Saturday, May 03, 2008

Fifteen minutes of hell


“I haven't confessed anything or conceded anything, except for the sake of argument. My argument is this. On the hypothesis that what God is after is His own glory, then he should save all of us. Why? Because we're only going to praise him forever if he saves us. It isn't unjust for him to save us, since he does save at least some of us. The more people in the heavenly choir, the more laudits of glory (like turps of evil) he gets. If he sends those people to hell, he doesn't get the laudits of glory from those people since those people aren't praising him.”

This objection would be more forceful if it weren’t such a ridiculous caricature of the actual position. I’ve already corrected Reppert on this point, and I’ve discussed the issue in more detail in the past:

As Manata rightly says, “Since God has all-glory, he doesn't get ‘more’ glory. He's not like a bank where you can deposit ‘laudits’ into.”

God is not in the self-magnification business. He doesn’t need our praise. Our praises add nothing to his beatitude.

It’s a question of values and priorities. What makes life worthwhile? What is good? What is better? What is praiseworthy?

Many sinners squander the gift of life on banalities and trivialities. But God is both the greatest good and the exemplary good. Finite goods are good because they exemplify the goodness of God.

Some divine perfections would be manifest in a sinless world, but other divine perfections would only be manifest in a sinful world. God is praiseworthy in his justice no less than in his mercy.

Moreover, these are correlative. The objects of mercy are ill-deserving. They merit retribution. And that’s why mercy is discriminatory.

Do the reprobate praise God? No. But reprobation is praiseworthy, both because it’s a just judgment on sin, and because it reveals the justice of God.

God’s mercy is glorious. God’s justice is glorious. God’s wisdom is glorious. And so on and so forth. It’s not as if salvation is glorious while damnation is inglorious.

Do the damned glorify God? Not in the sense of praising him. But they glorify God in the sense of manifesting God’s glorious justice.

Manifested to whom, you ask? To elect men and angels—that’s who.

“This arguments isn't saying God wouldn't be nice if he damned people, it is saying that God's interests, *as defined by Calvinist theology* are not served by reprobation. In other words, God shouldn't condemn people to hell because it doesn't serve his own professed interests to do so.”

That only follows from Reppert’s misdefinition of Reformed theology.

“If love is the goal, then he might have to give them LFW, and then who knows what the hell will happen. If he's just going for glory, he can get more of that my saving everyone than by reprobating anyone.”

God isn’t out to magnify his own glory. Rather, he glorifies his people, while his people are glorified in him.

“When I read books like Lewis's The Problem of Pain, I get the sense that I can understand why a lot of evils occur, including virtually all of them in my own life, but certainly not all evils.”

But this is all conjecture. As a rule, you can’t intuit a truth of fact. You can intuit a fact of reason, but not a fact of truth.

(An exception would be causal relations where you can intuit the cause from the effect, or vice versa.)

Contingent truths, unlike necessary truths, are not something we can generally intuit. Being contingent, they could have been otherwise. You can’t sit down and write a history book using your intuition.

History is based on observation and testimony—ultimately eyewitness testimony. Lewis can speculate to his heart’s content, but is it true?

Speculation is a sorry substitute for revelation. Conjectural explanations are valid when addressing conjectural objections. They operate at the same level. But is it true?

A fictitious theodicy, minus the exotic locations. As far as fictitious theodicies go, I prefer Perelandra to The Problem of Pain.

“But, once again, it looks as if God could simply make the blessed aware of this as a possible result without actually damning anyone.”

You mean, like those cheesy Hell House exhibits which some fundy churches stage around Halloween to scare teenagers away from riotous living? Break out the ketchup and decapitated mannequins?

Does that include a concession stand for popcorn, root beer, hotdogs, and cotton candy?

“There is a downside for people in heaven in having a hell and that is where people in heaven cared deeply about the salvation of those who were lost and had a lifelong desire for their salvation. Of course God can make the blessed ‘get over it’ and praise God forever, but there is still a loss inflicted on the caring blessed. Why inflict that loss, unless there is a good reason for it?”

No doubt this hits close to home for many Christians. And I’m all for giving people good reasons. But I don’t equate good reasons with make-believe reasons.

Moreover, the freewill defense doesn't begin take away the sense of loss. It tries to justify the loss, but the sense of loss remains.

“OK, but the opposite act, saving these people, would also have been just and equally praiseworthy.”

True, but simplistic—for these are not equivalent goods. Like a kaleidoscope, God has different ways of manifesting his goodness. Alternate goods.

“Why does a failure to explain this cause a problem? First, the loss of a soul imposes a loss on those close to them, and, if we take some passages of Scripture literally, on God himself. God grieves and sorrows over sin, apparently. We're not just asking ‘Why did God create Jimbo and not Victor’ we are asking why God did something that imposes a loss on those who care about them. It seems we should prefer positions that offer something in the direction of an explanation over positions that offer nothing.”

The freewill defense fails to explain why God created a lost soul. If God knows the fate of a lost soul, why didn’t he spare everyone concerned the pain and suffer by refraining from creating the lost soul in the first place?

Even on libertarian assumptions, every soul is not a lost soul. So why does God create any lost soul when he could create a heavenbound soul instead of a hellbound soul?

I’d add that I don’t take the anthropopathetic passages literally.

“But faith seeks understanding, and prefers theologies that hold out the most hope of providing some explanations.”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Begin with a revealed truth, then seek the wisdom therein. That’s my method.

Reppert is holding out a false hope—nursed on imaginary conjectures.

“God would be just if God were to damn everyone. God would be just if God were to save everyone. God is just if, as they think he actually has done, saves some and not others. How could God possibly be unjust? And if the phrase ‘God is just’ will come out true regardless of what God does, we have to ask what it could possibly mean to say that God is just. If I say ‘The cat is on the mat’ there has to be a possible scenario according to which the cat is not on the mat, which is denied by the assertion. What is the Calvinist denying when the Calvinist says that God is just? What could it turn out that God has done that could be identified as unjust, given the fact that God is the creator and we are creatures. It looks to me as if the potter has so much freedom there's no meaningful sense to be made of the claim that God is just. ‘God is just’ becomes a miserable tautology, like ‘God does what God does’."

This is simpleminded. God would be just in damning everyone *because* everyone is a sinner. The justice of this counterfactual is indexed to a necessary condition. God would be just in saving everyone *if* Christ died for everyone. The justice of that counterfactual is indexed to a necessary condition. The justice of the outcome is not irrespective of other relevant factors.

If God damned the innocent, that would be unjust. If God saved sinners apart from penal substitution, that would be unjust.


  1. Hey Steve,

    Good post.

    I read the older posts to which you referred.

    I just wanted to try to get a good handle on your perspective on God's end in creation.

    I noticed that you wrote,

    "The point of a glorious self-revelation is the effect it will have on others. God can be glorious in himself without revealing himself to be glorious to another or others. So the purpose of a glorious self-disclosure is not constitutive of glorious subject (God), but for the beneficial effect it will have on the target audience (the elect)."

    "God is not in the self-magnification business."

    Just some questions/ramblings:

    Are you trying to correct a dichotomy that is often understand in the phrase "God does all things for His glory" wherein the glory of God is set against God's pleasure in the benefit of the creature?

    Or would you say that God's goal in the pursuit of His glory is the good of the creature, ultimately? In other words, that God created reality and saved people for their own sake above and beyond His own sake?

    Or would you say that God's end in all that God does is ultimately for His own sake, in some manner? For example, for His pleasure?

    Is it possible for God to be egotistical?

    Do you view the idea of God doing "all things for His glory" as consisting in the communication of Himself to His people?

    For example - would you hold that God’s glory IS (in part) the manifestation of His love for His people: God’s love is an attribute or part of His excellence, God’s pouring out His efficacious love on His people is the emanation or exhibition of this excellence, and His people beholding and enjoying and being tranformed by this love is the beholding and enjoyment of His excellence, and that the sum of this entire operation is His glory, such that it isn't right to say that God loves for the sake of His glory, since His glory consists of, or is (in part) His love?

    Or, put another way, that God's pursuit of His glory through creation is not at odds with the good of His people, because the greatest good of the creature is found through God's "self-magnification" to them, since the good of His people consists in the perception and enjoyment and fulfillment in the manifestation of God's excellencies?


    Thanks in advance!

  2. I don’t think God does anything for himself—inasmuch as God has no needs. Certainly God has need the world he. So he didn’t make it for his own sake—in that sense.

    I’m attempting to correct the muddled notion that in a truly theocentric system, God ultimately does nothing for others, but only for himself. To the contrary, he saves the elect for the sake of the elect.

    I also don’t think that most people are terribly clear on what it means for God to do all things for his own glory. It’s a question of how we define our terms.

    God does everything for a purpose. And his purpose is the purpose that lies behind every human, angelic, or demonic purpose.

    God also gets all the credit for all the good things that happen.

    The greatest good of the creature consists in its experience of God as the greatest good.

    Egotism has certain connotations that are unsuitable in application to God.