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Taking Calvinism Too Far: R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Evil-Creating Deity

In his book Almighty Over All (Baker, 1999), R.C. Sproul Jr. makes some controversial statements—ones that appear to be sub-biblical. What tipped me off to this was hearing a paper presentation at a conference in April in New Orleans. R.C. Sproul Jr. was being quoted, and I shocked at what I heard. Though the paper presentation came from a reliable source (Dr. Ken Keathley of Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest), I wanted be like the Bereans of Acts 17 and check out Sproul Jr.’s work myself—especially if I wanted to offer some reflections on this topic.

As I assumed, upon further investigation, Keathley’s assessment was correct: Sproul Jr. has simply taken Calvinism way too far. His father R.C. Sproul Sr., also a Calvinist, has been much more tentative and modest about the question of sin’s starting point; he basically concludes that this is a mysterious matter, stopping well short of attributing the origin of evil to God:

Herein lies the problem. Before a person can commit an act of sin he must first have a desire to perform that act. The Bible tells us that evil actions flow from evil desires. But the presence of an evil desire is already sin. We sin because we are sinners. We were born with a sin nature. We are fallen creatures. But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know (Chosen by God [1986], p. 30).

Sproul Sr. allows for a libertarian understanding of free will in Eden, which itself is a departure from Calvinism proper. But let that pass.

Sproul Jr., however, wants to get to the bottom of the matter and weigh in on what he takes to be the source of evil: God! Shocked? I certainly hope so. Sproul Jr. lists the range of possible “suspects” in his third chapter, entitled “Who Dunit?” He lays out and discusses the only five possible alternatives: Adam, Eve, Satan, the environment, and God. God created a good environment (“it was very good”), and Adam, Eve, and Satan were originally created good; so their strongest desire or inclination (which dictates how we will choose, Sproul Jr. claims) must also have been originally good. This, then, means that none of the first four candidates can be the source of sin. The “culprit” (Sproul Jr.’s term) is God himself, who “introduced evil into this world” (p. 51). In fact, God acted according his strongest inclination; he acted on what he most wished to come to pass—as he always does (p. 54).

The reason he wanted Adam and Eve to fall into sin was because of God’s eternal attribute of wrath—and “God is as delighted with his wrath as he is with all of his attributes” (52). So in light of this eternal attribute of wrath, God must create objects of wrath: “What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath” (pp. 52-53). Without creating human beings (and let’s include fallen angelic beings here too), he would not have had the opportunity to display his glory in this way. So Sproul Jr. affirms something rather startling: “It was [God’s] desire to make his wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures” (p. 57).

Anticipating a rejoinder, Sproul Jr. asks: “Isn’t it impossible for God to do evil?” He acknowledges that God can’t sin. This isn’t much of a consolation, as Sproul Jr. goes on to say: “I am not accusing God of sinning; I am suggesting that he created sin” (p. 54). Sproul Jr. doesn’t think he’s crossed any line by saying this. Referring to the Westminster Confession’s definition of sin as “any lack of conformity to or transgression of the law of God,” he says that this doesn’t exclude God’s creating evil. It seems that Sproul Jr. is not only using an argument from silence from the Confession, but he is ignoring an important emphasis in Scripture—that God cannot be the author of evil. Let me go into a bit more detail about some problem areas in Sproul Jr.’s theology.

1. “God can do what he wants.” Sproul Jr. appeals to Romans 9 to justify his point (pp. 53, 56). If God is accused of doing evil, Sproul Jr. gives a rough equivalent of what Paul is saying: “Shut up! He’s God, and he can do what he wants” (p. 56). Yes, God can do what he wants, but what God does (and what he wants) will be good and just and reflecting his love and his holiness. We can’t rightly say, “God can break his promise or lie because ‘he’s God, and he can do what he wants.” No, what sets God apart from us fallen, rationalizing, faithless humans is that he alone is true (Romans 3:4). We’re told that it is “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18; cp. Titus 1:2).

James 1 doesn’t only tell us that God can’t do evil; it also tells us that every good and perfect gift comes from above; that is, God shouldn’t be accused as being the source of evil. God is intrinsically good and so cannot “create evil.” This harks back to what Jesus says about the nature of God—in contrast to fallen humans, who still seek the good of their children: “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11). In fact, earlier on, God is said to be one who doesn’t simply love those who love him, but he loves the wicked and unrighteous as well, thus showing a perfect love (Mt. 5:48).

