Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Does God hate the reprobate?

Jerry Walls says Calvinists think the divine hatred passages are clearer and Calvinists have to explain away the divine love passages he brings up. 

i) As I recall, there's only one divine "hatred" passage that's a major prooftext for reprobation, and that's Mal 1:2-3 filtered through Rom 9:13. 

ii) Although there are some direct prooftexts for reprobation or double predestination, there's also indirect evidence based on the relationship between doctrine. As Vos puts it,

"It is true that the Bible also teaches the principle of preterition, by way of implication, as a corollary of certain other fundamental doctrines. No more is necessary than to combine the two single truths, that all saving grace, inclusive of faith, is the supernatural gift of God, and that not all men are made recipients of this gift, to perceive immediately that the ultimate reason why some are saved and others passed by can lie in God alone. In so far every confession which adheres to these two primary facts—and no Calvinistic confession could for a moment hesitate to do so—is also bound to imply the doctrine of preterition."

Vos gives some additional general evidence in the same article:

iii) And here's another fine article by Vos that's directly on point:

iv) Then there's the question of how to construe emotive ascriptions for God. In general, I take these to be anthropopathisms. I think divine "hatred" for sin/sinners means divine disapprobation for sin/sinners. 

v) I don't think it's reasonable that God would literally get angry. Even apart from Calvinism, if God is omniscient and omnipotent, how can he get angry about events he sees coming a mile away, which he can prevent?

Or, even if he's not omniscient (open theism), he knows that he's setting in motion a chain reaction that may have disastrous consequences. It would be self-incriminating for God to be angry about a situation he had a hand in causing. 

And in Calvinism, why would God be angry about something he predestined. It's like a novelist getting angry at one of his characters. If he doesn't like the character, don't include it in the novel!

vi) I view love/hate passages as rhetorical antithetical parallelism. And I think in that context, "love" is a legal synonym for choosing while "hate" is a legal synonym for rejecting (or an antonym for choosing). 

vii) I don't think these reflect divine emotion. I think it's more about divine policies. 

viii) Now, it maybe that from a freewill theist standpoint, they think reprobation is tantamount to divine hatred. If God doesn't elect someone, that's a hateful way for God to treat a human being. That, however, wouldn't be interpreting Reformed theology on its own terms, but imputing connotations to Reformed usage from a frame of reference extrinsic to Calvinism and hostile to Calvinism. So that's very confused on their part.

ix) I don't think God has to hate someone to reprobate them. 

x) Love is frequently defined as acting in the best interests of another. But that's a very problematic definition for freewill theism. In freewill theism, God doesn't act in the best interests of individuals. Rather, he acts for the common good, which is often at the expense of individuals. 

In freewill theism, God doesn't intervene to protect individuals from harm, because, according to freewill theism, too much divine meddling would be detrimental to the common good. But even if we grant that contention for argument's sake, it means that unfortunate individuals get the short end of the stick. 

Jerry tries to offset that with his theory of postmortem damage control. But that shows strains in freewill theism. 

xi) Let's take the science fiction trope of ETs from a dying planet. They discover that earth has the natural resources they need to survive. 

Suppose, because they're inhuman, they have no natural rapport with humans. Emotionally speaking, they have no more empathy for human suffering than a lion has for a gazelle. 

It isn't evil. They aren't malevolent. They don't wish us ill. But they don't care about humans at an emotional level. They don't desire "union". They don't seek reciprocity. 

However, let's say the aliens are very ethical. Even though it would be simpler for them to conquer us, colonize the planet, and exterminate humans, they believe that would be morally wrong. 

Despite their overwhelming technological superiority, which gives them total leverage, they work out a compromise with humans. They will share the planet with us. And they will use their technology to improve human quality of life. 

What they lack in emotional compassion they make up for in intellectual or ethical compassion. 

That may not be definable as love, but it's an analogy worth exploring (perhaps). 

Another comparison would be angelic love. Are angels capable of loving humans, in the emotional sense, desire for union, reciprocity? If not, they might still be like the ETs. 

xii) Regarding love, freewill theists use human analogies. For instance, they're fond of the parental analogy. But that creates problems for their position.

If it lay within his power, a good human parent would intervene to prevent harm to his children. Freewill theists may say good parents have to let children make their own mistakes. But that's a facile overgeneralization. Sure, there's the specter of helicopter parents. That goes too far. 

But there are other cases where a parent would be negligent not to step in. So that analogy cuts both ways. Some parents are overprotective while other parents are negligent. It isn't all-or-nothing.

xiii) In addition, human parents love their own children far more than they love the children of strangers. So parental love isn't equitable, but partial.

xiv) A freewill theist might object that I've misconstrued the analogy. God is everyone's parent. So he loves all his children.

However, even if we grant that contention for discussion purposes, it isn't that simple. As far as human analogies go, parents of growing children should be studiously impartial. Even if they have a favorite child, they should conceal their bias.

But the situation with grown children is different. Adults have adult responsibilities. Some grown children are admirable while some grown children are appalling. I don't think grown children are entitled to the same "unconditional love" as growing children. There's nothing inherently wrong with a parent having a favorite grown child if, in fact, one grown child is caring and considerate while the other grown child is selfish and indifferent. 

Of course, in Calvinism, God doesn't elect or reprobate people in reaction to their behavior. But I'm just dealing with theological analogies that freewill theists are wont to use. 

xv) Then you have romantic love, which is exclusive. Even promiscuous men and women may have one person who's the love of their life. One person who holds a special place in their heart. Unrivaled affection.

In both the OT and NT, the Bible uses marital metaphors for God. Yet it doesn't use those for God's relationship with the world, but his relationship with Israel or the Church. 

xvi) In Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea, God casts himself in the role of a jilted lover or cuckold husband. I think that's blatantly anthropomorphic. However, freewill theists often takes those sentiments at face value. But that creates a problem for their position, because romantic love is discriminating–the antithesis of indiscriminate love.  

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