Saturday, June 13, 2009

Does God love the reprobate?-2

Continuing my debate with Jason Pratt:

Jason originally said: “They never have a real choice to do good, yet they are commanded to do good by the One who chooses to prevent them from ever having a choice to do good.”

This is the sort of objection that Arminians typically raise against Calvinism. God commanded us to do X even though he never gave us a real choice in the matter. So goes the argument.

In response, I said, “Keep in mind that Jason is a universalist. So it’s not as if he thinks that God gives us all a choice to do either x or y, and respects our choice. It’s difficult to construct a purely libertarian version of universalism.”

This is how Jason begins his reply: “Leaving aside any difficulties inherent in claiming that a perfectly righteous entity can ‘respect’ a choice to do unrighteousness; I don’t think God gives us a choice to exist without Him (because I would be denying my affirmation of supernaturalistic theism if I thought that), and I don’t think God gives us a choice to cease existing…”

Of course, that’s irrelevant to my point. He makes it sound as if I was defending libertarian freedom. Obviously not. My point is that he’s in no position to raise libertarian objections to Calvinism.

Indeed, his irrelevant reply merely confirms my point: Jason is not a libertarian. Therefore, it won’t do for him to fault Calvinism because, according to him, we never had a real choice.

“I do think, and have always said, that God gives us the ability to keep rebelling against Him for as indeterminately long as we choose to do so…And, along that line, I do not think God gives us a choice to avoid God always seeking to lead us to repentance and reconciliation.”

Let’s stop and consider this for a moment. On the one hand, Jason thinks it’s incoherent that some Calvinists believe God desires the salvation of those whom he decreed to damn. He also thinks it’s incoherent to suppose that God commands one thing while he decrees another.

On the other, Jason thinks that God is always seeking to reconcile us to himself while, at the same time, God gives us the ability to resist his overtures for an indefinite period of time. How is that not as incoherent as anything he imputes to Calvinism? Isn’t Jason’s God working at cross-purposes? Jason’s God gives human beings the ability to counteract God’s redemptive overtures. God tries to draw them to himself while, at the same time, giving them the ability to push him away.

Even if, for the sake of argument, you accept his characterization of Calvinism, how does his own position escape the same criticisms?

“I still would at least not be trying to get around or out of affirming God’s own active responsibility in regard to sinners.”

This begs the question of God’s responsibilities in regard to sinners. If God consigns Josef Mengele to spend eternity in hell, then God has acted responsibly in that case.

“And I still would not be affirming, on the other hand, what amounts to two ultimately opposed wills of God in regard to at least some sinners. I would not, for example, be claiming that God commands all sinners to repent and be faithful while also choosing to withhold the only possible way for some sinners to obey that command.”

I already dealt with that objection. Since Jason is choosing to be obtuse, let’s spell this out in more detail:

i) Divine commands to believe the Gospel are a subset of divine commands generally, viz. don’t commit idolatry, don’t commit adultery, don’t commit perjury, don’t murder, don’t steal, &c.

ii) God’s commands are routinely violated.

iii) Therefore, when God issues a command, there’s no presumption that God issues a command with the intent that human beings will obey it.

iv) Therefore, since the command to believe the Gospel is a special case of divine commands in general, there’s no presumption that when God commands men to believe the Gospel, he issues that command with the intention that all men will obey it.

I’d add that if this is a problem for Calvinism, then it’s a problem for every rival position, for we could raise a parallel objection to every rival position. To take a few examples:

i) Arminianism. God issues various commands in full knowledge that his commands will often be disobeyed. Therefore, God cannot intend that men always obey his commands.

ii) Open theism. God issues various commands without knowing in advance to what extent, if any, his commands will be obeyed. Therefore, God cannot intend that men always obey his commands, since he’s in no position to expect that outcome.

iii) Universalism. God issues many commands (e.g. against idolatry, adultery, perjury, murder, theft) which will be disobeyed. If, therefore, there’s no general presumption that when God issues a command, he intends it to be obeyed, then there’s no specific presumption that he intends that outcome in the case of commands to believe the Gospel.

“Nor, on the other hand, would I be claiming that God responsibly chooses salvation in regard to some sinners but has no choice at all one way or another in regard to the non-salvation of other sinners.”

Of course, that’s irrelevant to my own position. As a Calvinist, I don’t take the position that God has no choice in the matter.

“…while I was also professing a doctrine of God irresistibly coercing such behavior…”

Of course, Calvinism rejects divine “coercion.”

“I do think God gives us all a choice to do either x or y and respects our choice.”

To the contrary, as a universalist, Jason doesn’t think that God takes “no” for an answer. The only choice that God accepts is “yes” to the Gospel.

I said: “Inability is not the same thing as prevention. For example, the state tells you not to drive drunk. And if it catches you, you will be arrested and charged with a crime. Does this mean the state prevented you from driving sober because the state failed to enable you to drive sober? Does Jason equate the failure to enable someone to do x with preventing someone to do x?”

Here is how Jason replies:

“So, God does not choose not to give them the power to follow these commands?”

This is typical of Jason’s evasive behavior. He changes the subject. Was the question at issue what God chooses to do? No.

Jason was the one who originally cast the issue in terms of divine prevention. The fact that God chooses to not empower some sinners to obey his commands is hardly equivalent to “prevention.”

“Prevention” carries the opposite connotation. As I pointed out in my original reply to Jason, “To say God ‘prevents’ them assumes that, left to their own devices, absent divine contravention, they would do other than what God prevented them from doing. Why does Jason think their default setting is to do good, and if they don’t do good, that’s because they were debarred from doing what they would choose to do if only they had been allowed to act on their own initiative?”

