A Rejection of John Piper’s Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election

John Piper released an article today titled, Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election.” What follows is a review of his article. His article can be read in its entirety by clicking here. I tried to put all of Dr. Piper’s statements in italics.

John Piper writes:

1. We embrace unconditional election because it is true.

Piper writes, “The chapter begins with Paul’s readiness to be cursed and cut off from Christ for his unbelieving Jewish kinsmen (verse 3). This implies that some Jews are perishing. And that raises the question of God’s promise to the Jews. Had it failed? Paul answers, “It is not as though the word of God has failed” (verse 6). Why not?

Because “not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (verse 6). In other words, God’s purpose was not to acquit every individual person in Israel. It was instead a purpose of election.”

What if God’s purpose was not to acquit every individual in Israel but instead His purpose was to save all who believed? The fact is, this is Scriptura;l Piper’s statement is conjecture. In looking at Paul’s statement is seems clear enough to be he is heavy hearted because many of the Jews are not responding to the gospel message. He even says that he would give his life and be cut off if they could all be saved. These are the people that the Law was given too, they are the ones that experiences all that God had done for them as a nation and basically what Paul is saying is this; they of all people ought to be responding to the gospel. This is in no way a discourse on unconditional election! Paul is certainly not speaking like one who understood that God had everything under control and He was saving those He intended to save. He did not believe that. I believe when Paul preached, he believed that the gospel was the power of God unto salvation to all who would repent and by faith trust Christ to be saved.

Piper continues, “So to illustrate the point of God’s unconditional election Paul uses the analogy of Jacob and Esau: “Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls — [Rebekah] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger’” (verses 11–12).

In other words, God’s original purpose in choosing individuals for himself out of Israel (and all the nations! Revelation 5:9) was not based on any conditions that they would meet. It was an unconditional election. And thus he says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (verse 15; see verses 16–18; Romans 11:5–7).”

Many contend as Piper does the most applicable interpretation of Romans 9 assumes that Paul is concerned with individual salvation. This does not appear to be the issue Paul is addressing at all. Paul’s focus is whether or not “the word of God had failed” (Rom 9:6). Had God changed His promise to be the God of the Jews and to have them as his covenant people? Paul said no.

Here is the underlying problem that existed. The Jews believed that they had a covenantal relationship with God that was based on their natural heritage and their obedience to the Law. The problem that Paul is addressing here is that his preaching that anyone could be saved on the basis of their faith alone, then their nationality nor their obedience to the Law counted for anything. (Gal. 5:12) Their rich heritage and unique history meant nothing.

Here is the real issue; not only did it seem that Paul was saying that being a Jew would not get one to heaven, they had to believe in Jesus. Their obedience to the Law was no longer enough? Their old time religion was good enough for David, Jeremiah, and Isaiah back then, why wasn’t it good enough for them now? This is what Paul is addressing. He is not addressing individual election. That is simply not the case. Piper highlights Paul’s reference to Jacob who God loved and Esau who He hated. Of course Piper concludes with Paul’s next statement, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (verse 15; see verses 16–18; Romans 11:5–7).” Here is the question that has to be dealt with. Is this reference one dealing with national identities or one dealing with God’s choice of individuals in the womb? The latter is certainly not contextually supported and would seem odd for Paul to include in his response to the validity of this new gospel as it relates to God’s covenant already in place for centuries.

Here is what is interesting as well. A lot is directed at the reference to Jacob and Esau but very little attention is focused on verse 7 which speaks about promises to the seed of Abraham. Ishmael was Abraham’s first born but God’s promises were handed down through his lineage and not Ishmael’s. In the same manner, Jacob who was born second would receive the blessing and the descendants of Esau like those of Ishmael would not inherit the blessings promised to the descendants of Abraham and Isaac. All Paul is doing is reminding the children of Israel that God chose the descendants of Isaac and Jacob over the Moabites who were descendants of Ishmael and the Edomites who were descendants of Esau. God chose Israel to be the torch bearers of the priestly role in history and not the descendants of Ishmael or Esau. That is all Paul is saying in this passage. He did not hate Esau individually; God hated what the Edomites would become as a nation of rebellion against Israel. One could certainly argue the reference to God’s sovereignty in this passage indication He knew beforehand who and what the descendants of both Ishmael and Esau would become. No doubt, God most certainly hated that.

