Right God, Wrong Attributes

On Twitter, an Arminian quotes from Mark Talbot, featured in a book edited by John Piper and Justin Taylor, Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, published by the Calvinist publisher Crossway, thusly: "God brings about all things in accordance with his will. It isn't just that God manages to turn the evil aspects of our world to good for those that love him," as Scripture states (Rom. 8:28); "it is rather that he himself brings about these evil aspects . . . this includes God's having even brought about the Nazi's brutality at Birkenau and Auschwitz as well as the terrible killings of Dennis Rader and even the sexual abuse of a young child."1 (all emphases added) This is overt heresy.

I responded on Twitter: "At what point do we suggest that this version of God is not the God of the Bible?" Jon Balserak responds: "May I ask (honest question!) what is unbiblical re: this?" To which I respond: "Unbiblical about God being the Author of sin?" Mark Talbot suggests that God "brings about" (note the emphases) the sexual abuse of a young child and the Calvinist wants to know what is unbiblical about this concept? Everything is wrong about this concept! Attributing sin and evil to God bringing such about in and through people is unbiblical. Attributing to God the very eternal thought to bring such to pass is unbiblical. Calvinists may have the right God but they certainly attribute to this God heretical and utterly deplorable notions.

First, let us address this Calvinistic notion as being heretical from a Church-historical perspective. While the early Church fathers, who espouse an anachronistic Arminian faith,2 condemn Pelagianism as heresy and semi-Pelagianism as being inconsistent with the faith, those same fathers, in their Canons of the Council of Orange (529 CE), also manifestly condemn in no uncertain terms deterministic Calvinism: "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema." (emphases added) Note the strong language.

In essence, then, the early fathers condemn as unbiblical, unChristian, and as painfully and damnably heretical the notions of deterministic Calvinists like Mark Talbot, John Piper, Justin Taylor, Al Mohler, James White, John Frame, R.C. Sproul Sr., and R.C. Sproul Jr. and Vincent Cheung (both of whom admit that God is the Author of sin), et al. Often Calvinists become incensed when Arminians challenge their notions of God's alleged deterministic actions as being unbiblical. Yet, the early Church fathers condemn all who hold to such notions to an eternal hell, by insisting that such are anathema. Would to God that Arminians be so bold today! We may save some potential converts to Calvinism by demonstrating both historically and biblically why such notions of God are monstrous and to be avoided at all cost.

Second, we must address this Calvinistic notion as being heretical from a biblical perspective. A deterministic Calvinist, meaning, a consistent Calvinist, suggests that God brings about the sexual abuse of a young child. Consistently, then, whatever happens in the earth and among mortals is brought about by the Calvinist God. Clearly, then, the Calvinist God is the Author of sin and evil. When Melissa Huckaby kidnaps, rapes and then murders eight year old Sanrda Canto, God brought that about, and did so, allegedly, "for His glory," as Calvinists insist. Melissa Huckaby responds to Sandra's parents: "I should not have taken her from you. I owe you an explanation. But I still cannot understand why I did what I did." The Calvinist presumes to know why Melissa committed this heinous outcome: God.

Jon Balserak asks about God decreeing, bringing to pass, and then judging the sin of the peoples from Isaiah 10. The irony of the Calvinist deriving the notion that God decrees, renders certain, and brings about sin and evil from Isaiah 10 consists in the very first line: "Woe to those who decree evil decrees." (Isa. 10:1) God, then, pronounces a judgment of woe upon Himself for decreeing sin and evil. God decrees judgment upon sinners, yes, but upon sinners whose sin is not rendered certain or brought to fruition by God. Assyria is self-determined to attack the sinful and rebellious people of God. In this, then, God is able to accomplish two purposes:

  1. judging His sinful and rebellious Jewish people for their own self-determined and certainly not divinely-determined wickedness; and
  2. judging sinful and wicked Assyria for attacking the Jewish people. 

The only dreadful notion regarding this scenario is the suggestion of the Calvinist that God brings about the desires of the Assyrians to attack the Jewish people -- the Jewish people in whom God has brought about rebellion and wickedness -- and then will judge them for doing what He has rendered certain they do. This concept is directly contrary to that of the prophet Isaiah in this chapter and book. Does God not decree destruction? Yes, of course He does, as Scripture informs (cf. Isa. 10:22, 23).

