Friday, October 18, 2013

James Anderson on Calvinism and the First Sin

James Anderson was kind enough to share a chapter of an upcoming book he’s working on.  (link)  The chapter is titled Calvinism and the First Sin and the book will be titled Calvinism and the Problem of Evil.  Dr. Anderson will remove the online version once the book is published, so read it while you can.

Dr. Anderson addresses the challenges unique to Calvinism regarding the problem of evil including: 1) God’s determining the first sin makes Him the author of sin, 2) Calvinists must be compatiblists and there are some fairly strong arguments against compatibilism, and 3) and given Adam’s good nature, there’s no causal explanation for the first sin. 

To his credit, Dr. Anderson openly embraces the idea that Calvinism is indeed divine determinism.  Now in true Van Tillian fashion, he spends a great deal of time explaining what this does not mean without elaborating on what it does mean.  Dr. Anderson argues that Calvinists need not be causal determinists.  Curiously, his reason is that God can cause events directly (i.e. miracles).    Dr. Anderson then argues that God’s causal activity in the world is absolutely unique – and this becomes the foundation for his primary response to the three arguments against theological determinism.  Put another way, the differences between God and man on causation are essential (not just accidental) to causation itself, such that we run the risk of equivocating when we speak of God and man’s causation.  Thus we should not expect responsibility to work the same in divine verses human causation.  Dr. Anderson explains God’s causation via the analogy of an author of a book and while he acknowledges this supports the idea that God is the author of sin, he argues that since we don’t blame authors who write in crimes for their characters, we shouldn’t blame God for writing sin into His plan.  However, I don’t think this response works, because when an author writes a crime into a book, nothing bad has happened – so of course we don’t blame the author.  A closer analogy would be someone writing a screen play for a pornography.  In cases like that we should blame the author.


One minor pet peeve.  Dr. Anderson separates Molinism, Arminianism and Open Theism as the three primary alternative accounts. I would have preferred the categories Molinism, Simple Foreknowledge and Open Theism, to leave room for the fact that many Arminians are Molinists.  Overall it was a pleasant read and very clear, and I would recommend folks read it and consider the issues.