Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Reformation Theology and the Origin of Evil

A satirical Youtube video appeared in Facebook earlier this summer. The video portrayed Adolf Hitler and his henchmen discussing an imagined theological shift from Calvinism to Arminianism. It would be more humorous if the video failed to challenge basic Reformation (Calvinistic) theology. 

Hitler and the Nazi regime, with its murder of 6 million Jews plus millions more, revolts Christians and any civilized person, religious or not. In spite of the fact Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao slaughtered millions, Hitler remains the epitome of evil in the 20th Century. One writer said, "the Second World War has to be one of the most apt metaphoric expression of the evil men can do to one another. 

Why does evil exist? The unbelieving world questions God's existence with that very question. Atheists supposedly prove the absence of a Supreme Being with the following syllogism:

  1. If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and good, then evil would not exist.
  2. Evil exists.
  3. Therefore, either God is not good or he does not exist.
I am not a logician, but the syllogism is valid and the conclusion follows by necessity. To disprove the syllogism one or both of Propositions one or two must be challenged. It is difficult to suggest evil does not exist in the world today. Not only does evil exist, much of it is gratuitous. It may be argued, I suppose, that evil itself is non-existent because it is merely the absence of good. The gas chambers of Buchenwald and the Killing Fields of Cambodia would question such a suggestion as would the rape of an innocent child, the senseless murder of an aged citizen, or the aborting of millions of babies. 

Reformed theologians have difficulty explaining evil. In their view, God not only created the Universe, he sustains it and because he is all powerful moves every atom, controls the movement of the planets, and controls every event which transpires on earth. Not only does he exercise his sovereignty with such control, he predestines every existing and future event and movement even to the determination of every thought and decision of man. Just as God knows every hair on your head, he knows every thought, every decision, every action because he either directly or indirectly predestines them and assures that such things come to pass.

God, then, is the author and originator of evil!  It can be no other way. Calvinists go so far as to believe God so arranges things, controls thought, and so on in such a fashion that the individual does "what he wants to do." Thus, when God placed Adam in the Garden, placed the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden, and told Adam not to eat, he didn't mean it. He had already predetermined Adam's failure even before creating the Universe. Adam made his decision because he wanted to, but he wanted to because God so arranged the circumstances and the thoughts and the actions so that Adam sinned. 

And when Adam sinned, evil entered the world. Not only that, but all future evil occurs at God's direction. Either directly or indirectly, through direct or secondary causes, God is the author of evil. And why? It is because Calvinists believe God must exhibit his wrath toward evil-doers so that he may be fully glorified. Evil exists in order for God to be glorified. 

There is, of course, far more than I've been able to plumb in this essay. I will undoubtedly write more on the subject.

No comments: