Thursday, August 06, 2015

Is the God of the Bible the Originator of Evil

Let me start with a definition—a definition of “compatibilism.” Stick with me, you’ll soon see what I’m about.

Compatibilism: Compatibilism, in contrast to “Libertarian free will,” teaches human beings are free, but defines freedom as “choosing according to one’s greatest desire.”

In other words, according to compatibilism, individuals always choose what they want—and what they want is determined by (and consistent with) their moral nature. Man freely makes choices, but those choices are determined by the condition of his heart and mind (i.e. his moral nature).

Libertarian free will maintains that for any choice made, one could always equally have chosen otherwise, or not chosen at all. This view holds that a free action is one that does not have a sufficient condition or cause prior to its occurrence. In short, choices are undetermined by anything or anyone.

Compatibilism forms the basis for understanding human freedom in Reformed (Calvinism) theology. The rub comes when you begin to understand the whole Reformed system which is based in a faulty concept of God’s sovereignty. Calvinists believe God determines—predetermines or predestines—everything. If so, then even human choices are predetermined—set in stone—by God. Calvinists believe God influences your desires to the point that God has exhaustive control of all that goes on including human choice. In other words, all human choices are expressly the choices God predetermined and predestined to be made.

When you think this through, God becomes the author and cause of evil. He created the universe pristine and pure and set Adam in a beautiful garden. According to Genesis 1, 2 Adam had full access to the Garden and could care for it as he chose except for one undeniable prohibition. God specifically told him not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. You know the story. Adam disobeyed and the result was immediate. Death passed upon all things!

The question arises: Why did Adam eat of the forbidden fruit? Did he freely—Libertarian freedom—choose to eat or did God’s predetermined will work in such a way that Adam did what he wanted to do? I don’t think there is any question about Adam doing what he wanted to do, but prior to the Fall Adam possessed the full “image of God” and surely he wanted to remain in fellowship with God. Yet he chose to disobey God indicating, according to the Calvinist, that it was in his nature—or God placed it in his nature—to want to disobey God.

I asked a proponent of Reformed theology the following question: Are you saying Adam had Libertarian freedom? In other words, did Adam truly make a free choice?

Here is the two-fold answer I received:

I am saying that Adam had free will. He was created good, and he did not have a sinful nature. Such is not only the Reformed viewpoint, but that of the Fathers and the Medieval theologians. St. Augustine said Adam was "posse non peccare" (able not to sin), but that after the fall mankind was left "non posse non peccare" (not able not to sin), and after our new birth (regeneration) was are returned to the state of being "posse non peccare," and in heaven we shall be "non posse peccare" (not able to sin). God is not the author of evil. Evil requires no author as it is the absence of good just as darkness requires no creator because it is the absence of light. God created light, and God created goodness which is found in perfect form only in Christ and is imputed to us by faith.

This response sounds as if the writer accepts the belief Adam acted as a truly free moral agent in the Garden. It sounds so scholarly and written in the language of the Reformed divines. That was not the complete answer. He followed with this:

The Westminster divines stated the matter thus: "God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeable ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established." (Westminster Confession of Faith, 3.1)

He is saying Adam acted from (he would not admit this) Libertarian freedom but only as God had preordained it all to come to pass.

The Reformed theologian can’t have it both ways. Adam cannot act with Libertarian freedom if God ordains it to come to pass. Saying an action is preordained means God must cause it to happen either directly or indirectly. It is not a matter of foreknowledge because, according to their view, God determines it will happen. Thomas McCall rightly said:

After any appeals to 'secondary causality' might be made, for the Christian who holds to [the Calvinist account of sovereignty], the answer is clear and unavoidable: if everything is determined, and if God determines everything (even if he determines it via secondary causality), then these things too are determined by God."

The inescapable conclusion is God was directly involved, by what he ordained to occur, in bringing about evil. Whether seen as the absence of good or not, evil is part of our fallen world and it exists because God preordained it. He caused it! Reformed attempts to prove otherwise are inconsistent at best and double-talk for the most part.

I, of course, disagree with the Reformed approach. God, in my view, knew the possibility of disobedience existed when he placed Adam in the Garden with the prohibition regarding the tree in its middle. Desiring creatures who chose to love him, he gave Adam the choice and Adam "blew it." God did not predetermine Adam's choice to prove anything. (Reformed theologians believe God ordained Adam's disobedience so that God could demonstrate his wrath.)

Recognizing the possibility of Adam's sin, God did preordain the life, death, and resurrection of his only begotten son to again make possible human redemption. We do know that! (1 Peter 1:20) Jesus came and died for all who would receive him thus taking care of the problem Adam brought about by his disobedience. Evil came into the world because of the first Adam's disobedience and the obedience of the second Adam took care of the results of Adam's sin (Romans 5) and potentially the results of individual disobedience as well.

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