2. The Manichean error: Sproul Jr., it seems, has pushed things over the orthodox edge by saying that God is the author or creator of evil. This stands in violation of what 1 Timothy 4:4 tells us: “For everything God created is good.” Of course, Augustine fought against the Manichean heresy, which takes evil as a thing rather than the absence or corruption of goodness, but Sproul Jr. seems to be slipping into some version of Manicheanism.

One side note here: The King James Version can be misleading on this point. The translation sometimes gives the impression that God is the maker or the source of both good and evil: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. (Isaiah 45:7); “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” (Lamentations 3:37-38); “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (Amos 3:6). This rendering is inaccurate. The word for “evil” (ra’ah) can also be translated “trouble,” “disaster,” or “calamity.”

3. A God in need isn’t a God indeed: It is quite startling to read a staunch Calvinist who says that God needs something outside himself—in this case, sinners on whom to pour his wrath! The Scriptures are full of reminders of God’s self-sufficiency and that he needs nothing outside himself. For instance, “If I were hungry I would not tell you, For the world is Mine, and all it contains” (Psalm 50:12). Again, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become his adviser? Or who has given him something only to have him pay it back? For all things are from him, by him, and for him. Glory belongs to him forever! Amen” (Rom. 11:34-36).

Orthodox Christianity affirms that God did not need to create. He could have chosen not to create. The doctrine of creation out of nothing affirms that God is not in need of, say, pre-existing matter or of human beings. The triune God is content and joyful within himself. His creation of human beings is the result of God’s gracious choice to extend to others his joy, his love, and his community. Sproul Jr.’s view of God’s needing to create human beings diminishes rather than exalts God. According to Sproul Jr., God couldn’t help but create humans upon whom to pour his wrath. (Keep in mind Sproul Jr.’s insistence that God always acts according to his strongest desire.) If wrath is an attribute that is an eternal and necessary aspect to God, then this means God necessarily had to create; he couldn’t help but create. All of this sounds quite troubling to my mind.

In an attempt at philosophical consistency, Sproul Jr., it seems, has taken his causal determinism to some problematic theological conclusions—a direction his father, apparently, feared to go.

245 Responses to “Taking Calvinism Too Far: R.C. Sproul Jr.’s Evil-Creating Deity”

  1. Paul, great post. As a Calvinist, I am truly sorry to hear that Sproul Jr. has taken such a radical and, what I believe to be, unbiblical position.

    You have done a good job here of showing the errors in such a short space. Thanks for taking the time.

  2. Very troubling stuff. I’m encouraged by this post.

    I do wonder, Paul or Michael, if you would be interested in engaging David Hart’s The Doors of the Sea. It is by far the best thing I’ve read on the problem of evil. He does fire quite a few shots at the sort of view Sproul is employing here. I’m not a Calvinist myself, so I wonder if Hart’s theology is something that can be affirmed from a Calvinist perspective or not.

  3. As an ex-Calvinist, I think RCj is stating plainly what all Calvinists imply and hint at, but are rarely willing to be so plain about. If there’s no libertarian free will, and everything is deterministic, and by God’s sovereign will, then clearly God did do it. It’s an inevitable result of Calvinist thought.

    Historical Orthodox thought has focused on the picture of God painted by Jesus. The father who welcomes back the prodigal son, running to him even while distant.

    Now as an Orthodox Christian, I look back at the Calvinist years a bit like Luther looked back at his Roman years. I secretly hated God, or was at least ambivilent to this abstract entity who needed wrath.

    Listen to the Pilgrims podcast for discussion:

    http://ancientfaith.com/podcasts/pilgrims

  4. I am not so certain Sproul Jr’s ideas are atypical. I wrote a response to the idea the God creates evil recently. Granted my take is an non-Calvinist one: Does God create evil?

    I agree that evil should not be seen as an attribute of itself (whether or God or anyone), rather it is a distortion of good.

    I am not so certain about wrath being an attribute in and of itself either. It is more an outworking of justice when goodness is broken. God can be just (fair) without evil existing. And if it does come into existence then the reaction of justice against the distortion of good is what wrath is.

    As important as logic is, it is subservient to scripture. Not because it lacks in and of itself, rather because we are fallen and therefore our logic is broken. Sproul’s logic has taken him away from Scripture which should be the pointer to go back the Bible and start again.

    A further question emerges from this post.

    God cannot do evil but could Jesus the man potentially do so? If not, what do the temptations mean?

