King's Evangelical Divinity School

13 June 2012

Is it a sin to disagree with election?

Christian Post has a recent transcript of John Piper discussing whether rejecting the doctrine of election is a sin. Piper seems to be saying that rejecting God's idea of election is a sin. Or is he? One blogger on the Christian Post site wonders if what Piper is actually saying is that rejecting the Reformed doctrine of election is a sin. If so this would be scandalous. 

Reading both sources I can't quite decide. What I found fascinating, though, is that in the many comments following the blog post practically no-one focuses on the semantics issue. Instead those disagreeing with the blogger either take a somewhat vitriolic ad hominem approach, or else seek to present election as indeed central to orthodoxy. Piper's view aside (and I'd be interested on what conclusions you reached on what he was getting at), it made me realise how, for some Christians, rejection of the Reformed doctrine of election constitutes a sin. Which is scandalous.

10 comments:

Steve Kneale said...

Is he not simply saying that we should "like" true doctrine - in this case election - and then goes on to state what he believes that true doctrine to be? Surely, whenever somebody makes a statement re what is true they are bound to make an interpretive statement, which may be right or wrong, expounding what they believe to be true. So, his statement re sin is about the biblical doctrine and his following statement is his own interpretation of that doctrine, namely the reformed position.

Brian B said...

Piper is making an implicit argument in favor of election. I say "implicit" because the semantics involved—like "double perspectives"—make the presentation a bit muddled. Nonetheless, it seemed clear just after the first read-through that his position is that it is indeed sin to not like election because "true election" is something God ordained; therefore, God likes it and so should we. If one dislikes or struggles with election it is because that person is viewing things through a small lens rather than the bigger lens of how God runs the world. The implied verdict is that if one does not "like" or agree with election, it is because they are somehow impaired in their understanding. It seems a classic case of circular reasoning: If you don't like election it is because your understanding is impaired, and your understanding is impaired because you do not like (agree with) election. I found Piper's assertion disturbing and hermeneutically patronising.

Brian B said...

It is an implicit argument in favor of election. I say "implicit" because the semantics involved—like "double perspectives"—make the presentation a bit muddled. Nonetheless, it seemed clear just after the first read-through that his position is that it is indeed sin to not like election because "true election" is something God ordained; therefore, God likes it and so should we. If one dislikes or struggles with election it is because that person is viewing things through a small lens rather than the bigger lens of how God runs the world. The implied verdict is that if one does not "like" or agree with election, it is because they are somehow impaired in their understanding. It seems a classic case of circular reasoning: If you do not like (the Reformed version of) election it is because your understanding is impaired, and it is obvious that your understanding is impaired because you do not like this notion of election. I found Piper's assertion disturbing and hermeneutically patronising.

Andrew Sibley said...

He is saying that it is sin to dislike election - I do feel sorry for those who believe in double predestination, their theology leads to a place where it is hard to say that God is good. Instead God holds all men over to disobedience, so that he might have mercy on us all.

Nicholas said...

The Reformed doctrine of election is the Biblical doctrine.

Calvin, which doctrine of election do you hold to?

Chris said...

I found this piece by Piper quite patronising and, quite frankly, rubbish.

Piper assumes that his understanding of "election" is correct and that it is the only one. I had a similar conversation with a Calvinist years ago when he complained that my interpretation of election is "a particular view on election". I replied by saying that his Calvinistic view was also "a particular view on election - one that only goes back to Augustine and not to the earlier church fathers".

My views on election are another issue, I don't mind people being Calvinists and many believe it because they believe the Bible teaches it. However I see things differently and clearly Piper does not entertain the thought that people may see it differently.

Nicholas said...

Calvin, I'm not interested in debating. I just want to know if you hold to a Calvinist (Monergist) view of election, or an Arminian (Synergist) one. Which one do you hold to?

Calvin L. Smith said...

Nicholas, don't worry, your very short and unequivocal first comment made quite clear that for you this is an issue not open for debate ;)

In answer to your question I was raised somewhat Calvinist but tend to hold Calvinism and Arminianism in tension. I do not think either system on its own suffices. I have real problems with double predestination for various exegetical, theological and philosophical reasons.

On a related point, some of the key predestination proof texts (Romans and Ephesians) relate less to election of individuals than of peoples. In Romans each individual - Jacob and Esau - is representative of a nation, leading Paul to launch his discussion of God's election of Israel for a purpose. In Ephesians we see the Israel issue raised again, where Gentiles and the commonwealth of Israel are juxtaposed.

Why do you ask?

Nicholas said...

Just wanted to know. I've been following your blog for a while but couldn't tell which view you held on this issue.

I don't believe it's a sin to disagree with the Reformed view of election.

I liked watching your debates on Revelation TV.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Nicholas, thanks for your kind words.