Friday, April 23, 2010

Loving the damned

A comment I just left at First Things: Evangel:

Let’s set the bar low with minimally orthodox theism. By this I mean, let us grant two things: (i) God knows the future; (ii) some human beings will spend eternity in hell.

One can, of course, deny either or both of these propositions. But, if so, your objections to Calvinism are hardly limited to Calvinism.

So how is it loving for God to create a human being in full knowledge that this sorry individual will spend eternity in hell?

Perhaps you’ll say it’s loving because God gave him a chance to be saved. Okay, but how is it loving to create this individual even though you know that he will refuse the opportunity?

Suppose my younger brother and I are planning to go on a hiking trip tomorrow. But the night before I have an infallible premonition that if we go hiking, my brother will be mauled by a bear. Not only will he be in excruciating pain, but as a result of the mauling he will be blind and bedridden for life.

I warn my younger brother. But suppose he fails to heed my warning. Indeed, suppose I know in advance that he will ignore my warning?

We then go ahead hiking, and my brother is mauled by the bear.

Was it loving for me to take my brother hiking? Sure, he ignored the warning. But how was it loving for me to take him hiking anyway? If he ignores the warning, wouldn’t the loving thing be for me to cancel our trip?

Indeed, if I foresaw that he was going to disregard my warning, then why would I plan to take him hiking that day in the first place? How is that a loving way to treat my brother?

Sure, maybe he’s a jerk to disregard the warning, but what’s the loving way to treat my jerk of a brother? To let him be mauled by the bear?

And this is trivial compared to hell. Didn’t Jesus indicate that it’s better to never be born than to wind up in hell? So how is it loving to the damned for God to create some people foreknowing that they will spend eternity in hell, even though they’d be better off if he never made them in the first place?

You may say he endowed them with libertarian freewill and gave them the chance to avoid hell. But even if we grant that assumption, how is it loving to them for God to make them when he knows that they will refuse opportunity to be saved? Even though he knows that they will blow their chance to be saved, and even though he knows that they’d be better off if he never made them, he makes them anyway.


  1. I've charged the Classical Arminian God with means-end irrationality for some time. God undertakes actions that he knows will not acheive the desired end. God pleads with sinners and tries to "save them" even though he knows these actions won't result in their desired end. Similarly, for me to engage in actions that I know will not result in a desired end, is means-end irrational. More concretely, it would be means-end irrational for me to engage in leg excercises for the end of jumping to the moon.

  2. Yes, he makes them anyway.

    in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory

    Do Armininans rip these sections out of their Bibles, or what?

  3. So when their own LFW terms are cast back upon them, what do the Libertarian Free Will folks say to defend themselves.

    The LFW'ers incriminate themselves.

  4. "God undertakes actions that he knows will not acheive the desired end. God pleads with sinners and tries to "save them" even though he knows these actions won't result in their desired end." -Paul

    That why we have John Sanders and Greg Boyd's teachings, and a multitude of followers.

    I like to say that God did make the wicked for the day of destruction, but he was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world as well.

    Our own wickedness, we own. His giving of His Son is beyond belief.

  5. Hah!


    "....and tries to "save them" even though he knows these actions won't result in their desired end."

    Talk about minimizing God or man or reasons why!

    I just have to make this bold assertion: "My God doesn't "try" anything!

    Psa 135:5 For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.
    Psa 135:6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.
    Psa 135:7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightnings for the rain and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
    Psa 135:8 He it was who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and of beast;
    Psa 135:9 who in your midst, O Egypt, sent signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants;
    Psa 135:10 who struck down many nations and killed mighty kings,
    Psa 135:11 Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan,
    Psa 135:12 and gave their land as a heritage, a heritage to his people Israel.
    Psa 135:13 Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.
    Psa 135:14 For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.
    Psa 135:15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
    Psa 135:16 They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see;
    Psa 135:17 they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.
    Psa 135:18 Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!

    and if these things are so with God, how about with man?

