Friday, October 19, 2007

Morg and Nivlac

(Not Morg and Mindy). This, by Tom Talbott, should be challenging to Calvinists.

83 comments:

Ron said...

I've had these thoughts before too. I think it expresses a real weakness in Calvinist theology and is probably why I'm not a Calvinist. (amongst other reasons.)

Ron said...

Double predestination is a scary doctrine to hold because it makes God arbitrary. He arbitrarily saves and damns whoever he chooses, for the simple reason that he chose it.

The paradoxical truth is that we are both fated and free. The Scriptures dfinitely show these both. A story that has no aspect of predestination is not really a story. It is a series of meaningless events that amount to nothing. A story with no free will in it doesn't have real true characters. Instead they are all lifeless puppets of the author. The good author knows that both elements must exist in a great story. Tolkien and Lewis knew this well. However, even at their best, their abilities were mere shadows compared to that of the living God.

Zwingers said...

So Talbott holds to his universalism simply because he finds it implausible that God could ever hate someone? In spite of the biblical evidence to the contrary?

Tom Talbott said...

Hi Zwingers,

Victor called my attention to this discussion, and I thought I would answer your question. You asked: "So Talbott holds to his universalism simply because he finds it implausible that God could ever hate someone? In spite of the biblical evidence to the contrary?"

No, universalism does not follow from the single fact that God loves everyone and therefore does not literally hate anyone. What does follow is that God is unwilling that any should perish. Arminians (who are not universalists) and I are in perfect agreement on this point.

But you also mention biblical evidence to the contrary. Could you perhaps help me to appreciate what that biblical evidence might be?

Anyway, thanks for your response.

-Tom

mattghg said...

I wonder if the fact of *not knowing* who's elect and who isn't is supposed t make a big difference to Calvinists...

Ron said...

Hi Tom Talbott,

I sympathize with your philosophical arguments for universalism but I think it is plain to anyone who looks that Jesus preached about hell. He taught that people would end up there. Now, we may not like that idea but we are called to believe and trust in Jesus, not to turn Christianity into 'my religion.'

Was Jesus a universalist? I can't in good conscience claim that given the evidence.

Tom Talbott said...

Hi Ron,

In answer to your question of whether Jesus was a universalist, I believe he was. Yes, he talked a lot about hell, and, for all I know, may even have believed in it. But then, I believe in hell myself, so I don’t worry too much that Jesus may have believed in it as well. The more relevant question is, “Did Jesus believe that some people are destined to remain in hell forever?” And I, for one, cannot find a single stitch of biblical evidence that he held this latter belief.

I do not believe, however, that Jesus actually preached universalism during his life on earth, although he was indeed recorded as saying this: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw [or drag in much the way a fisherman might drag a net full of fish to shore] all people to myself” (John 12:32). Neither do I believe that he preached anything like a Pauline doctrine of grace. For it was not his purpose, prior to his death and resurrection, to explain the full theological import of future work that he had not yet even accomplished. That, Christians have traditionally believed, was left for Paul to explain after the fact.

So consider now the many sayings of Jesus that might seem to imply that salvation is simply a matter of good works: Just as many Christians now interpret these words in light of Paul’s doctrine of grace, so I would interpret Jesus’ remarks about punishment in the next life in light of Paul’s universalism. And I do think it quite clear, even obvious, that Paul was indeed a universalist.

That, of course, is way too short a reply to your important question. But thanks for asking it.

-Tom
.

Ron said...

Thanks for the response, Tom.

I guess what the issue for me is Jesus' parables about the Last Judgment. When he talks about the fish and the nets and the sheep and the goats, I feel it would be presumptuous for me to believe that all will be saved when Jesus indicated otherwise.

Paul makes many universalistic proclaimations but I'm not sure I could say that he is definitely a universalist. The primary reason for this is 2 Thess. 1:6-10. He definitely does not sound like a universalist there. He even utters the words, "eternal destruction."

You quote Jesus' words in John's gospel but in the same gospel John says that those who do not believe are "condemned already." John 3:18 He says further that, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John 3:36

How would you deal with these passages and the parables of Jesus that I mentioned? Btw, I intend to buy your book sometime but the more I've thought about the issue the more I come to agree with a C.S. Lewis type view of heaven and hell.

zwingers said...

Hi talbott!

I didn't know you were friends with Vic!

I'm (probably) a Calvinist in the Edwardsian sense, and I'd like to remark that I think it is also true given Calvinism that God is unwilling that any should perish - all I think Calvinism denies is that that is God's ultimate want.

On the biblical evidence, I guess I was thinking of some of the Psalms where David prays for vengence on his enemies, the OT prophets when they proclaimed divine judgement and the rather gruesome illustrations of God's wrath in Revelation.

Do you take the "Hell exists but it's empty" approach or the sort of Hell as Purgatory position, where unbelievers go for a while till they repent (or whatever)?

If the former, don't you think that removes a lot of the dialectical force from Jesus' comments on Hell? "anyone who says "you fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell." (sermon on the mount) etc.

If the latter, then why Jesus' emphasis on the everlasting nature of hell? "into the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43) etc.

Nice of you to take the time to drop by!

stunney said...

A book I (speaking as a Catholic and devout Molinist) think some of you might find interesting to read is: God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal's Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism, by Leszek Kolakowski.

An amazon reviewer's comments mirror my own reaction when I read it some years ago:

Excellent and thought provoking!, June 3, 2006
By G. Stucco "mr guido" (usa)


The title refers to the Augustinian-Jansenist view according to which human beings are absolutely incapable, through their efforts unaided by grace, to please God and to rightfully expect his mercy. The book consists of two parts: the first part focuses on the five Jansenist propositions that were condemned by the Church; the second part deals with Pascal's "sad religion," and its overly theocentric mentality (to shed tears for the death of on'e loved ones and to laugh are unorthy of a Christian).
The main points the author makes are:
* Jansenius correctly interpreted Augustine's theology of grace. Anybody who says otherwise is in bad faith. (Has anybody gotten a chance to peruse Jansenius's opus magnus, Augustinus? I have! There are HUNDREDS of quotations from Augustine's work: anybody who rejects Jansenius' understanding of Augustine OWES a major production of eveidence to that effect!)
* The Church rightly condemned Jansenius. It had to, in order to survive and avoid holing itself up or to go out of the socio-cultural scene as an obsolete phenomenon. The alternative would have been to turn into a little sect of saints (a la Amish), unable to influence the world at large and to become a cultural oddity. The author concludes that the Church loses out when it lives with a besieged fortress mentality. The all-or nothing mentality is a recipe for disaster.
* The Church therefore rightly condemned some Augustinian theological views.
* The Church began to de-Augustinize itself. "It was a momentous event in the history of the Church when it exploited this occasion, adopting practically the Jesuit (or semi-Pelagian) doctrine in the crucial questions of original sin, grace and predestination, and thereby breaking -tacitly, needless to say - with a very important part of its theological heritage and shaping its teaching accordingly." (p. 31)

Paul Manata said...

It would have been more of a "problem" for Calvinists had the author actually used texts from the *Bible*, showing how Calvinists had "problems" by means of *exegeting* said texts.

I mean, anyone can play story time, argue Ignorantia Elenchi, and "refute" theologies. I don't think this is too far from the truth, but no doubt I'd hear objections had I played make believe by putting out a story like this:

**********


Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, therfe was an ancient people who received an ancient book telling of the Wuv (not love) Shamgar - the Wuving deaity - had for his people, chamon. This Wuv was put into song for the people:

There's a place in your heart
And I know that it is love
And this place could be much
Brighter than tomorrow.
And if you really try
You'll find there's no need to cry
In this place you'll feel
There's no hurt or sorrow.
There are ways to get there
If you care enough for the living
Make a little space, make a better place.

Chorus:
Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for
You and for me.


If you want to know why
There's a love that cannot lie
Love is strong
It only cares for joyful giving.
If we try we shall see
In this bliss we cannot feel
Fear or dread
We stop existing and start living
Then it feels that always
Love's enough for us growing
Make a better world, make a better world.

Chorus:
Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race.
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for
You and for me.

Bridge:
And the dream we would conceived in
Will reveal a joyful face
And the world we once believed in
Will shine again in grace
Then why do we keep strangling life
Wound this earth, crucify it's soul
Though it's plain to see, this world is heavenly
Be God's glow.


We could fly so high
Let our spirits never die
In my heart I feel
You are all my brothers
Create a world with no fear
Together we'll cry happy tears
See the nations turn
Their swords into plowshares
We could really get there
If you cared enough for the living
Make a little space to make a better place.

Chorus:
Heal the world
Make it a better place
For you and for me and the entire human race
There are people dying
If you care enough for the living
Make a better place for
You and for me.

Refrain (2x)


There are people dying if you care enough for the living
Make a better place for you and for me.
There are people dying if you care enough for the living
Make a better place for you and for me.

You and for me / Make a better place
You and for me / Make a better place
You and for me / Make a better place
You and for me / Heal the world we live in
You and for me / Save it for our children
You and for me / Heal the world we live in
You and for me / Save it for our children
You and for me / Heal the world we live in
You and for me / Save it for our children
You and for me / Heal the world we live in
You and for me / Save it for our children

But the people, for some unknown reason - for you see, Shamgar couldn't know the free choices of men - rebelled against Shamgar. The spit in his face. So he devised a plan to save them.

Shamgar sent his offspring, Marilyn - for God is male and female - to die for the people, chamon. He sent Marilyn to save them. the only way he could do so is to die for them. So the people killed Marilyn - even though Shamgar cannot interfer with "free will" he did so in this case because it was worth it to get Marilyn killed.

But the prophets also spoke of a bad place where bad men would go - Neverland Ranch. Since Shamgar cannot lie to his people, this was true, chamon. The people still believed in this God even though his own holy book declared him to be a cosmic failure. He intended all to be saved, he sent his daughter to save them, but failed. Like the little league left fielder, when the game was on the line, he couldn't catcvh the fly ball that was hit to him - failure.

**********

WHat's the cash value of the above? To the extent the Arminian wants to call the above a staw man, saying that I should deal with the text of Scripture rather than play make believe, I say the same.

To the extent that they'll accept the above, and want me to accept their story, then I guess I believe in a God who is a "big meany" who "gasp!" made some pots the way he wanted to. But, the flip side is that you believe in a big failure.

I didn't have time of I could have made the story more elaborate, and more ridiculous, chamon!

steve said...

Hi, Vic.

There are a lot of things I could say about Talbott’s parable, which is studded with straw man arguments about Calvinism, but for now I’ll confine myself to one observation:

Talbott is putatively attacking double predestination, but this is clearing the ground for his alternative—which is universalism. And universalism no doubt enjoys a certain superficial appeal. But it’s only appealing to pampered folks like Talbott who’ve led a charmed existence. I daresay that universalism is not the least bit appealing to the victims of horrendous violence and galling injustice.

It loses its superficial appeal the instant you swap in a very different illustration. For example, instead of a mother’s love for her “little albino child,” suppose we substitute a psychopath who rapes and tortures her little girl to death.

According to Talbott, the psychopath will eventually be saved, even though he may have to undergo a hellish process of purification. What would a normal mother have to say about his heavenly prospects?

"Look, Nivlac, I love Morg with all my heart, and I believe that the Book of Morg is indeed his holy Word. And I don't know what to say about your fancy arguments that seem to imply such awful things about Morg. But I do know this. No holy or just or loving Creator like Morg, no Creator of the kind that I worship, could possibly love and save the rapist and tormenter and killer of my little girl. Indeed, if he loves my little girl, as you say he does, then he cannot also love the rapist and tormenter and killer of my little girl. So if you are right about the meaning of these verses--mind you, I'm not saying you are right--but IF you are right, then these verses are just wrong; they are not a true revelation from Morg."

steve said...

Let’s comment on one of Talbott’s strawman arguments:

“It therefore seems to them that albinos have reason to expostulate with Morg if they are hated solely by his decision, apart from their own merit.”

http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/nivlac.html

This parabolic statement is supposedly analogous to the Reformed doctrine of reprobation. However, there is, in Reformed theology, an asymmetry between election and reprobation. Election is unconditional. Merit doesn’t figure in election, in part because sinners have no merit to contribute.

By contrast, demerit does figure in reprobation. Demerit is a necessary, albeit insufficient, condition of reprobation. (Insufficient inasmuch as everyone would be reprobated if demerit were a sufficient condition.)

steve said...

Here’s another problem with Talbott’s parable. He uses the example of a little child:

"Look, Nivlac, I love Morg with all my heart, and I believe that the Book of Morg is indeed his holy Word. And I don't know what to say about your fancy arguments that seem to imply such awful things about Morg. But I do know this. No holy or just or loving Creator like Morg, no Creator of the kind that I worship, could possibly hate this little albino child of mine that I love so much. Indeed, if he loves me, as you say he does, then he must also love my baby. So if you are right about the meaning of these verses--mind you, I'm not saying you are right--but IF you are right, then these verses are just wrong; they are not a true revelation from Morg."

http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/nivlac.html

Now normal men and women—unlike pedophiles, abortionists, and psychopaths—are naturally protective of young children. So this illustration plays upon the emotive connotations of a “little child” or “baby.”

But children ordinarily grow up to be adults. Suppose we compose a different parable.

Once upon a time there was a Jewish physician who had dreams. And, unlike most folks, his dreams came true.

One night he had a dream about a sick little German boy who visited his clinic. The little boy would grow up to commit genocide against the Jewish people.

The next day, a sick little boy by the name of Adolf Hitler was brought into the clinic to receive treatment for a life-threatening childhood illness. The doctor could cure him or he could let him die by administering a placebo. He knew that by healing this child, he would be condemning thousands of other innocent children to death—including his very own children.

Should he save this child, and thereby condemn thousands of other children to suffer an unjust and premature death, or should he let this child die, and thereby save the prospective victims? Who should he allow to live, and who should he allow to die?

I’ll let you decide how you wish to finish the story.

Point being: our moral intuitions are context-dependent. It all depends on the illustration. Change the illustration, and you may suddenly find yourself contradicting your previous intuition. You were very sure of yourself until

Tearjerkers cut both ways. For it’s easy to compose tearjerkers that illustrate opposing positions.

Ron said...

Steve,

"But it’s only appealing to pampered folks like Talbott who’ve led a charmed existence."

For one complaining about straw men fallacies this appears like it's ugly step-sister, ad hominem.

Tom Talbott said...

Hello again, Ron:

You are definitely asking the right questions, and the texts you cite are definitely ones that a Christian universalist must address. I do wish, however, that more Christians had a greater familiarity with the standard ways in which universalists interpret such texts. Most thoughtful Christians have at least a rough idea of how the Calvinists interpret such texts as II Timothy 2:4 and II Peter 3:9, and most also have a rough idea of how the Arminians interpret such texts as Romans 8:28-30 and Ephesians 2. But even first-rate scholars in the evangelical world, so I have found, are apt to be totally oblivious of how the universalists interpret such texts as you have mentioned.

In any event, because I prefer to proceed slowly in these electronic discussions, taking one tiny baby step at a time, I’m going to restrict my remarks here to John 3:18 and 3:36, which you offer as a counter to a literal interpretation of John 12:32. Observe first that both texts are unspecific with respect to time. As an illustration of what I mean, consider the most prominent religious terrorist of his own day, Saul of Tarsus, who forcibly dragged Christians from their homes and imprisoned them. Even as he prepared to travel to Damascus, he was “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). So if anyone belonged to the class of those who did not believe in the Son or those who were condemned already, and if anyone was disobeying (or rejecting) the Son at one time, it was surely Saul of Tarsus. But in no way did that prevent Jesus from drawing Saul to himself on the road to Damascus.

As you can see, then, these texts are ambiguous, and, applying them to Saul of Tarsus, we can perhaps sort out the ambiguity by distinguishing between two claims:

(1) For any time t, if Saul disobeys the Son and does not believe in him at t, then Saul stands condemned at t.

(2) For any times t and t* where t* is later than t, if Saul disobeys the Son and does not believe in him at t, then Saul stands condemned at t*.

Whereas the first claim is quite true, according to John 3:18 and 3:36, it is no counter to a literal interpretation of John 12:32; and whereas the second claim would, if true, effectively counter such a literal interpretation, it is also inconsistent with the Christian belief that at least some who are already condemned in Adam will eventually be made alive in Jesus Christ. So a universalist who accepts a literal interpretation of John 12:32 is quite happy to accept the most reasonable interpretation of John 3:18 and 3:36, which is also the only reasonable interpretation consistent with the assumption that salvation is a genuine possibility.

