Many Calvinists insist that all the heinous evil in our world must have been meticulously “brought to pass” or “decreed” by God otherwise it would prove (1) God has no purpose for evil’s existence or (2) He is powerless to do anything about it.
For instance, Calvinistic scholar, Matt Slick states,
“…if someone were robbed and beaten, and yet God had no say in the crime whatsoever (for it was a free, uninhibited action based upon the criminal’s free will), then the person robbed would not have only been unjustly treated, but the evil he endured would have had no point to it. It was just a spontaneous action from a criminal. God is sort of left helpless in the matter.” <link>
These Calvinists are committing the “false dilemma” fallacy by insisting that there are only two alternatives to the problem when other valid options are clearly available and not being offered for objective consideration.
Logical fallacies serve to confound an issue and make a false perspective appear to be valid. In this article we will debunk this fallacious argument and present a much more robust answer to the problem being presented.
First of all, let’s dispose of the second alternative presented by the Calvinist’s false dilemma, “God is powerless to do anything about moral evil.” We can all agree that God has the power to stop sin, just as He had the power to prevent it from ever entering into our world, so let’s just dismiss that as an option. We are not debating about what God COULD do, we are debating about what God is PLEASED to do. This is not about God’s abilities, its about His character.
We can affirm that “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him,” (Ps. 115:3) while still holding on to the equally valid truth that, “the highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16). This means it pleases God to give man a certain level of “libertarian freedom” or “dominion.” This is a biblical view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility. As A.W. Tozer rightly explains:
“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God
One cannot presume that it did not please God to create libertarian free creatures, as do the Calvinists who present this false dilemma.
Now, let’s consider the Calvinist’s first alternative, which was, “God has no purpose for evil’s existence.” The shortsightedness of that statement is revealed by simply asking, “Did God have a good purpose in creating libertarian free creatures who have the ability to choose moral evil?”
Calvinists are failing to acknowledge the possibility that evil is a consequence of libertarian free will (the ability of morally accountable creatures to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action). The only way they can ignore this possibility is to deny God’s omnipotence by suggesting He is not powerful enough to have created libertarianly free creatures even if He was pleased to do so. Surely Calvinists do not want to suggest God is incapable of doing as He pleases.
Now, it must be noted that Non-Calvinists do believe that God does have a GOOD purpose in giving man the ability to make libertarianly free choices, even if those choices have an EVIL purpose. So, it is only in presuming that God did not purpose to create libertarianly free creatures that one is left with the dilemma of either (1) a Holy God purposing evil Himself or (2) purposeless evil.
A clear distinction must be made in the idea of God actively purposing evil and His actively using creaturely evil for His good purposes. The former impugns his Holiness while the latter highlights His redemptive sovereignty and ultimate glory as the Holy, perfect, sinless Creator.
In short, the Calvinist has assumed our premise cannot be true (question begging) and concluded that God is either (1) purposing all evil or (2) the existence of evil has no purpose (false dichotomy). Thus, their argument, once again, rests on a logical fallacy.
Calvinists should be asking what we believe God’s purpose is in creating libertarianly free creatures, not merely presuming He hasn’t, or couldn’t even if He so desired. (And in turn, we should be asking Calvinists what they believe God’s purpose is in creating “non-libertarianly free” creatures that He Himself determines to do evil.)
Historically, non-Calvinists have not avoided addressing this question. I believe C.S. Lewis gives a very plausible answer to the problem of evil:
“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.
Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it–it is worth paying.”
For another answer to this question, listen to this clip from Ravi Zacharias: HERE
The reason we call one event “evil” and another event “good” is because one has an “evil purpose” and the other a “good purpose.” Calvinists seem to blur the lines between blatantly evil events and good ones by suggesting all events are brought about by God for a good purpose. This is simply not a biblical teaching. That is not to say Calvinists do not reference any scripture to support their perspective, they most certain do, but we simply believe their proof texts do not validate their underlying premise of theistic determinism.
