The word “gratuitous” means uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted. It can also refer to something given or done free of charge.
In discussions on the problem of evil, gratuitous is used for evil that seems to lack any greater purpose for accomplishing a greater good. Gratuitous evils are of a kind that people say, “What possible reasons could there be for this?” They are evils that make no sense to us. “Why?” is the painfully perplexing question that lingers over such evils.
When aimed at God, the question is how God could have any adequate justifying reason for permitting such inexplicable evil. My aim here is not to resolve this perplexing matter. I addressed it in an earlier post here.
My present interest is a phrase I first encountered in John Calvin’s works: “gratuitous mercy.” Calvin wrote that man can only be “regarded as righteous before God on the…
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