Is God a moral monster? Is God evil in the Bible? This is a question that is often raised by atheists and other non-Christians who labor to bring forward a case against the biblical model of God. Since God is necessarily righteous, they cannot be believers, for the biblical presentation of God is one that does not measure up. It does not adequately reflect the holiness and righteousness that one would expect from God. This is an atheistic argument that Christians encounter when interacting with the non-believers. Yet, shockingly, and absurdly, there are Christians who mount the same arguments against other Christian conceptions of God. Arminians will often say that if Calvinism is true, then God is a moral monster. They go as far as to say that if the Calvinistic interpretation of the Bible is true, they would forfeit their Christian faith and resign themselves to unbelief and disobedience. Is this reaction warranted? Is God evil is Calvinism is true?
Many reading might be wondering what these terms are that I am using. In the narrowest and most concise sense, Calvinism is an expansion of monergism. Monergism is the view that God alone brings salvation in the human heart. It is the view that when a person has faith, it is because God has saved them already. God actively pursues them and makes them new creatures so that they can turn to him in faith and repentance. I represented this view in my article “Do We Have The Free Will To Choose Salvation?” There are certainly a few moral tones in this doctrine and questions that have to be answered. But rather than engaging the text, some have chosen to change their interpretation of the text based on these moral tones. Hence, we have Arminianism, which is to be taken as an expansion of synergism. Synergism is the view that God is actively pursuing everybody, yet fails in most cases, and only those who respond to him in faith and repentance are saved. Many Arminians (synergists) look at Calvinism (monergism) and raise several moral objections, a few of which you may be shuffling through as you read this. I will address them through the course of this article.
Who is deciding what righteousness is? If a police officer were to take off his badge and doff his blue uniform, get in an unmarked car, and try to pull somebody over, the citizen would not respect the authority of the off-duty cop. But if he is wearing his uniform with his badge, in a marked car with sirens, then the citizen will pull their car over. It is an issue of the authority of the officer. Similarly, when the atheist looks at the Bible and sees him taking a life, what they are seeing is not God’s judgment, but a manifestation of the wicked hearts of man. They have removed God’s authority from Scripture. God can take a life, for he is the one who gave life in the first place. He can send somebody to Hell if he wishes and even bring destruction upon a city. He is God and he is more righteous and more loving than we are. Just consider all of the times that people have made snap judgments and then, when they learned more of the details and context, they repented of their judgment. God’s wisdom and knowledge supersedes our own, and we just do not know enough to make these judgments.
This is something that the Arminian will acknowledge when discussing moral issues with atheists. Yet it seems that they fail to apply that standard to their own theology when they indict God with immorality. For if one is to say that God is behaving in a way that is evil, that is not only blasphemous, but it is a statement born out of ignorance. Indeed, it is precisely the lesson that Job had to learn. When he lost his family, his home and everything that he owned, he questioned God and claimed his own righteousness. He made the same indictment against God that we see Arminians making. The divine response that we see is, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2). The Arminian who claims that God is being evil is darkening counsel by words without knowledge. They are assuming to know more than God knows.
After all, this is a discussion about the Bible. The question about whether monergism is true is one that is answered by Scripture. When we exegete Scripture, we need to be honest with the text and not contort it to our own liking. If we find something in Scripture that we disagree with, we need to ensure that we conform our beliefs to Scripture, and not Scripture to our beliefs. For if we conform Scripture to our beliefs, then we are constructing God in our own image. We are creating an idol for ourselves. Is God evil if Calvinism is true? Even if we do not understand why God would do certain things, we have to remember that he is more righteous and more holy than we are, and we just do not know all of the facts. The Bible is God’s word and we need to just conform ourselves to it.
Why did God save one person, and not another? Calvinists are often posed this challenge. If God has it within his ability to freely save everybody, then why does he not freely save everybody? Something interesting that should be remembered is that this is a question that everybody has to deal with. Unless you deny that God knows the future, then you are committed to the belief that God knows who will be saved and who will not be saved. The Arminian answer to this quagmire is that God elects individuals on the basis of their free choice. However, if everybody has an equal opportunity, then the question remains: why did one person choose God, and not another? It cannot be that they were more wise or more righteous, for if that were the case, then we would have a model of works-righteousness. The only resolution to this problem is to say that God provides more grace to the individual so that they may freely choose him, which would lead us back to monergism.
So I am inclined to think that the Arminian has the greater logical quagmire. After all, even if I do not know why God chooses one person and not another, there is nothing that logically compels me to think that therefore, these people have the freedom to choose God. Rather, I am biblically compelled to think that it is simply by the counsel of God’s will. I do not know the answer to this problem. I do not know why God chose one person and not another. But I do know that God is more righteous and holy and I am, and he is in a position to make these decisions. I also know that there really is no logical alternative, for the Arminian resolution leads to a logical problem that only monergism can resolve.
It should also be noted that when presenting this doctrine, Paul anticipated this question and answered it. He writes, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'” (Romans 9:19). Notice that this is exactly the moral dilemma that the Arminian is raising. Nobody can resist God’s will. How can he possibly still blame us if he is the one who is choosing to save us? Like the rest of us, Paul does not know the answer to this question. It is a logical problem that is left to God to know the answer. He calls us to just put our trust in him, that he is more righteous and loving than we are. He writes, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (Romans 9:20).
In response to this, you might be inclined to suggest that Paul was not talking about individuals, but about nations. Well, first of all, in verse 16, he switches from talking about nations to individuals. But secondly, if Paul were talking about nations, then why did he not provide the logical answer to this problem? The logical question that Arminian exegesis suggests that Paul is answering is, why is God expanding his salvation to include the Gentiles? So, why did he not just say, “God loves Gentiles, too,” or “God is saving the Gentiles so that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” But he does not say those things. Why does he not answer the rhetorical questions? There are very simple answers to that question. Instead, he calls man into obedience to God. He calls man to trust in God’s righteousness. Perhaps the question is more difficult than Arminian exegesis suggests. Perhaps the question is, “why does God save one person, and not another?” Is God evil if Calvinism is true? Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?
How can you fellowship with such a person? If somebody thinks that the God you believe in is evil, how can you join hands and sing hymns with them? The person with whom you are singing thinks that you believe in a God that is evil. Oh, you do not realize that the conception of God that you maintain is evil, but nonetheless, they think that you believe in an evil God. If somebody thinks that you believe in an evil God, how is it that they would think that you were saved? Those two concepts are just utterly incompatible.
Further, how is it that the Calvinist can think that the Arminian who thinks that God is evil, is saved? After all, they are maintaining that the God of the Bible is evil. The Arminian should try to put themselves in the Calvinists’ shoes. The Calvinist believes that this is the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible unconditionally elects people based on his good and sovereign will. The Arminian is looking at the God of the Bible and saying that he is repugnant, unworthy of worship. What sort of fellowship can be had with such a person? Is God evil if Calvinism is true? Well, to maintain such a thing seems to be a disconnect between Arminian and Calvinist fellowship.
Finally, and critically, if it were the case that Calvinism were true, then the Arminian would essentially be blaspheming God. I am not saying that the Arminian who says such a thing is not saved. But I will say that I would not want to answer for such a thing. I would not want to have to explain to God why I called him evil. In response, the Arminian might say that they would stand the judgment seat of God and ask, “so why did you not save those other people?” Suppose, though, that God provided the answer. He told this Arminian the answer to that question at his judgment seat, and it satisfied all of their moral qualms. Would it then not be the case that God could say, again, “Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”
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