Calvinist John Piper’s Confusion about Salvation

John Piper writes, “My aim here is to show from Scripture that the simultaneous existence of God’s will for ‘all persons to be saved‘ (1 Tim. 2:4) and his will to elect unconditionally those who will actually be saved is not a sign of divine schizophrenia or exegetical confusion. A corresponding aim is to show that unconditional election, therefore, does not contradict biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people, and does not nullify sincere offers of salvation to everyone who is lost among all the peoples of the world”[1] (italics added).

I am prompted, out of utter bewilderment, to ask, in what meaningful, logical, or biblical sense can there be a genuine desire of God to see all people saved within his unconditional electing of only some to be saved? In what meaningful, logical, or biblical sense is God’s eternally determined plan to make it impossible for the non-elect to be saved consistent with his desire for “all persons to be saved” and the biblical expressions of God’s compassion and omnibenevolence? In what meaningful, logical, or biblical sense are we supposed to glean any semblance of congruency between unconditional election or limited atonement or selective regeneration or limiting the essential internal efficacious call to only the unconditionally elect and his “sincere offers of salvation to everyone?”

Other than in Calvinism’s confusion, in what world does such constitute a “sincere offer?” The offers of salvation in Calvinism to the non-elect are not sincere in the sense that they can be accepted (which is the only meaningful sense of a “sincere offer”) because Calvinism is clear that God intentionally withholds the very essentials that are necessary for salvation from the non-elect. The offer of the gospel to the non-elect, according to Calvinism, cannot be accepted by the non-elect, and, therefore, is neither reflective of God’s will for “all persons to be saved” or a “sincere offer.”

There is nothing sincere in the offer because the salvation offered does not even exist for the non-elect since Christ’s death only took care of the sin problem for the elect (4 point Calvinism does not solve the unsavable state of the non-elect since it holds to unconditional election and selective regeneration, which proceeds faith). Moreover, unconditional election is not about “who will actually be saved,” but rather it is about who actually can will to be saved. I respect and love Dr. Piper, but as a counselor, I would categorize Piper’s thesis as spiritual schizophrenia, and as an expositor, his teaching leads to impenetrable and inextricable confusion. It is this type of theological twaddle that contributed greatly to my departure from Calvinism.

Think of it this way. According to Piper’s Calvinism, what if it was not God’s “will for all persons to be saved,” there were no “biblical expressions of God’s compassion for all people,” or there were no “sincere offers of salvation to everyone?” What would be the eternal difference for the non-elect? Nothing! Whether God loves or loathes the non-elect is eternally immaterial and no amount of sophisticated rhetoric can change that in Calvinism.

Most significantly, in Calvinism, the secret will wins out in the end in that only the unconditionally elect are saved.[2] It is more trustworthy than his “revealed” will in the Scripture. How does such reliance and imbued supremacy of this secret will not severely undermine the sufficiency and trustworthiness of Scripture? Might there be other secret wills regarding the church, the Trinity, eschatology, and sin? Cults seem to think so. It inevitably leaves Sola Scriptura limping along rather emptily.

As an Extensivist (non-Calvinist) who believes man is endowed with libertarian freedom, I contend the Bible is unmistakably lucid in teaching salvation is a sovereign work of God and a reflection of his omnibenevolence. According to the unclouded teaching of Scripture, from conception to completion, God alone did the work of salvation and superabundantly provided everything necessary so he could legitimately and unconditionally offer it to everyone. It is truly accessible to all who hear the gospel (Ezek 18:23, 32; 33:11; John 3:16-17; 1 Tim 2:3-4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet 3:9). He is the efficient cause of salvation. He did the work of salvation, including providing sufficient provision and conditions for anyone to be saved.

Accordingly, he did not condition the work of salvation on faith, but rather it is more precise to say the personal reception of the free and full work God’s salvation is conditioned on faith.[3] Even the act of faith is grace enabled—as opposed to somehow originating outside of God’s grace design in either created or fallen man.

By grace, God bounteously provides every essential for a person to be able to walk in relationship with him. This provision includes opportunity, necessary understanding, a free will to act, the ability for all to respond or reject, and the basis for every sovereignly necessitated condition to exist in and emanate from the grace of God rather than the merit, virtue, or otherwise contribution of man. Both the conditions and the ability to meet said conditions exist because of what is in and provided by God’s work of salvation rather than what is in or deserved by man.

