He thinks this one has got potential.
If you go over to Triablogue, you will find all sorts of dismal remarks about how poorly I have made the case for the critics of Calvinism.Not quite. You'll find observations to the effect that I, for instance, have answered questions and responded to arguments of yours and you keep acting as if your points have been established and don't have any rebutting or undercutting defeaters for them. Observational remarks aren't necessarily dismissive remarks.
With respect to some issues, related to biblical interpretation, I don't think I have anything to add to the discussion that has not already been brought up in other discussions of the subject.Well, where we're at here is that if you take the Bible to be the inerrant word of God, and you also believe that it teaches Calvinism, and God's goodness, then you must believe both; to the detriment of your intuitions. Or, you must give up one of the other beliefs. I'm ready to debate the text if you want as it bears on Calvinism. We both agree that God's goodness is plain as day. Or, you can drop inerrancy. As it stands, you seem to not want to deny inerrancy and you sidestep the exegetical debate by appeals to "disagreements" about the text. So far, to succeed on this front, you've had to play the skeptic. We'll also see how this tactic comes in to undermine some of your claims below.
What maybe I have come up with, however, is an argument concerning the concept of glory that I don't think has been satisfactorily answered.Victor's jumping from pillar to post. Moving from new argument to new argument. Leaving his old ones behind. An inductive generalization would lead one to admit they should take a break on this argument and study the topic out some more.
Most study of the problem of evil suggests that with respect to a portion of human suffering, we can come up with possible scenarios according to which we can see why God would permit it. With other suffering, we aren't in a position to see why it occurs, but we are nevertheless entitle to believe that there is an answer even if we can't see it.Not only that, this appeal to mystery is virtually entailed by other Christian doctrines. The doctrine of the Creator/creature distinction. The incomprehensibility of God. The noetic effects of sin. The infinite wisdom and plan of God. Looser boundaries with respect to how language applies to God, etc. These points will come back into play below.
With respect to some evils, it seems possible and in some cases easy to see why God permits them. With others, there is considerably more mystery.
Let's take the evil of everlasting suffering in hell. On a free will view I can see how someone might end up permanently in rebellion against God and unable (because they are unwilling to serve) to receive the joys of heaven. Read The Great Divorce for how that goes. But why, on a Calvinist view would anyone end up in hell?As I've asked probably 10 times now, how does your Arminianism justify the existence of hell? This isn't all that clear to me.
Why can't God create beings who always do the right thing (libertarian) freely? Is that possible? Presumably in heaven we will never sin. Yet, on your assumptions, we will have libertarian freedom.
How does Reppert know that there is not a possible world where God could instantiate this?
Appeal to transworld depravity (despite other questions) suffers from the objection that orthodox Christianity teaches that Jesus had a creaturely essence and yet, presumably, didn't suffer from translworld depravity.
And, why did God, assuming he knows the future (if he didn't and you take the open theist route, then this raises other problems of evil (as Hasker notes well in his debate with Helm in Blackwell's Debates in Philosophy of Religion), but we'll proceed on the assumption that you're not an open theist), create beings he knew would end up in hell? It doesn't seem intuitive to me that the good of creating a being who had libertarian freedom, but who you knew would go to hell with that freedom, is sufficient justification.
The first answer for the Calvinists has to be that they are sinners and deserve it. This assumes a couple of things, first that a temporal sin can deserve an infinite amount and duration of punishment, and second that humans can deserve retributive punishment for actions that they are determined by another to perform. (This is a strong form of compatibilism. Many compatibilists are not retributivists about punishment. They argue, for instance, that even if determinism is true, you can still deter crime by punishing criminals.) But let's grant these highly counterintuitive claims for the sake of argument.Let's note that you're answering "why" we say some people end up in hell. The above answers work for some understanding of "why." Since I don't know your sense, I'll leave it at that, for now.
Secondly, let's note that it's not just Calvinists who are "retributivists." We could also ask what your theory of punishment in hell is? Is it to deter the sinless saints from sinning? That seems odd. Is it restorative? Does God know they will be restored? Is so, then you are a Universalist. If not, then God is means-end irrational since he employs a means that he knows will not achieve its desired end.
Thirdly, since you said that you accept this story as true for arguments sake, I do not need to speak to, or point out that you have not, yet, offered any reason why this is "counterintuitive." You keep saying that but when you try to spell it out, the arguments just don't work. I will hold you to your claim that you are granting this story. This will be borne out below.