Of course, there are many more texts to consider, including others that you have mentioned, and any interpretation of the Bible as a whole will inevitably be a complex affair, where some themes and some texts are interpreted in light of others. So all I ask of those who reject universalism on supposedly biblical grounds is, first, that they examine carefully the way in which Christian universalists interpret various texts in the Bible, second, that they then compare this with the way in which Calvinists and Arminians interpret the very same texts, and finally, that they make up their own mind on which approach to the Bible seems to them to be the most reasonable.

Thanks for your latest post.

-Tom

Tom Talbott said...

Thanks for your further clarification, Zwingers. You wrote:

“On the biblical evidence, I guess I was thinking of some of the Psalms where David prays for vengeance on his enemies, the OT prophets when they proclaimed divine judgment and the rather gruesome illustrations of God's wrath in Revelation.”

Two quick questions on your view of these matters: First, do you believe that Jesus’ command that we love our enemies even as we love ourselves has a relevant application to David’s prayers for vengeance on his enemies? And second, do you believe that the same God who commands (through his Son) that we love our enemies fails to love his own enemies?

Thanks again for your response.

-Tom

Tom Talbott said...

To all:

There are three reasons why my parable and the subsequent discussion is not a straw man argument.

First, the parable itself is not an argument; therefore, it is not a straw man argument.

Second, the parable is not self-contained, and its point does not emerge until the following section entitled “A Religious Assault on Reason and Good Sense,” where the reader discovers that the words I have attributed to Nivlac are directly from the mouth of Calvin (substituting “Morg” for “God” and “albinos” for “men”).

Third, the discussion continues with an examination of Calvin’s own argument as set forth in his own words. So however faulty that discussion may be, there is no misrepresentation of Calvin here and therefore no straw man argument.

My thanks to all who responded.

-Tom

steve said...

Ron said...
Steve,

"But it’s only appealing to pampered folks like Talbott who’ve led a charmed existence."

For one complaining about straw men fallacies this appears like it's ugly step-sister, ad hominem.

************************

1. As Peter Geach has pointed out in Reason And Argument (pp26-27), ad hominem arguments are not inherently fallacious.

2. Talbott's parable is, itself, essentially ad hominem. He is pandering to the moral intuitions of the reader. But what we find morally compelling or repugnant is often conditioned by our personal experience. It's easy to be forgiving when you've never suffered a horrendous wrong.

And it's easy for a universalist to forgive everyone since, by definition, most of those to whom he extends his blanket forgiveness have never wronged him.

So I'm answering Talbott on his own shaky grounds.

Jason Pratt said...

Tom,

I think part of the problem is that your parable appears partially conflated with another hot debate topic (homosexuality)--but only partially.

If you meant it to be about original sin more generally, everyone in the story would have been born albino.

If you meant it to be about any biblical sin in particular, the condition wouldn’t have been presented as static but as dynamic: people making themselves albino or encouraging their albinism.

For that matter, the albinism itself is not a good choice for paralleling with a biblical sin, because the condition doesn’t lead in itself to any practical problems in human society (especially in regard to fair-togetherness). I don’t even recall the parable presenting albinism as involving the symbolic repudiation of a crucial relationship truth between God and creation (or something of that sort).

I appreciate the attempt--I’m a highly orthodox Christian universalist myself. But the attempt could have been more fairly designed to accord with the general and/or the particular issues involved. As it is, people are going to be distracted by the jarring discontinuities compared to the topics they’re actually debating.


For what it’s worth, I do find in the canonical Gospels that Jesus preached universalism in His Incarnational ministry--not even counting prophecies given to people as the Word of God (though those should be counted, too, on pain of introducing a schism between the natures as well as the persons of God). He preached it in much the same way as He preached orthodox trinitarian theism--it’s there, but not in any systematic fashion. (Again, parallel to the OT revelation process: it’s _there_, but the contexts have to be fully put together.)

In any case, if I found that Jesus didn’t preach anything even like a Pauline doctrine of grace, then I would have strong grounds for suspecting either major problems with the Gospel reports, major problems with the Pauline corpus, or major problems with my scriptural analysis! None of those would exactly be good grounds for people to pay attention to what I was trying to say concerning the canon. {wry s} (That includes the topic of works/grace, too.)


Steve,

Not taking anything in the least away from people who have been victims of horrendous violence and galling injustice--but I think it can be fairly said, for better or for worse, that universalism is only appealing to folks who think it’s important (including theologically important) for us to love our enemies and hope for their salvation from sin.

If someone has been led to the point where they cannot love an enemy, then by tautology they are going to have trouble (be that right or wrong) loving that enemy and hoping for the enemy’s salvation from sin. And maybe they refuse to believe that they’re still supposed to hope for this; and maybe they simply can’t do it even if they still believe they should try. That’s realistic, and that certainly happens.

The point is that people who believe it’s important and necessary for us to love our enemies and hope for their salvation and who manage to continue being able to do this, are going to ‘naturally’ have trouble with a doctrine that ultimately says something different is true. And people who either don’t believe this is important and necessary or who technically believe it but who can’t manage to continue being able to do this, are just as naturally going to have trouble with a doctrine that ultimately says something different is true.

The question of which doctrine is true, though, remains exactly where it is, and has to be decided on other grounds. The objective truth of the matter does mean, though, that various people due to circumstances will have an easier or a harder time accepting the truth of the matter.


{{What would a normal mother have to say about his heavenly prospects?}}

On the other hand, what would a saintly Christian mother have to say about his heavenly prospects? Or, putting it another way, if the woman prayed for his eventual salvation from bondage to sin, would we normally consider this to be evidence of her own wickedness and/or crippled spirituality? Pitiably and unrealistically naive, maybe; but would we typically think her a worse person for hoping for the reconciliation and salvation of her worst enemy?

JRP

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

Jason,

The problem with your argument is that you’re arguing on different grounds than Talbott. He was appealing to our native moral intuitions as a test of revelation.

You, by contrast, are reversing the argument. You are appealing to the revelation of the gospel, in which we are supposed to pray for the salvation of our enemies.

Broadly speaking, I don’t take issue with your argument, but it’s not an argument for Talbott’s parable. Just the opposite.

The idea that we should pray for our enemies is not an intuitive insight. To the contrary, it’s profoundly counterintuitive. Christians only due this out of a sense of religious duty, and it takes considerable effort on their part. This is not something that comes naturally to them. Rather, it’s an obligation imposed on them by the revelation of the gospel.

So, if we were to begin with the premise of Talbott’s parable, your appeal would actually undercut the revelatory claims of scripture in question.

steve said...

Jason,

To put this another way, you are using an argument from (religious) authority, whereas Talbott is using an argument from reason (i.e. moral intuition). These are different arguments.

What is more, Talbott is using the argument from reason to potentially undercut revelatory claims. So his argument is tugging in the opposing direction from yours.

Paul Manata said...

Tom,

1) You "parable" was indeed meant to persaude and incline one towards, or against, certain theological positions. It certainly was an argument. You may have not numbered your premises, or formalized your propositions, but that matters little. In the broader context of discussion, viz, the controversies and arguments had between modern day theologians regarding such topics as Universalism and Arminianism, it is sophistry to hid behind "technicalities" (it was a parable, not an argument) to deny the intent of your piece.

2) You may have roughly taken Calvin's *words,* but I'm sure you can at least grant a difference between words and their *meanings.* What Calvin *meant* by his quote is not, in the least, what you *implied* by your argument from parody. So, your quoting Calvin out fails here.

3) Fails for reasons given in (2).

Paul Manata said...

Steve said,

"1. As Peter Geach has pointed out in Reason And Argument (pp26-27), ad hominem arguments are not inherently fallacious."

And Doug Walton agrees in Informal Logic: A Handbook for Critical Argumentation

Jason Pratt said...

Steve,

{{The problem with your argument is that you’re arguing on different grounds than Talbott.}}

Not really a problem, since I wasn’t arguing for Tom’s parable, was I? {g}

If I spend seven paragraphs before addressing you, deeply criticising the topical design of Tom’s parable, then one might at least draw an inductive expectation from this, that I wasn’t afterward trying to argue that his parable was viable. And since I don’t recall (or find) myself addressing the topic of his parable at all when talking with you, then (by tautology) I wasn’t even referring to his parable in discussing things with you.

Consequently, I’m not entirely sure why you thought I was supposed to be trying to defend his parable (per se) anyway. But we do both at least agree that I wasn’t arguing for accepting Tom’s parable per se but rather the opposite. {s!}


{{You are appealing to the revelation of the gospel, in which we are supposed to pray for the salvation of our enemies.}}

True--and so is Tom, when he gets down to doing actual exegetics and theology and stuff. {s}

To be honest, though, even though I briefly (and somewhat vaguely) referenced the topic of scriptural teaching and revelation regarding God’s intentions and actions toward universal salvation (because Tom went on to talk about that himself), I didn’t discuss my primary grounds, which are based on my acceptance of (western!) orthodox trinitarian theism to be true (be that established from acceptance and analysis of scriptural testimony as revelation, or as a conclusion of technical metaphysics from principle analysis. I prefer the latter, but I can do the former. {shrug}{s})

I think everyone on all sides of the question, within Christianity, agrees in principle that we’re supposed to be appealing to the characteristics of God as the primary gauge for interpreting soteriology testimony in the scriptures (not forgetting local and wider-spread story context, etc.) I find, then, that when I manage to coherently affirm and not deny the doctrines of orthodox trinitarian theism, I ought to be reading evidence sets A and B (apparently in favor of permanent hopelessness, i.e. traditional hell and annihilationism) in terms of evidence set C (apparently in favor of hopefulness, including in punishment, and the reconciliation of God with the punished, including after death) instead of vice versa. Naturally, it helps that there is an evidence set C to work with--and not a small set either! If there was no evidence set C at all, I’d be worried that I was making a mistake somewhere. (Though then it’d be a further question as to where.)


{{The idea that we should pray for our enemies is not an intuitive insight. To the contrary, it’s profoundly counterintuitive.}}

True, and I would argue that this is due to our fallen nature. Though there are some things to be said in favor of kicking the butts of the unrighteous, too, and those things shouldn’t be ignored either. Especially when I’m one of the unrighteous myself. {lopsided g!} But yes, I happen to be naturally in favor of throwing down clearly villainous enemies, scattering their bodies for the vultures, etc. In fact I positively enjoy it. (See here for some examples. Plug. Plug. {g!} Cover’s currently missing from Amazon for no known reason, btw, but it can be seen in other places.)

Some of that enjoyment, though, has nothing at all remotely to do with righteousness--because it has nothing at all to do with ‘fair-togetherness’. That requires discipline of my self, from God and from my own willing change of mind. (See there for some examples of that, too. {s})

{{Christians only [do] this out of a sense of religious duty, and it takes considerable effort on their part.}}

Well, some of us do think we see the actual rightness in it, too. We don’t only do it out of a sense of religious duty. But even then it does seem to take considerable effort on our parts, as a matter of usual experience. Including my own experience. {shrug}{s}

{{Rather, it’s an obligation imposed on them by the revelation of the gospel.}}

To be more precise, I would say that it’s an obligation required of us by God; and delivered (among in various ways) by the revelation of the gospel.

{{So, if we were to begin with the premise of Talbott’s parable, your appeal would actually undercut the revelatory claims of scripture in question.}}

To be fair, even though I heavily criticised (and rejected) the design of the parable, the design does include an acceptance of revelatory claims in scripture, at all points. The grounds in each case seem to be that the people are learning two apparently different things from revelation and so in each case are making adjustments so as to remove the difficulty while retaining their respect and acceptance of the revelation.

There is one further distinction given to one of the sides in the parable, be that fairly or unfairly presented (I mean insofar as only one side seems to be given this example): the peasant woman at the end is trusting in God personally, over-above some things she is being told the revelation means. This cuts to the question of how we are to discern between different claims of revelation, whether within a body of texts, or between bodies of texts. Myself, I would say that the resolve to believe in God being true love, and not denying this, is in fact the proper way to go.

Which can be done by unlettered peasant women, and their two cents, just as well (and maybe better!) than it can be done by hyperdoctrinaire Pharisees like myself who happen to be able to give, from my educated largess, more technically precise ways of saying and particularly describing what amounts to the same thing. (I recall the Lord as well as St. Paul both having some extremely important things to say on that topic... {s!})


{{To put this another way, you are using an argument from (religious) authority, whereas Talbott is using an argument from reason (i.e. moral intuition).}}

Actually, if I don’t have logic in whatever arguments I do from the grapheis, then by default I’m not very likely to be working in conjunction with the Logos Himself in what I am doing! And even moreso if I don’t have agape_ in my reasoning (whether or not the scriptures are my immediate data).

Everyone uses arguments from reasoning, or they aren’t making arguments at all but only sheer assertions. The question is whether the data is correct and sufficient, whether the logic in regard to the data analysis is valid, and what kind of conclusion can be expected from the attempt. (Inductive attempts shouldn’t be presented as having deductive results, etc.)

A peasant woman might not understand all that, but she’s still doing it. Goes with the territory of being a daughter of God. {g}


Paul,

I think Tom had already said that the discussion ought to move to what Calvin not only said but meant, and gave directions on where that discussion commences. Also, the question of meaning notwithstanding, if Tom quoted Calvin in that paragraph and only changed proper noun references in a 1:1 fashion, then it can’t be fairly said that he “roughly” quoted Calvin.

JRP

Plantinga Fan said...

Wow Tom, you really hit a nerve with the Calvinists with your “parable”. Your little parable got some immediate and emotional responses from the determinists at TRIABLOGUE. I participated on that blog recently in a discussion of middle knowledge and was treated quite rudely there. I perused some of their other writings and their presentation of Christianity is embarrassing. They are very smart but also very hateful. They insult both nonbelievers (ignoring biblical guidelines such as 2 Tim. 2:24-26) and are equally abusive of believers who hold views contrary to their cherished determinism. Christians are supposed to be characterized by their love for the lost (desiring for them to be saved) and their even greater love for the brethren. These guys, so far Manata and Hays have posted here, are as nasty and hateful as “professing” Christian apologists can be.

In contrast, the two apologists which I read when I became a Christian were C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. It is significant that while Schaeffer was reformed in his theology and Lewis was not, they both loved the lost and other Christians who disagreed with them. They were models of what Christian apologists ought to be (for a great book on the two, check out C.S.LEWIS & FRANCIS SCHAEFFER by Scott Burson and Jerry Walls). Today Plantinga is the one who functions like that for me: a brilliant mind with a sense of humor (using the three stooges to make heavy philosophical points is “priceless”) who does not condemn or hate Christians who disagree with him. The common denominators of these three men is that they are all very smart; all are very tolerant and loving of Christians with whom they disagree and they realized the real “enemy” is not other Christians but those who espouse the materialist worldview, like Dawkins and Dennett.

Tom your parable really set off the TRIABLOGUE folks. I thought it had some valid points and it was a nice touch to present Calvin as a major part of the problem and including him in the story by reversing the spelling of his name as “Nivlac”. When you read “Nivlac” er, I mean Calvin you also see a real hatefulness towards those who disagreed with him as well as the hatred Calvin had for the unfortunate “reprobates”. I guess the modern followers of “Nivlac” are very much like their leader in their disposition and conduct towards others who hold differing views.

At the end of your parable Tom you bring up someone who represents the “ordinary Christian” a “peasant woman” who should have said something like:

‘Look Calvin/Nivlac, I love Morg/the God of the bible with all my heart, and I believe that the Book of Morg/the bible is indeed his holy Word. And I don’t know what to say about your fancy arguments [and fallacious and unbiblical ones at that] that seem to imply such awful things about Morg/the God of the bible. But I do know this. No holy or just or loving Creator like Morg/the God of the bible, no Creator of the kind that I worship, could possibly hate this little albino child of mine that I love so much. . . .but IF you are right, then these verses are just wrong; they are not a true revelation from Morg/the God of the bible.’