Piper changes direction here and says, “Jesus confirms this teaching: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). Coming to Jesus is not a condition we meet to qualify for election. It is the result of election.” Well, this verse is compelling sitting out there all by itself. Take it in its context, it is not so compelling.

[And] Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger, and he that believes on me shall never thirst at any time. 36 But I have said to you, that ye have also seen me and do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and him that comes to me I will not at all cast out.

38 For I am come down from heaven, not that I should do *my* will, but the will of him that has sent me. 39 And this is the will of him that has sent me, that of all that he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up in the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes on him, should have life eternal; and I will raise him up at the last day.

Note Jesus’ statement in verse 35: “I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall never hunger and he that believes on me shall never thirst at any time.” This certainly appears to be an open invitation for anyone to come, Jew or Gentile. This is at least in step with the context. V 37, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and him that comes to me I will not at all cast out.” Is this a reference to effectual calling? Perhaps. However, one will not take that position from this verse; the only way that this interpretation can be made is if one brings it to the text. Paul basically repeats Himself in verse 39. Is Paul’s emphasis on those that God sends Him or on Him keeping them to the end? It would be fair to conclude that both could be equally applicable. Verse 40 however reiterates verse 35. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes on him, should have life eternal; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Simply put. There is no textual justification for reading effectual calling or unconditional election out of this text, although it should be pointed out that one cannot deny the argument beyond the fact that this conclusion is brought to the text. Verses 35 and 40 have no ambiguity in them and make no reference whatsoever to unconditional election as Piper here contends.

Piper continues, “That is why they come. ‘No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father’ (John 6:65). ‘You did not choose me, but I chose you’ (John 15:16; see John 17:2, 6, 9; Galatians 1:15).” These passages simply say that salvation is of the Lord; salvation is of His provisions and His promises; salvation is His initiative and apart from His Divine revelation of Who He is in His Word and His sole efforts to reconcile a sinful world unto Himself through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, no one would be saved. God indeed chose us as Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” When Jesus prayer that prayer, He was in no way praying for God’s elect and no more. He was praying for all men everywhere that needed to repent and turn by faith to Him to be saved.

Piper skips over to the Book of Acts and writes, “In the book of Acts why did some believe and not others? Luke’s answer is election: “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). This “appointment” — this election—was not based on foreseen faith, it was the cause of faith.”

Well once again, here is another compelling passage that seems to support the unconditional election supposition. However, verse 46 could be construed as being problematic for this suggested conclusion. “46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly and said, It was necessary that the word of God should be first spoken to you; but, since ye thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo, we turn to the nations; “ If one is going to read into verse 48 unconditional election one can certainly read into verse 46 individual responsibility to accept and believe the gospel message that had been presented to them first. It is most certainly clear at least to Paul the reason they are taking the gospel to the gentiles in the first place is because the Jews rejected the gospel and God sent them to preach the good news that Jesus Christ saves to the nations. There is no hint in this text that Paul believed for one minute that the reason the Jews had not believed was because God did not give them the ability or opportunity to believe.

Fast forward to Ephesians 1 where Piper writes, “In Ephesians 1 Paul says, “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world. . . . In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:4, 11). It is the “counsel of God’s will” that is eternally decisive in this affair.” Of course the catch phrase here is God chose “us” in Christ “before the foundation of the world.” This can be read in two ways. God chose “us”, you and me before the foundation of the world or God chose “us” who believe before the foundation of the world. Did God choose the promises and provisions of salvation before the foundation of the world or did He choose us my name before the foundation of the world? Certainly believing in the finished work of Christ at Calvary which God most certainly predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all according to the counsel of His will” is a good interpretation of what Paul says here. It is at least as valid an interpretation and application as Piper’s contention concerning unconditional election.

