Annoyed Pinoy said...
Why doesn’t God save everyone?
i) Either God is able to save everyone, but unwilling—in which case God is not omnibenevolent,
ii) Or else, God is willing to save everyone, but unable—in which case God is not omnipotent.
Those are the only logical alternatives: there is no third.
Absolutely no other logical alternatives?
What about (Calvinist) R. L. Dabney's view (http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/dabney/mercy.htm) whereby God has a genuine "desire" (of sorts) for the salvation of the non-elect, but because of higher and more noble ends decrees the non-election of the reprobate. Similar to John Piper's view of there being two wills in God (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/1995/1580_Are_There_Two_Wills_in_God/).
When it comes to the Well-Meant offer, I can take it or leave it as a Calvinist. But, is there really no *logical* tertium quid whatsoever? Steve, I'm sure you've encountered these types of arguments before. I assume therefore that you must find them unconvincing. Otherwise you would not have been so dogmatic about there being *no* other options (not even one). Have you posted a blog where you've gone into why you reject these Dabneyian-like type positions? If so, can you give us a link?
This is worth lifting out of the combox and addressing separately.
1.The mediating position of Piper or Dabney doesn’t escape my dilemma. Unless they equivocate, both of them must admit that God was unwilling to save the reprobate. He had the power to do so, but chose not to.
2.Dabney’s position is excessively anthropomorphic, both at the hermeneutical level and the theological level.
We need to remember that God is not a human being, and we also need to consider what that implies.
For example, suppose I’m reading about the downfall of king Saul. It’s a frightening story. He started out as a decent man, but one thing lead to another and he ended up in a moral freefall. Having done one wrong thing committed him to the next step in the downward spiral.
So Saul became an evil man. And we see the process spread before our eyes.
Because he became an evil man, we should disapprove of him. He did terrible things.
At the same time, when you read about him, it’s also hard not to feel sorry for the man. And that’s because the human reader will project himself into Saul’s situation.
We can imagine ourselves in that same situation. We understand how a man can make some wrong choices which cross a line of no return. He’s gone too far to back out. He’s trapped in the vicious momentum of evil.
It’s like a compulsive gambler who keeps playing and keeps losing in hopes of lucking out and recouping his losses. He can’t afford to lose, but he can’t afford to walk away from the table. Each time he falls further behind, but gambling is the only way to make enough fast money to repay his debts. The thing that’s getting him ever deeper into debt is his only hope of getting out of debt. It’s a tragic dilemma.
When we see things like that, it triggers a sense of empathy or compassion. Because we know that we could box ourselves into a similar predicament.
However, God is not a human being. As such, he doesn’t feel the same way. When God shows mercy to a sinner, it’s not because he identifies with the plight of the sinner in the way that you and I might identify with our fellow man.
God isn’t projecting himself into the situation of the sinner. God isn’t saying to himself, “That could happen to me! I could be that man! How would I feel if I were a compulsive gambler?”
There’s a disinterested quality to God’s mercy. Unlike human pity, it doesn’t involve an analogy between my situation and the situation of the next guy.
Up to a point, human sympathy is a good thing. It’s part of what makes us human. We have it because we’re human. We’re needy, vulnerable, and sinful. So we say to ourselves, “I could do the very same thing!”
But God is not a human being. And while I don’t deny that he has something analogous to certain human emotions, they don’t function in the same way.
3. As for Piper:
i) It’s true that, in a sense, God disapproves of some things he decreed. But that doesn’t involve a fundamental tension in the divine will. God didn’t have to ordain anything.
God doesn’t approve of everything that happens, considered in isolation, but he approves of the goal, and he approves of everything that happens insofar as it contributes to the goal—of the greater good.
So it’s very misleading to parse that in terms of two divine wills. For God wills the totality, and wills the individual elements with a view to the totality. Some events are individually evil, but instrumentally good.
ii) Piper’s position is also driven by his understanding of passages like Jn 3:16, 1 Tim 2:4, and 2 Pet 3:9, which he’s prepared to interpret in a fairly Arminian sense, but harmonizes with his overall commitment to Calvinism.
So his position on the bifurcated will of God is a hermeneutical harmonistic device. But I think that’s a solution to a pseudoproblem, since I don’t agree with his exegesis at this juncture.
The same hermeneutical pressures are driving Dabney’s position as well. Since I don’t share their hermeutical assumptions, I don’t need their harmonistic strategies.
iii) Piper proposes an answer to the question, what prevents God from saving everyone if he wants to. Piper says, “What restrains God’s will to save all people is his supreme commitment to hold and display the full range of his glory through the sovereign demonstration of his wrath and mercy for the enjoyment of his elect and believing people from every tribe and tongue and nation.”
To some extent that’s true, but we don’t have to cast that in terms of divine self-restraint, as though God wants something he can’t have because it conflicts with something else he wants even more.
Piper’s explanation makes sense if you grant the underlying tension, but that’s the very point at issue.
We need to remember that mercy for the wicked is quite counterintuitive. We wouldn’t expect a just judge to show mercy to the wicked. Ordinarily, it would be wicked to show mercy to the wicked.
To take a current example, many Americans are indignant at the sight of corporate executives who drive their companies into the ground, then walk away with a multimillion-dollar severance package while their former employees line up at the soup kitchen and the taxpayer is stuck with the tab.
There’s no reason to think that God feels conflicted when he damns a sinner for his iniquities. We sometimes feel conflicted at that prospect because we ourselves are sinners. Because we can put ourselves in the situation of a condemned man.
But that’s a very human tension. God isn’t subject to that kind of emotional turmoil. God’s judgment isn’t torn by human emotions.
There are divine and human goods. What’s good in God may not be good in man. What’s good in man may not be good in God.