Sunday, January 03, 2016

"A demonstration against Calvinism"

I'll comment on two posts, beginning with this:
It is part of the essence of Calvinism that there are two distinct groups of individuals in God’s overall economy: the elect and the non-elect. The elect are the grateful recipients of God’s irresistible, unmerited grace and are thereby saved. The non-elect, by sad contrast, receive no such grace; they are passed over. Consequently, they are damned for all eternity.1Now even Calvinists admit that this scenario makes it at least appear that God is being unjust or unfair. After all, why not just give irresistible grace to both groups? What we want to argue is that the appearance here is the reality. To flesh out the supporting argument, let’s begin by considering this penetrating (revealed) insight into the nature of justice—
Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly (Leviticus 19:15).
Notice how Moses—not exactly a novice in legal matters—contrasts perverting justice with judging fairly. You pervert justice (i.e., act unjustly) when you fail to judge fairly. Fair enough. Why then is it unfair and a perversion of justice to show partiality to the poor and favoritism to the great? The answer, quite plainly, is that the properties of being poor and being great are entirely irrelevant so far as judging between individuals (say, in moral or legal contexts) is concerned. An individual’s socio-economic status isn’t in itself relevant to a moral or legal assessment of his person or situation.
That oversimplifies the comparison. The context of the Levitical verse concerns a plaintiff who's been wronged by another party. He is therefore entitled to a legal remedy. His poverty is irrelevant to the moral demand. 
Two parties are entitled to equal treatment if they have equal claims. For the comparison to work, Davis needs to demonstrate that the elect and reprobate have equal claims on God. He hasn't offered a preliminary argument for that key assumption. Indeed, he hasn't even shown that both parties have any claim on God. 
The elect and reprobate are, in the first instance, merely divine ideas. If God instantiates his idea, then they become real people, but by the same token, they become real sinners. They are instantiated as sinners. 
But there is a further, truly fatal difficulty. The Calvinist proponent of (3) faces the following dilemma. Either God has a basis for his differential treatment of the elect and non-elect or he doesn’t. If there is no basis, then God’s decision to award irresistible grace to the one but not the other of these groups is wholly arbitrary; in which case God is a reckless, unprincipled decision-maker–a conclusion which is at once both manifestly unfair (to the non-elect) and theologically appalling. If you don’t think it’s appalling, just ask yourself how you’d like it if your professor used a similar method to grade your term paper. Without a doubt, this horn of the dilemma is squarely on the broad road leading to destruction.Well, let’s suppose instead that God does have a basis for his differential treatment of these groups. Then according to the Leviticus Principle, it must be contextually relevant. Now the context for giving or withholding irresistible grace is spiritual or salvific. Therefore, according to LP2, it will be just or fair for God to favor the elect over the non-elect only if God’s basis for doing so is a spiritually relevant one. By hypothesis, however, there is absolutely no spiritually relevant difference between the elect and the non-elect: they are all dead in their sins; they are all incapable of recommending themselves to God. On this horn of the dilemma, then, God has favored the elect but on a purely context irrelevant basis.
Different people in different combinations result in different world histories. So God may elect some and reprobate others because he prefers one timeline over an alternate timeline. That's not an arbitrary distinction. Moving along:
In any event, the important thing to see in all this is that a person can be held accountable for her refrainings when they are sufficient for (forseen) bad states of affairs–states of affairs that could have been prevented by refraining from refraining (i.e., by doing something). One thinks here of the Levite’s response to the man beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road to Jericho (cf. Luke 10:30-37). The application to Calvin’s deity, who passes by the terrible plight of the non-elect, is patent.
i) It's true that omission can be culpable. That assumes the party in question has a particular claim on us.
ii) By analogy, the Arminian or Molinist God is culpable when he refrains from preventing  foreseeable evil. 

1 comment:

  1. "The application to Calvin’s deity, who passes by the terrible plight of the non-elect, is patent."

    I see mud like this being slung by Arminians quite a lot. The basic takeaway is "that's not *my* God!".

    Maybe after the Christian/Muslim teapot simmers down your next series can be on whether Calvinists and non-Calvinists worship the same God.