  5. I would like to hear what Sr. says about Jr.

  6. David Di Giacomo September 3, 2008 at 8:16 am

    I have to echo what others have written above: this is not “taking Calvinism too far”, it is merely being consistently calvinist.

  7. What do you think about John Frame’s answer to the question?

    Quoting from here.

    Yes, well, I discuss a number of these terms at some length in Doctrine of God. Certainly God “permits” evil, and I think it’s legitimate to use that language. People sometimes think that we should say God “permits” evil, but doesn’t bring it about. They think that would alleviate the problem of evil.

    The question, though, is whether God merely permits evil, or whether in addition he actually brings evil about in some sense. I think the latter is true. Scripture often says that God brings about sinful decisions of human beings (see above under Question 4). This is a hard teaching, and on one level it makes the problem of evil more difficult. But in another sense, this teaching is reassuring. If evil comes from some source other than God, that would be pretty scary. It would imply that there are forces of evil that are capable of resisting, even overcoming God’s desires. But if evil comes from God, we know that he has a good purpose in bringing it about (Rom. 8:28).

    I avoid saying that God “authors” evil, an unclear expression which seems to suggest that God (like the author of a book) not only brings evil about, but approves of it. “Creates” is awkward: evil is a quality, not a thing, and God creates things, not qualities. “Wills” is ambiguous, since it can mean that he approves it or simply that he brings it about. “Incites” suggests that God encourages people to do evil things; Scripture says he does not do this. “Stands behind” can also suggest this. The other terms listed above differ mainly in their connotations. I think any of them are legitimate, depending on the context. I have used all of them, but I tend to prefer plain-English phrases like “brings about” and “makes happen.”

    Thanks,

    Mark

  8. Michael calling Sproul’s version of God’s nature “unbiblical” is exceedingly kind. It would seem to me to be more properly termed heresy.

    If God created evil and evil is just one part of God’s nature then what standard would we have to make judgments or moral decisions if every behavior is part of our God-given make up? How can evil be part of God’s nature, when we believe God to be just, how can evil be just? Can God contain contradictory principles or can he do things that offend his other characteristics? Or perhaps if evil is part of God’s nature as Sproul contends then God is not just.

    ChadS

  9. I have to echo what others have written above: this is not “taking Calvinism too far”, it is merely being consistently calvinist.

    If by “consistant” you mean maintaining no mystery between divine sovereignty and human freedom, then I agree.

    But what about what the Westminster Confession says?

    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.

    This is clearly the writing of people who understand that there are certain places theology should not go, and this is put up as poles of a mystery – that whatever we say about God, we must say that he is sovereign and yet also that he is not the author of evil, and that there is genuine creaturely freedom. Call it inconsistent as you like, but I daresay there is more healthy Christian mystery in the confession than in this pop-Calvinism.

  10. “The reason he wanted Adam and Eve to fall into sin was because of God’s eternal attribute of wrath—and “God is as delighted with his wrath as he is with all of his attributes”

    I bet Sproul Jr. would have a fit if you suggested God created man to have some one to love and to be loved, yet ,as you point out, speaks of God as creating evil to fufill some twisted “need” to be able to vent upon evil and sin. Wow! He must be very close to God, that God should reveal this side of himself to Sproul jr. God must have reaveled it to him because I cannot imagine from where else he could muster the nerve to say it.

    Yet I know many will applaud him and that scares me.

    David Di Giacomo, where do you say evil comes from?

  11. Satan tempted Adam and Eve toward rebellion. The question would go back to what caused Satan to rebel.

    How about we just say that there isn’t enough information to form a dogmatic conclusion as to why.

    From the biblical text we just know what happened, and answering the question of “why?” just leads to confusion, or arguments.

  12. First switching back to young earth creationism and now this position that even makes an Arminian (or at least psuedo-arminian) like me a bit squeamish. My impression is that Sproul is becoming very subjective and basing his views on what he, personally, can imagine or accept or “deal with” internally, rather than accepting the mystery of some of these issues. I could be wrong, of course.

  13. Paul,

    You wrote of Sproul, Sr.:

    Sproul Sr. allows for a libertarian understanding of free will in Eden, which itself is a departure from Calvinism proper.

    Are you deducing this from the quote above or from some other writing? The quote itself doesn’t actually say or necessarily mean this.

    Also, I think Sproul, Jr. is getting a bad rap here. Everything you write opposing his position is based on this rather ambiguous statement:

    he is ignoring an important emphasis in Scripture—that God cannot be the author of evil.

