Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ad Reppert

So far Victor hasn't caught on. Let me say it bluntly:

Victor said he had "strong intuitions" against a "liar God."

This is just like Victor saying he has "strong intuitions" against a "rebrobater God."

I gave him arguments meant to show that his intuitions against the latter were wrong, or based off a wrong understanding of Calvinism. But he didn't buy any of it. Nope, the intuitions trumped anything I said.

Okay, fine. Can't win 'em all. So I waited. As usual, Victor tossed out some argument that worked at cross-purposes with other things he has said. Victor does this quite regularly. He doesn't bother to see how something he says "over there" fits in with something he said "over here." At least not usually. And not ever when it comes to arguing against Calvinism. But that's fine. His blog is a sounding board. He's not trying to be rigorous.

I then pointed out that his poorly-thought-out reasons for denying his "strong" anti-deity-lying "intuitions" don't pass the Reppert test needed to deny a "strong intuition."

Now, Victor doesn't like this game. He wants to be able to just assert that he can "see" a good reason for a liar God even if he can't show one. Okay. Whatever. It's a free country. Not very conducive for honest debate, but I'm sure it works to allow maximum sleepage at night.

So, Victor doesn't want to touch my "I'm a better Reppert than Reppert when it comes to defending intuitions" argument with a ten-foot pole. He wants me to touch his primo argument against Calvinism, though. That's fine. I'm game. I'll touch his argument. Give it some noogies. Kick some dirt in its face. Basically, see how it stands after I give it a wedgie, a swirly, and steal its pocket protector. See if it comes back after some lessons with Miyagi and delivers a crane technique--which none can defend. Perhaps it will do so to the music, "You're the best, around, yeah!"

So let's take a peep at what Reppert has to say:

I'm not at all sure that an generally trustworthy God who lied only when it was to the benefit of everyone could not be trusted in general. Can we only trust people who live up the the Kantian standard on lies? Do you even believe in living up to the Kantian standard on lies?

I'm fairly sure. But all I need to do to undermine your Arminian proof texts is claim that God said those texts to "get more people to heaven," even though they were false. I thus used the exact same argument as you. If yours works, so does mine. How do you non-arbitrarily adjudicate?

I see that you didn't track back to the argument I actually presented previously. My own views on the issue have evolved somewhat, particularly when I make a distinction between points that might convince the "choir" of anti-Calvinists like myself as opposed to points that might cause a problem from the standpoint of Calvinists themselves. Most Calvinists do not say that God just doesn't love those who are not elect. Carson, for example, thinks that you can say "God loves you" to any person regardless of their election status or whether they are converted.

I expect a bibliography of "most Calvinists" otherwise this looks like demagoguing.

You're also being dishonest with Carson. You at least need to admit that Carson also says that there is "truth" in the claim that God "hates" the reprobate (22). And, you need to at least admit that Carson says that "God loves you unconditionally" is only true in "the fourth sense," i.e., the electing love sense (24). You would also need to admit that Carson says that God "loves everyone in exactly the same way" is only true when speaking of "providential love" (ibid).

The difficulty isn't that Calvinists say God loves the elect differently from the way he loves the reprobate. It is that God's treatment of the reprobate, on the Calvinist view, doesn't meet the criteria for the use of the word "love." The question is whether the Calvinist can assert the biblical claim that God loves every person and mean it. I say that to do so would be a travesty of language.

Victor, this is nothing but an assertion. C'mon, you have to know this.

When you have an argument for the above, let me know. If you think you have given one where you post your numero uno argument against Calvinism, you'd be mistaken; here, let me show you:

First of all, we must describe the biblical jigsaw puzzle. What there seems to be, in Scripture, is prima facie support for three claims.

1) God can, and does, sovereignly determine all human destiny. (The usual Calvinist proof-texts for this, Rom 9, Eph 1, John 6:44. etc. etc.

2) God loves all persons, wants them to be saved, and died for all of their sins. (John 3: 16, I Tim 2: 4,2 Cor 5: 15, 2 Pet 3: 9 etc. etc. )

3) God punishes some persons eternally in hell. (Mt 25: 41-46, Rev. 21: 8, 2 Thess 1: 9).

Two is hopelessly confused, being vague and ambiguous; refusing to draw important distinctions. Anyway, I DENY that the Bible teaches that Jesus atoned for the sins of all men whomever. You don’t just get to assert that he did so. Since this is in dispute, it is question begging to MERELY offer proof-texts without attendant argumentation, like exegesis.

