Why I believe in the Invisible War Addendum
Before I get to the meat of my post I want to give readers a “heads-up” that this is my post for the week. I will be visiting my in-laws for Thanksgiving and won’t be able to respond to any comments until Sunday at the earliest. I wish anyone who reads this a happy Thanksgiving holiday!
In my recent posts I have been writing about the problem of evil (the technical term is theodicy) and that I believe that most Christians don’t have a good answer for it. One of my frequent commenters who goes by the name Heavenbound (hello Heavenbound!) has written a couple of comments to my previous post where he basically challenges that having an answer to the question of evil is a big deal (my phrase not his). For example he writes this:
God doesn’t allow anything bad to happen, it just happens. People kill, maim, steal, hate fellowman. They also love, honor, respect and defend. It’s the human condition. Fear, love and hate are the 3 most pervasive emotions man expresses. Call it good or evil if you like. Grace is unmerited favor. No matter how good or evil we are, grace covers it all.
That is a perfect segue into the topic. I believe that there is a lot more to the question than this and that having a good explanation for the existence of evil is important. I tracked down some references as a good introduction to what Christians are saying which I am going to quote from. Before I do that I will also say that an explanation of why evil exists will not necessarily convince an unbeliever of the truth. We, as ambassadors of Christ, still have a responsibility to provide Divine truth to this lost and dying world.
The first reference I want to provide is from a Calvinist blog where the author is responding to an article (which no longer exists) where the Calvinist explanation for the existence of evil is questioned (link here for the article). That original post outlined what is probably the most common atheist argument for God’s non-existence:
1. God, if God exists, is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good.
2. If there is a God, then there is no unnecessary evil, that is, an evil that the world would be better off without. As Leibniz would say, if there is a God, then this is the best of all possible worlds.
3. But there is unnecessary evil. This is clearly not the best of all possible worlds.
4. Therefore God does not exist.
That same author then goes on to say:
The problem with Calvinism is that on the Calvinistic view God sovereignly determines the outcome of every action. And there are situations which persevere into eternity which very clearly could have been better. In particular, “Smith’s going to hell” is a situation which goes preseveres [sic] into eternity and is not going to get better.
The article goes on to provide a Calvinist refutation of that logic. The refutation is one that I have seen before and I think comes up short.
The statement that Calvinists believe that God sovereignly determines the outcome of every action is, in my experience, true. There are many Calvinists who say that this is only true of “5 point Calvinists” and does not apply to them. However, I have not met a Calvinist who does not believe in what is called God’s “absolute sovereignty.” A belief in absolute sovereignty really must lead to a belief that God does sovereignly determine the outcome of each action. Many will deny that but I see no other way.
Of course there are those, such as myself, that believe that human free will is the answer to that question. Calvinists do not like that response because they believe that this is an attack on God himself. If humans are allowed free will then this means that God is not absolutely sovereign. This they believe to be a blaspheme of the highest order. Of course I believe that God is sovereign but I do believe that God has the freedom to make creatures with true free will (“libertarian free will”) without violating His own character.
This takes us down the rabbit hole of Calvinist logic and word games and that isn’t the point of this post. I believe the philosophical outcome of this (Calvinism is very philosophical) is that God ends out being the author of evil but most Calvinists are unwilling to say that directly. If you do want an in depth study of this please go to Dan Gracely’s online book “Calvinism: A Closer Look” for the details.
At another blog the author, who does not hold to Calvinism, comes to a conclusion about Calvinist theodicy which I have also found to be true (link here):
Now if “good” means “in accordance with God’s will, then there is simply no possibility that God actions can possibly be wrong. If we are prepared to set aside the concept of goodness that we are inclined to apply to human beings and admit that “good” means be definition “whatever God wills,” there simply can be no problem of evil.
That is what I have also seen in Calvinist explanations of why evil exists. They basically come to the conclusion that there is not a problem of evil and that the only reason we think that there is evil is that we cannot understand God’s ways (do a web search on the Creator/creature distinction for more on this). I reject this because God has taken the effort of giving us scripture in order to explain why He is doing what He is doing. While we cannot comprehensively understand His plan we can understand what He has revealed to us. If we cannot understand then why provide scripture for us in the first place?
I have been picking on Calvinists but they are not the sum total of protestant theology (I don’t know how the Catholic Church handles the question of evil). What about the Lutheran explanation of evil? I was able find surprisingly little on the topic. However I did find one article on Lutheran theodicy which I found to be interesting (link here). Here is the key conclusion from that article:
In the end, all speculative theodicies flounder upon the following paradox: that a God who is loving and omnipotent has created a world in which suffering and evil run rampant. No explanation that takes both God and evil seriously will ever be able to solve this contradiction. The advantage of Luther’s existential approach is that it doesn’t try to resolve the paradox, but instead incorporates it into faith itself. Of course, this won’t satisfy the theologian of glory who craves an all-encompassing explanation, but it will suffice for those who “know God hidden in suffering.”
Once again I don’t believe that the question cannot be resolved scripturally. I don’t believe that out best explanation is “I don’t know.”
I did try and find information on Arminian theodicy (this would be the theodicy of John Wesley and Methodism) but came up empty. My guess would be that it does follow some form of a free will explanation for the existence of evil but I am not sure.
The explanation that I believe is scripturally solid is put forth in The Invisible War. This explanation requires the elevation of both human and angelic free will. The premise in The Invisible War makes free will not only important but paramount. God allows sin and evil for a short time to show that His way is the only way that does not lead to death and suffering. This is considered blasphemous by the majority of Christians but that doesn’t make it untrue. The answer to the question is that it is our fault and the only way out of the “sin problem” is to look to the one true God of creation and to follow Him.