We Believe In God’s Sovereign Goodness: A Rejoinder To John Piper -- By: Thomas H. McCall

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: We Believe In God’s Sovereign Goodness: A Rejoinder To John Piper
Author: Thomas H. McCall

We Believe In God’s Sovereign Goodness:
A Rejoinder To John Piper

Thomas H. McCall

I. Introduction

I am grateful to John Piper for his helpful response. Due to my immense respect and appreciation for him as a pastoral theologian and indeed as a man of God, I am also grateful to be of some small measure of help to him in pushing him to clarify—or perhaps even modify—his views on these important matters. In that spirit, in what follows I will press a bit further. This much is now very clear: Piper unmistakably affirms divine aseity. But there are, alas, still some important issues that are not so clear.

II. Remaining Questions

Piper says that the divine impulse to create “was not from weakness” (p. 228). He wants to “affirm as strongly as [he] can that God’s act of creation was not constrained by anything outside him, nor was the inner impulse to create owing to deficiency or defect” (p. 228). He also says that “if and when God creates . . . ” (p. 230), and he refers to the “freedom of God in creation” (p. 230). But just exactly what he means when he affirms that freedom of God in creation is somewhere short of obvious.

Piper also makes intriguing reference to God’s “inclinations,” and his imagery of the fountain that “is inclined to overflow” is suggestive. More precisely, it is suggestive of something that happens necessarily. It may well be that the fountain overflows from superabundance rather than “weakness,” “emptiness,” or “deficiency” (p. 228)—but if it overflows necessarily then it cannot help but overflow. If this is analogous to God’s action in creating, sustaining, and redeeming the world, then it would seem to best illustrate the necessity of this divine action.

So is God free to create or to refrain from creating? In other words, is he free in something akin to a “libertarian” sense of freedom? Or is God free merely by virtue of the fact that he does what he does in the complete absence of any external constraint or compulsion, with the immediate cause of the action internal to God and it being within his power to have done otherwise if (per impossible) he had wanted to? In other words, is divine freedom

something akin to “compatibilist” freedom? From what Piper says in the foregoing response, I don’t think that we have enough to know.

But his avowal of “Edwardsian-Calvinism” might lead us to think that Piper would endorse a compatibilist account.1 Paul Ramsey notes that

It is obvious that Edwards (in saying that God in his vol...

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