Piper on Calvinism, Arminianism, and Logic

TulipsI think John Piper is on target with this assessment of Calvinists, Arminians, and logic:

It is a great irony to me that Calvinists are stereotyped as logic-driven. For forty years my experience has been the opposite. The Calvinists I have known (English Puritans, Edwards, Newton, Spurgeon, Packer, Sproul) are not logic driven, but Bible-driven. It’s the challengers who bring their logic to the Bible and nullify text after text. Branches are lopped off by “logic,” not exegesis.

Who are the great enjoyers of paradox today? Who are the pastors and theologians who grab both horns of every biblical dilemma and swear to the God-Man: I will never let go of either.

Not the Calvinism-critics that I meet. They read of divine love, and say that predestination cannot be. They read of human choice and say the divine rule of all our steps cannot be. They read of human resistance, and say that irresistible grace cannot be. Who is logic-driven?

For forty years Calvinism has been, for me, a vision of life that embraces mystery more than any vision I know. It is not logic-driven. It is driven by a vision of the ineffable, galactic vastness of God’s Word.

Let’s be clear: It does not embrace contradiction. Chesterton and I both agree that true logic is the law of “Elfland.” “If the Ugly Sisters are older than Cinderella, it is (in an iron and awful sense) necessary that Cinderella is younger than the Ugly Sisters.” Neither God nor his word is self-contradictory. But paradoxes? Yes.

We happy Calvinists don’t claim to get the heavens into our heads. We try to get our heads into the heavens. We don’t claim comprehensive answers to revealed paradoxes. We believe. We try to understand. And we break out into song and poetry again and again.

It’s not my commitment to the principles of Aristotelian logic that leads me to embrace the tenets of Calvinism; it’s my commitment to taking all of the Bible seriously and not being content to accept shallow harmonizations that don’t do justice to all of the truths in tension.

Roger Olson basically agrees with the role that logic plays in the two systems in his “Calvinism’s Conundrums,” chapter 8 of Against Calvinism [Logos] (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 175–79. It’s his commitment to logic that leads him to reject Calvinism: “I believe Calvinism has too many and too profound conundrums that have no apparent solutions” (175).

For more on the topic of logic, mystery, and harmonization, see also my post “Did the Incarnation Improve God?

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One Response to Piper on Calvinism, Arminianism, and Logic

  1. Mark V February 13, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    Great post, Phil.

    I was just talking about this with some colleagues over coffee the other day. It seems to me that many Christians are Arminian by default. The prime example of this being the perception that “I chose” to give my life to Jesus. As Piper so eloquently stated in the excerpt above, Scripture would suggest otherwise.

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