Saturday, October 16, 2021

Calvinists on free action and God's glory

 Calvinists will argue that to act freely is to act on one's own desires. You are excused from doing an action if you wanted to do otherwise, but somehow God forced you to do it against your will. But, when you sin, you do what you want to do. You had the desire to sin,  you were able to sin, and  you did sin. So it is your responsibility, whether God predestined  you to do it or not. 

According to Calvinists (and many secular philosophers who are called soft determinists), you are free just in case you want to do something, and have the power to carry out  your will. They maintain that the idea that you could have done otherwise given the actual past is a false and incoherent concept of free will, and one that does not obtain in the real world.

On the face of things, this position adds strength to the atheistic argument from evil, since it deprives the theist of free will as an explanation for human (and demonic) wrongdoing. Rowe's argument from evil, for example says: 

1) An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

Now Calvinists believe that some people go to hell, and even if they meet the soft determinist's definition of free will, it is still the case that those people could have been saved if God had chosen to save them. But what they maintain is that what is good, in the final analysis, is what gives God greater glory, not what makes humans happy, even for eternity. Hence, they maintain, having millions of people (and fallen angels) in hell is better than God saving everybody, since if he damns millions of people he gets not only to exercise his mercy on those he forgives and saves, but also gets to exercise his wrath against unrepentant sin. That renders God a more glorious being than he would be if he just saved everyone, and therefore it is right for God to do, even though it inflicts intense suffering on millions of people and fallen angels. 

4 comments:

unkleE said...

I think your explanation is fair, but it certainly doesn't paint Calvinism in a good light.

1. If you want to sin, are you free not to want to sin? In Romans 7 Paul said he wanted to do good but was unable to. Calvinism only "works" if you look on the surface, but falls if you follow the regression down (IMO).

2. On whose definition of "glorious" is torturing people more glorious than freeing them? Not on any definition I know. Jesus said to forgive, to love enemies, to turn the other cheek? Does that mean Calvinism is anti-Jesus?

I grew up in a Calvinistic church, and it didn't ever make sense to me, even though I accepted (at that time) all the other evangelical teachings (that's Australian evangelicalism, not the US version).

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Starhopper said...

"That renders God a more glorious being than he would be if he just saved everyone"

One of the (many) problems with Calvinism is that it makes God needy. He does not need to do anything to increase His glory. He is glorious by nature and from eternity, and infinitely so.

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