A few years ago, Rachel Held Evans released a piece on her website entitled “Why Calvinism makes me cry.” Upon first reading the title, I was admittedly rolling my eyes and sighing at the existence of such an article. This is because one of the major critiques that Calvinists typically bring up is that theology is too often done in emotion rather than logic. Sometimes we want to believe what makes us feel good, even if it isn’t true.
I suppose it’s human behavior to want a crutch, something to lean on when life gets hard. However, when I read the article, I saw legitimate emotion in her words. I had to read it again without the a priori assumption I brought to the table, and I feel I can resonate with some of her points.
She states in her article
“It means that God not only allows, but sovereignly ordains, every war and every abortion and every rape of a child. It means that God does not love the world; he hates it. If Calvinism is true, it means that if that dying little girl that you held in your arms in India was not among the elect, then God did not love her. He never had any intention of loving her. She was nothing to Him. In fact, he would delight and find glory in her eternal torture in hell.”
The problem of evil has been a nagging problem since the Epicureans. Though, I think the Church Fathers handled it better than we do today. They saw the epicurean objections as assuming too much, but nowadays, the modern epicurean actually has a point, due to what evangelicalism has become. In the beginning of the article, she references that some people called her a cotton candy Christian for having emotion, I agree that this cold-hearted stoicism is a problem within our ranks. I don’t blame you for wanting to get off the Ferris wheel, to move forward when time has stopped on this carnival ride. But if I may ask you, what is your competing interpretation to God’s relationship to evil?
I don’t want to presume to know what type of theology you hold regarding God’s foreknowledge, but it seems to me you hold to the simple foreknowledge view. If I’m wrong, feel free to correct me.
The simple foreknowledge view on this issue is that though God foreknows evil acts, he allows certain evil actions to occur because of his plan for humans to have freedom. So, perhaps, you might argue, that love is impossible without a libertarian free will. So the morally sufficient condition on why evil occurs is that it maintains real love and real freedom.
This sounds good on paper, but what do you do with the divine incompetence objection? If God foreknows an evil act, can stop it, but won’t, how is he not morally responsible in some way if we are to apply the same standards applied to the Calvinist?
If a man sees a woman getting raped, has the ability to stop the rapist, call the police, etc. but doesn’t, wouldn’t you question the morality of that man?
Regarding your statement about God hating the world, I don’t think that is true. God clearly says he loves the world (John 3:16) we just disagree on what that means. It would seem, that you think loving the world has to mean every single person in the world, while I don’t think the text suggests that. Jesus says he doesn’t pray for the world but for those the Father gave him out of the world.(John 17:9) Whether you want to apply this to soteriology or not, we have an example of Jesus treating a group of people differently than the rest of the world. Why did Moses get to cross the Red Sea and Pharoah didn’t? Why does John 3:18 mention those who are “condemned already”?
Then we have this notion of God “trying.” This is where your objection turns sour. God doesn’t try, Rachel, God does. I know that sounds like a Yoda quote, but it’s really true. I want you to think about the Bible’s view of God, think of everything the Bible proclaims about our creator. Do you really come to the conclusion that this God is a God who tries but is thwarted by the freedom of his creatures?
This God is better than any historian, historians can tell you what happened in the past, God can tell us why it happened. (Isaiah 46:10) Jesus was sent to save his people, not try to save them. (Matthew 1:21) As far as the girl in India not being among the elect, you don’t know that. Only God truly knows who the elect are, and I don’t know of any consistent Calvinist who would damn all children. The Reformers were covenant theologians who believed in infant baptism, they believed in elect babies.
God’s delight isn’t in the “eternal torture” of people, that is merely a manifestation of justice. What I mean is this, God isn’t a masochist who loves torturing people, but God does delight in being just. The question would then be, do you think hell is just?
She goes later on to write:
“I’ve realized that I cry, not out of conviction that the Calvinists are wrong, but out of the deep, paralyzing fear that they might be right”
I can understand this, believe me. In my testimony, I recalled where I cursed out the idea of Calvinism being true when I was a new Christian. I didn’t want it to be true either. Here’s the thing though. Whether Calvinism is true or not, we shouldn’t fear to go where the truth leads. If I’m convinced of Arminianism, I will be an Arminian. If I’m convinced of your objections, I’d be on your side on this issue. I do not wish to hold on to Calvinism as the lucky penny in my life, I only believe in Calvinism because I think it is consistent with the Bible’s teachings.
You seem to repeat a couple times in your article that God only saves a select few, if God saved one person that would be an act of mercy undeserved. We are all guilty, we like to compare ourselves to others, but when we do that we are looking in a puddle of mud. If you look to Jesus, you’ll see you’re just as dirty as everyone else. God didn’t save me because I chose him, I needed a new heart for that. Also, who says it’s a few? I’m a postmillenialist Rachel, I think there will be more in heaven than in hell at the end!
She ends her article by saying
“How do I overcome my fears?”
Commit to engaging others without letting your emotions overrule your logical thinking. I’m not saying emotions aren’t important, we all have them, but there has to be a balance. Though I would love to see you convert to Calvinism, that isn’t my main goal. I’d like for you to really understand why us Calvinists are Calvinists, but that isn’t my primary goal. I’d like to apologize for other Calvinists behavior, but that isn’t the most important thing right now. The most important thing to me is that you truly believe in Jesus and live to glorify him.
I admit some of the things you believe are concerning to me too, and that’s why you make me cry, Rachel. You obviously have a heart for the lost and I believe you truly care about people. But I just can’t understand the theological path you have chosen, Help me understand.