Thursday, May 08, 2008

Arminianism and the Problem of Evil

(I actually think Arminianism has many problems of evil. This post is meant to take one of their objections to Calvinism and apply it to them. Show their constant use of self-excepting arguments. I have listed some problems they have in other posts of mine.)

Acts 2:22-23; Acts 4:27-28

"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. . . Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen."

Most Arminians admit that God decreed the death of Jesus.

But not any ole death would do. If Jesus died falling off of a roof top, how would that save mankind?

No, he had to be intentionally put to death by humans. Slain like a lamb. A lamb slain before the foundation of the world, at that!

He furthermore had to be innocent.

So, what do we call the intentional putting to "death" of an innocent man by the hands of other men?

We call that murder.

So, if God decreed Jesus' death, he decreed his murder.

Murder is evil.

If you decree a murder, you decree an evil.

Therefore, God decreed evil.

Here's one Arminian, who we know is a hardcore, orthodox Arminian. We know it from his time commenting here. He goes by the name "Robert." Here's a portion of a conversation that took place at Reppert's blog:

Mike: "Biblical revelation identifies that God decreed the . . . death of Jesus Christ . . ."

Robert: "I would agree with [that]"

Me: Since Jesus was innocent, his death would be murder. Murder is evil. So, Robert just admitted that God decrees evil acts!

But we have been told by Reppert that: If S decrees an evil act E, then S is morally blameworthy with respect to E.

Perhaps an Arminian will respond: "No, Jesus' death was not guaranteed. People could have invoked their 'freedom' and not murdered him at all."

So God's plan of salvation could have been foiled? "And I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for you meddling kids!"

Jesus could have come down and had no one kill him. What then? Retire in some villa on the Mediterranean?

I mean, God promised Adam and Eve that he would provide a savior. That he would provide man a way back.

If he couldn't guarantee the murder, why make the promise?

Is it immoral to make promises you might not be able to keep?

Or was the promise conditional? "I'll save you as long as you don't mess it up."

So, if God didn't decree the death of Jesus, i.e., make it certain, then we have absurd results - like Jesus retiring on the Mediterranean; or, Jesus running up to people saying, "Guys, hear me out, you just have to kill me. You have to. See, I'm really the God-man. I came down here to save you people, so you have to murder me. That's how the plan works, see. If you don't, I can't save you. So, please, please, murder me!"

Or we have God making promises he couldn't keep. (Or, perhaps Reppert will make his, "Well then I'll just deny inerrancy," move.)

So, God decreed Jesus' death.

That death was by murder.

God decreed murder.

Murder is evil.

God decreed evil.

The Arminian might say, "But God had a good reason for it. That makes it okay."

But that's what us Calvinists say.

The Arminian might respond, "But tell me the good reason for every single thing God does."

Which means: "If I don't know the good reason, there isn't a good reason."

But that's "just plain ludicrous."

Or, the height of autonomous man's arrogance: "If I can't see or fathom or understand how God could turn E for some good, then there isn't a good."

But that's "just plain ludicrous."

As Bergmann and Howard-Snyder comment:

[An] aspect of [this] inference should make us wary. ...[I]t takes 'the insights attainable by finite, fallible human beings as an adequate indication of what is available in the way of reasons to an omniscient, omnipotent being." But this is like supposing that when you're confronted with the activity or productions of a master in a field in which you have little expertise, it is reasonable for you to draw inferences about the quality of her work just because you 'don't get it.' You've taken a year of high school physics. You're faced with some theory about quantum phenomena, and you can't make heads or tales of it. Certainly it is unreasonable for you to assume that more likely than not you'd be able to make sense of it" (Bergman & Snyder, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, p. 18-19).

But, I go further. Their analogies were between creatures and not between creatures and a sui generis Creator who has infinite wisdom and has positively revealed to us that this very issue belongs to the secret council of God!

I also employ Victor Reppert's words: "All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options."

And C.S. Lewis' words: "Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either."

And the Apostle Paul: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?'"

Or God through Isaiah: "'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."

Or Moses: "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law."


  1. Job 14:5
    “Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; and his limits You have set so that he cannot pass.”

    Wow! If God has determined the day of death of every man, and some people are murdered...

    Now, of course, in a compatibilist system, this can fully happen without God being the author of the sin.

    But in a libertarian system, the only way to make this happen is for God to force it to happen.

  2. Paul Manata: Perhaps an Arminian will respond: "No, Jesus' death was not guaranteed. People could have invoked their 'freedom' and not murdered him at all."

    Vytautas: A Dispensationalist would say that the Jews could have accepted Jesus as a great national ruler. But God brought about the church age which was his second plan. So God's primary intension was for Jesus not to be crucified, but to be accepted as an earthly king.

  3. Sounds kind of stupid with respects to various OT prophecies. The protoevangelium was said *before* any other claims about Israel. The lamb was slain from the *foundation* of the world.

    Why promise a savior that will be *bruised* if your *intention* was for him not to be bruised.

    why foretell that he would be *pierced* for our transgressions? Many dispie apologists use this verse as part of their argument from prophecy.

    then, why would Jesus say that he came to die? that's stupid. if he came to have the people accept him as their king, why would he say he came to die?

    and, not if this matters because even you say God brought about a second *plan* which would still implicate him as a decreer of evil.

    I find this out to be likewise absurd, and still doesn't escape the main objection.

  4. "Vytautas: A Dispensationalist would say that the Jews could have accepted Jesus as a great national ruler. But God brought about the church age which was his second plan. So God's primary intension was for Jesus not to be crucified, but to be accepted as an earthly king."

    OK, at least understand dispensationalism before you go making dumb statements like that...

  5. If God's primary intention was the shameful death of the cross, then that would make trouble for the dispensational distinction between Israel and the church. God first wanted to build Israel as a great kingdom, but the Jews rejected their king. So the church began around the time of the Incarnation, and this was a great mystery that the OT prophets did not know about.

  6. "God first wanted to build Israel as a great kingdom, but the Jews rejected their king."

    Dispensationalism does not teach that God intended Jesus to be the earthly king of Israel only to have them mess it up and kill him. They believe, like every other Christian believes that Jesus was "the lamb slain before the foundation of the world."

    Calvinism and dispensationalism are hardly antithetical.

  7. But I thought dispensationalists thought OT jews were justified by obedience to the torah, thus supporting vytautas' point. Else how do you distinguish dispensations #5 from #6?
    Go vytautas!

  8. thn,

    Everyone could be avoid punishment by keeping the law.

    That's standard Christianity.

    Also, that one could be justified by keeping the law doesn't mean that anyone *will*.

    There's amodal falalcy there.

    Go fallacies!

    Anyway, as I said, none of that affects my argument, even *granting* Vytautas' point.

  9. Great post Paul.