Sunday, September 18, 2016

God and football

Around the 60 min. mark, Jerry Walls labors to muster a biblical defense for his claim that God loves everyone. 

He then argues that God is essentially loving because God is a Trinity, and the members of the Trinity love each other.

Several problems:

i) Calvinists don't deny that love is an essential divine attribute. So why does Jerry imagine that's a fatal concession to Arminian theology? 

ii) By the same token, omnipotence is an essential divine attribute. That, however, doesn't mean God does everything he's capable of doing. 

iii) God isn't human. Therefore, to infer that if the persons of the Trinity love each other, it follows that God loves every human being is clearly fallacious. God's essential self-love doesn't entail God's love for something (or someone) other than God himself. 

Notice, I'm not saying God cannot or does not love anything or anyone other than himself. I'm simply pointing out that Jerry's inference is invalid. He's jumping categories from intra-Trinitarian love to love for creation. But even if God loves creation, that doesn't follow as a logical implication from God's intra-Trinitarian love, for God and creation are categorically distinct. 

To take a comparison, suppose you have an intelligent alien species. Suppose they necessarily love members of their own species. It doesn't follow from this that they will love members of every other species, or any species other than their own. They may love all and only members of their own species. They love their own kind. Intra-species love doesn't imply extra-species love. 

iv) He also has a bad habit of repeating bad arguments he's been corrected on. Take his objection that according to Calvinism, we can be more loving than God is. He just acts as though that's self-evidently false or reprehensible. But is it? Is Jerry stipulating a general proposition about God? What's wrong with saying we can love some things more than God does? If I love football, does that mean God must love football even more than I do? 

v) He says if Calvinists would forthrightly admit that God doesn't love everyone, Calvinism would be undermined and discredited fairly shortly. What's his evidence for that claim?

If you conducted an opinion poll asking whether God must love Charles Manson, would every respondent share Jerry's outlook? Would most respondents share Jerry's outlook? Would the mother of Sharon Tate share Jerry's outlook?

I'm not saying God can't love a psychopathic killer. I'm just remarking on Jerry's unquestioned intuition. He acts as though it's self-evident that if you deny that God loves everyone, most people would find that discreditable. But that's like opinion polls where the answer depends on the specificity of the question. If you ask people whether God loves everyone, maybe most people would say yes.

If, however, you get specific, if you plug in particular names, you may well get different answers. Lots of people might say God loves the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa. But if you were to ask whether God loves Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Josef Mengele et al., you might get a very different answer. 

Jerry's mental world exists in a bubble. He's used to talking to like-minded people. It's like the famous quote attributed to Pauline Kael: “I can’t believe Nixon won. I don’t know anyone who voted for him.”  


  1. "i) Calvinists don't deny that love is an essential divine attribute. So why does Jerry imagine that's a fatal concession to Arminian theology?"

    It is because Calvin doesn't quote 1 John 4:8 or 1 John 4:16 in the Institutes, which Walls describes in his new book as a "stunning omission" (page 5).

  2. What, don't the Commentaries count?

    Calvin on 1 John 4:8: "And he takes as granted a general principle or truth, that God is love, that is, that his nature is to love men."

    Calvin on 1 John 4:9:
    • "We have the love of God towards us testified also by many other proofs. For if it be asked, why the world has been created, why we have been placed in it to possess the dominion of the earth, why we are preserved in life to enjoy innumerable blessings, why we are endued with light and understanding, no other reason can be adduced, except the gratuitous love of God."
    • "Christ, then, is so illustrious and singular a proof of divine love towards us, that whenever we look upon him, he fully confirms to us the truth that God is love."