"First, while I admit that Scripture can correct my conception of goodness, accepting reprobation would, on my view, not be a correction, but an out and out reversal, of what goodness seems to me to be. If Hitler was wrong to send people to Auschwitz, could it be OK for God to send people to an everlasting Auschwitz, when he could have chosen eternal bliss for them?"
i) And can Scripture "reverse" some particular conception of goodness? I don't see why not. Some may think that it is never good in any circumstance to make an innocent man pay for the sins of the guilty. In coming to the Bible, and being asked to accept what Jesus did on behalf of sinners, this man could reply: "That requires me to reverse my conception of goodness." Or, say one is a humanist. Man is the highest good. Since Reppert admits that God is the highest good, then he presents the humanists with a concept of goodness that is the reverse (outright denial, even) of the humanists. So, I don't see the problem Victor has here.
ii) Notice the philosopher's version of an ace up the sleeve. The philosopher's get out of jail free card. It is: The Appeal to Intuition (and this intuition is not like our intuition that modus ponens is correct, either. Not even close to that universally recognized). Now, the secret to offering this particular response to a position is that you much pooch our your lips, shake your head back and forth and say, "I just don't have that intuition."
iii) Reppert makes a disanalogy between Hitler and God. One relevant detail left out is that God is sending criminals to their just deserts.
iv) Reppert is more confused why God who would send sinners to hell, I'm more confused at why the Holy One of Israel, the Fear of Isaac, would save anyone. The Calvinist's high view of God is matched by Reppert's low view of sin.
v) If Reppert believes in hell, then he must answer why God would instantiate any person who chooses to go to hell when he could have saved them the pain and everlasting punishment by not creating them. If he believes all go to heaven, and also all have libertarian freedom, he must answer how God can guarantee this on a libertarian model.
vi) Was it impossible for God to make a world where everyone freely (in a libertarian way) did what was right? If not: (a) what happens in heaven?, (b) if Plantinga's transworld depravity is appealed to, what about Jesus' creaturely essence not being depraved?. If so, why this world? If for a greater good defense, why can't the Calvinist appeal to this?
"Second, it’s the very influence of Scripture on my character that makes Calvinism a problem. Scripture teaches that I should love my neighbor as myself and undermines the idea, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that there are people outside the pale of being my neighbor. If I think about the people whom I come the closest to loving as I do myself, I don’t find that there are two good options, either an eternal bliss in relation to God, or eternal justified punishment forever and ever separated from God. The more I love someone, the less acceptable the second option is."
i) This is poor reasoning. It begs the question. If the sinner is a criminal worthy of punishment, then what does "loving your neighbor" have to do with anything? (Indeed, who says we are God's neighbor, anyway? Someone's massively confusing the Creator/creature distinction.) Does Reppert protest the sending away of child molesters? Of punishing them for their crimes? Either he does not love them (and undercuts his argument), or there is no problem with him loving his neighbor and punishing them.
ii) Love of neighbor is not the same kind of love as salvific or electing love (see D.A. Carson's The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God for some relevant distinctions). Reppert is making a category mistake with this argument from love of neighbor.
iii) Apropos (ii), love of neighbor doesn't mean I can't kill someone trying to kill my wife. Is this man, who is trying to kill my wife, outside the pale of neighbor? Why should God alloow those in heaven who (a) hate him?, (b) hate his followers?, and (c) don't want to be there. Reppert's apologetic inspiration, C.S. Lewis, once said: "There are two kinds of people in the end. The ones who say to God "Thy will be done", and the ones to whom God will say, "thy will be done."
iv) As a matter of fact, there are people outside the pale of neighbor. Those trying to do you harm, for instance. Does Reppert think he should help those trying to beat and rob him like like the man who fell into the hands of the robbers in Luke 10?
v) Reppert acts as if every law Reppert is commanded to obey, God is likewise obliged. This logically leads to Mormonism, though. Does God need to honor his father (and mother!)? How about theft? If God owns everything, how can he steal what is his? We are commaded to pray, does God pray to himself.
