Lotharson: And what about four-point Calvinists rejecting limited atonement?
Jerry Walls: That is only because it is rather embarrassing to admit you don’t really believe “God so loved the (whole) world” and gave his Son for all. But that is only a feeble attempt to mask the hard reality that the Calvinist God does not truly love all persons.
Such claims make shambles of the claim that God is love.
Jerry Walls: Calvinists are skillful at employing the rhetoric of love and most people do not really understand what Calvinists are saying. So Calvinism maintains credibility by way of misleading rhetoric about the love of God that their theology does not really support.
Jerry Walls: The idea of unconditional election to salvation and damnation is morally abhorrent, and applying it to your own children only makes it more graphic. But that is Calvinist piety at its best. You sacrifice not only your child but also your moral intuitions in the name of worshiping a God whose “goodness” is utterly at odds with the normal meaning of that term.
This is typical of what Walls has said in many books, articles, and live presentations. What's arresting about Walls is his officious self-confidence in his indubitable moral intuitions. He acts as though it's a self-evident truth that God must love everyone. To deny that God loves everyone is morally abhorrent. Unless God loves everybody, God's goodness is "utterly at odds" with the "normal" meaning of the term. Jerry presumes that, deep down, every person shares his moral intuitions. You can only disagree with Walls on pain of sacrificing your moral intuitions.
My immediate point is not to debate the factual question of whether God does or doesn't love everyone. I'm just dealing with Jerry's authoritarian appeal to his unquestioned moral intuitions. It's a kind of natural theology.
Part of the superficial appeal lies in resorting to faceless abstractions or one-sided examples. But let's put some faces on his moral intuitions:
In 1978, Singleton raped 15-year-old Mary Vincent, cut off her forearms and left her naked in a ditch near Modesto to die.
According to Walls, to deny that God must love Lawrence Singleton violates our moral intuitions. It would be morally abhorrent for God not to love the man who raped an adolescent girl, chopped off her arms, and left her for dead in a ditch. I wonder if Mary Vincent shares his moral intuitions.
A 9-year-old girl [Jessica Lunsford] was raped, bound and buried alive, kneeling and clutching a purple stuffed dolphin.
According to Walls, unless God loves John Evander Couey, God's goodness is "utterly at odds" with the "normal" meaning of the term. If we could interview the dead 9-year-old victim whom he raped and buried alive, I wonder if she'd share his moral intuitions.
Mengele promoted medical experimentation on inmates, especially dwarfs and twins. He is said to have supervised an operation by which two Gypsy children were sewn together to create Siamese twins; the hands of the children became badly infected where the veins had been resected. (Snyder, Louis. Encyclopedia of the Third Reich Marlowe & Co., 1997.)
According to Walls, it would be morally abhorrent for God not to love Josef Mengele. You can only deny God's universal love for men like Mengele by sacrificing your moral intuitions. I wonder if the Gypsy twins who were the guinea pigs in Mengele's experimentation would resonant with Jerry's moral intuitions. Unfortunately, they're unavailable for comment.
Victims were reportedly skinned alive, scalped, "crowned" with barbed wire, impaled, crucified, hanged, stoned to death, tied to planks and pushed slowly into furnaces or tanks of boiling water, and rolled around naked in internally nail-studded barrels. Chekists reportedly poured water on naked prisoners in the winter-bound streets until they became living ice statues. Others reportedly beheaded their victims by twisting their necks until their heads could be torn off. The Chinese Cheka detachments stationed in Kiev reportedly would attach an iron tube to the torso of a bound victim and insert a rat into the other end which was then closed off with wire netting.
According to Walls, God isn't good in any recognizable sense unless he loves the men who perpetrated these atrocities. But if you were to interview the victims, would they share Jerry's moral intuitions?
It's striking how Walls arrogates to himself the right to speak on behalf of everyone else's moral intuitions. Although I've read and seen lots of his material, I don't recall Jerry ever making a systematic effort–or any effort at all–to investigate the viewpoint of people who were on the receiving end of hidious evils. He talks like a man who's lived a charmed life. A sheltered life.
