Proverbs 16:4 – Were the Ungodly Created for Destruction?

, posted by drwayman

A question came to our SEA outreach group:

Can someone help me understand Prov. 16:4 from a non-Calvinist perspective?

4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

John Calvin writes: “Solomon also teaches us that not only was the destruction of the ungodly foreknown, but the ungodly themselves have been created for the specific purpose of perishing (Prov. 16:4).” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.207-208)

Here is the response of SEA President Brian Abasciano:  Prov 16:4 literally reads, “God works everything to his answer/response, even the wicked for a day of calamity”. The context reveals that day to be the day of judgment. The point is, God brings the wicked to his judgment, a very basic biblical doctrine in complete harmony with Arminian theology. This verse does not support the idea that God creates people for the purpose of them doing evil so that he can then punish them for it. Rather, this verse, as most commentators seem to tend to take it to one degree or another, teaches that God is sovereign and has made all accountable to him. All will answer to him. The wicked will be answered with judgment. The righteous, the context shows, will be answered with blessing. And as the context also shows, wickedness can be atoned for!

Indeed, one of the best and more sophisticated commentaries on Proverbs now, written by a Reformed scholar and Hebrew expert, Bruce Waltke, actually translates the text this way: “The Lord works everything to its appropriate end, even the wicked for an evil day.” Our translations differ a little (one can translate the word for “answer” as “purpose”, “end”, etc., though the word most literally means “answer”, and the pronominal suffix on that word can be applied to God [so “his”] or to “everything” [so “its”], but both his and mine basically, as well as our interpretations, agree on the essential meaning of the verse, that God will bring the wicked to judgment, not that he has created them to be wicked and then to be punished for it.

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