As usual, Jason is dodging the issue–even though I was answering him on his own terms. He chose to frame the issue in terms of divine prevention.

“The logical corollary is that God chooses not to grant this power to the non-elect.”

Completely irrelevant to the issue of divine “prevention.”

“Possibly you are not trying to deny that God chooses not to bestow His grace on the non-elect, and that you actually do affirm instead that God chooses not to bestow His grace on the non-elect. But then, you can no longer apply to the principle that ‘inability is not the same thing as prevention’.”

I can for the reason I gave. One of the problems with Jason’s methodology is that he attacks a statement I make without regard to the supporting argument I then offer in support of my opening statement.

“If God chooses not to ever empower a sinner to follow His commands, then He is actively preventing (by His non-gracious choice, so to speak) the sinner from ever having any real possibility of following the commands…”

i) Notice Jason’s Orwellian redefinition of terms. To not empower someone to do X is hardly synonymous with preventing someone from doing X.

Prevention assumes that an agent already has the power to do X, so you must then intervene to hinder that action.

ii) Moreover, suppose we play along with Jason’s Orwellian usage for the sake of argument. Suppose we treat lack of empowerment as synonymous with prevention.

In that case, according to Jason’s own usage, God prevents many human beings from obeying his prohibitions against idolatry, adultery, perjury, theft, murder, &c.

So Jason’s Orwellian usage is self-incriminating with respect to his own position.

“No; I equate failure with failure. I don’t think you are claiming that God attempts but eventually and finally fails to enable some sinners to follow His commands.”

Irrelevant! The question at issue is the meaning of the concept of prevention.

“I also doubt that you are claiming that God (like the state) is a non-omniscient, non-omnipresent, non-omnipotent (and non-omnibenevolent?) entity which can only be expected, of course, to let some sinners slip His mind so that He has no intentions about them one way or another (until, opps, they show up before His judgment seat having driven drunk.”

The fact that the state lacks omniscience and omnipotence is irrelevant to the definition of “prevention.”

“At which point He intends to punish them for something they didn’t and couldn’t have the power to even possibly do otherwise--but which is none of His concern even though He could have given them that power.”

Notice that Jason is now reverting to a libertarian objection to Calvinism. Three problems:

i) Jason is not a libertarian.

ii) Even if he were, he’d need to address the counterarguments of compatibilism.

iii) The lack of ability to do otherwise is only morally germane if God is stopping the agent from doing something other than what the agent would do if left to his own devices. Jason needs to show that the reprobate would believe the Gospel if God didn’t make them disbelieve the Gospel.

I’m still waiting for Jason to explain why the reprobate have a default volition to believe the Gospel which God must override to prevent them from believing the Gospel. Unless God is making them do something contrary to what they would otherwise do, if left to their own initiative, then Jason’s objection has no traction.

“When I simplify the concept of ‘God responsibly chooses not to empower sinners to obey His commands’ to the phrasing “God ‘prevents’ them from doing so”, I am not assuming that absent divine contravention some sinners would do righteousness.”

Jason didn’t “simplify” the concept. Rather, he swapped out one concept and swapped in another, then acting as if we were still talking about the same thing.

“The sinner cannot get that power from anywhere else (I agree with that concept). Inherited sinners did not choose to be in this state, and absent the power of God (actively withheld by God) could never even truly desire (much less choose) otherwise than to exist in this state.”

i) Needless to say, that’s a stock objection to original sin. Frankly, in debating with someone who professes to be a fellow Christian, the onus is not on my to philosophically justify Biblical doctrines.

Of course, debating a universalist is often indistinguishable from debating a militant atheist like Hitchens or Dawkins or Ingersoll. It’s the same infidel arguments, with a thin veneer of pious verbiage. Kind of like the Old Serpent shedding his snakeskin for an angel-of-light costume (comes with contact lenses to conceal the reptilian pupils).

ii) However, if you demand a philosophical justification, here’s one way I’d go about it. A sinner is a concrete instance of a possible person. God has a concept of a sinner. In this case, an agent who is a sinner in relation to Adam, to Adam’s sin. God instantiates his concept. Let say it’s the concept of Judas.

However, there’s more than one thing a possible agent could do. There’s a possible world in which Judas betrays Jesus, and there’s a possible world in which Judas is faithful to Jesus.

God instantiates the possibility in which Judas betrays Jesus. But there’s another possibility which God did not instantiate.

When God instantiates one possibility to the exclusion of another, it’s not as if God is preventing the agent from doing what he would otherwise do, for there’s no one thing in particular which a possible agent would do. A possible Judas has no default setting. Rather, a possible Judas can do whatever it’s logically possible for him to do. Whatever it’s possible for God to conceive of his doing.

The real Judas merely exemplifies one of those abstract possibilities. God hasn’t made Judas do something at variance with what Judas would have done on his own.

ii) Moreover, let’s consider Pratt’s alternative. According to Pratt, God allows the fall. As a result of the fall, many human beings suffer horrendous evils in this life.

Furthermore, a certain percentage of human beings also experience remedial punishment or purgatorial suffering in “hell.” After some indeterminate period of time, they eventually say “uncle.”

But God could have spared human beings all that pain and suffering by preventing the fall. If God was a universalist, the easiest, most direct, pain-free, way to pull that off is to create a world in which the fall never occurred in the first place. In an unfallen world, no one suffers. No one rebels. No one is damned-even temporarily (as Pratt would have it).

