So admittedly I am a Calvinist yahoo, something of an Augustinian yob. If Calvinism were coffee, not only would I not take cream and sugar, or other foo-fooeries, but I would endeavor to make it a form of cowboy espresso, only without any steam. You take a tin can, put a horseshoe on the bottom of the can, cover it with the coffee grounds, fill it with water, and set it on the campfire. When the horseshoe floats, it is ready. To modify the metaphor, I believe what what the church needs today is more jet fuel Calvinism. Pastors today should cultivate a crawl-over-broken-glass Calvinism. No more preaching through Romans with the caution of an excessively pious mud turtle. Put yet another way, to reapply a phrase from Wodehouse, no longer should pastors ascend into the pulpit looking like a sheep with a secret sorrow. I say this, of course, in a manner free of all ecclesiastical partisanship, one-upmanship, or flag-waving. The exuberance I urge here must always, at all times, be kept within its appointed bounds, so long as those bounds are consistent with zeal for the Lord of hosts consuming us.
I say this, not because Calvinism divides evangelical Christians, but because it doesn’t. What divides evangelical Christians is their willingness to admit that, at bottom, their theology is Calvinistic. Some admit it and some don’t, but all are dealing with the same bedrock realities. So all Christians who acknowledge that God created the world ex nihilo are Calvinists in principle, and shall I elaborate?
By Calvinism I mean God’s absolute ownership of all that happens. In the words of the Westminster Confession, God freely and unalterably ordains whatsoever comes to pass. I am referring here to the fact of God’s absolute control over the world, not to His reasons for controlling it the way He does.
There are two basic tenets of Christian faith that we should review as we consider this issue.
1. The world is a screwed up place.
2. God put it here, and sustains it in its course, minute by minute.
Even the most aggressive open theist who holds to creatio ex nihilo holds to this, and holding to this has Calvinistic ramifications. And if these ramifications cause him to abandon creatio ex nihilo, he has at that point abandoned the Christian faith. It is hard to stay a Christian when denying the first lines of the Apostles’ Creed. It sort of dampens the enthusiasm for the rest.
So let’s bring it down to a very tangible question. Who is Lord of tomorrow? And by “tomorrow” I am referring to the 24-hour period following this one.
Worldwide there are about 500,000 murders per year. That works out to over 1300 murders a day, which in its turn comes out to almost one per minute. One UN report indicated 250,000 reported rapes or attempted rapes annually in the world, and because that is a number subject to great under-reporting, let us say the numbers are comparable to those for murder. But even if we don’t, that is an attempted rape every two minutes. A pretty grim picture.
Now, who is going to let this average tomorrow happen? Who has the power to prevent it from happening, but will let it happen anyway? Remember that we are not yet discussing what His righteous reasons are for letting it happen, but rather simply establishing the fact that the mess we call tomorrow will occur, or not, as the result of one decision and one decision only. The only one with the authority and power to prevent it from happening is God in Heaven. And He will not do that — or at least He didn’t yesterday.
Before we offer our respective theodicies, before we explain why God is not evil for doing this, we all must acknowledge that He has done this, and that He is the only one who has done this. And if we have agreed thus far, we have traveled a good distance together.