Did God Give Me Cancer?

IV(Credit: Allan Foster, Flickr Creative Commons)

You know, if I had known just how terrible chemotherapy would be, I never would have gotten cancer in in the first place.

(It’s ok to laugh. That was a joke.)

But the amount of love and support, encouragement and prayers from friends and loved ones, long lost acquaintances and complete strangers has made life more than bearable.

It’s made life worth living, worth fighting for.

I am grateful beyond words for the myriad of ways kindness has been poured into my family’s life over the past few weeks. It’s a debt I doubt I will ever be able to fully repay, but will most certainly try.

I’m also grateful for what hasn’t been said.

In moments like this when someone we know is diagnosed with a horrible disease or when someone we love is taken from us tragically, we often and understandably find ourselves at a loss for words. We know there’s nothing we can say that will offer the sort of deep peace and healing that is needed and yet we feel compelled to speak anyway because silence can be so terrifying and, unfortunately, as we fumble for what to say we sometimes end up compounding the pain instead of bringing the peace we hoped to give.

Whether it is through the inherent wisdom of my friends and family or some sort of prevenient grace, I was never told even once over the past few weeks that my cancer diagnosis happened for a reason or that it was somehow part of God’s plan, some sort of cruel plot device the divine decided to hurl my way for some mysterious purpose.

As I’ve said so many times already, I’m one of the lucky ones.

No one told me that God gave me cancer.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Well, I would sure hope not. That would be awful. Who would ever say or even think such a think?”

I wish the answer was no one and I’m convinced many of the someones who do respond with misguided words of comfort about God’s plan don’t completely think through what they’re saying or they would realize the horror they are inflicting on their loved ones and remain silent.

Sadly, there are many self-professed Christians who are convinced in their utmost being that God does indeed give people cancer (while also intentionally inflicting every other imaginable form of evil on creation). Which means there are countless other Christians who walk into their first session of chemotherapy treatment or sit beside a loved one with Alzheimers or survive a brutal sexual assault only to be told that such unspeakable evil is all part of God’s plan. That God willed their suffering for his own glory.

If it sounds insane, it should.

It that God sounds reprehensible and altogether evil, that’s because he is.

And yet, this is the very dogma folks like John Piper seem to relish in. In fact, he’s written an entire book entitled – and I’m sad to say I’m not making this up – Don’t Waste Your Cancer.

In it Piper “writes about cancer as an opportunity to glorify God. With pastoral sensitivity, compassion, and strength, Piper gently but firmly acknowledges that we can indeed waste our cancer when we don’t see how it is God’s good plan for us and a hope-filled path for making much of Jesus.” According to Piper, you will be “wasting your cancer” if, among other things, you don’t believe God designed your cancer just for you, believe your cancer is anything other than a gift from God, and seek comfort in the prospect of your survival.

As a cancer patient, there are no words to describe how utterly appalling I find Piper’s theology to be.

As a Christian, I can’t begin to tell you how repugnant and Christologically bankrupt I think his view of God is.

It’s a soulless dogmatism that allows, empowers, and even sanctifies someone to tell the suffering and the dying that their pain is not just a gift from God, but a gift given solely for the self-serving purpose of some perverse divine need for glory.

If you’ve heard this non-sense before, hear me when I say this as strongly as I can: this is not the gospel. This is blasphemy against the Spirit disguised as systematic theology. It’s blasphemy because there is no other word for describing the portrayal of God as a serial child rapist, unabashed murderer, unspeakable abuser, and creator of unimaginable evil. That’s not hyperbole or slander. It is exactly who God is if God is the God people like Piper and his theological forefather John Calvin claim God is: a God who micromanages, ordains, and even revels (for “his glory”) in every act of evil in the world.

Moreover, if God indeed did give me cancer, then it creates a rather awkward situation for Piper’s version of the gospel.

You see, while our faith family has been unbelievably supportive ever since we announced my diagnosis, we have also received an overwhelming amount of love and support from our non-religious friends as well. In particular, some of our closest friends up here in Connecticut are committed atheists and yet despite all the rumors you may have heard about atheists, they have been amongst our biggest champions, showering us with more love and grace than we deserve. They started a GoFundMe page which will allow us to cover all of my medical expenses and then some. They’ve made and delivered meals to our home and even offered a freezer to store all of the extra food in. And just last week when I made an unexpected trip to the emergency room, they came over to watch the girls so my wife could come pick me up from the ER…even though they have a kid of their own and the wife had to work in the morning…and, oh yeah, she’s 37 weeks pregnant.

If it’s true, as Piper and his theological brethren argue, that God gave me cancer, then our non-Christian friends are objectively better than Piper’s Christian God. For, I was sick and they came and comforted me for no other reason than it was the right thing to do, while Piper’s God authored my suffering for the sole purpose of somehow making himself look better.

