Defaming God

[The following is drawn from ideas articulated in the article “The Dilemma of Theistic Determinism” by Gunther Juncker in the Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry, Fall 2015, Volume 12, Number 2]

Theistic Determinism is technical verbiage for the idea prominent in Reformed Theology that God’s sovereignty is meticulous and controls everything. While the Bible is certainly clear that God is sovereign over His creation, the traditionalist understanding of His sovereignty means God ensures all things work out to the end He’s ordained. It doesn’t mean everything that happens is His immediate and direct will. Classic Calvinism and the position of Reformed Theology is that God’s sovereignty is meticulous; that is, everything that happens is God’s direct will and that He is in fact causing what happens. Theistic Determinism holds that what we deem as evil, is in fact caused directly by God.

Understanding that this is a morally abhorrent position and that it makes God the author and perpetrator of evil, theistic determinists consign such designations as lying under a shroud of “mystery.” The only reason God causing evil “appears” evil is because we’re mere mortals who don’t see the bigger picture. God’s meticulously determining all things only seems to make Him the author of evil, they claim. But when any rationalization is requested for how God can meticulously determine all things and that doesn’t make Him evil or the author of it, the determinist has to retreat to the convenient rubric, “It’s a mystery.” Some go even further and suggest that to question that mystery borders on blasphemy.

If language is to serve any purpose, it must remain consistent. What’s evil for humans must apply to God if there’s to be any logical consistency in our theology. The theistic determinists would have us assign a completely different meaning to what evil is for humans and for God.

Dr. Juncker employs this analogy . . .

The current Mr. Hatfield and Mr. McCoy are just the latest in a long-standing feud going back generations. Countless witnesses testify to Mr. Hatfield’s loathing of Mr. McCoy and oft expressed desire that he die. He plots the death of Mr. McCoy in his spare time, thinking up new and creative ways to make Mr. McCoy suffer and die as he mockingly looks on. The feelings are entirely mutual.

Now, imagine Mr. Hatfield is under anesthesia for some routine surgery. Unbeknownst to him his doctor, Dr. Strangegood, implants in his brain a tiny device timed to activate in 3 days, causing him to strangle Mr. McCoy. Exactly seventy-two hours later, Mr. Hatfield happily strangles Mr. McCoy to death just as the device programmed him to do.

Mr. Hatfield is then caught, arrested, convicted of first degree murder, and sentenced to death by lethal injection. During his trial, he admits to killing Mr. McCoy, expressing his joy at doing so. The doctor who administers the lethal injection is Dr. Strangegood.

Two people are now dead: Mr. Hatfield and Mr. McCoy.

Question: Who is morally responsible for their deaths? Who is guilty? The answer is inescapable and self-evident: Dr. Strangegood.

This analogy illustrates if theistic determinism is true, God is indeed a moral monster. Theistic determinism makes God a Dr. Strangegood writ large. He first meticulously causes people to be and do evil, then eternally condemns them for it.

No reasonable jury would condemn Mr. Hatfield had the presence of the device and its programming been brought to their attention. The fact Hatfield had long desired McCoy’s death is irrelevant to the question of his guilt for the murder. At the crucial moment in question, Hatfield was merely the tool of another, meticulously and irresistibly acting out the doctor’s plans.

When the device comes to light, it’s Dr. Strangegood who’ll be on trial for the murder of two men. No appeal on his part to some mysterious “good” effected by his behavior will sway the jury because his “good” cannot differ fundamentally from the ordinary way they understand it. Far from “good,” that jury will find what the doctor did morally reprehensible and evil.
By making God’s sovereignty a thing of meticulous determinism, advocates of Reformed theology do not guard God’s glory; they turn Him into a monster.

God IS sovereign. All things will turn out and compete as He ordains. But God allows human beings the exercise of their libertarian free-wills. When they choose to do evil they and they alone are morally responsible. There may be environmental factors that facilitate and encourage sin, but in the end, choice retains to the individual. What affirms God’s glory and appreciation for His power and wisdom is that even while allowing human being libertarian free-will, He still works in such a way that the good ends He ordains come to pass.

That’s how love stays real; because God gives us the power to choose, then honors the choices we make. In seeking to vaunt God’s glory by assigning meticulous determinism to God, determinists defame Him. It’s the traditionalist understanding of God’s sovereignty that accrues to Him greater glory.