Paul Maxwell was a young reformed evangelical theologian. He published the following video in December 2018. He abandoned his Christian faith in early 2021.
Felix culpa: fortunate fault — used especially of original sin, which is redeemed by the coming of Christ (Merriam Webster)
It would seem that if it weren’t for the fall, Jesus would have never become a man to save humanity. If Jesus never became a man, the connection thus created between God and man would never have happened. Jesus, being both fully God and fully man, is a bridge between God and man which connects the Creator with the created and the Infinite with the finite. If Jesus never became a man, that connection would never have been made, and forever there would be an infinite separation between God and His creation. The theodicy here is that evil was necessary as it caused the man Jesus to come and save humanity.
Of course, there was nothing stopping the second person of the Trinity from becoming a man if there never was a fall. It’s perfectly reasonable to believe that it was always God’s intention to unite with His creation by entering that creation as a man. The fall is not necessary for that to happen. So, the theodicy breaks down, as all theodicies do.
Was evil necessary for God to get what He wants out of His creation? The Calvinist would say yes, as God created the universe to display the full range of His perfections, which includes wrath, mercy, and justice (a la John Piper). If there were no evil, how could God display His wrath? Who was God displaying His wrath onto before creation? No one of course. Therefore God had to create the universe in order to fulfill that unmet desire. Here is where the Calvinist theodicy breaks down since it insists that God had to create the universe in order to complete Himself, which cannot be true for a perfectly complete God. God did not create the universe to complete Himself or to fulfill some unmet desire. The universe is an outpouring of God’s perfect completeness–ex nihilo, or better ex deo.
Some believe evil is necessary for the act of “soul building”. The evil we experience builds our character, builds our humanity, and shapes us into the beings God ultimately wants us to be. But this theodicy confuses hardship with evil. If you wanted to run a marathon, and I were your trainer, I would tell you to get up at 5 am each morning to run for an hour. This would be hard for you, but it would not be evil. If I decided that your family was distracting you too much from your training, and thus killed your family to keep you focused, that would be evil. The hardship builds you up, but the evil tears you down. Evil never creates, it only destroys.
Others would say that evil is necessary in order for us to have free will, which is necessary for true love. They argue that love can’t be real unless it is chosen. People have to have the option of rejecting God in order for their acceptance of God to be real. It’s a bad argument. Think of all those you love. Did you have to choose to love them? (Don’t confuse loyalty or obedience with love here.) Does a mother have to choose to love her newly born child? Does a child choose to love his parents? Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” I don’t think Jesus is suggesting we prove our love by obeying, but rather, we obey because we love Him first. (Obedience might lead to stronger love, but it is love which initiates obedience.) At any time in eternity past, did Jesus have to choose to love the Father? Is it even an option for Jesus to reject the Father? Think about what that would mean. God is not suicidal. There is no darkness in God. Could God create a universe in which we had free will and yet there would be no evil? Yes, this is exactly what will happen in the next age, post-resurrection.
Evil creates nothing, it only destroys. Evil is not a positive force, it is a negative parasite. Evil is the privation of good and it has no substance of its own. Evil is not non-being, but rather anti-being — it seeks to kill and destroy. There is no good reason why evil exists in our universe, but yet it is here. Why? God did not need evil to get what He wants out of His creation, but yet He allowed evil to happen. Why?
Perhaps we are asking the wrong question: “What does God want?” Maybe we should be asking the question: “What do we want?” Perhaps the solution to the problem of evil is to stop asking what God wants and start asking what we want. God did create the universe wholly apart from Himself after all. Christians are not pantheists or panentheists, or we shouldn’t be. The terrifying truth is that God created us to rule this creation. The responsibility of doing that is immense. Are we going to kill the evil infecting our universe? Or will we join ourselves with the evil?
So, what is evil? Evil is not non-being, but anti-being. Evil is a side effect of the supremacy of Freedom in Becoming (Being), and it is Being turned against itself. Evil has no substance of its own, but it is parasitic on the very substance which it is intent to destroy. If Creation is Good, then Evil is destruction, both the refusal of the acceptance of the Gift of Being, and the active opposition to Being-itself and Becoming. Evil is freedom, but it is freedom misused. Not as some Gnostic ignorance (As David B. Hart seems to suggest), but indeed a genuine hatred. Since human nature is founded on freedom, humanity can choose evil and oppose the inherent Goodness of his/her nature. Evil is a very real psychological and spiritual reality, and cannot be brushed away by a magic wave of the metaphysical finger. It may not be a substance, but it is very tangible. Evil is not cured by knowledge alone, but by Love.Some guy online called Oskar
Thankfully we have Jesus, God as man, and the Holy Spirit to guide us in this great responsibility God has given to us.
Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitude away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray. Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.Mark 6:45-51 NKJV
Two plus two equals four. Why does 2+2=4? Because God is God. God created the universe ex nihilo. God did not consult any preexisting laws or rules before creating. God did not consult any preexisting law of mathematics in order to discover what kind of universe He could create. The only thing God consulted and had to conform to when creating was Himself (see John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2). Therefore, 2+2=4 because the very nature of God demands that it does. Two plus two equals four because “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
Because God created ex nihilo, the universe is a reflection of His nature and character. There is nothing outside of God which influenced creation. Evil then, is either a reflection of God’s nature and character, or a deprivation of it. God’s word tells us that God is good (Psalm 25:8, 27:13, 31:19-20, 33:5, 34:8, 86:5, 100:5, 107:1, 8-9, 135:3, 145:5-9 — and that’s just some of the Psalms. There are many verses throughout the bible declaring God’s goodness.) Nowhere in the bible do we get a sense that God is evil or acts out in evil ways. Even a verse like Isaiah 45:7 is not saying God created evil as the devil would do evil, rather the evil (or calamity) there is a judgment from a good and just God against demonic and human evil.
In Doug Wilson’s video, he tries to reconcile God’s predestining of all humanity’s actions with human freedom. God has the sovereign power to predestine all a man’s choices while at the same time giving that man freedom to make uncoerced decisions. This is not a contradiction according to Wilson and the Westminster Confession because…. well just because. Wilson actually does not say anything to support this claim in the video. He simply declares it as truth. According to Wilson there is an infinite divide between Creator and creature, and as God is not a part of the universe, He is not displacing the freedom of man by imposing His will on man. Wilson does try to use Jeremiah 18:5-6 to support his idea, but as I show in my last article, that does not work.
It is true that the divide between Creator and creature is infinite, but it is not true that truth itself changes from one side of the divide to the other. Two plus two equals four, and that is true on the Creator side of the divide and the creature side. It is true on the creature side because it is first true on the Creator side. Evil is evil, good is good, on both sides of the divide. If a man freely chooses to rape a woman on the creature side of reality, it is evil. If God freely predestined the man to rape a woman from eternity past, it is still evil. To suggest that God is doing something good when He predestines the free and evil acts of men is to suggest that good is not the same thing on both sides of the Creator/creature divide.
Read the bible as a whole. What you see is God calling out to His people, to turn to Him, to repent of their evil, to trust in His salvation. Never do you get the sense that God has already predestined some to reprobation and others to salvation. Again, I am no Arminian. I agree with Wilson that we lost our moral freedom at the fall. No one is free-willing themselves into heaven. But the Calvinist understanding of God’s sovereignty is an equally false idea.
Read the first part of this subject here.
Related reading: Calvinism is Pantheism
I recently came across a certain video by Douglas Wilson. It is a video about the sovereignty of God. I like Douglas Wilson – I like his eschatology, and I like his politics (mostly). I’ve read several of his books. His writings on the family are excellent. Wilson is also a Calvinist, and that is where I disagree with him, along with his definition of God’s sovereignty.
Calvinists define sovereignty in a way which seems to be unique to Calvinists. The definition goes something like this: All that happens in this universe happens because God ordained for it to happen exactly as it happens. This can get confusing. If God knows the future of an uncreated universe to the smallest detail, and then creates that universe, He automatically ordains, or predestines, all those future events to happen simply by creating. He may not like any of those events, but still allows them to happen. This could be called a negative predestination through allowance. Some Calvinists would be satisfied with this definition.
With Wilson, however, God positively predestines all events in creation just as an author of a play writes out all the actions of his characters. You bought a cookie dough flavored ice cream cone on Saturday, and you were predestined to do that from before the creation of the worlds. However, according to Wilson, you still bought that ice cream cone freely. You were not coerced against your will to do so.
How can a man be free when all of his actions have been predestined by God before the man even existed? If God is forcing His will on the man, does that not displace the will of the man? Yes, but only if God Himself is confined to and a part of the created universe. When one resident of the universe forces his will on another resident, the freedom of the forced is displaced by the enforcer. But since God is not a part of the universe, and the divide between creation and the Creator is infinite, God can predestine the actions of a man while not displacing that man’s freedom in making those decisions. God, being God creating ex nihilo (not god creating while confined to preexisting conditions), does indeed have the power to ordain all of a man’s actions while also ordaining that same man’s freedom. Make sense? You can watch Wilson’s video to hear a more detailed explanation.