The ordinary Christian looks at his/her bible and sees a God who reveals Himself as a person whose nature is love (1 Jn. 4:16), whose gift of salvation is offered to all the world (Jn. 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:3-6, 1 Jn. 2:2), who has mercy on all (Rom. 11:32) and desires and takes initiative to restore relationship with sinful human persons (Rom. 5:8, Jn. 16:8-11). What the “peasant woman” also illustrates is the great divide between the God of the bible as revealed in scripture and the God of the Calvinistic determinists. The God of the bible is very different than the God conceived of by the Calvinist determinists. And even “ordinary” Christians can see the clear differences between the true God who does not take pleasure in the eternal death of the wicked and the determinist God who intentionally and supposedly for his own “glory” and pleasure reprobates most of the human race.

Tom you state it well in the final line: ‘Her bone of contention [and the same bone that the vast majority of bible believing Christians of all stripes have], as we have imagined it, was with Nivlac, not with Morg.’

That is a key point: the God revealed in scripture is not the problem; Nivlac and his determinist theology are the problem. And Nivlac and his modern followers must do exegetical gymnastics and strained interpretations of clear biblical texts in order to attempt to maintain their deterministic theology. The bible argues against it, our common sense and experience argues against it, our moral intuitions argue against it, and the unnecessary divisions caused by the Calvinists argue against it. But Calvinists will fight for their determinism and stop at nothing to try to support their determinism. It never seems to occur to them that if their determinism is true and God actually does determine “whatsoever comes to pass”, then we are all simply acting out the prewritten script. We cannot ever do otherwise than what we do in every instance, and if God wants/predetermines for us to be Arminian, or Catholic or Molinist or Universalist or Open theist or whatever else the determinists disagree with and hate, then that is what we will be.

If I believed their determinism to be true, I would really feel sorry for people who got it wrong and did not follow Nivlac and his determinist theology like me. I would not get angry at them for being wrong, I would pray for them and reason with them and hope they eventually will be predetermined to get it right. If new puppies pee on the floor then that is what they do, no reason to get upset at them or hate them for only doing what little puppies do.

But the determinists are different; they do hate others when the others are only doing what they were predetermined to do (assuming Calvinism to be true). But then this ought not be surprising as their “God” also hates and condemns people who are only living out the actions prescripted for them. Actually their “God” is worse as he not only hates and predetermines for these folks to be reprobates in this life, he also “judges” them at the final judgment and then sends them to eternal punishment for living out the prescripted lives he had predetermined for them. That is really nasty, to be condemned from the start with no chance to be one of the “chosen” and then eternally condemned on top of that. What a gruesome and nasty picture of God. Is this the God of the bible? No. And ask the “peasant woman” of Talbott’s parable or almost any ordinary Christian and if they know their bibles and have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, then they know that the true God reveals Himself to be quite different than God as conceived by and imagined by Calvinist determinists. The true God has not done what the Nivlac followers wish he had done!

Plantinga Fan

Paul Manata said...

Hi Jason,

That doesn't (a) change the fact that he offered a straw man argument, contrary to his own claims and (b) he didn't "just" change the proper noun references in a 1:1 fashion. And, he didn't even stick to his 1:1 ratio! Calvin began with "men" and so Talbott should have began with "albinos."

Anyway, I don't see why you'd have much to say in disagreement with what I wrote. You don't have to like Calvinism, but does that mean you should offer straw men arguments vis a vis bad parody?

Furthermore, when you look at where he trys to discuss Calvin's meaning, you are only met with more aggressive straw men. In fact, Talbott chastises Calvin for using a club to keep men from questioning God. How is that different that Talbott's use of laughter and ridicule?

So, Jason, I've said nothing controversial. My comments were spot on. Talbott argued via straw man. Now, that's fine if you just want to impress people with straw conceptions of Calvinism. So, if that was the context of dialogue, then I guess I don't have a problem with it. That just means he's playing to the croud.

Anyway, I'm getting evacuated because of the fires here in S.D. Gotta run. Have a good one.

Paul Manata said...

Of course Plantinga fan, I've not been "nasty" in this combox. So, your false accusations don't serve well to promote that pious and holy character you're red flagging for everyone. Golda Meir once told a visiting dignitary: "Stop acting so humble, you're not that good." :-)

Tom Talbott said...

For Jason and Steve:

Thanks for your responses, guys, and, yes Jason, it’s good to run into another universalist on this site.

Just a quick clarification concerning my own intentions in writing that parable. To my mind at least, the parable was not even partially about homosexuality, nor was it about original sin, nor was it even about the Reformed doctrine of reprobation, at least not essentially, though there are indeed some analogies (as well as some disanalogies) between the albinos and Calvin’s understanding of the non-elect. But most emphatically of all, the parable was not an argument for universalism. As I said before, it was not an argument at all, so neither was it a straw man argument, an ad hominem argument, a question-begging argument, or any other kind of an argument. But in addition to that, the issue of universalism was not even on the horizon, so to speak.

So what was my intention in writing the parable? It was to introduce in an entertaining way an argument that Calvin gives about the nature of justice. The idea was to transport Calvin’s argument to a very different context (the details of which really don’t matter) and then to surprise the reader by switching back to Calvin’s own context. And Steve is right about this: The status of our fallible and historically conditioned moral intuitions is indeed relevant to the argument. But you will have to forgive me a chuckle, Steve, when you identified Calvin’s own words (substituting “Morg” for “God” and “albinos” for “men”) as one of my own straw man arguments! Here is what you identified as a straw man argument:

“It therefore seems to them that albinos have reason to expostulate with Morg if they are hated solely by his decision, apart from their own merit.”

And here is what Calvin actually said:

“It therefore seems to them that men have reason to expostulate with God if they are hated solely by his decision, apart from their own merit” (my emphasis).

In the context, moreover, Calvin was talking about two unborn (and therefore helpless) children, Jacob and Esau, and how their destiny was decided even before they had done anything good or bad. And that, by the way, is why I snuck in the example of an albino baby. So in that sense, the issue of reprobation was indeed lurking in the background. But it was Calvin’s defense of God’s justice, not the doctrine of reprobation itself, that I intended to examine and to criticize, as anyone who reads the entire paper will see clearly.

Anyway, whatever you guys think of the parable, the important thing is that critique. So if anyone here wants to respond to my actual argument rather than to the details of a story intended merely to entertain, I will be most interested in that response. I should warn you, however, that I will be swamped with my own work for the next week or two. So please don’t interpret the lack of a response as a lack of interest.

-Tom

steve said...

Jason,

Dr. Reppert issued a challenge to Calvinists, using Talbott’s parable as the frame of reference. I have not attempted to debate all of the pros and cons of Calvinism as over against all of the pros and cons of universalism. Rather, I’ve attempted to honor the implicit framework of the discussion by confining myself to the terms of the parable. And Manata has done the same thing.

“Not really a problem, since I wasn’t arguing for Tom’s parable, was I?”

In which case your objection is irrelevant since I was responding to the implicit argument in Talbott’s parable. Even if your objection were valid in its own right, it does nothing to negate the force of my objection to Talbott’s parable at this juncture.

“Consequently, I’m not entirely sure why you thought I was supposed to be trying to defend his parable (per se) anyway.”

Itgdoes to the relevance of your objection to what I said in reference to Talbott. Is what I said a valid objection to Talbott’s position? It’s important not to confound these issues.

“True--and so is Tom, when he gets down to doing actual exegetics and theology and stuff.”

Which, once again, is irrelevant to the parable. Why do you refuse to stick to the point?

“I think everyone on all sides of the question, within Christianity, agrees in principle that we’re supposed to be appealing to the characteristics of God as the primary gauge for interpreting soteriology testimony in the scriptures (not forgetting local and wider-spread story context, etc.)”

No, everyone does not agree with this. I don’t begin with the attributes of God and then use that as an interpretive grid through which to filter the soteriological statements of Scripture. If I want to understand what God has to say about the nature and scope of salvation, the first place to go are Scriptural statements that speak directly to the nature and scope of salvation.

No doubt it’s useful to coordinate that with a Scriptural doctrine of God, but I don’t screen soteriology through theology (proper). So you and I apparently part company on theological method.

“True, and I would argue that this is due to our fallen nature.”

I disagree. Rather, it’s due to the general absence of immediate retribution in favor of a future, eschatological judgment.

“Some of that enjoyment, though, has nothing at all remotely to do with righteousness--because it has nothing at all to do with ‘fair-togetherness’.”

Once again, I disagree. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to see God exact retribution on the unrighteous. That is a regular theme in Scripture, up to and including the Book of Revelation. But that is eschatologically oriented.

“To be fair, even though I heavily criticised (and rejected) the design of the parable, the design does include an acceptance of revelatory claims in scripture, at all points.”

No, the bottom-line of the parable is that if a revelatory claimant conflicts with our moral intuitions, then that falsifies the revelatory claimant.

“The peasant woman at the end is trusting in God personally, over-above some things she is being told the revelation means.”

No, not just in terms of what it means, but whether it even counts as divine revelation.

“Actually, if I don’t have logic in whatever arguments I do from the grapheis, then by default I’m not very likely to be working in conjunction with the Logos Himself in what I am doing! And even moreso if I don’t have agape_ in my reasoning (whether or not the scriptures are my immediate data).__Everyone uses arguments from reasoning, or they aren’t making arguments at all but only sheer assertions.”

Are you trying to becloud the issue? You’re perfectly aware of the distinction between an argument from reason and an argument from authority. These are terms of art.

plantinga fan said...

“Wow Tom, you really hit a nerve with the Calvinists with your “parable”. Your little parable got some immediate and emotional responses from the determinists at TRIABLOGUE.”

Notice that he doesn’t quote any examples of our “emotional” response.

Talbott didn’t hit any nerves. Rather, Dr. Reppert issued a challenge to Calvinists; Manata and I simply rose to the challenge.

“That is a key point: the God revealed in scripture is not the problem; Nivlac and his determinist theology are the problem.”

Universalism is just as deterministic as Calvinism.

“It never seems to occur to them that if their determinism is true and God actually does determine ‘whatsoever comes to pass’, then we are all simply acting out the prewritten script.”

As a matter of fact, we are acting out the prewritten script.

Plantinga fan isn’t attempting to seriously interact with Talbott’s parable. Instead, he’s using this thread as a pretext for a longwinded and invective-laden screed in which he recycles stock objections to Calvinism.

Anonymous said...

SO, what if universalism is correct, but only after years beyond imagining for some, ie millions or billions in hell? Such a fate is, frankly, to my limited imagination, about the same as the eternal one...and means a threat of hell would be just as bad as now, really...

Ron said...

Thanks for the response, Tom. If you have the time and inclination I'd love to hear about how you interpret those other passages I mentioned. The fact that Scripture uses the word "eternal" when describing punishment in the afterlife ought to give one pause before embracing universalism. I've heard universalists argue for a different meaning for the word translated as "eternal" but it doesn't seem that convincing since that same word is used to describe Heaven, i.e. eternal life.

To me it is clear that the Calvinists are losing the argument about this parable. They are losing because they have not shown that their concept of God's "justice" is correct. They've taken issue with the details of the parable but have not shown that it delivers a skewed perspective in Calvin's theology. They've attacked the parable and Tom but they haven't defended Calvin, leading me to believe that Calvinism is a morally repugnant.

Since the parable is about Calvin's theology, Calvinists would do well to defend instead of attack.

Plantinga Fan said...

Hi Ron,

Seeing your last post leads me to conclude that we hold very similar positions on some of the things that have been discussed so far.

Ron you said: Thanks for the response, Tom. If you have the time and inclination I'd love to hear about how you interpret those other passages I mentioned. The fact that Scripture uses the word "eternal" when describing punishment in the afterlife ought to give one pause before embracing universalism. I've heard universalists argue for a different meaning for the word translated as "eternal" but it doesn't seem that convincing since that same word is used to describe Heaven, i.e. eternal life.

That’s my problem with universalism as well. It would be nice if it were true, but the biblical texts properly interpreted, (especially Matt. 25:31ff where “eternal” must have the same meaning in regards to both the sheep and the goats’destinies), contradict universalism.

Ron said: To me it is clear that the Calvinists are losing the argument about this parable. They are losing because they have not shown that their concept of God's "justice" is correct. They've taken issue with the details of the parable but have not shown that it delivers a skewed perspective in Calvin's theology. They've attacked the parable and Tom but they haven't defended Calvin, leading me to believe that Calvinism is morally repugnant.

Well that is a major problem with calvinism it leads to a conception of God and His intentions and actions where he ends up more like a psychopath playing sadistic games with sentient beings than the God who reveals Himself in scripture.

Ron said: Since the parable is about Calvin's theology, Calvinists would do well to defend instead of attack.

Now you are getting closer to what Tom is getting at in his article from where the parable derives. The problem is that Nivlac wants people to just trust him and his interpretation of the bible rather than trust in their own common sense moral intuitions.

I do not need to be a rocket scientist or bible scholar to figure out that if God predetermines all events and intentionally predetermines every event so that most human persons are reprobates for whom salvation is impossible and additionally these poor souls are then eternally punished for living our their completely predetermined lives and additionally God says explicitly and clearly in scripture that He loves people that He desires for all to be saved, that He loves the world so much that he gives Jesus to die for that world, etc. Etc. When in fact He really wants to and plans to damn most of them and punish them eternally for living out their completely predetermined and prescripted lives, that “god” is not the same as the God who reveals Himself in scripture.

Furthermore, the actions of that “god” are morally repugnant as anyone with normal moral intuitions can see. Recall that the “peasant woman” loves the God revealed in the bible but sees the problem as not being the true God but god as conceived of by Nivlac’s interpretation of the bible. Either the determinist conception/Nivlac’s interpretation is false because it is contradicted by proper interpretation of the bible and our moral intuitions. Or if it is true, then God is a cosmic sadist who eternally tortures the people he ensured would be “reprobates”. You don’t need to be a genius or bible scholar to see this (and in fact the vast majority of Christians throughout church history have seen this and so have rejected calvinism), and if you do see this you will see the moral repugnance of calvinism and its prophet, Nivlac.

Plantinga Fan

Jason Pratt said...

Incidentally, Paul and Steve, I wouldn’t put things against the Calvinists quite the way “Plantinga-lover” does. Not that I can’t put it strongly, but I also know perfectly well that the Calvinists (and Arminians for that matter) aren’t just pulling things completely out of thin air. Y’all are trying to put the data together, too.

Tom (and hereafter for this comment): {{That doesn't (a) change the fact that he offered a straw man argument, contrary to his own claims}}

Agreed. Never claimed it changed that fact, either.

{{he didn't "just" change the proper noun references in a 1:1 fashion.}}

Then it ought to be easy to provide and discuss the actual quote from the Institutes for comparison.

Nivalc: “Foolish men contend with Morg in many ways, as though they held him liable to their accusations.”

Calvin: “Foolish men contend with God in many ways, as though they held him liable to their accusations.”

Nivalc: “They first ask, therefore, by what right Morg becomes angry at his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense;”

Calvin: “They first ask, therefore, by what right the Lord becomes angry at his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense;”

Nivalc: “for to devote albinos to destruction just because it pleases him is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge.”

Calvin: “for to devote to destruction whomever he pleases is more like the caprice of a tyrant than the lawful sentence of a judge.”

Nivalc:“It therefore seems to them that albinos have reason to expostulate with Morg if they are hated solely by his decision, apart from their own merit.”

Calvin: “It therefore seems to them that [such] men have reason to expostulate with God if they are predestined to eternal death solely by his decision, apart from their own merit.”

Nivalc:“If thoughts of this kind ever occur to pious men, they will be sufficiently armed to break their force by the one consideration that it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of Morg's will.”

Calvin: “If thoughts of this kind ever occur to pious men, they will be sufficiently armed to break their force by the one consideration that it is very wicked merely to investigate the causes of God's will.”


Basically, it’s a 1:1 correlation. One might quibble perhaps over whether “hated” is a proper correlation to “predestined to eternal death”, but I have never yet met a Calvinist defender who didn’t in fact admit and even stress this correlation himself.

The only actually plausible quibble I can see would be with “abinos” standing in for “whomever”, with an otherwise irrelevant grammatic reconstruction. And that’s only a plausible quibble insofar as the Calvinist admits and insists that the ‘whomever’ is actually supposed to be guilty of sin personally.

Now there’s a break with the parallel--but I could see part of Tom’s point (in conjunction with Arminians) being that when a Calvinist insists on sinners being regarded as guilty for something actually foisted upon them by God without their consent (which is the immediate gist of the Calvin passage at least, and I have certainly seen it argued as such by Calvinist proponents), then we might just as well be talking about something as arbitrary as skin color. The concept of a guiltless guiltiness makes equally little sense either way.

(I say "I could see this", because Tom seems to disavow the parable having any real point except for when it illustrates real points. Which is kind of confusing. Evidently, based on his reply to me, he didn't choose the albinism for any reason other than to be completely different from what Calvin was doing. So that he could then port what Calvin was doing into that situation as an illustration of what Calvin was doing. But not. Or something. Suffice to say, this explanation doesn't exactly nullify my own critiques of the parable per se... {wry g} More on this in a later comment to him specifically.)


{{Calvin began with "men" and so Talbott should have began with "albinos."}}

Calvin and Nivalc both begin explicitly with “foolish men.” Or did you mean something else?

{{Anyway, I don't see why you'd have much to say in disagreement with what I wrote.}}

Which is why I restricted myself to two comments, namely that Tom did explicitly invite comparison and discussion with the actual quote from Calvin and pointed to where he next engaged in this, and that the pseudo-Calvin quote can’t fairly be called a rough one if it’s a 1:1 topical port. Neither of those is much to say in disagreement with what you wrote. Or did I miss something that I wrote to you?

I engaged in seven paragraphs (addressed to Thomas Talbott, who incidentally rather badly outranks me in academic credentials not even counting published work) saying the parable was very faulty in construction, and continued to affirm this in my remarks to Steven. This ought to be more than sufficiently obvious evidence that I think his parable’s construction is faulty. Which ought to be more than sufficiently obvious evidence that I’m not trying to defend the design of his parable.

Is there anyone else here who doesn’t understand this yet? (Tom at least seems to understand that I was criticizing the parable as having substantially faulty design! {wry g})


{{Furthermore, when you look at where he trys to discuss Calvin's meaning, you are only met with more aggressive straw men.}}

Actually, on the page subsequent to the parable, I found a fairly concise analysis of Calvin’s own procedure in the Institutes passage duly quoted. (Unless you’re saying he didn’t quote the passage from the Institutes correctly.) If there are “only aggressive straw men” elsewhere, there doesn’t seem to be any there. Or do you deny that Calvin’s defense as stated appealed to a standard of justice not only completely unknown to us but so alien to us (and not only to ‘sinners’ but to the ‘elect’ as well, presumably including such as Calvin himself) that the standard is totally indistinguishable from injustice to us?


Note: since Paul had to be evacuated in order to avoid widespread fires, a reader should not consider a lack or substantial delay of reply to be a concession in any way. (I emphasize this for sake of future readers who may run across the thread. In fact I recommend it as a principle in discussions like this anyway--real life sometimes doesn't allow us to get back when we'd otherwise want to.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Steve,

{{Dr. Reppert issued a challenge to Calvinists, using Talbott’s parable as the frame of reference.}}

Agreed, and I don’t think the parable was a good frame of reference in itself. Which is the main reason I didn’t refer to it when discussing some other things with you.

{{I have not attempted to debate all of the pros and cons of Calvinism as over against all of the pros and cons of universalism.}}

Nor did I think you were intending to do so.

{{Rather, I’ve attempted to honor the implicit framework of the discussion by confining myself to the terms of the parable.}}

Except for your comments about how universalism is only appealing to folks like Talbott who’ve led a charmed existence, etc. Which I then discussed with you. (Your comparison of our approaches did have something to do with the terms of the parable, and I discussed that with you, too, when you brought it up.)


{{In which case your objection is irrelevant since I was responding to the implicit argument in Talbott’s parable.}}

At this point I have to say that I have no clear idea which objection of mine you’re talking about here. My objections to Tom’s parable are clearly stated in the seven paragraphs preceding my remarks to you (on a very different topic); and while you seem to have ignored those (up until your most recent reply to me), I don’t think they’re irrelevant to the topic of Tom’s parable.

If you mean where I wrote, “Not really a problem, since I wasn’t arguing for Tom’s parable, was I?”, then my objection there was to your statement (among other similar ones) “The problem with your argument is that you’re arguing on different grounds than Talbott.” If I point out, in objection, that I’m not trying to argue in favor of the viability of the parable (but rather the reverse), how is this objection irrelevant to your statement about my ‘problem’?

If you meant that my objection to your claim about how universalism is only appealing to folks who lead charmed existences is now somehow made irrelevant by my objection that I wasn’t trying to defend the viability of the parable, then I can only plead non sequitur.

If you meant some other objection of mine, please be more specific.


{{Even if your objection were valid in its own right, it does nothing to negate the force of my objection to Talbott’s parable at this juncture.}}

I agree that if my seven paragraph objection that the parable is not viable as an illustration, is valid in its own right, it does nothing to negate the force of your own objection to Talbott’s parable, at this or any other juncture.

I agree that if my objection about your description of whom universalism can only appeal to, is valid in its own right, it does nothing to negate the force of your objection to Talbott’s parable either, at this or any other juncture. (Except perhaps insofar as you were trying to apply that description as an objection to Talbott’s parable; but that would not seem to be very sensible as an objection to his parable per se anyway, and I didn’t treat it as such.)

I agree that if my objection that I was not trying to defend the viability of the parable as an illustration, is valid in its own right, this also does nothing to negate the force of your objection to Talbott’s parable, at this or any other junction.

If you meant some other objection of mine, I can’t agree or disagree yet, until I know which other objection of mine you meant.


{{Itgdoes [sic?] to the relevance of your objection to what I said in reference to Talbott.}}

The only two things I discussed with you were your comparative remarks about our methods, and your remarks about who universalism can only appeal to.

If you’re referring to the former, I think my only substantial disagreement with you can be borne out by a simple examination of the parable: respect and high regard for the authority of the revelation is included in every case given in the parable. But I only pointed this out after you had been persistently replying to me as though I hadn’t spent seven paragraphs discussing how I thought the parable was not viable.

If you mean the latter, then I admit I fail to see how claiming universalism can only appeal to people who live charmed lives, is any kind of valid criticism to the parable per se (which is why I didn’t treat your remark as such when I discussed it). Your remark I just quoted here was in answer to my question, “I’m not entirely sure why you thought I was supposed to be trying to defend his parable (per se) anyway.”


{{Is what I said a valid objection to Talbott’s position? It’s important not to confound these issues.}}

As noted, the only substantial objection I gave to your objection to Talbott’s parable, was in regard to some of its topical content: a high regard for inspired authority is included in all cases being discussed in the parable. It isn’t a simple revelation vs. intuition situation in any case mentioned. (Except maybe in the case of Nivlac!) But I gave that objection after you had been treating me persistently as though I was defending the parable’s viability.

If you’re talking about your comment concerning the only people universalism would appeal to, then I answer no, this isn’t a valid objection either to Talbott’s position or to Talbott’s parable (such as it is). But I wasn’t under the impression that this was supposed to be an objection to his parable per se (which is why I didn’t treat it that way.)


Steve: “You [Jason] are appealing to the revelation of the gospel, in which we are supposed to pray for the salvation of our enemies.”

Jason: “True--and so is Tom, when he gets down to doing actual exegetics and theology and stuff. {s}”

Steve: “Which, once again, is irrelevant to the parable. Why do you refuse to stick to the point?”

Actually, this does have some relevance to the parable, since it is far from unrelated to rationales being given by the objectors in the parable. The main difference being that Tom has substituted a condition we are inclined to think doesn’t involve being an enemy (albinism) for a condition which we _do_ think involves being an enemy (sinning). Which goes back to my own critique of the parable’s design.

Be that here or there, seeing as you yourself, in your very first comment, opened up the topic of Tom’s wider-scale rationales or lack thereof when you opined (at some length) about how only people who have led charmed lives “like Talbott” could find universalism appealing, I think I’m allowed to mention that Tom does in fact appeal to the revelation of the gospel in which we are supposed to pray for the salvation of our enemies, when you try to contrast us in what we are doing.

Skipping forward a bit:

{{No, the bottom-line of the parable is that if a revelatory claimant conflicts with our moral intuitions, then that falsifies the revelatory claimant.}}

No, the bottom-line of the parable is that if one revelatory claimant appears to conflict with another revelatory claimant, then something else has to be brought into play to resolve the apparent conflict. In the case of the peasant woman, she wasn’t rejecting the revelatory authority based on her moral intuitions; she was rejecting the interpretation of someone who was insisting she accept a particular resolution of the problem, and she was doing so in a manner of trusting God personally.

{{No, not just in terms of what it means, but whether it even counts as divine revelation.}}

Only as a last resort if the ecclesiast insisted that the data could only be interpreted in a fashion that totally conflicted with what she had learned about God from the scriptures (as well as from her own personal relationship with God!) otherwise.


{{I don’t begin with the attributes of God and then use that as an interpretive grid through which to filter the soteriological statements of Scripture.}}

Whether you begin with those or not, was not what I said (though I can see why you might have reasonably thought this was what I meant--especially since the typical procedure of the systematic theologian is to learn about the characteristics of God first and then go on to discuss things like God’s relationship to man, rebellion, condemnation, and salvation, basically in that order.)

What I said was, “I think everyone on all sides of the question, within Christianity, agrees in principle that we’re supposed to be appealing to the characteristics of God as the primary gauge for interpreting soteriology testimony in the scriptures.” This is not the same thing as a necessary topical order of progression.

Doubtless, someone wanting to know about ‘salvation’ and having zero notion otherwise about what it means (other than ‘being saved from something according to this religion’), could open up a Bible to an index in the back and look up some scriptural references, or page through the text randomly with a disciplined resolve to immediately forget or at least disregard any other topical content (once it’s recognized not to be about ‘salvation’ per se) until he happens across the sought topic. I don’t know why anyone would recommend that, and I think the natural approach would involve having heard something about ‘salvation’ in subordinate context to the topic of ‘God’ first, but I suppose it’s theoretically possible and maybe even practically achievable.

But the information thus gained cannot be divorced from other considerations. Salvation from what? Our sin. What does sin mean? Rebellion (at least). Rebellion from whom (can’t be from what)? From God. Who and what is this ‘God’ and why should I be saved from rebellion against Him?

None of us here in the conversation at the moment, I take it, are secular humanists, or some other kind of person who is a proponent of ethics apart from reference to God. If we’re not dealing with ethics apart from reference to God, then neither are we dealing with sin apart from reference to God; and unless I missed the whole point of the Jewish and Christian Testaments (not least in why the Son was given the name ‘Jesus’), neither are we dealing with salvation from sin apart from reference to God. Certainly Calvin didn’t! Whatever disagreements I may have with him (which are major, in places), Calvin was interpreting what salvation meant in light of reference to God (insfoar as Calvin understood God. Or didn’t understand Him, as the case was, by Calvin’s own occasional admission. {g} But even that overt lack of understanding was based in light of Calvin’s having understood something about God, or so he thought and taught.)


{{No doubt it’s useful to coordinate [soteriology] with a Scriptural doctrine of God}}

Let it be merely useful to you, then. I am not going to consider it less than necessary to coordinate an understanding of salvation with a true doctrine of God, such as can be put together by studying the scriptures. I don’t think I would be much of a theologian, or even much of a metaphysician, if I did and taught otherwise. I’m certainly not going to teach people that Biblical doctrines of God are useful but not necessary to properly understanding Biblical teaching on salvation. They can start topically here or there or wherever, but sooner or later (if the logical math is accurately followed out) it’s going to come back to the character and characteristics of God, in His own self-existent reality, the ground of all existence.

{{So you and I apparently part company on theological method.}}

Apparently so. But I have my doubts; I think you mistook a statement of mine about one kind of priority to be a statement about another kind of priority instead. Unless you’re saying that you may find an understanding of God to be useful but not really necessary to an understanding of salvation from sin. And even if you were meaning to say that, I have strenuous doubts that you’d actually be putting it into practice for very long--unless you simply disassociate God from your theology altogether or perhaps consider God to be dependent on us for His existence (which again I very strenuously doubt you do.)


Steve: “The idea that we should pray for our enemies is not an intuitive insight. To the contrary, it’s profoundly counterintuitive.”

Jason: “True, and I would argue that this [counterintuivity] is due to our fallen nature.”

Steve: “I disagree. Rather, it’s due to the general absence of immediate retribution in favor of a future, eschatological judgment.”

This, on the other hand, is an interesting disagreement, and probably does reflect an actual difference between us in our theologies. Especially since I wouldn’t disagree with your observation here myself, as being a contributing factor: it’s true that God doesn’t always, or even often, immediately zorch us for refusing to pray for hope and salvation for our enemies, leaving that punishment of ours to a future, eschatological judgment (sometimes! I’ve seen some more immediatel punishments, too, for refusing to have hope for the salvation of our enemies. {self-critically wry g!}) Consequently, we can develop an expectation that we can get away with it. But this, I contend, simply plays into our corrupted natural tendency to only hate our enemies instead of hoping for their well-being and salvation.

Of course--it would be impossible to believe that the counterintuitivity of praying for the salvation of our enemies is due to our fallen nature, if one is also believing that we either should give up praying for this sooner or later, or even never start in the case of some enemies. Since one way or another we certainly have strong theological disagreements here, it would make sense for us to have a serious theological disagreement there, too.


{{There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to see God exact retribution on the unrighteous.}}

Didn’t say there was. I said there was something intrinsically wrong with me enjoying seeing the unrighteous get scattered across the landscape, when my enjoyment has nothing to do with ‘fair-togetherness’ i.e. ‘righteousness’.

If you think I shouldn’t repent of my own un-righteousness, I guess you’re free to think that (depending on whether you’re only following out a preordained script for yourself); but I’m going to disagree with you.


{{[God exacting retribution on the unrighteous] is a regular theme in Scripture, up to and including the Book of Revelation.}}

Which is one reason why I said, “there are some things to be said in favor of kicking the butts of the unrighteous, too, and those things shouldn’t be ignored either.” But that doesn’t let me off the hook for enjoying it in an un-righteous way. Which I admitted I sometimes do. When I enjoy it in a righteous way, then of course there’s no problem with my enjoyment. (I also find it to be simply more en-joy-able, too, incidentally. {s!}) But that requires me to have fair-togetherness, salvation and (literally) re-tribut-ion in mind.

(Actually, between the two of us, I clearly am far more in favor of retributive punishment per se than you are. {g} But then the meaning of that word in English has been vastly altered over time, so it’s hardly your fault. You’ve been taught that punishment with no goal of restoring true tribute == _re_-tribution.)


{{Are you trying to becloud the issue? You’re perfectly aware of the distinction between an argument from reason and an argument from authority. These are terms of art.}}

Actually, I would say you’re the one trying to becloud the issue there. If by an ‘argument from reason’ you mean ‘and not from any data at all’, then no one in the parable was indulging in such an argument (and I rather doubt it’s impossible to do so anyway). They were all including and respecting authoritative data, including scriptural data, in their reasoning.

Once the authorities start conflicting, though, then some kind of resolution has to be made in some fashion. The ecclesiast managed to convince the peasant woman that one kind of resolution was impossible, so she very reasonably went with another resolution instead. Nivlac, also convinced that the same kind of resolution was impossible, chose to teach a different resolution to the problem than what the peasant woman took--a resolution that, not-incidentally, invoked and appealed to an inscrutable cloud!

If the defense of a position requires promoting the idea of a morality so alien to us that we not only can’t understand it but actually perceive it to be injustice, then you needn’t paint me as trying to ‘becloud’ the issue! Aim that brush over at Calvin! Once this idea is in place, then it becomes functionally impossible to correct any mistaken interpretation of scriptural teaching; the erring teacher can just toss up his idea about a text onto the invisible anti-rational skyhook and insist it be accepted thereby.


JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Tom,

Always great to run into an orthodox universalist. {g} Also great when a respected and established author comments on site!

Wish I had something better to say beyond that. Sorry. {s}

{{To my mind at least, the parable was not even partially about homosexuality, nor was it about original sin, nor was it even about the Reformed doctrine of reprobation, at least not essentially, though there are indeed some analogies (as well as some disanalogies) between the albinos and Calvin’s understanding of the non-elect.}}

This doesn’t leave me much room to adjust my comments about the non-viability of the parable. If you make albinism a key part of the illustration, and it isn’t supposed to even represent any concept of sin (particularly or generally either one), then the Calvinists have a strong ground for complaining about a straw-man illustration. The Calvs may not have a coherent understanding and presentation of sin in their theology of God’s punishment, but they are at least trying to talk about sin, not about non-sin, in relation to God’s treatment of people.

