I’m sorry if I lost some of you my readers in my previous posts about five-point or TULIP Calvinism, including the one about the spoof that wasn’t. I know that for some of you these are burning issues which you know all about. But I’m sure that there are others among you who have little knowledge or interest about these matters.
I will here state openly that I am not a Calvinist, neither five-point nor anything else. A post today by Ben Witherington has reminded me of why not. If God has predestined everything, the fundamental basis of the Calvinist picture of reality, this implies that he has predetermined all the kinds of disasters which are so common in this world, and indeed every bad thing which happens. This makes him the author of evil. But this picture of God is in absolute contradiction to the biblical picture of the character of God who is both just and loving.
Witherington argues that
To attribute the work of the Devil to the work of God is also blasphemy.
Somewhat startlingly, he suggests that the Calvinist John Piper may be guilty of this blasphemy for claiming that a disaster like the Minneapolis bridge collapse was the work of God, whereas Witherington shows that disasters of this kind are, or at least can be, the devil’s work. So Witherington concludes that Piper is
guilty of having an unBiblical view of God, that ironically is closer to the fatalistic one found in the Koran, than the Biblical one found in the New Testament.
The view of God which I have, or aim to have, is the one found in the Old and New Testaments, which is not of a God who arbitrarily punishes some people, but a God who, while punishing the guilty and unrepentant, reaches out in love for all to turn to him in repentance and faith.
This can only be made consistent with what we see actually happening if we accept that there are forces at work in our world other than God: forces of evil, and human wills in rebellion against their Creator. Disasters, or at least very many of them, are the consequence of this work. These things don’t take God by surprise, for he can see them in advance, and indeed they are ultimately under his control.
Thus I hold to a variety of Jeremy Pierce’s compatibilism. For me God has not predetermined the free decisions of his creatures, but he does have foreknowledge of them. This is essentially the majority Arminian position:
God’s foreknowledge of the future is exhaustive and complete, and therefore the future is certain and not contingent on human action. God does not determine the future, but He does know it. God’s certainty and human contingency are compatible.
So God allows evil things to happen, but only because he knows that in the long term greater good will come from them. But I don’t pretend to understand how this all works, for that would be the proud reason I warned against. Instead I look for and aim to keep within the gentle wisdom which comes from God, which teaches us all we need to know about such matters.