Of course, faith is ultimately a matter of what we personally believe is true about God. So, maybe Piper’s version of God is indeed who God is, but if Jesus is the means through which we know God, it cannot be the God of Christianity.

Jesus heals the sick; he doesn’t bring about their illness.

Jesus liberates the oppressed; he doesn’t ordain their oppression.

Jesus sets the prisoner free; he doesn’t imprison.

Jesus restores a broken creation; he doesn’t further cripple it through disease, suffering, and pain.

And, perhaps most importantly for folks like Piper to remember, Jesus doesn’t seek out power and couldn’t care less about glory, but instead emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness, and being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.

The fundamental problem with Piper’s Calvinism is it sees the world and reads/interprets scripture through the very power dynamic which Christianity fundamentally rejects. The God of John Piper and John Calvin is an extrapolation of the kings and principalities Calvin and his forbearers knew too well: kings who controlled, at least indirectly if not directly, nearly every aspect of their subjects lives, all for their own glory. Seen through this lens, God therefore must be an infinitely more powerful king who directly controls every aspect of life for everyone and everything for God’s glory.

But if the gospels are to believed, neither glory nor micromanaging are of any interest to the God of the Christian faith.

The God we see in the gospels is born into poverty and scandal, raised as a pauper, lives a life of homelessness, and dies in humility after being beaten, stripped naked, and nailed to a cross…all the while devoting his life to the healing and liberation of the sick and the dying, the marginalized and the oppressed. Oh, and there’s that whole bit about inviting people to freely join him in the work of salvation by going and doing likewise.

As Christians, it is through the lens of Christ that we must read scripture and it is this christological lens that, no matter the isolated prooftext, precludes us from ever being able to conclude that the God of scripture, the God we see incarnated in Jesus is a God who gives people cancer and afflicts others with Alzheimer’s while ordaining unspeakable abuse against children and the murder of innocents.

To be clear, that doesn’t resolve the problem of evil or theodicy. Even taking into account free will, the laws of nature, and the idea of self-limited God, surely a God who creates existence has the ability to create differently, less painfully, or at least in a way that doesn’t involve so much wasteful suffering. Of course, maybe this is the so-called best of all imaginable worlds and I would certainly agree that creating a world with the potential for evil is a much better alternative to authoring every act of evil in that world, but that God didn’t create a world with less suffering is a question that will remain unanswered this side of eternity

But, if life of Jesus is to be both believed and be our guide for understanding the nature of God, then we can say definitively that God did not give you or me cancer or your grandfather Alzheimer’s, nor did God chose and empower a pedophile to molest a child or a murder to take the life of their victim.

That is not the God of the Gospels.

The God of the Gospels doesn’t revel in the suffering of creation, nor does the God of the Gospels cause that suffering, nor does the God of the Gospels worry about you “wasting” your cancer or any other horrible experience by not doing more to promote a particular ideology.

The God of the Gospels is a God who heals, who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death calling on us to fear not, and who even in eternity bears the scars of God’s own suffering as an eternal reminder that our pain matters to God. God did not cause it, but God will ultimately heal it.

And in the meantime, we need not worry about wasting our suffering as if such a thing were possible.

But John Piper, if you’re listening, please know this: I promise I won’t waste my cancer.

I will use my diagnosis as a platform to speak real hope into peoples live and will spend every moment I have of whatever life I have left doing whatever I can to make sure no one going to chemotherapy or sitting beside a loved one with Alzheimer’s or working through past abuse from their childhood or trying to figure out how to make it through another day after surviving a horrific attack ever has to hear that God ordained their suffering for his own unspeakably perverse and utterly selfish ends.

If I can do that, if I can do my part to ensure that at least one less person never ever has to have their suffering compounded by such heinous theology ever again, then maybe, just maybe my cancer won’t be a waste after all.

 

72 Comments
  • laura
    May 18, 2016

    This was powerful Zack, thanks. I’m not a church going type since I think churches got Jesus wrong. But I like your witness.

    • teragram
      May 18, 2016

      Hi Laura. I totally understand being disillusioned with churches. But we are all human, and we all get Jesus wrong to some degree. There are lots of places in scripture where we are called to meet together (eg Hebrews 10:25). Maybe you could pray that God would lead you to the right community for you?

  • Valerie Ridley Stoltey
    May 18, 2016

    Not trying to defend John Piper, but I don’t think you get what he’s saying or what that particular theology of suffering is really about.

    But I get that you love people and have compassion for them.

    • ZackHunt
      May 18, 2016

      Respectfully, this is not a matter of misunderstanding. It’s a matter of disagreement. I fully understand what Piper and Calvin are saying, which is why I find it so abhorrent.

