All part of God’s plan?

by Richard on March 23, 2011

Allan Bevere points us to Tsunamis: Or, Why I’m No Longer a Calvinist

There is a meaningful difference between God’s permissive will (that which he allows to occur even though he does not want or intend it actively) and God’s ordaining will (that which he actively wills, thereby ensuring that it happens just as it happened for a specific reason). This line divides the Arminian from the Calvinist—at least on the issue of providence. David Bentley Hart, in The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami?, suggests that this distinction allows for the reality of inexplicable suffering, the kind that is neither divinely intended nor purposeful. Seemingly pointless suffering may actually be pointless; that is, it may have no direct reference to any specific, immediate divine purpose or explanation that makes it worth the pain.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }


Doug 03.23.11 at 3:47 pm

I’m still a CalviMinian


Alec Macph 03.23.11 at 5:39 pm

Out of interest, which - out of permissive and ordained will - does the Arminian and Calvinist believe in?

A common analogy for this view of God’s sovereignty over history is “God as novelist.”

If G-d were a novelist, He’d be John Banville.



Kim 03.23.11 at 6:02 pm

Yes, this is a lamentable mistake in Calvinist, but not all Reformed, doctrines of providence. The mistake is fundamentally Christological, as we must look to the Son to see the Father’s providential will, and if we do that we will see that that God’s eternal will is entirely beneficent, that God does not will sin, evil, or suffering. Calvin took his eye off the ball.

Nevertheless, the distinction between God’s “ordaining” will and “permissive” will does not let God off the hook in any easy, “that’s-all-right-then” way, as God remains responsible for the world in which earthquakes and tsunamis occur and kill people. Hart cites Aquinas for the distinction, but as that immense student of the Angelic Doctor Herbert McCabe observes, “the omnipotence of God plainly means that everything that actually happens is due to God.” Moreover, as Arminius himself avers, God foreknows everything that is going to happen in the world (against the teaching of open theists, which the Methodist Thomas Oden calls heretical).

The trick here is to affirm both the divine omnipotence and the relative autonomy of creation (with soteriology, add the creature). Calvin is unable to perform the trick (and, soteriologically, his doctrine of limited atonement is another huge theology fail). Mind, Arminius and Wesley are also unable to pull the rabbit out of the hat. But we have had this discussion before. For now, this child of Calvin is happy, with Allan, to diss his father.


Doug 03.23.11 at 8:46 pm

Kim, it sounds like you too are a CalviMinian like myself. emiticons for your enjoyment :)


jogger 03.23.11 at 9:01 pm

Sometimes I feel God is just the Alpha and the Omega…the before and the after. The forces of nature and the foibles of humanity are left to their own devices. Maybe i’m wrong.


Doug 03.23.11 at 9:31 pm

Well jogger, not being disrespectful, that sounds very “deist”. I believe that God cares more about us than that. To quote God’s Word, “Even the hairs of our head are numbered.” If God cares about how many hairs are on each and every head of everyone past, present and future then He truly must care about things way more important than hairs (not to be disrespectful to God in His care for hair numbering). :)

God bless you jogger.


Sue 03.24.11 at 1:08 am

The fact of the matter that every human being that has ever lived, is now living, and who will be alive in the future, has or will die.
So too with the countless billions of living-breathing non-human beings.
In fact billions of living-breathing beings, both human and non-human die every day.
Which is to say that in and of itself, the natural world is a vast relentless death machine.
Where is the “plan” in all of that?
Or even hope?
And yet IT all constantly and spontaneously arises as an Indivisible Unity.
On the other hand all of this arises in The Blissful Starry Transcendental Being or The Beautiful Room of Perfect Space.


jogger 03.24.11 at 9:14 am

Doug, than’s for your observations and god bless you too.

My faith in Jesus does not allow me to be a Deist. Sometimes it’s difficult not to have deist ideas about the world.


Doug 03.24.11 at 2:41 pm

Jogger, thanks for the kind words. I know with all of the difficult things that happen in the word it is easy to “fall prey” to the natural. What helps me in the midst of the storm Japan is facing is that we as Believers need to pray for the many survivors that they will accpet Christ as their Savior and obtain eternal life. While satan is quick to “steal, kill and destroy” God is there waiting for us to come to Him. Maybe the redemption of the Japanese to Christ is what will make Japan and the Japanese people even better than before. This is difficult for me to say in the natural. However, I know of many revival that have taken place in the midst of dramatic tragedy. That doesn’t diminish the terrible nature of the tragedy.

Sue, I’m sorry we as humans are part “gods”. God alone is indivisible by the very nature of His Trinity. The plan is “That none perish but that all come to repentence.” However, we know that many choose not to and other choose to as well. Therefore we can either choose eternal life or eternal death by our Faith or lack of Faith in Christ. Where is the plan in that? eternal life to those who give their life (heart, soul and mind) to the Lordship of Christ made available to all by Christ’s death and resurrection and received by one’s Faith in that of one’s heart, soul and mind.


Doug 03.24.11 at 2:42 pm

Sue, I’m sorry we as humans are NOT part “gods”.

Sorry for the typo of not having the “not” in there.


jogger 03.24.11 at 6:17 pm

Thankyou Doug

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