John Piper has done a 180 on cancer. That’s according to T.C. Moore at Theological Graffiti, who has smartly tracked Piper’s flip. Here’s the deal:
On the eve of his own surgery for prostate cancer in 2006, Piper called cancer a “gift from God.” He scolded fellow cancer-sufferers not to “waste their cancer” by ignoring God’s design of it. In other words, if you’ve got cancer, God wants you to have cancer.
But recently, Piper joined the evangelical chorus in criticizing Brittany Maynard for ending her own life before cancer killed her. In that post, Piper wrote that cancer “opposes the ultimate goodness that God designed for this creation. It is an enemy.”
So, which is it? Is cancer a gift from God that is part of God’s design, or is it an enemy that is not part of God’s design? It seems that Piper doesn’t know. That’s because his theological position is completely untenable.
When Augustine invented the doctrine of predestination — a noble attempt to protect God’s sovereignty — he argued persuasively that God’s foreknowledge equals God’s forecausal. Because God is sovereign, and God cannot be wrong, then it follows that for God to know something is going to happen, it is necessarily going to happen. QED, God’s foreknowledge of an event causes that event to happen.
As Moore notes, many Arminian/Wesleyans believe that God has complete knowledge of the future, but argue that doesn’t mean that God causes those future events to happen. What Arminians have not successfully done in over 1500 years is refute Augustine’s argument that if God knows it’s going to happen, then it’s going to happen, which is the same thing as making it happen.
But here’s where things really unravel. If, as Piper believes, God is completely sovereign and timeless, with complete and perfect foreknowledge of all future events, then Piper must believe that God knew that Brittany Maynard was going to commit suicide. Indeed, then God caused the neurons in her brain to make the decision to euthanize herself, just as much as God “foresees molecular developments becoming cancer,” which is what Piper wrote in 2006. Piper wrote that God could stop the cancer or not. Surely God also had the power to stop Brittany Maynard from committing suicide. Since God did not, Piper must believe that God ordained that suicide to happen.
You can’t have it both ways. If you’re going to be a hyperCalvinist, you’ve got to go all the way with it.
Which makes me wonder, why is John Piper writing blog posts protesting Brittany Maynard’s decision? Is he trolling, or did he actually think that she had some choice in her own fate? If it’s the latter, then maybe he’s reconsidering his own hyperCalvinism. But somehow, I doubt that.
UPDATE: If you’re wondering how Piper’s view is received by a non-Christian, here’s a Facebook post that a friend sent me: