(Editor’s Note: Some Calvinists try to claim that if Cavlinist theology makes God the author of sin [a classic charge Arminians have made about the logical implications of Calvinist theology], then so does Arminian theology due to its belief in God’s foreknowledge. This post attempts to debunk that charge by illustrating the sharp differences between the Calvinist view and the Arminain view using two fictional case studies.)
The situation was grim for Police Chief, Captain Everett Justus. The most powerful and cunning crime boss in all the city, Moriarty Norton, had constantly evaded capture, and had recently stepped up his criminal activities. This would be bad enough normally, but a dispatch with potentially worse news had come into the office. Looked like a shipment of Guffinite, a cerebral phlebotinum of unstoppable power, was being transported through their city and put into secure storage. Justus knew this was a disaster in the making. Norton, formerly a rookie he’d taken under his wing, had turned his considerable genius and talents to a life of crime; and a substance that could control the human mind could make him the most powerful man in the nation if he got his hands on it. Justus knew how his ambitious former protégé thought, and knew he would never pass such an opportunity up. Later that evening, his suspicions were confirmed when surveillance on two of Norton’s wanted associates revealed that they were planning a heist of the Guffinite the very next night! If there was any possible way to get that stuff, Norton was going to get it. The next morning, Captain Justus implemented a daring plan: instead of increasing the guard on the Guffinite shipment, he placed his forces in strategic positions around the city and put them on standby.
As expected, Norton and his men put their plan into action that night. He’d positioned several identical cars around the area and waited for his opportunity. Guards had been posted out in front of the storage building, with one watchman inside. When Norton’s spotter saw him go out the side of the building for a smoke break, they made their move. Stealthily breaking into the rear entrance, they were in and out with the metallic cargo container in a flash. The watchman stepped back in just in time to see the rear entrance door close behind them, and sounded the alarm.
As the getaway car sped off, Norton gave the order, and the other identical cars formed a convoy around his. On the chief’s order, a few squad cars pursued the thieves, but at a junction, Norton gave another order, and the identical cars all split up into different directions, with no way for the officers to tell which one was bringing the stolen cargo back to their hideout!
Norton was delighted at his good fortune. The heist had been too easy of course; but he’d sprung the trap for a clean getaway. As his car neared his hideout, he opened the metal container to get a good look at his prize. Powering up the high-tech equipment used to contain the Guffinite, he opened the chamber to get a good look at it -only to find that he’d been suckered! This wasn’t the Guffinite! It resembled it upon first glance, but his trained eye recognized it as fake. He tore through the container’s insulation and confirmed the presence of what he feared it would also contain: a tracking device. Norton looked up out his window to see squad cars and SWAT vehicles approaching his hideout from every direction. It was over. His old mentor had won.
Several weeks later, at the trial, the defense lawyer for Moriarty Norton, by the name of Petey Foggery, started to cross-examine Chief Justus….
Petey Foggery: “…so now, we come then to the real question: who authored this crime? Will you tell us Captain?”
Everett Justus: “Your client, obviously.”
PF: “But captain, it was in fact you that arranged the situation in which he allegedly stole the item, was it not?”
EJ: “Do you mean by placing only minimal guards on the stolen item?”
PF: “Yes, did you place only minimal safeguards on the item in question, thereby creating a situation in which my client would be able to steal it?”
EJ: “Yes I did.”
PF: “So you now admit that you authored the crime?”
EJ: “I only allowed Mr. Norton opportunity to steal if he wanted to. The opportunity by itself doesn’t constitute the crime. The author of the wicked act is the one who comes up with it, not the one who leaves an opportunity open for him to pull it off.”
PF: “But since you allowed him opportunity, you must have wanted him to steal it, right?”
EJ: “I didn’t want him to commit any crimes at all. I hate evil and love what’s right; but if someone’s gonna choose to follow evil, I’ll make sure it’ll bring em’ down.”
PF: “So you laid a trap! That’s entrapment!”
EJ: “I neither asked him nor induced him to commit this crime, I was just ready when he made his move.”