For instance, Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes.” In reference to this passage, Dr. John Piper, a notable Calvinistic pastor and author, writes,
“What is apparent here is that God has the right and the power to restrain the sins of secular rulers. When he does, it is his will to do it. And when he does not, it is his will not to. Which is to say that sometimes God wills that their sins be restrained and sometimes he wills that they increase more than if he restrained them.” – John Piper
This is a common teaching among Calvinistic pastors and apologists. But, if God has indeed “brought all things to pass by His unchangeable decree,” as Piper teaches elsewhere (see footnote), then what is it in the heart of this ruler that God is restraining if not His own “unchangeable decree?” In other words, hasn’t God merely restrained the very intention He unchangeably decreed?
Suppose the ruler, referenced in Proverbs 21, wanted to rape his servant and God restrained him from fulfilling this heinously evil intention. From where did this evil intention originate? Didn’t God “sovereignly bring about” the evil desire of this ruler to rape his servant by the same “sovereign control” that He restrained the ruler from acting upon that desire? How is God not merely restraining His own determinations in a world where there is no libertarianly free creatures? Is God not just as meticulously sovereign over the original intentions of the ruler as He is over the ruler’s actual behavior?
Affirming God’s power and ability to overrule the will of morally accountable creatures does not prove that God sovereignly brings to pass every intention and desire of their will. Just because I have the physical ability to force my child to eat her lunch or restrain her from eating her lunch does not prove that I use that ability every time my child eats or refrains from eating. And choosing not to use my physical ability to force or restrain my child does not prove I am weak and incapable of doing so. It only proves that I can do as I please with regard to my child. It does not prove that I am pleased to physically control my child’s every move.
Moreover, if my daughter doesn’t have a will distinctly separate from my own, then what am I restraining when I physically keep her from eating? There is nothing to restrain or compel if there is not an autonomous will with which to contend.
So too, affirming God’s ability to restrain or permit man’s will to do what God pleases does not negate the concept of man’s libertarian free will, but in fact confirms it. For what is there for God to restrain or permit outside His own will if man’s will is not autonomously free from His own? It is absurd to suggest God is restraining a will that He has already been meticulously controlling.
Sovereignty must be understood as God’s ability to do whatsoever He is pleased to do (Ps. 115:3), even if He is pleased to give the world over to man’s dominion (Ps. 115:16).
More Biblical Arguments
As we close, let’s go through four main biblical examples referenced from our Calvinistic brethren seeking to support their case:
- Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Gen. 50:20
- The King of Assyria is used to bring judgment on Israel. Is. 10
- Pharaoh hardened by God to accomplish the Passover: “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.” Ex. 9:13
- The Crucifixion of Jesus: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[a] put him to death by nailing him to the cross…They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 2:23; 4:28
I believe at times throughout history God does intervene to determine some things. That is what makes these things “of God” and uniquely supernatural. I also believe God uses means similar to what some Calvinists describe in these instances. I do not believe, however, these unique divine determinations prove God’s meticulous determination of all things, especially man’s evil intentions. In fact, in every one of the instances listed above, the purpose of God’s unique intervention is clearly redemptive. I refuse to believe God is merely seeking to redeem the very evil intentions and actions that He Himself determined.
How does God bring about His good purposes through the evil choices of libertarianly free creatures?
To be clear on this point there are two kinds of hardening taught in scripture.
- Self-hardening: This is where a morally accountable person, who is able to refrain or not refrain from given moral actions (libertarianly free), grows stubborn or calloused in his own ways.
- Judicial-hardening: This is God’s active role in blinding an already rebellious person in their rebellion so as to prevent their repentance for a time. God’s motive is ALWAYS to accomplish a greater redemptive purpose through their rebellious actions (often including the potential redemption even of those being judicially blinded).
In my view, judicial hardening is simply hiding or confusing the revelation of truth that could otherwise lead to repentance (Mark 4:11-12; Rom. 11:8). So God is not said to have caused or enticed anyone. He simply lets them continue down their already libertarianly free, self-hardened path and makes sure no revelation convinces them to repent prior to His redemptive purpose being served. This is sometimes referred to as the “Messianic Secret,” and you can read more about that topic HERE.
