I recently got into an impromptu debate with Jerry Walls on Facebook. He and I rarely interact directly:
Jerry Walls Next thing you know you are going to be telling us God loves all the little children...
Steve Hays Well, Jerry, there are countless children around the world who don't have loving parents. So you can't very well extrapolate from happy families to neglected or abused children.
Jerry Walls Yeah, I don't think God's love is contingent on whether or not parents are loving. I think he desires and will enable their ultimate well being and happiness whether they have warm hearted parents or not.
Steve Hays In which case you can't analogize from one example.
It's my impression that Jerry has led a pretty charmed life. So it seems self-evident to him that God loves everyone. He acts as though no one can really doubt God's universal love. If they deny it, they must be faking.
That reflects a profound lack of empathy on Jerry's part. There are countless people whose lives have been devastated by horrendous tragedy. It's not intuitively obvious to them that there's an all-loving God.
Now, I'm not suggesting that that settles the issue. But it certainly figures in one's plausibility structure.
Jerry Walls Not so on several accounts. I can easily see why some people's experience would make it hard to believe God loves all persons. But what I cannot see if Christ reveals the heart of God, and if God is love in his essential nature, and is perfectly good, how he could not love all the little children, and everyone else for that matter. As John Wesley frankly acknowledged, (and I agree) it is hard to believe that God is perfectly loving to all, based on empirical observation of the suffering in the world. See opening paragraphs of "The General Deliverance."
Steve Hays But you always coast along with the same glib happy-talk message, like a motivational speaker. Never once have I seen you seriously attempt to put yourself in the shoes of someone's whose experience is radically different from your own. You presume to speak on behalf of everyone. That deep down, everyone sees things the same way you do ("In your heart you know he's right").
So are you now admitting that your ubiquitous appeals to intuition are bogus? That your real position isn't based on intuition, but your interpretation of the Gospel?
Jerry Walls And I very much realize Calvinists do NOT see things like I do.
Steve Hays Jerry, I'm not just talking about Calvinists.
"But what I cannot see if Christ reveals the heart of God…"
Well, when Christ was here on earth he did a whole lot more for some people than others, so that appeal is a two-edged sword.
BTW, love is not God's only essential attribute.
"how he could not love all the little children."
Stalin used to be a cute little kid. Mao used to be a cute little kid. Attila the Hun used to be a cute little kid. Genghis Khan used to be a cute little kid. Idi Amin used to be a cute little kid. Pol Pot used to be a cute little kid. Ted Bundy used to be a cute little kid. And so on and so forth.
Jerry Walls And God could have given them all irresistible grace and determined them to have been persons we would celebrate as heroes of the faith..but instead he determined them to be the sort of persons you cite in a litany of humanity at its worst...
Steve Hays Jerry, the God of freewill theism could have determined them not to become mass murderers. According to freewill theism, it's not that God is unable to do so, but that he refuses to do so.
So how does the God of freewill theism love everyone when he fails to protect innocent people (including children) from humanity at its worst? If you knew that a psychopath had designs on one of your granddaughters, would you stand by and do nothing to protect her?
"And God could have given them all irresistible grace and determined them to have been persons we would celebrate as heroes of the faith..but instead he determined them to be the sort of persons you cite in a litany of humanity at its worst..."
Jerry, for a philosopher, that's a very shortsighted criticism of Calvinism. If God gave everyone irresistible grace, you'd have a very different kind of world with a different set of people. Your proposal creates an alternate timeline. Suppose, in 5000 BC (to pick a figure out of the hat), God gives everyone irresistible grace. That has a snowball effect. Different people will be born as a result.
All the people who were born as a consequence of living in a world where God doesn't give everyone irresistible grace will be denied existence on your alternate timeline. So there are billions of losers in your alternative. Billions of men and women who miss out because they can only exist in a world where God doesn't give everyone irresistible grace. How would that be loving to the billions of people who never got a shot at existing in the first place?
Jerry Walls Only actual people can be wronged. A world where everyone loves and honors God would be a good thing.
Steve Hays I didn't say that God was wronging them. But unless you're an Epicurean, there's a sense in which deprivation of existence is harm.
