Friday, April 04, 2008

Answering Back To Reppert, Or Is It God?

Vic Reppert is turning his sights on Calvinism, again.

I've weighed in in the meta over at DI.

Steve offered some comments of his own.

Reppert's not advancing the argument. He's just trying to find new ways to re-state his original complaint.

Reppert in red.

"God could want there to be wicked creatures for his own good purpose???"

This is sloppy.

God could plan, allow, decree evil for a good reason, yes.

Fortunately, special revelation doesn't leave us to have to speculate here. We could talk about Genesis 50:20, Exodus 14:4, etc., but let's focus on Acts 2

22Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

So, here we have an event that happened according to "God's set purpose and foreknowledge." I take it as obvious that those who put Jesus to death were "wicked." I take it as obvious that Jesus death was "good;" indeed, the greatest good that has ever befallen mankind. I take it as obvious that one would have to have "wicked men" for there to be a "murder." Especially wicked men for the murder of an especially good man. I take it that this was "planned" by God. Indeed, he mentions it back in Genesis 3:15. The protoevangelium. Does Reppert's conception of God have this as an "after thought?" An, "Oh shoot, look at what those creatures did, now I need to fix this mess."? Or does he stand in the line of the majority of orthodox theologians? God's covenant of redemption. Here's a list of theologians who held to this idea. And here's Owen on the subject, masterfully arguing for the eternal nature of this covenant.

Jesus came on a mission, a mission to die for his people:

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

And this coming Jesus describes as,

John 6:38 "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me."

So, yes, we can say that God wanted Jesus to die. he wanted this to bring about a great good.

If he wanted this, then he must have wanted "wicked men" to bring about good ends. It would be rather ridiculous for God to want an innocent man to be murdered by non-wicked men!

So Reppert would have non-wicked people murdering people.

Or, Reppert would have had no salvation.

Or, perhaps Reppert has a better plan? Who are you, oh man, to talk back to Reppert?

What he can't say is that God didn't want Jesus to die. And so he needs to find a way that Jesus could die without any evil being involved. But human death is an evil.

Reppert may say that God had no choice in the matter because he had to give people free will, and evil is just a necessary by-product of that. Well, not necessary, because supposedly Jesus had free will but was not evil. So, could God have made a world where people had libertarian freedom but were not evil? Allegedly he thinks we will not be evil in heaven. Allegedly he thinks we will have libertarian freedom in heaven.

Well, why did God create a world where he knew there would be evil? Dying babies? Gang rapes? Torture? The death of Jesus Christ?

I suppose because Reppert thinks that a greater good was achieved by allowing humans to have libertarian freedom. But this is the greater good defense. A Calvinist can appeal to this too. God has a good reason for the evil he plans and allows.

Now, Reppert (and atheists) will now ask, "What's the good reason?"

Well, Alston offers some as we can see in Greg Welty's excellent paper on the subject:

1. Punitive evils (103-4)
2. Remedial evils (i.e. 'soul-making') (105-8)
3. Other unknown 'patient-centred' evils (108-10)
4. Evils made genuinely possible by the good gift of free will (111-14)
5. Evils operating redemptively for the perpetrator (114)
6. Evils made genuinely possible by the maintenance of a lawful natural order (114-18)

And given God's plan, we're talking about the plan of a divine being now, there's surely many more. Here's some I've pulled from Frame. God uses evil to test his servants (cf. 1 Peter 1:7; James 1:3), to discipline them (Hebrews 12:7-11), to preserve their life (Genesis 50:20), to enable them to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), and to give them greater joy when suffering is replaced by glory (1 Peter 4:13). (The above Scriptural examples were taken from John Frame’s “Doctrine of God,” pg. 170.) All of these specific second-order goods bring greater goods, many first-order ones, and these are achieved by His allowing suffering and evil.

