Why Did You Believe? A Review of John Piper’s Irresistible Grace (Part 1)
As I mentioned last week, I have been reading through John Piper’s Five Points in which he gives a Biblical defense of the T.U.L.I.P. of Calvinism. Last week, we looked at his view of total depravity and pretty much agreed with everything he stated in that chapter. I pointed out a few points where he was possibly “hiding the ball” on what he truly believed and we discussed the difference between Calvinists and Traditionalists on total inability.
The Calvinist views humanity as “on our own” or “apart from God’s grace” in the sense that we need regeneration (God’s grace) before we can believe. The Traditionalist does not view humanity as “on our own” or “apart from God’s grace” because God has made atonement for the world’s sins and sent the Gospel out in to the world, both of which are works of God’s grace. We have what we need in order to believe.
This week we will be moving on to Irresistible Grace, the “I” in T.U.L.I.P. Piper gets out of order here because, as he sees it, this is the order in which man experiences these five points.
Now, Piper begins by presenting a hypothetical scenario in which Jesus asks you on judgment day, “Why did you believe on me, when you heard the gospel, but your friends didn’t, when they heard it?” Piper states that no one would dare say, “Because I was wiser or smarter or more spiritual or better trained or more humble.”
His conclusion is that “God’s grace was decisive in our conversion.” Therefore, irresistible grace.
I find it interesting that he begins with a hypothetical scenario like this. It really is revealing to me. To be sure, he will go on to show his proof-texts, but he begins with this. Now, even if you contend with his scriptural arguments, you must overcome this hypothetical scenario.
First of all, no you don’t. Jesus isn’t going to ask you this on the final judgment. Why would he?
Secondly, it is driven by a false dichotomy. You either say “Because of your grace,” or you say “Because I’m so wise.” That dichotomy itself assumes Calvinism is true. The Traditionalist does not accept the “man vs. God’s grace” dichotomy. It isn’t true.
The Calvinist wants this dichotomy to be true so they can paint non-Calvinists in this light of “saving themselves” or “leaning on their own wisdom.”
To be sure, making a libertarian freewill decision to place your faith in Jesus is not leaning on your own wisdom, it is throwing yourself on the grace of God presented to you in the Gospel.
Why Did You Believe?
My response to the question Jesus will never ask put forward by John Piper would be, “I believed because I knew I couldn’t save myself. And I didn’t get that knowledge from myself, it came from your Gospel that you sent me.”
Why do some of my non-Christian friends reject the Gospel? I have no idea. Some say there’s no evidence that Christianity is true, so I work to show them the evidence for God and the Resurrection.
Why did I believe? Because I realized – based on my knowledge of the Gospel which God providentially sent me – that I was dead in my sins and could not save myself. Thankfully, God made atonement for me on the cross of Jesus (by grace) and through faith I could be saved. I also believed, following the theme of John’s Gospel, because the evidence was overwhelming. If the Calvinist has a problem with that, take it up with the disciples. They believed because of the evidence (John 2:11).
Piper’s scenario is an emotional attempt to coerce you into irresistible grace, but it is fueled by a false dichotomy and as I just showed can easily be answered by a Traditionalist that doesn’t accept the dichotomies and the rules the Calvinist trots out.
Of course faith includes knowledge, who would deny it? Does this mean we believed because we are so much smarter, or wiser than non-believers? Are you kidding me? The knowledge necessary for faith is the knowledge of the Gospel. The Gospel itself is a work of God’s grace, and the Gospel falling on my own ears is another work of God’s grace. It is God’s grace through-and-through.
Turning the Tables
Let’s look at the flip-side. If Calvinism is true, Jesus won’t be asking this question, will he? If He irresistibly calls some and not others, you didn’t believe anything, rather Jesus believed in Himself through you, or Jesus caused you to believe at the very least.
If upon hearing me put it that way, the Calvinist wants to take a softer position on irresistible grace, then she will have to answer the same question put forward by Piper.
In the end, it is a silly question put forward to try and dichotomize the conversation between God’s grace and man’s saving himself. I reject that dichotomy and repeat that on the Traditionalist perspective it is no less God’s grace all the way through than the Calvinist position.
Next time we will look at Piper’s biblical support for irresistible grace, but today I wanted to break down that hypothetical scenario because this is the sort of thing I get a lot from Calvinists. All these scenarios that they put forward are an attempt to create a dichotomy between God’s grace and man’s libertarian freewill. There is no dichotomy and believing in man’s ability to have faith does not mean we save ourselves.
Faith is not a work, it is not meritorious. Faith always has an object. The object of our faith is Jesus and the work he has done on our behalf – which, again, is a work of grace. God’s grace is both logically and chronologically prior to our faith.
 Piper, John. “Irresistible Grace.” Five Points: Toward A Deeper Experience of God’s Grace. Christian Focus Publications. Scotland, UK: 2013. Kindle.