a gift.
Williams goes on to say, "Perhaps I am wrong, or at least biased by my own personal experiences. Whether or not you agree with my perspective (which I would readily admit I have not developed in any detail in this post), one thing we can all agree on is that we should pray."

I think a few things need to be said about Williams' article.
  1. Williams clearly is speaking out of his own existential view of God. He states this explicitly twice in his article. Thus, when he calls Piper's use of Scripture proof-texting, he does so rather ironically, offering very little exegesis of the text, yet seemingly demanding that Piper do so himself, lest he be prooftexting.
  2. He offers no definition of proof-texting. Should we conclude that everyone knows what this means? From the context, it appears that Williams definition is simply, "using the text to defend one's argument." While I admit that I do know what proof-texting is, I don't think that is at all what Piper is doing. Had he done so, he would merely have quoted or referenced the text, not offered a brief, but substantial exegetical note.
  3. Williams seems to suggest that Piper is speaking "off the cuff" here, or rather, that Piper is presenting a view that he desires not to try to defend. However, that anyone familiar with John Piper knows that his intention here was merely to point the reader toward Scriptures he has previously thoroughly exegeted. Williams could have done a little research and found that Dr. Piper has numerous articles on his website about suffering and the sovereignty of God, as well as an entire sermon series on Job, in which he further exegetes this passage to which he refers.
  4. Williams offers no counter position other than his own experience and a Hebrew "lessonette" that does little to truly contradict Piper's "proof-texting." Williams himself admits that he has not explained his own position in any detail and that at best his offering was based on his own personal experiences.

So why do I feel the need to make these particular points about Williams article? It is simply because Rhett Smith makes the absurd comment that while he has seen blogs this week which have articles posted that both agree and disagree with Piper on God's role in cancer (and suffering in general), this is "the best post that [he has] seen on this issue this week." He has got to be kidding -- really! Now, while I agree that Williams ending paragraph is wonderful (he closes by calling for everyone to pray for Dr. Piper and to contribute to various cancer-fighting agencies), I think that Smith's judgment is impaired by his own personal theology, which is what I think is the problem with all those who espouse positions consistent with Open Theism. Though I don't have the time today to discuss open theism, I hope to have an article up on this movement, its implications, and resources you can obtain regarding it either tonight or by Sunday. Suffice to say, I believe open theism is a deadly theology that robs God of His sovereignty in order to give man what he most desires -- libertarian free will (hence, his rebellion at the Fall that continues today), something that Adam gave up at the Fall and we have never possessed because of his act (now, before you get all hyped up, notice the word "libertarian" as opposed to simple "free will" -- here is a brief article that is helpful in delineating between the two). Our wills are now in bondage to sin, only to be freed by the grace of God though the death of Christ.

I fear that Rhett Smith and others like he and Tyler Williams are hijacking classical Christianity in hopes of not being offended by God, and keeping others from being offended by Him as well and all this without laying out much more of a defense than one's own experience and feelings). God has never desired that we defend Him in regards to His own culpability for man's suffering. In Isaiah 53:10 (an undoubtedly Messianic passage), the prophet clearly states, "But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand" (NAS). And Luke records these words from the early disciples in Acts 4:25ff: "Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'- 27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place." Both Isaiah and the early disciples are unconcerned about whether they, Jesus, or others are offended that the Father would have brought about the death of His own Son. They are only worried about one thing -- communicating the truth they find in the Scriptures and revealed to them through the Holy Spirit. Friends, if Christ could endure suffering as a righteous man, by the Hand of God, shouldn't we be able to accept the discipline that comes from that same loving Hand (Hebrews 12:4-14), knowing that it is indeed for our good, as Dr. Piper has pointed out?

Thursday, February 23, 2006 

John Piper is the Worst Pastor -- EVER!


