Wanted: Theologically Consistent Proofreaders To Help Megachurch Pastors

I’m not going to blast all megachurches here, after all there have been some good ones, at least . . . a few good ones. But I’ve noticed that some of the most popular of these mega-pastors could use some theological proofreaders. What’s needed is somebody with theological consistency, almost any Calvinist would do, as would an Arminian who is committed to remaining thoroughly consistent with his beliefs.

Dave Hunt should not apply for this proofreading job. I say that because I get his Berean Call newsletter and I’m always amused at how Calvinism is taken to the cleaners in it, and then in the same newsletter there are materials for sale in his bookstore which include things written by Calvinists.  Go figure.

But the kind of thing that needs to be theologically proofread include this book by Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel line of churches; the book is called The Gospel According To Grace, and you will find it online

Here are the parts of Chuck Smith’s book that I don’t understand.  I mean, I do understand them, but . . . I don’t understand why they would be together in the same book:

In Section 9 entitled "Chosen" Chuck Smith writes:

"… salvation stands by election alone and not by works. God calls and elects whomever He wishes. I can’t honestly look at myself and say that God elected me because I’m so good. God simply acted on the basis of His own divine sovereignty. The fact that God chose to elect me thrills me …"

The Calvinists in the audience stand up and cheer. But wait, there is something for everybody. Here’s what Chuck Smith says a few pages later in Section 10:

"If you confess Him and believe in Him, He’ll save you, because He keeps His word. ‘But what if I’m not predestined?’ You’ll be saved anyhow. … [a few sentences later]: All men are equal in His eyes."

He explains this obvious contradiction by saying:

"We discussed the sovereignty of God in the last chapter. Now we come to the matter of human responsibility. Here the truth finds balance."

Chuck Smith is not alone in his odd theological balancing act, a while ago Alan over at Calvinist GadFly wrote about the
similar contradictions of Rick Warren found in Saddleback’s literature.

So often contradictory ideas like this are explained-away as a "paradox" in scripture that man can not resolve. In
this video clip however, Robert Reymond is quoted as he explains that such a "paradox" would be indistinguishable from an actual contradiction.  All of us, including the mega-pastors above, would be quick to say that there are no contradictions in the bible, and with that in mind Reymond’s words should be something that we all try to get a grasp of, before we misuse this term “paradox”.

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21 Comments on “Wanted: Theologically Consistent Proofreaders To Help Megachurch Pastors”

  1. Nathan White Says:

    Ah yes, contradiction vs paradox, Clark vs VanTil.

    Personally, I believe we should be extremely careful in our use of ‘paradox’, especially in our apologetics. As we have seen with the mega-church pastors, they are all too quick to throw up their hands and claim ‘paradox’ to excuse their blatant Arminianism.

    From a apologetics or theological standpoint, what is the difference between a paradox and a contradiction? I see paradox as an excuse when one’s theology or apologetic doesn’t make sense or is inconsistent, and thus we should do all we can to refrain from settling it in our minds that some things are a paradox. If not, we can use the paradox card anytime we are exposed as being inconsistent.

  2. Joel Says:

    I see Nathan beat me to the punch on the Clark v TanTil idea. In the IFB cirlces I formerly ran in, it was not “paradox” (big word alert) but “mystery” that kept cropping up every time we read John 6 or Eph 1 or Rom 9. I was warned not to attempt to “solve” such mysteries, for these were matters in which God forbade our queries.

    But let’s do give credit where it is due – Mr. Smith at least got some of it right, which is more than we can say for too many other self-proclaimed “biblicists”!

  3. Chad V. Says:

    I think Jim’s point is dead on. As far a paradoxes go there are legitiamte ones in scriputre. For examle, God became a man in the person of Christ and Christ sit in heaven at the right hand of the Father without destroying the unity of the Trinity or altering it in any way. God being a man and still fully God is a paradox.