Piper concludes this section by saying, “What will you say to God at the judgment if he asks, “Why did you believe on my Son while others didn’t?” You will not say: “Because I was smarter.” No. Surely you will say, “Because of your grace.” I can agree with Piper at this point. However the next statement is where we part company theologically, “Had you not chosen me, I would have been left spiritually dead, unresponsive, guilty.” This is a subtle nuance softly slipped into the fray here. It is a conclusion that Calvinism posits but it is in no way substantiated by any of the texts mentioned in this section. Piper sort of works on the basis here that since A is correct and B is true and C is undeniable then D must also be true. This simply does not work or perhaps the better wording ought to be that is SHOULD NOT WORK.

Piper briefly makes a couple more assertions on his Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election.

2. We embrace unconditional election because God designed it to make us fearless in our proclamation of his grace in a hostile world.

“If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” (Romans 8:31, 33).

Really? Why does God need anyone to be fearless in their proclamation of the gospel when He is the only One responsible for anyone’s being able to receive that proclamation and respond positively to it? Embracing unconditional election has absolutely NOTHING to do with being fearless in the proclamation of the gospel in a hostile world. There is no correlation between embracing unconditional election and being fearless in the proclamation of the gospel.

3. We embrace unconditional election because God designed it to make us humble.

“God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise . . . so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. . . . Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:27, 29, 31).

What? God’s promise of redemption ought to humble everyone who falls at the foot of the cross and find forgiveness. Embracing unconditional election has absolutely NOTHING to do with that.

4. We embrace unconditional election because God made it a powerful moral impetus for compassion, kindness, and forgiveness.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, compassionate hearts, kindness . . . forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12–13). No one has seen or savored his election truly who is not moved by it to become kind and patient and forgiving.

God made redemption a powerful moral impetus for compassion, kindness and forgiveness but not unconditional election.

Here is the final part of Piper’s Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election.

He writes,

5. We embrace unconditional election because it is a powerful incentive in our evangelism to help unbelievers who are great sinners not despair.

When you offer Christ freely to all unbelievers, suppose one says, “I have sinned too terribly. God could never choose to save me.” The most ultimate despair-destroying thing you can say is this: Do you realize that God chose before the foundation of the world whom he will save? And he did it based on absolutely nothing in you. Before you were born or had done anything good or bad, God chose whether to save you or not.

Therefore, you dare not get in God’s face and tell him what qualifications you lack in order to be chosen. There were no qualifications for being chosen.

“What then should I do?” he asks. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That’s how you begin to “confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10). If you will embrace the Savior, you will confirm that you are elect, and you will be saved.

Piper: “The most ultimate despair-destroying thing you can say is this: Do you realize that God chose before the foundation of the world whom he will save?

In all fairness, listen to Piper’s instruction: ““Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That’s how you begin to “confirm your calling and election” (2 Peter 1:10). If you will embrace the Savior, you will confirm that you are elect, and you will be saved.”

What Piper does not say with respect to 2 Peter 1:10 is this: Paul is speaking to those that are already saved; so verse 10 is an admonition to walk worthy of your calling and election, which can simply mean inclusion into the family of God, the body of believers, or the redeemed. This verse has nothing to do with Piper’s proposed question, “what must I do to be saved?” For Piper to say by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ this is how one begins to “confirm his calling and election” is exegetically inexcusable. There is not one single text that I am aware of in the whole of Scripture that says that the lost person believes to confirm his calling and election. In fact, Piper refutes this idea in this article. He makes it clear that “Coming to Jesus is not a condition we meet to qualify for election. It is the result of election.” He later says, “This ‘appointment’ — this election—was not based on foreseen faith, it was the cause of faith.” So for the Calvinist, there is no “believing in Jesus” unless and until God efficaciously calls the dead and totally depraved unregenerate to new life FIRST and THEN and ONLY THEN will the new born believer begin to make his calling and election sure.