John Piper is having a bad week in the blogs (though I doubt he cares much). First, he is called a hyper-Calvinist (as noted below), then some guy named Rhett Smith takes issue with his article, "Don't Waste Your Cancer," (go here for more details on this) and now Brent Thomas of Colossians Six Thirteen fame reports that on a recent search for a quote on God's glory being manifested in creation, he ran across the article, "John Piper Forsakes His People" from www.littlegeneva.com (when I clicked on the link, however, the title atop the window was, "John Piper is a Lying Traitor"). It apparently is written by a guy named Harry Seabrook on behalf of this site, whose tag line is "Reformed Confederate Theocrats: Creating an Old Kind of Christian" with Jeremiah 6:16 as their theme verse. The site advocates a viewpoint called Kinism (here is an article found on the site), which I had never heard of previously. Wikipedia offers a helpful article here, and here is an except to give you the general idea:
Kinists believe that when God dispersed mankind at the Tower of Babel, He segregated each race. They all are apologists for Southern slavery and the ante-bellum South, and consider themselves followers of the Presbyterian minister R. L. Dabney, who was a chaplain in the Confederate army. They are strict Sabbatarians and are paleoconservative, only they reject capitalism in favor of "covenantal agrarian" economics. They are fierce opponents of industrialism and modernity.
Apparently, Piper has drawn their ire because he actually supports interracial marriage *gasp* and says that it is good for God's people and society in general *double gasp*. So, because of that he is a traitor (as if he was ever a friend to these guys).

And to top it all off, he is recovering from surgery he had Valentine's Day to remove prostate cancer. Wow! So, a full week for Dr. Piper, he is attacked by cancer, non-Calvinists, white supremacists, and open theists. What will next week hold? Islamofacists, Liberals, and pro-abortionists, maybe? We should all remember to pray for this man whom God has used to influence thousands of college students and young adults to seek after the glory of God in all things.

Saturday, February 18, 2006 

John Piper is A Hyper-Calvinist!

John Piper is a hyper-calvinist -- at least according to Dr. Emir Caner, dean of The College at Southwestern (TCS) on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He made this accusation as a part of a series of posts by him and his brother, Dr. Ergun Caner, Dean of the Liberty Theological Seminary on the official blog of the Founder's Ministry, authored by Dr. Tom Ascol. His exact comments were as follows:
Also, is it true Bethlehem Baptist has revised their hymnal to fit the mold of their hyper-Calvinist pastor? I hear they now sing, "Jesus loves some of the children, some of the children in the world..."
Dr. John Piper is the pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, a growing congregation located in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is most definitely not a hyper-calvinist. His church excels in missions, fully sponsoring over a hundred missionaries currently on the field. But, just in case one still thinks Dr. Caner may have a point, let me lay out the distinctions of hyper-calvinism in order to see how ridiculous this charge is.

According to Phil Johnson in his "A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism", A hypercalvinist is a person who denies at least one of the following statements:
1. That the gospel call applies to all who hear.
2. That faith is the duty of every sinner.
3. That the gospel makes any "offer" of Christ, salvation, or mercy to the non-elect (or that the offer of divine mercy is free and universal).
4. That there is such a thing as "common grace."
5. That God has any sort of love for the non-elect.

I think you will find that even a cursory study of John Piper's writings and sermons will demonstrate that this term does not in any way describe Dr. Piper. But what this does reveal is the growing dislike for Calvinism among the SBC elites and the willingness they have to discredit those with whom they disagree. This is a sad situation. We should all be praying for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention
.

Monday, February 13, 2006 

The New IMB Policies: Can Anything Be Done Now?

Over at "A Baptist Perspective", my friend Jason's blog, another friend of mine (Kelly -- a.k.a., cks) asked an interesting question. Here is what he wrote:
My question to the posters here is simple: What can Baptists who disagree with the IMB's policy actually do about it? What is the nature of the solution in terms of the convention? What on earth can I do Greensboro [sic] (or wherever the convention is being held this year) to mitigate/reverse these changes?
When I spoke to him on the phone, he additionally pointed out that while he has seen many blogs that say something like, "Show up in Greensboro and let your voice be heard," he actually hasn't seen anyone lay out what the procedure would be do change such policies. I assumed that it could be reversed by the majority vote of the messengers to the Convention in June, but I honestly don't know if that is possible. If someone knows the bylaws and can point out what can be done, please share with us.

Additionally, Kelly made another interesting statement that I would like to see some response to as well. It involves his own predicament in relation to his conscience v. that of his church (and/or pastor). I would like to know how such a situation would be or should be handled by your church:
And will Dr. York (my pastor) send me as a messenger when he knows that I disagree with his viewss[sic]?

About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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