Sunday, July 24, 2016

Calvinism and the Problem of Evil

Now available for preorder:

"This book contains a vigorous challenge to the widespread belief that Calvinist views on human freedom and divine sovereignty make the problem of evil insoluble. Written by a diverse group of first-rate thinkers, the book also shows that 'Calvinism' itself is not monolithic, but a diverse movement with the resources for creative rethinking of old questions. Highly recommended."
--C. Stephen Evans, University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities, Baylor University; Professorial Fellow, Australian Catholic University

"In recent years, advocates of libertarian freedom, or Molinism, have dominated the discussion of the problem of evil in Christianity, creating a consensus that traditional Calvinism is unacceptable. The present volume counteracts that consensus by sophisticated and detailed philosophical argument of a high order. I strongly recommend it."
--John Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology & Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary

Introduction, by David E. Alexander and Daniel M. Johnson
1: Calvinism and the Problem of Evil: A Map of the Territory -- Daniel M. Johnson
2: Molinist Gunslingers: God and the Authorship of Sin -- Greg Welty
3: Theological Determinism and the "Authoring Sin" Objection -- Heath White
4: Not the Author of Evil: A Question of Providence, Not a Problem for Calvinism -- James E. Bruce
5: Orthodoxy, Theological Determinism, and the Problem of Evil -- David E. Alexander
6: Discrimination: Aspects of God's Causal Activity -- Paul Helm
7: On Grace and Free Will -- Hugh J. McCann
8: The First Sin: A Dilemma for Christian Determinists -- Alexander R. Pruss
9: Calvinism and the First Sin -- James N. Anderson
10: A Compatibicalvinist Demonstrative-Goods Defense -- Christopher R. Green
11: Calvinism and the Problem of Hell -- Matthew J. Hart
12: Calvinism, Self-Attestation, and Apathy Toward Arguments From Evil -- Anthony Bryson


  1. Maybe I should get this book seeing that I'm not sure how to answer the atheist objection that it's special pleading and ad hoc to appeal to God's special prerogatives (as God) to get out of the dilemma that the types of evils God allows/permits (and ordains in the case of Calvinism) would be evil on our part if we allowed or planned them but somehow not evil for God if He allows or plans/ordains them.

    I believe that by faith, but I'm not sure how to rationally defend that to an atheist (though, it's much easier against an Arminian who accepts Biblical authority). Especially if I include in the problem of evil the uniquely Calvinistic view of reprobation (and pre-damnation as some Calvinists make a distinction).

    The atheist question is "How does appealing to God's superior ontology and status as Creator, the most perfect and supreme being and who is allegedly the standard of goodness exempt Him from being guilty of evil for allowing and ordaining such things when of all beings in existence He's the most capable of preventing them?" It's not merely that God is supposed to be guilty, but especially guilty because God, in His omnipotence, can prevent them from occurring.

    And in the case of Calvinism, God doesn't passively permit, but actively ordains evils and reprobation. As I've been asked, "How can Calvinists claim God is good with a straight face?" Allegedly, there's cognitive dissonance involved.

    Maybe someone reading these comments can help me?

    1. Roughly: can good come from evil, and is that sufficient to ordain evil when one knows the outcome will be good? Yes. Are humans in a position to know or effect under what circumstances good could come from evil? Not intrinsically or naturally, so our intentions require external moral boundaries. But God does know and can effect those circumstances, so God needs no external moral boundary.

      Or try this: both God and men have the same moral standard all actions ought to follow, the glorification of God. This isn't a standard external to God, it's something God knows via self-knowledge. It isn't problematic that the way in which God glorifies Himself would differ from the way in which we glorify Him- we don't have to make the exact same actions or choices, after all - so it isn't problematic that actions which are analogous (but not completely univocal) to God's may be sinful whereas God's aren't.

      The difference is in the intention and power to produce the desired intent. E.g. nothing can fail to exemplify the glory of God even though, say, unbelievers might want to. Their wanting to is evil, but the fact that their evil nevertheless glorifies God - contrary to their evil intention - is why it can be good for God to ordain it.

    2. Wow, really good points. Like really flavorful bubble gum, I'm going to need to chew on those comments for a while to get all the implications of what you've said. Thanks for the helpful comments Ryan. I may eventually respond to your comments here. Regardless of whether you respond to my response, you've already said a lot that I need to internalize so that I can incorporate them in my apologetic. Thanks again!

      I'm off to read Steve's comments.

    3. Glad anything I said could be of help :)