    Ecc 8:1 Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.
    Ecc 8:2 I say: Keep the king's command, because of God's oath to him.
    Ecc 8:3 Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases.
    Ecc 8:4 For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, "What are you doing?"
    Ecc 8:5 Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way.
    Ecc 8:6 For there is a time and a way for everything, although man's trouble lies heavy on him.
    Ecc 8:7 For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?
    Ecc 8:8 No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.

    And Steve, you certainly have minimized yourself this time! Ok, I grant you those two things! :)

  6. Great post. I don't see how people holding Arminian-like perspectives can answer it. On Arminian-like grounds, how was it loving for God to create Judas? Why didn't Jesus do everything in His power to keep Judas from betraying Him? I mean, forgetting the OT prophecies about how the Messiah would be betrayed by a close friend; why couldn't Jesus have just placed Himself in a situation were He would be arrested BEFORE Judas could betray Him? Why didn't Jesus tell Judas that He was praying for him so that his faith doesn't fail as the Lord told Peter? This implies that Jesus in fact, didn't pray for Judas like He did for Peter. If so, why not?

    All of this doesn't seem "fair" from an Arminian perspective. Why didn't our Lord appear to Caiaphas or to the Roman Emperor like He did to Saul on the road to Damascus? Evangelism would have been much easier. Doesn't God love people enough to do His best to evangelise the world?

    In fact, why even use humans? Why not use angels to herald the gospel from the sky? Is it because God values free will decisions to love and pursue Him by His creatures more than their own salvation?

    Many people reject Christianity because the evidence for Christianity isn't rationally coercive. Calvinism teaches both the the necessary and inescapable knowledge of God by humans, but it also allows room for the (or some) doctrine of the Hiddenness of God. Why does God hide Himself on Arminian grounds?

    These are basics questions that anyone (not just Calvinists or atheists have or) can ask. Yet Arminians have no meaningful answers to them.

  7. I said...

    In fact, why even use humans? Why not use angels to herald the gospel from the sky? Is it because God values free will decisions to love and pursue Him by His creatures more than their own salvation?

    To me, this doesn't seem very "loving" of God (using Arminian definitions of "love").

    My Arminian brothers, what are the answers to these questions? Why don't your Arminian theologians and apologists tackle these issues head on? When they do address them, it's usually in passing.

    If there are good answers to these questions I'd be willing to change my views. But what/where are they? What books or articles would you recommend for me to read?

  8. Here's my comment on the Evangel thread:

    (Have you ever talked to a suicidal person who wished they'd never been born?)

    In Libertarian Free Will (LFW) God is Love.

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "I wish I'd never been born. Hell is eternal torment. Why did God create me? Did He know before He created me I would end up in Hell?"

    LFW God: "I knew."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "Why, why, why, oh why, did you create me?"

    LFW God: "I created you with libertarian free will and you freely choose to reject me."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "Why didn't you override my will? You're God."

    LFW God: "Love is Libertarian Free Will. Love does not override the will of another."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "If you loved me, you would have over-rode my will and enabled me or forced me to repent of my sins and to choose Christ as my Lord and Savior."

    LFW God: "No, no. I am LFW God. I do not force anyone. That wouldn't be love."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "But you foreknew I would choose to reject you and you created me anyways."

    LFW God: "Yes."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "You're a monster! I hate you."

    LFW God: "No, no. I am LFW God. I am Love. I am not a monster. Go talk to all the LFW followers. They'll tell you I'm not a monster."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "Those LFW followers are total idiots. It's eternal torment here in Hell. You foreknew I was going to choose to be in Hell and you created me anyways. I hate you! You're a monster. I don't care what those LFW morons say. You're not Love. You're a hateful monster."

    LFW God: "Here's orthodoxdj. Talk to him. How can you call me a monster? Only if I was a Calvinist God, could I be a monster. I'm LFW God. I can't be a monster."

    LFW Sinner in Hell: "You're an LFW monster then."