Consider this analogy: When a police officer sets up a speed trap he has one ultimate desire: to stop speeders for the safety of all. However, by hiding the truth of his presence he is ensuring that those who want to speed will continue to do so. Thus, in one sense he wants the speeders to continue to speed so as to catch them speeding, but his ultimate purpose is the same: to stop speeders for the safety of all. The police officer does not determine the speeders desire to speed in any way, he simply hides the truth so as to ensure the speeder will continue to speed, something they have contra-causally chosen to do.
Let’s look at another analogy: Suppose my 4 year old daughter was told that she is not to take cookies from the cookie jar. In another room, out of sight, I see into the kitchen that my daughter is looking at the cookie jar. She looks around the room to see if anyone is watching. As a parent, I can tell what she is thinking. She is about to steal a cookie and she knows she is not supposed to.
Now, I could step into the room so that she sees me prior to her committing this sin. Upon seeing me she would forego her evil plot and give up the idea of getting the cookie (at least until the next time she was alone). However, suppose I decide to not step into the room. I remain out of sight to allow her to be tempted and then pounce into action to catch her with her hand in the cookie jar.
Now, by not stepping in at the moment I saw she was being tempted did I cause the temptation? No. I allowed it to continue, but I did not cause it. I did not determine for her to desire to steal. I could have prevented the action by simply showing myself, but I chose not to do so.
This is like judicial hardening. By simply hiding the truth (i.e. that I was present and watching) I allowed my daughter to be tempted and to act in sin. Am I in any way culpable for that sin? No. I merely allowed it though I could have stopped it.
Could God have stepped into the 1st century and clearly shown Himself in Christ to make all the Jews of that time believe Him? Of course. He could have ordained a “Damascus road experience” with all the Jews if He wanted to. He didn’t.
Instead we see Christ telling his disciples to keep things quiet until the right time (Matt. 16:20). We see him hiding the truth in parables (Mark 4:11). WHY? If all people are born deaf, blind and unable to understand to the truth why would he need to do this? He did it because He did not want them to come to repentance YET (not until after he is crucified and raised up does he draw all men to himself). This PROVES that Jesus knew the truth was more than sufficient to draw the lost to repentance. He had a bigger redemptive purpose to accomplish through them first, so he blinded them from that enabling truth.
KEY POINT: Don’t allow the context of that judicial hardening of the Jews cloud your view of men’s inherent nature. Men are very much capable of hearing, seeing and repenting when confronted by the powerful gospel truth if they have not been judicially blinded to that truth (see Acts 28:27-28).
- Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Gen. 50:20
God’s ultimate purpose, like that of police officer, is only good. The brother’s intention, like that of the speeders, is not good. God’s sovereign plan is to use their libertarianly evil choices to accomplish His good redemptive purpose, much like the officer’s plan to accomplish his purpose through the free choice of speeders. God’s intention is ONLY to redeem, save, and restore throughout this entire event, yet to do so he must permit evil men to fulfill their own evil desires. There is no reason to suggest God determines the desires of the brothers anymore so than there is to suggest the police officer determines the desires of the speeder.
- The King of Assyria is used to bring judgment on Israel. Is. 10
In reference in Isaiah 10, Calvinistic apologist, Dr. James White argues:
“In one passage we have God’s holy intention of judging His people through the means of Assyria—yet God holds Assyria accountable for her sinful attitudes in being so used! God judges them on the basis of their intentions, and since they come against Israel with a haughty attitude that does not recognize God’s power and authority, they too are judged. This is compatibilism with clarity: God uses the sinful actions of the Assyrians for the good purpose of judging His people, and yet He judges the Assyrians for their sinful intentions. God’s action in His sovereignty is perfectly compatible with the responsible, and culpable, actions of sinful men.” -James White
Non-Calvinists, like myself, would agree that God used the evil intentions of the Assyrians to bring judgment on Israel. However, we do not believe that God “sovereignly brought about” those evil intentions. Thus, our view does not bring God’s Holiness into question or create issues with the concept of Divine culpability.
God’s wrath is often depicted in scripture as God’s permitting the natural consequences of moral evil, which is not a problem in a worldview where the moral evil is brought to pass by someone other than God. God’s wrath can literally be described as God separating Himself from us so that we experience the natural consequences of our free moral actions.
