Friday, April 10, 2009

Some notes in response to Victor

First, my primary argument against Calvinism is semantic rather than moral. I think that there are biblical passages that say that God loves all persons, that God wants all persons to be saved, that God is grieved by sin, etc. etc., that Calvinists in the main don't simply use "reference class" arguments to criticize these positions, but rather accept them and reconcile them with Calvinism. Yes, God loves everyone, but no, that doesn't mean God is out to save everyone. An analysis of the ordinary usage of these terms (and if you accept a verbal special revelation you are bound by ordinary usage) suggests that to say this is to distort the use of those terms beyond all recognition. This argument, you will notice, requires no appeal to moral intuitions.

1. Victor, your primary argument cannot be semantic. If God is liar, then you have a defeater. Maybe God wanted people to believe the gospel and evangelize so he lied about loving all men and dying for all men. How you adjudicate between these kinds of things is beyond me. For one to claim that inerrancy might be denied and then appeal to biblical authority as his number one argument strikes me as incoherent, to say the least.

2. Furthermore, when you were given Scriptures that we took as supporting our position, you replied: "I can just say, "whatever the Bible means, it can't mean that; otherwise God would be a devil." This implies that the moral argument *is* your primary argument.

3. You stretch the "God is love" passages to the ultimate, maximizing it as far as you can. However, when Jesus says that he is "the truth" you don't afford that description that same maximizing courtesy. You appear to argue at cross-purposes.

4. The majority of Calvinists do not say that God loves everyone *in the same sense*.

5. I do not understand your "ordinary usage" point, at all. Ordinary for whom? Your modernized, Arminian, American zeitgeist?

6. You claim that 'this argument makes no appeal to moral intuitions.' The problem is that you have not given *an argument*. And, you have been given defeaters that you flippantly dismiss. That's my opinion. The one you're trying to convince. If you're not, why *argue*? Arguments are meant to *persuade*. You offer zero exegesis and think vague appeal to passages understood Arminianistically suffices for *an argument*.

To defend this objection, I would have to answer the standard "two wills" argument that comes down from Dabney through Piper. But for various reasons, I don't think that argument washes.

But Victor, you work at cross purposes with yourself again. In the post you refer us to as how you would defend your claims, you write:

Now, in order for an appeal to special revelation, such as this one, to work, we have to insist on what I call the principle of semantic integrity. First, we must believe that Scripture is not only true, but interpretable and translatable.

But the argument I'm responding to is one where you offer possible reasons for untruth. For God lying. So, on your own terms, perhaps God was lying. "Possibly," he had a good reason.

Anyway, the post you send people to is rife with errors. You never bother to prove even one of your many contentious premises. Until you do so, there's no *argument* there to refer people to.

The "divine noble lie" case I had in mind was the fact that, at least on some readings of Scripture, Christ places a short time limit on his return. He leads the church to believe, perhaps by saying so directly, that He will return within the generation. These sorts of considerations have led exapologist to abandon Christianity. Exapologist mentions one Christian biblical scholar (Allison) who takes this position and says "so what?" and I was trying to see if Allison's position could be defended.

I'm sorry, this just seems ridiculous. Of course, Ex-apologist was sliced and diced--to say it nicely--when he tried this argument over here. The problem I see with you, Victor, is that you seem to not have a problem dropping one traditionally orthodox view after another to make Christianity more palatable to unbelievers. A massive chasm separates my theology and approach to apologetics from yours. I am not confident that it will ever be broached. There are too many presuppositional issues that would need to be discussed for a productive discussion to take place and I see no indication that you have the time or desire to broach those issues.

The scenario I sketched was one in which God wants people to spread the gospel, giving them the belief in an immanent parousia is the way to do that, as a result the gospel is spread and salvation maximized, even though the claim of an immanent parousia is false.

This is ridiculous. First, the first time Jesus said it there was no NT church and no gospel spreading. Second, a resurrection and miracles is sufficient motivation to spread the gospel. Indeed, the gospel itself is sufficient motivation to spread the gospel. Third, what of the trade off? Now there are people, like ex-apologist, who disbelieve. Gospel spreading is now retarded. Indeed, was this "lie" worth it? Consider that to take the objection seriously we need to note that there was a time frame indicated--"this generation." Are you seriously implying that God put all his eggs in this basket? He was willing to risk *every other generation* for the very first one??? Even more, why didn't many people drop their belief after they found out it was based on a lie? And, why don't we read that ANYONE accepted the gospel on the basis that they were afraid that Jesus was coming back. And to pile it on some more, what the heck does this lie do to save gentiles???? At best, it would only serve to scare some Jews into the kingdom. Fourth, how are people saved *because* they only believed in Jesus because he was coming back quickly? Why bother killing a man on a cross if you're going to let people into heaven who just want to save their own necks. Who only believe because they think Jesus is coming back soon?

