Archive for June, 2013

Is a Calvinistic God a contradiction when compared with the God revealed in Scripture?

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

By Spencer D Gear

John Calvin 2.jpg

John Calvin (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

If you want to get a sample of orthodox, unorthodox or confused theology mixed in a challenging lump, head to one of the Christian forums on the Internet. The Calvinists are making their presence felt on some of these forums with their view of God Almighty who decrees all the evil in the world.

What is meant when they speak of God’s decrees or God’s decretive will? Theologian Wayne Grudem, a Calvinist, provides this definition:

The decrees of God are the eternal plas of God whereby, before the creation of the world, he determined to bring about everything that happens. This doctrine is similar to the doctrine of providence, but here we are thinking about God’s decisions before the world was created, rather than his providential actions in time. His providential actions are the outworking of the eternal decrees that he made long ago (Grudem 1994:332, emphasis in original).

However, Grudem wants it to be clear that God does not cause sin: ‘Unlike Adam, Scripture never blames God for sin. If we ever begin to think that God is to blame for sin, we have thought wrongly about God’s providence, for it is always the creature, not God who is to be blamed…. God has ordained that our actions do have effects. God has ordained that events will come about by our causing them (Grudem 1994:333-334).

As this article unfolds, we will observe that this is not how some Calvinists, at the popular level of Christian interaction on the Internet, interpret God’s decrees.

There was this new post on Christian Forums,

Hello need answer.

How can you possibly have a logical debate with a conclusion here?

You cannot have a debate without a foundation of truth.
We have only man made often opinionated theory as one premise.

We have Gods word as the other.

When you couch a debate and say that Gods word is in error, you might as well pea on a wall.

You will get your feet wet.

So one side can quote verses instead of suppositions, then the other says ain’t so the bible is wrong.

How and why did the study of salvation, turn into a Calvinists bully pulpit?

Good luck……I am glad I don’t need luck you can have it, I live by faith.[1]

A Calvinist responded:

“How and why did the study of salvation, turn into a Calvinists bully pulpit?”
It hasn’t. Calvinists just have more thorough biblical explanations, that’s all.[2]

The original poster made this response (given in part here):

I based my post on a circular logic by Calvinist.
They assume the bible contains errors, they assume their depth of understanding is more enlightened.
Anytime a debate is joined, their premises is you have accepted my truths, now on the current subject I must be right.
A works based belief, discounts the spiritual nature of God.
If I were to pick a Bible figure that resembles a Calvinist it would be Cain.[3]

A Calvinist’s reply was: ‘Calvinists assume the bible contains error? That’s a new one on me’.[4]

But it was not a new one on this fellow:

Is this correct?
Psalm 5:4, For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.
God eternal decrees that which He hath no pleasure in? Does God possess a split personality?

You won’t find a clearer case of a contradiction.[5]

How would this Calvinist respond? Here was his assertion, ‘It’s not a contradiction’.[6] Janx replied, ‘That isn’t helpful Hammster. Please explain it for all those would-be Calvinists out there’.[7] Janx’s further response to Hammster was:

‘Ps 5:5, The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;
God eternally decrees all the wrongs that men will do whilst also hating them for doing so?[8]

I entered the debate[9], replying to the opening post: ‘500 years later, Calvinism debate still simmers among Southern Baptists‘, Associated Press (The Tennessean). This is from that article:

When Lifeway polled Southern Baptist pastors about Calvinism last year, 30 percent said their churches were Calvinist….

The conflict could continue to grow as the next generation of pastors takes over. The Lifeway poll found 8 percent of pastors overall strongly agreed that they were Calvinists, but among those pastors aged 18 to 44, 18 percent identified strongly as Calvinists. Among those 65 and older the number was just 1 percent.

The Lifeway poll also found that 61 percent of pastors were concerned about the impact of Calvinism on the SBC.

Which means that 70% of their churches are non-Calvinist?

Again he replied, ‘Good News !’[10] However, a Calvinist’s response was, ‘Yep. 70% are wrong. Still a lot of work to do’.[11]

To the Calvinistic claim (as above) that ‘it’s not a contradiction’, I wrote:[12]

Johnpiper3.jpg

John S Piper (photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Yes it is and we see it on a practical level in this articulation between a Calvinist and an Arminian. John Piper, the Calvinist, wrote, ‘What Made It OK for God to Kill Women, Children in Old Testament?