So, your argument doesn't even get off the ground. But we'll continue:

Calvinists claim that they can put the jigsaw puzzle together in their own favor. They maintain the exegesis of the relevant passages leads to one and only one conclusion.

From here you move into your argument:

Now, in order for an appeal to special revelation, such as this one, to work, we have to insist on what I call the principle of semantic integrity. First, we must believe that Scripture is not only true, but interpretable and translatable. Otherwise, 4 simply wins by default. Remember too, that the Calvinist thinks that biblical case for Calvinism is sufficiently strong that even if we have strong intuitions that a God who did this would not be good, we ought to set those intuitions aside and accept what God has revealed in his Word.

Let's ignore the point that you've recently argued that Scripture might not be true, and so it seems you can't make this semantic argument, for the time being.

Let's also ignore that you have no strong intuitions against Calvinism that aren't strong intuitions against a straw man Calvinism.

But it is true that for those Christians who accept inerrancy that the Bible trumps intuitions. For example, we let it trump intuitions that a trinity is irrational. Or that killing an innocent man is immoral, no matter what. Or that it is okay to allow terrible evils to occur if you have the power to stop them. See, Reppert denies all these strong intuitions on the basis of the text--but, he'd rather you didn't know this about him as he gets all red-faced when you bring it up.


What this means is that in order for Scripture to have any real authority we have to insist on what I call the Principle of Semantic Integrity. Let's call it PSI for short. Words have to mean what they mean in the language into which the Bible was translated.

Of course this is just flat-out false.

If we say God loves people, the word "love" has to mean something recognizable as love in English.

Right. So, for some, this means God gets the "oogy-boogies" deep down in his tummy.

Otherwise, the translators need to go find another word.

Otherwise, people have to do the work of hermeneutics, grammatical-historical exegesis, etc.

If it says he desires all to be saved, then the use of "desires" has to be consistent with normal use of the terms.

Desire. v. "to wish or long for; crave; want." This must be what the Bible means, after all, I looked at "the English." So, this is how Reppert imagines his God. How utterly sad. Really, I mean it.

And, does Reppert reason this way when the Bible says things like "the Arm of the Lord?"

Not only that, since when did Victor become a six day creationist? Or does "day" "morning" and "evening" and "first" not mean what we mean by it, in English?

Does Reppert hold that God is in time? That he has a body? The he "repents" like we do? Is he now admitting his an open theist? Worse? Does Reppert think he can solve the great issues of philosophical theology by claiming that since the Bible uses certain words, and we Americans mean certain things by those words, therefore, God is "in time" or "changes" or "is ignorant?" I mean, what does it mean in English when I ask, "Where are you?" It means I don't know and I'm looking. So does Victor think God and Adam were engaged in a game of hide-n-seek? Really, I'm shocked Victor is arguing at this puerile level. Some would say that I shouldn't be.

Of course some deference must be paid to the difference between attributing something to God and attributing it to humans, but this deference can only go so far.

Which, as I've shown above, can be pretty dang far.

What is more, if the Calvinist helps himself to deviant meanings for the terms he finds inconvenient, the Arminian, the Universalist, or even the Jehovah's Witness can do the same thing. A postmodern nightmare looms.

Victor is projecting. He thinks the Calvinist would be as sloppy as he is and make these moves WITHOUT ARGUMENT. As if we would just ARBITRARILY hold a "deviant" (question begging epithets are no-nos unless you're a professional philosopher) meaning and then ARBITRARILY disallow others to do that. This kind of uncharitable treatment of one’s opponents is why it is very hard to give Reppert's arguments any respect. It's actually getting annoying. And old.

Does God love those whom he has not elected? People who are, basically, everlasting toast as a result, ultimately, of a choice by God?

Victor demagogues again. Let's also remember that Victor's God, at least last time I checked in, knows everything yet chose to create people who he knew would be in hell if he created them.

My inclination is to say that the only sensible response is to say no. God's love is only for the elect, and the lost are people God hates.

As long as we're going to refuse to do justice to the variegated nature of God's love as taught in the Bible, this is fine. Let's also remember that the Bible says God hates some people.

But Calvinist D. A. Carson says "Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them." Why, because, he finds attempt to exegete around passages indicated that God loves everyone to be unconvincing because there are "simply too many texts on the other side of the issue."

