I come now to my second installment in replying to Roger Olson’s recent diatribe against Calvinism.
Here is how these things usually go, and I want to suggest another way for them to go. A Calvinist explains the doctrines he holds, at the end of which explanation, his Arminian friend exclaims, “I could never worship a God like that!” The normal Calvinist response is that “you really ought to be willing to worship a God like that,” but the response ought rather to be “you do in fact already worship a God like that.”
However Roger Olson kicks it up to the next level. He in effect vows that he never would worship a God like that. Period.
“I come back to my most basic question of all—to classical, high (i.e., ‘TULIP’ Calvinists): How do you distinguish God from the devil except with degrees of power? And what if it turned out that God is the devil in disguise? Would you still worship him? I would not; I hope you would not. But therein lies the secret to why I have said that IF it were revealed to me in a way I could not doubt that God is as high, classical (i.e., ‘TULIP’ Calvinism) claims I would not worship him. (I lose no sleep over this, by the way.) Because, in that case, there would really be no reason to worship God instead of the devil. In fact, as John Wesley famously said, in that case God would be worse than the devil because at least the devil is sincere!”
Now this is quite festive, being incoherent on numerous levels. But let us parse out what is actually being said. Olson says that if it were revealed to Him that the God of Calvinism were the God of the Bible, he would still refuse to worship and bow down. I will get to the theology of all that in a minute, but let’s call the bluff first.
Something else follows from this. It must also be the case that if it were revealed that the God of Arminianism is just complicit in predestination as the the God of Calvinism (except less sincere!), then Roger Olson has also promised by these words to withhold his worship from Him as well. Now because Arminianism is just Calvinism with an uneasy conscience, this is not hard to prove. You may review my previous argument here, or you may take it easy and just track with the following paragraph.
If God foreknows that in Contingency Universe X Esau will be damned forever, and nevertheless decides to create Contingency Universe X, then it follows necessarily that God foreordained the damnation of Esau thousands of years before conception of Esau. There was nothing that Esau could do to make arrangements to be born into another universe, one that God determined not to create. It also follows necessarily from this that Roger Olson needs to be getting online to start his hunt for a new church. He currently worships at a church that worships a Devil God who creates universes that reprobates have no choice about being born into, and no way of escaping from. I am almost tempted to say I could never worship a God like that, only I catch myself just in time.
That said, let us move on to Olson’s attempt at high theology. He says that he might find out the true nature of the true God, and go on a worship strike anyway.
Now if you have gotten to the ultimate God, then you have gotten, by definition, to the place where there can be no further appeals. There is no standard beyond this ultimate God that can be used to judge this God as being “no different from the devil.” And if you have no standard for the judgment, then you cannot render the judgment. The question at such a moment would have to be “by what standard?” If you employ such a standard (by refusing to worship), then the question should arise — whose standard are you appealing to? If there is a standard beyond the God of Calvinism, then that is the ultimate God, and it makes sense to obey the First Commandment that came from this real God, the Most High God. But who is He?
But if you really have gotten to the ultimate place, and the God of Calvinism is God God, look at what Olson says. “There would really be no reason to worship God instead of the devil.” He is saying that he has gotten to the final day, to the ultimate place, to the great white throne, and he claims that from this vantage he can see no reason for distinguishing the Creator from a creature. He can’t tell the difference between infinite and finite. He can’t make out the distinction between holy and unholy.
He is acknowledging that this is the God who formed him in his mother’s womb, who put breath into his lungs, and gave him the power to think at all in the first place. He is then going to appear before this God and, after he has seen heaven and earth flee away, he will stick to his Arminian guns. He says this, but I am persuaded of better things concerning him. He, like all the rest of us, will be singing about the worth of the Lamb.
Why don’t I believe him? Because he is a better Christian than he is a logician. I am sorry, but when you get to such a place, the only reason that you could not tell God from the devil is that you had become just like the devil.