  9. If Arminians came out and admitted that they see the preservation of man's free will as a "greater good" than the salvation of all individuals, then where does the discussion go?

    It's clear to me that this is the real answer from their viewpoint, but I've never seen one admit it.

  10. Another question: What keeps saved Arminians in heaven from choosing to sin?

    It seems to me that whatever the answer is, it must be admitted that the Arminian in glory is less free than he was on earth.

  11. Gordon,

    Indeed that seems to be a major problem.

    Here is Craig addressing this issue:

    "Medieval theologians like to talk about the blessed in heaven receiving the beatific vision. What did they mean by that? By that they meant that the blessed in heaven would see the essence of God himself, that they would come to see God in all His glory and majesty as He is... And it may be that someone who sees the beatific vision—who sees Christ in all his splendor and glory—is so overwhelmed at his beauty and attractiveness that the ability to sin is simply removed... So a person who sees Christ in all of his glory and beauty would in effect be robbed of his ability to sin because of the overwhelming attractiveness of Christ. One wouldn't have the freedom to sin anymore and that wouldn't be to reduce them to puppets because you would still have freedom to do various things..."

    Craig, William Lane. "The Doctrine of Creation: Part 22." Defenders Podcast. 33:00-34:20.

    It looks to me like Craig really gave up the whole game here. People can not have the freedom to sin but still not be puppets so long as they have freedom to do other sorts of non-sinful things.

    Why it is then that God doesn't simply remove this freedom from all persons from the beginning is a bit baffling since he seems to have just cut himself off from the most common Arminian rejoinder: so we wouldn't be puppets who could only do good.

  12. Bingo. If God has a free-will that is free with regard to alternative goods but not free with respect to the alternatives of good and evil (and I believe that most Arminians would agree with that statement; 2 Timothy 2:13, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18), then why didn't He just give His creatures that kind of free-will if He didn't want any of them to be damned?

  13. "then why didn't He just give His creatures that kind of free-will if He didn't want any of them to be damned?"

    Most argue that you have to "form" or "set" your will by antecedent libertarian free actions. After that your character is "set" and may act of necessity from then on. This isn't problematic, they say, becase you took libertarian free steps to put yourself in that position. Among other problems this view has is this: what of infants who die in infance. On Arminianism (and perhaps on Calvinism, but that's a different debate) all of those infants go to heaven. But once in heaven they cannot sin, they have a character formed for them. They did not set their wills in the way libertarians say must happen for ascriptions of responsibility to be applied to us. Now, the way out of this is to affirm purgatory. It is an uncomfortable state of affirms when your theology leads to Open Theism and Cathoilicism!

  14. Paul,

    That's right, I had forgotten about Kane's SFCs. But I don't know why an Arminian or any libertarian would find this view palatable.

    For one thing, it means we essentially turn ourselves into puppets who lose our free will . It seems that there is a period in which we get to be persons, but that personhood must ultimately end in becoming a robot. (Using the Arminian scheme of things.)

  15. And how do we know when these SFCs have exhausted themselves? For all we know, we may have turned ourselves into puppets by the time we're 25.

  16. Jonathan, I never got rhe impression that we "truned ourselves into robots" on that view. It seems to have the desiderata libertarians want, namely: soucehood and APs. And even if we did turn ourselves into robots, it is *we* who did it, as opposed to full determinism, they'll say, which did it to us without a choice in the matter.

    At any rate, I don't find the view plausible for other reasons beside what I brought up. As Fischer and other have pointed out, it seems that the relevant social, psychological, physical, geographical, etc., character forming events come into play at a very young age. So it seems that our characters are already "formed" before we get the chance to form them through a "crisis."

  17. At any rate, I was just pointing out what they might say (what they do say, I read a paper by Copan using this very argument) to the claim that God should have just made us only able to choose good (i.e., made them with a goodly character) from the start.