    This idea of “authoring” evil is often cast forth in these sort of discussions but rarely defined with precision. I’m reminded of something Jonathan Edwards wrote in his treatise on free will:

    “If by the author of sin, be meant the sinner, the agent, or the actor of sin, or the doer of a wicked thing; so it would be a reproach and blasphemy to suppose God to be the author of sin. In this sense, I utterly deny God to be the author of sin; rejecting such an imputation on the Most High, as what is infinitely to be abhorred; and deny any such thing to be the consequence of what I have laid down. But if, by the author of sin, is meant the permitter, or not a hinderer of sin, and, at the same time, a disposer of the state of events, in such a manner, for wise, holy, and most excellent ends and purposes, that sin, if it be permitted, or not hindered, will most certainly and infallibly follow;—I say, if this be all that is meant by being the author of sin, I do not deny that God is the author of sin, (though I dislike and reject the phrase, as that which by use and custom is apt to carry another sense), it is no reproach for the Most High to be thus the author of
    sin. This is not to be the actor of sin, but on the contrary, of holiness. What God doth herein is holy, and a glorious exercise of the infinite excellency of his nature” (Yale Edition, 287-88).

    I wonder if Sproul, Jr. is understanding the concept of “authoring” evil in this way?

  14. Jay,

    I think Paul’s argument is based upon much more than the one statement from Sproul that you quoted. Paul’s assessment of Sproul’s argument seems to be pretty fair and not really a misrepresentation.

    If his whole blog was based on one line from one book then I’d agree, but this case seems pretty clear to me.

    ChadS

  15. Hi Paul,

    This is disturbing but sadly not really novel in the world of Calvinism (or well hyper-Calvinism). You can find these concepts peppered throughout Reformed thinking for centuries. It is grossly blasphemous. Thankfully it doesn’t represent a majority view within our (Calvinists) camp.

    Let’s hope that Sproul, Jr. comes to his senses on this.

    Blessings

    Carrie

  16. Hi Chad,

    Take another look. That wasn’t a quote from Sproul. It was Chopan’s own words, a summary statement of why he disagrees with Sproul’s position.

  17. Disclaimer: I like Sproul Jr.’s take on this point. This message is therefore an attempt at a defense.

    As to the question of whether God would be evil if the evil in the world were attributed to Him: let me pull out a metaphor.

    Did Shakespeare author the murders in his plays? Is Shakespeare guilty for them? Could his characters be portrayed as justly or properly accusing him of those murders, or of any guilt for the murders?

    I claim that even within the framework of the story, even if Shakespeare were to grant a character knowledge about him, that character could not justly accuse S of guilt in the murder. On the contrary, the murder is a necessary part of the story, and although the murder is clearly evil (something S always shows) S’s use of it in the story is clearly good.

    If all the world’s a story, and God is the author of it, then even if God _did_ knowingly and deliberately script the evil, that doesn’t make him evil — the question is, what type of story is it, a good one or a bad one? A bad story — if God scripted it — would make God evil. A good one shows His goodness, even if the story has evil (and what story doesn’t?).

    Also, separate issue:

    “It is quite startling to read a staunch Calvinist who says that God needs something outside himself—in this case, sinners on whom to pour his wrath!”

    That’s not what RCJr said. He said that God made objects of wrath for the explicit purpose of displaying his wrath, which is His own purpose. And this is PRECISELY what Paul says in Rom 9:22-23. This doesn’t imply that God NEEDED to do any of this; it simply says that God _did_ it.

    So don’t complain to RCJr there — complain to Paul.

  18. Carrie,

    If Sproul, Jr. is understanding that God authors evil in the way Jonathan Edwards did (as quoted in my first comment above), then any charge of hyper-Calvinism, due to this one issue, is clearly out-of-bounds.

  19. Vance First switching back to young earth creationism and now this position that even makes an Arminian (or at least psuedo-arminian) like me a bit squeamish. My impression is that Sproul is becoming very subjective and basing his views on what he, personally, can imagine or accept or “deal with” internally, rather than accepting the mystery of some of these issues. I could be wrong, of course.

    I understand that Sproul senior switched to (not back to) creationism.

    Sproul junior is the man proposing God creates evil.

    2 different people talking about different issues. I would surely hate to be judged on the theological concepts of my relatives.

  20. Whoa! I had no idea there were two of them out there! :0)

    Sorry about that!