We still need to explain why God would create a permanently unrepentant sinner, when he could preordain them not to sin or preordain them to receive God's irresistible grace and save them.i) It's not clear why we need to explain that. What's the cash value if we can't explain why God would do that? Do you believe God in fact created the duck-billed platypus? Well, why would he create that kind of being?
ii) If we must meet this burden then you "need" to explain why God would create S--who he knew would never, ever, not in a gazillion years, repent--knowing that S would spend eternity in hell? Why not just create the people that would choose him?
iii) Why did God create Adam and Eve, who he knew will fall, and bring sin and misery into the world? Why not create Jesus first? Jesus, rather than the second Adam, is the first Adam. He keeps the law. Merits eternal life for all his people. Why didn’t God do that? Why? Did I ask, why?
iv) Why did Jesus speak in parables so that some people would not turn and repent?
10When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11He told them, "The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12so that,
" 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!'
The unanimous answer in Calvinist theology seems to be that God does it for his own glory.i) Has Reppert read any Calvinistic study on this topic?
ii) Where's the page numbers of all the Calvinists books where this "unanimous" answer is found?
iii) Apropos (ii), are you talking about (a) preterition or (b) condemnation? If (a), the reason is unknown. This is a permissive action. Not an efficacious one. God leaves some people in a state of sin. Is Reppert saying that God is bound to redeem all men out of the state of sin? That God has to? That he can't pass by some sinner? Why would you think a thing like that? If (b) then the reason is based on his justice. This distinction ((b)) is not based on his good pleasure. He condemns S because S is a sinner.
iv) How do you not have a problem? God knows who will end up accepting him and who will not (we're assuming you're not an open theist or a Universalist, since I've been told that you're not). Thus out of the mass of humans God creates, he knows that some will go to hell and some will go to heaven. He then chose to instantiate this creation. He didn't (say) "cut it in half" and just create those who would choose to repent. Thus, it looks like God chose to create some people that would end up in hell. Those people never had a chance. They just played out the life God saw they lived when he peered into the crystal ball. To say that they were libertarian fee doesn't matter much. Seems superfluous. So what? He knew they wouldn’t use that freedom to accept him. Thus, he created them knowing full well that they would, despite their freedom, go to hell anyway.
v) I see my view, for instance, in Romans 11:22 "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off."
This seems as little counterintuitive as well--people who cause others to suffer for their own glory here on earth are considered bad, not good. But let's grant that counterintuitive claim also.i) That you grant this will come into play below.
ii) Note, above, that you granted that: "The first answer for the Calvinists has to be that they are sinners and deserve it." Thus, you granted that God was a just judge who rightly sent criminals to their just deserts. So, that you granted that would not make this so much counterintuitive anymore.
iii) I've already corrected you're unfamiliarity with Reformed teaching on this matter. Pointed to your vagueness and ambiguities. Passing over (preterition) doesn't cause the sinner to suffer. God leaves them in their sin. On the other hand, as regards condemnation, he "causes" the sinner to suffer because of God's justice and the sinners sin.
iv) Notice that you reason, again, in the counterintuitive way that whatever can be said of God can be said of humans, and vice versa. You seem to have zero respect for the Creator/creature distinction.
The Bible says that it is okay for God to take vengeance, but not us, for instance.
Humans that send innocent people to their own death, in the place of guilty people, seems "counterintuitive." So, on your own score, you think certain Christian teachings are counterintuitive.
Glory, it seems to me, analytically requires that it be glory in the eyes of someone. (Is there any Scripture verse that suggests a different conception of glory?) On the face of things, the way a God pursuing his own glory to achieve that goal would be to save everyone so that there could be as many people as possible praising Him forever.i) Since I've totally de-fanged your "for his glory" objection, I could technically be dismissive of your missive.
ii) I don't see how you think the above is prima facie. That's not clear to me, at all. And, is this your view of heaven? One eternal church service?
iii) One prima facie way a God would do this is to bring about his will in all areas of life. Laying out the master plan of master plans. Orchestrating every jot and tittle. Governing all things. Unveiling how this all works out and his reasons for everything.
iv) Given Reformed theology, Jesus died for his sheep and only his sheep. Hew knew them by name. Had a plan to save those he died for. Accomplished his plan. He acted like a faithful bridegroom. Saved his bride, the church, and made them spotless. Loved them. Acted as the exemplar for how husbands are supposed to love their wives. So, which husband gets more glory: the one who stays faithful to his wife, even dies for her; or, the one who is a playa? Cheats on his wife. Gives the same love to all women? Makes an appearance on the Jerry Springer show.
v) Where's the argument for the assumption that more voices in the choir equals more glory for God? Is that divine calculus?