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8 Responses to A Rejection of John Piper’s Five Reasons to Embrace Unconditional Election

  1. Bob Williford says:

    Bob, you are so correct, and you point to the very thing that sinks the theory of Election each and every time. Homiletics calls it ‘contextualization’. In a nutshell, by studiying the assumptions made by Piper and others, Calvinism simply sinks….context is the proverbial iceberg that sinks big ships.
    Jesus is Lord
    BW

  2. lydiasellerofpurple says:

    Well Bob, I admire what you have done here. After 15 years of working at reading/listening to Piper I just cannot do it anymore. He is so verbose, flowery and all over the place it is like a mass of chaos and confusion. I really think people don’t analyze what he teaches because he is so flowery and passionate…they simply are mesmerized by him. If you strip away all the adjectives and adverbs it might help but that takes too long..

    “Many contend as Piper does the most applicable interpretation of Romans 9 assumes that Paul is concerned with individual salvation. This does not appear to be the issue Paul is addressing at all. Paul’s focus is whether or not “the word of God had failed” (Rom 9:6). Had God changed His promise to be the God of the Jews and to have them as his covenant people? Paul said no. ”

    There seems to be historical contextual back up for your view if we read about what was happening in Rome during this time as the Jews were starting to come back after being ousted. This would upset some apple carts in terms of Christians/Jews since both were viewed by Rome as being atheists (The Christians as a Jewish sect, no less!) because they were not polytheists. I think it is a big mistake to read Romans with a lens of individual salvation and ignoring the historical context.

    Good stuff. Thanks for taking on Piper. It is not an easy task to cut through it all

    • sbcissues says:

      Lydia,

      It is not that I took on Piper but simply saw the headline to his post and read it and thought… is this the scholarship that is fueling the calvinist revival in the SBC? If that is indeed the case those falling in line need to be ashamed of themselves if this is the best of the best.

      • Max says:

        “If that is indeed the case those falling in line need to be ashamed of themselves if this is the best of the best.”

        From my vantage point, there is no doubt that SBC-YRR church planters in my area have been Piperized. They wait anxiously for the next Piper Point and preach it from their pulpits, along with a spattering of Mohler Moments and Driscol Drivel. Young pastors in their 20s-30s idolize the man and will follow the tune of the Pied Piper to wherever it eventually takes their generation. Piper has an amazing draw with his philosophical message; he has been a master at filling the void left vacant by an evangelistic leadership within SBC in recent years. The non-SBC “influencers” of young folks far out number those within our ranks; thus, the effectiveness of The Passion Conference, Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and other such reformed movements which have caused our young folks to drift in that direction. I keep waiting for the “best of the best” in our denomination representing majority Southern Baptists to stand up and be counted … in the meantime, reformed entities are picking up steam and Piper keeps popping along.

  3. lydiasellerofpurple says:

    Bob, I did not word that well at all. I meant analyzing his teaching when I said ‘take him on’. But it is a chore to slog through it. No it is not scholarship. It is flowery cognitive dissonance.

    Perhaps you can analyze his teaching on “Christian Hedonism” next? :o)

  4. james jordan says:

    “We embrace unconditional election because God made it a powerful moral impetus for compassion”

    When I think of unconditional election I always think of compassion. You aren’t elect so no matter how hard you try to beleive, you can’t; you’re predestined to go to hell sucka! It just exudes compassion, much like an atomic bomb or a rape.

  5. jacob says:

    You really know your stuff… Keep up the good work!

  6. A HERMENEUTICS LESSON

    HERMENEUTICS IS THE SCIENCE OF INTERPRETATION OF THE SCRIPTURES. ISOLATING VERSES OF SCRIPTURE TO PROVE A POINT OF DOCTRINE IS A COMMON PRACTICE, BUT IT IS NOT A VALID SCIENTIFIC APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WORD.

    Let us answer the question: What must I do to be saved under the terms of the New Covenant? All Christians from the Day of Pentecost, until the present, were and are saved under the terms of the New Covenant, also called the New Testament.

    WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?

