VICTOR REPPERT SAID:
“Steve, what I have a problem with is what God did before the foundation of the world, given Calvinism. He could have created us in such a way that we none of us ever did anything to deserve damnation, and he didn't.”
The appeal to counterfactual identity is equivocal. Who is the “we” in this scenario? It’s not the specific individuals who populate a fallen world.
For example, if Cain hadn’t murdered Abel, then Abel would have fathered children of his own. The family tree of humanity would have taken a very different turn.
Sinners only exist in a sinful world. Sinful kids of sinful parents. Had Adam never fallen, you and I wouldn’t be here. Other people would be here, but not you and me. In the possible world where Adam never fell, a different set of people take our place.
So God could have created other people like us who never did anything deserving of hell, but he couldn’t create us apart from the repercussions of the fall.
Hence, there are tradeoffs. A perfect world comes at our expense.
So your counterfactual wouldn’t save everyone in the world we know. In fact, it wouldn’t save a single one of them. Rather, it would consign all of them to oblivion. What your counterfactual amounts to is swapping out this world, and swapping in another world–with a nearly complete turnover in the populace.
Suppose your mother went to heaven when she died. Suppose your father went to hell when he died. Good for her but bad for him.
Is a world in which neither one makes it to heaven (because neither one even existed) better than a world in which one out of two goes to heaven? And better for whom? What’s better for one is worse for the other.
Take a less dramatic example. Suppose your son is born blind. Suppose Mephistopheles turns up on your boy’s 16th birthday and gives you a choice: you can either keep your son as is, or you can turn back the clock, thereby returning your son to oblivion (before he was born), and start from scratch with a different, sighted son.
How would you respond to Mephistopheles? Is your son replaceable? Would it be better to have a sighted son if that meant another boy taking his place? Would you send your blind child back to nothingness and start over with a different, sighted child in his stead?
“He could have chosen World A, in which no one is damned, but chose world B, in which people are damned.”
But if you think that’s a problem for Calvinism, then there’s a parallel problem for Arminianism. If human beings are free to do otherwise, then there’s a possible world in which Joe makes the right choice, and a possible world in which Joe makes wrong choice. God could have chosen world A, which selects for all and only Joe’s right choices, but he chose world B, where Joe does right some of the time, while doing wrong at other times.
Likewise, if libertarianism is true, then there’s a possible world in which Judas betrays Christ, and another possible world in which Judas is faithful to Christ. God could have chosen world A, in which Judas goes to heave–but chose world B, where Judas goes to hell.
“Even if Moo, Schreiner, and Piper were right about the exegesis of Romans, that would not give me any reason to suppose that a being who did that was worthy of worship, a being who gives his creatures a moral and not just a prudential reason for worshipping Him. It would not show that Yahweh has a justifying reason for actualizing world B, when world A could have been actualized. Yahweh could have created the world, inspired the Bible, and still not be worthy of worship.”
i) You keep parading this objection as if you’re daring me to call your bluff, or back down, or split the difference. But holding your breath until you turn blue has no effect on me. If you think that’s a reason to reject God, then go right ahead. That’s not my problem. Not my responsibility.
There are people who douse themselves with gasoline and light a match. That’s a terrible way to go, but it’s their life, not mine.
ii) In addition, you were the one who chose to raise some exegetical objections to Calvinism. But when I respond to you on your own terms, you turn around and say it doesn’t matter what the Scriptures teach. Well, in that case, why do you go through the motions of even discussing the Bible?
“I still think it absurd that someone who is enjoying the immediate presence of God needs people suffering eternal punishment to show them the graciousness of God's salvation.”
Well, Victor, part of what it means to enjoy God’s presence comes from knowing how you got there. You were evil. You don’t belong there. But God, in sheer mercy, saved you to enjoy his presence. A realization which is anchored in the fact that he left other equally undeserving men to perish in their sin.