Monthly Archives: January 2017

Aquinas’ Theodicy and the Argument for Different Grades of Being

Since Aquinas believed in omnicausal theism, he believed all things are caused by God. He gets out of saying that God causes evil by holding that evil is a privation of good. I hope to do a more thorough post on this later to point out some of the problems with this theory. Briefly, though, here are my problems with it. For one, the theory is that evil exists when there “should be” a good present. But if God is causing all things, then anything that “should be” exists ultimately because he has intended it to. But how can God intend to create something other than what “should be”? Secondly, all the examples Aquinas gives of explaining how evil can be due entirely to the creature, and not to God, seem to be incoherent. He wants to maintain that God is neither “directly nor indirectly” the cause of evil. And his classic example is the crooked leg that causes the limp. The movement, he claims, is what is good in the movement of the walker, and it is from God. But the crookedness of the leg which causes the limp, is from the leg itself, and is what causes the defect. But the obvious retort to Aquinas in this case is: yes but God created the leg crooked rather than straight. The third problem I see with this theory of privation is that it makes inexplicable what exactly the damned are punished for. Yes, obviously Aquinas would say for their rebellion against God or their sin. But evil is not a positive act on Aquinas’ view. So the damned are punished for a non-act? Are they then punished for a non-entity – for nothing? What about them does God “hate”?  Aquinas says “God loves sinners insofar as they are existing natures; for they have existence and have it from Him. Insofar as they are sinners, they have no existence at all, but fall short of it; and this in them is not from God. Hence under this aspect they are hated by Him.” (ST q. 20 a. 3, r. 4) So then God hates something that doesn’t even exist?

Aquinas thought that God had it in his power to create a more perfect universe. It seems this would mean that he did not have to create ANY crooked legs. But he obviously did so, since there is evil in the world. Aquinas then gives, not a necessitating reason on God’s part for creating (for God need not have), but, what the medievals liked to call a “fitting” reason. It is very similar to the Calvinist notion of displaying all of God’s attributes.

Now I’m going to present three passages where Aquinas teaches his “multi-grades of being” theodicy most explicitly.

  1. “Now it is necessary that God’s goodness, which in itself is one and undivided, should be manifested in many ways in His creation; because creatures in themselves cannot attain to the simplicity of God. Thus it is that for the completion of the universe there are required different grades of being; some of which hold a high and some a low place in the universe. That this multiformity of grades may be preserved in things, God allows some evils, lest many good things should never happen, as was said above (Q[22], A[2]). Let us then consider the whole of the human race, as we consider the whole universe. God wills to manifest His goodness in men; in respect to those whom He predestines, by means of His mercy, as sparing them; and in respect of others, whom he reprobates, by means of His justice, in punishing them. This is the reason why God elects some and rejects others.” q. 23 a.  5 r. 3
  2. “the evil which consists in the corruption of some things is reduced to God as the cause. And this appears as regards both natural things and voluntary things. For it was said (Article 1) that some agent inasmuch as it produces by its power a form to which follows corruption and defect, causes by its power that corruption and defect. But it is manifest that the form which God chiefly intends in things created is the good of the order of the universe. Now, the order of the universe requires, as was said above (I:22:2 ad 2; I:48:2), that there should be some things that can, and do sometimes, fail. And thus God, by causing in things the good of the order of the universe, consequently and as it were by accident, causes the corruptions of things, according to 1 Samuel 2:6: “The Lord killeth and maketh alive.” But when we read that “God hath not made death” (Wisdom 1:13), the sense is that God does not will death for its own sake. Nevertheless the order of justice belongs to the order of the universe; and this requires that penalty should be dealt out to sinners.” q. 49 a. 2 I answer that.
  3. “Hence we must say that the distinction and multitude of things come from the intention of the first agent, who is God. For He brought things into being in order that His goodness might be communicated to creatures, and be represented by them; and because His goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone, He produced many and diverse creatures, that what was wanting to one in the representation of the divine goodness might be supplied by another. For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifold and divided and hence the whole universe together participates the divine goodness more perfectly, and represents it better than any single creature whatever.” q. 47 a. 2 I answer that…and a little further on in body of next article “Therefore, as the divine wisdom is the cause of the distinction of things for the sake of the perfection of the universe, so it is the cause of inequality. For the universe would not be perfect if only one grade of goodness were found in things.”

It seems to me from a straight reading of Aquinas he evidently thought that God created the damned in Hell because he willed to create a world with a variety of grades of being, some of which were sentient creatures who would be punished eternally. In his metaphors of this view he is driven to equate the rational beings in Hell as various “stones” in a house that are placed, say, at the houses’ base. This is done in order to give the house as a whole a certain form which, if it lacked it, would fail to have the perfect form of a house in general. Therefore, he concludes, God’s main goal in creating is not the good of each being in particular, but only the universe’s form “as a whole” which in its own way reflects the whole glory of God. As such, “It is part of the best agent to produce an effect which is best in its entirety; but this does not mean that He makes every part of the whole the best absolutely, but in proportion to the whole.” (For more on this see his commentary on Romans 9, where Aquinas compares the damnation of some to God’s building of a house: https://sites.google.com/site/aquinasstudybible/home/romans/st-thomas-aquinas-on-romans/chapter-1/chapter-2/chapter-3/chapter-4/chapter-5/chapter-6/chapter-7/chapter-8/chapter-9)

Now, there is nothing wrong, logically, with this theory. An Aristotelian could believe it. But could a Christian, who believes in the universal salvific will of God? Sure Aquinas can say “metaphysically” that God loves every creature, since he wishes it “the good of existence.” But he cannot say that God wishes the ultimate good for every creature, for he positively wishes – before foreseen merits, by the way – that some be damned. And let’s not forget what “damned” means on Aquinas’ theology. It means eternal conscious bodily torment. And what is the reasoning behind his theory? That the “perfection of the universe requires (his word) the manifestation of many grades of being, and that some things sometimes can, and do, fail.” Could Aquinas really with a straight face tell me that a universe with millions of souls in Hell is a better universe than one in which all are joined to God in the beatific vision? Remember, God is omnipotent, and, on his own scheme, it is no more difficult for him to cause someone to be united to him in eternal bliss than to damn someone. In other words it is perfectly possible for God to save every soul. The reason he doesn’t save some is simply because he does not want to. He would rather display a variety of effects, some of which include sentient creatures who suffer eternally in a way worse than finite beings can possible imagine.

Now, I just have to ask, is he serious? Who is better off given the fact that God created this type of universe than one in which all souls are saved? The damned certainly aren’t. Neither is God, since on Aquinas’ view the creation cannot impact the impassible bliss of the purely actual God. What about the elect? Well he thinks so. He thinks that the saved will see the damned and rejoice that they didn’t suffer a similar fate. But do you really think this is likely? Would you like to become the type of person who can see his spouse, say, or his child, suffering eternally in Hell, and think “whew, I’m so glad that’s not me! Oh AND I am glad he is getting what he deserves! He’s actually LUCKY since God’s mercy is even now extending to him, insofar as he is punished less than he could be.”

Aquinas, my friend – really?

16 Problems that Arise From Libertarian Free Will

Given libertarian free will, the following difficulties emerge

  1. It is possible that every single person God created could have been lost and that the number of the elect be zero.
  2. It is possible that every human being can live a perfectly sinless life.
  3. It is possible that some people do not need forgiveness of sins, for each person is able to perfectly conform to God’s law.
  4. It is possible that Christ’s death on the cross would not save anyone.
  5. It is possible that God is eternally sorrowful over the lost and that they did not choose him.
  6. God becomes temporal and changing, since he must wait on events in time to determine his knowledge. This makes God finite, since he cannot possess his entire being at once.
  7. Prophecy of future free actions become conditional – but Christ’s death, which itself depends on the free actions of humans, then becomes conditional. Therefore it is possible that Christ not die. Yet Scripture says the lamb was slain “from the foundation of the world.”
  8. God’s providence becomes conditional and how God wants to steer events in the world can be frustrated. God cannot guarantee that an event will occur that comes from a particular free willed action. But many events depend on particular free willed actions. Therefore God cannot guarantee that such events occur.
  9. It is impossible for God to have foreknowledge of future free actions, since he must wait on the future to arrive in order to know what will occur.
  10. It is impossible for God to have timeless knowledge of free actions and also use that knowledge to be provident, since if he is timeless he would become a single eternally passive receiver, and any reaction or response on his part to acts in time would destroy his timelessness and make him temporal himself.
  11. God, since he cannot be timeless if he relates to libertarianly free people, becomes just one more changing and temporal being, which cannot explain its own existence. For a temporal being cannot itself produce time and space. Thus a temporal being cannot create ex nihilo and God could not have created the entire space-time manifold itself.
  12. Do choices presuppose motives, or motives choices? If the former, then we do not choose our motives, and libertarian free will is false. If the later, then libertarian free will is irrational, for we would lack a ground for preferring one motive rather than another in the choosing of our motives.
  13. How do we explain the universal testimony of human experience that all people do and will sin? If libertarian free will is true, this becomes an instance of the greatest case of bad luck in history (literally).
  14. If God passively receives something (say knowledge, or a fulfilled desire) from a source outside himself, then he is essentially dependent on something outside himself for his existence. But God as first cause is outside the whole order of created things and does not require something else to exist the way he does. Thus God cannot depend on the creation. Rather the creation depends on him. But then God cannot receive being from libertarian free choices, and so they cannot exist.
  15. If libertarian freedom is necessary for human goodness, then in order to have human goodness Christ as man could have sinned. But if it was possible for Christ to sin then it was possible for the second person of the Trinity to be in disunion with the first person. But this is impossible. Thus Christ as man could not have been libertarianly free.
  16. God’s salvific will, even presupposing libertarian freedom, is still qualified or limited, insofar as God only desires to save those who do such and such (believe, trust in him, do good, et al.) Thus, God still only conditionally desires salvation even granting libertarian free will, otherwise he would unconditionally give eternal life and joy to even those who did not meet a particular criteria for salvation.

God Ordains Evil for the Perfection of the Finite Universe

“And because this orderly arrangement maintains the harmony of the universe by this very contrast, it comes about that evil things must need be.” Augustine, Divine Providence and Evil, Chpt 7

We have been looking for a reason why a God who causes and ordains all things would create a universe containing evil. A few posts back I argued against the Calvinist position that God ordains evil in order to appease his wrath, for that ultimately reduces to the fact that God metaphysically needs evil in order to fully satisfy his desires.

However, what is often not fully realized when giving God’s “reasons” for ordaining evil, is this glaring truth: God does not only not need evil in his creation to fulfill his own desires – to fulfill his own desires God doesn’t need creation at all. This is shocking only because of our own self-centeredness and feelings of cosmic importance. But here is the truth: God’s goodness and happiness do not depend on anything outside his own triune relationship. If we say that God’s happiness is maximized only by some other thing outside himself, then a) he is not the very source of Goodness itself, for he would lack some good essentially that he only gained by being united to this other thing; and b) God, the first cause of all, becomes one more dependent cause among others that needs something additional to maximize itself. Thus he would cease being God the absolute and fully actualized good and become just another potential, because unfulfilled, finite good.

Here then is the point. God’s act of creating does not in any way add to his own enjoyment of himself (for then God without creation would not be perfectly fulfilled). God’s act of creation, rather, is done in order for the creation to be fulfilled, and for the creation to reflect God’s glory, in itself.

Now it may be that the perfection of this particular universe that God made requires that there be evil in it. And this is intuitively very obvious: for some created goods we experience require evil in order to exist. Indeed many human virtues, such as courage, patience, self-control, could not exist in a universe without evil. Courage assumes some evil that is being withstood, patience some evil that is tolerated, self-control some evil that is held at bay. It just may be that for the perfection of this created universe various evils must needs exist; otherwise you would not have this created universe.

I put “this created universe” in italics for a very important reason, which is this. Just because the universe itself requires evil to be perfected does not entail that God or Goodness as such requires evil to be perfected. This is one of the misunderstandings in certain Calvinist schemes of God, which posit that God had to create sinners in order to appease his wrath. God needs no evil to be fulfilled, satisfied, or appeased. That is an idea that ultimately entails Dualism and makes God’s own fulfillment dependent on sources outside himself. It also posits that evil can somehow infect God’s inner being and impact him, which is another error. But, although God cannot be dependent on evil, it may be that the finite, created universe, in order to be “this universe” needs evil to be fulfilled.

Now, the question at the back of this is why God created “this universe” at all. Could he have made one without any evil whatsoever? Well, if by evil we mean metaphysical evil – i.e. some limitation in goodness – then the answer seems clearly no. God is the only uncreated and underived Goodness. As soon as you posit a creation then you unavoidably admit some metaphysical evil. But could he have made a universe with no physical or moral evil in it – i.e. no pain and suffering at all? This at least seems a possibility, insofar as God in his own fullness of being is not necessitated to create this or that particular universe, or even any universe at all. But why, then, did he create a universe which requires, for rational beings, the experience of pain and suffering to fulfill their own perfection in goodness? Why did he create “this universe”?

For all the “why” questions pertaining to God’s act of creation, there can be no other answer than simply that “he chose to.” For there is not some higher reason, outside God, to explain his free and voluntary act of creating the universe. God did not have to create. But then why did he? He simply willed to. That is the final explanation. It is indeed incomprehensible and impenetrable. But there is no contradiction. Nor, by the way, is there implied that just because evil exists in the universe there exists any imperfection in the creation taken as a whole, as it is, insofar as it is exactly as it is because of God’s omnicausal ordination. For the entire creation has the exact harmony, the exact proportion of goods and evils that has God freely intended it to have. And since all of God’s acts are perfect, then what he has made, given what it is, cannot be improved upon.

But again, it is the “given what it is” that is answered ultimately in the mysterious and incomprehensible will of God.

Norris Clarke’s Explanation of God’s Way of Knowing

Clarke was a Thomist. As such he was committed to the idea of God as pure actuality and timeless. Yet, as most Catholics do (which separates them from Calvinists) Clarke also believed in true libertarian freedom. But then how can God know free choices, since they would seem to “actualize” God’s own knowledge? (The absolute determinist option – that God knows by determining – is not open to Clarke.)

In previous posts I’ve laid out many of the problems in various models of a timeless God’s way of knowing free willed acts. They all break down insofar as God becomes an eternally passive receiver of information, to which he must “react.” But “reaction” (and reception) is something a timeless, changeless God cannot do. Thus, while certain models may explain how God eternally knows free acts (by eternally passively receiving knowledge of them), these models make God unable to actually respond to or act on what he knows. For that creates sequence in God’s acts, which consequently makes him temporal.

Now, Norris Clarke had an interesting take on this problem. He supposed that God knows free choices, not by unilaterally determining them, nor by passively receiving knowledge of them, but by synergistically and actively doing them with the creature itself. As he says, “God knows not by being acted upon, but through his own action in us.” (A Philosophical Approach to God.)

Now this approach deserves some attention. Can it solve the problems that the traditional divine reception model creates (where God is passively receiving knowledge, e.g. on a watchtower)? For one, if Clarke is correct here, it would follow that God’s creative act – his granting of free will – would be radically different from what is normally supposed in the classic literature. God’s bringing into being free beings would be the same thing as, or logically connected to, the opening up of himself to various determinate actions in and through these beings themselves. Thus God’s act of creating would simultaneously also be a divine self-limitation or vulnerability, insofar as God really allows his creative powers to flow through channels which may or may not be pleasing to him. This would not make God “dependent on” creatures to actualize his own nature against his will on creatures. But it would entail that God has so chosen in accordance with his will to be able to be actualized in his nature by free creatures. (There is a world of difference here.) If this makes God’s will dependent on creatures for the fulfillment of a desire it is only because he has so freely chosen to allow his desire to be dependent on something outside himself. And so again we come to a divine emptying, a divine humility, inherent in the very act of creating and relating to the world.

But perhaps this isn’t so radical a view after all. For have not theists for thousands of years believed at least in some rudimentary form that God in granting free will has also limited his own omnipotence and power in the world?

What is perhaps more interesting – at least to me – is whether or not Clarke’s view can save us from the Causal Loop objection. (You can see that objection fully laid out here: https://notesonthefoothills.wordpress.com/category/causal-loop-objection/) In short, the objection shows that if God receives a particular free willed act at time 1 into his knowledge by passively receiving it, then he cannot use that knowledge to interact with the creation, for that would imply a) God being temporal; and b) a causal loop, since each moment of time would already be present to a timeless God.

But if Clarke is right, then God is not passively receiving moments of time or free willed act, either one by one, or in a single divine moment of reception. Rather, God is in a single timeless act atively acting in and through free beings. This may be unimaginable – i.e. it may posit a mode of causation that we cannot form adequate mental pictures of – but does it involve a contradiction? It’s hard to see that it does. For, from God’s point of view, his one act of creation is single. Ergo, each separate thing in creation is, from this creative perspective, inseparably connected. We can get a grasp of this even a little bit by thinking about how each bit of matter must, if we could but follow out the connection of all physical objects, be affected by every other bit of matter. The idea that one star on this side of the universe is impacted by one star on another side is really only a magnified example of the fact that my skin is somewhat impacted by the space heater that is humming a few feet away from me. For each occasion in the universe has a definite affect on something else, and that, on something else, and so on, throughout the entire cosmos. In fact the word “universe” itself attests to this: for it is that thing which contains everything else and thus unites all separate and finite realities into a single causally connected plane.

Now, could something like this be the case with God and his knowledge of free events? If God is actively working at every moment of time, then every moment of time is connected in a particular way to every other. There would of course be a “forward” connection, as time moves from left to right. But there would also be a “backward” one, insofar as the providential God brings meaning to future events based on past actions.

Does this notion of God, timelessly “acting through” every free act throughout all time, avoid the Causal Loop objection? To say yes, one would have to show that no “single” free act in time is the “result” of God’s doing such and such at another point in time. For once you have the temporal stuff determining God you make God temporal.

But my head hurts too much right now to try to parse this out if God is in fact by his own free choice timelessly working in and through all active free causes in time. Maybe better minds can come along behind me and do that.

Calvinism: A Refutation

I grant that the strongest weapon in the Calvinist’s arsenal is Scripture. In fact, if some things weren’t (supposedly) found in the Bible I can’t imagine anyone would believe that a good God has intentionally ordained even evil acts for his own good pleasure.

But, there is a rebuttal to this claim. Before anyone says that Scripture forces us to hold that God is the source of all evil I would remind them that it is only the goodness of God which makes worshiping Him permissible or even rational. For if God is not good – or is not what we mean by that word – then worshiping Him may not really the “right” thing to do. If God’s moral being is so utterly different from our own moral intuitions then God may delight in punishing those who worship him or reward those who defy him. The heaven prepared by a morally alien God may indeed be hell to any human being we would define as virtuous. So to say that there can be some authority outside or over and against our own moral intuitions that commands us to pay allegiance to a being we find morally repulsive is literally self-refuting. For it makes no sense even to believe in the Scriptures if in doing so we destroy all possible ethical connection to God. However we interpret the Bible, if that method results in us burning our bridge back to God, we simply must abandon it. For the existence of a bridge itself is more necessary to reach our destination than any particular tool (however useful) which helps us cross it.

Continuing on then with my criticism of Calvinism. For an omnipotent God there is, as it were, no metaphysical speed limit that prevents him from going as fast as He can. There are no limitations over and against an omnipotent God, and unless he so limits himself, there can be nothing existing outside His own nature which pushes back against him or that is an obstacle. Thus a God who does NOT so limit himself – say, by granting other beings an amount of say-so regarding what comes to pass in the universe – must necessarily intend absolutely all that happens in his creation. Since there are no other independent forces at work and since everything is an expression of his own will, what occurs in creation must be 100% willed and intended by God, the first and only cause. This means that there cannot be some “piece” of God’s personality which is unhappy or dissatisfied with what he has made. How could there be? He is omnipotent and all good and, since no other agents with power or freedom exist, the finished product of creation came entirely from him. The sculpture is the result of the most perfectly imaginable artist who not only is unsurpassed in terms of skill but is, in his own being,  the very essence of flawless artistic beauty.

Does the problem with determinism now begin to become clearer? If God has determined absolutely everything that comes to pass and if free will is illusory then God intentionally causes all evil in the world – all the extracted torture and rape and mutilation. He must therefore want such things. For again, there are no other competing wills that God can use to take the blame for the occurrences of such things. He cannot point to the devil and say that he is responsible for sickness and disease for God himself literally determined absolutely every feature and action of Satan’s existence. But again, if it were true that God in fact DOES directly cause all evil in the universe then our calling him “good” would ultimately be meaningless.  A God who can positively cause hundreds of child rapes a day is so different from our conception of goodness that it is just as reasonable to believe that he would send us to Hell for obeying Him. So therefore once again, worshiping such a being becomes not only immoral but self-refuting.

So far I have been claiming that if God causes evil then He is evil. But the obvious and common rebuttal to this is to say that this isn’t necessary so because without certain evils certain goods would not be possible. In other words, this rebuttal goes, God may be forced to cause certain evils in order to bring about the most good possible. God may really want to have a perfectly good universe with no evil in it, but then He would not be able to fully display His goodness.

Notice though what this rebuttal assumes. At the back of it is really a denial of the omnipotence of God. Any time we say that God is ‘forced’ to do things, or when we say He is not ‘able’, we are supposing some outside, imposing power that God is contending with. On the Calvinist scheme, however, this is absurd. There simply are no other causes, outside of God’s own singular will, which could create such resistance. Even the Calvinist distinction between God’s antecedent and consequent will is absurd, for there is no other force independent of God which would cause him to have a divided desire. All things are as they are from his unilateral, determining, desiring will.

I think it is here, in this claim that the good is somehow made more good by the presence of evil, that the root of the Calvinist error lies. At the bottom of it is the idea that the good is somehow metaphysically dependent on evil. This, however, if true, amounts to Dualism, not Christianity. Let me explain.

God’s goodness, according to Christianity, is maximally perfect. ‘God is light’ St. John says, ‘and in Him there is no darkness at all.’[1] That is on one hand, it is true that there can be no evil without good. On the other hand, the opposite – that there can no good without evil – is not true. God’s goodness is such that it does not need anything else other than itself to exist. It simply is, and is good, through and through. If we were to imagine God’s goodness as a color it would be absolutely solid white. Whiteness as such does not need or ‘depend’ on blackness to be white.

If we deny this, and if we say that God’s goodness does in fact depend on evil, then this entails Dualism. If God ‘needs’ evil in His creation, then Goodness, as such, needs Evil. Good and Evil are then on some level or equal ground. I am dependent on food and water and air because without them I cannot exist. But the Christian God does not “need” evil in this way.  The good as such would still be just as good if evil never existed. Indeed, apart from creation, God existing in His own right has no evil in Him at all. Evil, however, is parasitic. It can only exist if there is something good there first that it can live off of.