"Finally, the summum bonum that God pursues in saving and damning is supposed to be his own glory. How in the world does damning someone eternally glorify God. How does taking voices out of the heavenly choir glorify God? Sending people to hell by a decree before the foundation of the world deprives God of glory."
i) I am trying to make a metaphysical point, Reppert is acting as if epistemic hindrances have something to do with that. Say I don’t know, what of interest follows? That God does not in fact gain glory from his cosmic display of justice? Hardly. What follows is the uninteresting claim that Paul Manata doesn't know how God gains glory.
ii) It's not as if those who go to hell did not commit acts of sin themselves. That God decreed it is not a problem to me. Now, allow me to pooch my lips out, shake my head from side to side, and say to Reppert: I just don't have these intuitions.
iii) Reppert is asking questions and then asserting. The above isn't an argument. He wouldn't accept it if someone simply asserted: "Neurons do all the work attributed to the mind."
iv) How does allowing unrepentant criminals into heaven add to the glory of God? Does Reppert think God forces people to repent? Perhaps Reppert think that after some time in hell, people will gladly repent. In this reppert demonstrates his low view of sin. The sinners will gnash their teeth against God in hell. Their pride will be maximalized. Their hatred intensified. God's goodness villainized. God and his people stigmatized. This compounds their crime. Begets more judgment. How does allowing these people into heaven add to God's glory?
v) Reppert begins his theology with his intuitions, the Calvinist begins with Scripture. Reppert can't show his views in Scripture. Can Reppert exegete any of his views from Scripture? How about libertarian freedom? Can Reppert exegete universalism from Scripture? I think not. So, his argument is armchair philosophical speculation.
"Paul Manata does not think that Calvinism relies on theological voluntarism, and does therefore think that God’s goodness, even on a Calvinistic view, is in some way commensurable with goodness as human beings ordinarily understand it."
i) I think I said that the good God does is really and objectively good. Since it is, Reppert would have to, if he were thinking appropriately, admit the actual goodness of God's actions.
ii) And, it's no big mystery that there is a position on God-talk called "analogy." And it's not just the Calvinist who uses it. A dog is faithful to his master as a man is faithful to his wife in an analogous way. But the Creator/creature distinction comes into play here. Though God is truly good, it's not an univocal good with man's goodness. Man isn't, for instance, infinitely good.
Michael Sudduth writes,
"The theological pessimist emphasizes the fact that God is unlike anything in the world. But what does this mean? Is God not completely like everything in the world of human experience? Or he is completely unlike everything in the world of human experience? If God is not completely like everything in the world of human experience, then God does share all properties or characteristics with anything else. But if God is completely unlike everything in the world of human experience, then God does not share any properties or characteristics with anything else. It is certainly true that God does not share all properties with anything else, but it's hard to see how God could not share any properties with anything else. If God had nothing in common with anything else, God would have at least one thing in common with everything else, namely the property of "having nothing in common" (as this would be a property of both God and everything else)."
"He claims Sudduth blows the idea that Calvin is a theological voluntarist. He quotes a passage with suggests otherwise, but I wonder how he would interpret the following statement form the Institutes
The will of God is the highest rule of justice, so that what He wills must be considered just…for this very reason, because he wills it. (Institutes, vol ii, chap 3, trans. John Allen. Philadephia: Presbyterian Board of Christian Education, p. 23) quoted in John Beversluis’ C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion p. 230.
Now, as I see it not much turns on whether Calvin was a voluntarist (or, to use Beversluis’ terminology, and Ockhamist) or not. I suspect that a textual case could be made on both sides of the issue."
i) Here Reppert loses some respect. If he's going to "interact" with an article, and try to "rebut" one of my points, he can at least read the article he's "rebutting." Here's what I mean. It just so happens, unfortunately for Reppert, that Sudduth deals with this exact quote from the institutes! Starting with II. Calvin’s Rejection of the Distinction and reading down will be enough to show Reppert’s position in error. Here's the link to Sudduth.
ii) Respected Calvinist philosopher, Paul Helm, also interacts with this exact quote. Helm points out that, in the same section Reppert mines from Beversluis, Calvin goes on to say:
We do not advocate the fiction of “absolute might”: because this is profane, it ought rightly to be hateful to us. We fancy no lawless God who is a law unto himself…But we deny that he is liable to render an account; we also deny that we are competent judges to pronounce judgment in this cause according to our own understanding’. (Inst. III.23.2)
"I am more interested in Manata’s suggesting that, for the most part, you can use many of the same defensive responses to the problem of evil if you are a Calvinist. Of course you can’t use the free will defense, but there are other considerations used by people like Plantinga, Alston, Adams, etc, that a Calvinst can still use."
i) Can Reppert use the free will defense? How does that work for heaven?
ii) Is Reppert thinking of Plantinga's free will defense? That's been shown to be insufficient for defending Christian theism (sec. 1.3).