  21. If you don’t want your views to be confused with that of your son’s, you shouldn’t name him your full name. ;-)

  22. I’m not in any way surprised by this. Sproul The Junior has for years been taking various doctrines to absurd extremes. He is by nature an extremist, and he likes it so.

    It astounds me that there are still some who, to this very day, will ardently defend and excuse Sproul The Junior about the abuses over which he was defrocked and declared “unfit for the ministry.”

    Having been defrocked, how can he consider himself worthy of any respect to continue expounding the Holy Word of God? Even more significant, why does anyone even bother to listen to what he has to say? Is it only because his last name is Sproul? I suspect so. If his name were John Smith he would have been disregarded and forgotten long ago.

    While I do respect many of the opinions of Sproul The Senior, I have no respect at all for his son. The one has often demonstrated wisdom, and the other folly. Apparently the apple fell quite far from the tree.

  23. Wow, this thread is one interesting conversation. Arminians assuming that this is “typical” Calvinism, Calvinists assuming this is wholly “unbiblical,” etc.

    Even though I don’t necessarily advocate this position, it is nothing new, and it is centuries old back to the Reformation.

    A big debate within Calvinism is “Infralapsarianism” and “Supralapsarianism.” These terms are from the Latin, “Infra” meaning “below, after” and “supra” meaning “above, before.” “Laps” refers to “Fall.” So, the terms mean, “before-Fall,” and “after-Fall.”

    The question is, at what stage did God plan election of believers? (Not when did he *carry it out,* which Ephesians makes clear was before the foundations of the world; rather, what was the order of decree). If God decided the process of election *after* the Fall (infralapsarianism), then sin is man’s doing, and men going to Hell is their own doing.

    If God decided the process of election *before* the Fall (supralapsarianism), then sin is God’s doing (in order to bring about redemption), and men going to Hell is God’s reprobation of certain people to Hell (Rom 9).

    It is a historic belief, just a very debated one.

    -ACR

  24. Sproul Jr says that God doesn’t sin but creates sin. What does sin look like in its created form?

  25. So how did evil come to be if it was not created?

  26. R.C. Sproul, Jr. defrocked? I’ll drink to that!

  27. Evil is a privation of the good. It isn’t some *thing* that comes to exist. Aquinas has a lot of fine things to say about this in his Summa.

  28. Cal, as someone who could scarcely disagree more strongly with Sproul Jr.’s views outlined above, which I’m about ready to call a more dangerous heresy than even the early Christological ones, I think the video you linked to here is absolutely shameful. Christians of all people should avoid damaging slander and parading the faults of others for all to see. Shame on you, sir, for contributing to it.

  29. “I’m about ready to call a more dangerous heresy than even the early Christological ones”

    Help me, please — see my post for why I don’t understand that. This “heresy” — if such it is — has been widely accepted as normal variation (aside, of course, from Trent). And “dangerous”? How is it dangerous?

    One problem with identifying this as being on a level with the Christological heresies is that it affects only the ‘How’ of creation, not the ‘Who’.

  30. Thank you Cal for linking to that video. I don’t agree with Wonders that your linking to the video is “shameful.” If anything is shameful it would have to be the conduct in the video itself. If there is cause for shame it would need to be Sproul who should be ashamed.

    There have been many allegations of alcohol abuses at RC Sproul Jr’s Highlands Study Center / Saint Peter Presbyterian Church. Defenders have claimed that it’s just a matter of Christian liberty and that any drinking there is always done in moderation. Yet what defines with moderation? Is Sproul entitled to manufacture his own novel definitions and foist them off on us without an argument?

    Some have alleged that Sproul has a very twisted understanding of “moderation”, as he has a warped understanding of many other issues, as well. As someone already noted here, Sproul Jr is an extremist and he enjoys being an extremist. Is it logical that an extremist would be skilled in demonstrating moderation in much of anything?

  31. Hello Mr. Tanksley,

    Obviously you will disagree with me on this – and I’m sorry for having to use such a harsh word for what you consider adiaphora. But there are a lot of implications here that I see as every bit as serious as the Arian heresy – if not more so.

    The Christological heresies were serious because they involved the nature of God himself in Christ. This is as serious because we are dealing with the nature of God again – this time in relation to evil. Evil is being called a kind of good, and attributing it to God. Nothing less than the goodness of God himself is at stake here. And a vision of God is being proposed – where for the sake of his eternal attribute of wrath he specifically creates conscious creatures to be tortured – that is indistinguishable from the cruelest of the pagan gods of antiquity. What is being challenged is the orthodox Christian picture of “a good God, who loves mankind” who “hates nothing that he has made”.