But no, Calvinists say that God can demonstrate his wrath against sin by having some lost people (lots and lots of lost people, actually). The idea, I take it, is that the saved will praise God more because they recognize God's holiness and absolute opposition to sin by seeing people in hell.Though some of that is no doubt true, it is no where near sufficient.
Since there will be people who acted "better" than I did who will be in hell . . . probably way better, the existence of a hell will show that salvation is by grace alone.
Also, they are sinners. God, as essentially just and righteous, must punish them. To ask why he chose to leave them in their sinful state, why he passed over them and let them continue the inevitable track of a sinner, is to try to peer into the mysterious council of God. So, part of the idea, that you granted above, was that God was just in punishing criminals. That's what we know, we don't know the reason of his preterition. But, where's the problem here? I'm having trouble seeing exactly what it is that you are having such a problem with. Perhaps you can read some Reformed theology, and then write a post showing precisely how problems follow from our position. As far as preterition goes, since God does not have to redeem any sinner, is under no moral obligation to do so, I fail to see a problem, intuition or otherwise.
Thus it's not necessary that we "praise God" for this, though we will, but it is necessary that he punish sinners since God is necessarily a just and righteous being.
And my response is that God, as an omnipotent and completely sovereign being can decree into place any state of mind that he wants without having to use the means of damned souls to create this glory for himself.And this has been de-fanged by noting that God must punish sinners even if our state of mind were not such that we "praise God" for what he's done. That we will praise God is not the main reason for his condemning sinners to hell. That's a by-product. That's an effect of a sanctified mind. So, even if God determined that we would freely praise him, that does nothing to negate the fact that he still has to punish the sinner. You ask why he didn't redeem the sinner instead of passing them over? I ask, did he have to? I don't get it.
A judge may issue a just decision and the people will praise him, but that's not the reason for the display of justice. We can add some meat to this with a concrete example:
I Kings 3:16 One day two women came to King Solomon, 17and one of them said: Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house. Not long ago my baby was born at home, 18and three days later her baby was born. Nobody else was there with us.
19 One night while we were all asleep, she rolled over on her baby, and he died. 20 Then while I was still asleep, she got up and took my son out of my bed. She put him in her bed, then she put her dead baby next to me.21 In the morning when I got up to feed my son, I saw that he was dead. But when I looked at him in the light, I knew he wasn't my son. 22 "No!" the other woman shouted. "He was your son. My baby is alive!" "The dead baby is yours," the first woman yelled. "Mine is alive!" They argued back and forth in front of Solomon, 23 until finally he said, "Both of you say this live baby is yours. 24 Someone bring me a sword." A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered, 25 "Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him." 26 "Please don't kill my son," the baby's mother screamed. "Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don't kill him." The other woman shouted, "Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby." 27 Solomon said, "Don't kill the baby." Then he pointed to the first woman, "She is his real mother. Give the baby to her." 28 Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.
Thus we see that the people did praise Solomon, this was a by-product of the display of wisdom and justice. According to your argument, Dr. Reppert, you'd say that this by-product was the only or main purpose for this display of justice. If not, then that's how we see our situation in heaven as we stand before the just God who judges sin by his holy character.
(Let's also put to the side any Kantian worries about using people as a mere means).i) Worry no more (see above).
ii) Kant justified punishment by the categorical imperative by arguing that if someone S, say, killed someone, then S is acting as if this were a universal law, and thereby agrees with his punishment; agrees it is just. So, if S sinned against God, and knew this deserved death (cf. Romans 1), whence ariseth the Kantian problem?