Consequently, the parable is instantly broken as an illustration of a Calvinist argument on the relevant topic that Calvin himself was talking about when you ported the quote. I can agree the port was (merely by itself) a good port, but when you totally disassociate your parable from a key element of Calvin’s concern, then I cannot agree that the port was properly used within the parable, any more than I can agree the parable serves as a viable illustration of what the Calvinists are trying to teach. Much less when the illustration is being given for purposes of criticising the position, which it clearly is being given for.

{{And that, by the way, is why I snuck in the example of an albino baby.}}

And then apparently disassociated it from anything at all to do with good or bad. Which Calvin was explicitly not doing. (Maybe you should have made your illustration about Ockhamists instead?)

{{The idea was to transport Calvin’s argument to a very different context (the details of which really don’t matter)}}

I disagree; it instantly invites the risk of misrepresenting Calvin’s argument. Your critics are complaining, among other things, of out-of-context representation. (Me, too, in my own way.) This is very far from being a defense against that criticism!


{{As I said before, it was not an argument at all}}

I have to agree with your critics here, that this smacks of disingenuity. Your own stated purpose is “to introduce... an argument that Calvin gives about the nature of justice.” (Whether it’s entertaining or not is beside the point.) In the parable, you include several examples of characters making arguments, including Nivlac and the peasant woman. Your critics are criticising those arguments in various ways. I don’t agree that their criticisms per se are always on point, but they aren’t doing wrongly to treat the arguments in the parable as arguments.

Pointing to more direct arguments in the larger-scale context of your article, is fine. But trying to pass the parable off as “a story intended merely to entertain”, tells us at best that you never intended it to be a parable of anything. In which case my criticism then is going to turn toward the questions of why you misleadingly called it a parable, and why elsewhere you’re trying to treat it as illustrative of at least one argument.

JRP

Plantinga Fan said...

Jason Pratt wrote: “Incidentally, Paul and Steve, I wouldn’t put things against the Calvinists quite the way “Plantinga-lover” does. Not that I can’t put it strongly, but I also know perfectly well that the Calvinists (and Arminians for that matter) aren’t just pulling things completely out of thin air. Y’all are trying to put the data together, too.”

Jason you claim that both Calvinists and Arminians “aren’t just pulling things completely out of thin air” by which I take it you believe their positions are not arbitrary. And you go on to say that “Y’all are trying to put the data together, too” by which I take it you believe their positions are developed without bias, just allowing the evidence to lead where it leads.

I believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism are instances of what I have said is the pursuit of position rather than the pursuit of truth. Both have their proof texts, both have their problems and weaknesses, and both are not the truth. Advocates of both positions are into defending and maintaining their positions/castles rather than determining the truth.

An analogy would be that they are like the Republican and Democratic parties. You know what they believe and stand for, and they oppose each other, and yet they both have problems and weaknesses, a thinking person will find both to be inadequate. If a presidential debate occurs, check out the responses from both sides afterwards. They will see and hear the same things, and yet their “take on it” will always be completely in line with the beliefs they had held before the debate occurred. Are they just “trying to put the data together, too”? No, they start with their position and then will modify, reinterpret, ignore, downplay, any information so that at the end it just happens to support their position and not that of their opponent. The reality is, they are “trying to put the data together” only in a way so that it fits their already held beliefs. An outsider can easily see this. Now should our approach to biblical truth be like this? Should we be using the bible to support what we want it to say rather than what it does say? This is an important distinction: the pursuit of position may or may not coincide with what is actually the case, while the pursuit of truth aims to correspond with what is actually the case. I don’t want the “Republican” or “Democratic” spin on it, I want the truth.

A couple of examples of how this works using Calvinists and Arminians. The biblical texts present that at least on some occasions we have choices (so Calvinism and its exhaustive determinism is false). The biblical texts also present that on occasion that God interferes with people’s thoughts and actions (so the Arminian claim that we always have free will and God never interferes with it is false). If we are really concerned about “putting the data together” we conclude that sometimes we have free will and God does not interfere with our choices and sometimes He does interfere with our choices. We can explain both the fact that we ordinarily have free will (because God designed us that way, that was as Plantinga puts it “the cognitive design plan”) and that sometimes God interferes with it (He is sovereign and can do whatever He wants with His creation when accomplishing His purposes). And if we come to this conclusion then we are neither “Republicans” nor “Democrats”.

And if we are honest in this way, some enterprising “Republican” seeking to defend his position will take what we say about God interfering with our choices (sometimes) and attempt to use that as evidence that God has exhaustively determined all events and here is the “evidence” that free will does not exist. On the other hand, some enterprising “Democrat” seeking to defend his position will take what we say about God allowing us to make choices without interfering (sometimes) and attempt to use that as evidence that God gives us free will and never interferes with it!

I look at the “Republican” and “Democratic” parties and see good points that each makes and weak points that each makes and conclude that neither party represents the complete truth. As one of my scientific friends put it do me one day: theologians are no different then politicians, they don’t want the unvarnished truth, they want “truth they can use” to support their agendas. This is true and sometimes these politicians become fans of science if the scientific finding is some “truth they can use” to support their political agenda.

Plantinga Fan

Jason Pratt said...

P-fan,

I'm a bit confused about something.

You clearly indicated to Ron that you didn't believe universalism to be true. But you "believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism are instances of what I have said is the pursuit of position rather than the pursuit of truth." And earlier you claimed to be a Christian, or seemed to anyway.

Keeping in mind that the Calv/Arm/Kath debate is simply the Protestant version of a troika of options that could be (in theory) debated among RCs and is (in practice) also debated among the EOx, I'm left with trying to figure out what position you yourself actually hold on the topic. Did I miss you mentioning a fourth option in your posts? Or are you agnostic on this particular topic (but not on other Christian topics?--which is possible to do, I think.)

Or did I misread something elsewhere?


{{Jason you claim that both Calvinists and Arminians “aren’t just pulling things completely out of thin air” by which I take it you believe their positions are not arbitrary.}}

True; and neither do you believe, in your own way, they are only being arbitrary. {s}

{{And you go on to say that “Y’all are trying to put the data together, too” by which I take it you believe their positions are developed without bias, just allowing the evidence to lead where it leads.}}

I'm certainly open to the notion that a Calv or Arm might be putting the pieces together in a way that responsibly deals with bias. Whether it's happening with or without some kind of prior bias, doesn't mean they aren't trying to be responsible in putting the pieces together. Nor does the existence of prior bias mean in itself that the prior bias is faulty to be holding.

I'm not a logical positivist; I know perfectly well that I myself don't operate outside a framework of premises on any topic, though I do try to carefully order my premises so that I'll be in as much agreement as possible with my opponents. Otherwise there isn't much point in my doing apologetics, much moreso evangelism at all (i.e. insofar as my relation with opponents go). Also I go to some self-critical effort to examine my own premises, identifying where they are ported conclusions, checking on why I would conclude such things, checking on why and where I might be including asserted premises instead, etc.


{{I believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism are instances of what I have said is the pursuit of position rather than the pursuit of truth.}}

Now we’re at the point where I wouldn’t put things quite the same way as you do.

Do I find particular Calvs and Arms doing this sometimes? Yes, I do. And when I do, they’ll typically hear about this from me, when the time comes and not before.

Do I assert (or conclude on some ground) that all Calvs and Arms are doing this?

No. I don’t.

I do think both schools of thought are mistaken on some points. But there’s a difference between being mistaken and fudging one’s case. That’s a charge of active dishonesty, and I am not going to level that at anyone in particular until I see good grounds for doing so--and then I’m going to restrict that charge to that particular person. I am not going to tar all adherents of a position with that brush. I see no good grounds for doing so, and I know I wouldn’t want to be (and don’t like it when I am) treated that way.

Consequently, then, I am neither presuming nor looking to find excuses to charge Paul Manata, Steven, or anyone else in this discussion with actively dishonest thinking (be it shirking or whatever). That sort of thing does happen, and I do run across it sometimes, but I believe it would be actively uncharitable on my part to treat my opponents that way as a default position.

I categorically refuse to do so, then.


{{Should we be using the bible to support what we want it to say rather than what it does say?}}

As a point of interest, I have rarely if ever run across a Calv or Arm proponent who actually wanted “the Bible” to say what they think it says regarding the hopelessness of God in regard to some sinners. Which of course means that the first thing they often say to me (and what they’ll typically end up saying to me sooner or later) is that all I’m doing is finding what I want to be true in the scriptures and squinting my eyes shut about the real, hard truth, because it’s uncomfortable to face, etc.

It will be observed, for example, that Calvin in the quote Tom borrowed from the Institutes, is arguing precisely on that line.

Nor can I legitimately deny it: if what I believe is true, it really would be good news! Hope is typically pleasing to hear about. {g}

But the inherent risk is that when we hear something we’re pleased to hear, we may let our own selfishness get in the way of an accurate assessment of the truth so that we can have the pleasure in disregard of the truth. That does happen, too, and I can’t (and won’t) deny it.

I don’t usually find this to be an inherent risk of the Calv or Arm position, though. It’s more of a risk inherent to my position, which means I’m the one who has to be more careful there.


{{I look at the “Republican” and “Democratic” parties and see good points that each makes and weak points that each makes and conclude that neither party represents the complete truth.}}

Same here (both analogically and literally).

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to therefore charge all members of those parties with dishonest fudging in order to arrive at and hold to and teach their positions.

If you’ve decided that that’s the best thing to do, in regard to your opponents, then of course you should do it; until when-if-ever you yourself begin to honestly see that such a move is mistaken on your part.

Until that happens, I’m going to correctly observe to Steve and Paul that I wouldn’t put things against the Calvinists in quite the same way you do. Because as a matter of fact, we do currently diverge on procedure and beliefs concerning our opponents there.


{{theologians are no different then politicians, they don’t want the unvarnished truth, they want “truth they can use” to support their agendas.}}

Mm-hm. So, done any theologizing yourself recently?

This kind of self-refutational comment is what I avoid when I make a point of practicing charity toward my opponents as a critical disciplinary action. But if you insist that I should accept it and apply it to ‘theologians’ broadband (except to myself, of course), then I’ll declare: Plantinga-fan is no different than a politician, he doesn’t want the unvarnished truth, he wants ‘truth he can use’ to support his agenda. Etc.

I’m reasonably sure that some other people here would be glad to hop on that bandwagon and use it against you. Though personally I would disrecommend it. {shrug}

JRP

Plantinga Fan said...

Hello Jason,

“I'm a bit confused about something.

You clearly indicated to Ron that you didn't believe universalism to be true. But you "believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism are instances of what I have said is the pursuit of position rather than the pursuit of truth." And earlier you claimed to be a Christian, or seemed to anyway. . . .

I'm left with trying to figure out what position you yourself actually hold on the topic. Did I miss you mentioning a fourth option in your posts?”

Which specific topic do you mean? If you mean on the issue of salvation, I believe that not everyone will be saved. I also believe that God provides Jesus to the world so that all who receive Him by faith will be saved. Has God already predetermined who will and who will not be saved? No, though He knows who in fact will and will not be saved.

“I'm certainly open to the notion that a Calv or Arm might be putting the pieces together in a way that responsibly deals with bias. Whether it's happening with or without some kind of prior bias, doesn't mean they aren't trying to be responsible in putting the pieces together. Nor does the existence of prior bias mean in itself that the prior bias is faulty to be holding.”

I would not suggest that all Calvinists and Arminians are as strongly biased or equally zealous for their positions. There are degrees of commitment with differing persons.

“Otherwise there isn't much point in my doing apologetics, much more so evangelism at all (i.e. insofar as my relation with opponents go).”

We engage in both apologetics and evangelism because we are commanded to do so by God and hopefully because we have a love for the truth and a love for nonbelievers.

“Also I go to some self-critical effort to examine my own premises, identifying where they are ported conclusions, checking on why I would conclude such things, checking on why and where I might be including asserted premises instead, etc.”

That sounds good and seems to be quite reasonable. That is the kind of thing that Feynman recommends.

”Do I find particular Calvs and Arms doing this sometimes? Yes, I do. And when I do, they’ll typically hear about this from me, when the time comes and not before.

Do I assert (or conclude on some ground) that all Calvs and Arms are doing this?

No. I don’t.”

As I have already said, the degrees of commitment towards their respective positions varies. When I use the analogy of Republicans and Democrats I am speaking of those strongly committed to those positions. Those strongly committed to, or zealots for a position do actively pursue their positions and defend their positions and attack others who hold different positions.

If you have not already done so, you need to go check out the Triablogue website and see Steve Hays and Paul Manata (as well as the others) in action. You will see folks extremely committed to Calvinism and also very nasty to others with whom they disagree whether they be believers or nonbelievers. Not all Calvinists are nasty, but they are.

“Consequently, then, I am neither presuming nor looking to find excuses to charge Paul Manata, Steven, or anyone else in this discussion with actively dishonest thinking (be it shirking or whatever). That sort of thing does happen, and I do run across it sometimes, but I believe it would be actively uncharitable on my part to treat my opponents that way as a default position.”

I do not treat people according to some kind of default position. Again, check out the Triablogue website for yourself, just look at how they interact with people.

“As a point of interest, I have rarely if ever run across a Calv or Arm proponent who actually wanted “the Bible” to say what they think it says regarding the hopelessness of God in regard to some sinners.”

How is God “hopeless” in regard to some sinners? God provides salvation to the world which is composed of sinners. Paul said that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, so God takes the initiative as He always does. He took the initiative with Abraham, as He did with the Jewish people as He does with Gentiles. The incarnation of Jesus is God taking the initiative towards sinners. Over and over that is God’s standard operating procedure, he takes the initiative, he offers forgiveness and salvation. The only ones that are truly hopeless are the ones (who have repeatedly said no to the gospel throughout their lifetime) and those whom scripture describes as being so hardened that they no longer have a conscience. But this hardening did not happen overnight and usually followed experiences in which God spoke to them through circumstances, believers, etc.

In response to my point that Republicans and Democrats have both strengths and weaknesses (and I was both speaking analogically and literally) you responded:

“Same here (both analogically and literally).

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to therefore charge all members of those parties with dishonest fudging in order to arrive at and hold to and teach their positions.”

I do not claim that all of those pursuing their positions always engage in dishonesty, some are quite delightful to talk to even when they disagree with you. No, I am talking about the strongly committed, the zealots, those who would do anything in support and defense of their fortresses. The types that see themselves alone as the bearers and protectors of the truth and see all other Christians as inferior, as heretical, or as not even being saved.

“If you’ve decided that that’s the best thing to do, in regard to your opponents, then of course you should do it; until when-if-ever you yourself begin to honestly see that such a move is mistaken on your part.”

Your statement here already contains the problem, “in regard to your opponents”. I do not view Christians who disagree with me or believe differently to be OPPONENTS. I view them first as Christian brothers and sisters. Because this is the way I see people I get along with all sorts of people who profess the Christian faith. I know and enjoy relationships with Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants of all stripes, Independents, Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists, Thomists, Jesuits, even though I also have disagreement with them on particular issues.

But there are zealous pursuers of positions who view everybody else not as other Christians but as “opponents” who must be vanquished, must be blown away by argumentation, converted to the “true faith” which is of course whatever they happen to believe.

I quoted a scientific friend as saying:

{{theologians are no different then politicians, they don’t want the unvarnished truth, they want “truth they can use” to support their agendas.}}
You responded to this with:

“Mm-hm. So, done any theologizing yourself recently?

This kind of self-refutational comment is what I avoid when I make a point of practicing charity toward my opponents as a critical disciplinary action. But if you insist that I should accept it and apply it to ‘theologians’ broadband (except to myself, of course), then I’ll declare: Plantinga-fan is no different than a politician, he doesn’t want the unvarnished truth, he wants ‘truth he can use’ to support his agenda. Etc.”