    This is a big deal.

  32. Evan,

    The conduct may be shameful. But it is unfaithful to our Lord to delight in parading the shames of others for all to see. The commandment is to love one another – even one’s enemies – even the enemies of the gospel. Never forget that in what you do to the least of these, you do to your Lord – you are mocking Christ, and delighting in it. For the sake of your own soul, repent.

  33. Evan Littlefield September 6, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    “you are mocking Christ, and delighting in it.”

    An absolutely outrageous allegation! Funny how Sproul has been accused of being an extremist, and then you pop in to make such an extremist allegation yourself.

    1. I take no “delight” in anything I stated. Rather, I grieve over the atrocious example that Sproul sets for his flock. You, apparently, disagree that his atrocious example should be publicly exposed, and you’re entitled to your opinion, as am I entitled to mine. I am not judging your motives or pretending that I can determine the motives of your heart. Why would you presume to do so with me?

    2. You are WAY out of line to accuse me of “mocking Christ.” I didn’t even “mock” RC Sproul Jr, let alone my Lord and Savior! Do you dare to call me a blasphemer? An apology for this outrage is in order.

  34. Cal, while your, “I’ll drink to that!” comment was temptingly funny, it shouldn’t trump our desire to reach those who may be hurting. I’m sure you didn’t intend to smash Sproul when down. Perhaps, we should all be careful. Take care.

    Good post, Paul!

  35. Evan,

    Insofar as you insist you are not mocking Sproul, or delighting in a scandal of one whom that even I agree seems to be teaching some toxic stuff, I apologize. But Cal’s comment was indeed poking fun at scandal (and the comments on the youtube were atrocious, as was the inline commentary in the movie), and this sort of thing in Christ we should have no tolerance for. I backpeddle not an inch that every careless word we will answer for, and every slight cruelty or smug satisfaction at others failure will be shown as done to none other but the Lord himself. It is him that we mock. It is him that we deride among the tax collectors and sinners. It is him to whom we say “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

    The culture we live in is one of voyeurism and sensationalism – of people lapping up scandal like water. It should not be so with us – we should love our neighbors (even our enemies) as ourselves.

  36. Evan Littlefield September 6, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    Wonder, I find Jonathan’s admonishment, “Perhaps, we should all be careful” to be far more measured and gracious than your own.

    Quite frankly, I find the manner of your comments against Cal for his link to the You Tube video to conflict directly with what you have expressed on Sproul’s teaching: “dangerous heresy”, “teaching some toxic stuff”, etc. Is that “loving your neighbor”? And yet you say, “every careless word we will answer for.” I think your words here, in every respect, and regardless of who they have been directed at, have been far from carefully measured.

    BTW, I happen to agree with you about the dangers of what Sproul teaches. I just don’t think it wise to put it in such “harsh” terms (your own word for it). And then for you to come down so hard on me and Cal?

    Please try and show a little more consistency by practicing what you preach. In so doing you might find your opinions to be more warmly received.

  37. In my view God does not normally act to cause any person to make a decision. He can, but in His graciousness He generally allows us to make our decisions for good or ill.

    From that perspective God cannot be the author of evil. He can permit us to make the decisions that lead to evil, but that is not the same thing as causing it Himself.

    If “good” is the position of being in accord with His will, His commands provide us with the framework to make good decisions. Necessarily of course, if He commands it it becomes good. Israel’s war of annihilation against Amalek is an example. Under normal circumstances “annihilation = bad” but under these particular circumstances God had decreed judgment on Amalek and “annihilation = good”.

    Vance, get off your anti-YEC hobbyhorse. YEC is the traditional position of the Church from antiquity and anyone as obsessed with “inerrancy” as you claim to be should accept it.

    As I may have said before. “Theological liberals have no problem believing that Genesis describes creation over a period of six days a few thousand years ago. They just don’t believe it. Theological conservatives on the other hand will insist that they believe everything written in Genesis, except the plain reading of it.”

  38. I find the manner of your comments against Cal for his link to the You Tube video to conflict directly with what you have expressed on Sproul’s teaching: “dangerous heresy”, “teaching some toxic stuff”, etc. Is that “loving your neighbor”?

    I’m attacking the teaching, and not the man. I do not need to love the heresy as myself, just the man.

    But I do not withdraw even slightly my vehemence against congregating around scandal involving an opponent. It’s deeply sinful, and a cancer to the soul.

