Difficult as it may be to fathom, aiming to attribute all things to the glory and honor of God through Jesus Christ has the potential to lead a person to dishonor Him. For example, should someone declare to murder another human being for the glory and honor of God, such would actually bring Him shame and dishonor, for God commands: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man” (Gen. 9:6 NKJV). Therefore, if anyone claims that he or she commits an evil for the glory of God through Jesus Christ, then we know that person is not speaking according to the truth of God’s Word.
Notice also that when an evil is committed by a human being upon another human being, God calls for justice. He does so because human beings are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6). To murder a human being is to destroy someone made in His image. Therefore, the same God who forbids murder cannot be the One who foreordains murder. If anyone claims that the foreordination of murder (or any evil) is for the glory of God through Jesus Christ, then we know that person is not speaking according to the truth of God’s Word.
The explanation, “for in the image of God He made man,” was added by the author. Geoffrey W. Grogan, Principal at the Bible Training Institute of Glasgow, Scotland, writes:
- The use of the third person reference to God . . . suggests that v.6b is to be understood as a comment of the narrator and not the words of God speaking to Noah. Thus at this point in the narrative the author has inserted an important explanation . . . for the prohibition of manslaughter — namely, a reference back to the creation of man in God’s image (M. Fishbane,
Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel
- [Oxford: Clarendon, 1985], p. 320). Already the narrative has become the basis for the development of the law.
Unfortunately, not all Christians agree with our original premise. John Piper, for example, insists that “everything that exists — including evil — is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly.”2 In case the reader misunderstands what Piper means by everything being strictly ordained, he continues:
- The word
- is peculiar, I know. But I want to be clear what I mean by it. There is no attempt to obscure what I am saying about God’s relation to evil. But there is an attempt to say carefully what the Bible says. By
- I mean that God either caused something directly or
- it for wise purposes. This permitting is a kind of
- causing, since God knows all the factors involved and what effects they will have and he could prevent any outcome.
Piper is being unmistakably inconsistent by affirming God’s exhaustive determinism while using the language of permission. But, as even Calvin himself asked, how can God permit something which He has not strictly foreordained or willed, and which cannot come about but by necessity, for Piper elsewhere states: “God is able without blameworthy ‘tempting’ to see to it that a person does what God ordains for him to do even if it involves evil”4? Such inconsistency was not found in Calvin, who denied God’s “permission” of events by stating the following:
- But though afterward [Job’s trial] his [God’s] power to afflict the saint seems to be only a bare permission . . . we infer that God was the author of that trial of which Satan and wicked robbers were merely the instruments. . . . Therefore, whatever men or Satan himself devise, God holds the helm, and makes all their efforts contribute to the execution of his judgments. . . . If the blinding and infatuation of Ahab is a judgment from God, the fiction of bare permission is at an end; for it would be ridiculous for a judge only to permit, and not also to decree, what he wishes to be done at the very time that he commits the execution of it to his ministers. . . .
I have already shown clearly enough that God is the author of all those things which, according to these objectors, happen only by his inactive permission. He testifies that he creates light and darkness, forms good and evil (Isaiah 45:7); that no evil happens which he has not done (Amos 3:6). . . .
No, when we cannot comprehend how God can will that to be done which he forbids us to do, let us call to mind our imbecility, and remember that the light in which he dwells is not without cause termed inaccessible (1 Tim. 6:16), because shrouded in darkness.5
Though Calvin’s erroneous theology on the character and nature of God is atrocious and nefarious, he is at least consistent (as is R. C. Sproul Jr.). Piper, however, is just inconsistent. He wants to affirm exhaustive “absolute” divine determinism by fiat in all things, but use the language of “permission” when convenient. Piper expounds:
- So when I say that everything that exists — including evil — is ordained by an infinitely holy and all-wise God to make the glory of Christ shine more brightly, I mean that, one way or the other, God sees to it that all things serve to glorify his Son. Whether he causes or permits, he does so with purpose. For an infinitely wise and all-knowing God, both causing and permitting are purposeful. They are part of the big picture of what God plans to bring to pass.
So, according to Piper (and Calvinism principally), God ordains all evil happenings but is not morally culpable or responsible for what He has foreordained. God did not foreordain anything by foreknowledge or foresight.7 This would (somehow) rob God of His sovereignty. Hence whatever happens is brought about by God, both good and evil, and would not come about except at His willing them. Though, again, He is not to blame for the results of His foreordination. Why? Because Calvinists say so. Why would God foreordain evil? According to Piper, it is to “make the glory of Christ shine more brightly.”
