On Facebook (early June), Jerry Walls said:
Does everyone realize that if Calvinists would just forthrightly, consistently affirm that God loves EVERYONE, (which I think most know in their hearts), that He does not need eternal hell to be fully glorified (if any are lost forever, it because they have freely, persistently rejected God's love), that it could save us all a lot of arguments?
For Jerry, it's just inconceivable that Calvinists don't really believe God loves everyone. In their hearts, they know that God must love everyone, but their theological overlay forces them to deny what deep down know to be true.
It's unclear to me why he treats that claim as indubitable. One reason he gives is that God is that love is an essential divine attribute. And Calvinists agree.
But Jerry acts as though that makes God a love machine. If love is essential to God, then God automatically loves everyone.
But surely that inference is too strong. By that logic, God must love evil.
According to Walls, God would not be good unless he loved Josef Mengele. Why does Jerry think that's self-evidently true?
(To be clear, that's my example, not Jerry's. But it follows from his belief that God loves absolutely everyone.)
Notice, I'm not necessarily saying God can't love Josef Mengele. But why does Jerry insist that God must love Josef Mengele? What makes it antithetical to divine goodness if God didn't love Josef Mengele?
That's not a universal moral intuition, is it? Is it intuitively obvious to most folks that God wouldn't be good unless he loved Josef Mengele? Is it intuitively obvious to most theists that God wouldn't be good unless he loved Josef Mengele? Supposed you were to poll orthodox Jews?
I'm not discussing garden-variety sinners, but moral monsters. Psychopaths. People with no conscience.
One argument might be that, according to the Bible, no one is too evil for God to save. Let's consider that.
First of all, if God doesn't intend to save somebody, he may let them become more evil that if he intended to save them. The reason some people are so evil is because God had no intention of saving them. So he allows them to sink into depths of depravity.
From a Calvinist perspective, God's love is transformative. If God loves a deeply evil person, his love is a means of transforming an evil person into a good person. It's not just a divine attitude, but a divine action: irresistible grace.
Freewill theists might also wish to say that God's love is transformative, but that's qualified. For them, God loves people who will never be transformed by his love.
There is a difference between saying I will love an evil person in order to redeem him, and saying I will love an evil person despite his evil, irrespective of whether he will ever change. Those are not morally equivalent.
Is it intuitively obvious that a good person will love an evil person? Even if we think it's commendable to love an evil person in case we know that by loving them them will be transformed into a good person, is it self-evident that a good person will love an evil person for love's sake, even though he knows that his love will have no effect on the evil person?
Isn't there a prima facie tension between goodness and loving someone who embodies evil? If anything, doesn't our reflexive moral intuition find it wrong to love someone who embodies evil, absent some overriding consideration? Isn't there something evil about empathizing with evil people? Take women who become pen pals with convicted serial killers. They fall in love with them and marry them. Or take Charles Manson's groupies. Isn't there something morally twisted about that?
Let's take another example: A feature of friendship is that to be one person's friend sometimes means you can't be a another person's friend. You can't be friends to both of them. You have to choose. There's an element of loyalty in friendship. Sometimes you have to take sides.
Suppose you befriended Sharon Tate's mother. Suppose, at a later date, you tell her that you befriended Charles Manson. Surely she'd find that intolerable. If you love the man who murdered her daughter, then you can't be friends with her mother. From her perspective, for you to even be sympathetic to Manson would be unconscionable.
Now, Jerry might counter that my objections are subchristian. The Gospel teaches us to love our enemies. We must overcome our instinctive revulsion to certain people.
That, however, wreaks havoc with Jerry's overall position. That's not morally intuitive, but morally counterintuitive. Yet in the book he coauthored with David Baggett (Good God: The Theistic Foundations or Morality), Jerry says divine goodness must be analogous to human goodness to be recognizably good. Otherwise, "good" is equivocal, if it has one sense for God, and a divergent sense for man. That's essential to their case against Calvinism.
If, however, Jerry is going to say that we ought to love everyone because God loves everyone; if he's going to say that we must learn to emulate God's universal love, despite our natural inclination to be discriminatory, despite our natural inclination to hate someone like Charles Manson or Josef Mengele, then Jerry is conceding that divine goodness is unrecognizable. Divine goodness is radically disanalogous to our moral intuitions. God's universal love violates our intuitions. We must suppress our moral intuitions in order to bring our sensibilities in line with God.