I should also point out that Steve Hays made many good points in his post below..
All the Calvinists in this discussion have told me that they are not theological voluntarists.This goes for virtually all Calvinists in general. When you call us voluntarists you simply hinder discussion.
I take it that theological voluntarism is the view that something is Good because God does it or commands it, and in this instance a being is entitled to the appelation "God" in virtue of His superior power.I don't know . . ., is Reppert arguing against Calvinism, or any theist who holds to a Divine Command Theory of ethics? Seems most of his arguments might apply to, not just to his view of Calvinism, but many Arminian Christians as well. Exactly what Victor is arguing, and who he is arguing it against, isn’t altogether clear anymore.
But if you are not a voluntarist, it could certainly turn out that Omnipotent One is not good, and not worthy of worship. Although you believe that the Omnipotent Being is worthy of worship, the great Cosmic Nightmare might turn out to be true, and it could turn out that the Being in charge of everuthing just isn't good.I don't get my idea of God from my philosophical speculations.
This claim cuts both ways. Since Reppert is not a voluntarist, then “it could certainly turn out that Omnipotent One is not good, and not worthy of worship.” Since this being is the Omnipotent One, he could be planting false intuitions in Reppert’s mind. So, “[a]lthough you believe that the Omnipotent Being is worthy of worship, the great Cosmic Nightmare might turn out to be true, and it could turn out that the Being in charge of everything just isn't good.”
One question I might now ask is in virtue of what is the "God" of Scripture, as understood by Calvinists, thought of as good, if not His power. What characteristics does the Omnipotent One have that we should worship him.i) Good in the sense of moral goodness or perfections? Some philosophers like to make these distinctions. Reppert told us he is handling this issue as a philosopher, not a theologian. If so, then he’s not clear here.
ii) In Reppert’s favorite haunt, the god of the philosophers, a being is worthy of worship if he is the greatest conceivable being. But as most philosophers of religion point out, this is almost meaningless given the various religious traditions we find, and the various intuitions we have. Is impassibility a perfection? Some say yes, some say no. How about necessity? Mormons wouldn’t agree. Does God's omnipotence mean he can, say, do the logically impossible? Aquinas said no, Descartes yes. Does God's omniscience include knowledge of the future? Again, some yes, some no. Does God's goodness mean he cannot willingly permit some to go to hell for their sinful actions? Some yes, others no. In Christianity, we go to revelation to figure this out.
iii) In Christian theology, we take God's goodness to be shown as his benevolence, lovingkindness, graciousness, mercifulness, faithfulness, longsuffering, compassion, those are some starters.
iv) Apropos (iii), of course these undefined terms don't do much, especially for those who want a god of the philosophers:
"It should be recognized that in setting for God's attributes we cannot possibly ignore the religious and theological tradition within which any given theology operates. If, for instance, we were to offer the Jewish religious community a conception of God radically at variance with that which is found in the Hebrew Bible and in Jewish tradition, that conception would not be warmly received. [...] As we have noted, intuitions about perfection may vary and a philosopher of religion who is seeking to apply that notion would do well to pay attention to the conception of God that actual religious communities have found best to represent perfection and worshipfulness" (Reasons & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, eds. Peterson, Hasker, Reichenbach, and Basinger, Oxford, 2003, pp. 61-62).Continuing...
Of course Scripture says that Omnipotent One is good. But, of course, if Scripture is the word of the Omnipotent One, that is precisely what we should expect. It's just the Almighty's spin machine. The Almighty says He is good, and Clinton said he was telling the truth. What else is new? We need some characteristics of the Omnipotent One that provide us with grounds that we are not dealing with an Omnipotent Fiend.Reppert is compartmentalizing things. That's his shell game. If we're talking about all of Scripture, not just one verse that says, "God is good" in isolation from the rest, then when you read all of Scripture you cannot believe that this being is the Omnipotent Fiend OF.
I take all of what Scripture has to say on a matter. To call the God of the Bible the OF is simply to speak in a foreign language. I have no idea what a good God would look like if the God of the Bible wasn't a good God but, rather, an OF. We've moved far beyond our ken, into a unconceptualizable conceptual scheme, I'd say.
