Does divine foreknowledge really have a leg up on Calvinism?


From a Reformed website’s review of a (Protestant) critique of Calvinsim:

Olson [the author of the book] wishes to draw a strict distinction between God permitting evil and tragedy and God causing those things. But again, this distinction isn’t particularly convincing. It seems like a matter of semantics. Anyone who believes that God foreknows everything (a doctrine some theologians are now questioning), and that he created everything, must necessarily deal with the fact that God knew that sin and suffering would come into the world and yet proceeded with creation.

Olson pushes further, however, and insists that Calvinists ignore the really, really bad things that happen in the world—the Holocaust, child abuse and childhood disease—when they happily chirp about God’s sovereignty. But Olson’s notion that the creator God “permitted” evil and suffering doesn’t solve his theodicean dilemma any more adequately than does Calvinism. Why would a good God create the universe when he knew the massive pain and injustices that would commence upon humans tasting the forbidden fruit? Olson seems to prefer the idea that God created a world that he knew would fall, and had no particular purpose in mind when he did so. Calvinists prefer to see all history as having a point, mysterious though it may seem to our limited understanding, and that all things, whether permitted or planned, ultimately point to God’s glory. [emphasis mine]

To me, this seems to sum up the Calvinist response to the historic Christian tackling of the problem of evil. (Note too the typical Calvinist handwaving of “God works in mysterious ways.”) How might a Catholic, though, respond in turn? Is it basically splitting hairs, as this reviewer claims, to say that God allows evil and yet still works good through it, rather than that he in some way causes it for good to come out? And does the latter in any way make God more “awesome”?

Thanks in advance for your responses!



Permit to do ≠the cause to do, anymore than freedom to do something wrong ≠Liscence to do something wrong.



As the CCC says, God is not directly or indirectly the cause of moral evil but he permits it. Human beings or angels are directly responsible for moral evil and sinning. God created human beings in his image and likeness which principally consists in our immortal spiritual soul with the spiritual faculties of intellect and free will. Angels are pure spirits with intellect and free will. Created beings with intellect and free will are a great good for these creatures are made most like God himself, in his image and likeness. But, creatures with free will have the possibility of doing evil. God in his wisdom decided to create such beings with intellect and free who would freely know and love Him and who could share in His eternal beatitude and happiness even though He knew all the evil that would come of it. Robots cannot know and love like creatures with intellect and free will who can participate in God’s own divine life.

Our sins and sufferings and our own death, injustices and such are not the end of the story. Despite our sins and if we repent in this life, God will forgive us and he draws good out of the evil of our sins and those of others. Through Jesus Christ, our sufferings are meritorious before God. The evil of our sufferings God has turned to our own good if we accept them with the right intentions following the way of the cross of Jesus in atonement for our sins and those of others which merits us a place in heaven and eternal life. The sufferings of this present world and our short time here on earth are of little weight compared to the glory that awaits us in the next life (Romans 8:18). Even the devils which God permits to tempt us are for our advantage and merit for us a greater degree of glory in heaven if we resist their temptations. All things work together for the good of those who love God. Perfect justice to every soul is administered by Christ upon the death of every human being and they go to the place, heaven, purgatory, or hell which they have merited on earth. And God is going to make a new heavens and a new earth at the end of the world where the kingdom of God will be definitively established in perfect justice and happiness forever.


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