Anyway, not much of what he says even so much as attempts to deal with the bulk of my arguments, rather he takes a few potshots. He's not interacting with my posts in a sincere, charitable, and systematic way. But perhaps not being a professional philosopher, I don't deserve that much time to be given to my arguments. Victor's got more important things to spend his brain power on. If one is new here, you can click on the "Reppert" label at the bottom of my post and see all of my responses to Reppert. It is the considered opinion of this layman that Reppert has not met the challenges and answers I took the time to issue and offer in response to his recent posts.
Leaving the stronger arguments aside, I'll address his recent tangential points he offered up in response to my posts. As always, Reppert with appear in red.
"Paul Manata over at Triablogue is arguing that my objections to Calvinism bear no weight because they appeal to moral intuitions. He says that I begin from intuitions, and the Calvinist begins from Scripture. He is saying that if we're going to argue about Calvinism versus Arminianism or anything else, I should fight like a real man, based on Scripture passages, rather than like a girlie man, employing moral intuitions.
Or rather, I am arguing on the basis of moral intuitions, which are human and fallible, as opposed to God's Holy Word, which is infallible and inerrant."
i) I never said that they "bear no weight."
ii) He has been beginning from his intuitions, as he even admitted.
iii) I never said anything about real men or girlie men.
iv) I don't in principle have any objection to appealing to moral intuition.
v) Reppert actually claimed:
"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."
I simply responded that:
"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."
So, here we have a case where Victor's portrayal of reality is slightly off from reality itself.
vi) How does Victor reconcile his chastisement of me above with what he claimed in his post on 10/14/2005: God is not willing that any should perish. Victor wrote, and I quote, "And so when I read "God is not willing that any should perish" in II Peter 3:9, I take it to mean that, quite literally, God does not want anyone going to hell. Period, end of story. God said it, I believe it, that settles it" (emphasis added).
"There are several problems with this construal of the situation. First, even if Scripture is inerrant (and what that amounts to needs to be clarified), exegetes and Bible scholars are not infallible. There is no consensus amongst biblical scholars that the standard Calvinist proof texts really prove Calvinism, or that the Arminian or even Universalist proof texts to not support those doctrines."
i) If Scripture is errant (and what this amounts to needs to be clarified), why does Victor get to appeal to his (misinterpreted) "love" passages as just obvious defeaters for the Calvinist? Perhaps those are errant?
ii) I never said, or implied, that exegetes or Bible scholars were infallible. I never implied there was a consensus amongst biblical scholars.
iii) My argument was furthermore in the form of a conditional. That is IF Scripture teaches P, then P is true.
So, if this conditional is true, then if Scripture taught P and my moral intuitions said ~P, then ~~P.
Victor misstates my argument.
"I think that Calvinist interpretations of passages that teach God's love for all people do violence to the meaning of those texts and essentially trivialize them. Paul no doubt thinks the same of Arminian interpretations of Calvinist proof texts. There isn't going to be any slam dunk here."
i) This is disingenuous. Reppert doesn't show that my interpretations of the passages do violence to the text, he's simply claimed that they do violence to his intuitions.
ii) I have at least attempted to interact with the text. So, even though I'm not infallible, and my exegesis isn't infallible, I'm trying to present arguments that Scripture teaches P. If those arguments are good, and the other alternatives are not good, then we are warranted in believing P. If so, then we are warranted in believing that ~P is false. Victor hasn't argued from the text. He mentions some texts and then asserts that they mean such and such.
iii) It's not enough for Victor to mention the mere possibility of error, either. It's not enough for him to point out that I can't give a "slam dunk" (whatever that means). He's resorting to some criteria of Cartesianism. As if I couldn't offer my arguments, and say that they are true, unless I had a "slam dunk" (whatever that means) argument. I also allow for inductive arguments from Scripture to be made. Whose case is stronger? Has the better exegetical arguments? These things can be figured out.