So, if all the things the Bible credited, ascribed, or attributed to God were true, then he wouldn't be an OF. Given that I’m allowed to pull from my entire revelation, which is perfectly acceptable, then I’d need some pretty strong reasons from Reppert (or anyone) to the affect that that kind of being is an Omnipotent Fiend. Just say I’d need more than “What if” stories.
Now, is Reppert going to come back and say, "How do you know for certain (epistemic certainty), that you are not being deceived?" Then he faces those same objections to his reading of Scripture and his moral intuitions. But other than this desperate move, what reason to I have to doubt God's word? There's a distinction between radical doubt and reasonable doubt.
Given, further, that if Christian theism is true, then Scripture is God's testimony to man. The testimony of the word of another. He has made man capable of understanding his word. Made me in his image. Indeed, we function properly when we take the word of our maker on his say-so (similar to how children function properly by believing their parents). Not only that, he has given the Christian his Spirit to aid in the understanding of this testimony. Add to this that we employ that part of our cognitive faculty aimed at producing true beliefs based on testimony when we read Scripture, there's not much of an argument against the warrant of my belief in what God reveals to me in his word.
"Now, let's suppose that a thorough study of Scripture reveals to me that Calvinism is in fact true, that is, the being in charge of the universe is indeed a Calvinistic God who has predestined some to eternal life and some to everlasting punishment. The Omnipotent One does exist, and God is a reprobator. At first, as I discover this, I ask myself if I might be mistaken in thinking that this reprobating deity would not be good. However, depressingly for me, my intuitions don't budge. It seems true all right that the Omnipotent One has predestined some to heaven and some to hell, but I find that I can't worship Him."i) This is odd. If you believe Calvinism is true, then you believe God exists, and if you believe God exists, you believe that he is the greatest conceivable being, and if he is that, then he is, by definition, worthy of worship. Calvinism also maintains that God is good. So, if you do believe that this is true, then you believe God is good. If you do believe that, you don't need convincing that he is good.
ii) If you believed Calvinism were true you would believe that God is justly punishing criminals. Those who have committed a capital offense. So, to not want to worship a being who justly punishes those who deserve suffering strikes me as an irrational stance to take.
iii) Belief in Calvinism as true is more than belief in reprobation. There are a whole host of other beliefs that are included in your granting Calvinism as the case. One of those is a correct view of reprobation and the decree, which you seem not to have (I wonder if Reppert could write a blog post arguing for the Calvinist position on all of these matters? If so, would Calvinists recognize their position in his post? If he cannot, can he at least admit he hasn’t studied those who he is attempting to refute? If he hasn’t, isn’t the scholarly course of action to study the position out before subjecting it to public critique; even ridicule at times?)
iv) Perhaps you mean all of this as an objection from an atheist? So, you’re not speaking of yourself, then. This matters since answers can be person relative. I would address a professing Christian different that an atheist.
v) What about C.S. Lewis’ spot on point in Mere Christianity:
Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either.Seems like Lewis points out that our intuitions aren’t golden. Seems like Lewis points out that Christianity isn’t necessarily “what you’d expect.”
iv) Or, one might point to Del Ratzsch’s remark in response to Richard Dawkin’s “intuitions” in Ratzsch’s article: The Demise of Religion: Greatly Exaggerated Reports from the Science/Religion Wars (Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, eds. Peterson & Vanarragon, 2004, p.78):
In any case, if we do form such expectations, and if we observe aspects of the word which clash with those expectations, the problem may lie in our expectations. It is worth noting that nearly every scientific revolution has involved reality itself violating our previous best scientific explanations concerning the natural. Our human expectations concerning the supernatural may be far off the mark [too].Moving on...
I remain convinced that the creature can say to the creator "Why hast thou made me thus." As John Stuart Mill puts it:I think this is odd. Take Mill's Maxim:
I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.
[MM] I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures.
Does Mill/Reppert think any and all God-talk is univocal? It seems that instead of picking on Calvinism, he's forced to indict major theistic traditions across the board. If he does, take these counters:
[MM1] I will call no being thinking who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures.
Does God think just like humans now? Discursively? Reasons through a chain of inference?
[MM2] I will call no being strong who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures.
Is that our idea of God? A cosmic muscle man lifting bar bells?
[MM3] I will call no being knowing who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures.