    Another, God ordained Adam’s fall into sin and yet is not the author of sin. The task is to correctly identify the paradoxes.

    Duet. 29:29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

    There are many things that are unlawful for us to look into. Consider the following example from Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

    As far as Mr. Smith getting some of it right, I don’t see it that way. What he gives with the right hand he takes back with the left. He has created a paradox not found in scripture. The fact is that only the elect ever come to faith and repentace. If you’re not predestined to eternal life then you’re not going to be saved. But we can save the discussion of that issue for another post dedicated to that issue.

    If the scripture teaches a paradox then that’s fine. God has not revealed the secret of that paradox to us. We however, have no business creating our own paradoxes.

  4. Joel Says:

    Chad, thank you for that clarification. We hopefully understand that “mystery” and “paradox” are not interchangeable words, although they are often used that way. I accept that there are paradoxes in the Bible as they are “apparent contradictions which describe an underlying truth”. I also accept that there are mysteries in the Bible as “unknowable in our fallen nature”. But I object to the idea that some have that the Bible presents to us paradoxes that are perpetual opposites, unresolvable, and maintained in permanent tension. If this is our understanding of paradoxes, then “mystery” is a suitable synonym, is it not?

    As for things unlawful to be looked into, I beg to differ. Things unknowable, yes; but unlawful? Educate me on that.

    I take the “secret” things in the OT to be those things (grace, church, new birth, etc) revealed in the N.T. Am I on the wrong path on that?

  5. Barry Says:

    People (and movements) tend to pick what they want out of the bible and either explain away or ignor other parts that might contradict their view.

    That is what gives a lot of people pain. Infinite contradictions, paradoxes, mysteries, repetitions and duplications abound. We tend to forget that nearly all of the books in the bible, as with nearly all classic works coming to us through the centuries, are topical.

    As great a shop manual as the books of the bible are I keep coming back to the fact that they are books.

    Infallable, divine, inerrant. We came up with that.

    If there are contradictions in the bible then let’s have the courage to say so and not pretend it’s something else.

  6. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Further,

    God’s sovereign will is falsely set in opposition to the responsibility of man.
    The false dicotomy is stated: God’s will vs man’s responsibility. But, it is not that way. The true dicotomy is God’s will/the will of the creature. And, its derivative, God’s reponsibility/man’s responsibility. Which is seen more fully in this:

    God’s will –> God’s responsibility
    _______________________________

    creaturely will –> man’s responsibility

    The invocational phrase of the disciples prayer states this: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is not petitional but is part of the exaltation: Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is your name, your kingdom come….

    This comes as a shock to many who believe that the only way that God’s will is carried out is if “Your will be done,” is part of the invocation. But, it is not and is why the petitional part can be prayed with confidence because the pattern is set in heaven. The petitions are done in heaven
    so we read on earth as it is in heaven. “Give us: this day (here on earth) daily bread (from heaven) Forgive us (in heaven) and that we continue forgiving (on earth), not leaving us (in heaven) delivering us from all circumstances (on earth).

    In each of the petitions there is as imperative indicating a commandment. Even in the third petition, the absolute negation stregthens the aorist verb making it an imperative. It would appear then, that the prayer is not a request for assistance, merely. But, follows from the preceding exaltation of the will of God, that is, his commandments in heaven that these thing will be carried out on earth. The full assurance of the answers comes to us in Paul’s expanation of the Spirit who works in us prayer. James who chides the double-minded reminds us that faith does not doubt the answer. And why? Because these things have been commanded by God who gives good and perfect gifts from above. The summation, BECAUSE it is “Your kingdom, your power, for your glory. Even this doxology flows from the begining exaltation. They are like bookends that enclose this prayer. Or, arms that enfold a child.

    We thank him whose grace has made us partakers in the divine nature, his heavenly will. The true Son who was from heaven did only as he saw the Father doing. Let us not forsake then the admonition that declares us as sons whose hearts (mind and will) are after God’s own, the Son who is in the bosom of the Father. He has declared him.

