Lee comes to bury my praise of determinism:
As Clark Williamson argues, one criteria for doing contemporary theology is that you shouldn’t say anything you couldn’t say “in the presence of the burning children” of the Nazi death camps. Could we tell them that their suffering was part of God’s will for them?
This isn’t to say that God’s arm is too short to save, but to offer a different understanding of divine sovereignty. Whatever else we know, we know that God doesn’t in fact save people from undeserved suffering or death (that is, unless you have such an intense doctrine of original sin that no amount of suffering would be undeserved). Instead, I’d propose that divine sovereignty is an eschatological concept: it means that God’s purposes will ultimately triumph, despite the best efforts of fragile and foolish human beings.
I cannot disagree with what Lee has written here. In fact, in my one and only sermon I ever preached on hell, I said as much. "The power of nothingness has yet to come under the rule of God," said Karl Barth. My thinking about providence, like my thinking on hell (see here and here), is wonderfully incoherent.
That said, I refuse to take full blame for this. No one has proposed a slam dunk solution to the problem of reconciling God's power and love with gratuitous pain, suffering and evil. I usually find myself overreacting to poorly thought out and/or stated articulations of either a classical theism that's vulnerable to determinism, or a narrative, process theology-like reading of texts and reality that's vulnerable to uncertainty or despair about the eventual outcome.
Piper's is a tone deaf Calvinism. And tone is important. The Westminster Confession cautions ministers to preach God's sovereignty carefully, yet Piper's smug self-satisfaction in the face of catastrophes is neither all that careful nor all that edifying. It's vulgar.
What worried me about Zachariassen's post, however, is the assumption that some guy who can look on the deaths of thousands with something like grim satisfaction is an adequate spokesperson for "Calvinism." One does not have to be a classical theist (which includes Calvin, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and--in my opinion--Schleiermacher) to appreciate the tradition's intellectual rigor and pastoral nuance--provided you've read deeply and thoughtfully in the tradition.
Calvin's determinism, for instance, is coupled with a really fine and powerful articulation of Jesus Christ's full humanity, especially in Calvin's explication of the article "he descended into hell." And given Calvin's context--a world in which nobody knows much about proximate causes such as tectonic plates shifting, a world in which fate and not God seemed to be the ultimate cause of everything--Calvin's humanistic determinism was a powerful comfort.
And that's where I was coming from in the last post.
So I hope that Zachariassen, if he hasn't already, gets around to reading Calvin and not "Calvinists." And I wish that the "Calvinists" would wipe that s**t-eating grin off their faces every time a few thousand people perish all at once. Really.