But if we take a traditional tripartite (whether “justified” or “warranted”) analysis of knowledge, then belief would have to be included. What do you do with Alston’s paper, “Does God Have Beliefs?” (see Alston, Divine Nature and Human Language: Essays in Philosophical Theology, Cornell, 1989, ch. 9). His paper rejects the principle behind Mill’s Maxim. Is Alston irrational, or epistemically blameworthy for doing so?
In Miracles, Lewis observed,
And if we say that we are rejecting the old images in order to do more justice to the moral attributes of God, we must against be careful of what we are really meaning. When we wish to learn of the love and goodness of God by analogy . . .we turn of course to the parables of Christ. But when we try to conceive of reality as it may be in itself, we must beware lest we interpret ‘moral attributes’ in terms of mere conscientiousness or abstract benevolence.Certainly, though God is good, and if we knew all the facts we would certainly say that all the Calvinist says God has done is good (and not just by his mere volition, but really good), we understand Mill’s Maxim to be a bit simplistic. When speaking of the metaphysics of goodness as it relates to God and his infinite plan, then we’ve stepped into a different territory. “In The biblical world-view, there is no metaphysical gap as great as that between divine creator of all and any of his creation” (Thomas Morris, Our Idea of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology, Regent, 1991, p. 25). In our discussion Reppert has either ignored or minimized this vital notion in Christian theology--that of the Creator/creature distinction. God is not just like a perfect version of us!
Given the fact that I have now agreed that Calvinism has the facts right, how do you now persuade me that this is right. Yes, I am headed for a showdown with the Almighty in which I stick my finger in the Almighty's face and tell him that I won't worship him since I can't see him as good.i) Again, how I might persuade you might vary with respect to your position on these matters.
ii) Also, proof is not persuasion. It is very hard to persuade someone who is dead set on holding on to his intuition. As Reppert should well know, almost anyone can dig in his heels and deny the force of arguments. Is Reppert asking for some knock down argument that all rational men would have to assent to? But does he even have anything like that?
iii) These questions could be asked by two types of people. Call them the Christian Reppert CR and the Non-Christian Reppert NCR. Let me address CR first (key to understanding CR is that CR has granted that the Bible indeed teaches Calvinism):
a) God saved you from your sins when he didn't have to. Sent his son to die for you. I would say that is all you need to know. If you accepted the Calvinist view of sin, the horror of your condition before a holy God, then that God would save even one sinner is strong proof of his goodness.
b) Appealing to your belief that the Bible is inerrant. If you are convinced the Bible teaches T, but your moral intuition says ~T, then the rational course of action is ~~T.
c) By pointing out a contradiction within your set of beliefs. For example, as a Christian who admits (per your story) that the Bible teaches Calvinism, and also that the Bible says that God is good, that he will always do right, that he has done good things for his people throughout all of history, then this Christian must believe that his moral intuitions are in error. If he is rational he must do this because by believing, say, that the Bible’s teaching that “God is good” is true, then if you also believed that God was not good, and you had properly functioning cognitive faculties, then you couldn’t hold that set of beliefs once it was pointed out to you. Now, you might choose to drop your belief that the Bible teaches the truth. That would be another conversation.
d) I would also make sure you understood what Calvinism was, since you are taking it as a unit. I doubt the problem would even arise if you understood all of what Calvinists are saying. That’s why there’s many, many Calvinists. We have all heard your kind of objections. Yet we aren’t fleeing from the churches. (It’s not even clear that Dr. Reppert understands the Calvinist position when he speaks of the decree. The decree isn’t an efficient cause. It doesn’t cause anything, in fact. The decree is the plan, the plan is worked out in history, under the rubric of providence. Furthermore, the fall was willingly permitted. I’ve explained much of this before and I’m not confident that Reppert even knows what he’s objecting against.)
e) I will ask you to trust God. He asks us to do this in his word. Indeed, one can say this is part of the essence of the Christian life. We live the life of faith, not sight. Christians trust in their heavenly father. To not trust God is a mark of the atheist. It is what Adam and Eve did in the garden. Thus, the refusal to trust God shows that the problem of evil, at heart, isn’t evidence of non-belief, it is the very expression of that non-belief.
iv) Let’s now look at the question from NCR’s point of view. I take it that your question, “how do you now persuade me that this is right?”, means “how do we persuade you that it is right for God to do things you don’t see as good.” Well:
a) We’ve been over this before. I would offer my theodicy. I did this for you and have not received any response showing how I can’t deal with the problem of evil.
