Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rauser's spooftexting

According to Randal Rauser:

Many Christians assume that God loves all people. This is hardly surprising since scripture declares that God loves all creation (John 3:16-17) and desires to see all people saved (1 Tim.2:4; 2 Pe.3:9).

i) Since Rauser denies the inerrancy of Scripture, why is he prooftexting his position? According to him, the Bible frequently misrepresents God’s character. Frequently misattributes actions to God. So even if we grant his interpretation, what presumption is there that these passages accurately reflect God’s true intentions?

ii) How does Jn 3:16 teach the omnibenevolence of God? Isn’t that promise restricted to believers only–a rather small subset of humanity at large?

iii) Apropos (ii), why would an omnibenevolent God even require faith? If he were really omnibenevolent, wouldn’t he create a physically pleasant afterlife for unbelievers? Why could they not spend eternity on a tropical paradise, forever ignoring God–if they so choose?

iv) Is kosmos synonymous with “creation” in Jn 3:16-17? No. As one commentator explains:

Some argue that the term ‘world’ here simply has neutral connotations—the created human world. But the characteristic use of ‘the world’ (ho kosmos) elsewhere in the narrative is with negative overtones—the world in its alienation from and hostility to its creator’s purposes. It makes better sense in a soteriological context to see the latter notion as in view. God loves that which has become hostile to God. The force is not, then, that the world is so vast that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but rather that the world has become so alienated from God that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all.

A. Lincoln, The Gospel According to St. John, 154.

This meaning is attested in standard Greek lexicons, viz. BDAG, EDNT.

iv) 2 Pet 3:9 doesn’t denote all human beings.

God’s patience with his own people delaying the final judgment to give them the opportunity of repentance, provides at least a partial answer to the problem of eschatological delay…The author remains close to his Jewish source, for in Jewish though it was usually for the sake of the repentance of his own people that God delayed judgment.

R. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, 312-13.

v) 1 Tim 2:4 doesn’t denote all human beings:

The purpose of the reference to ‘all people,’ which continues the theme of the universality in this passage, is sometimes misconstrued. The reference is made mainly with the Pauline mission to the Gentiles in mind (v7). But the reason behind Paul’s justification of this universal mission is almost certainly the false teaching, with its Torah-centered approach to life that included either an exclusivist bent or a downplaying of the Gentile mission…Paul’s focus is on building a people of God who incorporate all people regardless of ethnic, social, or economic backgrounds.

P. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 177-78.

It may be that they [the false teachers] were consumed with genealogies because they restricted salvation along certain ethnic lines (1 Tim 1:4)…When Paul says that God desires all to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), and that Christ was the ransom for all (1 Tim 2:6), he may be responding to some who excluded Gentiles from salvation for genealogical reasons…Titus 2:11 should be interpreted along similar lines…Paul counters Jewish teachers (Tit 1:10,14-15; 3:9) who construct genealogies to exclude some from salvation.

T. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, 184-85.

Back to Rauser:

Indeed, the notion that God is loving to all, a doctrine known among theologians by the fancy name “omnibenevolence”, would qualify for many as a basic axiom, a starting point for all further theological reflection.

According to a Catholic philosopher, that’s actually a theological innovation:


As such, it may be surprising to discover that theologians within the Calvinist tradition reject the doctrine of divine omnibenevolence.

If Rauser were intellectually serious, he’d interact with Paul Helm’s essay “Can God Love the World?” in chap. 8 of Nothing Greater, Nothing Better.

The other position stakes out a more unambiguous position by declaring without qualification that God does not love those he does not save; indeed, he hates them.

The love/hate lingo is a carryover from Mal 1:2-3. It’s a Hebrew idiom for select/reject. A hyperbolic rhetorical contrast.


And why does he hate them? I will argue in a subsequent post that the reasons are arbitrary. That is, he could just as easily have loved those he hates and hated those he loves as hated those he hates and loved those he loves. That, I would submit, is a deeply disturbing implication, both theologically and pastorally.

An alternate history doesn’t have the same set of people. An alternate history has different genealogies as well as different tradeoffs.

Throughout his post, Rauser does what Rauser usually does: just wing it. He's a theological hack.  

32 comments:

  1. steve,

    You wrote, "iii) Apropos (ii), why would an omnibenevolent God even require faith? If he were really omnibenevolent, wouldn’t he create a physically pleasant afterlife for unbelievers? Why could they not spend eternity on a tropical paradise, forever ignoring God–if they so choose?"