PF: “Now Chief Justus, since you had the resources at your disposal, you could have prevented my client from stealing in the first place by increasing the guard, right?”
EJ: “Yes, I could have.”
PF: “So your failure to prevent the crime in fact implies that you authored it!”
EJ: “What are you talking about? How does my not putting more guards on the item amount to me planning the heist?”
PF: “By…by…not preventing it, you’re at least partially culpable!!”
EJ: “My job is to enforce the law, not make you incapable of breaking it. I’m not obliged to prevent the crime if I have power to set things right and bring the perpetrator to justice! And I’m well within my rights to set up a sting operation.”
PF: “But your surveillance confirms that you knew he’d steal it. You knew beforehand that he’d try, isn’t that right?”
EJ: “Yes, I knew.”
PF: “And because you knew he’d try and steal it, and arranged things so it was possible for him to do so, then isn’t it fair to say that you’re really the one who authored this crime?”
EJ: “Exactly how would my knowing that he was going to commit the crime imply that I’m the one that planned it for him?”
PF: “Um…you knowing about it causes it to happen, doesn’t it? Because, I mean, if you know something for a fact, then things can’t be different than what you know if your knowledge is in fact, factual… so that would mean your knowledge in effect caused the fact to be….”
EJ: “I don’t know what you’ve been drinking, but no! I came up with a plan to catch a criminal, I left something open for him to steal knowing he’d try to take it so I could catch him in the act. I didn’t tell him to steal it, I didn’t coerce him to steal it, I didn’t make the decision for him to steal it, and I didn’t come up with the idea that he steal it! He did his decision-making, planning, and action all by himself. He is the author of his own crime, and justice demands he be condemned!”
PF: “No! No! You’re the author! You are! You are! You are!! The author is the one who knows about and allows it, and since you knew about it and didn’t prevent it, that means you’re the author!! That’s right! That’s what ‘author’ means! Isn’t that right your honor? Your honor? Why are you rolling your eyes? Isn’t that right your honor? Isn’t it?!?”
Judge: “Bailiff [points to Foggery], club this man!”
After the conviction of Moriarty Norton, Everett Justus was hailed as a national hero. Meanwhile in another city, Chief Preston Tenser looked on with envy. Now Tenser wasn’t nearly as good a detective as Justus. Whereas the latter could put the pieces together and make advanced deductions to predict the behavior of the criminal mind, Tenser really had no clue as to what people would do next unless he made them do it (and was consequently a natural micro-manager).
When the city council was called together, Chief Tenser was secretly briefed that the Guffinite would be shipped through his city next, but due to recent events, the information as to its whereabouts was much more tightly controlled. Chief Tenser was entrusted with the key to the storage and named chief protector of the Guffinite. Tenser decided that he wanted to be a champion of justice like his counterpart was, so used his key to open the unit where the Guffinite was being securely held and filled a few syringes with it. He turned to his aide, a Lieutenant Byron Stander, then quickly injected him with the Guffinite. Stander stood up and followed Chief Tenser. The chief then went out into town and likewise injected two more people by the names of Dee Creed and Deuce Causington.
Chief Tenser looked over the three people now under his control. “I can’t tell a person to commit a crime…I’ll just have someone else do it!” So Tenser started to play ‘telephone’ with his captives, and said, “Ms. Creed, tell Mr. Causington to tell Lt. Stander to go to the lab and steal the Guffinite.” Ms. Creed obediently turned and told Mr. Causington, “Tell Lt. Stander to go to the lab and steal the Guffinite.” Mr. Causington turned to Lt. Stander and said, “Go to the lab and steal the Guffinite.” Chief Tenser added, “Sander, stealing is against the law, don’t do it.” Lt. Stander stood paralyzed by the contradictory orders. Tenser relayed another message to Stander in the same telephone game fashion: “Ignore Chief Tenser’s warning and steal the Guffinite.” Lt. Stander obeyed the order and went on his way.
