“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, III.I).
This is the core of classical determinism. WCF = Westminster Confession of Faith.
For all of classical determinism’s airtight logic, the very Confession has to beg off on its own logic.
God…did…of His own will…ordain whatsoever comes to pass… “Whatsoever” means “everything.”
Push it out to Satan and all evil. God has ordained Satan and has decreed all of Satan’s hostile activities against God himself and against humans and against creation itself. All this Satanic/demonic activity is done “all for the glory of God.”
Logically, God is the origin of evil. Sometime in eternity past nothing existed, but God. Evil now exists and God has ordained “whatsoever” has come to pass…uh, hello.
No, no! Read on to the “yet so”! We can’t have God and his decree be the origin of evil, “yet so,” we will make a plain logical blunder…”neither is God the author of sin…” Whew. We almost got our Reformed selves into some deep *stuff.* And furthermore, to rescue what this “decree” means to humans, the framers concocted this statement, “…nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures…” My, my, this is good. Everything whatsoever has been decreed, but, get this, no violence is done to the will of creatures. I feel so much better. But wait! “Will of creatures”?? Hello, there is no will of creatures. Whatsoever comes to pass is the will of God alone. Opening line of the WCF III.I.
I hear some say, “Oh, John, please. We are up against a holy, a very, very holy mystery here.” Oh, really? It sounds like we’re up against some pretty sloppy logic. I’d be reluctant to hijack a wonderful biblical term like “mystery” to cover a gross error in thinking (and writing).
Classical determinism is and has been a horrible imposition upon the biblical text. And I wonder as a pastor just how many people it has sent to the E-unit of the local hospitals.
“Doc, I ran over my little baby boy in the driveway. I killed him.”
“We know. We’re so sorry.”
“No, Doc, you don’t understand. I’m Reformed. God ordained I kill my child.”
“Yeah, God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass, you see…”
“Well, it was a horrible, tragic accident.”
“No! No! You just don’t get it. There are no accidents in God’s universe. It’s all been planned!”
“I don’t think that is a healthy view of what just happened to you and your child.”
“You’re telling me! I am so hacked off at God! But my very being hacked off has been decreed, too. My very being hacked off at God is, here’s the kicker, is all for his glory. His glory. Isn’t that a neatest, tightest, most logical theology you’ve ever heard of? Is my little boy really dead?”
“John, the best Reformed minds are ahead of you. Read the end, ‘…nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established’.” Oh, that makes perfect sense. Not. Logical voodoo, again.
There is no logical way to get away from God being the origin of evil and sin while holding to the WCF III.I. All the logical shenanigans in the world can’t erase that fact. Once there was only God-Three-in-One. God in eternity decreed whatsoever comes to pass. Evils of all sorts have and do come to pass. You can invent philosophical contingencies up the whaazoo to “protect” God; contingencies that the common believer doesn’t care about or understand, but you can’t escape the logic of WCF III.I.
But, John, you’re making human logic the test of these undeniable biblical truths. No, I’m not. I am saying these are not undeniable biblical truths. So, for me they are both illogical and unbiblical.
We’re left with the greatest blunder of all: Augustine writing that for God there is no such thing as evil. Augustine wrote, “Evil does not exist at all and not only for you ["you" refers to God], but for your created universe, because there is nothing outside it which would break in and destroy the order which you have imposed upon it (emphasis added).” from his Confessions
What was the name of that “tree” again in the Garden of Eden? The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil-which-does-not-exist”? (Genesis 2:7)
There is only one word for Augustine’s belief: blasphemy.
No human being can live a sane life believing WCF III.I. Humans must and they do construct a humanizing theology that reflects the biblical unfolding Story.