an honest theological question

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Honest question.

When I read Piper’s quote, I think:
…. Doesn’t this just make God a vending machine? If we insert failure, helplessness, and other negative traits, God spits out rewards.

…  Does God only reward human activities that make Him look good? 

I realize that last comment is going to be super-controversial, so let me explain that I do NOT mean to suggest that God isn’t good, or that God doesn’t deserve our worship (I believe that He does), or that God is somehow an attention hound who otherwise wouldn’t get any love from the universe.

But Piper’s statement made me wonder both of those things, and I’d really like to see some discussion.

(PS. The “Comment” link is ABOVE the post, just below the featured image & title.  Sorry about that! I can’t tweak this theme to move it, and I agree it’s a lame feature, but I like the theme otherwise.)


  1. Piper’s quote reminds me of something our adult SS teacher said last week. He’s a folksy, down-to-earth kind of guy (who occasionally has some pretty strange readings of Revelation) but I thought this was spot on:

    “We like to put God in a box. Sometimes it’s a really big box–even the size of a church–but it’s still box.”


    1. I sometimes wonder if Piper has constructed a really cool box that we all like to live in because it just sounds so awesome?

      Like…. apart from the Fall, would God have gotten no glory? I sure hope the correct answer to that is No, because otherwise I think we have to deal with the awkward idea that God, apart from sin, is less than complete.


  2. If god is jealous, why not vain as well? Jealous he fesses up to. And no need to back track about knowing god is good – if you read much of the Hebrew scriptures you find a god who was not understood as simply good, but as a powerful being from which flowed both good and evil, who should be feared. (The idea of the devil as the source of evil didn’t even enter into the Hebrew concept of cosmos until the Captivity – until they were introduced to Persian dualism, they understood their god to be the source of both good and evil.) It also makes sense that if a being is all powerful, with no absolute standard above them, then it is meaningless to say that they are good. One can be good or all powerful, but not both.


    1. I think the paradox at the heart of the Christian understanding of Evil is the impossibility of reconciling God’s goodness with his all-powerfulness. It seems that most religious folk gloss over that tension too quickly…. my Reformed friends diminish the evilness of evil in their rush to affirm Providence; other people see God as a nice fellow who can’t really do much about the bad stuff in the world.
      While those may be “logical” pathways, I don’t think either represents what the Bible as a whole is saying about God and His ways.

      I understand your argument. I don’t agree with it 🙂 but I see how you’re reading the text and it’s consistent with particular streams of theology. This is a “drink a beer and talk” kind of discussion …. I’d want to hear more about how you structure your understanding of the Old Testament, the interplay between textual scholarship and Ancient Near Eastern history and culture and a literary reading of the books themselves.

      All that said — I respect people who wrestle with the OT for what it’s saying, rather than running away from the hard questions. Is God jealous? He says that He is. So you raise a valid question, one that needs beer and pipe smoke and some time to chew and dialogue. I’d be an idiot to suggest that I had good answers for this question, but I do have true faith that God isn’t a vain, sadistic asshole.

      Saying God is Right because God is Good is a tautology. We want to know that God is good in the details of our lives — when my friend’s dad was dying of cancer last week. Is God right and good in that moment?

      I think it’s is offensive to suggest that God needs people to die of cancer in order to show how awesome He is. I don’t see that in Scripture.


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