So, Victor, I do not see how this justification works, AT ALL. I am "as blind as a bat." And so are you. You are in the same position you are with reasons for reprobation. Therefore, consistency demands that you drop this liar argument, or your PoE against Calvinism. Of course, if you bite the bullet and claim that the above is enough to show you a POSSIBLE reason, then you have to do so with reprobation. If you can throw your "strong intuition" out of the window for reasons as weak as the above, then you can certainly do so when it comes to reprobation. Otherwise, it looks like you are inconsistent.


  1. Paul Manata wrote:

    "Even more, why didn't many people drop their belief after they found out it was based on a lie? And, why don't we read that ANYONE accepted the gospel on the basis that they were afraid that Jesus was coming back."

    I would add that the earliest critics of Christianity objected to a delay in Jesus' return (2 Peter 3:9, First Clement 23), much as there were critics of a delay of the Day of the Lord within Judaism. If Jesus had said that His second coming would occur in His generation, then why would the scoffers Peter refers to not cite that promise of Jesus, but instead object to the slowness of a promise that could still be fulfilled in the future (2 Peter 3:9)? There's a difference between the slowness of a fulfillment that could still happen and the failure of a promise that can't be fulfilled as a result of the time limit having already passed. The situation addressed in 2 Peter 3 is the former, not the latter. We should ask, then, why scoffers would object to the delaying of the day of the Lord, much as people did in Old Testament times, rather than citing something more explicit, like a promise by Jesus that His second coming would occur before the end of His generation. They probably didn't cite such a promise because there wasn't one. Similarly, the critics of Christianity who were active shortly after the time of 2 Peter and First Clement, such as Trypho and Celsus, give no indication of an awareness of such a major falsification of Christianity. As David Aune notes, "The very paucity of references to a supposed delay of the eschaton is indicative of the fact that the delay of the Parousia was largely a nonproblem within early Christianity" (cited in Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids, edd., Dictionary Of The Later New Testament & Its Developments [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997], p. 873).

    Ignatius of Antioch refers to Christ's coming, more than a century earlier, as occurring "in the end" (Letter To The Magnesians, 6). Such language was commonly used without any one-generation time limit in view. Christian sources of the second century (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter To The Ephesians, 11; The Epistle Of Barnabas, 4; Second Clement, 12; etc.) make the same sort of references to living in the end times, the imminence of Christ's return, etc. that we find in first-century sources.

    As Paul said, there's more about this subject in our archives. I have a post on the subject here, for example. And here's one of Paul's responses to Exapologist, with links to previous responses. There are other relevant posts in the archives. I know that Steve has written on the subject.

  2. Let's get back to what I said. I said that there was an argument against the claim that God cannot lie, which has to be taken into consideration, and if the claim were withdrawn that might resolve a certain apologetic problem. A very tentative result, more thrown out there for the sake of discussion than endorsed.

    I'm not at all sure that an generally trustworthy God who lied only when it was to the benefit of everyone could not be trusted in general. Can we only trust people who live up the the Kantian standard on lies? Do you even believe in living up to the Kantian standard on lies?

    I see that you didn't track back to the argument I actually presented previously. My own views on the issue have evolved somewhat, particularly when I make a distinction between points that might convince the "choir" of anti-Calvinists like myself as opposed to points that might cause a problem from the standpoint of Calvinists themselves. Most Calvinists do not say that God just doesn't love those who are not elect. Carson, for example, thinks that you can say "God loves you" to any person regardless of their election status or whether they are converted.

    The difficulty isn't that Calvinists say God loves the elect differently from the way he loves the reprobate. It is that God's treatment of the reprobate, on the Calvinist view, doesn't meet the criteria for the use of the word "love." The question is whether the Calvinist can assert the biblical claim that God loves every person and mean it. I say that to do so would be a travesty of language.

    I knew someone who, for a brief time, accepted Calvinism, but was convinced that she was amongst the lost. If I had asked her, at that time, "So, do you think God loves you," I am quite sure that her answer to me would have been "no."

    At least from the point of view of meeting Calvinism on its own terms, I think that this type of argument is considerably stronger than an appeal to moral intuitions. What it does is undercut the Calvinist claim that their position is upheld by Scripture. Please note that I am not arguing, here, that Arminianism or some other anti-Calvinist position is upheld by Scripture. We cannot know in advance whether Scripture will adjudicate the question of predestination or not. It may leave it unresolved, in which case, I guess, we'd have to fall back on, oh, something like our moral intuitions. If you want to defend that kind of counterintuitive position based on Scripture, then the burden is on you to show that Calvinistic texts really do support Calvinism, and anti-Calvinist texts can be exegeted satisfactorily consistent with Calvinism. With respect to passages that hold that God loves every person, Calvinist explanation of these verses twists the relevant words beyond all recognition. God loves the reprobate the way O. J. loved Nicole.