In light of some of the requests that surfaced in my last post on the danger that John Piper poses to the church and its mission, I’ll be posting, over the next little while a few reflections on precisely how his theology is dangerous and false. First off, one of the central issues arising from John Piper’s doctrine of God, which he gets from Jonathan Edwards, is the claim that God requires sin and evil in order for God to be fully manifest and glorified. Without sin and evil, God’s glory would be veiled and incomplete. In his famous book, Desiring God, Piper approvingly quotes the following segment from Jonathan Edwards’s Concerning the Divine Decrees:
It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all.…
Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it.
There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired.…
So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect. (Concerning the Divine Decrees, 528, emphasis added. On page 350 of Desiring God)
Piper follows this quote up with his own hearty approval: “God is more glorious for having conceived and created and governed a world like this with all its evil” (p. 351). Think on this quite carefully. For Piper God’s glory would be incomplete without all of horrors that have taken place in the history of the world. Every instance of death, suffering, murder, rape, torture, and mutilation—God needs them. God wants them to happen because without them, he would not be fully glorified. And God’s own (monadicly conceived) self-glorification, for Piper God’s sole and utter goal in the world.
Obviously this theology is deeply incoherent and does not square with Scripture, or the church’s traditional teaching concerning evil (for Augustine and most of the church after him evil is privation, not something that could “add” to the display of God’s glory). But what is worst about it is its pastoral and ethical consequences. A God who needs evil to be himself will surely garner a people who have no interest in stopping evil or comforting those who suffer. Indeed, as the Scripture explicitly tell us to imitate God (Eph 5:1), this theology implicitly encourages Christians to perpetrate violence and suffering against those who are seen to deserve it (whether or not Piper would endorse this is not the issue—his theology logically demands this conclusion whether he admits it or not).
As such, it is vital for us to see and recognize that the God proclaimed by Piper and his ilk is a false God. An idol that desperately needs to be dethroned. The omnipotent demon that Piper worships is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and the sooner all Christians realize this the better off we will all be.