Yesterday (January 30) one of my favorite Calvinist interlocutors posted this comment here:
“The real difficulty that I have with the Arminian doctrinal position on the question of the origin of evil, as expressed here by Dr. Olson and in his book “Against Calvinism”, is best illustrated by the story Dr. Olson relates in the book of a question posed by one of Dr. Olson’s students at the end of a class Dr. Olson was teaching on Calvinism’s doctrine of God’s sovereignty. The question posed by the student was, “If it was revealed to you in a way you couldn’t question or deny that the true God actually is as Calvinism says and rules as Calvinism affirms, would you still worship him?” Without a moment’s hesitation Dr. Olson responded that, “No, I would not because I could not. Such a God would be a moral monster.”
I applaud Dr. Olson for his doctrinal consistency which immediately led him to realize that the response he gave was the only logical response for the Arminian. I suspect that many who affirm Arminianism would have to give some thought to the question before they responded – and, rightly so, because Dr. Olson’s reply reveals an error that scripture speaks to in several places.
Scripture teaches that when considering the question of evil and suffering there is an incorrect and a correct way to view God’s morality/justness/fairness/goodness. The incorrect way says that there is a rule or law of morality/justness/fairness/goodness against which both ourselves and God are held accountable. According to this view, when we are confronted with the question of evil and suffering – or, with some incomprehensible circumstance – we seek to address it by appealing to the rule or law. This is what Dr. Olson has done, in my view, in his response to the student, although I am certain he doesn’t see it that way. In so doing, he has placed the rule or law above God and made God subject to it. If it were revealed to Dr. Olson that the God described by Calvinism is truly the way God is – as incomprehensible as that circumstance seemingly would be to Dr. Olson’s mind – then Dr. Olson would be compelled by the rule or law to cease his love and worship of God.
The correct way says that God himself is the rule/law/standard. He alone is the judge of such matters. When we as finite created beings do not understand something, or when we struggle with seemingly incomprehensible earthly circumstances, we appeal directly to our Creator in prayer, humbly acknowledging our limitations in the face of God’s incomprehensible goodness and his sovereignty in all things.
This is the message of the book of Job. This is the message, though some will no doubt disagree with my interpretation of these well trod battleground scriptures between Calvinists and Arminians, of the potter/clay analogy referenced by OT prophets Isaiah (64:8) and Jeremiah (18) and again by Paul in his letter to the Romans (9).
We are not to question God because it is not given to us as created beings to understand God’s ways and purposes. We are simply to love and to trust in him completely – independent of our circumstances, as incomprehensible as they may seem, or of what our minds can conceive that may or may not possibly be revealed to us at some future point about God.
This is the essential consequence of Calvinism’s doctrine of the sovereignty of God for the Christian: No circumstance could possibly exist that would cause the Christian who adheres to this doctrine to cease in his love and worship of God.”
Now, by way of response: I agree that “No circumstance could possibly exist that would cause [this] Christian…to cease in his love and worship of God.” The final sentence in Mr. Steele’s comment implies that I think it is “possible” that it could be revealed to me in a way I could not deny that God truly is as Calvinists believe. I don’t think that is possible, so I don’t even worry about it. The question posed to me by the student was completely and exclusively hypothetical. It wasn’t a question about a possible situation I can imagine ever facing. But Mr. Steele’s comment seems to imply that he believes one cannot even invent a hypothetical situation that could cause one who believes his doctrine (Calvinism) to cease loving and worshiping God. Well, let’s give it a try. I asked Mr. Steele to answer a similar hypothetical question to the one the student asked me: “Suppose it were revealed to you in a way you couldn’t doubt or question that Satan is God? Would you still worship him?” Of course it’s a purely hypothetical question. So was the student’s question to me. That’s why I had no qualms about answering it. It couldn’t happen. So I am still waiting for Mr. Steele’s answer to my question because his polemic against me and Arminianism implies that there is no hypothetical situation that could cause him to cease worshiping God. Really? I doubt it. Although purely hypothetical, a situation in which an unexpected and startling revelation comes demonstrating convincingly that Satan is God (that is, that the God of the Bible is really Satan in disguise) is imaginable. That is, the mind can imagine it–however repulsive that might be. Without for a moment entertaining the possibility that it could ever happen in reality, one can still conceive of such an impossible hypothetical situation. That is how the student’s question struck me. Now, I would very much like to hear from Mr. Steele what he would do if such an unexpected and even really impossible situation come about. Would he still worship “God” (Satan)? I can’t imagine it. 🙂