In short, the Calvinist account of God’s sovereignty given earlier in this chapter inevitably makes God the author of sin, evil, and innocent suffering (such as the children of the Holocaust) and thereby impugns the integrity of God’s character as good and loving. The God of this Calvinism (as opposed to, say, revisionist Reformed theology) is at best morally ambiguous and at worst a moral monster hardly distinguishable from the devil. R. Olson, Against Calvinism (Zondervan 2011), 84.
One would like to think Olson is exaggerating. But, unfortunately, his allegations are easy to document.
I’m afraid some recent apologias for the Holocaust from some Reformed quarters have been nothing less than obscene. In a 2007 sermon, John Piper, asserted that the Nazi Holocaust was divine punishment for the apostasy of the Jewish people in rejecting their Messiah.
And John Piper is hardly alone in the view that the Holocaust was divinely sanctioned. O. Palmer Robertson sees the Holocaust as God's punishment for Jewish covenant-breakers:
Calvinists did not experience any crisis of faith or of theology when confronted with the absolute evil of the Holocaust. Their response to the Holocaust was directed, then, not at God for having decreed the Jews to be murdered but at faithless Jews.
Not to be outdone by Piper and Robertson, Roger Nicole gave his own twist to the vindication of the Holocaust. He said that, in permitting the Holocaust, God cut off the gangrenous arm of the Jewish people to preserve a faithful remnant. On this basis, Nicole concludes, the Holocaust was a good thing, because without it, the entire Jewish people would have perished.
For his part, Cornelius Van Til goes Piper, Nicole, and Robertson one better in his discernment of the hand of God, which he deems patent in the Holocaust: "Yes, without a doubt, the guidance of history by God is perceptible even to our limited gaze. The sense of justice is palpable. Especially is the Holocaust a proof of God’s justice, coming as a long-awaited climax after two thousand years of impenitent infidelity.
As you can see, this confirms an Arminian’s worst suspicions about Calvinism. If anything, it’s even worse that he could imagine.
Okay, now I have an admission to make. John Piper, Roger Nicole, O. Palmer Robertson, and Cornelius Van Til never said what I just attributed to them. I took a statement about what some other folks said, and redacted it. Here’s the actual, verbatim passage:
Worse, some recent apologias for the Holocaust from some Jewish religious quarters have been nothing less than obscene. In a 1987 article (The London Times, May 9, 1987), Lord Immanuel Jakobovitz, the Chief Orthodox Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth, asserted that the Nazi Holocaust was divine punishment for the apostasy of the German Jews who founded assimilationist Reform Judaism. "This idol of individual assimilation," he wrote almost gleefully, "exploded in the very country in which it was invented, to be eventually melted down and incinerated in the crematoria of Auschwitz."
Rabbi Jakobovitz is hardly alone in the view that the Holocaust was divinely sanctioned. As reported by the noted Israeli scholar Amos Funkenstein, the ultra-orthodox Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum--who lives in Jerusalem but regards the Jewish secular state and government in Israel as sinful--sees the Holocaust as God's punishment for the Zionist founding of a Jewish state in advance of the promised arrival of the purported new Messiah. As Avishai Margalit just pointed out ("The Uses of the Holocaust," The New York Review of Books, vol. XLI, no. 4, February 17, 1994, p. 7):
The ultra-Orthodox did not experience any crisis of faith or of theology when confronted with the absolute evil of the Holocaust. Their ... response to the Holocaust ... was directed, then, not at God for having allowed the Jews to be murdered but at the Zionists.
Not to be outdone by Rabbis Jakobovitz and Teitelbaum, the ultra-orthodox Brooklyn Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who was even hailed as the new Messiah by his disciples, gave his own twist to the vindication of the Holocaust. In his 1980 book Faith and Science (Emunah v' Madah), this revered sage of orthodoxy opined that, in permitting the Holocaust, God cut off the gangrenous arm of the Jewish people. On this basis, this man of God concludes, the Holocaust was a good thing, because without it, the entire Jewish people would have perished.
Sidney Hook explained why he rejects theism, including Judaism, the religion of his ancestors, in favor of atheism. In a response, the orthodox Chicago Rabbi Yaakov Homnick (Free Inquiry, Fall 1987) indicted Hook's rejection of his heritage as "a far greater tragedy than all of the physically maimed children in the world." Indeed, Rabbi Homnick goes Buber, as well as Rabbis Jakobovitz, Teitelbaum, and Scheinfeld one better in his discernment of the hand of God, which he deems patent in the Holocaust: "Yes, without a doubt, the guidance of history by G-d is perceptible even to our limited gaze. The sense of justice ... is palpable ... Especially is the Holocaust a proof of G-d's justice, coming as a climax of a century in which the vast majority of Jews, after thousands of years of loyalty in exile, decided to cast off the yoke of the Torah."
These are some rabbinical interpretations of the Holocaust. Notice how the rabbis insist that God was behind the Holocaust. God orchestrated the Holocaust as a divine judgment on the Jewish people.
Now, I’m not quoting this material to endorse their interpretation. But compare their statements with Olson’s. On the one hand you have an Arminian theologian who takes it for granted that divine complicity in the Holocaust would be diabolical. On the other hand you have rabbis who unblinkingly assert divine complicity in the Holocaust. These aren’t Calvinists. These are Jews. Their relatives were on the receiving end of the Holocaust. Yet they regard God’s sovereign instigation of the Holocaust as just and praiseworthy.
Once again, my point is not to endorse their particular interpretation of the Holocaust. That's a very in-house affair. But it doesn’t even occur to Olson that some of the people most directly affected by the Holocaust–survivors–might take a position diametrically opposed to his own. He doesn’t even bother to consult Jewish opinion on the Holocaust. (Admittedly, Jewish opinion is hardly monolithic.)