Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jeremy Pierce on Reformed theodicy

[Responding to Victor Reppert]:

Jeremy Pierce said...

There are two key claims in the argument:

1. God's reasons are all reducible to acting for his glory.
2. Everyone deserves far worse than they get in this life.

I can think of one influential Calvinist who holds the first claim to be true, John Piper. I don't see how it's essential to Calvinism. In fact, plenty of Calvinists don't want to engage in that kind of reductionism of all of God's motivations to that one motive. They're happy to put God's love on part with God's pursuit of his own glory. (They won't make it more fundamental, or they'd be denying some clear statements in scripture.)

But I think you can run the argument without claim (1). Doesn't the argument fully work as long as everyone deserves worse than they get in this life? And isn't that something all (non-Pelagian) Christians should believe, given that we are all being given grace not to go to hell immediately and forever? There's nothing particularly Calvinist about that.

I'm not sure it's right to say this dissolves the problem of evil, either. What it does is provide an explanation for why God allows evil. Why isn't that just another theodicy? Or does any theodicy dissolve the problem of evil?

Gordon, you have to keep in mind what it is to give God glory. It's not that his glory increases or anything like that. God receiving the glory is just people recognizing that God is good.

If God is the most perfect being possible, and all goodness comes from God, then God receiving the glory is just recognition of goodness wherever it is and acknowledgment of God as the source. This includes recognizing that a human being is intrinsically good and seeking the person's good because of it.

So the kind of love you have in mind is not just compatible with the things Piper says. It's guaranteed by it. God's glory requires God to appreciate the intrinsic goodness in every part of his creation. Piper's premises require that.

So I don't think Piper's view eliminates love for created beings at all. I don't think his way of stating things is helpful communicatively, and I'm not sure I want to put God's glory at foundation with nothing else at that level of explanation, but I don't think Piper's view can fairly be accused of implying that God can only love himself.

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