      • Rick Williams
        May 19, 2016

        And there are many, MANY who agree with you Zack. We serve a loving God who gives us freedom so that we might truly love in return. Nothing else is morally defensible.

  • Philip Mills
    May 18, 2016

    This is such a great post Zack!

    Having lost my father to cancer and spending time now facilitating grief support groups the important difference between a God who can bring beauty form brokenness vs. one who causes deep brokenness/suffering/pain is so important.

    Our human desire for certainty so quickly leads us to make God some sort of monster.

    Good to hear your well supported and loved.

  • marcy
    May 18, 2016

    hi, loved what you wrote.

    i personally struggle with understanding suffering and just recently wrote a whole study/class on prayer. i would love your perspective on this though – if God, being all powerful, still “allows” sickness and tragedy here – is that not equally as hard to understand as the idea that he “causes” it all? in my own personal study, i looked at God’s voice to Noah, for example, whom God told about the upcoming storm of unprecedented proportions and God didn’t rescue Noah from it, but rather gave him instructions on how to build an ark to survive it. and God caused the storm that wiped out the earth. that’s just one example, and maybe not an exact parallel.

    and i’ve often wondered about Jesus himself, why did he have to be mocked, flogged, and beaten – why couldn’t he have come here to just die with just one blow – instead of having to endure all of that suffering?

    so those things make me then wonder if there IS purpose to suffering and disease, and that maybe we’re not supposed to wonder why or who sent it, but rather trust in the Healer – like you said – to give us supernatural strength to endure, a way out, or ultimate healing with a new body – and somehow experience His goodness in the middle of all that. it’s quite a mystery to me, but i do know that there is a purpose in suffering, and that trying to figure out whether God sent it, allows it, or it just happens because we live in an evil world doesn’t really comfort me at all to know that answer.

    what does comfort me and make me wonder and marvel is reading excerpts from the persecuted, quotes from books, etc. about people who endured the impossible (in my opinion) but grew closer to God and his love rather than growing cynical, and their faith increased rather than waned. that, i cannot comprehend. they grew to love his goodness the more they experienced loss…that is a miracle more astounding than even immediate healing…to me. and maybe that’s what we should desire, more than understanding his ways.

    i’d love your thoughts back. (i am a friend to april – i go to church with her dad :))

  • Rachel Hale
    May 18, 2016

    Zack, you are your family are in my prayers. Your thoughts are always so refreshing. I agree with your post and am horrified at the response of so many christians. I do have a verse that keeps coming to mind though, and I would like your thoughts. John 9:2-3 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

  • Mama Belle
    May 18, 2016

    Could not agree with you more as I sit bedside with my sweet daughter as she fights her own battle. Thanks for writing this. I agree that so many people have warped theology when it comes to this stuff. http://www.bayoubelles.com

  • Julie
    May 18, 2016

    Great piece, Zack.

  • Nat Alee
    May 18, 2016

    John Piper had cancer a few years back and wrote about it. I don’t understand how his thoughts on his own cancer and how he dealt with it theologically is “wrong” to you.

    • Rick Williams
      May 19, 2016

      Because his whole system of theology is sick. Just because he also had cancer doesn’t make his teaching better. Makes it a little weird though…

    • momzilla76
      May 19, 2016

      Because of how horrible it feels for the rest of us to be told that the God of love and justice made you or your family member ill or caused their death simply because He is a glory hog. If it was just theology and pious thinking. But once the theology gets taken out of the abstract and brought into flesh and blood life it makes God a nasty cruel being who tormented you for the sake of His own ego.

    • ZackHunt
      May 19, 2016

      The issue is he didn’t simply share his thoughts on his own cancer. He wrote about cancer in general and made the claim that whenever it occurs and to whomever it afflicts, it is God who afflicts those people with cancer as a some sort of a gift for the purpose of God’s glory and therefore that “opportunity” shouldn’t be wasted. That is why I believe his theology is wrong.

  • Bart Massey
    May 18, 2016

    So glad to see you writing. Wish I could do more than pray for you. I think it would be good to post the GoFundMe link here so that we can help.

    • ZackHunt
      May 19, 2016

      I would and I sincerely appreciate the request but 2 things prevent me from doing so: 1)my own pride when it comes to asking for help and more importantly 2)folks have already been way more generous than we every imagined and I’m thankful to say that our foreseeable medical costs are already covered

  • T. C. Moore
    May 18, 2016

    Thank you so much for writing this, Zach. I wrote a similar piece on Piper’s abhorrent view of God re: cancer a while back and received over 80 comments from Piper’s defenders in less than 48 hours. The vitriol from his supporters was unreal. A lot of people underestimate the power he wields in conservative evangelical circles. (Remember that time he grilled Rick Warren on his theology for over an hour—making sure Warren affirms “TULIP”??). I hope your post doesn’t attract the kind of trolls mine did. May the cancer in your body be destroyed by the power of God!

