Saturday, October 08, 2005

Desiring God Conference (Live-Blogged)

Doug McHone (Coffeeswirls) and Tim Challies are blogging from the Desiring God conference on Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

This from Justin Taylor, interviewing John Piper caught my eye:
Q. You’ve become known as a champion of God’s control of All Things. Did you grow up with this belief?
A. no I didn’t start off believing this way. My dad lived the sovereignty of God. He doesn’t call himself a Calvinist and calls that a bad word. The act of regeneration precedes and enables faith, but he disagrees with this, and is totally inconsistent, but he’s my dad and I love him. Growing up, I heard and absorbed a lifestyle of radical dependence of God. At college though, I denied the full sovereignty of God. At Fuller Seminary I saw evidence of God’s sovereignty. I would go home after class and cry because my whole world seemed to be coming apart. Romans 9 devours free-willers like me. In time, my mind was conformed by the word of God.
What Paul writes in Romans 9 nailed things for me too. At the end of my first year on UCCF Staff, I'd already have happily taken a calvinist tag, though with a fair degree of uncertainty, particularly having spent the first six years of my Christian life to that point under Arminian pastors.

Several students asked me to help them understand Romans 9. I stumbled through it with them. I then undertook six months of study of the chapter in the company of Roger Forster & Paul Marsden (God's Strategy in Human History), and John Piper (The Justification of God).

I still get frustrated when people keep reverting to "free will" to explain sin or suffering and so many other things. Where is that in the Bible? I recognise people have real questions about these things, but its not up to us to pick doctrine by what we like...


  1. Dead right. I often feel similarly, but I can understand the tensions that this raises for people... which presumably is partly what this conference aims to address.
    I've always like this quote from Carson on Job:
    'Job will not resort to easy comfort about this not really being the will of God: it must be the work of Satan. Of course it WAS the work of Satan. But in God’s universe, even Satan’s work cannot step outside the outermost boundaries of God’s sovereignty...
    ‘While that is what raises the problem, it is also what promises hope.’

  2. I think the big issue with free will is the question of responsibility - if we aren't free to choose, then how are we responsible for our actions? How can love and trust and faith be meaningful unless given out of choice?

    I think that we run into a lot of these problems because we lack the language and concepts to properly comprehend and describe how a timeless God interacts with a timeful universe. It's like trying to describe the physics at the centre of a black hole - all our models break down at that point of singularity, and the intersection of God's sovereignty and man's responsibility is rather like that.

    I think the problem with the term "free will" is not that we don't have any freedom but that people take it to mean a greater freedom than is Biblical, possible or logically coherent. At the worst extreme, some people want freedom from any outside influence, freedom from reason, freedom from personality, freedom from causality as well as freedom from God's sovereignty. So it's a misleading term - I prefer "real choices", since human responsibility and agency seems to me to be pretty clear in the Bible, but under and within the sovereignty of God.