Saturday, May 03, 2008

"I Don't Get God"

"You don't get God?" I'll alert the media.

I was going to respond to Victor Repper't comments in the meta of my last post to him, in the meta. But, it got too long and so I figured to make it into a post.

I see that Steve Hays also responded to Reppert.

VR: Paul, it's time to stop confusing a setting aside an objection in order to focus on other problems with an admission that the objection is bad.

PM: I don't think I am. But when you not only "set it aside", but then *grant* me the point, and I use it, then you can't minimize the argument by saying you just were granting the point. If you don't like that it answers your problems, don't grant the point. When you say there's no moral obligation for God to not pass over some sinner, then we're not even arguing in the same ballpark as the rest of your posts.

You had wrote: QUOTE: “I am simply arguing that whatever glory God wants or needs he can accomplish without inflicting eternal punishment on anyone. Therefore, even granting several Calvinistic assumptions, eternal damnation remains an apparently gratuitous evil.” UNQUOTE

But something you "granted" was that God was under no *moral* obligation to save anyone. So how is it a gratuitous evil? Your "grantings" ruined your argument. To say there is no greater good in reprobation runs into my greater good counter theodicy that is attended by skeptical theist arguments.

VR: So the damnation of the wicked is supposed to glorify God in the eyes of the blessed in heaven .

PM: God's not the beneficiary. God glorifies us. The objective is the effect it has on us as we glory in God's character (his various attributes).

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

PM: I don't know if you're using term appropriately. God's damning is his condemning sinners to hell for their sins. Actual people committed actual capital crimes, and God actually justly punishes them.

And, why treat God as the machines in the Matrix? Implanting false images without correspondence to reality.

God's damning of the reprobate shows final and settled judgment on sin. Reveals God's utter holiness. Shows his justice. Reveals his mercy.

Is the implanting of thoughts of people in hell all that better, Victor?

What are you talking about? Implanting the belief that God punishes sinners, without doing it?

Furthermore, God obviously thought this way the best way. God likes reality better than fiction. Truth is better (and sometimes stranger) than fiction.

If Jesus' death represents the wrath of God against sin, and God's wrath on sin at the end of redemptive history can be satisfied by implanting images in people mind, couldn't God have sent down an illusion in Jesus? People would then see and read about an illusion, but the net effect was that no one was actually injured.

So, spell this objection out.

VR: 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?

PM: If you're not a Universalist, then you can't use this objection, Victor. Quit playing the disinterested armchair philosopher. You don't get to jump to Universalism, and then Lewis' hell any time you please.

Furthermore, Revelation 21 and 22 tell us there is no downside. No sadness. No curse. So if I take *all* of what the Bible tells me, then I know your answer is false. I don't know how the details will all work out, though.

But since neither you or I have been there, it's beyond our ken.

Paul went there, though. And I believe Paul believed in hell. And Paul said heaven was so grand he couldn't even describe it. He didn't come back and mope because (say) Hymenaeus wasn't there.

And, there *is* a good reason for it. We've been over this, though.

VR: Well, OK, how does God's damning people benefit the blessed in heaven. Well, I suppose the response is that since these people deserve it, it's a praiseworthy act which the blessed can recognize as praiseworthy. OK, but the opposite act, saving these people, would also have been just and equally praiseworthy.

PM: I don’t know about "equally." Did you use "glorification calculus" to figure that out?

And, God has many attributes. His glory is a summary of all the attributes. He manifests his glory "cross attributianlly". You just nuked one of the attributes' manifestation.

Revealing your holiness, justice, wrath, and settled disposition to sin is not numerically identical with revealing your mercy and love in saving the elect so that if you did more on the one side and less on the other you have the same net total. But if you want to show your work, I'll take a look at the "glorification calculus."

VR: There are, I take it three stages to reprobation. First, God creates the person in sin. Then, God refuses the person the grace of salvation. Then God damns the person as just punishment for their sin.

PM: I totally disagree with your phrasing of (1). But perhaps you *mean* something different than how it appears. So, you can rephrase it. I take it that you mean by (2) "preterition" and by (3) you mean "condemnation." That's fine.

VR: Step 2, which is what differentiates the saved from the lost, is an inaction on God's part. But at the end of the day God has provided sufficient conditions for that person to sin their way into hell.

PM: Step 2 is *part* of what differentiates the saved from the lost.

I also disagree with your second sentence and have touched on this point in 4 or 5 of my responses to you. The decree is the *plan*. *It* doesn't cause anything.

Perhaps you'll want to clarify yourself, but at face value, I have your *caricature* of Calvinism and then the *Calvinist's* own words on the other:

"However, to knowingly and willingly permit an action is not to cause that action; it is to provide necessary but not sufficient causal condition for the action" (Helm , Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views, p.180, emphasis mine).

The Reformed have always made distinctions between primary and secondary causality; proximate and remote causes, etc.

VR: They act virtuously if God decrees that they act virtuously, they sin if God decrees that they sin (or fails to decree that they receive the grace to avoid sin), and they go to hell if God decrees that they go to hell. I don't see where these distinctions change the bottom line.

PM: All Reppert’s doing is trying to invoke the straw man "puppet" or "robot" picture in people's minds. He has no desire to seriously and charitably interact with Reformed philosophers and theologians.

