Too often, God gets blamed for what He did not cause.
A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 9: The Theodical Aspect of the Gospel Invitation
This is the twelfth of a series of articles by Dr. Cox, with a Biblical critique of Calvinism drawn in part from his book Not One Little Child. All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise noted.
I remember hearing from one of my seminary professors how a very close friend of his had been electrocuted while working on an air conditioner. After the funeral, many of the man’s closest friends gathered at his home for food and fellowship. During this time, several of the men commented that it must have been God’s will for the man to die, to which the rest agreed; except for my professor. He told us that he had listened to about all of this nonsense that he could stand and he finally spoke up and boldly asserted, “I think it was probably God’s will that he not work on the air conditioner with it plugged in.” The silence in the room was deafening.
Too often, God gets blamed for what He did not cause. Let me explain, from Scripture, the best biblical representation I have ever seen regarding causes of death. The text is 1 Sam. 26:10, which, I believe, does a marvelous service of describing three primary sources which can bring about death to people. These three are acts of God, acts of nature, and acts of man.
David was on the run from King Saul, who, in his madness, was intent on killing Israel’s future king. In one particular encounter, David’s military companion, Abishai, was sure that God had orchestrated things such that David would be Saul’s executioner and effectively end this fiasco once and for all. But, again and again, David wisely declined to kill the troubled king. Instead, David explained to Abishai that there were at least three causes of death for man. My exposition of David’s words is both an attempt to use them to help explain the problem of evil and suffering in the world and an attempt to defend the righteousness and goodness of God, which is known as a theodicy, hence, my categorization as a theodical weakness.
The first thing I notice that David said concerning death is that the Lord may strike one down. This I describe as an act of God. Such an act suggests the direct divine intervention of God in a matter. Usually, this sort of death is seen to be punitive. The chilling examples of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3) as well as Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) are biblical accounts which appear to fit the category of death being orchestrated by a direct act of God.
The next possibility that David mentioned is that Saul’s day will come that he dies. This suggests death by way of what I call an act of nature (see also Num. 19:16, 18). No direct divine intervention is mentioned. No divine punishment is implied. The deaths of Abraham (Gen. 25:7-8) and Jacob (Gen. 49:33) serve as biblical examples of those who simply die of natural causes. Heart attacks, strokes, and other causes related to aging and worn out bodies fit into this category. Usually, tornado, hurricane, and flood victims also fit into this category, although I readily acknowledge the fact that evil powers may use nature to kill, as can be seen in the case of Job’s family (Job 1:18-22). I also believe that the number of deaths by way of natural causes can be reduced by using caution regarding eating habits and taking cover when storms arise.
The third statement David makes is quite intriguing. David asserted that Saul may go down in battle. This I label as a death being caused by an act of man. One may be killed in battle, killed in a car wreck, killed in a shooting, and so forth. The biblical examples of the deaths of Saul (1 Sam. 31:1-4) and Uriah (2 Sam. 11:14-17) illustrate death brought about by an act of man. Similarly, some diseases can be traced to man, like AIDS, tobacco related cancer, radiation (sun) exposure, and more. And, I once again acknowledge that evil powers may use people to kill people (Job 1:13-17).
Not everything that happens is caused by God. There are acts of God, acts of nature, and acts of man. We would do well to remember these categories when it comes to explaining evil and suffering in the world. God is good and has man’s best in mind; yet, the human mind and demonic forces seek to raise a barrier between God and man by questioning the goodness of God and making Him responsible for all evil and suffering, when He, in fact, has allowed man to sow what he wishes. But with sowing also comes reaping. Man wants to sow evil and then blame God for reaping suffering. The true culprits are people and demonic forces. Faith in Jesus Christ can protect us from demonic forces, but what will protect us from us? We must cease saddling God with all the ills of the world and assume the responsibility for our own demise. David clearly described three different possibilities and refused to lump them all together as acts of God, so neither should we. Calvinism has no answer other than “the sovereignty of God in predestination” when it attempts to explain causes of death. Such a defense is lame as well as blasphemous, in that it is shallowly ambiguous, untrue to Scripture, as I have sought to demonstrate in 1 Sam. 26:10, and is an affront to the righteousness of Almighty God. God (theos) is righteous (dike) and in Him there is no unrighteousness. These two Greek words brought together render the transliteration theodicy, or, more precisely, “Godrighteous.” Calvinism has an appalling theodical weakness.
The next article in this series will explore the repentance weakness of Calvinism.