  39. This is as serious because we are dealing with the nature of God again – this time in relation to evil. Evil is being called a kind of good, and attributing it to God. Nothing less than the goodness of God himself is at stake here.

    There’s a couple of major holes in this argument.

    First, your claims are one-sided; the other side does NOT claim to be denying the goodness of God, or anything of the sort. The Arians, in contrast, explicitly denied the eternality of the Son. Thus, you have to actually prove your point, not merely state it: do these doctrines require the denial of the goodness of God, or does RC actually deny that goodness?

    Next, you’re singling out an issue which isn’t in any way decided; there’s a lot of variation in this that’s been (aside from Trent) allowed throughout the Church, and held by some of its great leaders.

    And a vision of God is being proposed – where for the sake of his eternal attribute of wrath he specifically creates conscious creatures to be tortured – that is indistinguishable from the cruelest of the pagan gods of antiquity.

    That’s a horrible slander, and you know it. RC doesn’t claim anything about Hell that you don’t; he doesn’t claim anything about suffering or evil that you don’t. Your use of the word “torture” implies that RC’s God is about to do something that the God of historic Christianity isn’t. And that’s nonsense.

    So here’s another rephrasing of your quote: “for the sake of [X] he specifically creates conscious creatures although He knows they will suffer.” I think all Christians at all times would have to agree with this; some would say that we cannot know X, others would assign some ultimate reason. RC says that the ultimate reason is God’s glory; some say the ultimate reason is man’s free will.

    Both sides hold that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good. Both sides MUST agree that there is actually evil in the world (the Bible says so!). Neither side holds that there’s more or less actual evil than the other, and both sides agree that God could, if he wanted, make its existence utterly impossible, and by the same token could have created (or not created) in such a way that the evil was not possible.

    The clear fact that both sides agree on is that there IS evil and suffering. If one side is to be blamed for a dark god and sacrificial altar, I don’t see how the other side can escape the same blame.

    The only difference between the sides is in explaining the exact purpose of the evil. Perhaps it was to allow full free will; perhaps it was to allow God to tell a glorious story that emphasizes His glory. (one with dragons, knights, danger, and eucatastrophe). Perhaps there was some other reason.

    What is being challenged is the orthodox Christian picture of “a good God, who loves mankind” who “hates nothing that he has made”.

    What part of the Bible — or creeds — are you quoting from? I don’t recognize either quotation. Did God not make Esau?

  40. Has anyone heard the sermon by John Piper on Ruth(Desiring God Blog) as delivered in the U.K.? He says,in planning for certain events “God ordains sin to pass.” Is this different from Sproul Jr.?

  41. The only difference between the sides is in explaining the exact purpose of the evil.

    No, the difference is one side IS claiming to attribute evil to God. The other side does not claim that God ordains evil for a purpose, for the other side does not claim that God ordains evil.

    Anyway, this is certainly a tired debate, but I’m glad to hear that some Calvinists condemn this stuff.

  42. Rom 3:7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?
    Rom 3:8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

    Paul is pretty harsh against those who slandered him. I wonder what he would say to those who slander God in the same way?

  43. Both sides hold that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good. Both sides MUST agree that there is actually evil in the world (the Bible says so!). Neither side holds that there’s more or less actual evil than the other, and both sides agree that God could, if he wanted, make its existence utterly impossible, and by the same token could have created (or not created) in such a way that the evil was not possible.

    I don’t agree that God could make evil impossible. I’d take the position that if God is to make a universe in which every moral creature is to have free will then there must be a possibility of some of those free moral agents choosing to do evil.

    If there is not at least that possibility then their choices are not free.

  44. “I don’t agree that God could make evil impossible.”

    Of course He could — he doesn’t have to create at all. He could have created automatons, or He could have set the guidelines (somehow) such that they couldn’t be transgressed.

    Of course, such a world would be less glorious to God than this one is. THEREFORE, He created this one, with evil in it, for His own glory.

    Think about it. Before time He foreknew His church. That means he foreknew their salvation. That means He foreknew their sin, and the Fall. He created _knowing_ that all those things would happen (indeed, I’d say that He created in such a way as to decree those things).

    The great plan of salvation includes redemption AND the Fall.

    “…there must be a possibility of some of those free moral agents choosing to do evil. If there is not at least that possibility then their choices are not free.”

    Is God not free, then? There’s no possibility of Him choosing evil…

    No, that’s not a useful definition of freedom, since it excludes God. It would also seem to exclude us once we’re in heaven.