“Just to clarify, I deny (B) (and so (D)). Would you mind clarifying whether you deny or affirm B? (Or whether Paul Helm denies or affirms B?--assuming this is not sufficiently obvious from his article, which perhaps it might not be, but which you may know from other articles he affirms or denies more clearly.)”

I side with Helm over against Murray on this issue. I deny that God desires the salvation of the reprobate.

However, I’ll say something in defense of Murray and other like-minded Calvinists. There’s nothing inherently improper about a Christian who espouses an admittedly paradoxical position if he thinks the Bible itself is paradoxical in what it teaches on the subject.

“The first obvious counterrebuttal to your rebuttal attempt is to remember the temporality of temporary results and not to categorically confuse those with an ultimately final and immutable decision by God.”

That distinction does nothing to salvage Jason’s position. Take the prohibition against murder.

A murder is a temporal event. The murderer broke God’s law.

Even if, according to Jason, the murderer eventually repents in hell, this doesn’t change the fact that God’s law was violated. So did the Lord mistakenly intend his law to be obeyed even though it was disobeyed?

And a murderer cannot retroactively obey the prohibition. The murderer cannot go back in time to prevent the murder from occurring. He can’t go back in time and erase that particular timeline. That’s over and done with.

“I wouldn’t mind in the least if you went with that defense for the ‘non-elect’; but then you will have to clarify that you are denying God withholds from the non-elect any power (and thus at least any effective ability at all) to choose one thing or another (and so to be a real child etc.)”

As usual, Jason is trying to change the subject. This is his modus operandi. He will frame an issue in a particular way. When you answer him on his own terms, he then engages in a campaign of misdirection.

Remember his original objection to Calvinism? Calvinism is contradictory because God commands one thing, but decrees another. Jason had specific reference to the command to believe the Gospel.

In response, I pointed out that this command is just one of many divine commands–commands which sinners routinely disobey.

Therefore, God must have some ulterior purpose in giving his commands–a purpose consistent with issuing commands so frequently violated.

In response, Jason wants to shift the issue to a debate over God’s refusal to empower the sinner. But that’s irrelevant to Jason’s specific argument. It’s just a diversionary tactic. And, what’s worse–he’s deflecting attention away from his own argument!

What does God intend when he issues a command? Does he intend his command to be kept? Is that it? Or is it possible for a divine command to serve more than one purpose?

In fact, we have Biblical examples in which God issues a command to repent with the ulterior purpose of hardening the listener. Of rendering the audience impenitent, or even more impenitent. Cf. Isa 6:9-10 (par. Mk 4:12; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:26-27).

We have a similar instance in Ezk 2-3, as well as Exod 4:21 & 7:2-3.

“Relatedly, there is a great difference between intending that commands will be violated, and intentionally setting up a situation where commands might (depending on someone else’s intentions) be violated. I cannot see that anyone in their right minds would consider an employer or a military officer, in setting up and allowing such a situation, to be thereby intending that their commands be violated. Obviously they intend to leave that choice up to the other person.”

i) Jason earlier faulted by analogy with the state on the grounds that the state lacks divine omniscience and omnipotence.

Now, however, he feels free to use an illustration based on finite agents or agents.

ii) Incidentally, there are situations in which an agent will issue a command with the express intention that the command be violated.

For example, a general may suspect that someone in his unit is leaking classified information to the enemy. The general takes action to smoke out the mole. At his next classified briefing, he includes some disinformation. The disinformation is a trap. If the mole acts on the disinformation, this will expose him. The general concludes his briefing with the pro forma warning about how that the details of the briefing are classified.

Yet the general intends his command to be violated. It’s a set-up to catch the spy.

“God’s overknowledge of the result at any given time, does not abrogate this principle…”

Of course it abrogates the principle. Pratt has to throw in this disclaimer in a last-ditch attempt to salvage his original argument. But it’s unavailing.

“If God has not granted the person this power, then we are no longer talking about God setting up a situation where His commands might be violated, but of setting up a situation where His commands will be violated.”

i) That theoretical distinction is irrelevant to any theist who upholds divine omniscience. God knows that in issuing this or that command, it will be violated. Indeed, he knows exactly when, where, and by how many.

Therefore, his command does not imply divine intent to keep the command in each and every instance.

ii) And, as I said before, this is just as much of a problem for open theism (see above).

iii) Even if the inability of the sinner to comply with the command is an additional objection to Calvinism (and I’ve already dealt with the additional objection), that does nothing to salvage the underlying issue: is Calvinism contradictory if God decrees one thing, but commands another?

Since, on just about any version of Christian theism you please, God does not intend his commands to be kept by everyone every time, Jason cannot single out Calvinism as a unique offender in this regard. If he deploys this objection against Calvinism, it will boomerang on his own position.

“The person does not have the freedom to do otherwise.”

How does Pratt deal with Frankfurt examples?

“But which ‘hardening’ can make no sense as a comparative state in the person’s history if God had never given the person power to do good or evil. God might rescind that power and ability, but it has to be granted first to be rescinded, just as life has to be granted first for God to take it away; and God still claims personal authoritative responsibility for so doing.”

Let’s play along with this framework for the sake of argument. A possible agent can do either good or evil. When God instantiates a possible agent, he instantiates one possible course of action to the exclusion of all the others. In so doing, he rescinds the ability he originally granted.

“Consequently, and even aside from the serious ethical complaints that will arise from the concept that now it is God Who is primarily or even solely personally responsible for iniquity being done and for the doer never to be healed and reconciled to those against whom he has sinned: if God also commands the non-elect to do that which God by God’s choice refuses to empower the person to do; then we have two utterly and finally antithetical wills of God in regard to the non-elect.”