    Since you object theological "hackery," why do you leap from your penultimate sentence to the last? That is, you seem to suggest that an omnibenevolent God providing a physically pleasant afterlife even for unbelievers would be unable to make distinctions, offer rewards, and otherwise differentiate the experience of each person commensurate with appropriate justice for each person. Does your conclusion necessarily follow from your premise, or are you overstepping?

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  2. Justice and benevolence are not interchangeable.

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  3. steve,

    I was suggesting that they're not mutually exclusive. And omnibenevolence certainly can't include injustice.

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  4. Would the Arminian God be unjust unless he make faith a condition of salvation?

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  5. I'll leave the Calvinism-Arminianism debate to you and others.

    I believe everyone goes to heaven and that justice is applied to all in the most exacting detail - some on this side of death, and the balance after.

    My point in my original comment to this post was that if God grants heaven to everyone, it does not necessarily follow that everyone's experience there will be undifferentiated.

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  6. So you believe the saints are punished in heaven. Heaven is a penal colony.

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  7. steve,

    There you go leaping again. Your conclusion doesn't follow.

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  8. I'm not going to waste time on your one-lines. You need to present arguments.

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  9. Mike Gantt said:

    "I believe everyone goes to heaven and that justice is applied to all in the most exacting detail - some on this side of death, and the balance after...There you go leaping again. Your conclusion doesn't follow."

    Actually, Steve's conclusion does follow. According to the God of Gantt everyone will end up in heaven. Take Hitler. Hitler will end up in heaven. Some justice has been exacted on Hitler "this side of death." But what justice is left to mete out on Hitler, i.e. "the balance," will be exacted on Hitler "after." Hence, even though Hitler is or will be a saint since he will be in heaven, Hitler will nevertheless be punished in heaven since "the balance" of "justice is applied" to Hitler "after" and by "after" the God of Gantt means heaven or the hereafter. Therefore heaven is indeed a penal colony, according to Mike Gantt.

    The fact that Mike Gantt can't follow the implications of his own argument is a blow against Mike Gantt's reasoning abilities. It's more evidence of his lack thereof.

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  10. By the way, for more of Mike Gantt's poor reasoning abilities with regard to his own beliefs (e.g. universalism, anti-church, anti-Trinitarianism, belief that the second coming of Christ has already happened), check out this thread.

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  11. steve,

    Please go back to my initial comment on this post. I was challenging your one-line that omnibenevolence would require God to put every person without distinction on a tropical island forever ignoring Him if they so chose. I was asking you to either retract that assertion, modify it, or make an argument for it.

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  12. rockingwithhawking,

    While you write more sentences than Steve, you make the same unjustified - and self-contradictory - leap from omnibenevolence to penal colony.

    As for the other thread you reference, I'm happy for anyone to read that, but I'm not trying to re-argue those issues here. I was merely responding to a specific element of Steve's challenge to Randal Rauser.

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  13. MIKE GANTT SAID:

    "Please go back to my initial comment on this post. I was challenging your one-line that omnibenevolence would require God to put every person without distinction on a tropical island forever ignoring Him if they so chose. I was asking you to either retract that assertion, modify it, or make an argument for it."

    i) That wasn't a one-liner. That was a three-sentence challenge. Learn to count.

    ii) I didn't say "every person without distinction." In context, I was explicitly referring to the eternal fate of unbelievers. Learn to read.

    iii) Likewise, I didn't say God was required to put them on a tropical island. Rather, I questioned whether an omnibenevolent God would make faith a requirement of a avoiding hell. Learn to read.

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  14. Mike Gantt said:

    "you make the same unjustified - and self-contradictory - leap from omnibenevolence to penal colony."

    I'm just quoting you and following your argument. If everyone is going to heaven, if everyone is punished in heaven since everyone is far from sinless ("I believe everyone goes to heaven and that justice is applied to all in the most exacting detail - some on this side of death, and the balance after"), then everyone will be punished in heaven.

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  15. steve,

    An omnibenevolent God might make faith a requirement for avoiding hell on earth; He would not, however, require it for avoiding an eternity of hell afterward.

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  16. rockingwithhawking,

    Your logic only works if a penal colony is the only possible setting in which justice can be done.

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  17. Mike Gantt said:

    "Your logic only works if a penal colony is the only possible setting in which justice can be done."

