Mystery and providence

In addition to the Trinity and the Incarnation, I also (apparently along with Anderson) happen to think God’s relation to creation is a paradox, at least with regards to providence and the freedom of creatures.

In my own reading, many Calvinists have been ready to admit this very quickly; in fact, in many ways, an appeal to mystery is at the heart of the system of Calvinism (think of the importance Paul’s retort in Romans 9:20 to many Calvinists). But is this a flaw, or a benefit?

Doug Wilson, in reviewing David Bentley Hart’s The Doors of the Sea, made an interesting comment in response to someone defending Hart:

We need also to remember the pastoral considerations. When someone is hammered with a tragedy, the biblical thing for them to do, and the pastoral thing to point them to, will be the death and resurrection of Christ. But in this fallen world, that is one of the hardest comforts to sustain. The devil will be whispering that this hope is no hope at all because “God could have prevented this and He did not.” Thus, an appeal to the ineffable decree could be something that a grief-stricken person used to keep himself focused on the hope of Christ. A schematic diagram of history instead of Christ is useless. We know that God is good because He died for me. We know that God is competent because that death fits into His counsels, established before the foundation of the world. To reapply Spurgeon, we ought not to try to reconcile these things — why reconcile good friends?

Perhaps, precisely because Calvinism blocks of the path of knowing “why?” (it doesn’t try to provide a full theodicy like some versions of free-will theism, where the reason for God’s allowing evil is explained) it forces those who believe in it to cling even more to the goodness of God revealed most clearly in Christ.

I know that following this path (from admitting mystery to clinging to Christ) helped me emotionally and logically resolve the problem of evil for myself in the past (and Hart’s answer didn’t), but at that point I didn’t see this connection with Calvinistic doctrine.

(As a sidenote: I know there are Calvinists who try to follow some of the ideas of Calvinism to a logically consistent conslusion, and tend to end up with something quite monstrous; I’m not speaking of those Calvinists.)