Saturday, September 12, 2009

Universalism, libertarianism, and the love of God

“It doesn't seem to me as if you have to be a full-blown Kantian in ethics to get the point of what Kant is driving at with his Second Formulation of the Categorical Imperative. Choosing to instantiate a world in which there are reprobates when a universalist world was equally possible and rational treats those sinners as mere means to an end.”

As I’ve pointed out on several occasions now, if this is a problem for Calvinism, then it’s also a problem for Reppert’s alternative. As usual, though, Reppert ducks whatever he can’t deal with. So let’s spell this out in more detail.

1.Reppert is a libertarian. Yet Reppert also treats universalism as a live possibility. That’s one of his fallback options in dealing with hell.

But in that event, Reppert thinks that libertarian freewill is consistent with a universalist world.

All you have to do to reach that conclusion is to combine two of Reppert’s oft-stated positions.

So why does Reppert persistently refuse to apply to his own position the objection he levels against Calvinism?

2.Having said that, we don’t need to go all the way with universalism to undercut Reppert’s position. It’s sufficient to point that that even under Reppert’s assumptions (e.g. libertarianism, Kantian ethics), God could have saved more people than he chose to.

God doesn’t have to save everyone to save more people than he could have. And if that’s the case, then there are various instances in which God didn’t act in the best interests of the individual.

3.Apropos (2), it isn’t hard to think of examples:

i) God causes a boy to be born into a provincial home where the parents are overly strict and legalistic. What passes for Christian piety consists of endless prohibitions. They frown on many natural goods and innocent pleasures. They make him feel guilty all the time for no good reason.

That kind of upbringing is a recipe to drive their child away from the faith as soon as he’s old enough to leave home and live on his own. As a result, he reads Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and becomes a confirmed atheist.

Had God wanted to save that individual, he could have made the parents more reasonable. But the boy’s formative years are irrevocable.

ii) A man used to be a devout believer who read his Bible every day, prayed fervently, and attended church twice a week.

But then he watches his younger brother die a slow, painful death from cancer. He watches his once upbeat, energetic brother become a mere shell of his former self. Bedridden and bitter. Cut down before he had a chance to discover all that life has to offer.

He resents the deprivation, not only for his brother, but for himself. He was hoping to have his brother around for the rest of his life.

As a result, he blames God and becomes a hardened apostate.

Had God spared his younger brother from terminal cancer, he would still be a devout believer.

iii) A man is the son of an imam. He stumbles across a Bible. But he has no incentive to become a Christian, even if he believed the Bible. He would be shunned by all his friends and family. Indeed, he would be a marked man. The target of an honor killing. Instead of reading the Bible, he becomes a suicide-bomber.

Had he grown up in a less coercive environment, he would have turned out better.

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