Wilson also distinguishes between man’s creaturely freedom (Should I have pasta for dinner, or steak?) and moral freedom (Should I do evil or not?) We all still have our creaturely freedom, but we lost our moral freedom at the fall.
Is Wilson’s explanation of God’s sovereignty correct? He quotes Jeremiah 18:5-6… Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! (NKJV) Just as the potter does with the clay, so does the author with the play. Wilson acknowledges that his analogy of the author and his play is insufficient when comparing God to mankind. He counters that by stating that God is not a part of creation as a human author and the characters in his play are part of the same creation, and that God is powerful and can predestine the actions of His characters while not violating their freedoms.
Wilson considers his author/play analogy to be the same as Jeremiah’s potter/clay analogy. But they are not the same. In Jeremiah God is very much acting as a character within His creation. Jeremiah’s verse has nothing to do with God predestining the actions of Israel from before time. Read verse seven and following. God is warning Israel: If a nation is evil, God will destroy it, and if that nation repents God will not destroy it. There is nothing there about God acting as a predestining playwright deciding the actions of His characters from the infinite divide of Creator/creature. God is in the “story”, sword in hand, giving His creatures a choice. Wilson states in his video (at 12:06) that the potter/clay analogy breaks down and cannot fully capture the Creator/creature divide, but since the Jeremiah passage is not about God predestining the supposed free actions of Israel, Wilson is eisegetically infusing his own philosophy into the passage. (As all Calvinists do with this passage. You can blame their misreading of Romans 9 for that.)
Wilson has little to say about the character of God and how that fits into his definition of God’s sovereignty. He only quotes the Westminster Confession of Faith, as though that is any kind of authority (well, it is for Calvinists). It says: God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. (WCF 3.1) Now, if God ordains by negative allowance (see second paragraph above), He is not the author of sin. But, if God ordains by positive predestination, He is the author of sin. If God positively predestines a rapist to freely rape, God authored that rape. The infinite divide between Creator and creature is not sufficient to refute this logical fact. Two plus two equals four on both sides of the divide after all. And, if God authored the rape, he authored the evil act. If God authors evil acts, He is evil, or at least He transcends evil (and subsequently also transcends goodness) which is no different than being evil. I feel as though I am blaspheming in even writing this. I can go along pretty far with Calvinism, but this is where I turn in disgust. God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
I am no Arminianist. Arminianism seriously calls into question the power of God. I will probably write an article about that sometime in the future (I’ve kind of touched on it here). But just as Arminianism calls into question the power of God, Calvinism calls into question the goodness of God. I have written a couple of articles about Calvinism here and here.
This article might be part one on Wilson’s video. If I have more thoughts on it I might do a part two. And I encourage you to take the time to watch Doug Wilson’s video.
The truth transcends Calvinism and Arminianism. Let us look forward to the glorious day when we can leave behind our inadequate theologies.
Related reading: Sovereignty
How free is God? I would say God is free to do anything which does not violate His own character. Therefore, if God wants to create a certain kind of universe, there is nothing to stop Him from doing so as long as it aligns with His own character, or nature. This, of course, creates problems when looking at the fall of man and the will of man.
True or False: If God did not want the fall of man to happen, and it was possible to give humans their own free will which would not necessarily lead to a fall, then there would never have been a fall since God could have, and would have, created that universe.
Does human free will necessarily lead to a fall? If you say no, then I have to ask: Then why did the fall happen? And if you answer: Because of free will, then I have to ask: Does human free will necessarily lead to a fall?
You can only say that human free will does not necessarily lead to a fall if you believe God does not know the future. However, if God knows the future, He knows if a fall will happen or not. If God does not want a fall, and He wants humans to have their own will, and He sees He can indeed create a universe where humans have free will and there is no fall, then He will create that universe. It’s the one He wants. But, we obviously do not live in that universe. Therefore, either (A) God positively wanted the fall to happen, or (B) He was forced negatively to allow the fall to happen as there was no other option since He wanted humans to have free will, and human free will would always lead to a fall.
Option A seriously calls God’s goodness into question. Why would a good God want a fall and all the evil which accompanies it? Option B calls into question God’s power and freedom. Who decided that God couldn’t create a universe in which humans had free will and never fall?
But wait, Christianity teaches that after the resurrection, after sin and death and the effects of the fall have been completely removed from existence, there will never be another fall, and humans will have free will. So, it turns out that God can indeed create a universe in which humans have free will and yet not fall.
When, exactly, does this creation begin?