Sunday, September 25, 2011

Theodicy and aseity

I’m going to comment on a recent post by Ben Henshaw:

I’m not unsympathetic to the central thrust of his post. But I take issue with what he said in a footnote:

It has become increasingly popular for Calvinists to claim that God can only be ultimately glorified and His attributes fully displayed by reprobating the greater part of humanity in order to help the elect fully appreciate and understand God’s mercy and grace towards them.  In such a scheme the eternal torment of the reprobate is to a large degree for the sake of the elect that they might somehow see God in a greater light and love Him more.  This concept was popularized by Calvinists like Jonathan Edwards and has been reintroduced with great support by contemporary Calvinists like John Piper.  Such a scheme also seems to make sin and reprobation necessary for Gods’ attributes to be fully displayed, threatening His holiness and quite possibly His aseity as well.

This objection raises a number of issues:

i) Unless Henshaw is a Cartesian possibilist, he presumably doesn’t think God can perform logical impossibilities.

ii) Apropos (ii), take the proposition that every red object is a colored object. I assume Ben doesn’t think that truth challenges God’s omnipotence or aseity.

iii) Bracketing God for the moment, and considering certain principles in general, let’s consider second-order consequences and teleological relations.

If Adam fathers Abel by Eve, then Abel is a second-order consequence of impregnating Eve. Adam can’t father Abel apart from Eve. In principle, Adam can father other sons by other women, but he can’t father Abel by another woman.

iv) Let’s take some biblical examples:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16).

That’s a teleological relationship. If saving believers is the goal, then giving his Son is the means.


Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb 9:22).

Now God can sometimes work apart from means, but here’s a situation in which the result is unobtainable apart from the means.

Of course, there can sometimes be more than one way of attaining the same goal. However, to use different means is still to use some means or another to realize a given end. And in this case, it would be necessary to use the same type of means.

Does that challenge God’s aseity?

Let’s take a different example:

1As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" 3Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (Jn 9:1-3).
This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it (Jn 11:4).
And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven (Rev 11:13).

Here’s a second-order consequence. The miracle of healing is contingent on the prior state of blindness. Likewise, restoring Lazarus to life is contingent on his death. Likewise, the repentance of the survivors is contingent on the prior judgment.

And in all three cases, the glorification of God is a second-order consequence of these prior conditions.

In principle, there are other first-order conditions which would yield the same general result (i.e. manifesting God’s glory). However, you’d still have an internal relation between the first-order condition and the second-order consequence.

And notice, too, that in all three instances, God is using natural evils to achieve his goal. Same thing with the ten plagues of Egypt. 

Does that challenge God’s aseity? 

1 comment:

  1. I dunno.

    When I read stuff like this I can only conclude the writer doesn't grasp the exceeding sinfulness of sin in light of the infinite holiness of the Triune One true and living God.

    His grace truly is amazing.

    In Christ,