God’s works of grace make it so that every person, even while still in their sins, can believe the gospel unto salvation. I refer to these works of God as grace enablements. God’s grace enablements include but are not limited to God’s salvific love for all (John 3:16), God’s manifestation of his power so that all may know he is the Sovereign (Isa 45:21-22) and Creator (Rom 1:18-20), which assures that everyone has an opportunity to know about him, Christ’s payment for all sins (John 1:29), the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11), the working of the Holy Spirit (Heb 6:1-6), the enlightening of the Son (John 1:9), God’s teaching (John 6:45), God opening minds and hearts (Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14; 26:17-18), and the God-empowered gospel (Rom 1:16). Without such redemptive grace, no one seeks or comes to God (Rom 3:11).[4]

Since mankind is offered these gracious provisions and workings of God, people can choose to seek and find God (Jer 29:13; Acts 17:11-12). Moreover, no one can come to God without God calling (Acts 2:39) and drawing (John 6:44), and God is drawing all individuals (John 12:32). The same Greek word for draw, helkuo, is used in both verses. “About 115 passages condition salvation on believing alone, and about 35 simply on faith.”[5] Other grace enablements may include providential workings in and through other people, situations, and timing or circumstances that are a part of grace to provide an opportunity for every individual to choose to follow Christ.[6]

These are grace enablements in at least three ways; first, they are provided by God’s grace rather than deserved by mankind; second, the necessary components for each individual to have a genuine opportunity to believe unto salvation are provided or restored by God; third, they are provided by God without respect to whether the individual will believe or reject, which response God knew in eternity past.

The offer of the gospel is unconditional, but God sovereignly determined to condition the reception of the offer upon grace-enabled faith; therefore, faith is not reflective of a work or virtue of man, but of God’s sovereign plan of salvation by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). This indicates faith is the means of being regenerated and saved, not the reason for being saved. This truth of Scripture does not imply God is held captive to the choice of man, but rather it demonstrates God in eternity coextensively determined to create man with otherwise choice and provide a genuine offer of salvation, which can be accepted by grace-enabled faith or rejected. Additionally, to fulfill this plan, God is not obligated to disseminate the gospel to people he knows have rejected the light he has given them (Rom 1:18-23) and will also reject the gospel, although he may still send the gospel to them.


[1] John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved,” DesiringGod.org, Jan 1, 1995, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/are-there-two-wills-in-god, par. 1. Accessed 2/20/20.
[2] Sometimes referred to as decretive will. See David Allen’s book, The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 787.
[3] David L. Allen says, “God’s prior initiative in salvation does not preclude libertarian freedom . . . God’s prior initiative in salvation does not have to include Calvinism’s paradigm of total inability of the human will. Denial of total inability is not semipelagianism. As Arminius rightly made clear in his refutation of the charge of Pelagianism, the sinfulness of humanity is so complete that only by grace, and by grace alone, is human freedom even a possibility.” In his article “Claims, Clarity, Charity – Why the Traditional Baptist Statement on Soteriology Is Not and Cannot Be Semipelagian,” October 1, 2018, http://drdavidlallen.com/baptist/claims-clarity-charity-why-the-traditional-baptist-statement-on-soteriology-is-not-and-cannot-be-semipelagian/. Accessed 2/18/20.
[4] Christ opened their minds in Luke by teaching and illumining the real meaning of Scripture (Luke 24:27), and we find the same with Lydia, who was a “worshiper of God” (Acts 13:43; 18:7). She had faith as a proselyte, and God responded to that genuine faith by opening her heart to the gospel. God is always the initiator.
[5] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 7 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1948), 273-74.
[6] In Matthew 13:18-23, Jesus explains the parable of the sower. He compares the four types of soils to the four kinds of responses to the gospel. In the parable, the seed is the word of God (gospel). Also, in the explanation of the true meaning of the parable, it is important to note the sower and the seed are always the same (there is no indication that he gives one hearer seed that will not germinate and another the real thing), and the only thing that changes is the response to the seed. There is nothing deficient in the sowing or the seed sown, but rather the problem always is in the recipient. Also, notice the response of the good soil precedes regeneration. There is no indication in the passage that some men are predetermined by God to reject the message. Rather, it seems all four had different responses to the message, and the soil is descriptive of the heart; neither the ones that accept nor the ones that reject the seed give any indication of being predetermined. The soil indicates different responses and outcomes to the same seed, which is the word about the kingdom. Just as God created Adam with good soil, so he must grace enable everyone to be able to respond. Therefore, salvation is not a human work, nor is the good soil something innate to some, but rather, it is characteristic of everyone who receives the word of God and by faith is born again.