Did John Piper Say that God was the Author of Sin?
I’m getting numerous hits from search engines that indicate people are looking to see if John Piper said that God is the author of sin. I can’t find the source of this controversy, or who made the charge, or why people seem to be looking for this topic right now. As near as I can figure, it comes from this article, dated January 1, 1993. Nothing like dealing with current events, right?
Piper is looking at Romans 9:22-23, which (in the ESV) reads:
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.
The issue that Piper contends with is who prepared the vessels of wrath for destruction. This dilemma is called double predestination. I’ve argued that God actively chooses the elect, while “passing over” the reprobate. This is supported by the passive voice being used in describing the preparation of the vessels of wrath, while using the active voice in describing the preparation of the vessels of mercy.
Remember: we all deserve God’s wrath, for we are all sinners. Without God working a miracle in our heart, we will reject his grace and continue in our sins. We don’t need God’s help to continue in sin. We need his help to get out of it!
Piper rejects my view, arguing that based on the absolute power and sovereignty of God described in verses 13, 18, and 21 of Romans 9, it is most likely that Paul intended this section to mean that God actively selects the reprobate instead of merely “passing over” them. God creates the reprobate, not to commune with him as the elect will, but specifically to roast.
That may be difficult for some to swallow. It may be reprehensible to others. Because of the visceral reaction that thought like this engenders, many will read more into this point than either the text or Piper actually said. Piper did not say that God actively works to create sin in the heart of the unbeliever. That is hyper-Calvinism. Above, I stated something worth repeating at this point: we don’t need God’s help to continue in sin; we need his help to get out of sin!
Deciding a person’s fate as reprobate or elect is a far cry from decreeing the individual sins that said person will commit. God doesn’t do that. The reprobate will do just fine on their own, if left on their own. See my essay on bondage of the will to sin for more information.
Piper also made provocative comments on this subject during three sermons in 2007:
- God created [Satan and his demons] knowing what they would become and how, in that very evil role, they would glorify Christ. Knowing everything they would become, God created them for the glory of Christ. (Aug 12, 2007)
- God is sovereign over Satan, and therefore Satan’s will does not move without God’s permission. And therefore every move of Satan is part of God’s overall purpose and plan. (Aug 19, 2007)
- [E]verything that exists—including evil—is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly. . . . Adam’s sin and the fall of the human race with him into sin and misery did not take God off guard and is part of his overarching plan to display the fullness of the glory of Jesus Christ. (Aug 26, 2007)
David Mathis of Desiring God Ministries said that many heated e-mails were fired off repudiating those comments. But, he answers all of the charges in four parts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) by reprinting a large tract of John Frame’s The Doctrine of God. He insists, along with the Westminster Confession of Faith (III.1) and the Baptist Confession of Faith (III.1) (one of which Piper probably agrees with being a five-point Calvinist), that God is not the author of sin.
John Piper, so far as I can tell, never said that God was the author of sin. He only stated that sin and evil are a part of God’s plan, allowed to rule for a time until God executes his final victory and fully displays the glory of his Son Jesus.