    If you prefer, perhaps we could change the label or name of the place in heaven where everyone is punished from penal colony to internment camp? Or how about Purgatorio Palace or Limbo Loft? Or what about Battle Royale island? Or the Ambrosial Arkham Asylum? Or Danvers Heavenly Hospital? Or the God of Gantt's Funland?

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  18. MIKE GANTT SAID:

    "An omnibenevolent God might make faith a requirement for avoiding hell on earth; He would not, however, require it for avoiding an eternity of hell afterward."

    So you're conceding my point while laboring to conceal the appearance of your concession. Got it.

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  19. rockingwithhawking,

    Your logic fails with all of those names as well.

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  20. steve,

    I'm not conceding my point at all. You still haven't answered it.

    As for my statement that you quoted, that was me simply answering the additional question you raised during the discussion. Rather than say it was off-topic, I just answered it...but I'm still hoping your reply to my original question - which was about the disconnect between your second sentence and your third (and not about your first).

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  21. MIKE GANTT SAID:

    "I'm not conceding my point at all. You still haven't answered it...but I'm still hoping your reply to my original question - which was about the disconnect between your second sentence and your third (and not about your first)."

    Since your question begs the question, there's nothing for me to answer. You have yet to present an argument for me to rebut. All you've done is to postulate a disconnect.

    There are no freebies here. You need to pull your own load, hold up your end of the debate. I'm not going to make your arguments for you.

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  22. steve,

    I called attention to an illogical step in your argument. If you think that what I said is unworthy of a response, so be it.

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  23. You asserted an illogical step. That's something you need to demonstrate.

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  24. steve,

    I don't see how to improve on the explanation I gave. I'm content to let it stand, and for you to deem it insufficient.

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  25. Mike Gantt's modus operandi is to make assertions, re-assert his assertions when challenged on his assertions, and in the end to tell people he is content to bask in his assertions. For Mike Gantt, it's assertions till the cows come home. Crede quod habes, et habes.

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  26. "We grant no credence or even respect to these followers of the rabble-rouser [Ed. note: not "rabble-rauser"] from Galilee, who assert one thing after another that we do not accept.

    - excerpt from press release issued by the Jewish Sanhedrin circa 35 AD


    "Ditto."

    - two thousand years of Judaism

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  27. I hate to break it to you, Mike, but you're not an apostle. Plus, you're not teaching what the apostles taught, given that you teach everyone will go to heaven, the second coming has already happened, Christians should forsake the church, the Trinity isn't true, etc.

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  28. And the Sanhedrin and 2,000 years of Judaism haven't thought that the apostles were teaching what the prophets had taught.

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  29. Mike Gantt said:

    "And the Sanhedrin and 2,000 years of Judaism haven't thought that the apostles were teaching what the prophets had taught."

    1. This is simplistic. The Sanhedrin wasn't always all of one mind. Neither "2,000 years of Judaism."

    For example, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were very likely Sanhedrin members who believed "the apostles were teaching what the prophets taught."

    Gamaliel lended a measure of support to the apostles.

    Most of the first Christians were Jews.

    There's a long list of Messianic Jews down through the pages of history who have believed "the apostles were teaching what the prophets taught."

    2. This assumes you're in line with the prophets and apostles' teaching in the first place. But you're not.

    3. However, all this misses the essential point. The apostles did back up their assertions with arguments (e.g. Paul on the Areopagus). But you are merely making assertions sans argumentation. The apostles did argue for why the Scriptures should be interpreted in such and such a manner, why the Scriptures demonstrate Christ is who he says is, etc. But you just make assertions without argument in this thread.

    Anyone can re-read this thread and see. In fact, I encourage people to read or re-read all your comments in this thread to validate for themselves.

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  30. rockingwithhawking,

    I agree that I only called attention to a logical discrepancy in the post and have not made any arguments in this thread. Given the point being made and the way I made it, it seemed to me that further argumentation would have been superfluous. Steve didn't agree. Upon consideration, it seemed good to me to leave things there. But when it comes to the other issues you raise (e.g. the Second Coming, church, the Trinity, and heaven), I have made substantial argumentation for those points on my web sites and elsewhere. Those subjects didn't seem germane to this post which is why I didn't raise them here or argue them here.

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  31. You offer a considerable amount of assertions sans argumentation in the previous thread too.

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  32. I'm not a Calvinist by any means - in fact, I find it extremely problematic. I have to agree though. Rauser breezes through this stuff and doesn't really seem to be interested in a serious treatment. I also think he should interact with serious philosophical theologians of the Calvinist persuasion, like Helm.

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