Home > Calvinism, Calvinist, John Piper > The Free Will of the Wind

The Free Will of the Wind

Dear Colleen,

What a delight to hear from you.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve written and I’ve been wondering how things have been with you.

First of all, I regret that the hyperlinks aren’t working and I can’t figure out how to fix them.  However, you can copy and paste the link into the “browser bar”.  I wish I was better at this internet stuff.

My struggle to understand God’s character and the nature of God’s will is about the same.  Many work and extraneous activities have somewhat limited my posting.  However, I recently posted about an insight from a photography trip experience to South Dakota’s Badlands last week.

The John Piper sermon you linked http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByDate/2009/3865_The_Free_Will_of_the_Wind/ has provided some thought.  As you know, I do take issue with Reformed theology in general and sovereign election in particular.  I’m not familiar with Dr. Piper’s work.  However, the little I have listened to and studied – particularly as it relates to God’s will gives me pause.  You can read a post I wrote regarding Dr. Piper’s perspective on Rom 12:1-2 pertaining to the will of God here: https://martinsmercurialmusings.wordpress.com/2008/03/20/14/

Here’s my $0.02 worth for what I see taught in this passage:

  • Vs3 Jesus declares to Nick that everyone must be born again to see the kingdom of God.
  • Vs4 Nick asks if Jesus is talking about one’s physical birth from their mother.
  • Vs5 Jesus explains that we have to be born of water and spirit.
  • Vs6 Flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit.
  • Vs7 Jesus tells Nick that he shouldn’t be surprised at this.
  • Vs8 The wind blows where it pleases – we can hear (the wind’s effect) but can’t see (the wind’s origin or destination).  Yet we can hear and see evidence of the wind.

Not being real familiar with this passage, I did a Goggle search on “Jn 3:8 commentary” and found the following sites:

Unfortunately, I “lost track” of which points came from which web site.  Nevertheless, the main points made by the above links include:

  • This is a play on words. “Spirit” can also mean “breath” or “wind.” Wind is something we can’t see, but we can see the affect it has.
  • There is no “litmus test” to prove that a Christian has the Holy Spirit, but the evidence is the changed life of the individual.
  • We can know the wind exists because we can see its affect on the things it touches and the sound it makes. We cannot see the wind, but we can see what it does. The Spirit is invisible to human eyes, but His work or regeneration can be clearly seen.
  • We cannot see God, but we can see what He does. Jesus said it is the same with those born of the Spirit of God.
  • We can see the result a spiritual birth has on those who experience the new birth. Nicodemus was rejecting what Jesus’ teaching. Even though the Lord explained it to him, Nicodemus didn’t understand or accept this truth. Jesus is saying to Nicodemus that he could see and know the wind was real and existed. Likewise, though not actually seen the Spirit also exists and spiritually changed the lives of men.
  • A baptismal ceremony can be seen.  However, the forgiveness, clean conscience, and receiving the Spirit cannot be seen.
  • Like the powerful wind, though invisible, its power is nevertheless profound.
  • Jesus tells Nicodemus that he shouldn’t reject a doctrine merely because he couldn’t understand it.  Neither could the wind be seen, but its effects were well known and no one doubted the existence or power of the agent.
  • Jesus’ idea to Nicodemus is, “You don’t understand everything about the wind, but you see its effects. That is just how it is with the birth of the Spirit.”
  • Jesus wanted Nicodemus to know that he didn’t have to understand everything about the new birth before he experienced it.
  • The Greek word pneuma can mean both wind and spirit, much like its Hebrew equivalent ruach. Both meanings are in fact present here. John uses this double meaning to make the point that the activity of the Spirit, much like the wind, can’t be precisely described, defined or contained.  However, its impact and results can certainly be experienced.

Honestly, Colleen, this is the first time I’ve seen Calvinist thought related to this passage in general and verse eight in particular.  To that end, I disagree with Dr. Piper’s comment that Jn 3:8 teaches “that being born again is decisively, ultimately, the work of the Spirit’s will, and secondarily and dependently the acting of our will.”  Dr. Piper, I believe, has a pre-determined outcome regarding sovereign election and will use Scripture in convoluted ways and twist logic and meaning to support that perspective.  It is my contention that the concept of “election” is corporate and not individual.  The book, Across the Spectrum, states on pg 144:

  • Paul’s concept of election in these passages is corporate, not individual.  The church is God’s elect people in the same sense that Israel was God’s elect nation.  According to this interpretation, before the foundation of the world God chose to have a people (the church) who would believe in him and would be predestined “to be holy and blameless before him in love.”  When a person chooses to be incorporated into this group by believing in Jesus, all that is predestined for the group now applies to that person.  Hence, Paul can say to all who have chosen to become part of the church, “He chose us [as a group] in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.  He destined us for adoption as his children (Eph 1:4-5).  (This) interpretation is more plausible than the Calvinist interpretation, which depicts God as deciding who would (and thus who would not) believe in him before the foundation of the world.

Also, Dr. Piper also confuses those who are “threatened” or “thrilled” by Jn 3:8.  However, in fairness, that is a function of his (or probably any Calvinist’s) perspective based on their reading of those verses listed: Jn 6:44-45, Acts 13:48, Rom 9:15-16, Phil 2:12-13, Eph 2:8-9.  Suffice it to say that I have a different understanding (interpretation?) of those verses.  However, to keep this letter from becoming inordinately long, I’ll differ until later. Perhaps we could banter back and forth on our different perspectives.

In short, I’m not persuaded by Dr. Piper’s sermon that the wind Jesus refers to in Jn 3:8 is related in any way to Calvinistic thought.  Well, this probably isn’t the response you had hoped for.  Nevertheless, as always, I welcome your response and feedback.

Most Sincerely,

Bob

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  1. May 3, 2009 at 9:22 am

    “Jesus declares to Nick that everyone must be born again to see the kingdom of God.”

    Subject to interpretation. That is, for some, being born again involves yelling, crying, jumping up and down in a church aisle and performing the sort of public display of piety that Jesus spoke against repeatedly – indeed, making conversion into a kind of extreme spectator event that often looks more like play acting than anything real.

    Others have profound experiences, usually alone, of the sort of consciousness sought in contemplative prayer and meditation that change their lives. Or of insight into the fact that Christian doctrine is something they can accept – that “makes sense” to them in some way or at some level.

    Still others “die to self and live to Christ” over a gradual course of coming to spiritual maturity. Not everyone is born again in a sudden manner.

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