    We also have to thank him that he sent his Son in the likeness of man so that both the upper case and the lower case is fulfilled in him. Then seeing so great a salvation let us commend one another to follow the archegos and tellios of our faith who has perfected once and for all those who are being saved.

    God bless,

    tt

  7. Gary Says:

    I am part of a Calvary Chapel and the teaching on election is definitely inconsistent. I have tried to help several people understand this, but no success so far. However, it is definitely not true to say it is “blatant Arminianism.” When I first started talking with other people in CC, I used the term “Arminian”, and they were quick to point out that they are not Arminians. CC people, of course, always say: we’re not Calvinists, we’re not Arminians, we’re Biblicists. And there’s a sense in which I agree with them.

    In fact, I think use of the term “Arminian” for them is just as wrong as the term “Calvinist” used for somebody like myself who fully accepts reformed theology but does not agree with Calvin on issues of baptism, church government, etc. I now use “synergist” and “monergist” because that really cuts to the heart of the issue. Are Calvary pastors Arminian? No. Are the “inconsistent Arminians” as some like to say? I would say no, that’s not fair. But are they synergists – salvation depends on our having the faith to take what God gives us? No doubt about it.

    We may not agree with them in this area, but at least I think we should try and get the terms right.

  8. Jim Says:

    Gary:

    I think Calvinists, when they say the word ‘Arminian’ mean the same thing as ‘Synergist’. After all, hardly anyone shares the same exact beliefs as Arminius these days. I call myself a Calvinist even though I don’t buy into in Calvin’s view of a lot of things (like baptism). So unfortunately, for the sake of communication, it’s probably best to just accept the sloppy labels of Arminian and Calvinist, without insisting on a purist definition. In other words, when a Calvinist says ‘Arminian’ he really just means ‘Synergist’. Which, as you said, is what most Calvary Chapel folks are (including Chuck Smith certainly). Anyway, that’s how I look at those labels.

  9. Gary (aka fool4jesus) Says:

    Jim, I totally agree with you on accepting labels. If somebody calls me a Calvinist, I very seldom contradict them saying “well actually I disagree with Calvin on X, Y, and Z.” The main exception is if they are implying by the label that I am down-the-line follower of Calvin, “not a 5-point Calvinist but a 50-point one,” as Kim Riddlebarger – or somebody else on his blog – said.

    I guess I am just trying to ease the tensions a little in the names and descriptions that I use myself. As I mentioned, I once turned off some fellow CCers by calling them Arminians – they bristled and said we’re not Arminians. When I said that I really should say they are synergists and explained what I meant by it, they were fine with that. Without the change in label they would not have listened to me. (And I was using it totally descriptively, not pejoratively.)

    I see the same problem in our use of the term “Doctrines of Grace.” I know what we mean by it, and I accept it. But think how that sounds to a synergist. They truly think their doctrine is of grace – and generally (for any but all-out pelagians) their doctrine IS primarily of grace. It’s not completely of grace – which is why I reject it – but they would argue that grace is central in a way that grace is not central to a completely works-based salvation such as preached by the Witnesses, Mormons, or typical liberal denomination. This kind of tension is what leads anti-Calvinists like George Bryson to say “I’ll stop calling myself a ‘Biblicist’ when they stop calling their doctrine ‘the doctrines of grace.'”

    Anyway, I’m not trying to stir up dissent among brothers here, just trying to find a way that we can ease the tensions a little – they certainly won’t do it, not with people like George Bryson running around – and trying to win a hearing by those who are not yet monergists. After all, it was not long ago that I myself was a synergist. Maybe that’s why I am – perhaps overly – sensitive to having a winsome apologetic. We’d all agree that’s a goal worth shooting for.

    Keep up the great work here and on oldtruth.com.