So the instantiation of damned essences doesn't serve any conceivable greater good, because that good could be accomplished without the damnations.i) But you granted above that this punishment was just. It is the punishment of criminals. Since when did you start thinking that punishing criminals worthy of said punishment is not good? That's odd.
ii) As contemporary philosophers of religion have pointed out, Victor, there doesn't need to be a conceivable greater good, there just needs to be a greater good. It's precisely the move from "no conceivable" to "there are no" that is in dispute. See Bergman's "noseeum" argument in Blackwell's Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion.
iii) So, my argument has been that there is a greater good. To say that we can't conceive it is just to beg the question against every major theodicy of our day. You need to know that there is no good. But, given the entailments of orthodox Christian theism, viz., the doctrine of the Creator/creature distinction; the incomprehensibility of God; the noetic effects of sin (our epistemic situation); the infinite wisdom and plan of God; and looser boundaries with respect to how language applies to God, etc.
iv) Your assuming the falsity of what you wrote elsewhere: "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." -Victor Reppert
I read the Walls passage that Paul referenced about God's glory in damnations, according to which people in heaven see that God has done everything possible to save someone but respects their freedom. Even there I don't think Walls holds that the ultimate purpose of all God's actions is to glorify himself.That's odd. That's not how I read him:
"[God's] ultimate purpose of glorifying himself by demonstrating his love to all persons is fully achieved even in the event that some persons persist in rejecting it . . . [this is because] If we accept his love, he is glorified in our flourishing; if we persist in rejecting it, he is glorified when it becomes utterly obvious that we cannot be truly happy apart from him." --Jerry Walls, "Reply to Talbott" in Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, (eds. Peterson and Vanarragon), Blackwell, 2004, p. 288, emphasis supplied.
That looks like "God's ultimate purpose is glorifying himself."
Since God has a purpose in everything he does, then that is to ultimately glorify himself. If I asked what was the ultimate purpose for any act, therefore, God would have to say, "To glorify myself."
I don't see your reading of Walls in Walls at all.
Now, the Calvinist can respond by saying that there is a purpose for reprobations, even though we have no clue as to what it is. In fact, Paul constantly reminds me that I said that there have to be possibilities for God that we are not in a position to consider. However, unlike Paul, I am kind of agnostic about what will transpire eschatologically, or how it works.I broke this down and said that in the one sense we do not know, but I don't see how we have a problem here, at all (i.e., preterition). In the other sense, God's purpose is to execute justice on the sinner. Reppert granted that this was acceptable. Since justly punishing the worthy is good, then I have no clue what Reppert's problem could possibly be . . . other than to say that God must not pass by some sinners. I don't see how that argument could be made, and remain faithful to the text of Scripture, at all.
Furthermore, if you are agnostic about what will transpire eschatologically, then you are in an even worse position to argue that there is no good God can bring about by in reprobation. One would take it that you are agnostic about my position as well, or how it works. I really don't see how you have a leg to stand on in giving a positive argument against my position, at all. It appears you've granted the major premise of the skeptical theist argument. If that argument works against atheists, it works against you.
My conclusion is if people are reprobated there is no understandable reason why this is so. It is completely and totally beyond my comprehension. I can't even see through a glass darkly how this could possibly be justified. The reasons that are offered for reprobating people don't work even on their own terms. That doesn't make the position impossible to hold, just, at least to my mind, a whole lot more difficult. Everyone uses mystery maneuvers at some point (even materialists!) but the less you use them, the more epistemically adequate your position.i) Again, you make the illegitimate question begging move from "noseeum" to "thereisnun."
ii) We have a positive case in Christian theism's metaphysical, epistemological, and anthropomorphic claims to the extent that we would not expect to know these things. Thus, we should be skeptical toward thye idea that God does not have a good reason for the evil he allows. Welty concludes,
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.iii) Just to point out again, there is only no understandable reason why in regards to preterition. But I have pointed out that not knowing why isn't problematic. We have no to reason to think God has to redeem all mankind. He is free in this respect. He was free to create the world, he is free to create a new heart in sinners.
Perhaps Reppert will argue that God did not have to redeem everyone, but he should have. Since he could have, he should have. But that's not a solid inference pattern. Why should we think a thing like that? Is God morally obligated to change a sinners nature? I don't see why.
And, how is this not reversible? If God ought to have redeemed everyone to make sure they don't go to hell, ought he have not made some people to make sure they didn't go to hell of their own free will? Where's the moral justification for creating people you knew would go to hell? Thier born. Live a life in a sinful world. Have good days and bad. Then die and spend eternity in hell. When someone asks Victor's God how that is morally justified, will the reply that "But I gave them free will," be sufficient? How, for Victor, is that any better than "I did it for my glory?"
iv) As regards condemnation, those reasons do work on their (and your) terms.
