Disapproving God’s Plan | Part Two

July 14, 2016

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
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Now that we have established the ACTUAL CLAIMS of Calvinism in regard to the horrible atrocities of mankind as taking “place by his determination and bidding” and unchangeably “brought about for his glory” let us now turn our attention back to the question of this article.

Why do self-proclaimed Calvinists express disapproval and indignation against that which God has unchangeably brought to pass for His own self-glorification?

It certainly seems reasonable to disapprove of the autonomous behavior of evil men who openly rebel against the will of God and seek to cause destruction. It does not seem reasonable, however, for one to express disapproval and disgust for that which was planned and brought about by God for His own self-glorification.

I recently pressed a Calvinistic friend on this question and he repeatedly appealed to the crucifixion, arguing in part, “Wouldn’t you have been horrified and disappointed by the crucifixion of Jesus, yet wasn’t that brought about by the determination of God?”

I simply pointed to the cross hanging around his neck and asked, “If you are horrified and disappointed by the crucifixion, why are you wearing that cross?”

He is not disappointed by what God did to redeem the world from sin. He wants that event to be known by everyone. Why?  Because we know God’s good self-sacrificial purpose and plan in working to bring about redemption for the sins of the world through Calvary. The story of the cross stands out as unique part of God’s good redemptive plan to redeem all sin, not as the proof of God being the cause for all sin.

We can now read scriptures and learn that God temporarily blinded the rebellious Israelites from recognizing their own Messiah so as to ensure the crucifixion would take place, and who are we to question God’s good purposes in doing so? (Rom. 3:1-8; Rom. 9 — READ THIS for more)  But proof that God “brought about” the redemption of man’s sinful actions on Calvary certainly does not prove that God “brought about” the very sins that His Son died to redeem.

This is a common error of Calvinists.  They take unique examples of God working to bring about a good purpose through the evil intentions of mankind as proof that God (1) “sovereignly brought about” the evil intentions themselves and (2) that He “sovereignly works” in this same way at all times throughout history. In other words, if Calvinism is true then God worked to “sovereignly bring about” the redemption of a child abuser in the same way that He worked to “sovereignly bring about” the abuse of that child. This flies in the face of so much of what we read in scripture about the character and holiness of our God. (CLICK HERE for more on this)

According to my Calvinistic friend’s argument, God seems to be “sovereignly working” so as to redeem “His sovereign workings.”(i.e. God is sovereignly working to bring about redemption so as to redeem the sins that He sovereignly worked to bring about.) Is God merely determining to redeem His own determinations?  Of course not!

Appealing to God’s sovereign work to ensure the redemption of sin so as to prove that God sovereignly works to bring about all the sin that was redeemed is an absurd, self-defeating argument. It would be tantamount to arguing that because a police department set up a sting operation to catch a notorious drug dealer, that the police department is responsible for every single intention and action of that drug dealer at all times. Proof that the police department worked in secretive ways to hide their identities, use evil intentions, and work out the circumstances in such a way that the drug dealer would do what they wanted him to do (sell drugs) at that particular moment in time does not suggest that the police are in anyway responsible for all that drug dealer has done or ever will do. We celebrate and reward the actions of this police department because they are working to stop the drug activity, not because they are secretly causing all of it so as to stop some of it. Teaching that God brings about all sin based on how He brought about Calvary is like teaching that the police officer brings about every drug deal based on how he brought about one sting operation.

Yes, at times the scriptures do speak of God “hardening” men’s hearts (Ex. 7; Rm. 9), blinding them with a “spirit of stupor” (Rm. 11:8) and delaying their healing by use of parabolic language (Mk. 4:11-12, 34; Matt. 16:20), and He always does so for a redemptive good. <more on this HERE>  But the reason such passages stand out so distinctly from the rest of scripture is because of their uniqueness. If God worked this way in every instance these texts would make no sense. After all, what is there for God to harden, provoke, or restrain if not the autonomous will of creatures?

If everything is under the meticulous control of God’s sovereign work what is left to permit and/or restrain except that which He is already controlling? Is God merely restraining something that He perviously determined? Why blind eyes from seeing something the were “naturally” predetermined not to see? Why put a parabolic blind fold on a corpse-like dead sinner incapable of seeing spiritual truth? These are questions many Calvinists seem unwilling to entertain at any depth. <for more CLICK HERE>

We must understand that God, like the police department in the analogy above, may be hiding His identity at times and working to use the evil intentions of bad men for a greater good, but that in no way impugns His character by suggesting He is “the cause of all things that are.” And it certainly does not suggest that every evil desire and intention is “brought about to glorify God” as explicitly taught by Calvinism’s actual claims reflected in the quotes above.

Please notice I said “Calvinism’s ACTUAL CLAIMS.” I want to draw everyone’s attention to that because what typically follows this line of argumentation is a Calvinist’s appeal to the “you too fallacy” (i.e. “you too” have the same problem because you affirm omniscience.) But be aware, I am opposing an ACTUAL CLAIM of Calvinism and Calvinists are attempting to argue that I have the same problem based NOT ON OUR ACTUAL CLAIMS, but based on their own philosophical speculation about the infinite nature of divine omniscience (i.e. if God knows something and does not prevent it, that somehow proves that He brought it about for His own self-glorification). Notice, however, that none of our scholars ACTUALLY MAKE THIS CLAIM, therefore the Calvinistic argument is fallacious because it assumes true the very position we oppose (see question begging fallacy). If Calvinists are going to oppose our position they have to deal with the ACTUAL CLAIMS of our scholars, not their own philosophical conclusions. In making this “you too” argument, the Calvinist has unwittingly become guilty of the very straw-man fallacy they often attempt to lay on us for opposing “Calvinism’s ACTUAL CLAIMS.”