"But it's when I back away from the exegeses of particular texts and look at what all of this means for God character. In Calvinism is false God's goal is the eternal salvation of every human creature. There is plenty of mystery concerning what God does to achieve that ultimate goal, but that goal is consistently pursued in all his works. "His mercy is over all his works," says the Psalmist, (Ps. 145: 9), something a Calvinist in going to have trouble consistently saying. This makes it possible to explain why some evils exist, others are mysterious, but here at least goodness is a fairly clear idea. The kind of goodness that God instills in me as I conform my life to his image is a reflection of the character of God, especially as revealed in Christ. The picture is morally coherent."
i) How does he know what God's character is without the exegesis? And, the exegesis of the text has some bearing on how we are to view God's character. This is his revelation. When we find out what the text means we find out more who God is and what he is like.
ii) I don't know what Reppert means by saying "God's goal is the salvation of every human creature." Perhaps he means to use what was said in his II Peter 3:9 post (the one I cited in (vi) above)? But there's no exegesis of the text there. There's two things I could say, then:
a) Some Calvinists have argued that God does desire the salvation of all people according to his voluntas signi but not according to his voluntas beneplaciti. Thus the two-wills doctrine can be used to show that these verses are entirely compatible with Calvinist notions of decree unto election.
b) Does an exegesis bear out Reppert's reading of II Peter 3:9? Let's quote the text:
"The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance."
More should be quoted, but we don't have time for a fuller exegesis.
Reppert takes the "any should perish" and the "all should reach repentance" as universal in its referent. On what exegetical basis does he do so? Let's make some notes about this text (and the lager context in which it is found):
1. The broader context of the text is not salvation, that is said in passing (v.9). The context is about the last days, how we should live in the last days, and most importantly, the coming of Christ. The primary context is eschatological and not soteriological, then.
2. Peter is talking about why the coming of the Lord has been delayed.
3. The audience peter is speaking to is "you" the "beloved." There are others, "they," that are "mockers" and "false teachers. The "you" includes Peter. The "you" includes those who profess faith. The "you" is the Christians who should watch how they live in the last days. The "you" are "those looking forward to a better country."
4. So the "you" in "the Lord is patient toward you" are his elect people. That's why the letter was written "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours."
5. This gives the "any" and the "all" in statements about perishing and repentance a context, a referent. Reppert would have the "any" and the "all" without a referent in the context.
6. The "you" is the referent of the "any" and the "all." I was talking to my son the other day and he was talking to me about his favorite toys. He said, "I like my toys, I don't want to lose any." Should I interpret the "any" as "all the toys in the world whatever?"
7. Peter writes the letter to "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours." There is no indication of change of audience. So Peter tells the saved people that the Lord is patient toward them, and desires none of his elect people to perish.
8. Peter is saying that the Lord is slow in coming back, delaying his return, so that all his elect can be gathered into the church. There's no basis contextually to say that God is speaking of all men whoever. He's speaking of his elect. Of his desire to save them. And he does. None of them perish. God sets goals he can meet. He doesn't set a goal for "all men whoever" to be saved, especially since he knows that not all men will be saved (Victor believes in some kind of post-mortem salvation for those in hell, thus indicating his scary notions of sin as not being every bit as wicked and nasty as the Bible says it is. Those in hell gnash their teeth in hatred toward God; they don't chatter them in humble fear of him).
9. As James White asks: "Further, it should be noted that if one suggests that there is no referential connection between "you" and "any/all," the text is left making no sense. Consider it. The phrase "but is patient toward you" is left hanging in mid-air, disconnected and undefined. Obviously, what follows is modifying and explaining how this patience is expressed. And if this is the case, then how can God's patience toward "you" (in the context, the elect) be exemplified by simply stating some kind of universal salvific will? How is God's patience to the elect demonstrated by stating God wishes every person, elect or non-elect, to come to repentance?"
iii) Why does a Calvinist have trouble agreeing with the Psalmist? Reppert doesn't tell us.
"I don't mean that God is obligated to do what we are obligated to do, but rather God's character as a good being must be the kind of character that we are supposed to have. "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus."
What's the argument here? What is Reppert trying to draw from this? I agree that I should conform myself to Jesus' character. Does Reppert mean to include those passages where Jesus tells people that are dogs, broods of vipers, sons of their father the devil? Does Reppert mean to include those passages where Jesus speaks of hell? Is his statement an argument against Calvinism? If so, what is it? If Jesus agrees with the Calvinist conception (which means we agree with Jesus), then is Reppert not conforming himself to Jesus' character?
"But what are we asked to believe if Calvinism is true? We are asked to believe that God decreed the deeds of everyone before the foundation of the world. The Holocaust, the killing fields of Pol Pot, the 9/11 attacks, and the entire content of Dawkins' The God Delusion were all decreed before the foundation of the world."
