God vs. God

Dr. Jon Balserak, responding to my post, "Right God, Wrong Attributes," in which I argue that, while both old and new Calvinists may refer to the right God of the Bible, they attribute to this God the most heinous attributes shy of calling God evil, suggests that I have rendered a distinction without a difference by insisting that God "uses" the free-yet-evil desires of evil people without proactively "bringing about" the same. But is using evil, freely wrought and not decreed by God, synonymous with bringing about evil? Not at all. The distinctions are as vivid and contrary as night is from day.

Arminians and non-Calvinists refer to God using the wicked desires of wicked people in a manner contrary to that of the Calvinist. Dr. Balserak comments: "First, you are comfortable speaking about God 'using' the wicked desires of sinners like the Assyrians. Calvinism is also happy to employ the language of God 'using.'" He then quotes Calvin: "'God so uses the works of the ungodly, and so bends their minds to carry out his judgments, that he remains pure from every stain.' In the chapter, he often asserts the wicked desires belong to the sinners themselves, not God." Yet, the Arminian and non-Calvinist in no sense refer to God "bending" the minds of wicked men "to carry out His judgments [or decrees]," as does the Calvinist. The difference here is paramount to understanding the matter of God "using" evil intentions of men.

Moreover, given that Calvin and subsequent Calvinists insist that God influences the desires and decisions of human beings, Dr. Balserak's comment that those wicked desires "belong to the sinners themselves, not God," is suspect at best. If God is the Grand Influencer of even our wicked desires then I fail to see how those wicked desires do not belong to God primarily. The Calvinist is silent on this issue.

In Calvinism, God does not simply foreknow an evil act, but foreordains an evil act and then "brings about" the evil act in time through evil men. Indeed, claims the Calvinist, God cannot simply foreknow an evil act, since that would somehow indicate that His knowledge is dependent upon a source "outside" His own cognitive context. The Calvinist God decreed, renders certain, and "brings about" every rape of every child and woman, every act of incest, every abortion, every instance of drug-taking and drug-addiction, every murder, every adultery, every act of fornication, every act of oppression, bullying, mocking and persecution -- all is decreed by God, rendered certain by God, and "brought about" by the God of Calvinism.

In Arminianism, God does foreknow exhaustively every act that will ever occur, but this knowledge does not cause these acts. Evil men freely commit these evil acts -- not by God's decree, not by God's rendering such certain, and not by God "bringing about" said evil. God does not bend the minds or the wills of men to commit evil. Hence, God can "use" the freely-performed wicked acts of men without decreeing the evil, rendering the evil certain, or by "bringing about" the evil by manipulating the minds of men, which bespeaks to the inglorious character of the God of Calvinism, though Calvinists are, woefully, not wont to confess this tragically inevitable reality.

Dr. Balserak insists, secondly, that Calvin and Calvinists insist that "God can do this," i.e., bring about evil, "in such a way that he remains pure from every stain." He then adds that God "bent their minds," the minds of the Assyrians and all who perform wickedness, "to carry out his judgments. That is, God willed it." So, then, God "bends" the minds of men to perform wickedness and remains pure for influencing men to perform sinful, wicked, evil acts. How? Merely because the Calvinist insists as much. If I were able to bend the mind or will of a man to sexually assault a two-year-old little girl, rendering certain that the man even desired to perform the sexual assault, am I culpable for bending the mind and the will of the man toward the action? Of course I am! Any court of law would hold me responsible for rendering certain the evil act: I would, then, be acting as a puppet master to my puppet who performed what I rendered certain and brought about he perform. This is Calvinism.



Dr. Balserak continues the Calvinist dogma: "Third, so then, Calvinism acknowledges honestly the complexity of the biblical portrayal of God's will. God often wills what he declares to be against his own will." God vs. God: this is consistent Calvinism! God vs. God. Here a distinction is necessitated by a faulty Calvinist hermeneutic. "Hence, the Calvinist distinction between God's 'will of decree' and his 'will of precept.' To call this schizophrenic is facile." Facile indeed, given that God pits His own ethics against what He "brings about" through men, who are mere pawns in His ultimate scheme. Honestly, that rational and regenerate men and women adopt this worldview is astonishing. God brings to fruition realities that oppose His own ethics.

Balserak then suggests that I failed to explore "the enormous topic" of the death of Jesus Christ. That is because what was already explored in the post -- the plethora of passages from the Old Testament that undermine and contradict divine determinism -- should remain as a catalyst for properly interpreting the Cross event. Moreover, that topic is already addressed on this site, in the post: "God's Predetermined Plan and Foreknowledge of the Cross." I saw no need of rehashing all of that in the post answering the professor's question as to what was unbiblical about God bringing about the sexual abuse of young children or the trechery of the Holocaust.

By use of the phrase "brought about," with regard to God and His will among mortals, Dr. Balserak, John Calvin, John Piper, Al Mohler, James White, R.C. Sproul, and all other consistent Calvinists, mean that God, as stated by Wayne Grudem, exhaustively and meticulously influences the desires and decisions, wicked or not, of all people without qualification in order to bring about His will. This is not what the Arminian means by insisting that God "uses" the evil that men freely commit -- not at all. The evil that men commit does not occur because God "bends the minds" or the wills of the creature in order to manifest some pre-ordained decree. This fact is the unquestionable undoing of Dr. Balserak's entire response to my post.

We are not -- not in any sense imaginable -- speaking the same theological language. Calvinists can balk about us suggesting their theology renders God the Author of sin and evil but their theology renders God the Author of sin and evil as long as they insist that God "bends the minds" and the wills of His creatures toward the evil that they commit. You cannot pretend that God is innocent and guiltless of sin and evil when He Himself "bends the minds" and the wills of His creatures to commit sin and evil. That, my friends, is the very characteristic of schizophrenia: "a condition characterized by conflicting qualities, attitudes, or activities." (link) A God who is divided against Himself, decreeing, rendering certain, and bringing about what He alleges is against His holy, righteous, and just nature is the very life-breath of schizophrenia. Thankfully, in historic Arminianism, God does not act, neither in decree nor in reality, against His own eternally-established character and nature.

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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. See also John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993), I.18.1.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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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.