VICTOR REPPERT SAID:
Steve Hays has responded to me on Triablogue, with his usual tone and his usual tendency to read into the text all sorts of things I didn't say. I won't comment on his tone, except to say that no matter how strong his case is, he certainly makes Calvinism unattractive by the way he argues. But I am far more concerned with his eisegesis of my arguments than with whatever names he might call me.
Before you start name-calling, you might want to be a little more careful in "exegeting" what your opponent has said. What I was defending was the doctrine of divine compassion for all persons, including those alienated from God..I was also very explicit in saying that, up to this point, I am not claiming a proof that Calvinism is false…In short I am doing the same thing that you are here, I am showing what would ordinarily be thought of as "Arminian" interpretations of these texts are in fact held by Calvinists. So let's get the issue right. The issue is the doctrine of universal compassion, not Calvinism itself. Are we clear on this?
Reppert wants me to act shortsighted and pretend that I can’t imagine where he’s going with this argument. I mustn’t anticipate the next move and take preemptive measures. Instead, I’m supposed to step into a hole in the beach while he packs the sand around my sides and pads it down good and firm, up to my neck, then leaves the scene–waiting for high tide to do the rest.
Sorry that I can’t be more a accommodating, Victor, but if you try that on me, you’re tootin’ the wrong ringer.
And, in fact, he even admits his ulterior motives:
Passages like John 3:16 are used not to refute Calvinism directly, but to show the Doctrine of Universal Compassion.
Of course, the fact that Calvinists sometimes agree that God loves all persons, and that this issues in a desire for the salvation of all persons, doesn't mean that these claims are really consistent with the Calvinistic view of reprobation. However, arguing that is the second step in my argument, not the first.
So much for “eisegesis.”
But this is a nice refutation of a claim I never made. I didn't say that disagreeing with Carson is special pleading. And of course I've got some differences with him. That's not the point. I'm not appointing him the Calvinist pope. I am simply asking Calvinists to indicate whether or not they agree with him. Do you agree with Carson or not, Steve?
It should be obvious from what I wrote that I’m not in total agreement or total disagreement. And it’s a refutation of what, by Reppert’s own admission, is another step in his argument. But he doesn’t like it when I head him off at the proverbial pass.
I hold that since I find Calvinism to be morally repugnance, you need an overwhelming biblical argument to persuade me of it. That means, when it comes to the Calvinist proof texts, there has to be no logical way for the passage to be understood as teaching anything but Calvinism, and the anti-Calvinist texts have to provide no evidence whatsoever against Calvinism.
Of course, this is textbook special pleading. Set the bar impossibly high for the opposing position to reach–while you lower the bar for your own team.
Imagine Erich von Däniken using the same argument: “I hold that since I find skyhook to be morally repugnant, you need an overwhelming biblical argument to convince me that Ezekiel wasn’t referring to flying saucers. That means, when it comes to the theophanic prooftexts, there has to be no logical way for the passage to be understood as teaching anything but a theophany, and the anti-ufological texts have to provide no evidence whatsoever against ufology.”
Reppert’s position has absolutely nothing to do with sound hermeneutics or the grammatico-historical method.
Rather, he wants every story to have a happy ending, so he’ll creatively reinterpret a story to make it come out the way he likes. In his reinterpretation of Little Red Riding Hood, the wolf becomes a vegan.
I need more evidence to convince me that something is moral which I am initially inclined to think is immoral, especially if it is attributed to God.
Of course, he’s already rigged the game.
Consider what kind of evidence you would need to convince you that God had broken a covenant.
The wording of the covenant specifies the terms of compliance or noncompliance.
First, Scripture is partially responsible for how I got my intuitions in the first place. Scripture taught me that I ought to love everyone, that I ought to be like Jesus, that Jesus was God, so it looks like I ought to expect that God will love everyone.
I’m unclear on which Jesus he has in mind. Is it this Jesus?
31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left… 41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Or this Jesus?
God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
Or this Jesus?
12When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?"
Now you're telling me that I care a lot more about my non-Christian friend's salvation than God does??
Why does Reppert act as though it’s self-evident that God must love somebody as much or more than we do? If Charles Manson’s groupies love him, does this mean God must love Manson even more than his “family” did?
If you love your child, will you punish that child severely when he or she goes wrong? Of course. Are you satisfied to leave it with the punishment? No.
I’m sure that Tony Soprano would do anything for his kids. But I wouldn’t use that to illustrate divine love.
Second, my moral beliefs are part of why I believe Christianity to be true. As I understand Christianity, God's consistently loving character gives me a moral reason, as opposed to a merely prudential reason, to worship and obey him. I don't worship him because he's bigger than I am and can beat me up (the logic of the schoolyard bully) I worship him because I know that he pursues my good and the good of all whom I love.
Actually, Reppert is giving a prudential reason to love God. It’s a quid pro quo. I’ll worship God if and only if God looks out for the best interests of my loved ones.
Fourth, when you use the word "intuitions" it seems always implied that these are gut feelings of some kind, when in point of fact as I understand it there is a kind of "intuition" that permits me to rationally perceive that 2 + 2 = 4. On my view, our knowledge of right and wrong is rational, not emotional.
What about the moral intuitions of a suicide bomber?
My point has to do with whether Calvinists can successfully deal with passages that suggest that God loves every person. John 3:16 is an example. In dealing with this biblical theme, there are two Calvinist responses...He needs to provide evidence that Scripture passages like John 3:16 are neutral with respect to Calvinism. There are two strategies for doing this, and I suggest that he pick one.
False dichotomy. I didn’t offer a “Calvinist” response. I cited a non-Calvinist.
In response to the first of these solutions, the "indexing" solution, I'm simply going to defer to the authority of Calvinist exegetes like Carson and theologians like Piper that there is a problem with the indexing response.
Quoting a theologian or commentator is not an argument from authority. It depends on how well they defend their interpretation.
It doesn't seem that I need to move any goal posts here.
To the contrary, he’s moved the goalposts completely out of range. Indeed, he’s erected invisible goalposts (“When it comes to the Calvinist proof texts, there has to be no logical way for the passage to be understood as teaching anything but Calvinism, and the anti-Calvinist texts have to provide no evidence whatsoever against Calvinism.”).
I can't in my present state of mind, see how such a God would be worthy of worship, but all God would have to do to remedy that would be to pour out a little more of that irresistible grace.
The gospel is divisive. It has a polarizing effect. And God intended it to have that impact: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."” (Jn 3:19-21).
I never said you had to interpret "world" as every person. However, it seems to mean everyone who is alienated from God, and we know already that God loves those in fellowship with him, so who does that leave whom God does not love?
And if we apply Arminian semantics to 1 Jn 2:15, then God forbids Christians to love any “worldly” person. God forbids Christians to love anyone who is in the world or of the world.
Nobody has come forward and said "OK, I'm a Calvinist and I do think God loves all persons" or "OK, I'm a Calvinist and I think God does not love all persons."
I made my own position quite explicit when that topic came up before on Reppert’s blog. I referred him to Helm’s article, as well as the OPC minority report (in the Clark Controversy). And I took sides. Is Reppert’s memory failing him?
I wish people who debate theology would study the philosophy of science.