These posts of mine on Hart’s book Doors of the Sea have generated a goodly amount of comments. So before considering his next section, allow me a quick comment on one point that has surfaced in those comments, I believe more than once. An attempt has been made to distinguish between a logical mystery (how could an infinite God become a finite man?) and a moral mystery (how can a holy God ordain evil?), an attempt I believe to be beside the point.
First, what basis do we have for saying that moral mysteries are more troublesome than logical, and therefore to be excluded? Second, why do we assume that the generation of these “moral mysteries” arises from embracing Calvin, and not from, say, reading the Bible? The Son of Man must go, just as it has been determined, but woe to that man through whom it comes. “Daddy, what does that mean?” Reformed seminaries don’t raise this question; family devotions raise the question. And third, even granting that moral mysteries are to be excluded, the problem is that every form of classical theism necessitates the very same moral mystery. Calvinists draw more ire than most, not because our position generates the mystery, but rather because we openly embrace the mystery instead of pretending to have successfully evaded it.
That said . . . on to section iv of part two.
Hart says, “what God permits, rather than violate the autonomy of the created world, may be in itself contrary to what he wills” (p. 82). The problem here is that God cannot be honoring the autonomy of the created world by “staying out” and permitting “outrages” because most of the outrages consist of certain creatures violating the autonomy of other creatures. God does not “permit evil” in order to safeguard autonomy. One of the central things He is permitting is the demolition of autonomy.
If I refuse to intervene in a situation, for good reason, my lack of action is an action. Once we agree that it is an action, we move to a discussion of whether the reason was a good one. The Calvinist God decrees that a certain evil will occur, and Hart brushes away all attempts to explain that this was done to glorify and magnify His holiness, and not to defile that holiness. To even discuss this is to give way to an accomodation with evil, and makes God a monster. I should refuse to discuss it further, etc.
But Hart’s God has all the identical moral problems laid at His feet, with the additional problem of being shifty and evasive about it.
What is the difference between the Calvinist who says that God foreordains evils that He does not approve of in themselves in order to achieve a higher purpose, and the Hartian who says that God permits evils He could have prevented and that in themselves they are contrary to what he wills, and that He willed to permit this to achieve a higher purpose? There is certainly no moral difference.
The difference lies in the rationale given for it, and only there. Every Christian who believes in creatio ex nihilo has this “moral mystery.” Some of us admit it.
When the Calvinist admits in a discussion that some moral outrage was forordained by God Almighty, for His greater glory, the response is often “I could not worship a God like that.” The response to this ought not to be “but you ought to” — which comes across to most Christians as an invitation to devil worship. The response should be (to all Christians who believe in creatio ex nihilo) that “you already do.” We are in this together. Let us solve the problem together.
When someone affirms that God permitted the rape and murder of a three-year-old girl so that “creational autonomy” could be preserved, as opposed to the Calvinistic reason that it magnifies the “glory of God,” the difference is not in the fact of the murder, but rather in what is considered to be a good reason for allowing it. The question is not whether the girl dies, but rather which altar will be thought appropriate receive the sacrifice. And I know that Hart would be appalled at the suggestion, and that this is not his conscious intent at all, but it appears to me the bottom line is that we don’t mind the sacrifices of little girls so long as the sacrifice is made to us and our autonomy. If the sacrifice is made to us, we are propitiated.
One more point, one that I have made before. Hart is a theologian who ought to understand Calvinism, but he simply does not. He chides “theological fatalism that, having failed to understand the difference between primary and secondary — or transcendent and immanent — causality, defame the love and goodness of God” (p. 89).
“And there could scarcely be any better evidence of what mischief can be worked upon theological thinking when the difference between primary and secondary causality is forgotten than the heresy of ‘limited atonement,’ which has so dreadfully disfigured certain streams of traditional Reformed thought” (p. 89).
From this we know that Hart knows that Calvinists believe in something called limited atonement, but that’s about all that we know he knows. This “heresy” arises because Calvinists don’t take into account the difference between primary and secondary causes? Zat so?
“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” (Westminster 3.1).
When it comes to this subject, Hart like Obama is out of his pay grade.