God, as sovereign, decrees all events corroborating with the free will of His creatures. Assyria freely desires and seeks to attack Israel and God uses their efforts to punish and discipline His errant people. In such God is innocent of wrong-doing. He then punishes Assyria for wickedly desiring to destroy His errant people. But God does not decree that the Assyrians destroy Israel and then punish them for enacting what God initially decrees, renders certain, and then brings to pass. Our God is holy. Our God is justice. Our God is righteous. Our God is not the Author of sin and evil.

Does God Himself not confess that He decrees the intentions of the Assyrians in attacking Israel? "Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger -- the club in their hands is my fury!" (Isa. 10:5 NRSV) God is sovereignly using the free-yet-wicked desires of the Assyrian leaders to attack Israel as a means of punishing sinful Israel. "Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets." (Isa. 10:6 NRSV) Is God not secretly commanding Assyria to perform this wickedness? No. God is sovereignly using, by divine concurrence, the free-yet-wicked desires of the Assyrian leaders to accomplish His divine purpose -- the punishing and disciplining of His Jewish people for their free-yet-wicked actions. God renders certain the already-certain desires and efforts to attack Israel. Otherwise, God would intervene, and thwart, not order or command, the plans of the Assyrians. Is this not true?

What says God? Does God agree with Calvinists regarding His own actions? When the Jewish people begin sacrificing their children to a false god, what is the response of God? Keep in mind what the Calvinist insists: God brings about whatever occurs and, in this case, God is bringing about the sacrifice of these Jewish young children. The God of justice, holiness, and righteousness answers the Jewish people:

  • They have also built places of worship in a place called Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom so that they can sacrifice their sons and daughters by fire. That is something I never commanded them to do! Indeed, it never even entered my mind to command such a thing! (Jer. 7:31 NET)
  • They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make! They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never even entered my mind! (Jer. 19:5 NET)
  • They built places of worship for the god Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom so that they could sacrifice their sons and daughters to the god Molech. Such a disgusting practice was not something I commanded them to do! It never even entered my mind to command them to do such a thing! (Jer. 32:35 NET)

God confesses three times to the prophet Jeremiah that He does not bring about the child sacrifice of the Jewish people and yet Calvinists insist that God brings about all events. Whom shall we believe? As a matter of biblical fact, God Himself confesses, "Have you not brought this on yourselves by forsaking the LORD your God when he led you in the way?" (Jer. 2:17 NET) God complains to His prophet Isaiah that Israel keeps forsaking Him (Isa. 1:2; 30:1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13). God concludes: "The look on their faces bears witness against them; they proclaim their sin like Sodom, they do not hide it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves." (Isa. 3:9)

In order for Calvinism to be biblical we have to assume that God deterministically brings about the sin and rebellion of the Jewish people in order to then complain about the sin and rebellion of the Jewish people and then judges them for the sin and rebellion that He Himself deterministically brings to pass. Such a devious concept of God is not biblical but overtly schizophrenic. This idea of God attributes sin and evil and wickedness and rebellion to the God of justice, righteousness, holiness, goodness and integrity. Calvinism diminishes the glory of God to all of humanity.

There is one aspect of our fallen humanity that renders determinism outright nonsensical, to say nothing of unbiblical, or aphilosophical: total depravity. As long as total depravity is biblical, and true to reality, then determinism is gratuitous at best and, as noted by the early (Arminian) Church fathers, damnably heretical at worst. When Calvinists insist that God brings about sin and evil, they are guilty of calling evil good and good evil, since God is, by nature, good and maintains no vested interest in decreeing, rendering certain, or bringing to fruition sin, evil, wickedness and rebellion. In order for someone to conclude that God decrees and brings to pass sin and evil, one must erroneously adopt that hermeneutic from a faulty reading of the text, and then eisegete the notion into the scriptures wherever possible.


1 Mark Talbot, "All the Good That is Ours in Christ," in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, eds. John Piper and Justin Taylor (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), 41-42.

2 Kenneth D. Keathley, "The Work of God: Salvation," in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007) 703.


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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.