    1. Believe in Jesus. (John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but does it include all the requirements for salvation? No, it does not. It does not say that all you have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus. Even demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God.(Luke 8:26-31)

    2. Believe and be baptized. (Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but it does not detail all that men have believe and do to be saved.

    3. Confess and believe. (Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;)

    This verse is true, but is does not include all of the requirements for salvation.

    4. Call on the name of the Lord. (Acts 2: 21 ‘And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’)

    Is this verse true? Yes. Does this verse explain the meaning of calling on the name of the Lord? No, it does not. All of the relevant verses concerning salvation and forgiveness of sin are needed to understand what is meant by calling on the name of the Lord. Being obedient to the gospel is calling on the name of the Lord. Saying the man-made sinner’s prayer is not calling on the name of the Lord. There is no verse of Scripture that includes a sinner’s prayer under the New Covenant.

    5. Be born of water and Spirit.(John 3:5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but it does not explain the process to be born of water and the Spirit.

    6. By grace through faith. (Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;)

    Is this verse true? Of course it is. We have the opportunity for salvation because of God’s grace, however, this verse does not say that we are saved by grace alone nor does it say we are saved by faith only. Salvation is the gift mentioned in this verse.

    7. Be buried with Christ in baptism. (Romans 6:4-5 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in the newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,)

    Are these verses true? Yes, but baptism alone is not the only requirement in order to walk in newness of life. Unsaved men do not walk in newness of life. We are told to walk in a new life after we are baptized. We are not told to walk in a new life the minute we believe. Water baptism is the final step to becoming saved.

    8. Water baptism. (1 Peter 3:21 Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.)

    Is it true that water baptism saves us? Yes, but this verse does not say, baptism alone, saves us.

    9. Be baptized calling on His name. (Acts 22:16 Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name!)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but it does not list all of the requirements for salvation?

    10. Repent. (Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.)

    Is this verse true? Of course it is, however, it is not all one has to do to have sins forgiven. Repentance is making the intellectual commitment to turn from sin and unbelief and to turn toward God.

    11. Baptized into Christ. (Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, however, you cannot be baptized into Christ unless you believe, confess, and repent prior to being baptized. You are not clothed with Christ the minute you believe. You are not clothed with Christ the minute you confess. You are not clothed with Christ the minute you repent. You are clothed with Christ the minute you are baptized into Him.

    12. Repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.)

    Is this verse true? Yes, but is does mean that you can have your sins forgiven without having faith and confessing Jesus as the Son of God? No.

    13. Believe in the Lord Jesus. (Acts 16:30-31…”Sirs what must I do to be saved? 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”)

    Is this verse true? Yes, however, it doe not state that men are saved by “faith only.”

    WHAT DOES GOD DO SO YOU MAY BE SAVED?

    1. God provides a Savior in Jesus Christ. (1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.)

    2. God makes His grace available to all men. (Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men.)

    WHAT MUST YOU DO TO BE SAVED?

    1. You must believe. (John 3:16)

    2. You must confess. (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:37)

    3. You must repent. (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19)

    4. You must be baptized. (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38)

    WHAT MUST YOU DO TO SAY SAVED?

    1. You must remain faithful until death. (Revelation 2:11, Matthew 10:22)

    ——————————————————————————

    The Bible says we are saved by grace. It does not say we are saved by grace alone.

    The Bible says we are saved by believing in Jesus. It does not say we are saved by faith alone.

    The Bible says we are saved by confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God raised him from the dead. It does not say that confessing Him and believing in His resurrection alone, that we will be saved.

    The Bible does say we must repent in order to have our sins forgiven. The Bible does not say that repentance alone saves us.

    The Bible teaches us that water baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and that it saves us. It does not say that water baptism alone saves us.

    In a honest hermeneutical approach to the question “What are we saved by? The answer has to include the following:

    GRACE
    FAITH
    REPENTANCE
    CONFESSION
    WATER BAPTISM

    Which one of God’s requirements for salvation can we eliminate and still be saved?

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BOG. Google search>>>steve finnell a christian view

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