"In many cases, we find that some things that seem to be gratuitously evil turn out to have good sides we couldn’t see. The wicked act of selling Joseph to the slavers resulted, after a long chain of events, in Jacob’s family being able to settle in Egypt and to avoid the ill effects of the famine."
i) It's more than that. It's that we might not see that things "turn out" for good, and is possible that we might never understand, given our creatureliness and the magnitude of God’s plan. I quote Welty at length,
But now let us suppose, again for the sake of argument, that Wykstra's application of CORNEA is an utter failure, an overly bold and therefore indefensible amendment to the Principle of Credulity. What of the weaker hypothesis that Alston proposes in its place? Rather than "proceeding on the basis of any such unrestricted epistemological principle," Alston says the more proper response
focuses on the peculiar difficulties we encounter in attempting to provide adequate support for a certain very ambitious negative existential claim, viz., that there is (can be) no sufficient divine reason for permitting a certain case of suffering, E. I will be appealing to the difficulties of defending a claim of this particular kind, rather than to more generalized human cognitive weaknesses (102).
That is, Alston (unlike Wykstra) is willing to initially grant the atheist his 'it appears' claims. But, Alston argues, a moment's reflection on the part of the atheist will rob premise (1) of Rowe's argument of any rational support. The atheist is perhaps initially entitled to say, "it appears that God could not have a morally compelling reason for permitting this evil." But when he is led to reflect upon, more particularly, his cognitive limitations vis-à-vis the complexity of God's plan, to reflect upon his inability to determine whether or not an omniscient God could have a sufficient reason for permitting this evil, he should realise that this very cognitive limitation is a reason that tells against the initial 'appears' claim. The common-sense qualification Swinburne makes to the Principle of Credulity has been fulfilled in the course of this very exercise.
Swinburne would disagree; he alleges that even if Alston is right that our moral and logical intuitions may be in error when examining an instance of evil, this is a worthless point, for Alston has still given us no "reason to suppose that our error is more likely to lie in the one direction rather than in the other" (1998, 28). That is, if Alston's argument is to be consistent, it must call into question all of our moral and logical intuitions. We need "positive argument for supposing that certain appearances rather than others are misleading" (1998, 28).
Three replies are in order here.
220.127.116.11 Alston Defines the Limits
First, this criticism overlooks the explicit restriction Alston places upon his scepticism, as well as his rationale for that restriction. The heart of Alston's argument is that
the critic is engaged in attempting to support a particularly difficult claim, a claim that there isn't something in a certain territory, while having a very sketchy idea of what is in that territory, and having no sufficient basis for an estimate of how much of the territory falls outside his knowledge. This is very different from our normal situation in which we are forming judgments and drawing conclusions about matters concerning which we antecedently know quite a lot, and the boundaries and parameters of which we have pretty well settled (120)... [The point] is that the judgments required by the inductive argument from evil are of a very special and enormously ambitious type and that our cognitive capacities that serve us well in more limited tasks are not equal to this one" (124 fn. 36) (my italics).
Alston is zealous to maintain this explicit restriction upon his scepticism. Thus,
having carefully examined my desk, I can infer 'Jones's letter is not on my desk.' But being ignorant of quantum mechanics, I cannot infer 'this treatise on quantum mechanics is well done' from 'so far as I can tell, this treatise on quantum mechanics is well done' (102).
If the Principle of Credulity cannot be fitted to obvious counterexamples like the above, then the Principle as it stands has no authority with respect to the judgements that are relevant to the evidential argument from evil, since these counterexamples form a precise parallel to those judgements. Even as ignorance of the complexities of quantum mechanics disqualifies me from passing judgement on how well done is a treatise on the subject, so ignorance of the complexities of God's plan disqualifies human beings (in their present cognitive condition) from passing judgement on how well done is a world God has made.
18.104.22.168 Alston Appeals to Discontinuity
Second, this criticism overlooks the fact that Alston's argument appeals to a clear principle of discontinuity between our knowledge of human affairs and our knowledge of God's affairs, to a discontinuity between our ability to conceptualise possibilities for sufficient reasons and God's ability to conceptualise them. Thus Alston asks his readers to
remember that our topic is not the possibilities for future human apprehensions, but rather what an omniscient being can grasp of modes of value and the condition of their realization. Surely it is eminently possible that there are real possibilities for the latter that exceed anything we can anticipate, or even conceptualize. It would be exceedingly strange if an omniscient being did not immeasurably exceed our grasp of such matters (109, my italics).