Not only this, let's go back to Welty's interaction with Alston and see another problem. These are "limitations upon 'our cognitive powers, opportunities, and achievements"' (119-21):

1. Lack of data
2. Complexity greater than we can handle
3. Difficulty of determining what is metaphysically possible or necessary
4. Ignorance of the full range of possibilities
5. Ignorance of the full range of values
6. Limits to our capacity to make well-considered value judgements

And Welty concludes his discussion of Alston thus,

The two lists are related in that the items on the second list make it quite improbable that the atheist is in a position to exclude the possible divine reasons on the first list, when examining any particular instance of evil in the world. Thus he is never warranted in asserting premise (1) of Rowe's argument. But by the same reasoning the theist, because subject to the same cognitive condition, can never confidently identify an item on the first list with any particular instance of evil in the world. He must rest content with possible theodicies. Alston's thesis is truly agnostic in this respect, which is why he repeatedly reminds his readers that he is not endorsing any specific theodicy, only a range of reasons which God may have for permitting any particular instance of evil.

And so one wonders how it is that Reppert knows God's plan? That God couldn't possibly have a good reason for the evil he allows? Is Reppert not hindered by these creaturely constraints? Does he have access to all the data? Is he basically divine? And is Reppert arguing that "Because I Victor Reppert do not see any possible good reason God could have for the evil he allows, there is therefore no good reason for the evil God allows."!? Reppert's ken is the test of truth. "Who are you, oh man, to talk back to Reppert?"

Reppert offers a little parable to make his point:

"Which purpose? So that others might be saved. We can imagine the following scenario: Smith and Jones are members of the Crips, Jones dies is a drive-by shooting and Smith has a vision of Jones in hell. Smith repents of his sin, accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior, becomes an inner-city minister who brings thousands of kids otherwise headed for a life of gang violence to Jesus."

Well, say I don't know the purpose. I've shown this a perfectly acceptable position for the theist to take. All that I need to know is that there is a good purpose. I am warranted in believing God's testimony about himself in Scripture.

"Except for one thing. Smith, and every one of those gang kids could have been saved by God's sovereign decree if he had chosen to give it. Jones' eternal damnation could have been avoided without any further loss of souls."

Is this argument: "S could do A, therefore S should or would do A?"

Let's remove the variables:

(*) Reppert could eat a piece of toast that fell into the toilet, therefore Reppert should or would eat a piece of toast that fell in the toilet.

Is (*) a good argument?

Again, Reppert is offering the argument: "If Reppert doesn't see how A could have a good reason, it doesn't." That's just a bad argument.

Reppert is also assuming his initial argument: "God could have made a world where everyone freely did what was good." This has been questioned, though. Reppert is re-asserting. For one, a redeemed world is better than a world that never fell. Reppert wants to defend a God of love? Well what of the GREATEST love?

John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

So Reppert would have the greatest expression of LOVE remain uninstantiated! So much for his "love" motivator. Why would Jesus die for non-wicked?

Matthew 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

No sinners, no greatest love.

"It is easier to make these "hidden good" arguments where the hidden good might become evident once if we knew what free choices other people might have made, or where we don't know the final outcome of everything. Hurricane Katrina, for all its horror, could end up resulting in more people going to heaven than would otherwise have gone to heaven. But for every soul which suffers eternal punishment. we know that that sould could have been saved, and that that person's being saved would not have resulted in any other person's being lost. The final result is known, to suggest that some other final result would not have been better would be to violate every moral intuition I have."

No, these "hidden good" arguments work even if we never know the good.

And, sinners need a savior. Reppert has no problem with Jesus dying. With The God-man suffering hell. He just has a problem with the creature doing so. To hell with God, save the humans!

Reppert's also trying to move the discussion to universalism. But that wasn't his original argument. He's playing the sophists card. Shifting goal posts. His original argument never mentioned "hell" or "salvation."

Reppert also doesn't want God justice to be maximized. As W.L. Craig rightly notes,

Once again, however, Talbott's argument seems question-begging, based on an idiosyncratic definition of terms. As Christian thinkers we certainly affirm that God shall have a complete victory over sin, and we will probably concur that God would not have created a sinful world unless He knew His victory over sin would be complete. But the notion of a complete victory over sin according to the New Testament is that every wrong ever committed is either efficaciously expiated by the blood of Christ or punished with its just dessert. In the end injustice will not prevail; the scales of God's justice will be balanced. Just as heaven is the triumph of God's grace and love, so hell is the triumph of His holiness and justice. God's complete victory over sin does not entail that He repair the damage sinners do to themselves; on the contrary it entails that unexpiated sin receive its just recompense in the sinner.