That is what we see happening in Isaiah 10. Instead of protecting Israel from Assyria (which He promised to do if they remained obedient), God removes His hand of protection and PERMITS the Assyrians to follow their own libertarianly free will. God does not cause or bring about the evil intentions of the Assyrians, so He is perfectly just to judge them for their rebellious action despite the fact that God USED their rebellion to accomplish divine judgment on Israel for their disobedience. The fact that God may have incited the already rebellious Assyrians to consider the already rebellious Israelites to be their next victims does not negate the Israelite and Assyrian people’s individual responsibility in becoming rebellious to begin with.
Would Calvinists have us believe God “sovereignly brought about” the disobedience of the Israelites and the Assyrians so as to use the Assyrian’s disobedient actions to judge the Israelite’s disobedient actions? What would be the point in that?
Non-Calvinists do affirm that God may use the free rebellious actions of some to bring about the discipline or judgement of others. But we vehemently reject the notion that our thrice Holy God “brings about” the rebellion of morally free creatures. He does not even tempt men to do evil, much less sovereignly and unchangeably determine that they will (James 1:13).
- Pharaoh hardened by God to accomplish the Passover: “But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.” Ex. 9:12
We believe Pharaoh chose to rebel against God by his libertarian free will, not God’s unchangeable decree. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for God to blind Pharaoh in his rebellion so as to ensure he would remain in that condition until the redemptive purpose of the Passover was accomplishrd (a foreshadowing of Israel’s hardening to accomplish the true Passover with Christ). The text never suggests that God refuses Pharaoh the ability to refrain or not refrain from his morally evil actions leading up to the point he was judicially hardened by God for a redemptive good.
- The Crucifixion of Jesus: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross…They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 2:23; 4:28
Many Calvinists argue something like this: If God determined the worse evil of all time without blame then we should be able to accept that God can determine all evil events without blame.
This is a common error of Calvinists. They take unique examples of God working to bring about a good purpose through the evil intentions of mankind as proof that God (1) “sovereignly brought about” the evil intentions themselves and (2) that He “sovereignly works” in this same way at all times throughout history. In other words, if Calvinism is true then God worked to “sovereignly bring about” the redemption of a child abuser in the same way that He worked to “sovereignly bring about” the abuse of that child. This flies in the face of so much of what we read in scripture about the character and holiness of our God.
Appealing to God’s sovereign work to ensure the redemption of sin so as to prove that God sovereignly works to bring about all the sin that was redeemed is an absurd, self-defeating argument. It would be tantamount to arguing that because a police department set up a sting operation to catch a notorious drug dealer, that the police department is responsible for every single intention and action of that drug dealer at all times. Proof that the police department worked in secretive ways to hide their identities, use evil intentions, and work out the circumstances in such a way that the drug dealer would do what they wanted him to do (sell drugs) at that particular moment in time does not suggest that the police are in anyway responsible for all that drug dealer has done or ever will do. We celebrate and reward the actions of this police department because they are working to stop the drug activity, not because they are secretly causing all of it so as to stop some of it. Teaching that God brings about all sin based on how He brought about Calvary is like teaching that the police officer brings about every drug deal based on how he brought about one sting operation.
Yes, at times the scriptures do speak of God “hardening” men’s hearts (Ex. 7; Rm. 9), blinding them with a “spirit of stupor” (Rm. 11:8) and delaying their healing by use of parabolic language (Mk. 4:11-12, 34; Matt. 16:20), and He always does so for a redemptive good. But the reason such passages stand out so distinctly from the rest of scripture is because of their uniqueness. If God worked this way in every instance these texts would make no sense. After all, what is there for God to harden, provoke, or restrain if not the autonomous will of creatures?