  10. Gary (aka fool4jesus) Says:

    By the way, I should mention that’s why I used – and always try to us – the term “Witnesses” instead of “JWs.” Saying “JW” does feel good, I’ll admit, but I don’t want to turn them off at the outset by using a term that they object to.

  11. Jim Says:

    Gary:

    You make some really good points. I think you are right, those terms are conversation stoppers in some cases. Hardly any Arminian today thinks they actually are one. It’s probably better to use terms like synergism when engaging in conversation with them.

    I think similarly with the “Biblicist” term. I can’t hear that word without either laughing to myself or out loud. It makes me think “Well what am I, chopped liver? Do you really think I subscribe to a NON-biblical position?” What a silly term. As you know, there is as much middle ground in this debate as there is with vegetarians and non-vegetarians. If you eat meat, you are not a vegetarian, if you don’t you aren’t; it’s that simple. Where’s the middle ground in that? Same with this debate, God ultimately determines who is saved, or man does. No middle ground. No “Biblicists” allowed 🙂

    PS: To anyone who is interested, Gene Cook over at http://www.UnchainedRadio.com has an MP3 in his archives called something like “the myth of Calvary Chapel’s middle ground”, which is very good.

  12. Gary (aka fool4jesus) Says:

    You’re right about “Biblicist,” Jim. I assume we all have to explain to people that we’re not “Calvinists” because Calvin said so, but because it’s what the Bible teaches. And conversely, they’re generally not synergists because of what some other person said – it’s because that’s the way they read the Bible when adding the assumption of libertarian free will.

    I tried to find that MP3. I found a few about CC and Bryson but none that seem to fit the bill. Can you point me to it? I would be most interested in hearing it.

    I can tell you in CC how in my experience that much-vaunted “middle ground” plays out though: people (pastors included) who believe in the depravity of man and perseverance of the saints but then they also believe in man’s free will and “reconcile” it all by saying they don’t “do theology.” What I keep trying to make people understand – with mixed success so far – is this: when they mention free will, they ARE doing theology. Some people cannot wrap their minds around that idea – but we persevere.

    In fact, I am talking to a very intelligent young man (16 years old, I believe) about this very subject. He is a died-in-the-wool CC “middle grounder.” So far he is still on the synergist side, but at least he understands that the concept of free will in relation to God IS theology, and he understands ideas like two wills in God. I think he’ll be a impressive addition to the “Calvinist” phalanx some day. 🙂

  13. Corinne Says:

    I’m only 25 and I’ve only been a Christian for 7 and a half years, and in that time I’ve only attended Horizon in San Diego, which is a CC offspring. Our pastor was basically discipled by Chuck, and holds very similar beliefs as Chuck. I am no expert on Calvinist v. Arminian but as I study I definitely see the latter in my church, while I see myself leaning more to the prior.

  14. Corinne Says:

    I just realized the link for my home page was wrong so I wanted to fix it. Sorry!


  15. Corinne, you will find that to be very common. Chuck Smith has what is sometimes called “inconsistent Arminian” beliefs – belief in eternal security and depravity of man, but not the other 3 petals of TULIP. If you really understand reformed (=Biblical) theology, of course, you can’t be a 2- or 3-point Calvinist: they all hang together as logical results of monergism, and CC teaches a form of synergism.

    BTW, I have recently noticed two common kinds of teaching among modern synergists that don’t fall neatly into labels like “semi-Pelagianism” or “Arminianism.” One is that which seems to be rampant in Southern Baptist circles, which is that a universal “prevenient” grace (as the Arminians call it) have come to man, and all men have the chance to believe equally. Obviously, this is primarily denying the “L” (limited atonement).

    Some CCers seem to fall in this group, but the other category I’ve noticed are those who teach that God specifically elects, but man has the ability to resist. This is denying the “I” (irresistible grace). It’s hard to tell sometimes which category a given person falls into, but a few well-placed questions will usually clear it up.