Lt. Stander walked into the lab, which Tenser left open for him, and made off with the Guffinite container. As he got into his car and made his way back to his apartment, several police cars turned on their flashers and pulled him over. Captain Tenser stepped out of one of the vehicles and pulled out his gun, flashed his badge, and ordered his aide to step out of the car. Lt. Stander complied, and was handcuffed and brought in as Chief Tenser smiled for the cameras.
Several weeks later, at the trial, the lab confirmed its analysis that traces of Guffinite had been found in not only Lt. Stander’s blood, but also in that of Ms. Creed and Mr. Causington. Stander’s defense lawyer, Rahm Ifikeishun, calls Chief Preston Tenser to the stand….
RI: “…so now, we come then to the real question: who authored this crime? Will you tell us Captain?”
Preston Tenser: “It wasn’t me.”
RI: “You were the only one with access to the Guffinite…did you use it?”
PT: “Yeah, so what?”
RI: “And did my client commit the crime of theft as a result of you using it?”
PT: “Uh huh. He definitely did it -which is why he deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law!”
RI: “So… you in fact detest the crime that was perpetrated?”
PT: “I loathe it with all my being, which is why I say lock that kid away! The crime he committed was utterly despicable!”
RI: “Can it then be rightly said that there was nothing in my client’s power that could have been done to resist this effect?”
PT: “You bet. That stuff’s unstoppable! But he wanted to do it, so he’s still responsible.”
RI: “Did he want to do it because the Guffinite made him want to do it?”
PT: “Of course; but he’s still responsible. Besides, it’s not like I didn’t warn him to try and stop him….”
RI: “You tried to stop him? So…he could have chosen to not commit the crime?”
PT: “Yeah, if I’d wanted him to listen, but because I had complete power over them, I made him ignore it so I could justly punish him for his stubbornness and criminal motives!”
RI: “But…weren’t those motives something you implanted in him?”
PT: “Definitely, which is why I can hold him responsible!”
RI: “So…if you hate this crime so much, yet aren’t the mastermind, then who is?”
PT: “The perpetrator of course. He’s the one that did it.”
RI: “But he didn’t author the crime, he was helplessly following someone else’s plan.”
PT: “Oh yeah, he was following Mr. Causington’s directions.”
RI: “And of course, lab analysis confirms that Mr. Causington and the alleged conspirator Ms. Creed were injected with Guffinite as well. If they were all injected, and therefore were all being controlled, then who masterminded this crime?”
PT: “One or more of them. Not me, obviously.”
RI: “But weren’t you the one that injected them?”
PT: “And is that wrong? Is there some law somewhere that specifically says that I can’t inject people with Guffinite? I’m the chief protector of the Guffinite! Who are you to talk back to me?!?”
RI: “That’s not the point, we were talking about who authored this crime. So did they all do exactly as they were told to do?”
RI: “And doing exactly what they were told to do resulted in Lt. Stander stealing, right?”
PT: “That’s why we’re here. To condemn Stander for his evil, evil deed….”
RI: “And the one that told them to do it, was in fact you, was it not?”
PT: “Of course. Who else do you think did it?”
RI: “So then you are the mastermind!”
PT: “But see, I’m not responsible, cause I’m only the remote cause that made em’ do it, it’s the proximate causin’ people who actually commit the crime that should be punished.”
RI: “If you came up with it and made them do it, then how are you not the author?!?”
PT: “Well see, being the one that came up with the plan doesn’t make me the author, since he did it because other people made him do it- “
RI: ” -those other people also being left with no choice but to follow your orders to that end!”
PT: “You just don’t understand true justice, do ya? That’s not an excuse! You commit the crime, you’re guilty! No excuses! You can’t really finger me for it, because I didn’t actually do anything wrong, I wasn’t even near the lab when it was robbed! The fact that they were acting while completely bent to my will doesn’t change a thing. That’s real justice! They did it, not me! I’m not the author! I am justice!”
RI: “Defense rests your honor.”
Which of these men (if any) is a hero?
Which one executes justice?
Which is just playing word games?
Which one rightly judges his subordinates who turn villainous?
Which one turns his subordinates villainous so they can be judged?
Which one authored the crime he condemned?
Which of these men held a form of justice that we should strive to imitate?