In almost any conversation about Calvinism, there is the accusation that Reformed theology makes God responsible for sin and/or evil. The Calvinist will usually answer this charge by denying that God is responsible in the sense of being held accountable by His creation and that He is not the author of sin by making a distinction between primary and secondary causation. However, the Calvinist at some point must admit that Reformed theology affirms God as the ultimate cause of all things and that nothing occurs but by His will. Through all this theological wrangling lies the main issue, which is, what scripture says about God's relationship to sin and evil. I will review several sections of scripture that speak directly to this issue without going through all the theological considerations just mentioned.
The first verse I would like to briefly discuss is Isaiah 45:7 which reads:
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. KJV
The obvious point to make about this verse is that God, thru the prophet, states that He creates evil. The King James translators chose to give the most literal rendering of the underlying Hebrew which is why you would see other, less pointed, translations in the NIV or NASB. But even with other, less literal translations of the underlying Hebrew, the meaning changes little, if at all. The terms employed by other translations such as adversity, disaster, catastrophe, etc. are all synonyms. So, in light of these considerations, what does the non-Calvinist do with this verse? How does the common assertion that God only *permits* evil to happen but has nothing to do with it otherwise, do justice here? How does the non-Calvinist point an accusatory finger at Reformed theology for making God the "author of evil" when you have God's own testimony that He creates it? These questions will become more weighty as we continue with the Biblical testimony.
In the book of Lamentations we read:
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill go forth? Lamentations 3:38 NASB
Here we have the prophet Jeremiah stating that both good and ill come from God. The NASB's rendering is a bit interpretive in comparison to the KJV which again has translated the underlying Hebrew as "evil". But do the implications not remain the same? Is not the prophet trying to communicate that both sides of the moral spectrum come from God himself? If not, what other possibilities are there that can do justice to this verse as it reads?
Next, we have the prophet Amos stating:
When a trumpet sounds in a city, do not the people tremble? When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? Amos 3:6 NIV
The prophet Amos states that when a disaster strikes a city, the LORD has caused it. Again, the KJV renders the underlying Hebrew as "evil" versus the NIV's "disaster". But I again point out that the meaning is the same. Moreover, this statement by the prophet has modern implications. Do not modern disasters such as 9/11 or hurricane Katrina not fall under God's hand and will according to Amos? If this be admitted, is it not true that the terrorist attack on the twin towers was "caused" by God Himself? Was this act of terrorism not evil? I believe that many non-Calvinists would still be reluctant to state that God had anything to do with 9/11 even if they conceded the above reasoning. But what about hurricane Katrina? Many non-Calvinists have stated that Katrina was an act of punishment from God. But is not a natural disaster a kind of evil? If the non-Calvinist answers in the affirmative, what does this do for his criticism of Reformed theology?
Next is Job 2:10 which reads:
But he said to her, "You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. NRSV
Here, Job has just answered his wife by saying that men receive both good and bad from the hand of God. Again, the KJV translators chose to render the underlying Hebrew term as "evil" versus the New Revised Standard's "bad". The most important thing to notice concerning this verse is that it explicitly states that Job did not sin by the comments he made. In modern discussions of this topic, it is the non-Calvinist that accuses Reformed theology of "making a monster out of God" by stating essentially the same thing as Job. But notice it is scripture itself that defends the Calvinist's assertions against this criticism. I have commented previously on one non-Calvinist's handling of this verse. His solution to how the verse read was to simply not quote it in full and to state that Job was suffering from some sort of dilusion due to his afflictions. As I noted before, this attempt at censuring the word of God in order to save one's theological presuppositions is inexcusable.
The next verse I would like to briefly discuss is Exodus 4:11 which reads:
The LORD said to him, "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? NIV
In this section of Exodus, Moses himself is complaining about being God's mouthpiece. God's answer is very interesting in that He states that it is He that makes men mute, deaf, seeing, and blind. Now, I do not believe that these are the only infirmities that God can be said to be the cause of. I mean, why would God only be the cause of blindness and deafness and not of, say, cancer or diabetes? Either way, disease is considered a kind of evil amongst those on both sides of the debate on the problem of evil. If it be admitted by the critic of Calvinism that disease is a kind of evil, then what is his explanation of this verse? How does this fit into his system of theology?
The last verse I would like to discuss has to do with what theologians have called the single most evil act man has ever commited. This act being the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of Acts has this to say:
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:27, 28 NASB
This text states that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish people and the Gentiles did whatever the "hand and purpose" of God predestined them to do. As all Christians know, these people were all involved with the execution of our Lord and though the crucifixion is how our salvation is made possible, this was an act of pure evil on the part of the parties named. So if it be admitted that all those involved in the crucifixion were predestined by the hand and purpose of God to the roles they played, and it be admitted that they commited evil, what can be said against the Calvinist who affirms that God is the ultimate cause of all things? In the case of this particuliar verse, the non-Calvinist will try to slip in their concept of "foreknowledge" in order to distance God from what is plainly stated. But the Calvinist only need respond by pointing out that the term foreknowledge is not mentioned here or in the immediate context. So what else is left?
In all the verses that we've looked at, nothing is at all stated that God merely "permits" or "foreknows" evil. In fact, four of the verses bluntly stated that God creates or causes evil. So for the non-Calvinist who takes the view that God only permits evil and does not in no way cause it, what does he do with these verses? How will he continue to criticise Calvinism for affirming what the text of scripture so plainly states?