  • Steve Ferris
    May 18, 2016

    Zack- I went through a time of active and significant cancer 2.5 years ago. I have an 80% chance of it reoccurring.

    I once was solidly in the reformed theology camp, although I always thought Piper was like a mean fundamentalist. I understand why you want to reject a god like that. I do too. People who wrote psalms also did. They called God unfaithful, for the problems in their lives.

    I am probably more agnostic now, not knowing what to believe. When I look at the complexity of the universe, from subatomic levels to life forms to the unimaginable vastness of space, I have a hard time believing God is not sovereign over everything, and thus even my cancer. But I don’t like tha kind of God. But I refuse to let it “off the hook” by saying it was not involved in my cancer, or all the bad and evil in the world. There is no good theodicy. God is either sovereign, and not good, or good, but useless because it has no power. Your view is a loving good god, comforting, but what can that God really do if it is not sovereignty powerful?

    I struggle. I appreciate your struggles. I understand your anger and rejection of a sovereign God. But what are you really left with?

    • Rick Williams
      May 19, 2016

      God can be both sovereign and loving. Just because God limits his own power in certain ways doesn’t mean he isn’t all powerful. God could kill all of us in numerous ways but he simply doesn’t. We’re left with a God who loves us and cherishes freedom because through freedom we are able to love him in return.

      • Steve Ferris
        May 19, 2016

        A God who limits his own power so he can be loved by free people, yet in that act allows incredible evil and suffering, is not a loving God, but one who zack railed against, where everything is about the God at the expense of creatures who writhe in misery. I could not trust a god like that, either here, or in a “heaven.”

        • Keith Turner
          May 19, 2016

          This idea doesn’t need to be a lofty academic exercise described in the kinds of terms into which theologians and philosophers nestle. Any idea about God, that ends in God looking like a jackass, jerk or a**hole – is a wrong idea about God. It is safe to assume that the Most High is at least as nice as you.

          • Steve Ferris
            May 19, 2016

            I want a nice god. I want a loving god. But the evidence from the world weighs against it. Even if you discount the extent of human evil, you have natural disasters, epidemics of illness, children having cancer to deal with. Can a god prevent those? If not-is that god even a god, since it is essentially powerless? If so-would not a good god do so?

          • Benn Fales
            May 19, 2016

            I’ve heard it said that if you assign God enough power to prevent evil, you also have to allow that God might have reasons we can’t fathom for allowing it to happen.

            Personally, I think it’s so we can have the freedom to choose God or not to choose Him. One consequence of not choosing Him (Sin, from Adam in the garden) is that evil has a temporary hold on this earth.

            Do you think God could remove evil from the earth and still give people the choice to choose to follow Him or not?

            Grace and Peace, Benn

          • Steve Ferris
            May 19, 2016

            I, of course, do not know what a infinitely powerful god can and cannot do.

            he story of Satan falling from heaven, if true, suggests for eons and ages created beings followed without evil. The idea of a heaven suggests people can exist without evil-yet enjoy and love their existence, and maybe even have the freedom to choose-but the will would be so influenced by heaven-we would always choose rightly.

            Thus I think a god-if powerful enough, could have created a world without evil that created beings would have enjoyed. I would gladly exchange freedom to prevent the world from suffering more from evil and natural disaster-illness-etc.

          • Benn Fales
            May 20, 2016

            I’m not sure the power level of God matters, as there are some things He can not do. He can not make 2+2=3, or cause Himself to cease to exist, etc. So there is some limit to His power.

            Having said that, (I’m sure you’ve heard this before,) I think He could have created a world where we don’t have evil, but if we do not have the option to choose good or evil then we are no more than robots of an advanced state. Part of the reason God created us was to brig Him glory, and a robot doing what it’s programmed to do does not bring glory to it’s all powerful maker, of course it’s going to obey, it has no choice.

            I would purpose that God loves us enough to give us a choice in whether we want to follow Him or not. Those of us that do will live with Him forever, and those of us that don’t will eventually either, join Him after enough time has passed and we choose to follow him, spend eternity cut off from Him, spend eternity burning in hell, or cease to exist, depending on what doctrine of hell you believe.

            As far as choosing good in heaven, we have never experienced life without being cursed by sin, so maybe that choice won’t be desirable, or we can’t or won’t make it, I’m not sure. The curse of sin brings some weird things into play regarding or choices.

            -Benn

          • Steve Ferris
            May 20, 2016

            Benn
            I have significant problems ever trusting a god who allowed such evil, a curse of evil on mankind, and a fallen world of natural disasters and illness, so he can bring himself glory through the “free will” of some creatures on a extremely tiny spec in the universe. Would any ethical being let the magnitude of such horrible things occur so that being could have glory? When we think of humans who have brought indescribable horror on peoples so they can have honor and glory, we view them as the worst people who have ever lived (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Amin, etc).