Although we live in a world of contrasts, and we very often experience certain goods otherwise impossible without certain evil, this, I believe, is not because God’s nature is dualistic in this way. It is because His omnipotence is such that He can draw forth good even out of evil. To suppose that good needs evil would be equivalent to supposing a marriage needed adultery, or that a beautiful face needed some grotesque deformity, in order to be maximally good. A marriage may, in the long run, be better after adultery has occurred, but it is not something that must happen to have a maximally great marriage.

Therefore the unanswerable question for Calvinism is this: where – metaphysically speaking – does evil come from if not from the freedom of creatures? How can an all-good, all-powerful being such as God make a universe containing evil? If God makes a world exactly how He wishes, like an artist painting a picture in order to please Himself, and, further, if God is omnipotent such that nothing outside His own nature presents an obstacle to Him in attaining His wishes, and, finally, if He must still include evil in His universe to make it ‘maximally good,’ does this not mean that God’s will in some way requires there to be evil in order to be maximally satisfied? And how is this any different from saying that ultimately God wills and desires evil? If in God’s mind and will there is this need for evil, would this not make Him less than all good?

[1] 1 John 1:15

A Short Scriptural Refutation of Calvinism

Because the people have forsaken me, and have profaned this place by burning incense in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Ba′al to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Ba′al, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind; therefore, behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter. (Jeremiah 19:4-6)

According to Calvinism all things happen by the decree of God and absolutely nothing could occur unless it was in the intentional mind and will of God. Yet this verse plainly contradicts such a teaching.

I leave the text to speak for itself.

Calvinism, a Good God, and Evil: A Dilemma

If Calvinism is true, then God causes all things to exist, even evil. Since there is no such thing as libertarian free will, there are no independent causal powers apart from God’s own. Therefore, all that comes about comes about because God specifically intended it to do so (unless you want to claim that God causes things he does not intend.)

What this means is that God must be pleased to bring evil about. Since evil could only exist by God’s decretive will, God must will that it exist. And, since God does all that pleases him, it must please him that evil exists.

How does this square with the idea that God hates evil? On Calvinism, God creates vessels of wrath because he is pleased to destroy them — but he destroys them because he hates evil. What you have here is a situation in which God is both pleased with the existence of evil and displeased with it. But this seems a contradiction: insfoar as evil exists God must want it to (for nothing exists without him willing it to exist); yet insofar as he destroys evil he must not want it to exist.

I have seen at least one Calvinist (Sam Storm) attempt to answer this problem by saying that “God is pleased to ordain his own displeasure.” But apart from any sort of notion of divine self-limitation, I fail to see how this quote is not a bare contradiction. For what you are saying is that God is pleased – i.e. he delights in – doing what displeases him – i.e. what he does not delight in.

Once again we come to the fact that, if we are going to maintain the reality of evil, and if we are not going to simply say that all things happen by God’s desire and will (which would make all things actually good, since God’s desire and will are themselves perfectly good), then we must posit some notion of creaturely free will. Otherwise, if God is the immediate and single source of all, then he is the source of evil as well. But if he is the source of evil then either a) there is no such thing as evil (for God does only what is good); or b) God is not all good (since God is pleased to intentionally create evil.)

Now, if we say that God is not pleased to create evil, and that it is a source of hatred and wrath for him, then we must ask why it exists at all, seeing as it is ultimately God’s will alone that is the cause of things. Does God will that which he hates? And how could he hate that which comes specifically and intentionally from him alone, the all good perfect being?

Again, if God’s will is never frustrated on Calvin’s scheme, then what is God’s relation to evil? If it is one of hatred, then his will is in some sense frustration, since one does not hate what one desires. If, on the other hand, it is one of delight, then God’s will delights in evil, which either makes his will less than all good, or makes evil cease being evil altogether.

Either way, one is driven to a contradictory conclusion.