Here’s a sample from Piper’s teaching:

“If I were to drop dead right now, or a suicide bomber downstairs were to blow this building up and I were blown into smithereens, God would have done me no wrong. He does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92.”

Do you understand the horrific implications of this kind of statement by a Calvinist? Planned Parenthood is justified in what it does to unborn children through abortion because God would be doing no wrong to these unborn children by taking their lives in this way.

What was John Calvin’s view in his Institutes of the Christian religion?

The same men wrongly and rashly lay the happenings of past time to the naked providence of God. For since on it depends everything that happens, therefore, say they, neither thefts, nor adulteries, nor murders take place without God’s will intervening…. For we shall not say that one who is motivated by an evil inclination, by only obeying his own wicked desire, renders service to God at His bidding….

I grant more: thieves and murderers and other evildoers are the instruments of divine providence, and the Lord himself uses these to carry out the judgments that he has determined with himself. Yet I deny that they can derive from this any excuse for their evil deeds. Why? Will they either involve God in the same iniquity with themselves, or will they cloak their own depravity with his justice? They can do neither. In their own conscience they are so convicted as to be unable to clear themselves; in themselves they so discover all evil, but in him only the lawful use of their evil intent, as to preclude laying the charge against God. Well and good, for he works through them. And whence, I ask you, comes the stench of a corpse, which is both putrefied and laid open by the heat of the sun? All men see that it is stirred up by the sun’s rays; yet no one for this reason says that the rays stink. Thus, since the matter and guilt of evil repose in a wicked man, what reason is there to think that God contracts any defilement, if he uses his service for his own purpose? Away, therefore, with this doglike impudence, which can indeed bark at God’s justice afar off but cannot touch it (Calvin 1960:1.17.5).

Therefore, Calvin did not place the blame for all the evil in the world with the decrees of God.

Here is an Arminian, Robert Anderson’s, ‘Response to Piper’s “What Made It OK for God to Kill Women, Children in Old Testament?”’

Robert Anderson (photo courtesy blogspot)

It is not only OK for God to kill women and children in the Old Testament according to the Calvinist, John Piper, but God ‘does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92’ – says Piper. Calvin disagrees! Piper’s statement is in contradiction with what is affirmed in the Bible in passages such as Psalm 5:4 where it is stated that God does not delight in wickedness and evil does not dwell with him.

Is it Calvinism or Hyper-Calvinism

Phil Johnson has written, ‘A Primer on Hyper-Calvinism’. Take a read and see what you think about historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism.

James White is a Calvinist theologian and ardent promoter of Calvinism. He was in a debate/discussion with Hank Hanegraaff and George Bryson. Here is an excerpt from that debate on ‘The Bible Answer Man’:

George Bryson: Well, let me answer that with a question. Let me ask you this question – and this will put in perspective to show the difference. When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?
White: If he didn’t, then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose. What I’m trying to point out, by going to Scripture —
Hank Hanegraaff: So what is your answer there? Because I want to understand the answer to that question.
White: I’m trying to go to Scripture to answer it. The reason —
Hanegraaff: But what is the answer to the question he just asked, so that we can understand what the answer to the question is.
James White: I mentioned to him, yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen He created it without a purpose. That means God brought the evil into existence, knowing it was going to exist, but for no purpose, no redemption, nothing positive, nothing good. I say —
Hanegraaff: So, he did decree and if he decreed it, then there’s meaning to it.
White: that he – it has meaning, it has purpose, suffering (all suffering) has purpose, everything in this world has purpose. There is no basis for despair. But if we believe that God created knowing all this was going to happen, but with no decree. He just created and there is all this evil out there, and there’s no purpose, then every rape, every situation like that is nothing but purposeless evil and God is responsible for the creation of despair. And that is not what I believe.
Bryson: For years, I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that in order for rape to exist – or – unless God caused it to happen – there can’t be any purpose in it. God can use evil and he does. But to blame God, which is what a decree does, to blame God for the rape of a child is a horrible attack on the very character and love of God.
White: How about to blame God for the destruction of the heart of a father, thinking his son has been killed for many years – the weeping that he underwent. Genesis 50:20 has not been answered yet. And Acts chapter 4 tells us that the early church believed that Pontius Pilate and Herod and the Romans and the Jews in the crucifixion of the sinless son of God (which I believe we would all agree is the greatest evil that man has ever committed) that that took place on the basis of the sovereign decree of God (Acts 4:27-28). If you could tell me both what you believe Acts 4:27-28 means and —
Bryson: Let me ask you if you think that rape is a sin.
White: I believe that — Can we use a biblical example, Acts 4:27-28?
Bryson: Rape is a biblical issue, is rape a sin?
White: Just as the crucifixion was a sin, yes.
Bryson: Ok. So, does God decree, and therefore is God the cause of, sin?
White: Again, as you well know, having read all of these things, let me just read this into everyone’s hearing, so they can see it. The early church said: “For truly in this city there were gathered against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod, Pontius Pilate, along with the gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur. And so here is an example where men committed evil and they did so at the predestining purpose of God. God is glorified. His intention is positive and good. The intention of Herod – the intention of the Jews – These were not innocent people and God’s standing behind them with a big gun, pushing them down the road, going “Be evil, be evil.” In fact, how many times did God restrain them![13]