            If Adam or Eve did indeed exist and sin, God did not have to continue that curse of sin on us. They did not have to be, in theological terms, our “federal head.” That was God’s plan, even though he knew they would sin and have that effect on man, if he has foreknowledge. If god does not have foreknowledge, everything is out of control.

            We try and try to create excuses for god. Over and over I am reminded of something allegedly scrawled on a wall of a german concentration camp for jews: “If there is a god-he must beg for my foregiveness.”

          • Benn Fales
            May 20, 2016

            I can respect your view Steve. I don’t agree with it, but I can see where you’re coming from. It is not an easy topic, and I hope I don’t come across flippantly in discussing pain and suffering.

            To me it seems to come down to; did God want to give us the ability to choose to follow Him? If so, then I think sin (and all of its fallout) has to be the consequence of choosing not to follow God. Otherwise, with no consequences there’s no real choice. If not, then we’re all acting out God’s will for every moment and choice of our lives, in which case you’re right, that would be a horrid and cruel god.

            Have you considered the idea of morality in a world that has no moral absolutes, due to there being no god?

          • Steve Ferris
            May 23, 2016

            I have definitely considered a world with no absolutes. Nietzsche to Dostoevsky and many others make that so very clear. But god does not play by his own alledged absolutes. How many does a god kill if it is sovereign over death? Does god love us as himself? If so, would he then inflict the world with such evil and tradegy?

            The whole idea of a free will is increasingly questionable with the advent of the study of neuroscience. If true, Again, a god is a horribly needy and evil god to have creatures given free will to give him something yet cause such misery.

            I made my son take antibiotics one time. He hated the taste, cried, tantrum end, and I forced it. Out of love. I did not give him a chance if free will to take it out if a love for me. God is indeed a sadist if the whole story of evil and natural disaster is out of a need to be “freely loved.” And if a god has such need, it is not a powerful god. It needs more than it gives.

          • Steve Ferris
            May 23, 2016

            I have found it interesting Zachary never responded.

          • Keith Turner
            May 21, 2016

            I see the world as a place fraught with dysfunction, it’s like a long time ago it worked – all was right with the world; but then, it broke. Someone mixed the Skittles with the M&M’s, and the horror and the wonder all coexist together. I feel like you are describing a genie that grants wishes based on wants, not a god.

        • Chris Thomas
          May 19, 2016

          Check out Thomas Jay Oord’s, “The Uncontrolling Love of God” for a different perspective.

          • Steve Ferris
            May 19, 2016

            Thanks- I need to read it. Other books on open theology approach to theodicy have not really provided the answers.

        • Rick Williams
          June 19, 2016

          When you discount “heaven” then you discount the true power of God, as it relates to us. We have the opportunity for eternal life. So even if we experience suffering, and even if we die, that’s not the end. Sure it can be awful but only for a moment; cosmically speaking.

          The true power is that no matter what happens to us in the brief span of our earthly life, there is a bigger plan where we no longer have to worry about that sort of thing. Your perspective seems to indicate that there could be nothing worse than suffering and death in this life. God’s perspective teaches us that there could be nothing worse than rejecting him and therefore missing out on eternity with him.

  • Dave
    May 19, 2016

    What about Job and Lazarus? Why does Jesus choose to let Lazarus die and have martha mary go through pain? wouldnt it be eventually show the power of God? Or are you saying that Jesus didnt have a hand at letting lazarus die because I think he did. Then what about Job, Didn’t God take everything away from him? Im no bible scholar but I think you got something wrong. I dont mean to offend, but Gospel offends. I think.

    • Rick Williams
      May 19, 2016

      As far as we can tell Job is simply a story used to teach about God. The Israelites told this story but it’s unlikely “Job” ever really existed. Even if he did, it wasn’t God that did the evil things to him but someone else.

      Nowhere in the Gospel does it say God made Lazarus ill, Jesus simply used the situation. BIG difference.

  • Rick Williams
    May 19, 2016

    I could read about railing on Calvinist thought all day. Very well put! We serve a God of love and freedom and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

  • Rob Grayson
    May 19, 2016

    Thanks so much, Zack, for speaking out with such clarity and passion. Wishing you abundant courage, peace and strength.

  • Keith Turner
    May 19, 2016

    Calvin, Piper et al = theoidiocy

  • Tim
    May 19, 2016

    This.

    “The fundamental problem with Piper’s Calvinism is it sees the world and reads/interprets scripture through the very power dynamic which Christianity fundamentally rejects.”

    And any theology like it, that fails to see that God’s character is fully revealed in Jesus.

