Friday, August 22, 2014

Is God an evildoer?

I'm going to comment on this interview:

Olson: Reformed theology shares many beliefs with non-Calvinist traditions, even the first and last elements of “TULIP”: totally depravity and perseverance of the saints. But the distinctive beliefs of Calvinism are unconditional election (or double predestination, meaning people are predestined for heaven or hell), limited atonement (which means the atoning impact of Christ’s death on the cross is only applicable to Christians).

So he defines limited atonement to mean: "the atoning impact of Christ’s death on the cross is only applicable to Christians."

That's odd. Don't Arminians take the position that "the atoning impact of Christ’s death" is only applicable to believers? Aren't universalists the only ones who say its impact is applicable to believers and unbelievers alike?

...and irresistible grace (meaning that the grace of God compels people to accept Christ—they don’t have a choice).

Irresistible grace doesn't mean compulsion. Compulsion implies resistance. Acting under duress. A sense of psychological conflict. For instance, someone under hypnosis doesn't act under compulsion. Rather, they act willingly. 

Taken together, these beliefs, as they are espoused by historical and contemporary traditional Calvinists, call into question God’s character—by which I mean God’s goodness. I agree with R.C. Sproul and other Calvinist apologists that these elements cannot be taken singly; they are a coherent package. As I see it, the root problem is divine determinism, which means that God has ordered and directed every detail in creation and in history. Whatever Calvinists may say, traditional Calvinism makes God the planner and doer (even if only indirectly) of everything that happens ... and thus the author of sin and evil.

Notice how he refines "doer" as doing it "even if only indirectly." So even though God is not the actual doer, even though a second party is the actual doer, according to Olson, that still makes God the doer–which, in turn, makes God the author of sin and evil.

Problem with that equation is that it makes the Arminian God author of sin and evil. If an agent can be the doer, "even if only indirectly," then the Arminian God is the doer of sin and evil. Quoting and summarizing Arminius, Olson explains that:

According to this God does not permit sin as a spectator; God is never in the spectator mode. Rather, God not only allows sin designedly and willingly, although not approvingly or efficaciously, but he cooperates with the creature in sinning without being stained by the guilt of sin.  God both permits and effects a sinful act, such as the rebellion of Adam, because no creature can act apart from God's will…For him God is the first cause of whatever happens; even a sinful act cannot occur without God as its first cause, because creatures have no ability to act without their Creator, who is their supreme cause for existence. Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (IVP 2006), 122.
How does Olson exempt Arminian theism from the same charge, since it makes God the doer (evildoer), even if only indirectly?

Calvinism ends up dissolving the very meaning of evil, which is contrary to the Bible and common sense. If God foreordains and causes everything for His glory and there is no room for free will to thwart that at any point, every evil thing is for God’s glory. That means nothing is really evil.

He fails to explain how or why that means nothing is really evil. Where's the supporting argument to justify the conclusion? 

I acknowledge that the vast majority of evangelical Calvinists never say that God is the author of sin or evil; they prefer softer language and often use the term “permit” to express God’s relationship with evil. But however much they wish it to be otherwise, Calvinists imply that God is not good because His “goodness” (in this system) bears no resemblance to Jesus Christ, the perfect revelation of God’s character, or to our human intuitions about goodness.

If Reformed theism "bears no resemblance to Christ," then why does Olson still consider Calvinists to be Christians? Why doesn't he regard Calvinists as a non-Christian cult-members, like Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses? 


  1. “For instance, someone under hypnosis doesn't act under compulsion. Rather, they act willingly.”

    Is hypnotism analogous to how God moves just the unregenerate or both regenerate and unregenerate? Is someone who is hypnotized responsible for their thoughts/actions?

    1. I didn't use hypnosis to model responsible action, but voluntary action.