    I think I can hear the question in your mind: should I leave CC? Well, that’s certainly an individual decision. For my own part, I have decided that “not yet” is the right answer. It may some day come down to it, but for now I am following C.S. Lewis’s maxim that it’s more important for friends to agree on what the important questions are; it’s less important that they agree on the answers. I still appreciate CC’s strong focus on Bible teaching, because it was only through Bible study that I accepted the truth. I also appreciate their focus on evangelism, which is lacking in many – certainly not all! – churches that are more reformed.

    Worse, CC occasionally goes from the “middle ground” into the true anti-Calvinist camp – such as when George Bryson gives addresses at pastor’s conferences. Thankfully, I have not personally seen that too much, but if CC started going that way – from more or less passively mentioning “free will” occasionally to actively inoculating people against reformed theology – that would cause me to reevaluate.

    Best wishes in your walk.

  16. Corinne Says:

    It’s a little off the subject, but still relevant I think: I serve in the Jr. High ministry, and it is terrifying. I have tried to reason with the leaders about the state of these children (11-14 year olds), but it seems to fall on deaf ears. My argument is that the vast majority of these kids are not saved – and their rotten fruit shows it. However, we’re all taught that if you “pray this prayer” you’re saved, and the adults buy that and teach it to the kids. So because these kids have been raised in the church and “accepted Christ” when they were four or five, we just assume they’re saved, and try as hard as we can to “keep them on the right track.”

    It seems to me this is the outcome of a generation of adults being taught a weak, man-centered (possibly Arminian-leaning) gospel that puts more emphasis on the responsibility of the sinner than on the necessary regenerating work of the Savior. I’ve had people tell me that I’m overreacting, mainly because Jr. High is such a tough age and there’s so much peer pressure and what have you. My issue with that is that we are not giving the Holy Spirit enough credit, and that we don’t believe the Lord when He says, “You will know them by their fruit.”

  17. genembridges Says:

    Actually, it sounds to me like they are being taught not only sacramentalism (which is exactly what the sinner’s prayer is, a sacramental prayer meant to convey salvation) but they are being taught a high value on “eternal security” and not “perseverance of the saints.” This is quite common, and even the Bob Wilkin crowd admits that 2 of the 3 views of eternal security in their own camp are prone to that emphasis. I can work with Wesleyans, Arminians that they are, more than I can these antinomian Baptists, for that reason.

  18. George Bryson Says:

    Not every Calvinist will admit (or can even see) the implications of sin relative to God and the Reformed view of an all encompassing divine decree. Some will admit more than others.

    For example, while trying to figure out what a particular group of Calvinists actually believed I proposed (to them) the following view of God relative to sin:

    “Every murder, every rape, every child molestation, every immoral act, every depraved sin of every kind of evil a man can think of and act out is as much a result of the all encompassing decree of God as is every good deed, every kind act, every loving gesture…

    And:

    To rob God of His right to do whatever He chooses to do (which is everything that has ever been done or will ever be done) is to deny that God is sovereign over all. It is to reduce the infinite God (in the fallen imagination of a godless man) to the level of wicked men…

    And:

    Most professing Christians will say that God has the right to do as He pleases. I will go further and say that whatever God does is right. If God does it-that makes it right and the day will come when those who deny that God has the right to do anything and every thing (and He has and always will exercise that right) will learn how wrong they have been!”

    I deliberately stated this (i.e., God is the author of sin) view as strongly, and as clearly as I could.

    I gave those I was talking with an opportunity to deny, modify, or qualify their acceptance or rejection of this view.

    They unequivocally agreed that what I represented (as stated above) as the most extreme view of Calvinism that I could imagine, was indeed what they believed to be true of authentic Calvinism and by extension of orthodox and biblical Christianity.

    For these Calvinists (who consider themselves consistent-supralapsarian-Calvinists) in the mainstream of historic Calvinism, I decided to quote relevant portions of a paper written to explain and defend the God is the author of sin thesis.

