(image courtesy ChristArt)
By Spencer D Gear
A Calvinist asked, ‘Would you agree that God decrees some evil?’
To this came a response:
Along that line of thought, may I interject some passages which may shed light on the discussion. It seems that we tend to elevate God’s love, from a human perspective, above God’s holiness and an imbalance develops. Consider these passages in the discussion.
“Who can command and have it done if the Lord has forbidden it? Do not both bad and good proceed from the mouth of the Most High? Why should any man living complain, any mortal who has sinned?” (Lam 3:37-39, REB)
“I make the light, I create the darkness; author alike of wellbeing and woe, I, the Lord, do all these things.” (Isa 45:7 REB)
(Notice, NOT author of sin, but of woes, disasters, plagues, etc.)
“If a trumpet sounds in the city, are not the people alarmed? If disaster strikes a city, is it not the work of the Lord?” (Amos 3:6, REB)
“When the Adversary left the Lord’s presence, he afflicted Job with running sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head, and Job took a piece of a broken pot to scratch himself as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, ‘Why do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God, and die!’ He answered, ‘You talk as any impious woman might talk. If we accept good from God, shall we not accept evil?’ Throughout all this, Job did not utter one sinful word.” (Job 2:7-10, REB) (Good grammar indicates it was the Adversary who did the afflicting, not God; yet, it was in God’s plan.)
“The Lord said, “Who will entice King Ahab of Israel to go up and attack Ramoth-gilead?” One said one thing and one said another, until a spirit came forward and, standing before the Lord, said, “I shall entice him.” “How?” said the Lord. “I shall go out”, he answered, “and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets.” “Entice him; you will succeed,” said the Lord. “Go and do it.” You see, then, how the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours, because he has decreed disaster for you.’” (2Chr 18:19-22, REB)
(This is indeed a startling statement we must be cautious with indeed.)
“For the Son of Man is going his appointed way; but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!’” (Luke 22:22, REB)
and from the ASV
“For the Son of man indeed goeth, as it hath been determined: but woe unto that man through whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:21-22, ASV)
Then history’s greatest sin, as has been mentioned, is the ultimate decree of God involving man’s sin: Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:27,28.
“I speak God’s hidden wisdom, his secret purpose framed from the very beginning to bring us to our destined glory. None of the powers that rule the world has known that wisdom; if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1Cor 2:7-8, REB)
(Ponder that statement… Satan and his demons were ignorant!)
The REB I quote is the Revised English Bible, 1989 of the U.K.
I asked the person in footnote #1, ‘Does your God decree the rape of children, the Sandy Hook massacre and the Holocaust?’ His blunt response was, ‘Yes’, to which my response was, ‘What an horrific God you serve who preordains pedophilia against children and the Sandy Hook massacre!’ What do you think his reply could be? Here it is: ‘It’s the same God you serve. You just think He’s impotent’.
What evil does God decree?
My response to Chasewind (footnote #2) was as follows:
Isaiah 45:7 reads: ‘I form the light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD who does all these things’ (ESV).
I have found Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe’s response to this verse to be most helpful (Geisler & Howe 1992:271-272):
ISAIAH 45:7 – Is God the author of evil?
PROBLEM: According to this verse (Is. 45:7), God “creates good and evil” (kjv, cf. Jer. 18:11 and Lam. 3:38; Amos 3:6). But many other Scriptures inform us that God is not evil (1 John 1:5), cannot even look approvingly on evil (Hab. 1:13), and cannot even be tempted by evil (James 1:13).
SOLUTION: The Bible is clear that God is morally perfect (cf. Deut. 32:4; Matt. 5:48), and it is impossible for Him to sin (Heb. 6:18). At the same time, His absolute justice demands that He punish sin. This judgment takes both temporal and eternal forms (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:11–15). In its temporal form, the execution of God’s justice is sometimes called “evil” because it seems to be evil to those undergoing it (cf. Heb. 12:11). However, the Hebrew word for evil (ra) used here does not always mean moral evil. Indeed, the context indicates that it should be translated, as the nkjv and other modern translations do, as “calamity.” Thus, God is properly said to be the author of “evil” in this sense, but not in the moral sense—at least not directly.