Yes. But if there's an argument here I'm failing to see it. Does Reppert know what we mean when we talk of God's decree? Can Reppert write up an argument for Calvinism's view of things that a Calvinist would accept? If not, how can he critique something he's ignorant about?
"The CD was made in eternity and plays out in time, just as it was intended. The deeds that are sinful are nevertheless deserving of everlasting punishment for the humans who perform them, even though the creatures that perform them cannot do otherwise, given those decrees."
I don't think ability to do otherwise is necessary for punishment. If Reppert thinks so he can engage in (a) showing the Bible has this notion, and (b) showing how all the Frankfurt arguments fail. Since I don't agree with PAPs, then all Victor is arguing is that Calvinism is problematic given his libertarian assumptions! But then why not ague: "Why Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil using only libertarian assumptions."? Victor should have told me so I didn't have to spend my time replying to an argument like that.
"Of these sinners, God elects some to everlasting life and the rest he allows to suffer the "just deserts" of their sins, which is, as indicated earlier, eternal suffering in hell. God could have decreed that no one ever sin, or God could have decreed that everyone receive the saving grace of Jesus Christ, but apparently it results in greater glory to himself if he damns, probably, the vast majority of the human race, especially those where the Gospel hasn't reached. Nevetheless, God is a perfectly good being. The acts we perform which merit us eternal punishment if we perform them are the same acts that God Himself ordained before the foundation of the world. Even though performing those acts as humans deserves everlasting punishment, decreeing those same actions before the foundation of the world is simply an exercise in "the potter's freedom."
None of this constitutes an argument. Reppert is just re-stating his problems with Calvinism.
"Paul says he doesn't share my intuitions. Look, given this picture, if you don't have at least notice a prima facie problem with God's conduct from a moral point of view, then you don't need an argument, you need help. It could all be OK, but then I could be a brain in a vat, Hitler could have been a nice guy who had a good reason to do what he did, and Elvis might still be alive."
i) So according to Reppert I need help. If you can't beat 'em, tell 'em they need help. Did he get this argument method from Richard Dawkins? Or was it Christopher Hitchens?
ii) I actually gave arguments and offered a fairly developed theodicy. It is uncharitable and misleading for Reppert to simply say that all I did was say that I didn't share his intuitions.
"If I were to have an argument with Jeffrey Dahmer about his, uh er, culinary practices, and I were to say that I found his actions reprehensible, he could say, "I just don't share your intuitions. Of course I suppose I could quote to him out of a book with leather covers that says "Thou shalt not kill," but there are lots of purported holy books out there."
But rather than deal with my arguments Reppert has simply appealed to his intuition.
Look (allow me to engage in some Reppert-style tactics), if you believe in a god who looked into his crystal ball and saw all the evil that would result from creating humans, and then he just let it all happen anyway, when he could have prevented it, then you don't need an argument, you need help. If you believe in a god who desires all men to be saved and knows that not all men will be saved, then you have an irrational god who desires an end he knows is impossible. If so, you don't need an argument you need help. God could have made a world where everyone (libertarian) freely does what is right (like heaven), but he didn't. He chose this one instead. Or, if he can't guarantee that everyone freely does what is right in heaven, then we maybe someone will rape someone else in heaven. If you believe those sorts of things you don't need an argument, you need help.
"There are, of course, some intuition pumps that can be used here to raise doubts about the moral acceptability of all of this. One picture that is often used is one in which makes it sound like a bunch of sinners just showed up in God's courtroom, all deserving punishment. God punishes some according to their deserts, and then others he saves by his grace through the sacrifice of Christ. What gets left out of the picture is the fact that these people are sinners wholly and completely as a result of God's eternal decree."
Right, so what?