b) Another would be: God punishes evil doers; he's just. I would say that it is just a truism that any being who does not punish the guilty, if he can and is in that position, is not a good being. So, a consequence of NCR’s argument is that he wants a God who doesn't punish the guilty.
c) I might point out that you have no objective moral standard by which to raise the problem of evil argument. If you say that the problem is an internal objection, then I get to use all my resources in answering you. That is, you are just objecting against Doctrine D1 and D2. D1 and D2 appear problematic, until you bring in D3 and D4, that is.
v) CR or NCR, at this point, might re-appeal to his WCP. But, if so, I will simply point to my (as of yet) unanswered response to his WCP argument.
If my reading of Scripture leads me to call into question whether or not God is good, it seems question-begging to say that, of course, God in Scripture says He is good. Of course Scripture says God is good, it's God's word.i) Again, much of this turns on who is asking the question, CR or NCR.
ii) It is not illegitimate to point to Scripture’s own statements if you ask as CR. I assume CR has granted that the Bible is God’s word. Thus it is not question-begging to appeal to one of the very premises someone holds in order to get them to be consistent.
iii) The doctrine of Scripture’s self-attestation receives massive support from all Christians, spanning denominational boundaries.
iv) If you ask as CR, then since you grant that the Bible teaches Calvinism, and you’d grant that the Bible teaches that God is good, but you say God is not good, then you must say that the Bible is false. At this point I’d say you have bigger problems to deal with. Since you grant that the Bible teaches Calvinism, and it is obvious that the Bible declares that God is good (as you yourself admit), then are you even a Christian any more? Can a Christian believe that their God is not good?
v) If you ask as NCR, then of course I won’t come over and beat you over the head with my Bible. In this case I would deal with you differently (see points a-c directly above for answers to NCR).
I am consistently told that I shouldn't lift my moral intuitions up above the Word of God. This works so long as I remain convinced that God is good. Dispelling doubts about God's goodness by appealing to Scripture seems blatantly question-begging.i) You’ve been answered according to your profession of faith.
ii) You’ve been shown that you ask people to accept things inconsistent with their moral intuitions. I offered the example of the tribe of people who thought treachery was one of the greatest moral virtues. These people thought Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was the climax of the Gospels. Missionaries had to break their moral intuitions. There is also a long-standing tradition within atheology that takes any version of the atonement to be a story of a great immorality. The very heart of our system goes against fallen, prideful man’s moral intuitions.
iii) It is dishonest to minimize all of the various arguments I have given you as simply “saying you cannot appeal to moral intuition.” I even appeal to certain “moral intuitions” that directly countered your claims, showing that you hold theological beliefs that go against your own moral intuitions (e.g., a being who could stop evil, permitting it. If S can stop some act of evil E through no loss of his own, then S should stop E.). I also took your intuitions head on and provided a theodicy whereby your intuitions couldn’t serve to demonstrate that God was not good. So, it’s disingenuous to keep asserting that God is not good. You offered a defeater. I defeated that defeater through an undercutting defeater, as well as a defeater-deflector. Ball's not still in my court.
iv) As far as question begging, let's recall the claim from Reason & Religious Belief I cited above, "It should be recognized that in setting for God's attributes we cannot possibly ignore the religious and theological tradition within which any given theology operates." Let's remember those things Alvin Plantinga told us in his Advice for Christian Philosophers. J.P. Moreland and W. L. Craig even recognize the acceptability for the Christian to go to revelation to answer questions (cf. Foundations for a Christian Worldview). So your objection isn't clear to me, at all.
So my question is this: if we assume that predestination is true, on what basis do we believe that the Predestinator is a good being? If we pose the question that way, it looks as if appeals to Scripture are going to beg the question. You wouldn't dare appeal to my intuitions, now would we? You can't appeal to sheer power, without becoming a voluntarist, which you say you aren't. So how do you appeal to me in this situation. You tell me.i) I already pointed out the contradictory nature of this argument for the believer.
ii) I would offer and expect a rebuttal to my theodicy rather than continuing to assert, in the face of a theodicy that God is not good.
iii) If you’re going to dig your heels in the sand and, as you said, “stick your fingers in your ears,” then there’s not much I can say to someone like that. What could anyone say to someone like that in any field of inquiry? I would simply ask the readers to see who they believe has presented the stronger case. It isn’t that philosophically impressive to ignore all the arguments and just continue to assert your opening statement.
iv) I can reverse your arguments: So my question is this: if we assume that Universalism is true, on what basis do we believe that the Universalizer is a just being? If we pose the question that way, it looks as if appeals to Scripture are going to beg the question. You wouldn't dare appeal to my intuitions, now would we? You can't appeal to sheer Love, without negating justice, which you say you aren't. So how do you appeal to me in this situation. You tell me.