    At any rate, I don't think this move overcomes Steve's objections. I have similar objections. If the libertarians can use "intuition" arguments, so can we. It doesn't seem to me that it was worth all the evil just to give people the chance to form their character. If they come in with goodly characters, they still get to choose from multiple goods and are the ultimate source of those choices. Call that view libertarianism lite, LL. Isn't LL worth not having all the raping and murdering and molesting and starving and war and pain and angush we see around us on a daily basis?

  18. "Most argue that you have to "form" or "set" your will by antecedent libertarian free actions. After that your character is "set" and may act of necessity from then on."

    Was there a time when God 'set' His will? Wouldn't that contradict His unchanging nature? Wouldn't the libertarian have to make an exception at that point?

  19. Saint and Sinner,

    They would draw a distinction between us and God, which is perfectly acceptable. I asked Kane a similar question, he emailed me this answer:

    "But in the full manner in which I describe it, it is not the freedom possessed by an infinite being who is not a "creature," but is "creator" of all things. The main freedom possessed by God is what I call the "freedom of self-perfection" in the final ch. of the Intro where I distinguish five kinds of freedom. In a sense this is a higher form of freedom than the libertarian freedom we possess, but for finite creatures like us, self perfective freedom must be arrived at in part by the exercise of the final two freedoms listed in the final ch. (libertarian freedoms) and also (in necessary) part by the grace of God (since I am no Pelagian). God has it by nature and hence necessarily. which does not mean it is not meritorius. That which is self-creating and necessarily good is meritorious. God's self-perfective freedom is the ideal measure of merit to which our libertarian freedom aspires. More complicatedly, God may have a measure of libertarian freedom in my sense in addition to self-perfective freedom. But it is not of the moral and prudential kinds that are the focus of the Intro. Rather it would be a practical freedom to choose between incommensurable goods. This issue gets into deep theol. waters about whether there is a best possible world that God must choose. If not, then God might have some libertarian choice about which world to choose."

  20. Jonathan, I never got rhe impression that we "truned ourselves into robots" on that view. It seems to have the desiderata libertarians want, namely: soucehood and APs. And even if we did turn ourselves into robots, it is *we* who did it, as opposed to full determinism, they'll say, which did it to us without a choice in the matter.

    It still seems to be the case that if being determined and not having APs (as Kane admits can be the case in certain instances of libertarian agency: Dennett's Luther example) means we are robots or puppets, in other words, non-agents (according to the common Arminian mantra), then the agent who has made a significant amount of SFCs has thrown himself further along the road of being determined and significantly reducing his APs.

    I don't see that the person saying they were the sourcehood of their being encased in cement is going to be much more attractive than some other person encasing them in cement. The end result looks to be the same and I don’t see that "We'll I made myself more robot-esque!" is much of a caricature. In fact, if as you point out, following Fischer, most character forming events occur at a young age, then most of the significant decisions we make later in life will be determined with little to no APs. And we determined the outcome of these events having no foreknowledge of them and being in a condition in which we could not make an informed and responsible decision. We might have made a different one had we not already programmed ourselves to make the contrary 20 years ago.

  21. I already agree that the character seems formed before the "crisis" will-setting choice happens.

    Remember, heaven is being talked about and the ability to do only good. That takes the bite out of your "cement" analogy. Libertarianism allows people to freely turn themselves into monsters or saints. Libertarians have not been bothered that they are not free when they are drunk if they put themselves in that position. Frankly, if I were a libertarian, I just wouldn't be bothered by your claim that I "turned myself into a robot." The biggest issue for me would be *whether that was my choice*. You're trying to pin something on libertarians, give them angst. But they don't have it, as we see in Kane's case (and many, many others; indeed, most sophisticated libertarians will admit Kane's point). So I'm just not getting what you think the dialectical force of your point is.

  22. And the claim can easily be scaled back. We "set" our characters to do only good (i.e., by the choices we made, enabled to do so by God's grace, etc), but we still have multiple good APs. So, that answers how we set our character and dodges the "no-AP-then-robot" counter.