There are two distinct issues here: (i) is Calvinism coherent? (ii) Is Jason’s universalism a coherent alternative?

I’ve dealt with Jason’s libertarian objection to Calvinism. And, of course, Jason is in no position to raise libertarian objections to Calvinism in the first place–for universalism is not libertarian.

I’ve also dealt with Jason’s objection regarding the alleged contradiction between God’s perceptive will and his decretive will.

Finally, I’ve pointed out that if that’s a contradiction for Calvinism, then that objection applies with equal force to his own position.

“The only other option is to deny that God really intends His commands to be followed (sooner or later by inheriting although currently rebellious children, if not immediately by who-or-whatever).”

Jason doesn’t believe that God’s commands will be followed “sooner or later.” At most, Jason believes that a tiny subset of God’s commands will be obeyed sooner or later; to wit: the command to believe the Gospel.

With respect to other commands, subsequent obedience does nothing to erase the prior history of disobedience.

At best, Jason has to take the position that God intends his commands to often be disobeyed in the past or the present, but obeyed sometime in the future. Disobeyed in the here and now, but obeyed at some point in the hereafter. But that’s a tacit admission that in many or most cases, God never intended his command to be obeyed.

“If this is held to be true in regard to all persons, then (to say the least) I foresee grave ethical consequences looming.”

I don’t take the position that God has a singular purpose for his commands. God’s commands always accomplish what he intends, but he doesn’t intend the same command to facilitate the same outcome in every case. His commands are instrumental to more than one outcome.

Therefore, Jason hasn’t shown my own position to be the least bit contradictory.

“Or does Steve deny that God desires to bring at least the elect to follow that prohibition, to repent of it, to accept and participate in God’s atonement of it, to do love and justice in cooperation with God toward the victims of the murderers, and to at last be the kind of persons who would not choose murder?”

Pratt is falling back on selective compliance with God’s commands. But, in that case, God selectively intends his laws to be obeyed–which is sufficient to scuttle Pratt’s argument.

“If you don’t deny this but affirm it instead, and if you see no problem in affirming that this (or even some significant fraction of that paragraph) counts as bringing this prohibition to fruition, then I don’t see why you would turn around and consider me to have a problem in affirming the same thing. The only relevant difference between us on the topic would be the scope: because, between the two of us, it is certainly you who are claiming that God obviously does not desire to bring His prohibition against murder (and, even more importantly, the positive traits of the Spirit against which the choice to murder countervails) to fruition for some people: namely the non-elect. They are, for whatever reason (be that God’s authoritative choice or for some other reason having nothing at all to do with God’s own choice on the matter one way or another), doomed always to be murderers, always to be loving and fondling their sinning.”

Once again, the Pratt is equivocating and prevaricating. The question at issue is not whether some people are doomed to always be murderers. In fact, that isn’t even very meaningful, that I can see. Since the damned are immortal, I doubt they can continue to murder each other–even if they were so inclined.

The point, rather, is that God intends his prohibition against murder to be violated in large number of cases.

“(At least with annihilation the murderers eventually stop violating God’s prohibition,”

Once again, the question at issue is not whether an individual can eventually stop breaking God’s law. Rather, the problem with Jason’s position lies in the fact that individuals can start violating God’s law. How can they do so in the first place if God issues his laws with the intention that human beings obey them?

Clearly, God doesn’t intend that his laws be upheld in each and every case. So, in those instances, God must have an ulterior purpose for the law.

In that event, there is no contradiction between God’s perceptive will and his decretive will. Even violations of his perceptive will subserve the realization of his decretive will. Since God doesn’t issue commands with the sole intent that his commands be obeyed, their disobedience is not at odds with the function which he assigned to his commands. In which case, there is no tension between his perceptive will and his decretive will. For God didn’t intend one thing by his preceptive will, but something contrary by his decretive will.

“Apparently, though, you mean this in the sense that you do in fact deny that the final salvation of sinners from sin results in the victorious fruition of (negatively speaking) the prohibition.”

i) I didn’t limit my example to the offer of the gospel. The command to repent and believe is just one command in a far larger class of commands–commands which are routinely flouted by sinners.

ii) Moreover, it’s not as if compliance with a prohibition is incremental. If you commit murder, then there’s no point at a later date where you prior action ceases to be an infraction of the law. It’s possible for God to forgive you, but he forgives you for something you did; to wit, violating the prohibition.

“Consequently, as I said, I will suppose you mean to deny that any success of God in saving sinners from sin is a victorious fruition of such prohibitions.”

If God saves a murderer, that doesn’t nothing to achieve compliance with the specific terms of the prohibition. The murderer broke God’s law against murder. Saving the murderer doesn’t bring the prohibition to “fruition.” Rather, God saves the murderer despite his infraction.

“I would have hoped you had more hope for at least the elect, than that, in terms of the fulfillment of and fruition of the justice and righteousness of God; but I’m glad I have that hope for the elect and for the fulfillment of God’s justice.”

Justice involves punishment. Either punishing the murderer or punishing the Redeemer.

That does nothing to prevent the prohibition from being violated in the first place. Therefore, God did not intend his prohibition to be obeyed in that instance–or many others. Pratt likes to play these bait-and-switch games.