VR: 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.


i) On your view, if you're not a Universalist or an open theist (which you said you're not), you have the same problem! God knew who would go to heaven and who would go to hell. He knew that some people would go to hell. Since those people didn't spontaneously pop into existence, they have family. Since many of them are friendly and live amongst the population, they have friends. So, they have friends and family. Some of their friends and family will go to heaven. God therefore knew that his bringing those people about would create "loss" for those friends and family of the lost, in heaven.

ii) I have told you, God did it for a good reason.

At this point, you're only counter is: "But what's the good reason?"

And it is at this point that your *objection* reduces to a *question.* An interesting question, but as far as the *objection* goes, if there *is* a good reason (and I have argued at length that I am justified in believing that there is), then there is no *objection.*

All you're left with is a question.

Okay, I posed a bunch to you:

Why did God allow children to be molested? That creates a "loss." Or, why did he not allow just *one* less than how ever many eventually will take place?

Why doesn't he turn bullets to soft, fluffy cotton when they are about to murder an innocent person? That wouldn't affect free will, and the intent would still be there, so sin and need of atonement would still exist.

Why didn't God just create the people he knew would believe in him? Why not create those he knew would chose eternal hell.

Why did God create Satan when he knew what would happen?

Victor, *questions* aren't defeaters to positions. And you have the same amount, well, more so, of unanswered questions as I do. Not only that, you have a God who, if he is not in control of sin, governing it and all events, is not in control of his creation. And how can you have any certainty that he will vanquish evil if he is not in control of it? The God of Calvinism sets the limits. Whatever happenes comes to pass because he so wills it. In regards to evil, he willingly permits it. Like with the waves of the ocean, he says "This far and no farther." It seems like you want to distance God's responsibility and control ofevil so much that you have some kind of ultimate dualism.

And, how do you have a trustworthy God? That's a relational attribute. It's not exemplified unless some claims are put on the line. That's revelation. And you believe in salvation through Jesus because you read the Bible. But, if the agents had libertarian freedom, how did God ensure the end result--a trustworthy, inerrant text? How could he control the agents to say what he wanted them to say? Besides that, how about the copiers? Your position ends you in worse skepticism than (you think) mine does.

This is especially so considering the *Christian* worldview which *entails* a secret council and plan of God that the creature has no access to.

Reformers have always placed eternal election and preterition inside the *secret* council of God.
So, our view *entails* that we're outside our ken on this one.

And at *this point* all the arguments of Alston, Bergman, Howard-Snyder, Rea, Wykstra, et al. follow nicely.

Reppert confuses his *question* with an *objection.* He thinks saying "Idongetit" when faced with this situation, is an *objection.*

But Bergmann,

[An] aspect of [this] inference should make us wary. ...[I]t takes 'the insights attainable by finite, fallible human beings as an adequate indication of what is available in the way of reasons to an omniscient, omnipotent being." But this is like supposing that when you're confronted with the activity or productions of a master in a field in which you have little expertise, it is reasonable for you to draw inferences about the quality of her work just because you 'don't get it.' You've taken a year of high school physics. You're faced with some theory about quantum phenomena, and you can't make heads or tales of it. Certainly it is unreasonable for you to assume that more likely than not you'd be able to make sense of it" (Bergman & Snyder, Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion, p. 18-19).
But, I go further. Their analogies were between *creatures* and not between creatures and a *sui generis* Creator who has infinite wisdom and has positively revealed to us that this very issue belongs to the secret council of God!

I also employ your own words: "All I want to say is that the possibilities that occur to us humans from our own limited perspective probably do not exhaust all of God's options."

And C.S. Lewis' words: "Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys' philosophies--these over simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simple either."

VR: It seems we should prefer positions that offer something in the direction of an explanation over positions that offer nothing.

PM: As we've seen, time and time again, you don't have answers. To say, "Because God wanted to give us freedumb" isn't an answer. It's not even as good as: "For the manifestation of his glory, and sundry other reasons which all add up to: for a greater good."

I also pointed out that you have mystery when it comes to two main essentials of your faith. The Trinity and the Incarnation. On your rationalist method, the Modalists and the Docetists offer something more preferable over your position! You just let all my counter-arguments--which really have been showing the arbitrariness of your own arguments--slip off the radar, hoping they'll be undetected. Your posts have served as excellent examples of how to employ self-excepting fallacies in a sophistic way.

And, it's a little less than uncharitable to say, "I've given *nothing*"; especially when you haven’t interacted in any serious way with any prominent Reformed thinker, let alone me.

VR: If you have one scientific theory that says "I have no idea why there are gaps in the fossil record" and someone else says "I have a way of telling you how they got there" the second theory has an advantage.

PM: Hmmm, the second theory means diddly if it is *false.* If the second theory was: "Because the invisible fossil monster arbitrarily eats certain links," then if you want to pound your chest and declare that you have a "theory" and the other guy doesn't, be my guest.

Also, I told you the theory. You want to know all the *details.*

I also don't treat all of this as some arm chair theorizing. As I Christian, I go to revelation. And this is perfectly acceptable.

You also are begging the question if this is an area outside our ken. And, none of your theorizing of what our position (if you can ever manage to represent it correctly) might entail can conclude that there is no good reason. This begs the question.

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