Again, Jason you speak of your “opponents”, fellow Christians are not my opponents. The true opposition is those who espouse materialism like Dawkins and Dennett and those who are false teachers like Benny Hinn. Sincere bible believing Christians are not the opposition. And then there are the zealots of particular positions who supposedly are supposed to be on our side and yet treat us as enemies. And by the way I do want the unvarnished truth, and I want the truth even if it is something I cannot use to support any agenda. I am quite different than the politicians, since I seek to know the truth and speak the truth, even if it costs me votes! :-)

Plantinga Fan

Plantinga Fan said...

I was looking back over some of the posts and came across this statement by Paul Manata:

“The people still believed in this God even though his own holy book declared him to be a cosmic failure. He intended all to be saved, he sent his daughter to save them, but failed. Like the little league left fielder, when the game was on the line, he couldn't catch the fly ball that was hit to him - failure.”

Here Manata is presenting an intentional and disingenuous misrepresentation of what people who are not Calvinists believe about salvation.

Where in the bible does it declare that God was a “cosmic failure”?

Since God’s “failure” is never stated in “his own holy book” as Manata claims, then where does this claim of failure on the part of God originate? Manata also likens God’s supposed “failure” with a boy attempting to catch a fly ball and missing it, dropping the ball “when the game was on the line.” Manata invents this claim as a rhetorical device to suggest that the non-calvinist view leads to the conclusion that God “failed”. So Manata claims that in some way non-calvinists believe or teach that God “failed” at some point with “the game on the line” and that this “even though his own book declared him to be a cosmic failure”. Is this really what people who are non-calvinists believe?

Most Christians believe that Jesus was given as a sacrifice or atonement for the sins of the world. But (contrary to Universalists) not all of the world will be saved. But if Jesus was given for the world but not all of them end up believing, then according to Manata God has “failed”, God just dropped the ball “when the game was on the line”.

In making an assessment of “success” or “failure” we evaluate by some criteria of evaluation. For example if a test has questions and the passing grad is 50% and someone falls short of 50% we say that he fell short and “failed” the test. If the criteria are different, say someone needs a certain score to enter into graduate school (say they must score at 95%) then anything less than 95% is failure. So success or failure really depends upon what the criteria of evaluation are. In some games, you are “successful” if you win and a “failure” if you lose (in some games you are “successful” if you just participate regardless of the score). In this instance much depends on the rules of the game and the objectives of participants and the designer of the game.

Putting this all together then, in looking at the giving of Jesus for the sins of the world, if we are evaluating God’s success or failure, we need to have criteria; we need to know the objective(s) which God had in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. And here is the key to dealing with Manata’s claim that God “failed” under the non-calvinistic scenario.

According to non-calvinists God designed us with a nature in which we have free will, we are able to perform our own actions. God also designed human persons to be capable of having a personal relationship with God. And this relationship is to involve love and trust and obedience. Now if human person were just things, then love and trust and obedience would not be relevant. But if we are dealing with actual relationships between different persons, then love and trust becomes very important. The non-calvinist also does not believe that God has predetermined “whatsoever comes to pass.” The non-calvinist believes that God desired that we choose to enter into personal relationship with Him freely.

Now if that is what God did, and if God’s own objective or goal or criteria was for people to enter into relationship with him freely, then what would “success” look like for God? Is success only achievable if all freely choose to be in relationship with God? Is success present if no one freely chooses to be in relationship with God? What is success if the criteria are that the human persons freely enter into relationship with God? It seems to me that the criteria would be that people could freely enter into relationship with God (so the offer of salvation would be to all; and God would need to take the steps necessary so that all in fact could enter into relationship if they chose to do so). If the criteria are to make salvation possible for all who freely choose to be in relationship with God, then if all make this choice God is successful and also if none make this choice God is also successful.

Note numbers do not determine whether or not God is “successful”. What determines success is if the plan of salvation is capable of saving all and if those who are saved are saved after freely choosing to be in relationship with God.

Put another way, if everything is “going according to plan” when it comes to the salvation “game” in which God makes the rules of the “game” anyway, then God is completely successful if He provides a way of salvation that is capable of saving the whole world and yet is only actualized when people freely choose to be in relationship with Him. According to the non-calvinist understanding then, has God successfully accomplished his plan of providing a salvation capable of saving the world but involving the free choice of human persons? Yes.

Jesus was faithful to the task given to Him which was to die on the cross and thus provide an atonement which is sufficient to cover the sins of every human person. But not all people are saved, so according to Manata God must have “failed” then. But what Manata has consciously and intentionally left out is the fact that under the non-calvinist framework, not only must Jesus die on the cross but human persons must also be saved by faith. In God’s plan of salvation according to non-calvinists, God’s plan of salvation must include both the provision of atonement for the world (which Jesus accomplished on the cross) and also a freely chosen response of faith on the part of human persons.

Now Manata may not like this conception of the plan of God, he may believe it to be false, but for him to attack the non-calvinist conception by claiming that it results in “failure” on the part of God is very misleading. If Manata did not **know** what noncalvinists believe about the plan of salvation, then we could excuse his misrepresentation as simple ignorance. But he knows that the non-calvinist believes in free will, that the non-calvinist believes that God’s plan of salvation includes a freely chosen response of faith, and yet he presents the misrepresentation anyway.

It would be like attacking and mocking a Japanese person for speaking in Japanese! He is speaking Japanese because he is Japanese! Similarly, a noncalvinist believes that God desires to save all of the world and provides an atonement capable of doing so, but the noncalvinist also believes that part of God’s plans was to create human persons with free will (in the libertarian sense) and to develop a plan of salvation in which a freely chosen faith response is necessary in order for someone to be saved.

If God makes up the rules of the game (and that is essentially what sovereignty means, that He does as He pleases with His creation), and the rules include that all human persons be capable of freely choosing to be in relationship with God, then God is not a failure if someone rejects Christ. Nor is God a “failure” if everyone rejects Christ. Because the criteria is not a set number of conversions, but the reality that all could be converted and those who are, are the ones who freely respond with faith to the gospel message. The criteria are not that everyone for whom Jesus died must be saved or else God is a failure. By His own criteria God is completely successful as He has in fact provided an atonement capable of saving all human persons, who respond with faith to the gospel message.

So where is the “failure”? The failure is not on the part of God as He has achieved exactly what He wants when it comes to His plan of salvation involving a freely chosen response to the gospel. From God’s perspective the plan is a complete success.

But there is another perspective: when it comes to “success” and “failure” in regard to God’s plan from our human perspective, it seems reasonable to me that “success” is if we are converted to Christianity and “failure” occurs on our part when we reject the gospel offer. And who is responsible if someone freely chooses to reject the gospel? The key is who is freely choosing to reject. And that would be us if we continue in our unbelief. Is God obligated to save anyone? No. Did he provide a way of salvation that could save everyone? Yes. If we freely choose to reject the gospel offer, was God unjust, unloving, unmerciful, not good? No, it is because God is loving and merciful and good that He develops a plan of salvation for sinners who have rebelled against him, that involved tremendous pain and sacrifice on the part of Jesus.

Manata included the little boy who dropped the ball as part of his argument about God’s “failure”. But the little boy playing baseball presumes a game in which the criteria for success calls for you to catch the ball in order to succeed and “win” the game. But that is just the game of baseball. When kids are little we have a rule when they are playing, say soccer,that every kid plays. If the criteria are that every kid gets a chance to play (which would also include them all being provided the equipment and clothing to play) then is a kid “successful” if he actually participates in the game? Does it matter if he scores a goal or not, or does what really matters involve he had the opportunity to play and he played? We consider the game to have been completely successful if everybody played and everybody had fun even if no one scores. In that situation the criteria for loving parents would include that they played in the game, they had fun, and nobody got hurt. In that situation the criteria of loving parents is not that they score a goal or never miss when they kick at the ball. And even in Manata’s misguided analogy if it were my son and he tried as best as he could to catch the ball and dropped it, I would not label or consider him a “failure”. My father who was an Olympic athlete had a simple criterion of success: if you did the best that you could do, then you were successful. You just better make sure that you did your best! :-)

Similarly, God’s plan of salvation is not a numbers game, successful or unsuccessful depending on the numbers that eventually get saved. No, God’s “game” is an opportunity “game”, in which success for God is if He made it possible for you to play in the game and gave you the choice whether or not you wanted to be in the game, and no matter how you choose he succeeded according to **His criteria**. And when it comes to salvation he makes the rules we don’t.

Plantinga Fan

Plantinga Fan said...

Tom presented a parable in which Nivlac, Calvin spelled backwards, is supported by “fundamentalists” (i.e. calvinists) and opposed by “liberals” (which in Tom’ words refers to “Those whom the fundamentalists castigated as liberals pointed to other texts in the book of Morg that seemed to declare Morg’s love for all Atlantans”). So in the original parable, the “liberals” are non-calvinists who reject unconditional election and so that would include: Arminians, Molinists, Thomists, Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants that are not calvinist, and independents that are not calvinist.

I was told that the calvinists at Triablogue have posted their own version of the parable. Paul Manata presents Tom’s parable with some twists. Instead of Calvin speaking, Manata has the apostle Paul speaking. I will quote parts of Manata’s parable and make brief comments:

“Against the liberal party--"I wish they would emasculate themselves!," Luap wrote:”

Here Manata has Paul attacking non-calvinists with Paul’s infamous statement in Galatians in which Paul says about “Judaizers” (i.e. those who were telling the Galatian Christians to combine Christianity with Jewish practices of the Old Testament Law) “Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.“ Gal. 5:12. Paul is speaking to people who were teaching justification by works rather than justification by faith. For Manata to have the apostle Paul saying about non-calvinists/”the liberal party” (i.e., those who believe that God’s mercy and grace and salvific plan is for more than just those who eventually believe) “those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves” is reprehensible and mean-spirited. The apostle was speaking of non-believing false teachers not sincere Christians who disagree with calvinism (like the “peasant woman” of Tom’s parable). That Manata would choose this statement by the apostle and apply it to non-calvinists shows how much Manata and his friends hate Christians with whom they disagree. The apostle Paul loved the church and greatly sacrificed himself for the church, he never would have made such a statement about non-calvinist Christians and when scripture is properly interpreted Paul himself was not a calvinist.

Next Manata simply has the apostle Paul presenting a portion of Romans 9 from which calvinist like to proof text:

“And not only so, but also when Hakeber had conceived children by one man, our forefather Caasi,though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that Morg’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, 'your dark-skinned children have I loved, but your Albino I have hated.'

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on Morg’s part? By no means! For he says to Sesom, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on Atlantan will or exertion, but on Morg, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Hoarahp 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, 'Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?' But who are you, O man, to answer back to Morg? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me like this?' Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if Morg, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the albinos prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called.””

A non-calvinist interpretation of these verses can easily be done, so merely quoting these verses does not establish calvinism.

Manata goes on to appeal to verses which speak of nonchristians in their state of separation from God, in order to establish the typical calvinist argument from depravity (i.e. since all people are corrupted by sin they are unable to have a faith response to the gospel unless they are first regenerated; and God only chooses to regenerate those whom he preselected for salvation:

”Luap went on to make two additional points: first, that Albinos have a futility of minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of Morg because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart, because they were not chosen in Morg's Son - the Savior - before the foundation of the world.”

Now check out especially Manata’s conclusion where the apostle Paul takes another shot at non-calvinists:

“Luap thus concluded that any argument from a human conception of justice is fundamentally misconceived: "Who are you, O man, to answer back to Morg?” Luap thus mocks human understanding: Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not Morg made foolish the wisdom of the world? And so Luap left his followers with this: “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their craftiness.” And so of the liberal philosophers Luap says, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” This great theologian laid down the law and the great antithesis by saying, “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards.” By saying that he made sure that he would control the minds of his followers.

Manata combines a quotation from Romans 9:20 with the apostle Paul’s words from 1 Cor. 1:20 and 1 Cor. 2:6 and adds Rom. 1:22, and ends with 1 Cor. 1:26. Now the problem is that I happen to know all of these verses as well as the contexts from which they are taken and what they were intended to say. And again, Manata’s hatred for non-calvinists leads him to apply verses that refer to nonbelievers and nonbelieving thinking to believers who are not calvinists. This is intentional use of scripture in a malicious way. It is the kind of thing that false teachers and cult leaders engage in. In cults, they believe themselves alone to have the truth and so they attack everyone else. And they use scripture taken out of context in order to attack their “opponents.”

If we examine these individual verses we see that they are not aimed at non-calvinist Christians by the apostle Paul and that the verses intentionally misquoted by Manata refer to nonbelievers. Start with Romans 9:20 “On the contrary, who are you O man, who answers back to God?” Manata quotes this verse as an attack on human reasoning about justice. That was not the Apostle Paul’s point. His point was that the creature is not in the place to question the actions of the Creator. If we understand that God is sovereign and does as He pleases then we understand that we are not in the position to question what He does. But this is speaking of a skeptical mentality not of honest inquiry and research. God created the world, and we should use our minds and honestly inquire as to the nature of the creation which God has made. God is not anti-science and scientific research and findings can be great blessings to mankind.

Manata has the apostle attacking human understanding per se: “Luap thus mocks human understanding [followed by a reference to 1 Cor. 1:20]. But the apostle Paul is not attacking human knowledge or understanding per se, rather, he is attacking the apologists of unbelief (people who attack the Christian faith not believers or non-calvinists). What Manata intentionally leaves out is the preceding verses to Paul’s statement in 1:20 about the “wise man”, ‘the scribe”, the debater of this age: “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE. Where is the wise man . . .” Paul says in v. 18 that the “word of the cross” the gospel message is “foolishness to those who are perishing” (i.e. nonbelievers), but to “us” who are being saved (i.e., believers, which would include noncalvinists Christians) “it is the power of God”. When Paul speaks of God destroying the “wisdom of the wise” and “the cleverness of the clever” he is not talking about the “liberals” of Tom’s parable or of non-calvinist Christians, he is speaking of nonbelievers such as Dawkins and Dennett et al.

So what is Manata intentionally doing? Taking verses that speak of nonbelievers and having the apostle Paul speaking these verses about non-calvinist Christians (the “liberals” of Tom’s parable). Again this is reprehensible and hateful behavior on the part of Manata.

Manata’s attack against non-calvinist is explicit when he writes: “And so of the liberal philosophers Luap says, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” This is another malicious and intentional attack against non-calvinist Christians by Manata. He starts by having the apostle Paul speaking of non-calvinists (“so of the liberal philosophers Luap says”) and then attributes Romans 1:22 “Claiming to be wise, they became fools”. If we examine Romans 1 we see that the apostle Paul is speaking of nonbelievers not Christians when he says “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” This is again shown by looking at the context which is the verses which preceded Rom. 1:22:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all UNGODLINESS and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness [who is doing that non-calvinists Christians or unbelievers?] because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evidenct to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that THEY are without excuse [who are the “THEY”? unbelievers]. For even though THEY knew God, they did not honor him as God, or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened [again, is this description by the apostle Paul meant to be in reference to non-calvinist Christians/the “liberals” of Tom’s parable? No] Professing to be wise, THEY became fools [in context there is no way this verse can be in reference to Christians who are not calvinists or who question calvinism] and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures [nonbelievers give up the true God but always end up worshipping something or someone else, usually themselves].

I could continue in Romans 1 but the point ought to be crystal clear: Manata has ripped a verse out of its context, a verse that refers to nonbelievers, and has the apostle Paul saying this about Christians who are not calvinists, who believe the bible and love the God of the bible but who see calvinism as the problem not God.

Nivlac was nasty towards his opponents (even had one killed) and wanted to repress the truth, end honest inquiry and investigation, and his zealous followers today are no different. The same hatred for other Christians continues, the same twisting of scripture and proof texting against theological “opponents” continues today.

It is ironic that the actions of Paul Manata a modern calvinist seem remarkably similar to Nivlac. The same hatred of the “opposition”, the same attempt to stop honest and sincere questioning in order to protect calvinism. No wonder some nonbelievers are turned away from Christianity. If Christianity produces people like Paul Manata who wants to be like that? How is it that Jesus loved the world and died for the world (Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2), Paul spoke of God’s desire to save all human persons (1 Tim. 2:3-6), of God’s mercy to all (Rom. 11:32) and yet zealous proponents of calvinism attack these truths and then end up attacking other Christians who think and believe differently? Is it the calvinists or the non-calvinist Christians who are manifesting the wisdom from above which James wrote about so clearly:

“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” James 3:13-18

Plantinga Fan

Jason Pratt said...