“To make the point again: if you are trying to point to unjust actions in ‘the real world’ as being injustices for which there is no hope at all of them ever in any real way being rectified, so that the justice of God shall permanently remain unfulfilled thanks to those action; then I suppose that I would agree that this is a dilemma ‘hardly limited to Calvinism’ (although I actually doubt that this is a tenet of Calvinism at all). But it isn’t a dilemma for me, because I don’t consider God to be impotent at atoning for and rectifying those injustices, saving the sinners from sin and fulfilling justice in and with them so that they shall be righteous persons.”

To rectify a violation of the law is hardly interchangeable with intending that the law not be violated in the first place. That’s an ex post facto response which presupposes initial noncompliance.

Jason Pratt is a congenital liar who constantly deflects attention away from the real issue–even when he’s the one who chose to cast the issue in a particular fashion, and you’re merely responding to him on his own terms.

He indicated that Calvinism is contradictory because it results in God commanding one thing while he decrees another, in which case–according to Pratt–Calvinism imputes conflicting intentions to God (“two ultimately irreconcileable wills concerning the non-elect”).

If, however, never intended that his laws be upheld in each and every case, then Jason’s argument is predicated on a false premise.

“If you point to particular unjust historical actions permitted by God, I answer that there is hope of salvation and the eventual righteousness of sinners in God, thus rectification and atonement for those actions.”

That’s irrelevant to the fact that God gives various commands in full knowledge of the fact that sinners will routinely defy his commands. Therefore, God has more than one reason for issuing such commands. Reasons which allow for the frequent violation of such commands.

“If Calvinism is true, God chooses to ensure that those sinners shall never be saved and become righteous, healing the wounds of their injustice.”

In the case of the reprobate, God satisfies the demands of justice by eternal punishment.

“If you answer that this is true about all sin even of the elect…”

Since Scripture defines sin as lawlessness, then my counterargument holds true for all sins of all sinners. If a sinner violates a divine command, then God intended the sinner to violate his command.

“I am not entirely sure what you mean by that, so I don’t know whether I would agree or disagree.”

You’re inferring divine intent from human obligation. That’s a non sequitur. Try again. The fact that God obligates men to obey him doesn’t mean that he intended them to obey him. That’s a fallacious inference.

“There are actually two questions, though: what does God intend (‘want’/’desire’) sinners to do?”

God has different intentions for different sinners.

“And are all sinners (not to say all creatures) morally obligated to do what God intends for them to do?”

That’s a vague question. For one thing, God doesn’t declare his intentions in each and every case. Indeed, he often keeps his own counsel.

“So, does God command all sinners to repent and to be faithful?”

Basically yes, although I’m ignoring special cases (i.e. sinners in a coma).

“Does God intend for any sinner to absolutely not ever follow that command? As far as I can tell, Paul Helm (and you) answer no: God does not intend for the non-elect to follow that command. (Otherwise God would provide a way for the non-elect to follow that command.)”

Which command? To believe the Gospel? God does not intend the reprobate to obey that command.

On the other hand, God uses his laws to restrain the reprobate. He intends the reprobate to keep some of his laws some of the time.

“This does quite a bit of violence to the verb ‘command’ though! God intentionally commands an entity to do something that God has no intention of the entity ever even possibly being able to do??”

Now you’re equivocating:

i) A command states an obligation. It imposes an obligation on a subordinate. It says nothing about the specific intention of the superior.

ii) If God issues a command, then God intends to issue a command.

iii) If God issues a command, then God intends the command to accomplish whatever purpose he assigns to it.

iv) If God issues a command, this doesn’t mean that God intends the creature to keep it. He may or may not have that intention. You can’t infer his intention from the command itself. And we know for a fact that his commands are routinely violated. So that outcome says something about his intentions.

“It would make more sense to modify Paul Helm’s claim to ‘God commands some sinners (namely the elect) to repent and be faithful. He does not command the non-elect to do this’.”

i) In makes no particular sense to modify a command so that it only applies to those who obey the command. By this logic, prohibitions against rape should not apply to rapists, since rapists violate the prohibition.

ii) A command merely states an obligation, be it a prescription or proscription. The obligation isn’t contingent on the willingness of the subordinate to comply with the command.

“Obviously, this would quickly and easily answer the question of whether some sinners have a moral obligation to obey God’s commands: the non-elect sinners have no such moral obligation because they never were and never are and never will be commanded by God to do anything moral. They have no moral obligation to even desire to do that which God gives them no command (much less no power) to do.”

So by Jason’s logic, Ted Bundy has no obligation to refrain from kidnapping, raping, murdering coeds since Bundy has no inclination to refrain from such activities.

By Jason’s logic, the more evil you are, the more innocent you are. To be pure evil is to be completely innocent of wrongdoing since you have no desire to do right, and therefore no obligation to do right.

“It looks like the simplest thing would simply be to claim that God does not command the non-elect to be moral, much less even empowers them to be moral, thus also doesn’t expect them to be moral. You would have to dissent strongly from something Paul Helm is teaching, but I don’t see that that would necessarily be a problem.”

It looks like the simplest thing would simply be to claim that Jason Pratt might as well become another Jeffrey Dahmer since, on his sliding scale of values, you have no duty to do what you have no desire to do.

“This would throw a wrench into trying to claim any moral justification for God to punish the non-elect; but possibly this is not an element of your theology (and so not a problem, at least in itself.)”

Since I’ve often blogged on God’s moral justification to punish the reprobate, this is a defamatory comment on Jason’s part. But he invariably rises to my low expectations, so this comes as no surprise.

“Unfortunately, you stopped with the observation that it is fallacious to equate obligation with intent, with no clear explanation what this has to do with responding to me; so I’m having to make some educated guesses.”

