The Eternal Mind of the Calvinist God

Insist and try as they may, traditional Calvinists cannot rescue their God from being the Author of sin and evil, not even compatibilistic Calvinists. Once the confession is made that "God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass" (link, emphasis added), God is viewed, then, as having, from all eternity, rendered certain and necessary that sin and evil be enacted, and must in some sense actually bring such about, through fallen mortals, fallen mortals who fell from their original righteousness because God ordained that event.

That compatibilists and other types of Calvinists of the Westminster Confession persuasion insist that "violence [is not] offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (link), in light of God's ordaining all events, leads the rest of us to conclude that such a notion is merely smoke and mirrors, especially as some of these same individuals insist that God influences our thoughts, desires, and decisions.1 If God is the One behind my thoughts, desires and decisions, then "violence" certainly is "offered to the will of the creatures," and "liberty or contingency of second causes" is entirely undermined and obliterated.

Moreover, what garners less attention in a Calvinistic worldview is the fact that Calvinists also believe that secondary causes must also be ordained by God, in order for Him to be considered sovereign. So, to suggest that genuine "liberty or contingency of [secondary] causes" exists is not true at all. A foreordained and thus necessary action is not a freely- and self-caused action. As admitted by the most consistent of traditional Calvinists, both hard and soft (compatibilistic) determinism rejects any viable concept of free will. (link)

But think about this: what kind of mind must God possess that would relegate Him to conjure up some of the most disgusting, heinous, vicious and deplorable sins imaginable? All of the perversions known and enacted among fallen creatures were first in the eternal mind of the Calvinist God. How could such wicked imaginations exist in a holy, just, and righteous God? This alone should alarm the Calvinist to his or her error. "Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water?" asks James, Jesus' half-brother (James 3:11). No, and neither can a holy God imagine and decree, and thus render certain or bring about, that anyone perform abominable wickedness.

Moreover, this error renders sin and evil necessary to God's ability to bring about good, since by far the majority of Calvinists adhere to a greater-good theodicy. But this false concept exposes a weakness in God. Dr. Bruce A. Little rightly comments:
If, on the other hand, evil is necessary to the good, then the theist has a whole new set of problems -- to demonstrate that the good could not have come about without the existence of evil in this world. If there is a necessary good that can only obtain through God using evil, then it appears there is something omnipotence cannot do, namely, bring about a necessary good without evil. Denial of this conclusion seems difficult to support.2
One might erroneously suggest that the Arminian maintains the same problem, regarding sin and evil, since God could have, by His omnipotence, intervened and thwarted the sin or evil. Now this notion is offering violence to the will of the creature! But we cannot impose upon God's omnipotence for allowing or permitting sin and evil to be carried out by rational and relatively free creatures. The difference between God ordaining evil and permitting evil is as stark as black is from white.

One might also erroneously suggest that the Arminian maintains the same problem, regarding sin and evil, since God foreknew what sin and evil would be manifested. There are at least two uncontested problems with this argument: 1) God's foreknowledge is not causal; and 2) we cannot impose upon God's foreknowledge for allowing or permitting sin and evil to be carried out by rational and relatively free creatures. In other words, the difference between God ordaining evil and foreknowing and thus permitting evil is as stark as black is from white. The Arminian conception of God is not double-minded.


That the Calvinistic conception of God is, in fact, double-minded is impossible to ignore or remedy while Calvinists insist that there are two wills in God, one rendered benign, and is little more than wishful thinking (which cannot be properly perceived as a will, strictly taken), and the other what He has decreed from all eternity to bring about or rendered certain. Evidently, Jesus' half-brother James was wrong, and both fresh and dirty water can pour forth from the same source; that is, if God can confess that He detests sin, commands us not to sin, yet has decreed for us to sin, whatever respective types of sin we sin, when we sin and in what manner we sin. God, then, is the Author of sin.

