Since this blog has been reduced to lame political satire and fantasy football laments, I thought I would go back to an old standby topic: criticizing Calvinism. I recently participated in a discussion on another blog about why I think the Edwards/Piper model of God is theologically suspect. For those that aren’t familiar with what that is, you will want to begin with this article, but make sure you focus on this section:
2.2 Why Does God Ordain that there Be Evil?
It is evident from what has been said that it is not because he delights in evil as evil. Rather he “wills that evil come to pass . . . that good may come of it.” What good? And how does the existence of evil serve this good end? Here is Edwards’ stunning answer:
It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all. . . .
Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all.
If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired. . .
So evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and the sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect.
So the answer to the question in the title of this message, “Is God less glorious because he ordained that evil be?” is no, just the opposite. God is more glorious for having conceived and created and governed a world like this with all its evil.
The emphasis is mine.
So the answer to the so-called “problem of evil” is that it is not really a problem at all. It is in fact necessary, for without it God could not really be God, or at least communicate the fact that he is God to a watching world. But this invites some pretty significant difficulties. If God’s display of wrath is necessary for his full self-glorification, and if his self-glorification is necessary, then wrath is essential to God. God would not be God without expressing it. Therefore, a world containing sinful creatures to be damned then becomes necessary for his self-actualization.
This in effect undermines God’s aseity, the attribute of the divine nature that makes God self-contained, self-suficient, and independent from creation. That means whatever glory he has fully contained within himself and is not dependent on anything for it. But the whole premise of the Edwards/Piper theodicy is that God ordains evil to bring about a fuller more excellent presentation of himself to his creation. However, this seems to makes creation necessary, and worse, it makes it something evil. The argument goes like this:
(1) The premise of the Edwards/Piper theodicy is that God ordains evil to bring about fuller more excellent presentation of himself to his creation.
(2) If premise (1) is true, then God is most glorified
(3) Necessarily, God must glorify himself in all that he does
(4) God created the world
(5) God ordained that evil be
(6) God displays his wrath against all that is evil
(7) God is manifestly glorified
(8) God needs an evil creation in order to most glorify himself
If this is the case, then wrath is essential to God. God cannot be God without it. However, God cannot express wrath within the Trinity. The Persons can certainly know about it, but they cannot “display” it. For wrath to be displayed, there must be something for wrath to be against–namely a fallen creation. Thus, a fallen creation is as necessary as God’s nature to glorify himself.
To avoid the problem, one might qualify (2) by specifying the creature/Creator distinction:
(2*) If premise (1) is true, then God is most glorified in creation
So conceived, this would help avoid the problem of making wrath essential to God. The omniscience of the Trinity does not need a display of wrath to comprehend the divine character. However, creatures are limited and so therefore if there is to be a created world, it necessitates a display of wrath to achieve the end of properly communicating God’s glory.
But this is not as effective as it seems. Once we go from abstract generalities to concrete examples, more problems emerge. For example, to properly glorify himself, God must decree that all people sin, but only save some to display fully his just wrath and his gracious mercy. Those who are among the saved particularly enjoy this display as they experience one and observe the other. The same might be said about the damned, but it is harder to imagine.
But is there not a perfect display of justice and mercy already found in the cross of Christ? Could not God have saved everyone by way of regenerating faith in the person and work of Christ? After all, Reformed theology rightly teaches the cross is where justice and mercy meet. This would avoid the need for a large population of souls to be damned. Nevetheless, a large population of the damned is needed to fully exalt God’s character. The cross of Christ turns out not to be the “blazing center” of God’s glory, because God is not able to communicate as much his nature through it as he can from souls suffering in hell.
In the end, not even Christ on the cross can display the wrath of God as well as sinners experiencing eternal conscious torment. This is clear evidence of a deficiency within the divine nature, and that a fallen creation is necessary to fulfill the nature. This is theology is closer to pantheism than theism and therefore should be rejected for one that either does not understand the divine nature under the compulsion to glorify himself in all that he does or does not determine evil by way of exhaustive control.