To the contrary, he’s making ignorant, defamatory guesses which, however, have the fringe-benefit of exposing the moral nihilism implicit in universalism.

“This would be better as a reply if you were clarifying that God’s commands to all sinners are only His preceptive will and not His decretive will.”

By definition, commands are precepts.

“Or if you were clarifying that God’s commands to some sinners (like the elect) were His decretive will (being, you know, His decrees ) but the same commands to other sinners (like the non-elect) were only His preceptive will: i.e. not actual commands but more like instructions.”

Pratt doesn’t have the slightest inkling what he’s talking about. God’s decree is God’s plan for the world. A plan is not a command, or vice versa.

At most, a command may be instrumental in the realization of the plan, but how it functions in that capacity is a question of what function the planner assigns to it.

“The conceptual difference would be that God gives to all sinners (or maybe only to the non-elect) commands to the effect that “you should repent and be faithful”, not commands to the effect that “you shall repent and be faithful’.”

This is yet another example of Pratt’s intellectual incompetence. A command is not a prediction. Is the Decalogue a set of ten predictions? Do the prohibitions in the Decalogue predict that no one will do what’s forbidden in the Decalogue?

Likewise, when God forbad Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge, was that a prediction? What is Pratt using for a brain?

“(Considering that Calvinists insist that God shall surely bring about the repentence and faithfulness of the elect, though, I would have to suppose that the decretive command is reserved only for the elect; the non-elect only ever get the preceptive command.)”

A “perceptive command” is redundant while a “decretive command” is nonsensical.

“It would also still retain the problem that God is giving preceptive commands to entities whom He does not empower to obey the commands or maybe even to receive them.”

We have laws against child rape. Yet the law doesn’t empower the child rapist to suppress his urges. So what?

“A problem that exacerbates further because the introduction of the distinction between command types still carries over to the elect, who receive two commands: you should (preceptive) and you shall (decretive).”

This distinction is nonsense. Literal nonsense.

“Of course, the elect, unlike the non-elect (per Calvinism), have been given power by God to fulfill the preceptive commands.”

Well, that’s an overstatement. Calvinism doesn’t subscribe to perfectionism. We don’t think Christians can be sinless in this life.

“Because if moral obligation was functionally consequent on God’s preceptive command…How such a doctrine would not instantly undermine any moral theory (other than than an otherwise arbitrary ‘Might Makes Right’ Divine Command Theory perhaps), is fortunately not my problem.”

It’s not my problem either since I never argued, in response to Pratt or elsewhere, that a command, per se, is what creates a moral obligation. Rather, a command generally reveals a moral obligation.

“On the other hand, if by ‘The moral law has an instrumental function in furthering God's overarching purpose’ you mean to say (in defense against my complaint) that the moral law only has an instrumental function in furthering God’s overarching purpose (which frankly is the only way such a rebuttal might defend against my complaint), then you may be intending to profess an ultimately amoral DCT after all.”

Once again, this is typically inept on Jason’s part, and it doesn’t follow from anything I actually said. Rather, as I already said, God wills the means (including his revealed law) with a view to the end. He doesn’t will the means apart from the end. Therefore, it’s meaningless to ask if God approves of this or that event irrespective of its larger role in the grand scheme of things. God can disapprove of something in and of itself, while approving of its overall contribution to the cause. God’s motives in what he ordains are different from the motives of the sinner.

“I think anyone who claims that God chooses (especially with decretive will!) that some sinners shall never even possibly be able to be righteous, will have to allow that moral righteousness cannot be the key end in view, or even a key end, or even an end in view at all--not of God’s intentions for those sinners.”

The realization of righteousness doesn’t depend on creatures. If God damned every sinner, we would still have righteousness in the person of God, as the exemplar of righteousness.

“It may be replied that God’s self-righteousness is in view.”

That’s not the only thing in view. God justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies the elect.

“Most people don’t consider mere self-righteousness to be righteousness at all.”

What most folks consider to be true is hardly the touchstone of truth. The Bible doesn’t decide what is true or false by conducting public opinion polls.

“And even when those people haven’t figured out that the Greek (and Hebrew) behind the English term ‘righteousness’ means ‘fair-togetherness’, which one might reasonably suspect would be some kind of CLUE!!! )”

Meaning is determined by usage, not etymology. Pratt is such an ignoramus.

“But: let us suppose for sake of argument that God’s self-righteousness does not even have anything to do with committment to fulfilling fair-togetherness between persons (whether the Persons of God’s substantial Trinity or any persons dependent for their existence on the Trintarian God).”

Why would intra-Trinitarian righteousness be in need of fulfillment? Is the Trinity potentially righteous? Must the Trinity mature to gradually fulfill its righteous potential?

“Supposing all of this, for sake of argument: neither would the righteousness of the elect be any end in view for God, of course. It would only be a means to an end (that of God’s own self-righteousness perhaps…”

The justification of the elect reflects the righteousness of God. However, God is the not the beneficiary of this transaction. The elect are.

“Even granting all this: we still have the resulting claim of God choosing to lock some sinners permanently into UN-righteousness…”

True. There's a word for that: punishment. They receive their just deserts.

“Completely apart from their own choice.”

That disjunction is only pertinent on the tendentious assumption that the damned, if left to choose for themselves, would choose to be righteous rather than unrighteousness.

“But how does God, acting to lock others into un-righteousness (even the unrightousness of selfishness), act in consonance with his own righteousness.”

We’d expect a holy God to punish sinners. Moreover, sin can be its own best punishment.

“All He has done is ensure that there will always be rebels against His own grand selfishness.”