James White is very clear from this interaction about the nature of his Calvinistic God:

  • God is responsible for a child’s rape; otherwise it is meaningless and purposeless evil.
  • Everything in this world has a purpose from God, including a child’s rape.
  • God is responsible for the creation of despair if he did not decree a child’s rape with purpose.
  • Genesis 50:20 and Acts 4:27-28 support this view of God being responsible for a child’s rape, according to White.
  • Rape is a sin just as Jesus’ crucifixion was a sin.
  • The intention of Herod and Pontius Pilate was evil but men committed evil and they did so at the predestining purpose of God. God is glorified.

George Bryson’s remark hit the mark: ‘To blame God, which is what a decree does, to blame God for the rape of a child is a horrible attack on the very character and love of God’.

I cannot conclude other than the Calvinistic view of God, as articulated by James White, makes God into an evil monster!

See James White’s response to this interview and some other issues in this presentation on Youtube, ‘The Absurdity’.

The Calvinistic God decrees evil – all evil

The implications are horrific. The Calvinistic God considers it is OK for Him to endorse (by decree) the horrible evils of

We need to remember that it was John Piper who stated (above), ‘He [God] does no wrong to anybody when he takes their life, whether at 2 weeks or at age 92’.

It’s a massive contradiction when the Calvinistic God states that he does not delight in wickedness and evil does not dwell with him, but evil does dwell with him and all of the horrific things He has decreed throughout human history, according to some Calvinists – including

The God who does not delight in wickedness and evil does not dwell with him, is contradicted by the Calvinistic God who says it is OK through His decrees to agree with such slaughter and horror around the world and down through history.

This was response to, ‘Yep. 70% are wrong. Still a lot of work to do,’ was:[14]

There are 70% of Southern Baptists who do not endorse the God who engages in the kind of contradiction you are presenting for the Calvinistic God.
I praise the Lord that there are many Baptists who know the nature of their God and he is not the one who endorses evil around the world in contradiction of Psalm 5:4.

To the comment that it was ‘good news’ that 70% of Southern Baptist Churches are non-Calvinistic, I replied:[15]

It is good news because there are 70% represented by these churches at least should be getting a better understanding of the contradiction between the Calvinistic God who decrees all the evil in the world and the Lord God almighty who states: ‘to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him’ (Psalm 92:15 ESV)

The God who is absolutely righteous yet decrees all of the unrighteousness in the world is a god of contradiction, in my understanding.
And 70% of Southern Baptists seem to be in agreement with Psalm 92:15.

Who is the God revealed in the Bible?

This is the kind of God revealed in the Scriptures and he is not the deterministic, decretive God who decrees all kinds of evil, even horrific evil, throughout human history. This is the God revealed in Scripture:

Genesis 18:25, ‘Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (ESV)[16]

2 Chronicles 19:7, ‘Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes’.

Job 37:23, ‘The Almighty—we cannot find him; he is great in power; justice and abundant righteousness he will not violate’.

Psalm 5:4, ‘For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you’.

Psalm 9:8, ‘and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness’.

Psalm 11:5, ‘The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence’.

Psalm 33:5, ‘He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord’.

Psalm 34:16, ‘The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth’.

Psalm 92:15, ‘to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him’.

What about Isaiah 45:7? ‘I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things’ (ESV). The King James Version translates as, ‘I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things’.

So does the Lord God create evil or calamity? See my article, ‘Did God create evil?’ See also, ‘Doesn’t Isaiah say God made Evil?

Jeremiah 44:11, ‘Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will set my face against you for harm, to cut off all Judah’.