    The author of the God is the author of sin paper I quoted (and will include what I quoted for your careful consideration) not only understands Calvinism in general but the various representations (as well as the arguments put forward on their behalf) of Calvinism as well.

    While I emphatically disagree with the author’s thesis that scripturally speaking God is or even could be the author of sin, I agree with him that this is at least the clear implications of a consistent Reformed theology.

    Here are some relevant portions of some of what he wrote and I included for the Calvinists I was conversing with:

    “When Reformed Christians are questioned on whether God is the “author of sin,” they are too quick to say, “No, God is not the author of sin.” And then they twist and turn and writhe on the floor, trying to give man some power of “self-determination,” and some kind of freedom that in their minds would render man culpable, and yet still leave God with total sovereignty.

    Again, I asked these particular Calvinists if this paper reflected their view and got an enthusiastic “yes” it does.

    ——-

    Some of my Calvinist friends view the above view as hyper-Calvinism and say it represents a very small minority of Calvinist. Perhaps it is because they tend to be more aggressive but I am seeing more of this variety than of the “softer version”. If I am reading R.C. Sproul Jr he seems to be going this way. What do you think?

    • andrew Says:

      mr. bryson,
      was not the crucifixion the greatest sinful act in the world? would you not say that it was more wicked than all the other crimes ever committed in the history of the universe a million times over?

      mr bryson who first conceived of the death of christ?

  19. George Bryson Says:

    THE CALVINISM OF CALVIN

    FATALISM

    AND

    GOD AS THE CAUSE OF ALL SINS
    (i.e., MORAL EVIL)

    According to John Calvin:

    …Everything is subject to God and ruled by his will and that when the world has done what it may, nothing happens other than what God decrees. (Acts: Calvin, The Crossway Classic Commentaries, p.66)

    First, the eternal predestination of God, by which before the fall of Adam He decreed what should take place concerning the whole human race and every individual, was fixed and determined. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.121)

    God had no doubt decreed before the foundation of the world what He would do with every one of us and had assigned to everyone by His secret counsel his part in life. (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.20)

    …The reason why God elects some and rejects others is to be found in His purpose alone…before men are born their lot is assigned to each of them by the secret will of God… the salvation or the destruction of men depends on His free election. (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, p.203)

    Everything is controlled by God’s secret purpose, and nothing can happen except by his knowledge and will. (The Institutes of Christian Religion, p.72)

    What we must prove is that single events are ordered by God and that every event comes from his intended will. Nothing happens by chance. (The Institutes of Christian Religion, p.73)

    For the man who honestly and soberly reflects on these things, there can be no doubt that the will of God is the chief and principal cause of all things. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.177)

    When he uses the term permission, he means that the will of God is the supreme and primary cause of everything, because nothing happens without his order of permission. (The Institutes of Christian Religion, p.75)

    …The devil and all the ungodly are reined in by God, so that they cannot conceive, plan or carry out any crime, unless God allows it, indeed commands it. They are not only in bondage to him, but are forced to serve him. It is the Lord’s prerogative to enable the enemy’s rage and to control it at will, and it is in his power to decide how far and how long it may last, so that wicked men cannot break free and do exactly what they want…. (The Institutes of Christian Religion, pp.81-82)

    Whatever things are done wrongly and unjustly by man, these very things are the right and just works of God. This may seem paradoxical at first sight to some…. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.169)

    …What I said before is to be remembered, that since God manifests His power through means and inferior causes, it is not to be separated from them. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.170)

    …Of all the things which happen, the first cause is to be understood to be His will, because He so governs the natures created by Him, as to determine all the counsels and the actions of men to the end decreed by Him. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.178)

    Thinking that the difficulty here may be resolved by a single word [permit], some are foolish enough serenely to overlook what occasions the greatest ambiguity; namely, how God may be free of guilt in doing the very thing that He condemns in Satan and the reprobate and which is to be condemned by men. (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.179)

    We learn that nothing happens but what seems good to God. How then is God to be exempted from the blame to which Satan with his instruments is liable? (Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, p.180)

    I have dealt at length with the issue concerning the overlap or intersection of what God accomplished when Christ died for our sins and what sinful did in killing Him in the Dark Side of Calvinism. Do you think that makes God the author of or responsible for that sin?