Notice how Jason suddenly introduces the pejorative notion of divine “selfishness” into the discussion without having laid any foundation for that invidious category.

“They may be compelled by God to admit He is the greatest of powers and that His own self-righteousness is supreme to their self-righteousness.”

Supreme to whose self-righteousness? The damned have no righteousness. Hence, there is no relation between God’s superlative righteousness and their comparative righteousness.

“But if that is what He wants for glorifying His own selfish righteousness, then why bother to lead (or leash or force) the elect into communion with His own infinitely selfish self-righteousness?”

Pratt is talking to himself. Spinning off on a wild tangent. This has nothing to do with anything I said.

While salvation reveals the glory of God, it does nothing to augment the glory of God. Salvation is for the sake of the elect, and not for the sake of God.

“Or if honest communion and praise of His glorious self-righteousness, not mere hypocritical hopeless lip-service, is what would properly magnify His immensely selfish ego (properly proper only to God, of course, in this scenario), then why not go ahead and bring all persons to truly seek the glory of His awesome selfishness?”

God doesn’t need any creature to magnify God.

“But, I forget, on this plan God’s decretive will may be entirely arbitrary, based entirely on whatever selfish whim He exhibits (not which He submits to, of course, not even graciously out of love for the object of His... um, of His... I was going to say ‘His concern’, but that probably isn’t the right word; anyway, no Passion for Him!... uh, except for the Passion of the cross, for some mysteriously inscrutable reason... unless we’re being Muslim--I had forgotten about that.)”

This is why it’s a waste of time to debate with Jason Pratt. He’s a smug, frivolous demagogue and smart-ass.

In this paragraph he makes absolutely no effort whatsoever to honestly describe the position of Calvinism. We’re simply treated to a malicious and mendacious caricature.

“But then, on that ground, I am going to be pretty oppositional to the idea that God, authoritatively choosing to bar and to permanently hopelessly confirm various sinners in their unrighteousness, is somehow acting righteously Himself.”

Needless to say, the hopelessness of hell is what makes it punitive. There’s no escape. That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

“Which brings me back to my first comment: while it isn’t unimportant to exhort your readers to ‘keep in mind’ that I’m a universalist (I do so myself on occasion! ), it’s rather more tactically and practically important to exhort your readers to ‘keep in mind’ that I am an orthodox trinitarian theist.”

Of course, that is Jason’s self-serving euphemism, like calling bin Laden a “freedom fighter.”

Same thing with the euphemism of “evangelical universalism” or “orthodox universalism.” Like calling North Korea the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

But if Jason wants me to remind the reader of his true identity, then I’m happy to be more specific.

Jason Pratt is a universalist because he thinks it would be positively Satanic for God to consign anyone to everlasting hell. So that’s what Jason’s universalism boils down to. If God condemns anyone to everlasting hell, then God is diabolical. God is indistinguishable from the devil himself. Jason has actually said that in the past.

What this tells you is that Jason Pratt has no more grasp of the Christian Gospel than Caiaphas, Pilate, or Judas. Like every other universalist, he’s a consigliere for evildoers.

It’s hardly surprising that Pratt is so sympathetic to the plight of the damned. Since he acts like a reprobate himself, in the way he literally demonizes the God of Scripture, we’d expect him to weep over the fate of his own kind, and shake his fist at God Almighty. It’s a dress rehearsal for things to come.


  1. The reprobate (unelect) is not just those stereotypical murderers or dictators like Pol Pot or Stalin. No, the unelect includes unborn babies, the lame, the blind, the impotent, the deformed, those who fornicate, unrepentant sodomites and divorcees, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews (Christ-killers), Moslems, Episcopalians, Catholics, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses.

    God hates them all, but I don't see why you should reject the notion of "Hell as torture chamber". Every Scripture reference refers to it as an "unquenchable fire", "eternal torment" or "eternal fire" where "the worm dyeth not". It doesn't sound like Club Med to me.

    So what if it's torture? It's just human trash for the fire, anyhow. Who gives a rat's behind?

  2. You forgot yourself in the list of reprobates. Oh wait. You did say "lame", "impotent", and "deformed." I stand corrected.

    Now go back and play in the sandbox where you belong.

  3. I have a few questions. First, does the Calvinist believe that Joseph Himmler or Charles Manson is created in the image of God?

    Second, don't we have to be empowered by God to perform genuinely righteous acts? If so, when we obey the command to "love our enemies" isn't it really God loving them through us? If our enemies are reprobate, then doesn't God love the reprobate?

    Third, if God doesn't love the lost, then am I attempting to do something God doesn't even do? Like water that doesn't naturally rise above its source, it doesn't make sense that I would care more about the lost than God does. Paul longed for the salvation of Israel (Romans 9:1-4). It would seem this kind of passion for the lost is godly (i.e., God-like), but actually it isn't, that is, if God doesn't love the reprobate. How could Paul have such love if it wasn't God-given?

  4. BOB SAID:

    “I have a few questions. First, does the Calvinist believe that Joseph Himmler or Charles Manson is created in the image of God?”

    True. Of course we’re talking about the image of God in fallen man. A fallen image of God.

    “Second, don't we have to be empowered by God to perform genuinely righteous acts?”

    We have to be empowered by God to do anything.

    “If so, when we obey the command to ‘love our enemies’ isn't it really God loving them through us?”

    If so, when Charles Manson murders someone, isn’t it really God murdering the victim through Charles Manson? After all, Manson couldn’t murder anyone unless God gave him the power to do so.

