John Piper and unconditional hardening

One of the more famous Calvinists in Reformed circles is John Piper. He is especially heterodox in that he posits multitudinous conditions for salvation that God by “grace” enables the sinner to do. It is verses like Romans 11:6 that contradict Piper’s “hyper-conditionalism.” I say “hyper-conditionalism” since most Calvinist or Reformed persons wrongly say that there are one or two conditions for salvation, while Piper wrongly believes that there are many more conditions than that (see Piper’s book, “Future Grace” to see his hyper-conditionalism in all its Christ-dishonoring, sinner-exalting splendor).

Of course, popular Piper and fashionable Calvinism are both dead wrong since Christ met ALL conditions for salvation. Basically what Piper does is twist just about every single fruit or result OF salvation into a condition FOR salvation. Anyway, I say all of that just to preface an excerpt of an MP3 sermon that I had typed out. John Piper comments on his quotation of John Stott’s citation of Leon Morris:

“Fifth, the objection to Paul’s answer or Paul’s statement given in verse 19 shows that Paul did not deal with the sovereignty of God the way we deal with it today when we try to defend God. You see the objection they raise in verse 19: ‘You will say to me then’–now what has he just said? He has just said, He hardens who He wills. He hardens who He wills. And they say: ‘You will say to me then, well why does He still find fault?! For who can resist His will?!’ Answer: Nobody. That’s the lesson he drew from Pharaoh. Now at this point, at this point, amazingly, otherwise thoughtful, reasonable, good commentators lose their senses–and say the most unbelievable things. I’ll read you one excerpt from a commentator that you would all recognize as a very good one. I quote from him often, and he writes on this verse:

“‘Neither here nor anywhere else is God said to harden anyone who has not first hardened himself.’ That Pharaoh hardened his heart against God and refused to humble himself is made plain in the story. So God’s hardening of him was a judicial act, abandoning him to his own stubbornness.”

Now let me say calmly and firmly. That’s the opposite of what this text says. Can I say that calmly with no loss of control. That is the opposite of what this text says. That’s frightening. When otherwise good commentators take a text and make it stand exactly on its head. Now here’s my argument–my fifth argument:

If Paul agreed with that, he’s got a ready made answer in verse 19, help us Paul! Why does He still find fault? Tell us the answer that the commentator had. He’s got an answer why don’t you have an answer?! His answer is: It’s a judicial act. He deserves to be hardened. He did something prior to the hardening that brought the hardening upon him. That’s what the commentator says, you say that. Help us!

The reason Paul doesn’t say that is because it isn’t the answer. And it isn’t true. Because he just said: ‘He hardens whom He wills,’ not ‘He hardens who deserves to be hardened.’ We just can’t submit! And so Paul says in response to this question–a heartfelt pointed question: “Who are you O man, to answer back to God?’

So my fifth reason is that the answer Paul gives to the objection, why does He still find fault? is not the modern answer–or the old one. It is, bow down and accept the mystery.”

Chris: Piper rightly rejects what Stott and Morris are saying regarding God’s unconditional hardening purpose toward Pharaoh. But Piper is wrong to say that Paul is saying in effect “bow down and accept the mystery.” Certainly Paul is telling the person who is wonderfully confused about the fact that he is not God to “bow down.” But what is this “mystery” stuff? There is nothing mysterious about God’s desire to harden whom He will harden in order to demonstrate His wrath and make His power known. I think Piper is trying hard to swallow the Spurgeonian pill since Piper cannot “reconcile” God’s sovereignty with human responsibility. And since Piper apparently cannot explain how God is not the actual perpetrator of the sin He is causing by this hardening process, he in pseudo-humility says, “mystery.”

I think Piper says mystery because he wrongly believes that man must have some kind of freedom relative to God in order for God to find fault with that man. The objector wants to know how God can find fault with him when God is the One causing him to do the very things he does. Piper put words into Paul’s mouth, trying to make Paul look like he believes that human responsibility presupposes human freedom from God’s active control. In striking contrast to Piper, the apostle Paul does not appeal to the “mystery card.” Rather, Paul in effect is saying that God does whatever He wants–including hardening whom He desires – and who are you O man, to talk back?

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