Further, there is an indirect sense in which God is the author of moral evil. God created moral beings with free choice, and free choice is the origin of moral evil in the universe. So, ultimately God is responsible for making moral creatures who are responsible for moral evil. God made evil possible by creating free creatures, but the free creatures made evil actual. Of course, the possibility of evil (i.e., free choice) is itself a good thing. So, God created only good things, one of which was the power of free choice, and moral creatures produced the evil. However, God is the author of a moral universe and in this indirect and ultimate sense is the author of the possibility of evil. Of course, God only permitted evil, but does not promote it, and He will ultimately produce a greater good through it (cf. Gen. 50:20; Rev. 21–22).
GOD IS NOT THE AUTHOR OF EVIL GOD IS THE AUTHOR OF EVIL In the sense of sin: Moral evil, Perversity, Directly, Actuality of evil In the sense of calamity, Non-moral, evil Plagues, Indirectly, Possibility of evil
As indicated above and below, there is quite a controversy in Calvinistic vs Arminian circles as to whether or not God is the cause of all the evil in the world. As a Reformed Arminian, my responses are those of such an understanding of Scripture, some of which are articulated in this brief article.
What Calvin & some Calvinists teach on God’s decree of all evil
John Calvin (courtesy Wikipedia)
What do some Calvinists teach on this critical subject of God creating all evil. Take a read of the statements of leading Calvinists, including Calvin, in ‘A Theology in Tension‘.
Here are a few of the quotes of Calvinists from that site:
‘Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined’.
Calvinist theologian James White, in a debate with Hank Hannegraaf and George Bryson, was asked, “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?” To which Mr. White replied… “Yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen he created it without a purpose … and God is responsible for the creation of despair…. If He didn’t [decree child rape] then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose” (Bible Answer Man interview, ‘Why it is important to go back to the sources, illustrated’, Friday, August 19, 2011).
“Sin is one of the ‘whatsoevers’ that have ‘come to pass’, all of which are ‘ordained’…. Nothing comes to pass contrary to His decree. Nothing happens by chance. Even moral evil, which He abhors and forbids, occurs by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God… man’s inability to explain how God can make things certain, but not compulsory… is no reason to deny that [God] can do it or that he has done it.”
Gordan H. Clark:
‘I wish very frankly and pointedly to assert that if a man gets drunk and shoots his family, it was the will of God that he should do it…” He goes on to assert, “Let it be unequivocally said that this view certainly makes God the cause of sin. God is the sole ultimate cause of everything. There is absolutely nothing independent of him. He alone is the eternal being. He alone is omnipotent. He alone is sovereign.[ Some people who do not wish to extend God’s power over evil things, and particularly over moral evils…The Bible therefore explicitly teaches that God creates sin’.
“The Reformed [Calvinists] agree that God knows what would happen under all conditions, but they reject the notion that this knowledge is ever ultimately based on man’s autonomous decisions. Human decisions, they argue, are themselves the effects of God’s eternal decrees.”
The Holocaust (image courtesy Wikipedia)
So these Calvinists agree that God has decreed all sin and the ultimate cause of everything, including moral evil, is God. It started with Calvin’s teaching that ‘the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined’ (cited above).
I find this to be an obnoxious view of God, the evil one. It is so contrary to the God of light who is also the God of judgment (through disaster and at the Last Judgment). The explanation above by Geisler & Howe (1992:271-272) is much more compatible with the whole tenor of Scripture – God is not the cause of moral evil, but does bring disaster/calamity. There are secondary causes of evil in association with the devil, human beings and other agents.
See also my article, Does God create all of the evil in the world?
Geisler, N. L., & Howe, T. A. 1992. When critics ask:A popular handbook on Bible difficulties. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
 Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘The foreknowledge of God’, Hammster #103. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7741951-11/#post63052072 (Accessed 13 May 2013).
 Ibid., Chasewind #104.
 Ibid., OzSpen #110.
 Ibid., Hammster #111.
 Ibid., OzSpen #112.
 Ibid., Hammster #113.
 Ibid., OzSpen #107.
 Although I have a copy of Geisler & Howe (1992), I copied the above information of Geisler and Howe from Frank Turek’s post of August 23, 2009, available at: http://crossexamined.org/turek-vs-hitchens-ii-debate-video/ (Accessed 13 May 2013). I have added the information in the table below (which is a summary of their position), that is in the Geisler & Howe publication (1992:272).
 All of these citations from this article are referenced from the writings or debates of these Calvinistic promoters. Check out the website for documentation. Emphases in bold are original to the article, ‘’A Theology in Tension‘.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 May 2016.