But as Calvinist D.A. Carson says, "Nevertheless, the cliché that God hates the sin but loves the sinner is false on the face of it and should be abandoned. Fourteen times on the first fifty psalms alone, we are told that God hates the sinner..." (69).

Uh-oh, Reppert's argument just got turned on its head. I just caught Reppert with his hand in the cookie jar. I now have my own "semantic argument." How can Reppert's fluffy, marshmallow God be said to "hate" anyone?

Jesus loves me and everyone else, the Bible tells me so.

Victor is now confusing children's hymns with the Bible. That's sad.

What he proposes is, I think, a mainstream Calvinist response, which is that although God loves everyone, his love for some is not an electing love. That kind of love is restricted to, you guessed it, the elect. But the question is whether someone God destines for perdition when he could have destined them otherwise can sensibly, in any recognizable sense, be considered to be loved by God. I think ordinary usage makes it clear that some conduct toward another person is inconsistent with the idea that God loves them.

Victor, do you actually think that passes for an *argument*? If a student of yours tried to pass this off would you accept it? Care to spell out what, precisely, is so objectionable here? We've done this before and you are unable to move past first base. You have some vague, un-thought-out "feelings" fluttering about in your mind, but whenever you try to put pen to paper your arguments go nowhere.

Take for example an abusive husband. Ann Coulter once said "Liberals love America like O. J. loved Nicole." At some point abuse becomes so severe that no sensible person can reasonably call it love anymore.

Of course, the problems here are obvious. This is sheer question begging epithets. Demagoguery. As if God is like O.J. and the sinner like Nicole. This is a utterly pathetic argument, Victor. That you try to pass this off as a good argument is horrible.

Now, the Calvinist might respond "Ah, but these people in hell are getting their just deserts. God loves them, but is giving them what they deserve." But does this make sense? A family member of a victim who wants nothing more than to see the murderer get his just deserts doesn't love the murderer. The murderer's family member may accept that the murderer ought to receive just deserts and may desire that, but cannot be said to love that murderer unless he desires that that murderer cease to perform those actions that result in the murderer's receiving further punishment.

Of course Victor, liberal that he is, can't seem to get the idea of trade-offs. Showing the love Victor wants to the perp. is to be unloving towards the victim.

Also, where's the argument that God "wants" sinners to sin. Spell it out. Precisely. Explain what you're trying to get at. Is it that since God determines that S sin God wants S to sin? How does that follow?

Anyway, I've pointed out several problems for you on this before. See, God determined that Jesus would be murdered--as even you must admit, for the Bible's pretty clear here--does that mean God "wanted" people to murder?

BTW, have you read the Bible? How does it fit with your view of God as "wuving?" If you were God, and a "wuver", would you do half the stuff you read about in the Bible? Would you send "lying spirits?" Would you "harden hearts?" Would you "cause people to believe the lie?" Would you "wipe out men with a flood?" Would you have an innocent man murdered? Oh, God had a "good reason," you say? So, you can do the most manifestly unloving actions--on your terms--so long as there is a good reason? So you grant we're off the hook? No? You say you must know this reason? Well I've already answered you on this point. I have also asked for you to tell me that good reason why 10,000 children were molested this year, rather than 9,999?

Steve Hays had something good to say here: "The God of Calvin is the good shepherd, who names and numbers his sheep, who saves the lost sheep and fends off the wolf. The God of Wesley is the hiring, who knows not the flock by name and number, who lets the sheep go astray and be eaten by the wolf. Which is more loving, I ask?"

Sorry, Victor, I find your argument wholly unconvincing as well as strikingly bad.


  1. Nice, Paul. Haven't talked to you in a while... hope all is well with you and your wife and children. Happy Easter... Christ is risen!

  2. Is it that since God determines that S sin God wants S to sin? How does that follow?

    Could you explain how that doesn't follow? In every instance of human action I can think of, we only determine X (in the sense of making certain that X comes to pass) if we desire X to come to pass (even if our desire for the actualization of X is only instrumental). I don't see how this relationship can be broken.

    Of course, human action and divine action could be disanalogous at this point. But then I don't see how you can do anything more than insist on the distinction of the two words. Can you give the relationship between them any conceptual meaningfulness?


  3. sic et non,

    If someone makes a claim that I do not find obvious, why do I have to do the explaining? Seems odd.

    Anyway, the problem, as I've pointed out numerous times, is that the statement I refer to is hopelessly vague and ambiguous.