"On my view, which I know not everyone shares, these people are simply not responsible for their actions, because they had no choice, given the past, to do what they did. Even if they can be held responsible, isn't there an "accessory before the fact" in their sins? Think of a Nazi commandant who gets Jews in his concentration camp to commit capital crimes and then executes them for those crimes."
i) That's right, I don't share his view. So what is Reppert trying to accomplish? Is he admitting that if my view were true, then I could "solve the problem of evil?" Okay, that's what I have been attempting to do. Or, has Reppert merely been arguing this entire time this proposition: Calvinism can't solve the problem of evil if Calvinism is false.? Would it be epistemologically blameworthy of me to say that I don't find that argument all that convincing?
ii) Does Reppert believe in original sin? If so, why should we get that and suffer from it do to a choice (Adam's) that was made in the past?
iii) The Nazi getting the Jew to commit murder isn't an accurate representation. Besides, why not spell this out more? Did the Nazi force the Jew to commit a capital crime? If so, then the Jew is not culpable. But, God doesn't force us to commit capital crimes in his universe. Did the Jew desire and chose to commit the crime? How is he not guilty?
iv) Who says they "had no choice." Most libertarians wouldn't even agree here. They say we can "have" choices yet we can't "make" choices.
"Another intuition pump that Paul uses is the idea that criminals like child molesters deserve to be punished and put away. If this is so horribly wrong, then why should any of us "child molesters" get into heaven through Christ paying the penalty for our sins?"
Does Reppert really not understand the Gospel? Does he not understand grace? Is he really of the opinion that only those who "don't do things that horribly wrong" are worthy of heaven? Indeed, doesn't Reppert answer his own question? Doesn't the death of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory(!), show just how bad sin really is?
"It's the Calvinists, in spite of their ardent denials which border on out-and-out subterfuge to me, who make God the author of sin."
"Paul thinks I have a low view of sin. What??? I have such a high view of sin that I don't think God ever decrees it. I don't think God would decree sin because, also, I have a high view of God."
That's right, you do, Victor. You think sinners in hell will be seeking to repent. You think they will be sorry for their actions. You think that sin's grip is not so tight that man needs a radical intervention from the outside, a heart-transplant, in order to turn to Jesus. I've made arguments to this effect and you've interacted with none. You've not given me any reason to think otherwise, "in spite of their ardent denials which border on out-and-out subterfuge to me."
"Paul references a book called "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God." Doesn't that title tell you a lot? God's love for humans is a difficult doctrine? On my view, that's the easy part."
i) Right, a book from a world renowned scholar.
ii) Anyway, let's read what Victor said above:
"There are several problems with this construal of the situation. First, even if Scripture is inerrant (and what that amounts to needs to be clarified), exegetes and Bible scholars are not infallible. There is no consensus amongst biblical scholars that the standard Calvinist proof texts really prove Calvinism, or that the Arminian or even universalist proof texts to not support those doctrines."
So when it comes to my passages it's, "Well, those are difficult and no one has offered any 'slam dunk' exegesis." But when it comes to passages Victor likes it's, "Well, this is so obvious. You don't even need to do exegesis."
iii) Reppert offers zero exogenesis. Reppert also notes the problem. For him it's the easy part. But does his understanding agree with the Bible's? Reppert doesn’t even bother to find out. Maybe he's wrong? That thought ever crossed his mind? Instead of blowing of a book by a specialist in a field where you are not a specialist in, Victor could exhibit intellectual virtues and study rather than dismiss.
iv) Reppert's quip is even anticipated by the blurb on the Amazon site:
At first thought, understanding the doctrine of the love of God seems simple compared to trying to fathom other doctrines like that of the Trinity or predestination. Especially since the overwhelming majority of those who believe in God view Him as a loving being.
That is precisely what makes this doctrine so difficult. The only aspect of God's character the world still believes in is His love. His holiness, His sovereignty, His wrath are often rejected as being incompatible with a "loving" God. Because pop culture has so distorted and secularized God's love, many Christians have lost a biblical understanding of it and, in turn, lost a vital means to knowing who God is.
The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God seeks to restore what we have lost. In this treatment of many of the Bible's passages regarding divine love, noted evangelical scholar D. A. Carson not only critiques sentimental ideas such as "God hates the sin but loves the sinner," but provides a compelling perspective on the nature of God and why He loves as He does. Carson blends his discourse with discussion of how God's sovereignty and holiness complete the biblical picture of who He is and how He loves.
In doing away with trivialities and clichés, this work gets to the heart of this all-important doctrine from an unflinching evangelical perspective. Yet it does so without losing its personal emphasis: for in understanding more of the comprehensive nature of God's love as declared in His Word, you will come to understand God and His unending love for you more completely.