v) Is Reppert's position on God more mysterious than the Muslim's? After all, Reppert believes in the Trinity. As well as the Incarnation? Indeed, it now looks like two cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, compared to other religions, are less epistemically adequate! One might want to argue that if (one or) two cardinal doctrines of faith A are epistemically inadequate indexed to (one or) two cardinal doctrines of faith B, one should opt for B over A. Reppert might argue that, as a whole, Christian theism is more rational than B. And so I would argue that, even granting his epistemic inadequacy point, the Calvinist picture, taken as a whole for the Christian, is much more rational, and faithful to the text and God's nature, than the alternatives.
vi) The Christian's life is a life of trust in God. To point out that I must trust God doesn't strike me as something that is epistemically blameworthy.
vii) What is the "good reason" for Bambi suffering in the forest fire?
viii) What is the good reason for God creating people that he knew would go to hell forever? To resort to "agnosticism about eschatological things" is what I have done about God's purposes in preterition! (Except I know that he has a good reason). Indeed, you appealed to mystery but then wouldn't let me! Thus your argument is ultimately incoherent.
ix) You frequently refuse to debate the text, resorting, rather, to claims about "disagreements between experts." You don't have to argue for your views because you resort to agnosticism. You even said you may not be able to figure the text out, but if your intuitions tell you that the text is teaching an immorality, then you'll say "There has to be another interpretation, even if I don't know what it is!". So, your argument against me is simply hypocritical. It's just window dressing to hide the fact that us Calvinists can provide answers to all your questions. Not only that, we have the better exegetical argument too. So, to resist the force of Calvinism you have had to appeal to mystery after mystery after mystery. And add to that appeal to mysterious intuitions that you've still never quite spelled out how, exactly, they conflict with Calvinism. You just "feel" that they do . . . somewhere.
What I have shown here is that Calvinists cannot solve the problem of the evil of eternal suffering in hell, in the sense that they can't provide any understandable reason for it. This is a narrower claim than what I began with, but it is still not completely without significance for the credibility of Calvinism.i) You can't solve your problems either:
ii) Tell me why God doesn't turn all knives and bullets to cotton the minute they are
about to strike another person? Agents would still be free. One doesn't need actual steel blades to be free, correct? Why didn't God at least not create those people he knew would be child molesters?
iii) Why not only instantiate those people who repented or "accepted the light" rather than ones he knew would go to hell?
iv) And, if Universalism, why all the evil? Does God really need a little child to be molested in order to get everyone to heaven? And, since Talbott argues that God "removes their delusion" so that they can freely chose heaven, why didn't he do it sooner? Why not immediately? Why not after the first sin? The first 100 sins? Instead of the 10 million cases of child rape, why couldn't there have been 1 less?
v) I've dealt with your different options, thus agnosticism doesn't help you here. Can you tell me why all these evils happen? If you can't, you don’t really have a leg to stand on with regards your critique of Calvinism.
vi) I'd go one further, given we're all in the above boat, the Calvinist position is the best one to have. It offers the most comfort. God is in control . . . of everything. There's no chance that he will be over taken by that which he has no control over. He ordained it all for a good reason. And, he entered into it with us. He ordained the embarrassing death of his Son. He predetermined the greatest evil and turned it into the greatest good. He knew Satan wouldn't win. He knew Jesus wouldn't have to wander around looking for someone to murder him because "freedumb" kept getting in the way of the plan. Knowing God ordains all the evil in the world is actually a great comfort for us Calvinists. And truth be told, all Christians act like Calvinists when your world comes to a halt. There's no Arminians in foxholes. When the storm comes, my rock is stronger than theirs.
Arminians can "solve" the problem of reprobation in the sense that considerations from their own theology make it somewhat understandable, though hardly problem-free.
Saying so doesn't make it so.
It's my contention, however, that the more you appeal to mystery, the worse it is for you epistemically.Appeal to mystery has always been at the heart of Christianity, rationalist's complaints notwithstanding. That's just par for the course when dealing with a sui generis being. An infinite plan. A God's who's "thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways." Man has always attempted to blur the Creator/creature distinctions. It began in the garden.
The more of an explanation you can have for suffering, the better your theology is, all things being equal.
Answers to suffering:
Calvinism: God ordained it and willingly permitted it for a good reason. He's in control. Justice will be served.
Arminianism: S**t happens 'cause we have a freedom God can't control.
Universalism: Live like hell, tomorrow we dine in heaven!
Annhilationism: Life sucks, and then you die.
I end with Reppert's spot on observation.
Victor Reppert: "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."