Let's compare Jerry's presentation of freewill theism with another freewill theist:
If the story is true, much of the evil in the world is due to chance…It could well happen that a woman was raped and murdered only because she yielded to a sudden impulse to pull over to the side of the road and consult a map. There may be, quite literally, no more to say than that in response to the question, "Why her?".
According to the story I have told, there is generally no explanation of why this evil happened to that person…It means being the playthings of chance. It means living in a world in which innocent children die horribly, and it means something worse than that: it means living in a world in which innocent children die horribly for no reason at all. It means living in a world in which the wicked,through sheer luck, often prosper.
But whether a particular horror is connected with human choices or not, it is evident, at least in many cases, that God could have prevented the horror without sacrificing any great good or allowing some even greater horror.
No appeal to considerations in any way involving human free will or future benefits to human beings can possibly be relevant to the problem with which this case [Auschwitz] confronts.
There are many horrors, vastly many, from which no discernible good results–and certainly no good, discernible or not, that an omnipotent being couldn't have achieved without the horror; in fact, without any suffering at all. Here is a true story. A man came upon a young woman in an isolated place. He overpowered her, chopped off her arms at the elbows with an axe, raped her, and left her to die. Somehow she managed to drag herself on the stumps of her arms to the side of the road, where she was discovered. She lived, but she experienced indescribably suffering, and although she is alive, she must live the rest of her life without arms and with the memory of what she had been forced to endure. No discernible good came of this, and it is wholly unreasonable to believe that any good could have come of it that an omnipotent being couldn't have achieved without employing the raped and mutilated woman's horrible suffering as a means to it.
If the Mutilation had not occurred, if it had been, so to speak, left out of the world, the world would be no worse than it is. (It would seem, in fact, that the world would be significantly better if the Mutilation had been left out of it…
If the expanded freewill defense is a true story, God has made a choice about where to draw the line, the line between the actual horrors of history, the horrors that are real, and the horrors that are mere averted possibilities, might-have-beens. And the Mutilation falls on the "actual horrors of history" side of the line. And this fact shows that the line is an arbitrary one; for if he had drawn it so as to exclude the Mutilation from reality (and had excluded no other horror from reality), he would have lost no good thereby and he would have allowed no greater even. He had no reason for drawing the line where he did.
In the bright world of good sense, this is why God did not prevent the Mutilation–insofar as there is a "why". He had to draw an arbitrary line, and he drew it. And that's all there is to be said. P. van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil (Oxford, 2006), 89,95,97,105,108.
Inwagen doesn't indulge in Jerry's invidious comparisons between Calvinism and freewill theism. Inwagen doesn't adopt the unctuous tone of moral superiority that Walls constantly resorts to.
But Inwagen's presentation puts freewill theism in a very different light than Walls. Why didn't the freewill theist God intervene to prevent Mengele from sewing the Gypsy kids together to create Siamese twins? Because God had to draw an arbitrary line, and they happen to fall on the wrong side of the line. Don't take it personally! It's just the luck of the draw!
It reminds me of when we evacuated the US embassy in Saigon. Many South Vietnamese were utterly desperate to escape. They were terrified of what awaited them when the Viet Cong took over. But there were only so many helicopters. Only so many seats.
If 9-year-old Jessica Lundsford is raped and buried alive, that's because all the seats were taken. Tough luck, kid!
The freewill theist God could have added more seats, but the number of seats is arbitrary, so the cutoff between that extra seat which would have saved Jessica Lundsford or Mary Vincent or the Gypsy twins is random. A few are rescued, but the rest of left behind–to be scalped, skinned alive, burned alive, boiled alive, buried alive, eaten alive, and so forth, for no reason at all. God had no reason for drawing the line where he did, but hey–he still loves you! He's so good, compared to that awful Calvinist God.
Although I disagree with Inwagen's theodicy, my intent is not to come down hard on his position. He can only play the hand he was dealt, and the problem of evil is a tough hand for any Christian to play. (The problem is much worse for atheists.) I'm simply drawing attention to the contrast between Jerry's rose-tinted commercial for freewill theism, and the far starker, bleaker, franker version of Inwagen. Walls is always defaming Calvinists about our "deceptive" rhetoric, but he's hardly forthcoming in how he packages freewill theism.