It has been often objected by free will theists and atheists alike that the belief in God with the conjunction of Calvinistic Determinism is irrational because it cannot give an adequate answer to the atheological argument from evil. This argument has been popularly called the “Problem of evil.” In this post we will look at how this problem arises in Christian theistic philosophy and how a Calvinistic Determinist might possibly respond to this objection.
The Problem of Evil:
The problem arises with the conjunction of the following propositions:
P1: God is morally perfect
P2: God is omnipotent (being able to bring about all logically possible good things)
P3: God is omniscient (knowing all true propositions)
P4: Evil Exists
There is no obvious contradiction here unless one adds in this proposition:
P5: P1 entails that God ought to stop all evil as much as he possibly can
One could merely reject P5 on the basis of this proposition, namely P6:
P6: God has a morally sufficient reason for strongly actualizing evil in the world
Now one might ask “what would that morally sufficient reason be?” To this question I would give two possible responses. First, though, I should note that this is a defense and not a theodicy. The difference between a defense and a theodicy is that a defense shows how the propositions above are just logically possible, whereas a theodicy attempts to show the reason for why God allows or causes evil in the world. In writing this I do not pretend to be so presumptuous as to know the mind of God, rather I am merely showing that there is no contradiction between Calvinistic determinism and evil.
Response 1: Transcendent Response
It could be that God has a morally sufficient reason for causing evil and we simply do not have cognitive access to that aspect of God’s mind. This is perfectly reasonable and coherent given the Reformed emphasis on the creator/creature distinction. Furthermore, Reformed folks have a robust view of this distinction such that they would say that the divine and human intellects never intersect (Scott Clark and most people at Westminster affirm this presupposition). Therefore, given these Reformed presuppositions the problem of evil is hardly a problem.
Response 2: Anselmian Divine Attributes Response
Another possible reason relies on the concept of God as the greatest possible being. God is the greatest possible being so he necessarily is just and gracious to the greatest possible degree. But the problem is that God cannot be gracious if he so chooses to create without the existence of moral evil. Because to be gracious one has to bestow demerited favor toward agents, but there simply can be no such demerit unless an agent S sins. Thus, one such reason for causing human agents to sin is so that God can manifest his graciousness to the greatest possible degree. This greatest degree of graciousness would also entail him sending his Son Jesus Christ into the world to display his graciousness to the greatest possible degree toward sinners.
Another thing that the cross of Christ displays is God’s justice toward sinners. God’s justice is such that it requires manifestation if he is to create. He is so just that he has to manifest a just judgment between the righteous and the unrighteous. This justice is such that he would create lesser beings that are evil just so he can show his greatness through punishing them justly. Thus, in this defense God’s glory as a whole is more important than an individual creature that God creates for the purposes of letting the greatest possible being act as the greatest possible being. Hence, God’s Glory and letting himself act on his creation in accordance with his divine great-making properties is the morally sufficient reason for God causally determining every evil event.
These all seem like possible Reponses that a Calvinist could give and thus one ought not to abandon Reformed theology on the basis of the problem of evil, since there are at least two possible responses. Reformed theology like this defense puts the emphasis on God’s glory and not on man’s. God’s glory is the greatest possible end because God is the greatest possible being and thus although response 2 may seem offensive to some, but if one looks at things from the perspective of God’s glory being the highest good end, then perhaps the offensive nature of this response will disappear (at the very least, a humble and pious attitude ought to lessen the offense). We live in a world that puts emphasis and attention on the individual man rather than the community and the greatest possible being, so for those of us who are ready they can use this effective Calvinistic Defense against the atheological objection from evil.