By C.Jay Engel and Luke Miner
The occasionalist psychology of belief is in conflict with Scripturalists reliance on the infallibilist constraint on knowledge. If God immediately causes all human beliefs whatsoever, then he regularly causes millions of false beliefs. Thus, the means by which we obtain our beliefs (divine illumination) is a highly fallible process, since it is not guaranteed to exclude error. Therefore, given the infallibilist constraint on knowledge, divine illumination does not give us knowledge after all, and cannot serve Scripturalists’ purposes in providing a credible alternative to genuinely empirical modes of knowledge.
The response to this objection depends on the response to the previous objection which shows that the objector has wrongly attributed the “occasionalist psychology” to scripturalists. Gordon Clark clearly did not hold the occasionalist psychology (as defined by the objector), and the WCF (which scripturalists usually affirm) clearly rejects it. This fact renders the objection irrelevant to scripturalism.
Since, as was explained in part 5, we do not hold that God is not the sole cause in the universe, the objection is strictly irrelevant. To be sure, we believe that God is the ultimate cause of all things, but the Scriptures teach that God uses secondary causes to accomplish some or most of his purposes.
However, the objection, if reformulated, might cause a scripturalist some trouble. If God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass (WCF III), and people come to false conclusions, then has God lied to a person or, more precisely, has God caused them to believe a lie? One might even make the same question more general. God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, sins come to pass, therefore God sins. Now the objection is framed so that we can easily highlight the problem with this objection and then bring it back to the subject of divine illumination. The objection is missing a premise. It is this: “it is sin to foreordain a sin.” If this were true, the objection would be made valid. But it is probably false.
If God foreordains that people believe lies, does that make God the cause of people’s belief in lies? It might seem so. A relevant example is found in 1 Kings 22 where God is portrayed as looking for a means to deceive King Ahab. An evil spirit comes forward and accepts the job. Verse 22 says:
“And the LORD said to him [the evil spirit] , ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’”
This is an example where God’s purpose is that Ahab believe a falsehood, but He uses a lying spirit to cause this purpose to be fulfilled. Some might object that this passage, itself, makes God a sinner. Others might say that this passage needs a radically different interpretation. Perhaps that discussion is better left for another post.
If one accepts the reformed understanding, foreordination does not equate to “sole causation,” so it is consistent with both reformed theology and this passage to think that: God caused Ahab to believe a lie by using the evil spirit to lie to him. Then the evil spirit is the sinner while God is the ultimate cause, but not a sinner Himself. The primary cause was God wanting Ahab to to go to war while the secondary cause was the evil spirit wanting to lie to Ahab’s prophets. God’s purpose is not sinful but the evil spirit’s purpose is sinful. However, note that in the following verse, God takes full credit for being the primary cause: “Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”
So yes, God causes people to believe lies by means of liars. And yes, God ordains both the ends and the means. But, does it follow that the reliability of divine illumination is suspect? The Scriptures teach that God causes people to believe divine truth by means of His Spirit. When a believer seeks God through His Word, the Holy Spirit, who cannot lie, illuminates his mind. When God’s Spirit is the means God uses to produce belief, the result is always true. When a liar is the means, the belief is possibly false.Contrary to the objector’s assertions, divine illumination need not be considered a “highly fallible process” and actually is “guaranteed to exclude error.” In fact, it is the only way we can know God. The fact that God sometimes causes a lying spirit, or a lying preacher, or a lying sin nature to deceive a person does not cast doubt on the infallibility of divine illumination.