Their belief that God foreordained everything poses a problem for Calvinists. Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994) my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast family Bible reading time, presents the problem in this way: “Does God actually cause the evil actions that people do? If he does, then is God not responsible for sin?” (Systematic Theology, pages 322-23). How serious Grudem considers the problem is indicated by his devoting almost nine pages (pages 322-31) to it. This post follows the order of and draws on the content of his fine (from a Calvinist viewpoint) presentation.
Bible Passages Indicating God’s Bringing about Evil
Below is a small selection of the extensive list of Bible passages quoted by Grudem indicating that God brought about some evil. All Bible passages are quoted from the ESV. Note that although God may prompt evil to be done, it is not done by Him but is done by people (or demons) who choose to do it.
– “Joseph said to his brothers…’Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life'” (Genesis 45:4-5; note that what Joseph says is from him, not from God).
– “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharoah all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let my people go'” (Exodus 4:21; a chart in the <i>ESV Study Bible</i> shows when God hardened Pharoah’s heart, when Pharoah’s heart was hardened, and when Pharoah hardened his heart; cf. Romans 9:17-18).
– “It was the LORD’s doing to harden their [the Canaanites’] hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed” (Joshua 11:20).
– “The anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 24:1; after having the people numbered, David realized that he had sinned in doing so and accepted God’s punishment for his doing so [2 Kings 24:10-17]; 1 Chronicles 21:1 indicates that God used Satan in inciting David to number Israel.)
– “I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).
– “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lamentations 3:38).
– “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).
– “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men” (Acts 2:23; note that what the speaker, Peter, said is from him, not from God; however I personally view it as inspired by the Holy Spirit.)
– “For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27-28; note that what the speakers, friends of Peter and John, said is from them, not from God).
– “Therefore God send them [those who refuse to accept the Gospel] a strong delusion, so that they believe what is false [the message of the AntiChrist], in order that they may all be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
Analysis of the Passages
Although I said earlier that my family and I would read all of Chapter 16, “God’s Providence,” of Grudem’s Systematic Theology, we read just part of his analysis of the Bible passages which he’d quoted to show that God brought about some evil. He drew these conclusions in what we read:
1. God uses all things, even evil, to fulfill His purposes. Relevant Bible passages are Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”; Genesis 45:4-5, quoted above; and Romans 9:7-8, referred to above.
2. God never does evil and shouldn’t blamed for evil. Relevant Bible passages are Luke 22:22 (similar to Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28 quoted above), “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed,” and James 1:13-14, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”
3. God rightfully blames and judges people for the evil that they do. A relevant Bible passage is, “These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.”
4. Evil is real and we should never do it, for it will always harm us and others. Accordingly, we should pray, “Deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
The Problem of Evil at Open Theism
For more on the problem of evil at Open Theism see these posts:
– “O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die?” (January 26, 2013)
– “The Problem of Evil” (June 21, 2013)
– “Job’s Afflictions” (July 12 and October 17, 2013)
– “Job’s Friends” (October 24, 2013)
– “God Addresses and Restores Job” (July 19 and November 7, 2013)
– “How Evil and Suffering Are Related” (July 26, 2013)
– “If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? – Introduction” (November 14, 2013)
– “Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?” (August 2, 2013)
– “Natural Disasters” (August 16, 2013)
– “The Most Common Explanations Given for Evil and Suffering” (August 23, 2013)
“O God, Why Did You Let Esther Die?” reflects on the death of my first wife from complications following successful open-heart surgery in 1971. It is based on a paper that I wrote in the summer of 1984 while working on a M.A. in Humanities with California State University Dominguez Hills and on shorter and longer versions of it that appeared as articles in the February 1998 issue of Good Tidings (the official publication of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador) and a few years later in Bob’s Corner at Suite101.com.
The June, July, and August posts were posted in preparation for the study of the problem of evil that the Life group which my wife and I attend was planning to begin in September. The group is one of a number of Life groups that meet under the auspices of Windsor Pentecostal Church (www.wpcnl.ca). They meet at various places and times. Ours meets in a home on Thursday evenings.
The October and November posts are reports on that study. We began with three studies from the book of Job and are now working through a booklet by Randy Alcorn based on his If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Multnomah Books, 2009). A new post should appear each Friday based on the previous evening’s meeting until we finish working through the booklet except when a meeting is cancelled.