Thursday, August 13, 2009

Calvinism or Cartesian Demonism?

Steve: You just don't get it. You just don't get it. What I presented was an *argument* against the claim that the argument from appreciation explains why God reprobates some people. A reductio ad absurdum as it were. I elaborated the argument in a comment in response to Bnonn, but let we spell it out here.

1) If Calvinism is true, then God can, by his sovereign will, determine whether there will be reprobates or whether universalism is true. (I don't have to believe that this is sovereignly up to God, but you do).

2) God has selected that there be millions of reprobates.

3) You say Scripture teaches that this choice of a reprobate world is explained by the fact that in a reprobate world the blessed in heaven will appreciate the graciousness of their salvation to a greater extent than in a non-reprobate world.

My claim is that this would not be an explanation. The blessed in heaven have received God's gift of salvation through Christ. They are as open to God's teaching as they can be. God can produce in them all the appreciation he wants to of the graciousness of their salvation without damning anybody. God can show movies of fictitious persons in hell if he wants to, but even that doesn't seem necessary. God, after all, is supposed to be absolutely sovereign. So it stands to reason that God could use a little of that sovereignty to produce whatever appreciation the blessed he might need, even if universalism is true. It is absurd, therefore, to suppose that this "explanation" explains anything. We might, paradoxically, ask the Calvinist "What part of sovereign don't you understand?"

i) Showing us movies of fictitious characters in hell? Been there, done that. Ever seen a Hollywood movie with computer-animated characters in a computer-animated hell? I have. More than one.

The chief effect this has on me, the viewer, is to evaluate the quality of the CGI.

ii) There’s a name for Reppert’s alternative: the Cartesian demon. Yes, an omnipotent being can create delusive experiences.

But, according to the Bible, God forms our beliefs and attitudes through real world experience. In contact with icky matter. Sex and food and all that yucky stuff.

iii) One problem with Reppert’s Cartesian demonism is that once you let that being out of the bottle, it’s wreaks havoc, not merely on Calvinism, but on every alternative position short of solipsism. We could easy mount a Cartesian argument from evil.

For example, if God is benevolent, why would he stick us with real wives and real kids when we could have simulated wives and kids–just like the Doctor’s holographic family in VOY?

Consider all the problems with a real wife. A real wife has a mind of her own. That’s a source of friction. Life would be so much easier if I had a designer wife like Charlene in VOY. Made to order according to my specifications.

Another advantage of a simulated wife is that I can make her look just like that like poster of Rita Hayworth. And my simulated wife will never develop crow’s feet or cellulite.

Same thing with the kidos. No more teenage rebellion. Or temper tantrums. I’d have perfect kids, like Jeffrey and Belle in VOY. My kids would be multitalented, helpful around the house, and uniformly polite.

My perfect kids would also have perfect boyfriends and girlfriends.

Since an omnipotent God could make all this happen with a snap of his fingers, then this world is not the best of all possible worlds–in which case God does not exist. A God who is both benevolent and omnipotent would create the best possible world. And, as Reppert points out, the best possible world is either a virtual world or a world with implanted memories. But since the real world isn’t the best possible world, as Reppert defines it, God does not exist.


  1. No extraordinary Cartesian explanation is required here. You have people who have received the Redemption of Christ. They are hanging on every word Christ has to say. They don't need object lessons writhing in the flames. It's not as if Christ has to say "You have been saved by my grace. But, in case you doubt me, look over to your left and see what happened to all those people to whom I did not bestow that grace. Now do you appreciate being here? It just isn't necessary.

  2. Victor,

    That's not an argument. You're just stamping your feet.

  3. Victor,

    Would you mind answering a question or two: If in heaven Jesus just needs to say something and that is good enough, then what if in heaven Jesus told you that there is a hell and one good purpose ("one", since the Calvinist can, and should, appeal to a cumulative case for the purpose of hell and God's preparing vessels of wrath fitted for destruction) reason for it is to impress upon you the gravity of that from which we were saved by grace alone from?

    Given your argument that if the Bible taught this then that's an argument against inerrancy, would not this, for you to be consistent, be an argument against Jesus' (and by implication, God's) inerrancy? Would you stand up and call Jesus a liar to his face?

    Your methodology here also seems arbitrary. It is the claim of the Calvinists that the Bible tells us that one good hell serves is to impress upon the saved just what they were saved from (and your anti-empirical Gnosticism is somewhat interesting). As a Christian, you should already hang on Christ's words. So why doesn't his say-so work for you like you say it should work for the Calvinist? Of course you will say that you don't think the Bible teaches that. That's fine, but then you admit you should debate the text rather than dismissing the argument by a wave of the hand, as well as a beg of the question. Don't you?