Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Roger Olson wrote an article called “Calvinist view of bridge collapse distorts God's character”. Dr. Olson is a professor of theology in George W. Truett Theological Seminary located at Baylor University. After reading this article, I know I won’t be going there.

Olson began his article with the question: “Where was God several weeks ago when the interstate bridge collapsed in Minneapolis?” He never answered that question, but the implied answer is “nowhere”. Olson does not believe God was involved, and, indeed, that God is limited and, therefore, cannot be involved.

The point of the article is that Olson disagrees with John Piper, Calvinism, Determinism and an all powerful God. That kind of God is not nice enough for him, so he rejects him. Olson writes:

"But wait. What about God's character? Is God, then, the author of evil? Most Calvinists don't want to say it. But logic seems to demand it. If God plans something and renders it certain, how is he not culpable for it? Here is where things get murky."

Well, what about God’s character? Olson does not say much about it. What does the Bible tell us? It tells us God does indeed use disasters, wars, the devil and evil people to accomplish his will. And, yes, that makes him responsible for it and most Calvinists would actually say that. Let’s review.

God created a beautiful angel named Lucifer, although he knew Lucifer would reject him and spend this age defying God, corrupting his creation and generally, yes, being evil. This evil would cause all kinds of heartache, suffering and problems for the human race. Yet, God created him anyway and gave him a certain amount of freedom to be evil and do evil things.

God created man and woman, knowing they would reject him and spend this age defying him, corrupting his creation and being evil, unless redeemed by the sacrifice of his son.

God sent Israel into slavery in Egypt for 400 years. He drowned a bunch of Egyptians in the sea. He opened the earth to swallow a bunch of Israelites. He told the Israelites to kill Achan and all his family. He destroyed the earth by a flood that killed lots of people. He, numerous times, had the Israelites oppressed by their enemies, killed by the thousands and tens of thousands and sent into captivity. He sent plagues and fire that killed his chosen people. He caused famines. He had Jerusalem and most of Israel destroyed by the Romans, including his own temple, and sent his people into the four corners of the earth. He has promised to bring all kinds of plagues and disasters on the earth at the end of this age, according to Revelation. At the very end, he will cast all who do not believe in him into a lake of burning fire.

Why did he do all this? It was usually judgment. So, part of his character is holiness that he will not suffer to be profaned, including righteous judgment on all those who do profane it. We know that he is just and righteous, because Scripture tells us so, so we know all his acts were just and righteous, and so was the fall of the bridge you are worried about. God declares that he does not change (Malachi 3:6), so why is it so hard for you to believe that the God who previously brought judgment on all kinds of people, including his chosen people, would do it again?

Olson also remarkably refrains from quoting or citing a single verse of scripture to back up his claims. For example, he says “the Bible expressly forbids doing evil for the sake of good.” Where does it say that? In fact, does Samuel not tell his brothers that what was done to him was intended by them as evil to harm him but God meant it (the evil) for good? (Genesis 50:20). This was a man who was stripped, put in a pit, sold into slavery and put in prison several times. God meant it to happen because he had a plan to take care of Jacob and his sons through Joseph. (Psalm 105:17)

Olson also says “What if God is in charge but not in control?” He means God could control things but chooses not to. That, my friend, is not Christianity, but Deism, the idea that God made us then sat back to see what happens. Besides, again, the Bible tells us God is in control. Daniel 4:17 says the Lord rules the kingdoms of men. Daniel 4:35 says he does according to his will. He works all things according to the counsel of his will according to Ephesians 1:11. He says not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from him (Matthew 10:29).

What about the book of Job? God allowed horrible things to happen to Job, accomplished by Lucifer, to show Job’s steadfastness and God’s glory. Who said God would only allow nice things to happen to any of us? It was certainly not Job. He said the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21).

Ultimately, you have to look at God’s own son. He caused horrible things to happen to him for our good. He was beaten, ridiculed, spat upon, whipped and crucified to death. How did that happen? Was God sitting up in heaven wringing his hands hoping it would not happen? No, he preordained it to happen and it did. Peter said “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God…” (Acts 2:23).

Olson really does see God as limited, rather than omnipotent. He says:

"And God says, "Pray because sometimes I can intervene to stop innocent suffering when people pray; that's one of my self-limitations. I don't want to do it all myself; I want your involvement and partnership in making this a better world." "

Does God really say “sometimes I can”, meaning sometimes, dude, my hands are tied and I’m not omnipotent, I’m impotent. Again, Olson cites no scripture for this proposition, and, indeed, there is none. The problem is, Olson does not like the God who clearly revealed himself in the Scriptures. The God of Scripture is uncomfortable for his Arminian and man-centered sensibilities. But, we are not given the privilege of redefining God. We cannot put Barbie clothes on God because he is not pretty enough for us. That is idolatry. We can have no other gods besides the God of scripture.

Olson says he cannot distinguish the “God of Calvinism” from the devil. This is an incredible insult to all who believe in God’s omnipotence, and to God himself. Olson sounds like the Pharisees attributing the miracles of Christ to the devil. The reason he cannot distinguish them is that he refuses to recognize that God is the one with the power. Satan can only act where God allows, as the book of Job teaches us. In addition 1 John 4:1 tells us the believer can test the spirits and ascertain what is from God.

Finally, Olson says “The God of Calvinism scares me”. He should. The God of the Bible should scare you. He tells you to be scared of him. If you would be scared of him, you would learn something. Proverbs 1:7 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.

Christ has given us the wonderful opportunity to be at peace with God. Paul told us we, as sinners, were objects of God’s wrath. He has wrath because he does not tolerate sin. Wrath is an ugly, forceful word. Believers escape that wrath and experience his love. But, that does not change God’s character. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And he is not limited.
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