  • wc af
    May 19, 2016

    I’m not a real big Piper fan but the question(s) remain: Could God have spared you from this cancer? Could God heal you from this cancer? Interesting questions I think when you look at the overall picture of whether God gives us cancer. My sister is stage 4 lung and brain. Do I think God gave her cancer? No. Do I think that God could have spared her the cancer? Yes. Do I think God could cure her? Of course. Then you’re left to the why question and that’s where the divide is I suppose. Aside from that: Zack, you come across as extremely hateful towards Piper. I know you’d probably say that you just hate the theology but I think the number of posts about Piper betray you. Stop. That kind of stuff just eats you alive.

    • ZackHunt
      May 19, 2016

      No, I will not stop writing against Piper, Calvin, and their theology. Not because it’s “eating me alive” because it has and continues to inflict unnecessary pain on the world in the name of God.

      • wc af
        May 19, 2016

        Never forget to point the finger first at yourself and those you endorse Zack. 🙂

  • Pete Rizzo
    May 19, 2016

    First, May God deliver you healing as he sees fit. May he fill you with comfort and peace. I’m not a defender of any man or his personal theology. The questions I would ask:

    What if your real sickness was a limited ability to see beyond yourself, and Cancer opened your eyes to others?

    What if you were oppressed by pride and Cancer showed you the way to humility?

    What if you were imprisoned in a world where you never saw other peoples suffering, except from a distance, so you could comfortably ignore it?

    What if your brokenness was you dependence on your physical health?

    Could you then see Cancer as a gift or blessing. If Cancer made you poor, humble, selfless, caring, attentive and truly loving. What if Cancer were the thing that ultimately made you resemble Christ in word and deed?

    Like most people I have seen Cancer first hand. I know the devasting effects it takes on the flesh. But I have also witnessed it’s power to grow faith and hope, to see Gospel understanding explode in places it previously could not.

    Mr. Hunt, I wish you God’s speed.

  • Pete Rizzo
    May 19, 2016

    First, May God deliver you healing as he sees fit. May he fill you with comfort and peace. I’m not a defender of any man or his personal theology. The questions I would ask:

    What if your real sickness was a limited ability to see beyond yourself, and Cancer opened your eyes to others?

    What if you were oppressed by pride and Cancer showed you the way to humility?

    What if you were imprisoned in a world where you never saw other peoples suffering, except from a distance, so you could comfortably ignore it?

    What if your brokenness was you dependence on your physical health?

    Could you then see Cancer as a gift or blessing. If Cancer made you poor, humble, selfless, caring, attentive and truly loving. What if Cancer were the thing that ultimately made you resemble Christ in word and deed?

    Like most people I have seen Cancer first hand. I know the devasting effects it takes on the flesh. But I have also witnessed it’s power to grow faith and hope, to see Gospel understanding explode in places it previously could not.

    Mr. Hunt, I wish you God’s speed.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      As I mentioned above, I couldn’t agree more with the idea that God can bring good out of evil. But if Christ is our image of the invisible God and therefore how we know what God is like, I have to completely and utterly reject the idea that God does or needs to bring about evil in order to do good, especially not when the good is ultimately self-serving.

      • Pete Rizzo
        May 21, 2016

        I appreciate your opinion. With all respect, I guess I see evil as things that dishonor God. If cancer ultimately serves to mold man into the likeness of Christ ( sharing in his suffering for God’s glory) then I don’t count it as evil.

      • Pete Rizzo
        May 21, 2016

        I appreciate your opinion. With all respect, I guess I see evil as things that dishonor God. If cancer ultimately serves to mold man into the likeness of Christ ( sharing in his suffering for God’s glory) then I don’t count it as evil.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      As I mentioned above, I couldn’t agree more with the idea that God can bring good out of evil. But if Christ is our image of the invisible God and therefore how we know what God is like, I have to completely and utterly reject the idea that God does or needs to bring about evil in order to do good, especially not when the good is ultimately self-serving.

  • Tom Scrivens
    May 20, 2016

    Hi – I’m not a calvinist but I’m a John Piper fan. I think a lot of what he says is good stuff. I understand you do not.

    I don’t think God gave you cancer but I do believe that it’s possible to glorify God through your cancer and that in a mysterious way, God is able to take something that the devil meant for evil and still bring good out of it and for his glory. Do you agree that it is for you to glorify / magnify God even in the midst of suffering as per Paul in Philippians 1:20?

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      I completely agree that God can bring good out of bad situations. But where I disagree with Piper (and Calvin) is that God brings about the bad in the first place to then do good only to make himself look good.

      God bringing good out of evil is wonderful. God bringing about evil for his own selfish purpose is anti-Christ in the most literal sense of the word.

      • Ethan Smith
        May 21, 2016

        Respectfully, Zack, where does Calvin say that “God brings about the bad in the first place to then do good only to make himself look good”?

