What Makes Him So Sure?

September 10, 2008

Part of the self-identity of Restoration theology is that it intentionally non-Calvinistic.  But this non-Calvinism is not consistently applied, and that’s part of what I’m driving at in this series.  Anabaptists have an interesting habit of needing to be Calvinists in spite of themselves.
Here’s an example.  God has made quite an impressive collection of promises to His people, promises which are to be fulfilled in the future.  How do we know that God will fulfill His promises?  Well, in a nutshell, we know because God declares His absolute faithfulness, and redemptive history supports His claim.  But how does God know that He will fulfill His promises to us?  What makes Him so sure?  When God says that all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, how can He know this confidently enough to say it with a straight face?  Does He look back on His winning record and figure that the odds are pretty favorable?  I say that God is not guessing, or lying, but that He knows with absolute certainty that He will accomplish all His decretal will.  But I also say that He cannot know this unless He holds all things, including evil, in the palm of His sovereign hand.  If God does not control evil, then neither He nor we can be sure of His ability to keep His promises regarding our salvation from evil. 
But hold on — can’t we just say that God is stronger than evil, so that while He does not ordain it in any sense, He is still always able to overcome it as it occurs?  Well, yeah, we can say it, but it doesn’t get us anywhere.  First of all, if we mean that God doesn’t know what’s going to happen ahead of time, but fields the ball flawlessly anyway, we’ve denied a basic biblical attribute of God (foreknowledge), and that won’t do.  Second, if we mean instead that God foreknows but doesn’t ordain, then we’re talking nonsense, because we’re talking about a foreknowing God who created this world instead of, say, a world without evil (see here).  Third, if God doesn’t ordain evil, then who does?  Satan?  Okay, fine — let’s go with that.  But then, to whom is Satan subordinate?  Who sets the bounds for Satan’s activities?  Who determines the extent of Satan’s evil schemes?  Why, God of course.  And how does God determine the extent to which He is going to limit Satan at any given time?  By the council of His own will.  So then there’s no entity outside of God governing how much He has to limit Satan?  No, of course not.  God and God alone is the sole determiner of the extent of Satan’s efficacy.  God could, if He wanted to, snuff Satan right now.  But He doesn’t, and that’s got to be either because He can’t, or because He has decided not to for a reason.  Translation: we either answer like flaming heretics, or we answer like Calvinists.  And most days, anabaptists answer like Calvinists.
Not surprisingly, there are some who try to invent a third option.  God can know the future, the argument goes, but He chooses not to.  I swear, I am not making this up.  This argument is meant as an attempt to dodge the obvious exegetical difficulties of Open Theism while also keeping one untainted by that horrible stench known as Calvinism [boooo, hisss].  But instead it manages to have all the difficulties of both, for it describes a God who could secure His promises, but refuses to, and then lies about it.

2 Responses to “What Makes Him So Sure?”

  1. Kevin Weinrich Says:

    Thanks for your taking the time to create this insightful commentary.

    Do you think that there is a difference between the phrases “God is the author of evil” and “God is the ordainer of evil”?

  2. daddylong Says:


    Depending on how you define your terms of course, yes there is a difference. God is not the author in the sense that He is not the primary agent, meaning for example that He wasn’t one of the false witnesses against Christ; yet God ordained what the false witnesses did, and brought about His eternal purposes by what they did, not in spite of what they did (Acts 4:27-28).

    Scripture is clear that God ordains whatever comes to pass, and scripture is equally clear that God is perfectly righteous and does not sin.

    I must confess I’m no more able to explain this than I am able to explain how trinitarianism keeps from being polytheism — I just have to accept it, because it’s plainly declared (“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [“elohim” = plural] is one LORD [singular],” Deuteronomy 6:4).

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