If I "stick my fingers in my ear," and dig my heels into the sand, and cling to my intuitions about justice, what can Reppert do?
Reppert's strategy is a recipe for unfruitful, stale-mate discussions across the board.
And, if his strategy with me works, have I just provided a knock-down argument against Universalism? If not, neither has he against my position.
At the end of the day, does Reppert really want to make the strong claim that "Calvinism can't answer the problem of evil" when all he's doing is "sticking his fingers in his ears" and "digging his heals in the sand" and "holding fast to his intuitions"? Does he want to say this especially in light of the fact that I've offered an unanswered theodicy? I've offered unanswerd defeaters for his posts on Romans. I've offered unanswered defeaters for his strongest intuitional argument viz., the WCP.
v) I would point out that you should have a problem with Christianity in general, not just Calvinism. The Bible, the Christian’s book, reports all sorts of “horrible evils” that were perpetrated on behalf of God’s commands in the Old Testament (and the God of the New Isn’t any better, they say!). Have you read Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens? At what price your “attractive” Christianity? Is your gospel an “offense?” How do you speak to them and their intuitions? Take out your scissors and have them read the ARV (Authorized Reppert Version) Bible?
I’ll leave you with Lewis who pointed out in Miracles that the God of the Bible is an uncomfortable fellow:
Men are reluctant to pass over from the notion of an abstract and negative deity to the living God. I do not wonder. Here lies the deepest tap-root of Pantheism and the objection to traditional imagery. It was not hated, at bottom, because it pictured Him as man but because it pictured Him as king, or even as warrior. The Pantheist’s God does nothing, demands nothing. He is there if you wish for Him, like a book on a shelf. He will not pursue you. There is no danger that at any time heaven and earth should flee away from His glance. If He were the truth, then we could really say that all the Christian images of kingship were a historical accident of which our religion ought to be cleansed. It is with a shock that we discover them to be indispensable. You have had a shock like that before, in connection with smaller matters--when the line pulls at your hand, when something breathes beside you in the darkness. So here; the schlock comes at the precise moment when the thrill of life is communicated to us along the clue we have been following. It is always chocking to meet life when we thought we were alone. ‘Look out!’ we cry, ‘it’s alive’. And therefore this is the very point at which so many draw back--I would have done so myself if I could--and proceed no further with Christianity. And ‘impersonal God’--well and Good. A subjective God of beauty, truth and goodness, inside our own heads--better still. A formless life-force surging through us, a vast power which we can tap--best of all. But God Himself, alive, pulling at the other end of the cord, perhaps approaching at infinite speed, the hunter, king, husband--that is quite another matter. There comes a moment when people who have been dabbling in religion (‘Man’s search for God!’) suddenly draw back. Supposing we really found Him? We never meant for it to come to that! Worse still, supposing He had found us? …One may be in for anything.God is good. He has a good reason for all he does. He is not what we dreamt up, though. His plan is far too complex for us to sit in judgment upon him. The Christian, at the end of the day, trusts in God. Our speculations about what God is like, what he must and must not do, are fine in the halls of the ivory tower. But with the real God, the God of Christianity, he has come to us and given us a revelation. He has knocked us off our comfortable rocking horse. His revealtion has borne out that he does things contrary to what we would expect. Abraham didn't expect god to command him to kill the son of promise. The Jews expected a Messiah who would conquer the Romans with military power. The disciples didn't expect their teacher to die on a cross like a common criminal. The kingdom is here now, but it is not here yet. We are free, but we are slaves. Jesus is king, but he is servant. Jesus is shepherd, but he is lamb. Indeed, there is quite the inductive case that God's ways fly in the face of our human expectations of what God will, or must, do. His ways are too excellent for us. He's the one who uses what Lewis called, "A deeper magic."
this is my Father's world whoa let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong
seems so strong
He is the ruler yet
-- O.C. Supertones