“It's sin not to like the true doctrine of election. It's sin not to like what God likes.”
So states John Piper in a post dated June 4, and prominently displayed for over a week on the front page of ChristianPost.com
Dr. Piper’s logic is correct. It is ultimately a sin not to like what God in fact likes. However,his premise is wrong.
If he had said that it is sin not to like the true Biblical doctrine of election, I would not have been nearly as concerned. As I pointed out in a previous blog post, the Biblical teaching on God’s sovereign purpose in election is not referring to election to salvation. Rather, it is referring to God’s election to service of those He has chosen to be His instruments.
As a committed Calvinist, however, Dr. Piper is not referring to the Biblical doctrine. He is referring to the Reformed doctrine of election as stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith. In Chapter III, Article III, Of God’s Eternal Decree, it says,
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.
In article VII of the same section of the Confession, it goes on to say,
The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice.
A Minority View
In essence, Dr. Piper is saying that the vast majority of Christians historically and currently – including a great many wise and Godly theologians – are sinners simply because they disagree with his interpretation of what Scripture teaches on a very controversial issue.
I am glad that Dr. Piper is confident in his beliefs. However, he should be very much aware that only a relatively small percentage of Christian believers throughout history have actually believed what he believes – that God has chosen from eternity to extend mercy to some for salvation, while at the same time choosing to withhold mercy from others who are ordained to experience dishonor and wrath that never ends.
That view was not held by believers in the Early Church up to the Reformation – as can be seen by the fact that it has never been the belief of either the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was formulated by John Calvin and his followers in the 16th century, and quickly repudiated by Jacob Arminius and his followers as grossly misrepresenting the gracious nature and character of God. It was not held by Martin Luther or John Wesley or the Reformers who followed in their steps. Nor was it or is it believed to be a Scriptural doctrine by ancient or modern Biblical Restorationists who are convinced that, at the end of time, every knee will freely bow and every tongue will freely confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
A Word of Caution
Those who occupy positions of leadership and influence within the Christian Church have a responsibility to be especially careful with their words. As James warns,
Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
All systems of theology are written by finite and fallible human beings, so all systems of theology are flawed to one degree or another. John Calvin, Jacob Ariminius, Martin Luther, John Wesley and others were brilliant men who generally sought to serve God with a whole heart. But they were human, so some of their ideas were incorrect.
The Reformed doctrine of election has never been held by a broad consensus of believers within the Christian Church. Dr. Piper is certainly free to suggest that those who disagree with him are mistaken or misinformed. He could even say categorically that he believes they are wrong. But, to say that it is a “sin” not to like or agree with him on such a controversial theological issue is neither gracious nor wise.
Sincere believers whose views differ from those of John Piper are generally not intentionally trying to disobey God or misinterpret what Scripture teaches. Rather, they are most often trying to defend something about God’s nature and character that they know to be absolutely true – that, above all, God is good!