Such an appeal to discontinuity is familiar to those conversant with Joseph Butler's apologetic strategy in The Analogy of Religion Natural and Revealed to the Constitution and Course of Nature (1736). From the title alone it might be inferred that Butler only appealed to observed continuities between religious claims and the 'constitution and course of nature,' but this is not the case. While Butler does make great use of reasoning about unknown possibilities from the known constitution and course of nature, he recognises (and, like Alston, even exploits to his advantage) the limitations of this method of reasoning.
Thus, Butler argues for human immortality by pointing out that although we have in our lifetime undergone much change, we have still survived. Therefore, it is likely that we will survive death. This is Butler employing the principle of continuity. But, Butler also points out that we do not know enough about death to say (with the materialist) that it involves a loss of our present powers. This is Butler employing the principle of discontinuity. (For both of these points, see "Of a Future Life, " in ch. 1 of the Analogy.)
We can see Wykstra's emendation to the Principle of Credulity, and Alston's argument generally, as being in the spirit of Butler's appeal to discontinuity. There are areas concerning which human beings (in their present cognitive condition) are not qualified to speculate. If this is true for some of us with respect to human endeavours like quantum mechanics; why is it not all the more true for all of us with respect to divine endeavours?
As one commentator has expressed Butler's strategy:
Analogy tries to show that special revelation is analogous to natural revelation. Disanalogy, or the argument from ignorance, tries to show that the unlikeness of the supernatural invalidates unbelieving objections: the unbeliever does not know enough to object to scriptural teaching. This too is, in Butler's estimation, a practical kind of argument, like those by which we make decisions in everyday life. He presses the non-Christian to be consistent: admit in the religious debate the same continuities and discontinuities that you freely recognize elsewhere. When you do that, he tells the inquirer, you will see that special revelation has the same cogency that you accept in natural revelation. And if there are problems in special revelation, they are no greater than the problems of natural revelation. Since you are able to bear with the latter, you should be able equally to bear with the former.
22.214.171.124 Alston Provides 'Positive Argument'
Third, I take Alston as having, in any case, fulfilled Swinburne's requirement; he has given "positive argument for supposing that certain appearances rather than others are misleading" (Swinburne, 1998, 28). Namely, those 'appearances' into which the concept of God enters as part of its description are misleading, to the extent that we have not reflected upon the relationship between the cognitive abilities of that God, and our own cognitive limitations. We can interpret Alston as holding that 'it appears that p' (where p is 'God could not have a morally compelling reason for permitting this evil') would be misleading, if the aspect of 'God' being considered is merely that he is a perfectly good being. But if, in addition to his perfect goodness, his perfect wisdom and power are equally considered - that is, if it is truly the concept of God (and not a scaled-down substitute) which enters into the content of p in 'it appears that p' - then cause for scepticism as to the rational acceptability of p is due to enter in. It was the burden of Alston's article to argue this point at length. He initially concedes to the atheist his 'it appears that p' only because he is convinced that further reflection on the content of p will make p well-nigh indefensible.
To formalise a bit, if we take the following definitions:
h = 'God could not have a morally compelling reason for permitting this evil'
e = 'it seems to me that God could not have a morally compelling reason for permitting this evil'
k = irrelevant background knowledge
c = considerations of our human cognitive condition vis-à-vis God's omniscience and omnipotence
Then I am convinced that Alston's argument is meant to show that, even if it is a fact of human psychology that P(h/e.k)> 1/2, what is important with respect to the evidential argument from evil is that Alston's considerations lead to P(h/e.k.c)W 1/2.
"So if something appears evil, it may not be because
1) We don’t see all the causes and effects that will result for this so-called evil.
2) We don’t see the long-term consequences of the evil.
3) We don’t see the eternal consequences of the evil.