If everything is under the meticulous control of God’s sovereign work what is left to permit and/or restrain except that which He is already controlling? Is God merely restraining something that He previously determined? Why blind eyes from seeing something the were “naturally” predetermined not to see? Why put a parabolic blind fold on a corpse-like dead sinner incapable of seeing spiritual truth? These are questions many Calvinists seem unwilling to entertain at any depth. <for more CLICK HERE>
We must understand that God, like the police department in the analogy above, may be hiding His identity at times and working to use the evil intentions of bad men for a greater good, but that in no way impugns His character by suggesting He is “the cause of all things that are.” And it certainly does not suggest that every evil desire and intention is “brought about to glorify God” as explicitly taught by Calvinism.<link>
Also, I have no problem ‘blaming,’ or should I say ‘crediting,’ God with the redemption of sin as accomplished through the crucifixion. While I agree that God did determine the cross by actively intervening in our fallen world to ensure it came to pass, by means of judicial hardening, I fail to see how that proves God likewise determined and actively worked to bring about all the sin that needed redemption on that cross. Are we to believe God determined to redeem His very own determinations?
Foreknowing that someone will libertarianly choose to sin, as I did with my daughter standing in front of the cookie jar, does not in any way imply such knowledge causes, determines or necessitates the desire of the sinner to sin. There is no reason we cannot merely accept that God is able to foreknow the libertarianly free choices even though an element of mystery remains in the infinite nature of the One who knows.
In short, I believe God knows the choices of His creatures because He is omniscient, not because He is omni-deterministic.
 Calvinistic apologist, Dr. James White, was asked, “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?” He answered,
“Yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen he created it without a purpose… If He didn’t then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose.” (See full dialogue below)
[Quotes above taken from Matt Strider’s Blog]
Calvinistic Pastor, Dr. John Piper, teaches:
“God . . . brings about all things in accordance with his will. In other words, it isn’t just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those who love him; it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects for his glory (see Ex. 9:13-16; John 9:3) and his people’s good (see Heb. 12:3-11; James 1:2-4). This includes—as incredible and as unacceptable as it may currently seem—God’s having even brought about the Nazis’ brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child…” (Link)— Mark R. Talbot, “’All the Good That Is Ours in Christ’: Seeing God’s Gracious Hand in the Hurts Others Do to Us,” in John Piper and Justin Taylor (eds.), Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 31-77 (quote from p. 42).
John Calvin himself taught:
“Creatures are so governed by the secret counsel of God, that nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willingly decreed.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 3)
“thieves and murderers, and other evildoers, are instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute judgments which he has resolved to inflict.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 5)
“We hold that God is the disposer and ruler of all things, –that from the remotest eternity, according to his own wisdom, He decreed what he was to do, and now by his power executes what he decreed. Hence we maintain, that by His providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” (John Calvin,Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 8)
“The devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how muchsoever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay unless in so far as he commands, that they are not only bound by his fetters but are even forced to do him service” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 17, Paragraph 11)
“…it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God’s will. For his will is, and rightly ought to be, the cause of all things that are.”…”For God’s will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever he wills, by the very fact that he wills it, must be considered righteous. When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply: because he has willed it. But if you proceed further to ask why he so willed, you are seeking something greater and higher than God’s will, which cannot be found.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)
“Many professing a desire to defend the Deity from an individual charge admit the doctrine of election, but deny that any one is reprobated. This they do ignorantly and childishly, since there could be no election without its opposite, reprobation.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)
“…it is utterly inconsistent to transfer the preparation for destruction to anything but God’s secret plan… God’s secret plan is the cause of hardening.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 23, Paragraph 1)
“I admit that in this miserable condition wherein men are now bound, all of Adam’s children have fallen by God’s will.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 4)
“With Augustine I say: the Lord has created those whom he unquestionably foreknew would go to destruction. This has happened because he has willed.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 5)
“…individuals are born, who are doomed from the womb to certain death, and are to glorify him by their destruction.” (John Calvin,Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)
“…it is vain to debate about prescience, which it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)
“But since he foresees future events only by reason of the fact that he decreed that they take place, they vainly raise a quarrel over foreknowledge, when it is clear that all things take place rather by his determination and bidding.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 6)
“Again I ask: whence does it happen that Adam’s fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess. Yet no one can deny that God foreknew what end man was to have before he created him, and consequently foreknew because he so ordained by his decree. And it ought not to seem absurd for me to say that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his descendants, but also meted it out in accordance with his own decision.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7)
“The first man fell because the Lord deemed it meet that he should.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 8)
“Even though by God’s eternal providence man has been created to undergo that calamity to which he is subject, it still takes its occasion from man himself, not from God, since the only reason for his ruin is that he has degenerated from God’s pure creation into vicious and impure perversity.” (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 23, Paragraph 9)
Dr. White took issue with his quote above some time ago, saying it was taken out of context, so I have provided the full context of the dialogue below:
James White: I think it was God’s purpose to preserve the children of Israel alive in Egypt. So it was his purpose to send Joseph and he did so by having him sold into slavery in Egypt.
