Friday, April 18, 2008


I see that, last week, Victor Reppert responded to an old post of mine:

“Perhaps Leibnizian creative requirements are excessive.”

Perhaps, so. But that’s how you framed your original argument. So I was responding to you on your own level.

“What we are talking about here, though, are gratuitous damnations.”

Depends on what you mean by “gratuitous.” If you mean gratuitously *evil* damnations, then I deny that any damnations are gratuitous in that sense.

“We are talking about people suffering an eternity of torment and separation from God.”

If they suffer torment, it’s because the damned of wholly given over to sin. Evil people are miserable. And they make each other even more miserable. Sounds like poetic justice to me.

“I take it the Calvinist is claiming that God could have given everyone free will (in the compatibilist sense) and then caused everyone to do what is necessary to receive saving grace.”

I agree with this gist of this, although it’s inaccurately expressed. God doesn’t cause people to do what’s necessary to receive saving grace. There’s nothing we can do to receive saving grace. Saving grace is, itself, causative.

But with respect to the main point, yes—God could save everyone.

“If there was a reason for God not to make earth the World of Mr. Rogers, surely
God should make eternity the world of Mr. Rogers.”

Reppert has damnable taste in television.

“The question is, is a world in which someone is damned by decree before the foundation of the world a good world?”

I don’t know what he’s asking since there’s more than on question buried in this question.

i) Is a world in which someone is damned a good world?

ii) Is a world in which someone is damned by decree a good world?

iii) Is a world in which someone is damned before the foundation of the world a good world?

I would answer yes to all three questions.

Obviously you don’t need to be a Calvinist to answer (i) in the affirmative. That’s mainstream, historic Christian theology.

If Reppert answers this question in the negative, then (ii)-(iii) seem to be superfluous.

If it’s already wrong to damn anyone, then whether you damn him by decree and/or before the foundation of the world is morally irrelevant. I don’t see how these additional conditions would aggravate the wrong.

Or is Reppert saying that it’s right to damn someone as long as you don’t damn him by decree and/or before the foundation of the world?

Perhaps he’s just targeting Calvinism because he regards that as a more consistent version of the general position he opposes.

I don’t know if Reppert would distinguish between (ii) & (iii). Depends on how he defines “decree.” If he thinks of the decree as a causal factor, then it’s possible to cause something to happen without the cause preexisting the existence of the world.

In what sense does he deny that God decreed damnation? Does he deny that God intended the outcome? Or does he deny the outcome?

Does he think the time-factor makes a difference? Would it be wrong for God to damn someone before the foundation of the world, but right for God to damn him after the foundation of the world?

“What is good for Smith is good also for those who love Smith. And someone who is being perfected in love is going to love Smith.”

Reppert is alluding to a passage in 1 John. But in 1 John, love is pretty exclusive. The love of the brethren over against the love of the world.

Moreover, damnation figures in the Fourth Gospel as well as the Apocalypse.

So the Apostle John wouldn’t define being perfected in love the way Reppert is redefining the passage.

“The more we love our neighbor as ourselves, the more we find the eternal damnation of our neighbors unacceptable.”

Here, Reppert is alluding to the Sermon on the Mount. But Jesus teaches damnation in the Gospel of Matthew. So Jesus and Matthew wouldn’t define neighbor-love in the way that Reppert is redefining the passage.

“I realize that this is in large part Tom Talbott's argument for universalism. The only conceivable escape from it is the argument that Smith has chosen self over God, and that God could have done nothing to prevent Smith from
continuing in that choice without violating Smith's freedom. However, that’s an Arminian theodicy of damnation, not a Calvinist one.”

No, that’s not the only escape. Aside from the fact that Reppert’s conclusion is predicated on a misinterpretation of his prooftexts, Talbott’s concentric argument is reversible.

Consider the Green River killer and his victims. If the cost of saving his parents or siblings necessitates the salvation of the Green River killer, then I can well imagine one of his victim’s taking the position that universalism comes at far too high a price.

“How could it? Baker, Brown and Jones all love Smith, since they are in God’s
community of love.”

That begs the question of whether we should love the damned.

“I don't see any possible second-order good arising from a disobedience that
persists for an eternity.”

The Cross presupposes the Fall. Everyone who enjoys eternal salvation is a beneficiary of a second-order good. It’s contingent on an act of primeval disobedience. But the benefit persists for an eternity.

“None of these involve eternal disobedience.”

I wasn’t citing these passages to establish the duration of hell. I would establish that from other prooftexts. Rather, I was citing them to establish the principle of second-order goods.

“And no, let's not play any Calvinist word games about what all means.”

Coming from a trained philosopher, this remark is inept. Doesn’t Reppert know the difference between a word’s intension and a word’s extension?

“But is a love that is guaranteed by the actions of the one being loved real
love, or puppetry?”

Considering the fact that Reppert seems to angling for universalism, why wouldn’t *that* assured outcome be puppetry?

“Now look who's putting limits on the power of God.”

This is disingenuous considering the fact that Reppert originally framed his argument in Leibnizian terms. For Leibniz, not all possibilities are compossible.


  1. I skimmed through the post, but I'd like to add something (if it hasn't been said already).

    The reason why people spend eternity in hell is because they keep sinning by cursing God. The full extent of their evil nature is unleashed, and after that happens, it will be quite apparent that they do indeed deserve eternal conscious punishment.

  2. ---
    “But is a love that is guaranteed by the actions of the one being loved real
    love, or puppetry?”

    This Arminian argument never made sense to me. Suppose that I create Love Potion # 9 or whatever, and it works. I use it on a girl, and she falls in love with me. How is that not "real" love? She feels love, and she behaves in that manner, etc. There is nothing distinguishing that love from a "different kind" of love if you could examine it empirically. The emotions she experiences are identical.

    I mean, let's change it around a bit. Suppose that I find out that a girl likes flowers, so I buy her flowers. I find out that she likes chocolates, so I buy her chocolates. I find out she likes reading "Gone With the Wind" every year, so I Google it and memorize as much of the plot as possible so we have something to discuss. How is my doing these actions (which are not actions I would do under any other circumstances) any different than my creating a Love Potion # 9? I am making myself desireable to another person in both instances.

    Perhaps one would claim that the potion would be irresistible and therefore that's the problem. However, if I knew exactly what a girl wanted and I was able to do exactly what she wanted, how would I be any less irresistible to her?

    Perhaps one would claim that she didn't decide to take the potion, so you're forcing her to love you against her will. But A) does anyone actually have any choice over what they love in the first place? and B) since the potion changes her so that she then loves me, it is not "against her will" in the first place. The love comes from the alteration of her will such that I become irresistible to her. (And, I might note, that in Calvinism this act of regeneration is actually fixing that which was broken; i.e., if we weren't sinners God would be the most desireable thing for us by default.)

    So, as I said, this whole objection that love must be free to be real has never made sense to me.