We encounter some explicit passages in Scripture where God Himself insists that He has not decreed the wicked actions of certain people. Yet, Calvinists argue against God's own self-assessment, and insist on the contrary. God informs the prophet Jeremiah: "And they go on building the high place of Topheth [to commit idolatry], which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire -- which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind." (Jer. 7:31) God repeats the latter statement elsewhere: "which I did not command or decree, nor did it enter my mind." (Jer. 19:5, emphasis added)

He then qualifies the latter statement in another place: "though I did not command them, nor did it enter my mind that they should do this abomination" (Jer. 32:35). One Calvinist responded to me, some words to the effect, "The event must have 'entered His mind' if He, in an Arminian sense, foreknew it." Here again we encounter a misunderstanding of the Calvinist. God's foreknowledge is not causal. He foreknew this event in a non-causal sense, allowing wicked people to behave in a wicked manner, without having first, from eternity past, ordained them to this wickedness. The difference is paramount.

Therefore, when God Himself confesses that the burning of their children never entered His mind, such an admission entirely undermines and explicitly contradicts the Calvinistic notion that God has decreed and rendered certain by that decree every minutiae of our lives. The Israelites were under no obligation, at least on God's part, to the burning of their children to a false god. God Himself even informs us that the people were acting contrary to His command and were rebelling against Him of their own free will:
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh. For in the day that I brought your ancestors out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to them or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, "Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you, so that it may be well with you." Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but, in the stubbornness of their evil will, they walked in their own counsels, and looked backward rather than forward. (Jer. 7:21-24 NRSV; cf. also Isa. 1:2; 30:1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13; Jer. 2:5-9; Ezek. 2:3-5; 16:59)
Is the eternal mind of the Calvinist God double-minded? Has He commanded people not to sin against Him but eternally and secretly decreed that people sin against Him? Yes, that is, if God has, according to Calvinists, ordained all events which come to fruition, and brings them about by His so-called sovereign hand, then God is a double-minded being.

But, in fact, God is not a double-minded deity. God commands people to obey Him and not to sin. When people sin, they sin freely, not by divine fiat. God, then, justly and righteously holds people accountable for their sins when they freely sin because they were not decreed to sin by His own necessity. That God foreknows the sin of an individual is irrelevant so far as justice and responsibility are concerned. His foreknowledge is not causal. Therefore, when a person sins, that person sins by his or her own fault -- not because God foreknew the sin, but because the person desired to sin, and God allowed the person to sin. Udo Middelmann rightly concludes:
The God of the Bible is innocent of the kind of pushing about of Esau or Pharaoh for his ends, or of treating people like pots and pans in the messy kitchen of life [à la Calvin, Beza, Douglas Wilson, James White, John Piper]. Such behavior, when attributed to the God of the Bible, would make him the responsible one behind Hitler and Stalin as well [though, tragically, some Calvinists do not find this offensive in the slightest]. Not only those mighty and evil people would be pawns in God's now-horrible work, but little folk as well.

The shooting of classmates and teachers in Colorado [and elsewhere], the nurse practicing euthanasia in Holland, the drunken driver that is used by God to get Uncle George to the funeral of the child run over -- where, upon hearing a sermon, George believes [another demonstration of God's flawed omnipotence]: they all present a God who is guilty of history, when the Bible clearly states his innocence of evil. According to the Bible, there are quite a number of additional participants in history, so that it is not at present going the right way.3
The double-minded God of the Calvinist introduces a novel error in the history of theism: a deceptive God, who is also impotent, as demonstrated by His inability to bring about good except through sin and evil. Whoever argues that Calvinism presents us with a "high view" of God's sovereignty knows little about Calvinistic theodicy. I suppose, then, that we should not wonder why some Calvinists are abandoning the errors of determinism and attempting to reconcile a broadly-oriented form of Calvinism with libertarian free will.4


1 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), I.18.1; see also Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 319-30; Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, ed. Jeff Purswell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 143.

2 Bruce A. Little, A Creation-Order Theodicy: God and Gratuitous Evil (Lanham: University Press of America,® Inc., 2005), 101-02.

3 Udo Middelmann, The Innocence of God (Colorado Springs: Paternoster, 2007), 81-82.

4 Oliver D. Crisp, Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014).


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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.