  45. “Paul is pretty harsh against those who slandered him. I wonder what he would say to those who slander God in the same way?”

    Look at those verses — the slander is people claiming that Paul taught that everyone should sin so that grace would abound. This is not even tangentially related to our discussion. Yes, Paul considered THAT slander; this doesn’t mean that you can call RC’s claim also slander, since the two are different.

  46. “No, the difference is one side IS claiming to attribute evil to God. The other side does not claim that God ordains evil for a purpose, for the other side does not claim that God ordains evil.”

    Be very careful there. No, it’s not true that any Calvinist claims that God is evil or performs evil. However, He authored the entire universe, and it all fulfills His plan, including when that fulfillment causes us suffering; and even including when the heart of the king is turned to do evil. God wrote that story. It’s not evil for Him to have done that, because He wrote a good story; it’s about Goodness and Righteousness, not about the evil that they overcome.

    Remember, the last enemy to be defeated will be death. Death is evil and an enemy. Yet God planned that defeat, and planned it to be _last_.

    Again, God created the universe and made it to have evil in it. You can’t deny that. He Himself claims to control that evil — He took credit for Pharaoh, and claims to hold the heart of the king in His hands. He takes credit for natural disasters (the “I create woe” claim the original post looked at), and every tiny little detail (down to the fall of a sparrow) is part of His plan. Several times He claims to be actively restraining lawlessness, and other times He judges by giving people over to their sinfulness. Even if you manage to argue that there’s some evil that God doesn’t totally control (why would you want evil to triumph over God????), you’re left admitting that at least SOME evil is unmistakably allowed by God, even though He didn’t need to.

    And then you have Romans 9. There it looks like God’s wrath is one of His motivations for His patience. There it looks like God prepared some objects specifically for destruction, with the initial purpose of showing His wrath. Pharaoh is again singled out, with detail that makes it very hard to deny that God controlled that entire situation, including the evil that happened — and still blames Pharaoh.

    I don’t want to make too strong of a claim. I’m not arguing _against_ libertarian free will — I just think you’re taking it too far to claim that because this view doesn’t fit into libertarian free will, therefore it can’t be orthodox. LFW fits within orthodoxy, but it doesn’t define orthodoxy.

  47. In my view God does not normally act to cause any person to make a decision. He can, but in His graciousness He generally allows us to make our decisions for good or ill.

    That’s certainly true; if God or chance altered our decisions from what we truly desired they wouldn’t truly be ours. (This gets a little philosphical rather than Biblical, but so be it.)

    From that perspective God cannot be the author of evil.

    I have to affirm that, of course — in the sense that God does not author (i.e. commit) evil. But even if we suppose that the only way for God to plan for an evil thing to happen would be for God to force someone’s decision, your argument only suggests that God doesn’t normally do that. It doesn’t show that He never does, and in fact the Bible shows that He sometimes has done EXACTLY this. Consider, for example, Pharaoh, as described in Romans 9 and many other verses — not only did God harden his heart after he’d decided, God even says that He raised him up _for_ that purpose.

    So at least once, God did the thing that you claim he can’t do. Therefore, what you describe is not the correct understanding of authoring evil, since God doesn’t do that. God CAN cause someone to decide to commit evil, without himself incurring guilt.

    -Wm

  48. Wm Tanksley,

    Do you agree with this statement from Sproul Jr.?

    “What I’ll do is create something worthy of my wrath, something on which I can exhibit the glory of my wrath” (pp. 52-53).

    Do you agree would you say this?

    “It was [God’s] desire to make his wrath known. He needed, then, something on which to be wrathful. He needed to have sinful creatures” (p. 57).

  49. Paul Copan, remarked considerably about Sproul Jr.

    But then Paul, you never shown any evidence that God did not create evil. Just openly mocked S’Jr.

    So whats your answer Paul, and back it with Scripture, Did God create evil?

    Please do not insult my intelligence by chasing a rabbit and going all around the world to say no or yes.

    I believe that Scriptures are clear that when they state God created all things, that this infact does include evil. If God did not then show clear evidence of its origin, Please…..

  50. Do you agree with this statement from Sproul Jr.?

    I’ve already said that I find them to be reconcilable with Romans 9, and I can’t disagree with that. Can you explain how they differ from Romans 9?

    You may philosophically find it unpleasant to think of God as allowing evil; but if the Bible says He does, you can’t fight that with philosophy, and you certainly can’t brand someone a heretic because they oppose your philosophy.

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