Recently there have been various Congressmen who have been making some odd statements, including some about God’s intentions. On a previous post I had commented that this is why I am not a Calvinist. But, I thought it good to do a small follow up on the issue of Calvinism.
You see, one of the struggles that Calvinists have is trying to explain the issue of God’s predestinating decree. Calvin said the following:
“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends. We say that he has been predestinated to life or to death” (3:21:5). “We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was His pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless but at the same time, incomprehensible judgment” (3:21:7). “Now if in excuse of themselves and the ungodly, either the Pelagians, or Manichees, or Anabaptists, or Epicureans (for it is with these four sects we have to discuss this matter), should object the necessity by which they are constrained, in consequence of the divine predestination, they do nothing that is relevant to the cause” (3:23:8).
If you read it carefully, “by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man,” is a line that can easily lead one to conclude that God is the author of evil. This is because, according to Calvin’s view of reprobation, the guilt of the reprobate is a consequence rather than a cause. He is guilty because God predestined it rather than because God foreknew it. In fact many a Calvinist will argue that it was not election as a result of foreknowledge. (Having said that, both Calvin and the later Calvinists went to great lengths to try to explain how it was that God is not the author of evil, but the cause of everything.) This became particularly difficult for the Dutch Calvinists who developed even more strongly the theology of the one decree by which God has ordained all that is. Their T.U.L.I.P. acronym included both Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement. This five-point Calvinism strongly insists that God decreed on no ground other than his free choice.
Thus, when the Congressman stated that it was God’s intention that the pregnancy of a raped woman happen, he was not actually being insensitive. That would have been an accurate Calvinistic statement. A non-Calvinist would say that the child in the womb is God’s child, but they would not say that it was God’s intention. And that is the problem of the one decree and of unlimited election. It all becomes God’s intention in some types of Calvinism.
Let me defend some Calvinists by saying that not all Calvinists go that far. In fact the Westminster Confession of Faith struggles with the subject by making several statements:
I. God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably 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.
II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, as that which would come to pass, upon such conditions. …
V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of his free grace and love alone, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto; and all to the praise of his glorious grace.
VI. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. …
Notice that God has, “foreodained all the means thereunto …” Frankly this means that if God intended the child, then he foreordained all the means thereunto, up to and including the rape. Yet, the Westminster Confession of Faith declares that God is not the author of evil. How do they do this? Well, they use the whole philosophy of causes, a philosophy that dates back to Aristotle and is well worth knowing. That is why the Confession tries to explain that God’s one decree somehow establishes the “liberty or contingency of second causes… .” Later the Confession says:
I. God hath endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.
This is the second statement in a defense of the one decree. That is, on the one hand God has predestined, freely, and without foreknowledge, but based solely on his own free will. He has predestined both to life and to death. But, then he created man and endued him with free will, “that is neither forced, nor by any absolute necessity of nature determined to good or evil.” He did this in such a way that it established the contingency of second causes. More than one theologian has pointed out that there appears to be a contradiction here, even the Calvinist theologians. However, Calvinist theologians go on to mount defenses of the apparent contradiction.
No, I am not going to go on with all the defenses. They are exhaustive, lengthy, and multiple multiple books are written about them. Nor am I going to write at length about the Orthodox statements. But, I did want you to know the background to my statement as to why I am not a Calvinist.
But, the Orthodox solution in the Confession of Dositheus is to say that God did predestinate, but on the basis of foreknowledge. And, let me repeat what I said in a previous post. The Congressman’s remark is why I am not a Calvinist. Despite all their apparent defenses, I am convinced that five-point Calvinists do make God the author of evil.