There are at least three reasons why Calvinism, whether high Calvinism (strict determinism) or low Calvinism (compatibilism), brings dishonor to God through Jesus Christ. First, such a theory concerning God’s exhaustive determinism is not scriptural (e.g. Deut. 28:1-2, 15; 30:15-19; Isaiah 65:2-7, 11-12; Jer. 2:20; 3:21-22; 6:16; 7:7, 28, 30-31; 9:7-9; 13:11, 24-25). Classical Arminians do not deny God’s sovereignty — they rightly define it as His governance over all of His creation. Sinful, evil choices and acts do not dethrone our sovereign God, for He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11 NKJV) without having to foreordain or cause sin and evil. Notice that our text does not communicate the Calvinistic notion that God “decrees or foreordains” all things according to the counsel of His will.
Calvinists such as Piper began (as did Calvin) with an erroneous interpretation of any number of Scripture passages, and his erroneous interpretation led to a foundational presupposition — a hermeneutic by which the rest of Scripture must be interpreted.
For example, Calvin used Amos 3:6 (as well as Isaiah 45:7) to support his error that God creates evil (as do many other Calvinists who follow him). Yet, contextually, the Hebrew word used at Amos 3:6 (רעה) is not translated as “evil” but as “calamity,” and refers not to sin or evil but to distress or disaster. God was causing calamity to Israel for her disobedience which was not strictly foreordained or willed. He was not creating evil willy nilly or by divine fiat. God does not create evil. He cannot even tempt anyone to commit evil (James 1:13), to say nothing of create it or bring it to pass. His eyes are too pure to look on or approve of evil and wickedness (Habakkuk 1:13).
Second, Calvinism dishonors God through Jesus Christ by suggesting that God needs to foreordain evil in order to make the glory of Christ shine brighter. (Such a conception is lacking in the eschaton, and yet Christ Jesus will still be glorified, Rev. 21:22-23.) Dr. Bruce A. Little, Professor of Philosophy at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, commenting on the rape and murder of a young girl named Jessica, asks: “Could Christ’s glory not shine brighter with a lot less trauma to Jessica and her friends and family?”8
Does God need de facto the foreordination of human evil and suffering in order for the glory of Christ to shine brighter? Dr. Little asks: “Yet if a righteous life glorifies God (1 Cor. 6:20), how does evil also glorify God? How do the contraries, one commanded and the other forbidden, both glorify God?”9 The answer of course is that both do not glorify God in the same manner. Goodness, righteousness, and justice glorifies God through Jesus Christ (Micah 6:8; Rom. 2:7, 10). Evil, sin, and injustice dishonors God through Jesus Christ (John 8:49; Rom. 2:8-9, 23). Therefore, God could not bring about evil, sin, and injustice in order to make the glory of Christ shine brighter.
Third, Calvinism dishonors God through Jesus Christ by suggesting that He needs to foreordain sin and evil for His own glorifying purpose or will. And if the contrary is true, then should not God foreordain much more sin and evil so that Christ will shine even brighter? The more sin and evil committed, the more brightly the glory of Christ will shine! Does such an erroneous theory not remind you of Paul’s statement to the Roman Christians: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1 NKJV)
Or perhaps this question is more to the point: “And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come?'” (Rom. 3:8 NKJV). Isaiah writes: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20 NKJV). To admit that God allows evil through the libertarian freedom of His creatures is well within the bounds of orthodoxy. However, to insist that God foreordains evil via divine fiat is to “call evil good,” “put darkness for light,” and “put bitter for sweet.”
I am confident that sooner or later the truth of God’s Word, nature and character, as displayed in His Son Jesus Christ (John 14:7-11; Heb. 1:3), will in and of itself dissolve any interest among the Young, Restless and Reformed, in the current resurgence of Calvinism in the body of Christ. To that end I am praying, in the name and for the glory and honor and sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
1 Geoffrey W. Grogan, “Isaiah,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 6, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 94.
2 John Piper, Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 44.
4 Ibid., 24.
5 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2008), 1.18.1 and 3:136, 138-39.
6 Piper, 54.
7 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter III, Of God’s Eternal Decree, states, 1. God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 2. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. Quoted from the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, ed. Richard L. Pratt Jr. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 2176.
8 Bruce A. Little, “Evil and God’s Sovereignty,” in Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, eds. David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 290.