4) We don’t see the possible bad consequences of eliminating the evil."
i) Given God's infinity, he divine plan, the massive gap between his knowledge and ours, possibly hundreds of various theodicies, the promise of his trustworthy word that "the judge of the earth shall do right," and that he has a morally sufficient reason for what he does, and that he is working all thing together for the good of those who love him, Reppert’s 4 little points may safely be said to be a tad bit underwhelming. I quote Helm, again:
God may have a reason and yet that reason not be available to us. Perhaps this is true of all the particular things that God ordains. Why was Esau the twin of Jacob and not, say, Izzy (or Lizzy)? Or why were there not triplets, Jacob, Esau and Izzy? It may seem arbitrary of God to bring into existence these two, and not some other two, or some three. We may presume that Calvin might say there is a reason for this, but that the reason has not been disclosed to us. There are multitudes of reasons for multitudes of states of affairs, perhaps none of which we can give the reason for. Maybe the reason for this irritating fact is that the will of God is not concerned with separately-identifiable situations, but with whole ensembles, with worlds. That is, maybe we ought to be asking not, why not Izzy? But, Why a world in which there is no Izzy? However, we find, naturally enough, that whether we ask ‘Why not a world with Izzy?’ we do not have a reason for that, though we have fewer questions to ask. Perhaps the reason can be given, and appreciated, only when the world is over, when this passing world is done.
ii) Reppert is begging the question against the model. Recall Alston:
remember that our topic is not the possibilities for future human
apprehensions, but rather what an omniscient being can grasp of modes of value
and the condition of their realization. Surely it is eminently possible that
there are real possibilities for the latter that exceed anything we can
anticipate, or even conceptualize. It would be exceedingly strange if an
omniscient being did not immeasurably exceed our grasp of such matters"
"Now if someone went to hell as a result of divine decree who could have been saved, and I say that isn’t something a good God could permit, which one of these mistakes could I be making? It’s a final result for someone’s soul. We see all the causes and effects, at least so far is this particular life is concerned. The long-term consequences are known, even the eternal consequences are known, and the alternative possibility of God’s saving that person is also known. So my error can’t be traced to any of these four sources. So where did I go wrong if I thought this would be wrong for God to do, but it really isn’t? It must be that my conception of goodness is dead wrong. That’s all that’s left."
i) I proved above (my first (i)) that it is many times that our conception of "good" is "dead wrong." This doesn't imply that metaphysical conclusion that God's actions are not good.
ii) Reppert equivocates. he could have been saved only by another decree. Given the decree, he could not be saved.
iii) How does Victor know that we see all the causes and effects? I don’t see how he can say that, at all. And, his admission that "at least in this life" is perhaps more telling than he admits. If he doesn’t know all, most, many, some, hardly any, of all the causes and effects, how is he in a position to make this judgment, at all? Especially when the Calvinist trusts God at his word, the testimony of another person, a person who cannot lie, that he will do good, right, just.
iv) How are the long term consequences known? We're talking eternity here. Victor thinks that all that is taken into account is that we know "He is in hell for eternity." How in the world does he know that that is the only long term consequence?
v) Victor's error can most certainly be traced to those four sources, and the multitude of other sources involved in a divine plan. Indeed, look at the finding of science. The detailed plans of how our universe is fine tuned. The amazing DNA program we have. Most learned scientists admit we only know the tip of the ice berg here! Is it a little presumptuous for victor to think that he has the majority of the picture in an admittedly more involved, detailed, and mysterious part of God's plan for all things? I refer to Paul Helm once again:
One can think up other sorts of considerations why the reasons are presently hidden, reasons to do with prudence, or appropriateness, or the fact that it is none of our business, or otherwise not in our interests to know them. In modern society there is the problem of balancing the disclosing of information with the right to privacy. In respect of the reasons for the election of one and the reprobation of another Calvin asserts God’s right to privacy, as Paul does in Romans 11.33f. The sources of election etc. are ‘secret’, as Calvin often says.
Perhaps, as Jesus once said of his own disciples, there are reasons that we presently cannot bear. Perhaps because we would necessarily misconstrue these reasons, or make a bad use of them. In any case why, if God has a reason for doing X or not doing it, do we have an overriding entitlement to know what that reason is? As Alvin Plantinga asked, in a rather different context, Why should we be the first to know? Different attitudes to this question mark deep religious differences.
vi) I am not convinced by Reppert's arguments in the slightest. He may dislike Calvinism all he wants, disagree with it, etc., but I would at least appreciate his admission that on this argument, he doesn't have the Calvinist where he thinks he has him. I trust Reppert can be intellectually honest here. Admitting my points doesn't mean he needs to become a Calvinist. It will just show that he can treat his opponent charitably, recognizing what the good vs. the bad arguments against a position are. Surely Reppert doesn’t think that every single argument he ever offers against the Calvinist is spot on, does he? That’s a pretty good record, especially for someone who admits he’s not an expert in theology, historical theology, Calvinism, or Calvin.
(HT James Anderson for Helm's paper)