This almost sounds like a headline from The Babylon Bee; A Calvinist finally admitting that God, in fact, decrees all manner of evil including such things as rape, murder, abortion, and [name your own evil] because God apparently has reasons for decreeing evil. Who knew?
This is how the conversation went:
An initial question from a non-Calvinist – How could Calvinistic determinism not have God as the author of evil? Logically, it doesn’t follow because you say God decrees all things. So, whatever has happened or whatever will happen is because God wants it?
First Calvinist – Calvinists believe that man cannot do good or evil unless God acts first, since God is the first cause for all things than can happen in existence. The evil is directly committed by the secondary causes such as man, Satan or creatures. Even though God as the primary cause decreed evil actions, God cannot be charged with wrongdoing.
My response – How can one square the holiness of God should God violates the tenants of his own holiness?
A Calvinist response – Biblical holiness doesn’t mean what you’re implying in your question. It does in a sense as it pertains to man but not to God. God is holy because He alone is God. God finds it especially offensive when man fashions idols because he is so far elevated above anything he has created. What on earth can possibly “capture” who God is? He asks us to be holy as he is holy. The world of man is depraved and sinful, therefore we are the opposite. For man to be holy, we ought to be sinless and blameless.
My response – Well, it seems reasonable to assume all that God created was good. However, because of free-will, which God bestowed to ‘agents’ i.e. man, Satan, the serpent, et al, they were able to take that which God created for good and use that good in an opposite manner. Not to be overt with an illustration – but sex comes to mind. God created sex. And sex it is good. However, sex can also be used for evil by way of rape, for instance. I believe that God knew that sex could be used for evil but gave us sex because the good outweighs the bad (evil). So, God maintains his holiness through the creation of sex. Man, however, has obviously used that good for evil. God did not create the evil. But evil was a possible outcome of the good God created.
Another Calvinist – God determining everything does not mean that God causes everything.
My response – But you agree that secondary causes are also determined by God and couldn’t be any other way. Therefore, God, under Calvinism, is responsible for primary and secondary causes. So, how is God not responsible for evil?
First Calvinist – You ought to know that Calvinists believe that man cannot do good or evil unless God acts first. God is the first cause for all things than can happen in existence. The lies are directly committed by the secondary causes, i.e. man, Satan, creatures. Even though God as the primary cause decreed them, God cannot be charged with doing evil.
My response – I maintain that evil is what man did to God’s goodness. Your comment as to first and second causes are not satisfying. If God causes something, whether as the primary or secondary source, then is God not responsible for that? What are your thoughts from the illustration I provided above?
First Calvinist – Calvinists don’t believe that God must, by necessity, ultimately control all things. Nothing would happen if God did not act. Calvinists reject the notion that creatures can self-function. Calvinists believe that God sustains all things. That from which God would withhold His sustaining power would perish.
My Response – I don’t think libertarian free will any way contradicts God’s sovereignty and makes God’s sovereignty over things impossible. So, your position is that any and everything which happens is a direct result of God wanting it to happen. I respectfully disagree. Perhaps you could explain then why it is that Calvinists (amongst other Christians) are so against such things as gay marriages and abortion. From your position, God obviously wants gay marriage and abortion. But I have yet to find a committed Calvinist who’s jumping up and down for joy because some forty million babies have been killed in the womb. I take from your last point that because God is not preventing abortion, he therefore desires abortion. Sorry, but the hypocrisy of the Calvinist perspective to God’s holiness is stark and blatant.
First Calvinist – How God achieves what happens in creation is what is known as the secret things that belong to God. Did God not make Job humble himself and say the following in Job 42:1, Then Job answered the Lord and said: I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
What isn’t secret is what God has commanded and instructed us to do: be holy as he is holy, grow in faith, be fruitful, preach the Gospel, love the brethren, etc. This is the opposite of being overjoyed for sexual immorality and murder. No hypocrisy found here. Does not God control His sustaining power? Maybe you believe that God controls some but not all of His powers?
My response – Let me put the question directly – do you accept that God wants gay marriage and has desired that >40M babies be aborted in this country since 1973 when Roe vs Wade went before the Supreme Court? Afterall, those things are now happening – and have been happening for a long time. I’m trying to differentiate what God desires versus what he allows. You’re not making that distinction. Therefore, from your perspective, whatever happens is because God wants it to happen.
First Calvinist – Did God decree gay marriages and all the abortions and the decision of Roe V Wade? Yes, he did. God has his reasons for the evil he decrees.
My Response – Thank-you for the honesty. Truly. I’ve asked the same question to a lot of Calvinists. To a person, they hem and haw and essentially defer to God’s ways being greater than our ways. But you admit, from a Calvinist perspective, that God does decree gay marriage, abortion, rape, murder and all other evil.
Conclusion – Well, it took a while. But a Calvinist finally admitted his belief that God decreed abortion to be the law of the land, gay marriage be legalized throughout the United States and any and every evil is a result of God’s determination. I am ever frustrated at the lack of a logical construct within Calvinist doctrine which states that God being sovereign must have created everything and therefore anything created is of God including evil. However, this is consistent with myriads of popular Calvinist theologians such as Arthur Pink who has made the following proclamations:
- [God willed] that sin should enter this world. Otherwise [sin] would not have entered [the world].
- Nothing happens except what God has eternally decreed.
- Nothing in all the vast universe can come to pass [other than what] God has eternally purposed.
- It is [God] who is ruling the world [according] to his own good pleasure and for his own eternal glory.
To me, it makes more logical sense to understand that God’s holiness is exhibited through his creation and not what man has done to defile that creation via our evil thoughts, deeds and actions. I think my illustration as to sex bears this out. What God creates is good. And man can be blessed and benefit from God’s goodness. However, man has the capacity to take that which is good and turn it into evil.
This discussion is an example of the variance of opinion amongst Christians with respect to God’s nature and character. And it frustrates me. It just seems that Christians ought to be more in agreement with one another. That any believer can attribute rape, murder, abortion or any other sin to God is, in my opinion, to besmirch God’s holiness. I’m trying to put God into a little box that I find most pleasant can agree with. Rather, I’m trying to be logical and understand things as best I can.
As always, I welcome reader’s thoughts and opinions. Fire away!