Amos 9:4 describes how God did bring judgment on Israel with destruction, ‘And if they go into captivity before their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good’.

Romans 2:11, ‘For God shows no partiality’.

Romans 9:14, ‘What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!’

This string of verses reveals two dimensions of the nature of God:

(1)The benevolent attributes of God, and

(2)The judgment of God.

(1) The benevolent attributes of God

What are these attributes of God that are revealed as the following verses unfold? He is this kind of God:

arrow-small Justice,

arrow-small Impartiality,

arrow-small Righteousness,

arrow-small Does not delight in wickedness;

arrow-small Evil does not dwell with Him;

arrow-small Against those who do evil;

arrow-small Upright,

(2) The judgment of God

These verses reveal God’s judgment as:

blue-satin-arrow-small Done with justice;

blue-satin-arrow-small Done with righteousness & uprightness;

blue-satin-arrow-small Creating calamity;

blue-satin-arrow-small Causing harm;

blue-satin-arrow-small Causing evil and not good;

This is not the God revealed in Calvinistic decrees where all the evil in the world is ordained by God. He approves it; he endorses it; it is achieving His purposes. This is not the God revealed in Scripture.

See my articles,

Conclusion: Which is a better solution to the problem of evil?

There is a very simple solution that those who believe in God’s free will to human beings, have been advocating throughout human history. We find it throughout the Scriptures. The Bible shows clearly that people have the ability to choose between two contrary views such as life and death. See Deuteronomy 30:15-19; Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 56:4; Ezekiel 33:11. The New Testament promotes the same view: Luke 22:32; John 3:16-17; Acts 17:30; Romans 6:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 4:10; 1 John 2:2; 4:14; 2 John 1:9 and Revelation 22:17.

Of course there are verses that affirm predestination in association with salvation, but that is not contradictory to God’s giving human beings responsibility through free will. Also see ‘Church Fathers on Foreknowledge and Free will’.

When it comes to the problem of evil, there is a simple solution. When God made human beings in the beginning, he gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey or disobey Him:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

Adam and Eve chose to disobey, beginning with Eve and the serpent’s tempting (Genesis 3). This tempter is generally accepted as the devil/Satan (see John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:3, 14; Revelation 12:9).

Since that time, all human beings inherit original sin, which means that all people have an hereditary fallen nature and moral corruption that have been passed on from Adam and Eve to all of their descendants. Romans 5:12 gives a summary of this view from God’s perspective:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.

Some choose to be selfish, angry, steal or get angry (from mild to severe). Other people choose to do horrific things in their sinful actions. Human beings are responsible for horrendous, sinful deeds. It is human beings who commit the Holocaust, rape and murder. Each human being is responsible and will appear before the judgment of God to be judged.

The Judgment of the Dead (Revelation 20:11-15 NIV)

11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire (NIV).

The problem of evil, while inherited from birth, cannot be rebuffed with the claim that God gave it to me and caused me to sin. This is one that I’ve heard from some with a former church connection. The facts are that human beings choose to sin as Adam and Eve were their representatives. Adam was our federal head. If we had been there, we would have done exactly what Adam and Eve did. We see this emphasis in verses such as:

  • Romans 5:18, ‘Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people’.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:22, ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’.

That is the hope available to all people

clip_image001[4]

(image courtesy ChristArt)

‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’. If you are interested in being made alive in Christ for abundant life NOW and eternal life that can begin NOW, I encourage you to read, ‘The content of the Gospel … and some discipleship’.

So, who is responsible for all of the evil in the world?

We are!

References

Calvin, J 1960. Institutes of the Christian religion. Tr by F L Battles, J T McNeill (ed), 2 vols. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums, General Theology, Soteriology, ‘Hello need answer’, now faith#1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7751293/ (Accessed 11 June 2013).

[2] Ibid., Hammster#2.

[3] Ibid., now faith#6.

[4] Ibid., Hammster#7.

[5] Ibid., janxharris#8.

[6] Ibid., Hammster#9.

[7] Ibid., janxharris#10.

[8] Ibid., janxharris#12.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#11.

[10] Ibid., janxharris#13.

[11] Ibid., Hammster#14.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#15.

[13] Available from ‘Reformed Apologetics & Polemics’ at: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com.au/2011/08/why-it-is-important-to-go-back-to.html (Accessed 11 June 2013).

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#16.

[15] Ibid., OzSpen#17.

[16] Unless otherwise stated, all translations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.
Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 June 2016.