Leighton Flowers on a Calvinist False Dilemma

‘Many Calvinists insist that all the heinous evil in our world must have been meticulously “brought to pass” or “decreed” by God otherwise it would prove (1) God has no purpose for evil’s existence or (2) He is powerless to do anything about it.[1]

For instance, Calvinistic scholar, Matt Slick states, 

“…if someone were robbed and beaten, and yet God had no say in the crime whatsoever (for it was a free, uninhibited action based upon the criminal’s free will), then the person robbed would not have only been unjustly treated, but the evil he endured would have had no point to it.  It was just a spontaneous action from a criminal.  God is sort of left helpless in the matter.” <link>

These Calvinists are committing the “false dilemma” fallacy by insisting that there are only two alternatives to the problem when other valid options are clearly available and not being offered for objective consideration.

Logical fallacies serve to confound an issue and make a false perspective appear to be valid. In this article we will debunk this fallacious argument and present a much more robust answer to the problem being presented.

First of all, let’s dispose of the second alternative presented by the Calvinist’s false dilemma, “God is powerless to do anything about moral evil.”  We can all agree that God has the power to stop sin, just as He had the power to prevent it from ever entering into our world, so let’s just dismiss that as an option. We are not debating about what God COULD do, we are debating about what God is PLEASED to do. This is not about God’s abilities, its about His character.

We can affirm that “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him,” (Ps. 115:3) while still holding on to the equally valid truth that, “the highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind” (Ps. 115:16). This means it pleases God to give man a certain level of “libertarian freedom” or “dominion.”  This is a biblical view of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  As A.W. Tozer rightly explains:

“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it. If in His absolute freedom God has willed to give man limited freedom, who is there to stay His hand or say, ‘What doest thou?’ Man’s will is free because God is sovereign. A God less than sovereign could not bestow moral freedom upon His creatures. He would be afraid to do so.” – A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God

One cannot presume that it did not please God to create libertarian free creatures, as do the Calvinists who present this false dilemma.

Now, let’s consider the Calvinist’s first alternative, which was, “God has no purpose for evil’s existence.” The shortsightedness of that statement is revealed by simply asking, “Did God have a good purpose in creating libertarian free creatures who have the ability to choose moral evil?”

Calvinists are failing to acknowledge the possibility that evil is a consequence of libertarian free will (the ability of morally accountable creatures to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action). The only way they can ignore this possibility is to deny God’s omnipotence by suggesting He is not powerful enough to have created libertarianly free creatures even if He was pleased to do so. Surely Calvinists do not want to suggest God is incapable of doing as He pleases.

Now, it must be noted that Non-Calvinists do believe that God does have a GOOD purpose in giving man the ability to make libertarianly free choices, even if those choices have an EVIL purpose. So, it is only in presuming that God did not purpose to create libertarianly free creatures that one is left with the dilemma of either (1) a Holy God purposing evil Himself or (2) purposeless evil.


source: Leighton Flowers , “Calvinism’s Greatest Fallacy” (soteriology101).


[1] Calvinistic apologist, Dr. James White, was asked, “When a child is raped, is God responsible and did He decree that rape?” He answered, 

“Yes, because if not then it’s meaningless and purposeless and though God knew it was going to happen he created it without a purpose… If He didn’t then that rape is an element of meaningless evil that has no purpose.” 


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