Plantinga-fan!

{{If you mean on the issue of salvation, I believe that not everyone will be saved. I also believe that God provides Jesus to the world so that all who receive Him by faith will be saved. Has God already predetermined who will and who will not be saved? No, though He knows who in fact will and will not be saved.}}

Okay, that sounds pretty typical Arminian-class, representatively, as far as the soteriology goes.

I think I must have misunderstood you when you wrote that you “believe that both Calvinism and Arminianism are instances of what I have said is the pursuit of position rather than the pursuit of truth.” That looks like a description of types of theology to me (representing two types of soteriology found paralleled in theory and even in practice among non-Protestants, too), so I thought you were talking about types of theology. Not about only some particular gung-ho people within those schools of thought. I think a lot of my subsequent misunderstanding came from that.

Well, from that and from the fact that when I told Steve and PaulM that I wouldn’t put things against the Calvinists (in general), and Arminians for that matter, quite the way I thought you were doing (against the adherents of those schools of thought generally), you didn’t seem to be trying to correct me that you were only talking about _particular_ Arminians or Calvinists. You seemed to be correcting me about Calvinists and Arminians simpliciter, and then describing Calvinism and Arminianism. Just like I had originally thought you were doing (and still thought you were doing at that time).

Consequently, that left me wondering, since you had denigrated Calvinism and Arminianism (and rejected Universalism), what fourth kind of soteriology you would propose instead. But it’s Arminian-type.

{{I would not suggest that all Calvinists and Arminians are as strongly biased or equally zealous for their positions. There are degrees of commitment with differing persons. [...] I do not treat people according to some kind of default position. [...] I do not claim that all of those pursuing their positions always engage in dishonesty}}

Good! That’s a relief to hear. I hope you’ll understand why I had gotten that impression, though.

Incidentally, yes I’ve seen what goes on over at Triablogue (never sure if I can spell that right, sorry guys!) And I’ve seen Paul Manata in action elsewhere. And bunches of other people, too. Including attacking me (though I don’t think Paul ever has, btw.)

Since you weren’t in fact prejudging groups in a lump as being intentionally deceptive etc., much of what I said afterward naturally has no particular bearing on what you were doing. Though on the other hand some... oddities... still cropped up here and there, which I’ll comment on later.

However, because I misunderstood what you were saying before, I do need some specific clarification on things, not provided by any of your (admirably lengthy) letters afterward.

1.) Do you consider Paul Manata to be one of the zealots you talked about? (It certainly seems that way to me, but I may have misunderstood you again.)

2.) Do you consider those zealots to be your opponents? (Ditto.)

3.) Do you, or do you not, recognize an obligation to be as charitable and understanding and hopeful for (including actively working toward) reconciliation as possible with your opponents, even when you end up having to fight them (for whatever reason)?

{{Sincere bible believing Christians are not the opposition.}}

Exactly what Paul Manata would say! See, y’all agree about something super important. {g}

{{Again, Jason you speak of your “opponents”, fellow Christians are not my opponents.}}

So you aren’t opposing Paul Manata? (Kind of looked like it...) Or you don’t consider him to be a fellow Christian perhaps? Well, he doesn’t consider you to be one either, sounds like... At least it sounds like you think he doesn’t consider you to be. And you might be right about his belief on that.

Kind of dodges the issue of my comment, to which you were replying, though (which was, “This kind of self-refutational comment [about theologians being no different than corrupt politicians] is what I avoid when I make a point of practicing chartiy toward my opponents as a critical disciplinary action.”)

If Paul Manata is not your opponent, then are you rigorously practicing charity toward him? Or, if he is your opponent, then--well, I get kind of fuzzy about your reply. You think you shouldn’t rigorously practice charity toward him then? (If you think you should--then I’m fuzzy about what you were replying about, exactly. My comment wasn’t about distinguishing who ‘the true opposition’ is. It was about rigorously and self-disciplinarily enacting charity toward your opponent, whoever that is.)

{{And by the way I do want the unvarnished truth, and I want the truth even if it is something I cannot use to support any agenda.}}

Excellent! {g!} So your scientific friend was being rather overhasty with his generalization, then! I’m trying to figure out why you thought a hasty generalization about ‘theologians’ in general would make any kind of truly impressive point; but I’m not getting very far on that... help? {s}

{{But there are zealous pursuers of positions who view everybody else not as other Christians but as “opponents” who must be vanquished...}}

True. And do you go the distance in seeking to understand their concerns, trying to foster what good you can find them to be trying to protect and foster, even if it turns out you have to fight them sometimes?

{{I am talking about the strongly committed, the zealots, those who would do anything in support and defense of their fortresses. The types that see themselves alone as the bearers and protectors of the truth and see all other Christians as inferior, as heretical, or as not even being saved.}}

Still a little fuzzy here. Do you think Paul Manata is one of these people? Or not? I kind of was getting the impression you did. Consequently, I (perhaps very mistakenly) was thinking in terms of Paul Manata when I wrote, “If you’ve decided that that’s the best thing to do, in regard to your opponents, then of course you should do it; until when-if-ever you yourself begin to honestly see that such a move is mistaken on your part.”

But then you said my statement here already (?) “contains the problem”, i.e. “in regard to your opponents”, after which you insisted you don’t see Christians who disagree with you to be opponents. But that’s not a correction to what I wrote in any way, except to the extent that you’re correcting my mistaken impression that you see Paul Manata as being one of those actual opponents.

Whether he is, or whether he isn’t, what I wrote still stands in principle: “If you’ve decided that that’s the best thing to do, in regard to your opponents, then of course you should do it; until when-if-ever you yourself begin to honestly see that such a move is mistaken on your part.” If he isn’t one of your opponents, then naturally the principle as stated doens’t apply to him. If he is, then it does. {shrug} That’s kind of incidental. It’s the treatment of your opponents (whomever they are) that I was talking about.

{{The only ones that are truly hopeless are the ones who have repeatedly said no to the gospel throughout their lifetime and those whom scripture describes as being so hardened that they no longer have a conscience. But this hardening did not happen overnight and usually followed experiences in which God spoke to them through circumstances, believers, etc.}}

So, you answered my question: God is hopeless in regard to those sinners. I guess you were asking the question rhetorically preparing to answer it: this is how God is eventually hopeless in regard to those sinners. That’s certainly straightforward enough. Not entirely sure why you answered me, when I stated, “As a point of interest, I have ever if rarely run across a Calv or Arm proponent who actually wanted ‘the Bible’ to say what they think it says regarding the hopelessness of God in regard to some sinners.” I agree, what you described is what Arm proponents typically think the Bible says regarding the hopelessness of God in regard to some sinners. I’m not disagreeing with that. I guess you thought it needed mentioning?--although I think most disputants are already familiar with it. (Or were you trying to say you’re someone who actually wants the Bible to say this in regard to some sinners? I didn’t get that from your reply, if so.)

{{[St.] Paul is speaking to people who were teaching justification by works rather than justification by faith. [...] The apostle was speaking of non-believing false teachers not sincere Christians who disagree with calvinism}}

As far as I can tell, the Judaizers considered themselves sincerely and devotedly Christian, too, as we do. St. Paul looks to have been making a clevery ironic retort against them for the trouble they were causing concerning circumcision. (If you are claiming the same authority as St. Paul, not to say Jesus, to judge who isn’t really a Christian but is only pretending to be, then I’ll have to refer that discussion to someone else. I’m leery about claiming apostolic authority myself, especially against someone else, and I don’t remember recognizing yours.)

Admittedly, I’m a little doubtful Paul (Manata) was trying to do the same thing as Paul (of Tarsus); but I also doubt he was trying to be hateful and mean-spirited, either (any more than Paul of Tarsus really was). Clever satirical retorts require a certain amount of imagination, and clearly someone who would borrow a reprobation from St. Paul against overly-restrictive law-observance-requiring people and apply it to the ‘liberals’ in the parable, doesn’t have much imagination. {wry g} Then again, to be fair, the albinism link lacks any cogent sense either when applied as a supposed illustration of Calvin, so... {shrug} It’s kind of a snafu all the way around. (I think I should recognize some possibility, though, that PaulM was satirizing the total inappropriateness of the albinism example-as-illustration by doing his own totally-inappropriate portover. That would require imagination, and admirable quantities of it; but might be plausibly judged to have been too obscure as a tactical choice for rebuttal.)

{{That Manata would choose this statement by the apostle and apply it to non-calvinists shows how much Manata and his friends hate Christians with whom they disagree.}}

Even if that is true--and that is admittedly the sort of result that one can naturally expect from accepting a salvation-by-doctrinal-belief doctrine, especially considering what they think the salvation is from (i.e. no one is tolerant of Ebola)--we’re required to do better than that and respect and reinforce and encourage whatever good intentions we can find in them. Or at least I believe that I’m required to do so, not least as a self-critical restraint against myself and my own tendency to hate my enemies.

{{A non-calvinist interpretation of these verses can easily be done, so merely quoting these verses does not establish calvinism.}}

Agreed.

I agree about the patchquoting of Luap, too, incidentally. Though personally, knowing the contexts, I wouldn’t call the quote from Romans 9 directed toward nonbelievers, exactly.

{{This is intentional use of scripture in a malicious way.}}

Could be.

{{It is the kind of thing that false teachers and cult leaders engage in. In cults, they believe themselves alone to have the truth and so they attack everyone else.}}

Of course, when one believes that one is correct on the truth of a point, one does have an obligation to the truth to stand against and correct a mutually exclusive position, insofar as one has light to see by.

The critical difference is that even if we have to fight them, we’re supposed to be thinking as charitably as we can about our opponents and at least hoping (though ideally doing more than hoping) for peace between us eventually, rather than only attacking them as enemies, even when they only attack us as enemies.

If I don’t go the route of Christian chivarly, in hope for my opponents, then in condemning them I am only condemning myself as well. I’m pretty sure St. Paul (and far more importantly Jesus) had some things to say about that, too.

{{Manata quotes this verse as an attack on human reasoning about justice. That was not the Apostle Paul’s point. His point was that the creature is not in the place to question the actions of the Creator.}}

In fairness, PaulM would see the former as a natural topical extension of the latter principle, and certainly not be denying the latter in doing so. His main difference (from me anyway, as well as from similar exegetes of Romans 9) would be in interpreting the intention of Paul’s hypothetical questioner, whom PaulM (I think I can safely say) understands to be trying to appeal to mercy over pre-fated condemnation and being slapped down by St. Paul for doing so.

{{But [Rom 9:20] is speaking of a skeptical mentality not of honest inquiry and research.}}

Frankly, I think it isn’t. Or if it is, then it has no bearing on the context of the question that introduces the retort. Something is being rebuked there, but (against PaulM et al) I don’t believe it is a cry for mercy, and (against you apparently) I don’t think it is a mentality of sceptical quibbling. Neither of those is what is being represented in the expected question preceding the rebuke. (Though the typical Calv interpretation does have the advantage of trying to synch up with topical progression in the chapter instead of importing a topic out of plot-nowhere.)

{{But the apostle Paul is not attacking human knowledge or understanding per se [at 1 Cor 1:20], rather, he is attacking the apologists of unbelief}}

I don’t think St. Paul is doing either of those things, exactly, there. He’s addressing, and warning, about a very practical problem with preaching the evangel (especially in his day and time): the two different groups (Greeks==Gentiles, and Jews) are not prepared to accept a crucified Messiah, for lots of different reasons! They are the ones who are calling such a notion foolishness, and are having a hard time ‘getting over it’ (which is the Greek connotation of “stumbling-block”).

Paul is engaging in a brilliant satirical turnaround: God did something none of these people expected, (much less would invent, thus incidentally demolishing in advance whole modern schools of ‘religious development’ concerning ‘Paul’s religion’. {g}) They can call it foolishness if they wish, because in a way it is foolishness--it certainly isn’t safe. To proclaim a Lord (much less the Lord, the Lord of Lords) crucified--executed as a rebel against Rome and cursed by God Himself according to the Jewish scriptures themselves--is setting up one’s self to be likewise zorched by everyone, Gentile and Jew alike! But, that’s what God did.

In effect, this is too unexpected a doctrine for Paul (or any of the others) to have just made up, even by attaching a myth to some philosophical position in the fashion among contemporary Greeks of his day. Paul says as much in 1:17, and 2:1-2ff. (Which admittedly PaulM omits to mention, though he probably thinks it only counts in favor of his contention and so wouldn’t need mentioning, to be fair. Certainly no Calvinist I’ve been familiar with is shy about importing those verse sets, too.)

All of which is part of an elaborate six-chapter setup to nix a factionizing Epicurianish stepmom-sleeping-guy who is ruining Paul’s Corinthian congregation. But that’s another story.


{{If we examine Romans 1 we see that the apostle Paul is speaking of nonbelievers not Christians when he says “Professing to be wise, they became fools.”}}

True--and very clumsy on PaulM’s part as a scriptural port (since we obviously aren’t exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals, etc., much less engaging in homosexuality.)

But that goes to the typical Calvinist belief--and not just among Calvinists either--that those who aren’t entirely in their camp are, well, not in their camp. {shrug} Which is reasonable enough in itself, and not even necessarily hateful (Paul wasn’t being hateful to the pagans in Rom 1, for instance; on the contrary, he recognized that he owed them a legitimate debt of gratitude that he was eager to repay!)--until one adds the doctrine that only absolutely correct doctrine counts as ‘Christianity’ much less grounds for ‘salvation’. (Though to be fair PaulM would probably deny that salvation is by doctrinal belief, until it came time to emphasize doctrinal belief. {g})

Put those together, and we aren’t ‘Christian’ to a hyperCalvinist, therefore we only count as ‘nonbelievers’, no better than, oh, those Judaizers who professed to be Christians but should only be regarded as nonbelieving false teachers.

Ahem. {s}

So, are you going to do better than Paul Manata? Or are you only going to do the same, but the other way around?

If you’re going to do better than PaulM, you’ll have to start working at sympathizing with and understanding where he’s coming from and what legitimate concerns, under God, he may be trying (ineptly or otherwise) to protect.

{{Here Manata is presenting an intentional and disingenuous misrepresentation of what people who are not Calvinists believe about salvation.}}

Well, people who aren’t Calvs or Kaths. But I agree the parallel is inapt even in regard to Arms: the fly ball has no free will that the little leaguer left-fielder, in loving the ball, wants to preserve.

Still--one can’t say that the Arms hope for the little leaguer to continue hopefully pursuing that lost sheep of an errant baseball for as long as it takes, into forever, never ceasing short of bringing the ball safely home. If God gives up the game, then the rebels have won, even if it’s a Pyrrhic victory (to say the least). To their credit, the Calvs have more faith in our sovereign God than that!--at least when it comes to His competency and persistence. (Me, too. {s!})

They just don’t believe he ever intended to catch all (or even most, or more than a bare handful) of balls. Actually, I guess the hyperCalvs, in effect, believe God batted them all into the sky, and then ran out to catch only one of them, intending to torture the others forever (or to destroy them completely out of existence) because the balls fell where He batted them instead of into His hand. After which the parable-analogy attempt gets even screwier.

Personally I wouldn’t, as a kath, use a baseball analogy at all. I prefer kittens. {g} (uh, no, not batting kittens into the sky to catch them... But herding cats is a good way to get scourged up. Yet no one who loves a cat would want a cat to only be a robot; or even only a cow or a sheep, either. We may be sheep now, but we’re meant to be something much better, by the freely given joy of God--and by God’s own blood on the cross. Admittedly, something better than a cat, too. {s!})

{{But if Jesus was given for the world but not all of them end up believing, then according to Manata God has “failed”}}

Actually, if Jesus was given not only ‘for the world’ but for the sending away of sin; and yet God ever gives up on sending away the sin--then God has either chosen to stop loving them (and so much for orthodox trinitarian theism being true) or else God still loves them but has been forced to concede permanent failure, always and forever, in His object to fulfill fair-togetherness (and so much for orthodox trinitarian theism being true again, though in another way. We might as well be Mormons or Arians or something, and settle for less than true love being the ground of all reality.)

{{The non-calvinist also does not believe that God has predetermined “whatsoever comes to pass.”}}

Actually, I do (over against the typical expositions of ‘open theism’); but not in the way the hyperCalvs tend to present it. More in the Boethist/Lewisicist way. It has no constraint against free will at all, but does retain God’s true omniscience (and sovereignty, too; which the Calvs are rightly concerned to affirm and not deny.)

