Josh Thibodaux, fearsome Mighty Mouse of Arminian swashbucklers, whose squeak exceeds his nip, has come out of retirement to rescue Pearl Pureheart from the distressing clutches of the Satan Cat.
“The real problem is that making God out to be the author of sin is what their exhaustive determinist doctrine inescapably amounts to.”
Is Calvinism “exhaustively deterministic”? Thibo needs to define his terms. Here’s a standard definition:
“Causal determinism is, roughly speaking, the idea that every event is necessitated by antecedent events and conditions together with the laws of nature…In most of what follows, I will speak simply of determinism, rather than of causal determinism…The world is governed by (or is under the sway of) determinism if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.”
It’s clear on this definition that Calvinism is not “exhaustively deterministic.” Take a miracle like Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. That wasn’t necessitated by the laws of nature. And that wasn’t necessitated by a chain of antecedent events leading up to this miracle.
“The term ‘author‘ as employed by Arminians/Synergists in this case, is used in an originative sense to describe where the evil ultimately arose from. If we can identify, ‘whose idea was this?’, then we’ve found the author…[Originate] Thought it up, dreamed it up, came up with the idea apart from anything external…I would say He allowed it contingent upon the creatures’ wills, but didn’t dream up their evil schemes Himself.”
There are two basic problems with his claim:
i) This is Thibo’s polemical, made-up definition of the phrase (“author of sin”). He doesn’t attempt to show that this represents the historic meaning of the phrase. Yet when Calvinism denies the divine authorship of sin, that has reference to the historical meaning of the phrase.
What Thibo has done is to concoct his own eccentric and tendentious definition. Not surprisingly, he defines the term in such a way that it just so happens to include Calvinism but exclude Arminianism.
That’s the nice thing about made-up definitions. You can define a term at your convenience, so that, by a happy coincidence, your own position falls outside the danger zone while the opposing position falls inside the danger zone. Funny how that works out.
Why he thinks that any nonpartisan observer would be impressed by this self-serving exercise is an interesting question.
ii) One wonders if Thibo really means what he seems to be saying. Perhaps the logic of his position really commits him to such an extreme position. But what Thibo appears to claim is that evil is literally unimaginable for God. If it weren’t for the existence of sinners, God would be unable to even conceive of such possibilities on his own. Such ideas are simply unthinkable for God unless there were sinners who made him cognizant of these evil possibilities.
Is that what Thibo means? Does Thibo think God lacks the elementary intelligence to even have a bare idea of evil events apart from some external stimulus? If that’s the case, then human beings are much smarter than the Arminian God.
“Calvinists will often equivocate and say that it means ‘actually committing the sin,’ or some such, but the ‘author’ of an action doesn’t necessarily describe someone directly committing that action, rather it denotes the one who came up with the action to begin with… Trying to deny the problem by redefining ‘author’ amounts to nothing more than playing word games.”
How is that equivocation? To my knowledge, “authorship” in Medieval Latin and Middle French denotes agency. The “author” is the agent. The one who actually performs the deed.
“Author of sin” is a term of art. A technical term. That’s true of many traditional terms in historical theology.
If anyone is redefining terms, Thibo seems to be the culprit. At least, he’s offered no lexical evidence, drawn from period usage, to justify his own definition.
“Let’s assume for sake of argument that Pharaoh didn’t actually do any of the dirty work himself. So who authored this crime? The Hebrews? Hardly. The soldiers carried it out. Was it then his soldiers’ idea? Whether they did so willingly or unwillingly under threat of death doesn’t make a difference; they weren’t the ones that came up with the order, Pharaoh was. His subordinates’ level of willingness is irrelevant. His not lifting a finger in helping them perform it is irrelevant. Pharaoh was the one who made the decree, and it was Pharaoh’s intent that was carried out as a result. Pharaoh was the one who ultimately masterminded the act. Pharaoh authored the crime.”
i) Aside from Thibo’s eccentric definition of “authorship,” he also equivocates over the meaning of “decree.” Here he seems to be using “decree” in the sense of a command or edict.
But that’s not what the “decree” means in Calvinism. Indeed, that confuses God’s decretive will with his preceptive will. In Calvinism, the decree is not a command or edict. Rather, in the words of one classic definition, “God's decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will, whereby, from all eternity, he has, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained: Whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men” (WLC Q.12).
Then there’s the substantive issue.
ii) One problem is Thibo’s simplistic explanation of intent. But there is more than one intention in play. For instance, God decreed that Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery as part of a long-range plan resulting in the Exodus–centuries later. That was God’s intent.
But that was hardly intent of Joseph’s brothers. They were motivated by envy, resentment, and revenge.
iii) In addition, if God voluntarily makes a world with foreseeable consequences, then God intends the consequences.
“If God specifically decreed that people sin, then God is the one who came up with the idea and is therefore its author (and the de facto mastermind behind it).”
How is God not the de facto mastermind behind whatever happens? God is the only agent who knows the entire complex of events. Human agents only have a partial knowledge of world events. Events they observe, plan, or perform.
God is the only agent who foresees each event in relation to every other event. And God’s creative fiat is a necessary condition for the eventuation of all those foreseeable results. So that makes the Arminian God complicit in the outcome. A collaborator. Indeed, the “mastermind.” And that’s on Arminian assumptions.
“A God in whom all evil originates rather than a God who (possibly) allows wholly useless evil to be committed… how exactly is this supposed to be a better view of God?”
So Thibo apparently admits the existence of gratuitous evils in Arminian theology. Of course, that plays into the argument from evil.
“Because allowing a situation in which wrong can occur (including if it certainly will given the agent) isn’t akin to planning it out.”
i) ”Akin” in what sense? There’s a metaphysical distinction between permitting and planning an event. But that is not, of itself, a moral distinction or exculpatory distinction.
Suppose I have advance knowledge of 9/11. I didn’t plan it. I accidentally discovered the plot. But I choose to keep mum and sit on this information rather than tip off the authorities. I allow it to happen even though I was in a position to prevent it.
Is that different than planning it? Well, there’s a metaphysical difference. But how is that morally relevant? How does that excuse my actions?
ii) In Arminian theology, God does more than merely “allow” evil. God is the Creator. He made a world with foreseeable evils. He was able to preempt their occurrence. Therefore, he does more than merely permit them to happen. Rather, God made a necessary and positive contribution to the outcome through his creative fiat.
In addition, Arminian theology also has a doctrine of providential concurrence. God has to sustain the evildoer.
iii) How can an Arminian deny that God planned an evil event? If God foresaw the outcome, an avoidable outcome, then God intended the outcome, did he not? If he did not intend that outcome, then why did he set that chain-reaction in motion? No one was forcing his hand.
How can an evil event be an unplanned event if God foresaw that eventuality, intended that eventuality, and set that chain-of-events in motion by his creative fiat?
“The sovereign God holds power of life and death for His creations, and therefore has no obligations to stop evil from being committed or prevent His creations from destroying each other, and is therefore not responsible for their actions in any moral sense.”
But in that event, the Arminian God lacks the attribute of omnibenevolence. Such a God doesn’t act in the best interests of all his fallen creatures.