And Reppert needs to deal with all the arguments for limited atonement. He has a mountain before him and he acts as if he has a mole hill to step over. How trite.

And, how can they all be saved? Doesn't libertarianism say that man can freely chose to go to hell and stay their if they wish!? How can Reppert secure the salvation of all given libertarianism? Does he deny the PAP? Does he think sinners in hell will "chose" to go to heaven? Then he has a low view of sin. This is dangerous in more ways than one.

"But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word? God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God. So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred."

This is nothing but sophistry. And, yes, you should accept something if it is taught in God's word. That is testimony from an agent who never lies, is perfect, knows everything, and has made you to function properly by accepting his word. God gave us our cognitive faculties. He made us to be credulous of the testimony of others. Especially our parents. God is a maximal-parent. The archetypal parent. We can raise Thomas Reid's claim here a thousand fold. Thus Reid,

I believed by instinct whatever my parents and tutors told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or a thought of the possibility of their deceiving me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I found that they had acted like fair and honest people, who wished me well. I found that, if I had not believed what they told me, before I could give a reason for my belief, I had to this day been little better than a changeling.

And Adam found out that his failure to do the above with his creator-parent, put him (and us) in a heap of trouble in a hurry. One could say that we are little better than changelings. How different will we be when we are glorified?

But Reppert is his own final authority. God just can't have a good reason for what he does because....he just can't. "Who are you, oh man, to talk back to Reppert?"


  1. 1. I'd ask Reppert, "Where is LFW taught in Scripture?" Isn't this the first place we should go before we even invoke the FWD in libertarian terms?

    The Calvinist can use the FWD to talk about the permission of the fall or the means by which evil entered the world. So, it's not as if the FWD is off limits to us. The problem is:

    a. The FWD framed in terms of LFW.
    b. The FWD's abuse by Libertarians who wish to use it as an explanation of WHY evil exists not HOW evil exists in the world.

    Indeed, you should ask Reppert where the Bible itself invokes the FWD. If the Bible doesn't use it, why should we? Should Christians be using revelation from God as the measure of their apologetic? We need to ask ourselves what the Bible actually says, what it actually licenses us to say, before we say it. To do otherwise is impertinent and presumptuous. Reppert needs to be told to repent.

    2. Yes, God could could have instantiated a world other than this one. But it begs the question to assert that there is a "better" one He could have instantiated.

    a. As a Christian, I don't whine about that. Rather I look at this world and ask why God chose to instantiate it. I look first to what God has said and done, not what I think God could have done.

    b. I'm not God, Reppert is not God, Manata is not God. We are in no position to say anything about a "better" world if God has not told us that there could have been a "better" world, and that includes hypothetical thought experiments about a world in which Satan did not exist and man never fell.

    c. Reality check: God chose to create. He chose this world and no other. God is also completely good. His glory is also His highest goal. The greatest love expressed is God's love for us in Christ, as you well said. I must conclude, therefore, that this world, and no other, is the "best" world. Why? Because God would not create a world that is not oriented to His highest glory, to the greatest expression of His love. He created this world; it IS, therefore, the "best" world God could have created. If it's not, then, God is the monster that Reppert says Calvinism would make him out to be, because God created this world knowing (a) it isn't the best one and (b) He is therefore ultimately guilty of toying with His creation for His pleasure. (My, doesn't that sound exactly like something an atheist would say?)It's Reppert's God, the God who created this world, the world that ISN'T the best world, who is the monster and unworthy of worship. It's this sort of "apologetic" that give atheists material, and with good reason. If Reppert is right, then there is unplanned, and therefore gratuitous evil in world. That, as I wrote just last week, is nothing more than conceding the problem of evil to the atheist.

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  3. Bernie,

    I think Reppert is leaning (or is) a universalist.

  4. I take it as obvious that those who put Jesus to death were "wicked." I take it as obvious that Jesus death was "good;" indeed, the greatest good that has ever befallen mankind.

    Holy crap.