No Stops

August 25, 2008

I’ve recently encountered the argument that there are no stops between Calvinism and atheism, and I’d like to unpack some of the constituent parts of that here.  Since the argument is really couched in the question of the problem of evil, I’ll start there.  Basically, the problem is this: God is here, and so is evil.  Not really a big deal at this level, but the plot really thickens when we borrow attributes of God from orthodox Christianity and start plugging them into the equation: An omnipotent God is here, and so is evil.  An omniscient God is here, and so is evil.  A sovereign God is here, and so is evil.  
If God is all of those things (and He is), and He is also a good God (and He is), then certain questions naturally follow.  Why doesn’t God stop the evil from happening?  In our haste we may find ourselves unwilling to say He doesn’t stop it, and start coming up with thinly veiled ways to suggest that He can’t, although that one requires an artful touch so as to not sound like we’re really denying His omnipotence.  Of course we can’t deny God’s omnipotence, but on the other hand we also cannot have God be the author of evil, because scripture is clear on that as well.  The rabbit hole just goes and goes. 
There is of course a scriptural approach to this question.  Now this is not to say that there is an answer exactly, if by “answer” we mean “a schematic diagram of God’s eternal secret decrees.”  After all, that’s not what the bible is for.  It’s not an owners manual for the Creator — it’s much more like an instruction manual for the creation.  And as such scripture is sufficient to teach us how to approach the question, how not to approach it, and how to settle it comfortably into our faithful expectation of the resurrection.  What I’d like to do in the posts to follow is examine some of the more popular approaches to the problem of evil in light of scripture.  As I do this, it will be important to remember that any approach we take to this question will end up falling into one of two categories.  It will either be an eisegetical subordination of scripture to philosophical presuppositions, or else it will be an exegetical subordination of the mind to revelation.  In any case, how we settle the problem of evil has broad and fundamental implications on how we view the nature of God, and this fact cannot be allowed to escape unnoticed.