Take antinatalists who refuse to have children. That deprives people of the opportunity to exist in the first place. That's the most radical deprivation there can be.
Yes, a world in which everyone is virtuous is a good thing. What you're overlooking is competing goods. A world in which everyone is virtuous comes at the expense of billions of people who don't get to share in the good of existence. It's a tradeoff between one set of goods and another set of goods. Your alternative eliminates some goods to make room for other goods. The winners win at the expense of the losers.
Steve Hays I also notice you dodge my point that in Calvinism and freewill theism alike, God could determine humanity at its worst not to commit atrocities. There's no difference between Calvinism and freewill theism in that respect. In both cases, God is able, but unwilling. What's different is the reasons or priorities that God has for refraining to exercise his omnipotence in that regard.
Jerry Walls Bottom line: on the Calvinist view, God could determine all persons "freely" to love him; on the Arminian view, he could not. Yet God prefers many people "freely" to sin and do treacherous things rather than "freely" to love him and each other according to the Calvinist view. We have fundamentally different views of the love and goodness of God, and it is clear that neither one of us are likely to change our views. So l will leave it at that.
Steve Hays Jerry, you're ignoring the fact that it isn't possible to be equally loving to everybody if one person is harming another person. How can the God of freewill theism be equally loving to the murderer and the murder victim? The more he loves the murderer, the less he loves the victim–by failing to protect her. Isn't protecting her from murder the loving thing to do? There are disguised tensions in your position.
Jerry Walls P.S. No one can refuse to have children on the Calvinist view unless God determines them. On the Calvinist view, God can determine anyone he wants "freely" to have as many children as he wants. And as for the murderer and murder victim: on my view he can give them both optimal grace and every opportunity for final salvation and perfect happiness. On the Calvinist view, he can determine things so that no one ever murders anyone. Rather, all "freely" love and respect each other. But again, we have gone over this all before, and we just have radically different views of love and goodness.
"P.S. No one can refuse to have children on the Calvinist view unless God determines them. On the Calvinist view, God can determine anyone he wants 'freely' to have as many children as he wants."
True, but a red herring.
"And as for the murderer and murder victim: on my view he can give them both optimal grace and every opportunity for final salvation and perfect happiness."
God allowing the murderer to kill her is hardly the most loving option for her. That's not acting in her best interests.
To say we have "radically" or "fundamentally" different views of the love and goodness of God is another dodge. It's also a question of consistency.
Jerry, you're smart enough to realize that your responses are evasive. I find that ironic since you routinely accuse Calvinists of lowballing the unattractive consequences of Calvinism, yet you camouflage the unattractive consequences of freewill theism by staying safely vague.
Steve Hays There are several problems with Jerry's postmortem saving grace postulate:
i) It has no basis in revelation
ii) It bears a startling resemblance to Hick's eschatological verification, which makes it conveniently unfalsifiable in this life. If Jerry's wrong, the lost won't find out until it's too late to do anything about it.
iii) It's like seeing a woman in a burning building. I could rescue her, but I don't. She survives, but suffers excruciating chronic pain from third-degree burns. I pay her medical bills, including years of painful skin grafts. At the end of that process she's finally restored to what she was like before the fire. But surely it would be better not to put her through that agonizing ordeal in the first place.
"Only actual people can be wronged."
I'd like to revisit that claim:
i) Suppose I'm privy to the counterfactual knowledge that if my parents go on vacation at a romantic resort, they will conceive another son. Suppose I'm also privy to the fact that he'd have a happy childhood and a wonderful life.
However, I resent the prospect of having a kid brother. I like being the only child. I like having my parents undivided affection and attention. I don't want to share my bedroom with someone else. I don't want a kid brother making demands on me and co-opting my time. Therefore, I dissuade my parents from taking that vacation, as a result of which that brother is never conceived.
Isn't there something deeply wrong with that? Not just my selfish attitude, but the fact that I denied my would-be kid brother the opportunity to exist and have a wonderful life.
ii) Furthermore, in Jerry's "Pharaoh’s Magicians Foiled Again: Reply to Cowan and Welty," he takes the position that would-be hellbound persons shouldn't be in a position to prevent other would-be persons from going to heaven. So Walls does seem to think that would-be saints have a big stake in this issue.