  20. Darrin Says:

    George,

    Though I know you do not quote Calvin favorably, I’m very happy that you listed these quotes, which in reading grant much comfort to me and glory to God. I hope to go through that excellent-looking “Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God” and “A Defense of the Secret Providence of God” sometime. For any readers who are interested, this can be found on the web, among other links,

    Here

    and Here.

    Of course, in the last two quotes you are stating accusations which Calvin attributes to his opponents, and yet you do not show any of Calvin’s anwers. Even a quick browse through the work revealed great insight which directly address these issues. But for the sake of time and space, I just include a few quotes below, following those questions:

    “Yet these ignorant reasoners would involve God and the wicked in the same guilt, where the act of God, working by the wicked, is in such sense common to Him and them. But not so did David. When Shimei assaulted him with reproaches and stones, he did not stop at the man, but looked at the command of God: ” Let him curse (said he), for God hath bidden him” (2 Sam. xvi. 6). And yet he does not rise up against God, but with all humility offers his back to the stripes, and says, ” Who shall then say, Wherefore hast Thou done so? ” (ver. 10). As he speaks also in the Psalms, ” I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it” (Ps. xxxix. 9). For what one of the godly will not the majesty of God in a moment reduce to silence?”

    “Wherefore, when the wickedness of men proceeds thus from the Lord, and from a just cause, but from a cause unknown to us, although the first cause of all things be His will, that He is therefore the author of sin I most solemnly deny. Nevertheless, that difference of causes, on which I have before dwelt, is by no means to be forgotten.”

    “Our adversaries load us with illiberal and disgraceful calumny, when they cast it in our teeth that we make God the author of sin, by maintaining that His will is the cause of all things that are done. For when a man perpetrates anything unjustly, incited by ambition, or avarice, or lust, or any other depraved passion; if God, by His just but secret judgment, perform His works by means of such an one’s hands, the mention of sin cannot be made with reference to God in those His righteous acts. It is perfidy, pride, cruelty, intemperance, envy, self-conceit, or some like depraved desire that constitutes sin in man. But no such desire can be found in God.”

    “Most true is that which the Psalm affirms, “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity ” (Palm v. 5). Nor, indeed, does God there testify by the mouth of David, anything else than that which He exemplifies in reality every day when He punishes men for their transgressions. Nor would He punish their sins if He did not hate those sins. You here see, then, that God is an avenger, from which we are fully assured that He is not an approver. But many are deceived in these sacred matters, not rightly considering that God willeth righteously those things which men do wickedly. “How will you explain this? ” you may say. I reply, God abominates all adulterous and incestuous intercourse. Absalom defiles his father’s concubines in the sight of the people. Was this done, in every sense, contrary to the will of God? No ! God had predicted, by His servant Nathan, that Absalom should do this (2 Sam. xii. 11, 12): ” I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” The Scripture is replete with examples of the same nature and tendency.”

    “We have before observed that sins are frequently punishments by which God retributively avenges men’s former transgressions. In all such dispensations of His Providence, there are two things which claim our deep consideration: the just judgment of God, by which He testifies that He hates the sin, which He thus visits with its due punishment; and the wickedness of man, which stands directly opposed to the will of God.”

    – John Calvin

    You might keep in mind that in likening the will and deeds of God to those of men, you are not really comparing to apples-to-apples, most significantly in this matter: Whatever God does, He accomplishes to the end that He is glorified; thus whatever He does or intends is to His own glory, and so cannot be truly evil, by definition, although some of these works may appear evil to man. On the other hand, men carrying out sinful deeds are not doing so in the interest of God’s glory at all. Their acts really are evil.


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