George Bryson: Well, let me answer that with a question. Let me ask you this question – and this will put in perspective to show the difference. When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?
White: If he didn’t, then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose. What I’m trying to point out, by going to Scripture —
Hank Hanegraaff: So what is your answer there? Because I want to understand the answer to that question.
White: I’m trying to go to Scripture to answer it. The reason —
Hanegraaff: But what is the answer to the question he just asked, so that we can understand what the answer to the question is.
White: I mentioned to him, yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen He created it without a purpose. That means God brought the evil into existence, knowing it was going to exist, but for no purpose, no redemption, nothing positive, nothing good. I say —
Hanegraaff: So, he did decree and if he decreed it, then there’s meaning to it.
White: that he – it has meaning, it has purpose, suffering (all suffering) has purpose, everything in this world has purpose. There is no basis for despair. But if we believe that God created knowing all this was going to happen, but with no decree. He just created and there is all this evil out there, and there’s no purpose, then every rape, every situation like that is nothing but purposeless evil and God is responsible for the creation of despair. And that is not what I believe.
Bryson: For years, I’ve been trying to figure out why it is that in order for rape to exist – or – unless God caused it to happen – there can’t be any purpose in it. God can use evil and he does. But to blame God, which is what a decree does, to blame God for the rape of a child is a horrible attack on the very character and love of God.
White: How about to blame God for the destruction of the heart of a father, thinking his son has been killed for many years – the weeping that he underwent. Genesis 50:20 has not been answered yet. And Acts chapter 4 tells us that the early church believed that Pontius Pilate and Herod and the Romans and the Jews in the crucifixion of the sinless son of God ( which I believe we would all agree is the greatest evil that man has ever committed) that that took place on the basis of the sovereign decree of God (Acts 4:27-28). If you could tell me both what you believe Acts 4:27-28 means and —
Bryson: Let me ask you if you think that rape is a sin.
White: I believe that — Can we use a biblical example, Acts 4:27-28?
Bryson: Rape is a biblical issue, is rape a sin?
White: Just as the crucifixion was a sin, yes.
Bryson: Ok. So, does God decree, and therefore is God the cause of, sin?
White: Again, as you well know, having read all of these things, let me just read this into everyone’s hearing, so they can see it. The early church said: “For truly in this city there were gathered against your holy servant Jesus, whom you annointed, both Herod, Pontius Pilate, along with the gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever your hand and your purpose predestined to occur. And so here is an example where men committed evil and they did so at the predestining purpose of God. God is glorified. His intention is positive and good. The intention of Herod – the intention of the Jews – These were not innocent people and God’s standing behind them with a big gun, pushing them down the road, going “Be evil, be evil.” In fact, how many times did God restrain them!
Hanegraaff: So, they’re making a choice in the process, in your view.
White: They’re not only making a choice.
Hanegraaff: So, they have the ability to choose.
White: Within the realm of their nature, since they are fallen. Remember, God restrains men from committing evil. Let me ask you, do you believe that?
Bryson: Why are men fallen? That is the question.
White: Do you believe that?
Bryson: The question is, why are men fallen?
White: Could I ask – could I finish a point – Do you believe that God can keep someone from sinning?
Bryson: I would like to ask you the question, is God the cause of that sin? That’s the issue. God can do anything.
White: I’ve already pointed out, Genesis 50, that God’s decree is based upon his good intention. Can God keep a person from sinning? Will he violate libertarian free will, to keep a person from sinning, yes or no?
If you do not believe this represents Calvinism, read THIS.