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Stress-testing the
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Where a recovering ex-atheist rams the Bible into other worldviews to see what breaks (note: Scripture cannot be broken)


presentations
The Molinist/Arminian ideal of fatherhood

If God is the “author” of sin under Calvinism, what does that make him under Molinism/Arminianism?

Molinists and Arminians are quick to condemn Calvinism for impugning God’s character. A perfectly good God cannot cause evil. God is a loving father, and loving fathers don’t cause their children to hurt each other (or themselves).

God merely “permits” sin—and he has to permit it, because he cannot interfere with our free will.

Let’s suppose that’s true.

What about the staggering number of awful, horrific sins that God could prevent without interfering with free will at all?

For instance, why doesn’t God cause all the rounds that end up killing people to misfire? Why doesn’t he cause thick fog to blanket an area where refugees are being hunted by rape gangs? Why didn’t he make the brakes fail on Ted Bundy’s car, so he hit a pole and lost the use of his legs? Is there some reason God wouldn’t directly intervene in these events, as any loving father would? (Or, if for some obscure reason God cannot intervene directly, why could he not have providentially arranged the world so these things happened in the normal course of natural events?)

And that’s not even looking at all the evil that happens by accident. God can’t interfere with free will when it comes to sin; but what about something like forgetfulness? Why can’t he just nudge people to remind them to close the gate to the pool, so their toddler doesn’t wander in and drown? Why can’t he nudge them to remember to lock the gun safe, so their kids don’t play with the pistols and blow their own heads open? How is directly putting those thoughts into their heads notably different from another person reminding them verbally? And even if it does override free will, wouldn’t these people prefer he did that if it means saving their children from tragic, preventable deaths that wreck the lives of their families? Wouldn’t they freely choose that if they could?

Molinists and Arminians like to say that Calvinism makes God the “author of evil”. They rely on their intuitions about goodness to set boundaries on what it is possible for the Bible to be saying when it speaks of election, predestination, hardening, sovereignty and so on. God simply can’t mean that he does what Calvinists say he does, because that would make God evil. God cannot be less loving than us.

Yet God under Molinism refuses to remind people to lock their gun safes—and then stands by while kids play with weapons and kill themselves. He could have prevented that in any number of ways. Didn’t he love those children at least as much as their own father did?

He refuses to do anything, no matter how indirectly or “naturally”, to prevent Ted Bundy from raping, torturing, and murdering women. Aren’t Ted and those women all his children? Doesn’t he love them at least as much as their own parents? And wouldn’t their parents try to do something—anything—to prevent those terrible things?

He refuses to offer any kind of help to terrified girls being hunted by rape gangs. Doesn’t he love those girls as much as their fathers? What about the children he loves who he lets walk into schools and mow down dozens of other children he loves?

Is this the the Molinist/Arminian ideal of fatherhood?

10 comments

  1. Ryan

    Not to mention that there was nothing requiring God to link “natural” evil with The Fall. He chose to make that a consequence of the fall. So every tornado, tsunami, earthquake or flood that wipes out a town does so because God ordained that it would – He chose to make it a consequence of our sin.

  2. Andrew

    You treat “Molinists” as though they are necessarily distinct from Calvinists…this remains to be seen…

  3. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    This seems off-topic, but the fact that a few theologically-aberrant Calvinists want to integrate LFW into Calvinism—a project Paul Manata has shown is almost certainly stillborn—doesn’t have much force against the fact that Molinists are almost invariably not Calvinists.

  4. bethyada

    Bnonn, Arminians don’t think that God can’t interfere with freewill. Of course he can. He does. He caused the premature death of Ananias for his sin which ended his freedom to interact in the world further. Nor do they think that God doesn’t influence men in any way. God does remind people of things to prevent evil.

    It is more that if there is no freewill at all then there is no love. Whatever evils God currently prevents (the other 2 20th century holocausts that never happened) we don’t usually know about them. But stopping every sin means that we can’t make any choice.

  5. bethyada

    I understood that both some Arminians and some Calvinists consider themselves Molonists. I thought that Craig (A) and Plantinga (C) were both Molonists?

  6. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Bethyada, some Arminians certainly do think God does not interfere with free will. But I am glad you don’t.

    I think there are some basic problems with your assertions that without free will there is no love, and that if God stops every sin then we can’t make any choice.

    The first seems subject to obvious counterexamples. At a simplistic level, I do not freely choose to love my children. I never did. It just happened, and I don’t know how I could stop. At a more fundamental level, love is exemplified in God; indeed, God is love. He is perfect community. Problemo: God and his attributes exist necessarily; therefore, he is perfect community necessarily; therefore he loves necessarily; therefore he cannot choose not to love or be love. But by standard Molinist/Arminian accounts of freedom, an act is only free if one can choose to do otherwise. So God’s love, the very thing that love is, is not free.

    Your second assertion also seems subject to problems. For example, it seems to imply that every choice must be a choice to sin or not. That’s obviously wrong. But we don’t need to go there, since even if we suppose this is true, it is completely unresponsive to my argument. However much God does to prevent evil, it is obvious that he could do a great deal more without even interfering with anyone’s free will. So simply saying, “Well, he could also make the world much worse” doesn’t seem to be a very promising line of argument.

  7. bethyada

    Thanks Bnonn. I am not familiar with any Arminian writing that states that God is _unable_ to interfere with freedom without other caveats. But happy for you to point me otherwise (don’t care if you don’t either, not asking you to search stuff out for me). More that God does not, or that he cannot without having some other effect (such as losing love).

    I think some are easier to love than others (family), but my choice to love my enemies (act graciously) is not something that comes easily, yet something I believe I can to, or not do. And even with those I love (my family), I am conflicted between doing what is best for them and what I want at times.

    I will have to think further about the necessary attributes of God. While I think that God is necessary, this is more an argument for man: God cannot not exist. I don’t know if necessary attributes limit God, they are more just who he is. Either way, it is more what God does that concerns me which I see as free. Ie. that he creates, or not; how he expresses love within the trinity. None of that I see as necessary. So I think God has freedom of choice and our freedom is a communicable attribute, though we have much less freedom than God.

    Not meaning to resolve the Calvinist debate here, more to clarify your argument here. Will have a look at your other posts.

  8. Remington

    Because, Plantinga speculates, maybe stray bullets that hit innocent bystanders are guided by the free will of demons. So if God were to prevent stray bullets from hitting little Timmy, he would violate the free will of Screwtape.

    Of course it’s not clear why God wants to uphold the free will of demons, since he has no plan of salvation or “freely chosen true love” for them.

  9. steve

    Actually, I think Bnonn is making a stronger point. Given freewill theism, it’s not just that God could do more to prevent evil without violating the libertarian freedom of human agents. In addition, many such agents would welcome, say, God reminding them to do things that prevent the accidental death of a child (to take one example).

  10. Dominic Bnonn Tennant

    Remington, I’m not sure whether you’re having a laugh or not. If you’re not, I think this illustrates the absurdly ad hoc and implausible lengths Molinists will go to in order to preserve their system.

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