    Thus, there may be some ways to understand that statements that, once properly analyzed, I might agree with. Other ways, not.

    Now, with Victor the problem is that he frequently tosses out ill-thought-out objections that stem from his "gut", i.e., the pre-philosophical, pre-argumentative intuitions. He also has been seen to, time and time again, offer objections based on a misunderstanding of Calvinism. He sends up a lot of balloons, without caring if one is consistent with the other, and hopes one of them ends up neing filled with more than air.

    Now, the claim, as stated by Victor, is obviously meant to *imply* that God is doing something naughty. However, I obviously don't think that when god ordains sin he is doing something naughty. So I want to see how Victor *argues* for this linkage.

    In my post, there was, I think, enough information to work with so that you could fgigure somethings out for yourself. For example, I hold that God ordained, predetermined, planned, etc., Jesus' murder. So, if by "want" or "desire" you can allow that God ordained murder, and so wanted murder, and also was not naughty, then that's fine.

    Or, to take it a step further, I don't see the distinction between God's knowing a murder would occur a head of time, have the ability to stop it, and then say this is different that the position of the Calvinist. Take your example and extend it: In every instance of human action I can think of, we would say that if S knew ahead of time about some heinous act, had the ability to stop it, but still allowed it without bothering to stop it, he is guilty of something--indeed, it looks like he wanted it to happen. If not, why allow it?

    Or to peer a bit further, almost all Arminians claim that no one would be able to commit an act if God were not upholding all the laws, particles, etc., necessary for a person to commit that act. If God din't want it to happen, why give the person the power to do it?

    Another way to express it: God chose to create a world with a total of n child molestations. That means he "wanted" a world with n rather than n-1 child molestations.

    See, as Paul Helm as contended, that God has a good plan for the whole, does not mean each part is good. So if "want" the evil to happen is meant to be read as some kind of evil desire to see evil happen for the sake of evil, i.e., you *want* evil to occur because you like evil, or desire its instantation as an end in itself, then we have a problem.

    Therefore, it depends on how all of this gets parsed out. I am of the opinion that there is no answer the Arminian can give that is not susceptibel to a "I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off of me and sticks to you," kind of a response.

    Hence, "how does it follow" that if God determs S to sin, God wants S to sin" - where 'wants' is meant to imply some kind of nastiness on God's part? Is it the hidden and supressed and controversial premise that determinism and compatibilism are not the case? So is it that reppert's argument assumed the falsity of Calvinism to show its falsity? But that's uninteresting. If it that if God ordained S to sin he naughtily-wants-it, yet if God "allows" S to sin when he could have stopped it (something naughty if you or I were to do it) he non-naughtily-wants-it?

    What, precisely, is it? How does it follow that God wants these things in a naughty way? If Reppert's contention is not that this wanting is naughty, then where's the problem?

  4. That was very helpful! I had not really considered that such objections can always be rephrased to apply to the Arminian position (I'm very new to Triablogue, so I've missed it if you've developed it earlier).

    Could you direct me to the Helms work you mention?


  5. sic et non,

    “So does it follow from such knowing and willing permission of evil that the universe is in every detail as God intends it to be? This is an interesting question, but it is unclear as it stands. There is no reason to think that God intends the details of the universe separately; there is one divine will, which encompasses all events. It would be fallacious to suppose that the divine attitude is the same with respect to every detail of what God wills…As Aquinas put it, “God, and nature, and indeed every causal agent, does what is best overall, but not what is best in every part, except when the part is regarded in its relationship to the whole.” We may suppose that when God knowingly and willingly permits certain events he does so in furtherance of some wider consideration wholly consistent with his character with respect to which they are a logically necessary condition. And likewise some of those things which he causes are means to some further end. It is a fallacy to think that because some arrangement is wise, every detail of that arrangement, considered in isolation, is wise.” (J. Beilby & P. Eddy, eds. Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views (IVP 2001), 182.)


  6. sorry, that was a quote from Helm. He has made the same point in other places, but the above si representative

  7. Holy cow, Paul. Can't you see the phrase "prima facie support?" All I was claiming there was that Scripture appears, on the face of things, to teach a universal intent to save in place, as well as a universal atonement. Whether this stands up to further exegetical analysis is precisely what's at issue.

    The central argument is that Calvinist exegetes appear to concur with me that the Bible teaches that God loves every person, including the reprobate. However, to say that God loves the reprobate makes no coherent sense.