Of course, I think the analogy breaks down. If a human author somehow gained the magical ability to bring her characters to life so that they do actually commit horrific acts of murder (for example), we would hold the author responsible (as well as the now alive characters). The only reason we don’t hold authors responsible for murders committed by their characters in novels is because the characters and the murders are imaginary, not real.
Actually, I think creative writers are responsible for the characters they create. They are responsible for whether their stories glamorize evil or expose evil for what it is. Are they using the villain as a foil, to promote good by way of contrast? Or does the writer make the villain the anti-hero?
I’ve already talked with numerous Calvinists about that and other points related to God’s sovereignty and, for the most part, our conversations have ended in what I would consider impasses.
To my knowledge, the only Calvinist whom Olson has publicly debated is Michael Horton. But Horton is basically a popularizer.
Olson hasn’t tested his position against the toughest Reformed competition. He hasn’t debated Reformed philosophers like James Anderson, Jeremy Pierce, Greg Welty, or Paul Helm (to name a few). He hasn’t debated Reformed exegetes like Tom Schreiner, Gregory Beale, Don Carson, or Vern Poythress (to name a few). So he’s made things easy on himself.
Likewise, he censors Calvinist commenters at his blog. Now that’s his prerogative. But it’s duplicitous to shield your position from astute criticism, then complain that you never heard a good response to your objections. Olson himself avoids engaging the most able opponents of his position.
That’s not always deliberate, although there’s some of that in his moderation policy. I think it’s more due to the fact that because he hates Calvinism, he simply lumps all Calvinists together. He doesn’t distinguish popularizers from scholars, philosophers, &c.
IF God foreordained and rendered certain a particular event…
“Foreordained and rendered certain” has become one of Olson’s stock phrases. What does he mean by “foreordained” and “rendered certain”? Is he using them synonymously? If not, how do they go together?
Would it be okay for God to foreordain a particular event, but not ensure it? Would it be okay for God to ensure a certain event without foreordaining it? What exactly does Olson find objectionable? The combination? Each considered separately? How does he define his terms? How does he think they’re interrelated?
Does he think foreordination entails the certainty of the outcome? If so, isn’t it somewhat redundant to use both expressions?
For instance, an outcome needn’t be foreordained to be a sure thing. Causation, determinism, or causal determinism doesn’t require premeditation. Chemical reactions are deterministic without the catalyst foreintending a particular outcome.
Does Olson think about what he’s saying, or has it just become mechanical. This phrase rolls off his tongue without consideration.
IF God foreordained and rendered certain a particular event for a greater good (as you assert), why, as a Christian, embrace feelings of abhorrence about them? Shouldn’t you at least TRY not to feel abhorrence about them? After all, they are actually good from a higher perspective–the one you claim to have that sees them as necessary events brought about by God for the greater good.
Before addressing his objection directly, notice that it would be trivially easy to recast the alleged problem in Arminian terms:
If God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing tragedies, then why, as an Arminian, do you react with abhorrence? After all, God had a good reason for permitting it. If you react with moral abhorrence, aren’t you implicitly judging God’s wisdom and goodness by allowing this to transpire? If you express moral abhorrence at a tragedy which God allowed, aren’t you implicitly expressing moral abhorrence at God’s permission?
By Olson’s own admission, there are many situations in which God can and does override human freewill. Therefore, God doesn’t permit it because he has to:
rogereolson says:June 28, 2012 at 1:14 pmI’ve talked about this quite a bit in the past. No Arminian I know denies that God ever interferes with free will. The Bible is full of it. The point is that in matters pertaining to salvation God does not decide for people. If he did, he’d save everyone. The issue is personal relationship. God cannot and will not override a person’s free will when what is at stake is his or her personal relationship with God of love. But God certainly can and does knock people off their horses (as with Saul). I think you are over interpreting Arminianism’s view of freewill. Free will, as I have often said, is not the central issue. The central issue (and only reason we believe in free will) is the character of God including the nature of responsible relationality.
rogereolson says:June 30, 2012 at 1:00 pmThe difference lies in the character of God. I don’t have a problem with God manipulating people’s wills so long as it doesn’t coerce them to do evil or force them to enter into a relationship with him. If God causes a person to turn one way at a corner rather than the other way, so that the person sees a sign that brings attention to his or her need of God, I don’t have any problem with that. You seem to be laboring under the misconception that Arminians believe in free will above everything. We don’t. That’s never been the point of Arminian theology as I have shown in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities.
So Olson has conceded that God, consistent with Arminian principles, could prevent many of these tragedies. Therefore, Olson can’t say it would be wrong to feel moral repugnance at God’s permission because God’s hands were tied. For Olson has granted God’s vast latitude to meddle in human affairs. Since the Arminian God was in a position to stop child murders, why, by Olson’s logic, shouldn’t our moral repugnance at the tragedy transfer to moral repugnance at God’s inaction?
Perhaps you’ll say that such feelings are simply irresistible. But my question is whether you think they are right. What justifies them rationally? Even if they are irresistible, why not ALSO celebrate such horrific events since you know, however you feel, that they are ordained and rendered certain by God FOR THE GREATER GOOD?Again, IF I held your perspective about God’s sovereignty I would do my best to push aside feelings of moral repugnance in the face of, for example, child murders, and view them stoically if not as causes for celebration. Why not?
i) For one thing, it doesn’t occur to Olson that the Calvinist God uses our moral repugnance to accomplish his will. Our moral repugnance isn’t contrary to God’s will. Rather, giving us a sense of moral repugnance is one of the ways in which God moves historical events. Moral repugnance is a deterrent against certain crimes. So moral repugnance is a part of historical causation. World history would unfold very differently absence moral repugnance. Moral repugnance is a factor in what does or doesn’t happen. That’s consistent with God’s plan for history. Human psychology has an impact on history.
ii) In addition, moral repugnance, like the evil which elicits moral repugnance, reinforces the contrast between God and evil. Makes us more appreciative of God.
rogereolson says:December 27, 2012 at 12:59 pmBut what I am asking is why Calvinists such as the author of the essay in question do NOT celebrate dead soldiers and children. That would seem to be a logical response to their deaths IF those deaths are willed, planned and rendered certain by God for the greater good. Now let me be clear, I’m not claiming that “celebrating” them would mean having no normal human sorrow or feelings of loss. Rather, those normal feelings could remain even as a divine determinist praised and thanked God for the deaths. And by “celebrate” I don’t mean publicly. That would rightly be avoided in order not to cause hurt to those who lost loved ones. By “celebrate” I mean only interiorily–within one’s own mind. That’s what I’m asking of the author of the essay. Does he or doesn’t he celebrate in his own mind horrors such as mass murders of children? If not, why not?
i) This is one of Olson’s persistent mental blocks. He’s unable to keep two ideas in his head at a time. The same event can be evil in itself, but also contribute to something good. These are both true. One doesn’t negate the other. Something can really be evil it its own right, but serve a good purpose in spite of its evil character.
ii) We don’t have God’s perspective. We can’t see for ourselves how all things working together for the good of those who whom God has chosen (Rom 8:28).
That’s something we take on faith. And there are partial illustrations of that principle in Scripture.
But in most situations, we’re completely in the blind. We don’t see the future. As a rule, we’re in no position to perceive the trajectory by which God brings good out of evil. Our knowledge of the past is fragmentary. Compartmentalized. Our knowledge of the present is fragmentary. Compartmentalized. And our knowledge of the future is guesswork.
We only see what we can see. That’s what we’re reacting to. The sample of reality that’s available to us. The tiny sample that we can inspect.