"I have a serious problem with any action retributively deserving everlasting punishment, since all sins only to a finite amount of damage. The reply is that they are against an infinite God, but do we give tougher penalties for people who commit crimes against, say, the President? Hell is possible not because someone retributively deserves it on my view, but rather, because someone continues to freely rebel. God can't make someone happy without a submitted will, and God can't guarantee that without making the submission unfree. At least, on my incompatibilist view."
i) What Reppert "has a serious problem with" does not count as an argument.
ii) Does Reppert think that the amount of time it took to do the crime should equal the amount of time you get punished? So a 10 minute child molestation should get 10 minutes in jail?
iii) What does Reppert mean by "finite" and "infinite?" The time in hell is a potential infinite, and thus is finite.
iv) Throw this into the mix: Sinners in hell will sin every moment of their existence, thus warranting more punishment. So, one doesn't even need the whole finite sin against infinite God line to believe all those in hell will be there forever.
v) Can Reppert exegete any of his thoughts on hell from the Bible? Here's some reasons against it:
vi) Reppert's god is like those annoying people who say, "I'm just trying to make everyone happy." Does allowing Hitler into heaven make any of his victims happy?
"There are some elements in Paul's post that are disturbing. He explicitly says that some people are not our neighbor and we are not obligated to love them."
i) I wrote: "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 the man who fell into the hands of the robbers in Luke 10?"
ii) I'm confused as to why Reppert would even say what he did! Let's look at the love your neighbor passage:
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Notice the distinction between neighbor and enemy is right there smack dab in front of us. He’s drawing a contrast between those who are our neighbors and those who are not, those who love us and those who don't, those who are our brothers and those who aren't. So the text says not all people are our neighbors.
iii) I still inquire into the nature of Reppert's argument. God doesn't have neighbors. And, even if he did, if it is inconsistent to punish a neighbor then why doesn't Reppert lobby for all the child molesters currently behind bars? He obviously doesn't think there's any problem loving a neighbor and punishing them.
"What about all the words of Jesus about turning the other cheek to those who seek to harm you, proying for those who despitefully use you, loving your enemies."
I agree with Jesus. And?
"What about the Good Samaritan, Jesus' brilliant response to those who would circumscribe the circle of "neighbor" to exclude others. If you can exegete your way around those, you can exegete your way around anything."
Actually, the text shows which kind of person is a neighbor. Jesus asks "which of these do you think acted like a neighbor toward this man?"
What's Reppert trying to get from this passage? That since one person in need should be helped because he is your neighbor then we should help our other neighbor if he's trying to get into a house in order to rob it?
I have no clue anymore what Victor thinks he's trying to argue in all this.
"In confronting issues of theodicy, I have to admit, like any sane, sensible Christian, that a good deal is mysterious. But if Calvinism is false I can see through a glass darkly and maybe see why a good deal of evil exists. If Calvinism is true, then I'm blind as a bat. I admit the logical possibility that it might all be justified, but then it is just possible that Elvis is at the McDonald's nearest my house."
But you're not as blind as a bat. I even pointed out possible theodices for certain evils and sufferings. I must conclude that Victor didn't even bother to read my two posts. And, if there is a logical possibility that it is all justified, then Reppert's logical argument has been answered! Other than that, his only argument seems to be: "On my view of things, which I simply intuit and stipulate without argument, Calvinism is problematic." That's really all I’ve seen out of Victor.
"Given the fact that there is no overwhelming biblical case for Calvinism, it seems to me that I am justified in choosing a view that is morally coherent over a view that strikes me as being about as morally incoherent as a position could possibly be."
i) But Victor, your initial posts, the ones I have been responding to, have been arguments against why Calvinists cannot solve the problem of evil, not why you are justified in denying Calvinism.
ii) What does "overwhelming biblical case mean?" I think we got the best case in town. The case that fits best with Scripture.
iii) You have not shown any moral incoherency. You have only asserted that our views are morally incoherent. And, given my arguments, which you did not address, you have been shown how they can be coherent!
iv) Since there is no overwhelming case for Arminianism, and given that Victor's position strikes me as morally incoherent as a position could be, I am justified in rejecting Victor's Arminianism and holding to my Calvinism.
Don't you love the ways philosophers argue theology?
And, let me quote from Victor's II Peter 3:9 post again:
"All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options."
Seems Victor could have answered his posts himself.