Calvinism and Arminianism:
Myths & Realities

One person echoes the Calvinist sentiment:The Calvinist comes back something like this and says, if God wanted to he could have created a world in which man never would have sinned. So by determining to allow Adam to sin God is still complicit in the origin of sin. So the Arminian does not escape the problem of evil in God’s creation.” (emphasis mine)

But the Father of the Prodigal Son” also determined to allow his son to leave, and therefore would Calvinists say that the father was thus complicit” in his son’s resulting debauchery?

When an Arminian says that God determined to allow something, he means to say that God allowed an independent party do their will. Conversely, when a Calvinist says determined to allow,” what he means is that God determined to give the illusion of allowing something, because God secretly scripts their every thought, word and deed, without which (the Calvinist reasons to himself), God otherwise couldn’t infallibly know it. So the problem of evil is quite different between Calvinists and Arminians. For the Calvinist, it’s not a problem at, but a matter of allegedly God getting precisely what He scripted.

Roger Olson writes concerning Calvinism: If that’s the case, then there is no getting around it that sin and evil are good because without them God’s glory could not be fully revealed.” (Part 5 of Response to The Gospel as Center: Chapter 5 “Sin and the Fall”, emphasis mine)

One Calvinist responds: Sin and evil are not good in themselves, but they can be used to bring about a greater good that couldn’t be realized without them.” (Part 5 of Response to The Gospel as Center: Chapter 5 “Sin and the Fall”, emphasis mine)

Lorenzo Elijah Heighway comments: And people, guess what the purpose of that sin is, or part of it at least? So God can glorify Himself by getting angry! Because we all know, don’t we, that if there was no sin, God would have nothing to get angry at and show everyone how angry He is, and then He would be extremely frustrated! ... It is true that sin does have a purpose - but not for God. Sin is Satan’s purpose. Yes, we know that God works the sinful choices of men and demons into His purpose. God knew that sin would occur, but He has never liked it, never desired it, never required it and never purposed it. White and Piper are getting confused between God and Satan.”

In Calvinism, God meticulously causes the “sin and evil” of Dependent Agents, in order to arrive at a particular good, whereas with Arminianism, God simply uses the “sin and evil” of Independent Agents to bring about a particular good. Therefore the matter “sin and evil” of does not apply evenly to Calvinism and Arminianism. In other words, with Calvinism, all “sin and evil” are good simply and solely because God decreed it; God derived it from no outside example, but conceived of it from His holy imagination. So to a Calvinist, “sin and evil” are good because it originates from God. Conversely in Arminianism, all “sin and evil” are conceived outside of God, independent of God (consider Jeremiah 32:35 for instance), as God uses the “sin and evil” others to salvage good from the bad. The “bad” is not a “means to an end,” as it inherently is with Calvinism, but “bad” within Arminian-thought is something that God works around, never intended, never desired, never wanted, and best of all, never needed. But in Calvinism, God absolutely does need it, and thats a significant difference. God would have been just as blessed (and I would argue, far more), had Adam and Eve never fallen. Calvinists cannot say this. In Calvinism, God absolutely needs “sin and evil,” while in Arminianism, “sin and evil” doesnt stop God whatsoever.

Regarding the matter of Dependent Agents, what is meant is that with Calvinism, all agents, both human and angelic, are dependent upon Gods decree for their every thought, word and deed, without which (as Calvinists tell us), God couldnt otherwise infallibly know what any of the aforementioned would think next. With Arminianism, God knows the future self-determined choices of others, as a factor of being an eternal Being, independent of time. Moreover, with Arminianism, all “sin and evil” are committed independently of God. God never needed the child-sacrifice described at Jeremiah 32:35, though such atrocities do not stop God.

Now to a Calvinist, that results in the following: Sin without purpose. But why does sin have to have a purpose? Does all the sin currently being committed in Hell need to have a purpose? Moreover, for Calvinists, not only does sin have to have a purpose, but it has to have God as its origin:

Calvinist, James White, writes: “For some reason, [Dave] Hunt prefers a God who created without a purpose and decree – even though He fully knew that His creation would be filled with senseless, purposeless, gratuitous evil and suffering! That is the price of libertarian freedom, and it is a price Mr. Hunt seems willing to pay.” (Debating Calvinism, p.192, emphasis mine)

But for the Calvinist, it is more than just what God “knew,” but what was decreed.

