Confusion over Calvinism at McKnight’s Blog

Wesley Walker, writing on Scot McKnight’s blog over on patheos, argues that Calvinists don’t have a good definition of good and evil. Walker writes:

“In a Calvinistic worldview, everything is as God wills it to be… The world exists the way it does because God wills it to bring himself as much glory as possible. Therefore, in this system, the definition of “good” is relegated to whatever is because whatever is somehow brings glory to God.”

There are two arguments here. Some of the premises are not explicit, but the first one goes roughly as follows:

1. Everything that happens is God’s will
2. Some of the things that happen are Evil
3. Therefore, Evil is God’s will

So far, there is no problem, at least no problem for Calvinists. Calvinists think that God determined everything that happens and so believe that God determines evil. But Walker goes on to suggest that Calvinists must also hold to the following:

4. Everything that happens is God glorifying
5. Everything that is God glorifying is Good
6. Therefore, Everything that happens is Good.

An implication of both arguments is:

7. Evil is Good (from 2, 4, 5)

Here are a couple of responses to Walkers’ argument. First, why should we think that everything that happens is God glorifying? There is a difference between saying God chooses to create this world for his own glory and saying evil glorifies God. The first is a question of teleology, the second a question of efficient cause.

Second, in order to accept the premise, one would have to accept an assumption: some happening is good or evil depending on the result/consequence. If the result of evil is more glory for God then the evil is morally justified. Saying something is morally justified might be close enough to saying it is good (at least, it is not clear if there is any factor remaining under which it remains under the category of “evil”). 4-7 may serve as a good argument against consequentialism, but it surely does not undermine Calvinism.

Third, while there is no doubt for the Calvinist that one of God’s reasons for creating the world is for the purpose of his Glory, Calvinists do not have to accept that God calculates how he might achieve maximal glory and then creates that world. This was the view of Leibniz and on Leibniz’s view this world is the best possible world. But why accept that? All that is required is that God creates a good possible world. But there aren’t many Christians who think that because God created a world with evil in it that it cannot be a good world. 

This is a picture of Leibniz (because: any excuse to exhibit a fine mane):

Assistant Professor of Philosophy and History of Ideas at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The College at Southeastern.