Monday, January 09, 2017

Some Lives Matter

A recent Arminian meme, riffing off of Black Lives Matter, is to say that according to Calvinism, Some Lives Matter, based on reprobation and limited atonement. It's a cutesy applause line for T-shirts. 

One problem with the invidious slogan is that you have socially conservative freewill theists who believe in the right of self-defense. So they think, when push comes to shove, that some lives matter more than others. 

But here's another issue. Years ago I saw a medical show in about a teenager who suffered a concussion during a baseball game. A flying ball struck him in the head and knocked him out. He was rushed to the ER. Testing revealed a skull fracture. Doctors found that puzzling because the impact of a baseball shouldn't fracture a normal skull. Additional testing revealed the fact that he had osteoporosis. Doctors found that even more puzzling. How can a teenager suffer from osteoporosis? Additional testing revealed the fact that he had acute kidney disease. His osteoporosis was a side-effect of that underlying medical condition. So he needed a kidney transplant. His father volunteered to donate a kidney. Testing determined that his father was a compatible donor. 

People die from renal failure because there aren't enough kidney donors. Yet freewill theist supposedly love everyone. So why don't they line up to donate a kidney? Evidently, they don't love their neighbor as themselves. Rather, they love themselves more than their neighbor. Even if they love everyone (which is pretty implausible), they don't love everyone equally. 

I'm no expert, but to my knowledge, kidney donation isn't risk-free. Although you can survive on one kidney, I think that puts you at high risk of renal failure, because just one kidney is having to do the work of two. And if your remaining kidney fails, you don't have a back up, because you donated your spare kidney. 

For that reason alone, it's not surprising that most folks, including freewill theists who brag about universal love, don't go around donating their kidneys to perfect strangers. 

However, it's natural to make an exception for your best friend or close family. Indeed, it's expected that you will do things for loved ones that you won't do for a passing acquaintance or perfect stranger. You don't take the same risks for everyone. 

In my true story, the father donated a kidney to his ailing son. That's predictable. And, of course, his son was very grateful. It strengthened their bond.

But suppose his father told his son, "That's nothing special. I'd to the same thing for anyone. You just happened to be first in line."

First of all, there's the question of whether you have an obligation to reserve a kidney for a friend or family member, rather than giving it away to strangers. Do you have a higher obligation to loved ones? Do they have a prior claim on you? 

But even assuming it's admirable that the father would do that for everyone, the value of the gift loses something significant in that event. After all, his son has a right to believe that this isn't something Dad would do for anyone. Rather, he does it for his son because his son is special to him. Indeed, uniquely spacial. 

There are situations in human relationships where we want to hear: "I did it for you because you have a special place in my heart. If it was anyone else, I wouldn't do it!"

And that's appropriate. That's the essence of friendship and familial love. Although it's good to care about most people, it's not a human virtue to care about everyone equally. Indeed, that's inhuman. Love is typically selective. 

Now, I'm not suggesting that this proves Calvinism. There are important disanalogies between God and human social dynamics. The point, though, is that there's nothing inherently wrong with favoritism. Freewill theists practice favoritism all the time. Like everyone else, they are partial to friends and family. They don't treat their loved ones as interchangeable with everyone else.

Yet their argument for God's universal love is based on human analogies. But when they are forced to say divine ideal love is different from human ideal love, that vitiates their facile comparisons. 


  1. It's a bit like socialism in theory vs. socialism in practice. On the one hand, they want to say God loves all equally. But on the other hand, that's clearly not the case in practice (e.g. how they treat their loved ones in contradistinction to perfect strangers). All people are loved equally, but some people are more equally loved than others.

  2. The fact that we are constantly having to explain what's wrong with "cutesy applause lines for T-shirts" and "facile comparisons" seems to make it an uphill battle.