A few highlights (or lowlights) from Billy Birch:
“However, what Piper's Calvinism has concealed is the underlying belief that God did not merely, purposefully desist in preventing the death of his or her parents (via 9/11 or whatever other means), but he brought it to pass. What Piper (and all Calvinists) should admit to suffering victims is that God was wise, loving, and good toward them when he brought to pass their loved one's death.”
Don’t you just love the way demagogues like Birch cast the issue in conspiratorial terms? Calvinist should admit…as if we refuse to admit that. As though we’re trying to keep that under wraps.
“Piper is right to insist that God is all-powerful. He has the ability to stop all evil. Evil, contrary to the assumptions and ideas of some, is not a problem for God. He could stop all evil and sin by not allowing anyone to have any freedom to do any thing whatsoever.”
How would preventing evil in general, or just preventing some of the more horrendous forms of evils, require God to disallow anyone from having any freedom to do anything whatsoever?
Is Billy saying that for God to stop the 9/11 hijackers from crashing their planes into the twin towers, God would also have to stop you from choosing between strawberry and raspberry sherbet? Even on a libertarian scheme, how does the correlation begin to follow?
“Arminianism, on the other hand, offers people genuine and unambiguous stability, strength, and hope in God, confessing that God could not bring about evil and sin, which are contrary to his holy nature and character, as demonstrated in Christ Jesus.”
Several obvious problems:
i) Birch acts as though to “bring about” some event, you have to directly cause it. But to consider a few examples:
a) A lawyer is vying with a rival for a partnership in the firm. To eliminate the competition, the lawyer puts a black mamba in the bedroom of his rival. His rival dies of snakebite.
Now, the lawyer didn’t bite his rival. And the lawyer didn’t make the snake bite his rival. But didn’t the rival bring about that fatal outcome?
b) A man leaves a loaded revolver in the toy box of a two-year-old. The two-year-old accidentally shoots himself to death.
Now, the man didn’t pull the trigger. He didn’t make the gun go off. But didn’t he bring about that outcome?
ii) If God creates a foreseen world in which he foresaw the 9/11 hijackers, then didn’t he bring about that eventuality?
iii) How does the life of Christ prove his point? Sin and evil is a presupposition of his redemptive mission. Moreover, sin and evil was instrumental in the completion of his mission. What the Sanhedrin did was sinful. What Pilate did was evil.
“Roger Olson comments: Even sinful acts (and calamities), however, do not escape God's governance, although they are in a separate category than good acts. Sinful and evil acts are never planned or decreed by God.”
i) God didn’t plan on that happening? How is that possible? According to Arminianism, God foresaw it. And God could stop it. Instead, God made it happen by making the world in which it happens. Under those conditions, how can Olsen say God didn’t plan on that happening?
Indeed, under those conditions, doesn’t Olsen have to admit that God foreintended the outcome? If you see it coming; if you can stop it; if, instead, you do something to make it happen, then didn’t you foreintend the outcome? And if you foreintend the outcome, then isn’t that a plan of action?
ii) Moreover, suppose, for the sake of argument, that evil wasn’t in the plan. Suppose God didn’t plan on that happening.
How is that a solution to the problem of evil? Isn’t it incumbent on God to have a plan? If sins and calamities were no part of his plan, then isn’t Godderelict?
Suppose the director of FEMA said, “Sorry about that. We didn’t have a contingency plan for hurricanes. Better luck next time!” Would that let him off the hook?
“God only decrees to allow them.”
How does that solve the problem of evil? Doesn’t the argument from evil normally pose the question: “Why did God allow it?”
The argument from evil is quite prepared to concede the premise that God “allowed” it. But that’s hardly a solution. Rather, that’s a statement of the problem. Is that the sort of thing he should allow that to happen? That’s the question, is it not?
“God never instigates them or renders them certain (e.g., by withdrawing the grace necessary to avoid them [something which Calvinism denies]).”
How does God not render them certain? If he makes a world in which he foresees their occurrence, then isn’t their occurrence certain? Isn’t the outcome a done deal as soon as he makes the world in which that foreseen outcome occurs?
“There is neither a secret impulse of God toward evil nor a hidden God who manipulates people to sin.”
Olsen needs to explain how the God of Calvinism “manipulates” people to sin.
“Yet evil decisions and actions are circumscribed by God so that they fit into his purposes, and he directs them toward the good end he had in mind for creation.”
On the one hand, God didn’t “plan” these events. On the other hand, God had them “in mind,” and God also had a “purpose” for them. Well, of you had something in mind, and it serves your purpose, then isn’t that a plan?
Or does Olsen mean that while God didn’t plan on that happening, once it does happen he can find a way, after the fact, to “fit it into his purposes”?
But how is that consistent with foreknowledge? Isn’t that what we’d expect an open theist to say?
“And they cannot happen without God's permission and cooperation.”
So God “cooperates” with the natural disaster. If a dam ruptures, flooding the town downstream, God cooperates with the deluge.
i) First of all, I’m less than clear on what “cooperation” means in reference to natural evils.
ii) And, in any case, how do “permission and cooperation” automatically exonerate God? How is that a signal improvement over what the Arminian finds so outrageous about Calvinism?
Watching Arminians like Birch and Olsen deflect the problem of evil is like watching a man take refuge from a typhoon in a Japanese house. They somehow imagine that the rice paper walls will shield them from the typhoon of evil.
I don’t share their confidence in the structural integrity of their Arminian theodicy. I somehow doubt their rice paper barriers can withstand the problem of evil.