        • Ethan Smith
          May 21, 2016

          To be clear, I actually disagree with Piper on many points and believe he goes well beyond Calvinist theology (I would venture to say he’s closer to hyper-Calvinism on a number of points). But your knowledge of Calvin’s actual theology is pretty weak if this is how you would summarize it. Piper and Calvin are not synonymous, even if Piper claims to be a “Calvinist.” E.g. Calvin and Piper are miles apart on the sacraments.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      I completely agree that God can bring good out of bad situations. But where I disagree with Piper (and Calvin) is that God brings about the bad in the first place to then do good only to make himself look good.

      God bringing good out of evil is wonderful. God bringing about evil for his own selfish purpose is anti-Christ in the most literal sense of the word.

  • Landon
    May 20, 2016

    What I find interesting in this piece is that it attempts to thoroughly discredit biblically rooted theology (even if you disagree with the reformed interpretation) by never actually backing up the claims with scripture.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      Not even remotely true. This post is both exegetical and has scripturally based theology throughout. It’s just lacking the citations proof-texters demand.

      A strung together list of context-less verses isn’t good exegesis. It’s just proof-texted dogmatism.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      Not even remotely true. This post is both exegetical and has scripturally based theology throughout. It’s just lacking the citations proof-texters demand.

      A strung together list of context-less verses isn’t good exegesis. It’s just proof-texted dogmatism.

  • John Chester
    May 20, 2016

    “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no God beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” – Deuteronomy 32:39 The disagreement is not with Piper or Calvinism,make no mistake, it is with God and His sovereignty, as He presents Himself and it in Scripture.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      No mistake made. The disagreement is absolutely with Piper and Calvin and their interpretation of scripture. No proof-text you can cherry pick from scripture changes that.

      If proof-texting was a valid form of biblical interpretation, then we should turn back a few chapters to Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and start stoning our children when they’re unruly. But, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess you’re less enthusiastic about the divine command to stone bratty kids than you are proof-texting Calvinism.

      Proof-texting is awful theology in general. It’s even worse when it’s christologically bankrupt.

    • ZackHunt
      May 20, 2016

      No mistake made. The disagreement is absolutely with Piper and Calvin and their interpretation of scripture. No proof-text you can cherry pick from scripture changes that.

      If proof-texting was a valid form of biblical interpretation, then we should turn back a few chapters to Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and start stoning our children when they’re unruly. But, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess you’re less enthusiastic about the divine command to stone bratty kids than you are proof-texting Calvinism.

      Proof-texting is awful theology in general. It’s even worse when it’s christologically bankrupt.

      • John Chester
        May 20, 2016

        It is not proof texting. Deut 32:39 is direct communication about the nature and character of God and was not abrogated at the inauguration of New covenant and according to 2 Tim 3:16 is profitable for reproof and correction. Do you affirm the sovereignty over life and death presented in Matthew 10:29? Or that God causes all things to work for the good of His people (Rom 8:28)? Or that suffering is an expected part of the life of believers (1 Pt 4:12)? Or that the life of the believer is marked by tribulation (Jn 16:33)? If not your quarrel is with God not Piper or Calvin.

      • John Chester
        May 20, 2016

        It is not proof texting. Deut 32:39 is direct communication about the nature and character of God and was not abrogated at the inauguration of New covenant and according to 2 Tim 3:16 is profitable for reproof and correction. Do you affirm the sovereignty over life and death presented in Matthew 10:29? Or that God causes all things to work for the good of His people (Rom 8:28)? Or that suffering is an expected part of the life of believers (1 Pt 4:12)? Or that the life of the believer is marked by tribulation (Jn 16:33)? If not your quarrel is with God not Piper or Calvin.

        • Melinda Faye
          May 27, 2016

          Sorry this is so long, but it’s important. You’re taking those verses out of context… Which we are commanded not to do. Feel free to read John 16:33 in the Amplified version to get a more in depth description… Jesus said “For I have overcome the world.” This would be better translated “I [Jesus] have deprived the world of power to harm you, & have conquered it for you.” Jesus left to give us Holy Spirit that we should “drive out demons, speak in new languages, pick up serpents, & even if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, & they will get well.” ~ Jesus Mark 16: 17-18.
          Jesus also said, “The enemy has come to kill, steal & destroy; but I have come that you may have life more abundantly.” Jesus came to fulfill the Covenant of Law, & establish a new Covenant of Love. The enemy wants you to believe it’s God’s will for bad things to happen, because then you aren’t praying against the enemy like you should. Yes, we praise God IN our struggles, because He will take what the enemy has meant for harm into “good of those that love Him & are called according to His purpose.” But, we don’t thank Him FOR our pain because it’s not from our Father. Jesus said, If you would not give your son a stone when he asked for bread, how much more will your Father in Heaven give you if you ask anything of Him? I’m praying the scales are removed from your eyes & that you have an experience with the Lord that rocks you in such a way that you’re never able to be the same. Jesus didn’t conquer death so we could merely get to Heaven, He did that to restore what we lost in the garden… A beautiful, intimate relationship! Jesus conquered the devil so He could bless us with Holy Spirit, so we could change the world to the ends of the Earth. He wants to bless you with so much more than you have right now, all you have to do is ask & be willing to receive whatever He wants to give you. Blessings, brother!