    If I father a child, is it really God fathering a child through me? After all, I couldn’t father a child unless God empowered me to do so.

    If I father a child out of wedlock, making me a fornicator, does that make God a fornicator, too?

    “If our enemies are reprobate, then doesn't God love the reprobate?”

    A fallacious inference. (See above.)

    “Third, if God doesn't love the lost…”

    Which of the lost? Elect or reprobate?

    “Then am I attempting to do something God doesn't even do?”

    Do you think God does whatever creatures do, and vice versa? If I eat a steak, does God eat a steak? If I smell a rose, does God smell a rose? If I taste ice cream, does God taste ice cream?

    “Like water that doesn't naturally rise above its source, it doesn't make sense that I would care more about the lost than God does.”

    Does God care about whatever we care about? If I care about my ’64 Mustang convertible, does God care about my ’64 Mustang convertible?

    And what about the fact that God damns people?

  5. You seem to be making a distinction between the lost "elect" and the lost "reprobate," a distinction that is clear to God, but not us. You infer that God loves the lost "elect." When I refer to the lost, I'm referring to people who haven't trusted in Jesus for salvation. People die and go to hell who haven't trusted in Jesus. The most loving thing we can do for someone is tell them the Gospel. We don't know whether they are going to believe or not, yet we are supposed to love them. Yet, God is the source of love, and we are powerless to show them real love unless he empowers us.

    You asked, "Do you think God does whatever creatures do, and vice versa? If I eat a steak, does God eat a steak? If I smell a rose, does God smell a rose? If I taste ice cream, does God taste ice cream?"

    No, I don't think God does whatever creatures do, or vise versa. But I don't think it is possible for humans to be more righteous than God.

    I said, "Like water that doesn't naturally rise above its source, it doesn't make sense that I would care more about the lost than God does.”

    You replied, "Does God care about whatever we care about? If I care about my ’64 Mustang convertible, does God care about my ’64 Mustang convertible?"

    Your response totally misses the point. Christians are supposed to care about what God cares about, not the other way around. If God cares about the lost, we should, too. If he doesn't then why should we?

    Additionally, I deny that God sins. If I sin, I am culpable—not God. I admit that there is mystery here, because God is ultimately the cause of everything, but I affirm that God does not sin even if I can't explain it. If I father a child out of wedlock, I answer for that. I can't blame God for "empowering me to do that." But when I do something righteous, I can't say to God, "Hey look at me! Look at what I did! Give me some credit." I can't say that because it was the Holy Spirit at work in me doing the good deed. He gets the honor for it, not me.


    “You seem to be making a distinction between the lost ‘elect’ and the lost ‘reprobate,’ a distinction that is clear to God, but not us.”

    Which is one reason you can’t validly infer God’s attitude towards the reprobate from his command to Christians, or human beings generally.

    “You infer that God loves the lost ‘elect’.”

    I don’t infer that. I take that from Scripture. Unless you mean I infer it from Scripture.

    “When I refer to the lost, I'm referring to people who haven't trusted in Jesus for salvation. People die and go to hell who haven't trusted in Jesus.”

    In Scripture, the “lost” can either refer to unbelievers here and now–some of whom may come to the faith before they die–or else refer to the damned.

    “The most loving thing we can do for someone is tell them the Gospel. We don't know whether they are going to believe or not, yet we are supposed to love them. Yet, God is the source of love, and we are powerless to show them real love unless he empowers us.”

    The command comes from God. We don’t have to love the lost to evangelize them. We only have to obey the command. We may or may not love the lost. It’s not, in the first place, question of feelings. And we don’t feel the same way about everyone.

    “But I don't think it is possible for humans to be more righteous than God.”

    Which is irrelevant to the question of whether God loves the reprobate and/or desires their salvation.

    “Your response totally misses the point. Christians are supposed to care about what God cares about, not the other way around. If God cares about the lost, we should, too. If he doesn't then why should we?”

    You’re equivocating over the identity of the lost–as well as begged the question of who God cares about.

    For example, God leaves many unbelievers to live and die without ever exposing them to the Gospel. Does he care about those he leaves in darkness?

    Unlike God, we can’t distinguish the sheep from the goats in this life, so we evangelize indiscriminately.

    “Additionally, I deny that God sins. If I sin, I am culpable—not God. I admit that there is mystery here, because God is ultimately the cause of everything, but I affirm that God does not sin even if I can't explain it.”

    Your argument was predicated, in part, on divine causality. On God as the source of this or that. Either you stick by your logic or you don’t.

    If you invoke “mystery” and say you can’t explain it, then you lose the logical force of your argument against my position. You can’t pick and choose when to be logical, and also deploy logic against my own position–as if logical objections apply to my position, but are suspended in application to yours.

  7. I'm still confused (perhaps obviously). I want to understand. If God doesn't love everybody, why should I?

    How can Anita B Day be allowed to call anyone "human trash" on this website and not be rebuked? Everyone is made in the image of God. Granted, humans are fallen, but it isn't like some cheap trinket broke and can be discarded. I think we should grieve that a masterpiece has been defaced.

    I think the fact that man is made in the image of God is the reason we can love other people and the reason God loves his creation, too.

  8. The militant-atheist-Satan guy {eye-roll} has posted his reply, such as it is, this morning here at EU.

    (Y'know. The same militant-atheist-Satan guy who defended Calvin and Steve here and here, respectively, as being quite possibly ahead of himself in the kingdom in God's eyes, if they are doing more with whatever they have than he is.)


  9. "If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over out bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” —Charles Haddon Spurgeon