William Lane Craig against Calvinism, a response, Part 5 of 5
5. Universal, divine determinism makes reality into a farce. On the deterministic view, the whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle. There are no free agents in rebellion against God, whom God seeks to win through His love, and no one who freely responds to that love and freely gives his love and praise to God in return. The whole spectacle is a charade whose only real actor is God Himself. Far from glorifying God, the deterministic view, I’m convinced, denigrates God for engaging in a such a farcical charade. It is deeply insulting to God to think that He would create beings which are in every respect causally determined by Him and then treat them as though they were free agents, punishing them for the wrong actions He made them do or loving them as though they were freely responding agents. God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame. I’m certain that Reformed determinists, in contrast to classical Reformed divines, will bristle at such a comparison. But why it’s inapt for the doctrine of universal, divine, causal determinism is a mystery to me.
The reasons Craig gives for why divine determinism makes reality into a farce are points he raised earlier in this series that I’ve already responded to. I’ve already shown that divine determinism is consistent with us being moral agents responsible for our actions, so that doesn’t count as a reason for why reality is a farce. And God is not the only real actor, as I showed in the last post.
Craig’s reason for thinking divine determinism denigrates God and is insulting to him has also already been dealt with earlier in this series. Craig thinks it’s insulting to suggest that God would determine somebody’s action, then punish them for their action. But that is exactly what God did to Pharaoh, so Craig’s view is at odds with Scripture.
Craig’s analogy between humans whose actions are determined by God and toy soldiers that God plays with has also been dealt with except that in the previous post, Craig used the analogy of a stick moving a stone instead. In both cases, the analogy broke down because sticks and toy soldiers do not have minds. They do not act out of any motives, desires, inclinations, goals, habits, or anything. Their “actions” are not choices. Ours are.
I’m not totally sure what Craig means by saying reality is a farce under divine determinism. It is not true that under the reformed view that “the whole world becomes a vain and empty spectacle.” To be vain and empty is to serve no purpose. But, as Jonathan Edwards argued in The End For Which God Created the World, the ultimate purpose in creation and everything God ordains is for the praise of his glory, and God is glorified in the demonstration of all of his attributes. So God has a purpose in some people rebelling against him—to demonstrate his wrath (Proverbs 16:4, Romans 9:22), and he has a purpose in rescuing some people from his wrath—to demonstrate his mercy (Romans 9:23). I highly recommend reading Edward’s book on this subject. It shows demonstrably that God’s absolute sovereignty does not render reality a farce. Quite the opposite!
After all, it is under Craig’s view that so many events in reality serve no divine purpose and are only inconveniences that God must work around or live with. If reality can only have meaning if there are events in reality for which God has no purpose, then that seems to suggest that it's not really all about God. It's about us.
However, the scriptures reveal that God has a purpose in everything (Proverbs 16:4). All things exist for him and for his glory (Isaiah 43:6-7, Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16). Even the reason God saves people is for his name's sake (Psalm 106:8, Isaiah 43:25, Ezekiel 36:22). Since it's all about God, not us, everything has meaning even if we don't have libertarian freedom.
And that's about all I have to say about that.