          • John Chester
            May 27, 2016

            Actually I put those verses in context and reflected authorial content. And which of these words would be better translated as “deprive of power?” (I am assuming we both read Greek since you want to talk translation) ???? ????????, ??? ???????? ??? ??????.

          • John Chester
            May 27, 2016

            Actually I put those verses in context and reflected authorial content. And which of these words would be better translated as “deprive of power?” (I am assuming we both read Greek since you want to talk translation) ???? ????????, ??? ???????? ??? ??????.

          • John Chester
            May 27, 2016

            Oh and you’re quoting the long ending of Mark, you might want to read the textual footnote in your Bible. And didn’t the apostles thank God for the pain in Acts 5:41? That the Christian life is suffering free or that suffering is outside of the sovereignty of God (read Job 1-2) is a lie from the pit of hell.

          • Philip Mills
            May 30, 2016

            Few think or would argue the Christian life is suffering free. It’s a question of cause. Does God CAUSE horrific trauma to teach people and draw them to himself? Many do and the argument can be made.

            I reject that picture of God because it appears to me to be in deep contrast with Jesus who is the fullest revelation of God.

            If any person worked to the way the god who uses pain, humiliation, trauma and death to cause people to trust and love them, they would be rightly seen as a monster. The issue is in cause not occurrence. Are you a bad parent because your child broke their leg? Only if you purposefully did it to teach them perseverance or the dangers of leaving you.

          • John Chester
            May 27, 2016

            Oh and you’re quoting the long ending of Mark, you might want to read the textual footnote in your Bible. And didn’t the apostles thank God for the pain in Acts 5:41? That the Christian life is suffering free or that suffering is outside of the sovereignty of God (read Job 1-2) is a lie from the pit of hell.

  • Jen Crowder Noricks
    May 23, 2016

    Well done, Zack.

  • Dalaina May
    May 24, 2016

    Zach, I’ve been thinking about this post since you wrote it. I grew up fundie, married into Reformed, and I’m still trying to figure out what I actually believe…

    I was watching a Brene Brown talk the other day, and she said something that has stuck with me: “Trust is making something important to me vulnerable to your actions.” I wonder if that is a key idea here. Is it simply a matter of the vulnerability of God? God entrusts the coming of his kingdom in part with his church. He has for whatever reason become vulnerable to us because there is no such thing as love without vulnerability. But that makes HIS desires vulnerable to our actions. I don’t think this limits his power. He is still creator and God and Savior, but “self-limited God” perhaps as you wrote? And the why is vulnerable love that is lived in his trust in us to bring about his kingdom with him through our actions of obedience and lovingly reflecting him in action in the spheres he’s placed us in…

    Still mulling on it, but thanks so much for writing this and putting some pieces together for me. Blessings and healing on you as you fight this cancer. I’m sorry you are facing it.

  • wisdumb
    June 3, 2016

    So – a few questions:
    Who created this thing, or idea we call ‘cancer’? God, Demons, Man, or random evolution?
    Is God able to cure you? (answer is: yes)
    How could He cure you if He didn’t understand it and have power over it? (He wouldn’t be able)
    (Whoever creates a thing has ultimate power over it.)
    Did He see this coming? (Yes)
    If you had a choice to get rid of your cancer by transferring it to someone else, who would you choose?
    Do you know anyone who doesn’t suffer?

    I have hope for you – that you will be the hero of your book, and not the wimp.

  • Oasis
    June 4, 2016

    It is truly horrifying, how many self-professing Christians rush to defend such immoral, abusive views of God, and/or support and promote those who do.

    For me, there was nothing more shattering than being told that the very one who was supposed to love me the most, the one person I should always be able to trust, was in fact the mastermind behind the abuse I went through as a little girl! Piper and those like him present God as a disgusting criminal, and the one who hated and betrayed me the most. This terrible lie essentially justifies and excuses evil, is abuse upon abuse, and only intensified my pain. It took every ounce of strength and reason that I have, along with the wonderful help of a few brilliant people, to clear away the fog and find my way out of that nightmare.

    Stay strong, Zack. I really appreciate you writing this. There are vulnerable people being crushed and
    destroyed by theological nonsense, and sometimes they need help sorting through the wreckage. I know that what you wrote here sure would have helped me a few years ago.

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