Calvinist, James White, writes: “If God’s decree does not include the evil of mankind, that evil has no purpose, and Hunt is left directing us to a God who creates the possibility of evil, starts this universe off on its course, and then tries His best to ‘fix things’ as they fall apart in a torrent of wickedness. This is supposed to comfort us? This is the God who says that He works all things after the counsel of His will? Hardly!” (Debating Calvinism, pp.319-320, emphasis mine)

First of all, James White assumes that there is such a decree in the first place. Second, somehow White finds it much more comforting if the origin of every single act of sin and evil is sitting on the throne.

Dave Hunt replies: “White contends that if God doesn’t decree evil, ‘evil has no purpose.’ Evil must have a purpose?” (Debating Calvinism, p.327, emphasis mine)

To a Calvinist, if God permits sin, then He must have a purpose in permitting it. But as an illustration, did the father of the “Prodigal Son” have a purpose in permitting his son to leave? No. The father didn’t want it, and was thrilled when his son returned. Sin doesn’t have to have a purpose.

Here is how to successfully connect the dots:

Dale V. Wayman: “Yes, White is goofy when he says this. It’s that omnicausality trap that he finds himself in. He wants meaningful evil.”

Bingo! James White both wants and needs it. He is philosophically pre-committed to it: “B” is being driven by “A.” The dots are successfully connected. Omnicausality entails that all is determined, and how could it be willfully determined without any thought behind it? Thus, decreed sin must have a purpose for it being decreed in the first place. Moreover, since Calvinism is a 5-Point system, Calvinists are philosophically pre-committed whenever any point of Calvinism is discussed, and so they will sell any one point very hard, because of the necessity to keep their entire chain held together. So a Calvinist is very vulnerable to Circular Logic.

Adrian Rogers explains: “God is the author of everything. God made everything perfect, and when God made man, God made His creature perfectly free. Free Will, then, man’s Free Will, is the origin of evil. God did not create evil. God created perfection, and God made man perfectly free, and freedom therefore gave rise to this evil. You see, this is what makes us moral creatures. Somebody says, ‘Why didn’t God just make us where we couldn’t sin?’ Well if God had made us where we couldn’t sin, He could have no more fellowship with me than I could have with that pulpit or that speaker. Because God made us moral creatures; love is the highest good; and God wants us to love Him. This is the first and great commandment: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, with all thy mind.’ Love is the highest good, but forced love is a contradiction in terms. Forced love is not love at all. In order to love, we must be free to love, to choose to love, and to choose to love, we have to be able to choose not to love. And so God gave us perfect choice. Adam chose in the Garden of Eden, and the sons of Adam after him, to sin, and that’s where the heart-ache, and the groan and the moan come from, as we’re going to see in a moment.” (Turning Hurts Into Hallelujahs: Romans 8:8-11, emphasis mine)

Calvinist Charge: The problem of evil,” in terms of its implication upon God, is just as much of a problem for Arminians as it is of Calvinists, and hence all Arminians should temper their criticisms of Calvinism accordingly.

Myth or Reality:  False. There the matter of sin and evil is entirely dissimilar between Calvinism and Arminianism.
James White insists that sin must have a purpose, or else you would have all that sin and evil out there, and with no purpose to it at all, and is just meaningless and random. But there is a good lesson to be learned here, and which helps for a number of applications, even outside of the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate.

Often times, people will argue obscure points (just like with James White’s point), and you wonder why someone would be so adamantly arguing for something so blatantly odd, and here is the reason for it: There is a reason for why people do this, and it is philosophical pre-commitment. In other words, if a person argues “B” then it’s possible that it’s because of something else left unspoken, which we’ll call “A,” and so when “B” is argued, you need to figure out what “A” is, that’s driving it. Similarly, the riddle of James White’s argument for “B” will be solved by successfully pegging the “A” which drives it.

James White steadfastly believes that sin must have a purpose (which we will call “B”), and is simply because James White also holds to “A” (which is omni-causality). In other words, if God decrees whatsoever comes to pass (A), then it is necessary that whatever results from that decree must also have some purpose to it (B), or else God decrees, appoints, scripts and foreordains without any thought involved, like an absent-minded professor. So James White strongly argues for “B” but he doesn’t come right out and tell you that it's because of “A,” but primarily tries to sell his argument for “B” on the merits of “B” alone. Then an Arminian or non-Calvinist comes along and finds James White’s argument for “B” to be unnecessary and puzzling, only to later discover that “A” is the real reason why he is philosophically pre-committed to selling “B” so hard.