Friday, March 30, 2012

Olson's false dilemma

I’ll comment on this post:

Also, of course, this view, that God sovereignly decreed sin and did not merely permit it cannot escape making God the author of sin and evil. God could not have “sovereignly decreed” sin without rendering it certain.

i) It’s true that by decreeing sin and evil, God made it certain. Indeed, that’s a fundamental purpose of predestination.

ii) However, it's equally true that you can make it certain by allowing it to happen. If you foresee that some event will happen unless you intervene, yet you refrain, then your permission ensures the occurrence of the event.

iii) Therefore, by Olson’s own argument, the Arminian God is the author of sin and evil

Why does Andrews not address HOW God rendered sin (i.e., the fall) certain? Virtually every Calvinist theologian I have read explains that God withdrew or withheld the grace he knew Adam and Eve would have needed not to sin. How else could God have guaranteed what he decreed would come to pass without actually forcing them to sin? And yet, non-Calvinists ask, how is that not tantamount to causing them to sin? And if sinning is what they naturally would do apart from a supernatural gift of grace, how was their nature “good?”

i) Once again, it’s true that by decreeing the fall, God ensured the fall.

ii) And, once again, it's equally true that you can make it a sure thing short of predestinating the outcome. If God foresaw the eventuation of the Fall unless he took steps to contravene that outcome, then God’s inaction guaranteed the Fall. Permission made it certain to occur.

iii) Notice that Olson defines causation in terms of ensuring the outcome. So by Olson’s own definition, God caused the fall.

Then, of course, the biggest problem with Andrews’ (and most Calvinists’ view) of God’s sovereign ordaining of sin and evil is that sin and evil are no longer really bad. Andrews quotes Bavinck that God “willed it [i.e., sin and evil] so that in it and against it He might bring to light His divine attributes.” (p. 81) Really. Please. If that’s the case, then there is no getting around it that sin and evil are good because without them God’s glory could not be fully revealed. It’s only a baby step from there to “Those suffering in the flames of hell for eternity can at least take comfort in the fact they are there for the greater glory of God.” But it’s not even a baby step to belief that sin and evil are really good.

That’s simpleminded. If fails to distinguish between ends and means. Something can be bad it itself, but serve a good purpose in spite of itself. Take the Assyrian deportation:

5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
    the staff in their hands is my fury!
6 Against a godless nation I send him,
    and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
    and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
(Isa 10:5-6)

God uses Assyrian to punish Judah. The Assyrians were notoriously cruel. Many atrocities were committed in the course of the deportation. So was the Assyrian deportation good or evil?

Both, in different respects. Cruel for cruelty’s sake isn’t good. But it had a punitive function. As a means to an end.

Some things are intrinsically evil. In case of what’s intrinsically evil, the ends can never justify the means. But other things can be either good or evil depending on the circumstances.

Of course, one traditional Calvinist way of getting around that is to say that the evil of a sinful act lies in the intention with which it is done. But, within a Calvinist doctrine of meticulous providence, even the “evil” intention had to be ordained and rendered certain by God. Then it, too, is not really evil but good.

That, too, is simpleminded. The fact that Adam intends to sin because God intends Adam to sin doesn’t mean God and Adam have the same intentions. Take this illustration:

ruse — In military deception, a trick of war designed to deceive the adversary, usually involving the deliberate exposure of false information to the adversary’s intelligence collection system.

The fact that it was our intention to deceive the enemy doesn’t mean it was the enemy’s intention to be deceived.

Let’s take some Biblical examples:

5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger;
    the staff in their hands is my fury!
6 Against a godless nation I send him,
    and against the people of my wrath I command him,
to take spoil and seize plunder,
    and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
7 But he does not so intend,
    and his heart does not so think;
but it is in his heart to destroy,
    and to cut off nations not a few;
(Isa 10:5-7)

The Assyrians unconsciously do God’s bidding. They carry out his intentions–even though they don’t intend to do so.


49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
(Jn 11:49-51)

Caiaphas did not intend to bear witness to Jesus. He did so in spite of his malicious intentions to the contrary.

I truly do not see how Calvinists like Andrews can cope with this conundrum. If this is true, then why not celebrate sin and evil and hell? They are God’s will and bring him glory.

i) Because sin and evil aren’t good in and of themselves. They don’t automatically glorify God. Rather, redemption glorifies God. Judgment glorifies God.

We celebrate the results. And we praise the wisdom of God’s methods.

ii) Conversely, if the Arminian God permitted sin, evil, and hell, then he willingly permitted sin, evil, and hell. So he willed the permissive results.

How does Olson cope with the Arminian conundrum? 

1 comment:

  1. "How does Olson cope with the Arminian conundrum?"

    That's easy - he asserts that there is no Arminian conundrum.