{{God’s own objective or goal or criteria was for people to enter into relationship with him freely, then what would “success” look like for God?}}

By tautology, ‘success’ would be for people to enter into relationship with Him freely. Though you apparently think if this doesn’t happen and God’s goal is not met it doesn’t count as a failure. (Thus you alter the criteria later to a goal of only providing a way for this to happen.)

However, you’ve got a peculiar disjunction going here. Once we are corrupted by sin (in whatever way), success is no longer only a matter of us freely entering into relationship with God--not that that’s now absent from the criteria, but that would have been the goal for unfallen creatures, too. With the introduction of sin, there’s now a new goal, which has to be accomplished in order for the other original goal to also be fully accomplished: the salvation of the person from sin--all sin, whether sins enacted upon them (to which as natural derivative entities they must in some way react), or sins enacted by them (victimizing other entities in the process who now also must be saved from the sin of their oppressors.)

The critical question is whether God is going to fail in saving a soul from sin; and if so, why. Calvs say no, He isn’t going to fail in His purpose of saving whichever souls from sin (at least from their own sin) He decides to save; which is why we can trust Him to complete our salvation even when we’re being stubborn and intransigent about it. (Assuming we’re one of the few elect, which seems a wildly unjustifiable and even madly presumptious assumption to make, since there seems to be no way for us to accurately gauge whether we’re really one of the elect or only under some inescapably fated delusion about being one of the elect! Let it not be said that the Calvs are pessimistic!--at least about their own chances! {g})

{{If the criteria are to make salvation possible for all who freely choose to be in relationship with God, then if all make this choice God is successful and also if none make this choice God is also successful.}}

True, so far as it goes. But it’s simply ignoring that failure over there. The Son Incarnate wasn’t named Jesus, much less shed blood and died on the cross, ‘to make a free relationship with Him possible to enter into’, though admittedly that’s included, too. Or even only “to make salvation possible for all who freely choose to be in relationship with God”, though admittedly that’s included, too.

{{What determines success is if the plan of salvation is capable of saving all and if those who are saved are saved after freely choosing to be in relationship with God.}}

So long as God never had any intention of actually and actively saving His people from their sins, but only of making it possible for them to be saved somehow. Actually saving people was never the end goal in view, then; that’s just a nice bonus, like salt on a pizza. Certainly okay if He can get it, no biggie if He doesn’t. No biggie to Him anyway; He’ll be sure to relentlessly torment hopelessly forever the ones who refused, or maybe just destroy them out of existence. Biggie for them; no big deal for God. He didn’t go the distance to fulfill that for them, so no failure if He doesn’t achieve it in them.

I dissent. {waving hand} Strenuously. {g}

{{According to the non-calvinist understanding then, has God successfully accomplished his plan of providing a salvation capable of saving the world but involving the free choice of human persons? Yes.}}

According to the katholic understanding then, did God ever intend to do (much moreso did do, and is doing, and is going to do) something more than merely make it possible for us to be saved? Yes. Usually I hear non-kaths talk about this other intention and accomplishment, too. Gratefully even! Very gratefully even! Songs are sung about it, sermons are preached on it, missionaries spread the good news about it.

Some of us just don’t give up on it, ever. {s} Nor think God does.

{{Jesus was faithful to the task given to Him which was to die on the cross and thus provide an atonement which is sufficient to cover the sins of every human person.}}

You do know that ‘atonement’ was the Middle-English attempt at translating ‘reconciliation’ (as ‘at-one-ment’), right?

No reconciliation; no success. God hardly has to be reconciled to God! Who has to be reconciled?

{waving hand again!} That would be me, the sinner. {s} No reconciliation achieved, equals no reconciliation achieved. An open door isn’t a reconciliation. It’s admittedly important, can’t have reconciliation without it, has to be done from above first (that’s an ontological necessity). But it isn’t reconciliation--not until the sin is gone.

The sin of whom?

Every. Human. Person. (Actually, St. Paul goes rather beyond that, speaking of the reconciliation of all things--of all things (he emphatically repeats) whether things in the heavens or in the earth--to be accomplished by the blood of Jesus on the cross. Not real sure how many human persons in the earth need reconciling to God, but I’m pretty sure I know how many human persons in the heavens do...)

Admittedly, this can only be accomplished by the repentance of the sinner to faith, with willing resolution to the sending away of sin. (Reconciliation in Greek is a down-up movement.) Which doesn’t happen at all without God’s help in every way I can think of offhand, thus not without God striving for it first.

Any given human person may give up on this. Well, we’re sinners, and not strong to save anyway, so that’s not unexpected. Is God going to give up on it, though?

I say no. I think the Bible taken as a whole and in context testifies no. Heck, the Calvs agree with me on this. {g} They just think God never intended to try on anyone else to begin with. But the Calvs and I agree at least this far on hope: if we cannot trust God to save us from our sin and never to give up on us, there is nowhere we can reliably put our trust! If God is not true love then there is no true love! (Granted, the Calvs will then get kind of squirrely about that, when push comes to shove, so to speak; but still even they recognize the point at issue here in regard to their own salvation at least. {s})

{{Now Manata may not like this conception of the plan of God, he may believe it to be false, but for him to attack the non-calvinist conception by claiming that it results in “failure” on the part of God is very misleading.}}

Not really, in this case. He’s simply not disregarding that crying failure over there--the failure to save a soul from sin. And he would consider that disregard to be (at best) very misleading.

He might also add, perhaps, that speaking of ‘non-calvinists’ in a broadly inclusive sense but not bothering to include those other non-calvinists, who have a different idea about that crying failure being disregarded over there as irrelevant, is also somewhat misleading. (Even if he doesn’t agree with those other non-calvs either and accounts us out with the nonbelieving pagans and the rebels condemned to death, reckoning us with the sinners. I can’t help but think of a verse from 1 Cor on that topic... {g})

{{If God makes up the rules of the game (and that is essentially what sovereignty means, that He does as He pleases with His creation), and the rules include that all human persons be capable of freely choosing to be in relationship with God, then God is not a failure if someone rejects Christ.}}

If He never really intended or acted to save that person, then true, He didn’t thereby fail to save them. Opening a door doesn’t really necessarily require an intentional action to lead people through that door, after all. No intention, no action, only a mere nominal provisioning, equals (very reasonably) no failure.

That sounds kind of familiar as a doctrine... hm...

{{The failure is not on the part of God as He has achieved exactly what He wants when it comes to His plan of salvation}}

Which, after all, apparently wasn’t all that much. Minimal goal, minimal possible failure. Calvs just take that math to its logical end.

{{Is God obligated to save anyone? No.}}

Goodness no, I suppose the answer could be coined. {g} His goodness and love would surely never obligate Him to save us whom He loves. Or, if they would, then those can be theologically demoted into being less important than something else. Sheer power maybe, or arbitrary whim. He made the rules of the baseball game, right? His ball, His playground, His rules--His mere game. They could have been something else just as easily. Like an afternoon’s roll in the hay, perhaps! Committment, true love--those are messy and degrading to the dignity of the Greatest. Heck, they might even get Him killed or something when the partner decides to inflict the passion wrongly! Pfft. An afternoon dalliance with His invented girl would be safer, no committment, no obligation for better or for worse, just fun...

{{Did he provide a way of salvation that could save everyone? Yes.}}

Did He do anything at all more than just provide ‘a way’ for us to be saved? Apparently not--then there would be a failure if we didn’t get saved! Nope, the door’s open if the invented girl wants to come back after walking out in a snit, but He isn’t going to go out after her. He’s God!--no obligations on Him! And she’s just an invented girl after all, that He made up for His own amusement.

{{No, it is because God is loving and merciful and good that He develops a plan of salvation for sinners who have rebelled against him}}

Sure, He opened the door for the girl He invented--what more do you want?! Even _that_ was pure charity on His part, the ingrate. Why she should think He was so stuck-up and huffy and self-important is beyond Him.

{{that involved tremendous pain and sacrifice on the part of Jesus.}}

Uh-huh. Seems like a lot of cotton-picking for a nickle, as my Mom would say. All He did was open a door? Not even try to lead us home? Didn’t go out after and keep after the hundredth sheep after all? Didn’t keep sweeping till He by God found that missing coin?

Doesn’t really fit the concept of going the utmost distance for us on the cross, somehow. Or maybe the utmost distance just wasn’t that far.

{{But the little boy playing baseball presumes a game in which the criteria for success calls for you to catch the ball in order to succeed and “win” the game.}}

True. Whereas, by contrast, no intent to catch the falling soul, then no failure if the soul isn’t caught. No intent to run past the gate-bases and bring the team home safe, then no failure if they don’t get home safe. No intent for the teams to go out afterward for a pizza and fellowship together, no failure if one team goes home and throws themselves in a furnace out of spite when they (silly them) thought enough of the game to care about losing.

Doesn’t seem like much of a gospel: ‘God opened a door! ... ... ... and that’s it! ... ... ... What, you were expecting true love to do anything more than that!? You were expecting the Almighty could do anything more than that!? You expected Him to care enough to go through that door after you, and never rest and never give up, even if you hurt Him horribly in the process, until you were saved from your curse and came home to be His beloved and eternally satisfied Bride forever!? You sure have a low opinion of God! Take this gospel we’re giving and be grateful for it! Oh, and the door will slam shut, so be glad it’s open at all for a while, ingrates. Surely you don’t really think God cares enough to keep it open forever for you, much less keep trying to rescue you, do you? No, no, our news isn’t quite so good as that... I mean, that news would be horrible, horrid, ghastly! Our news is much better! Take it! Take it or else! Okay, yes, when you’re little you might excusably think God might do more for you than just open a door, but that’s only something a child would believe. Grow up, face reality, God doesn’t love you _that_ much--you presume upon God to dare to think so! Take this other good news instead, it’s all you’re ever going to get.’

And then people are surprised by sceptics vehemently rejecting this ‘gospel’, and blame it on the sceptics being merely intransigent and unreasonable.

{{We consider the game to have been completely successful if everybody played and everybody had fun even if no one scores.}}

Not that I deny this in the least, but I’m kind of missing where the “everybody had fun” is, in your parallel application there.

Few people, I think, would believe the game to be completely successful if everyone out on the field decided to start cheating and hurting one another and the coach merely stood on the sidelines waving his arms with the rulebook until his arms hurt and his feet got sore and he got a stitch in his side, and some of the kids got tired of being bad and decided to go out for pizza with the coach (maybe--or maybe none of the kids did!), but the other kids went out into the cold dark forest nearby to sulk in a hellish depression while some of the kids went out for pizza. And then the coach set the forest on fire and kept the sulking kids from escaping (but they didn’t want to escape anyway, they’d rather stay in the forest and burn.)

Now, that _might_ possibly happen as an outcome of the game. But I’m having a hard time trying to figure out why anyone at all involved in this debacle, would consider that game to have been completely successful.

But if the kids all started fighting and cheating one another--which is plausible enough--what would really be the most successful outcome of that? I mean really.

I think you know well enough what the most successful outcome would really, ideally be.

Especially for loving parents.

(And it wouldn’t involve necessarily one or another team scoring goals, for what it’s worth; or anything merely ‘numerical’ like that. {s})

JRP

steve said...

Jason,

I’m tardy on my response because I’m facing down a deadline. But here is what I have to say for now.

“At this point I have to say that I have no clear idea which objection of mine you’re talking about here.”

Both in the parable, and in his general series, which the parable serves to illustrate, Talbott is using moral intuition as a criterion to judge the truth or falsity of revelatory claims.

In the parable, the reaction of the peasant woman to the prospect that one of her “albino” children might be reprobated as a case in point.

I simply constructed a parallel argument. Talbott is a universalist. (I guess you are as well.).

And I pointed out that many victims of horrendous violence and galling injustice would also find universalism morally repugnant since this means that their assailant ultimately gets off the hook. The victim doesn’t want to spend eternity with his assailant. Rather, he wants to see retributive punishment exacted against his assailant.

Indeed, the victim generally wants to take revenge on his assailant. Good old-fashioned vengeance. Not even punitive justice, per se, but pure vindictiveness, hoping to make the assailant suffer as much as possible for what he did to the victim.

And I used that example to undercut Talbott’s appeal to moral intuition. To some degree, moral intuition is person-variable. What is repugnant to one individual may not be repugnant to another.

Talbott is acting as if universalism is intuitively compelling. And universalism does figure in his overall series. Can you trust a God who would damn you?

I’m merely noting that the universalist does not enjoy a monopoly on moral intuition. And I bring up his charmed existence because he himself, in his book on The Inescapable Love of God, talks about his experience, growing up in a close-knit family, and how that predisposed him to universalism.

You, however, countered my objection to Talbott by talking about how Christians are supposed to love their enemies, and so on. That, however, is irrelevant to the structure of Talbott’s argument.

I was responding to Talbott’s argument. Your counterargument is unresponsive to my argument, for my argument was calibrated to the contours of Talbott’s argument.

“In the case of the peasant woman, she wasn’t rejecting the revelatory authority based on her moral intuitions; she was rejecting the interpretation of someone who was insisting she accept a particular resolution of the problem, and she was doing so in a manner of trusting God personally.”

No, she went further than that: “IF you are right, then these verses are just wrong; they are not a true revelation from Morg."

So if Nivlac’s interpretation is correct, then that would falsify the revelatory status of the Book of Morg.

Moreover, that’s the point of Talbott’s series as a whole: “To test the spirits,” including the canonical scriptures of the Bible, if need be.

“But the information thus gained cannot be divorced from other considerations. Salvation from what? Our sin. What does sin mean? Rebellion (at least). Rebellion from whom (can’t be from what)? From God. Who and what is this ‘God’ and why should I be saved from rebellion against Him?”

This is not a question of “divorcing” one theological locus from another. Rather, it’s a question of epistemic priorities. The primary place to learn about Biblical salvation is in passages of Scripture which directly address that topic.

You, however, apparently want to take the doctrine of God as your interpretive matrix, then filter soteriological states through that particular grid.

I don’t know how you yourself go about it, but to take Talbott as an example, he begins with the love of God, as he defines it, then all of the Biblical passages that deal with reprobation or damnation must be reinterpreted consistent with his definition of divine love.

I disagree with that convoluted theological method, which involves a lot of creative exegesis to shoehorn everything into his foregone conclusion.

“None of us here in the conversation at the moment, I take it, are secular humanists, or some other kind of person who is a proponent of ethics apart from reference to God. If we’re not dealing with ethics apart from reference to God, then neither are we dealing with sin apart from reference to God; and unless I missed the whole point of the Jewish and Christian Testaments (not least in why the Son was given the name ‘Jesus’), neither are we dealing with salvation from sin apart from reference to God. Certainly Calvin didn’t!”

This is a false dichotomy. The soteriological statements of Scripture are theologically-laden statements from the get-go. God reveals a lot about his character in redemption and damnation.

“Let it be merely useful to you, then. I am not going to consider it less than necessary to coordinate an understanding of salvation with a true doctrine of God, such as can be put together by studying the scriptures. I don’t think I would be much of a theologian, or even much of a metaphysician, if I did and taught otherwise. I’m certainly not going to teach people that Biblical doctrines of God are useful but not necessary to properly understanding Biblical teaching on salvation. They can start topically here or there or wherever, but sooner or later (if the logical math is accurately followed out) it’s going to come back to the character and characteristics of God, in His own self-existent reality, the ground of all existence.”

This is a bit disingenuous on your part because the reasoning is reversible. You act as if the Biblical doctrine of God should condition our understanding of the soteriological passages, but you don’t act as if the soteriological passages should condition our doctrine of God. So there’s a lack of parity in your own approach. In that respect, you and I are in the same boat, but sitting in different place.

However, your methodology has the additional disadvantage that it tries, apparently, to infer from nature of salvation from the nature of God, rather than going to passages of Scripture specific to the subject-matter of salvation.

“This, on the other hand, is an interesting disagreement, and probably does reflect an actual difference between us in our theologies. Especially since I wouldn’t disagree with your observation here myself, as being a contributing factor: it’s true that God doesn’t always, or even often, immediately zorch us for refusing to pray for hope and salvation for our enemies, leaving that punishment of ours to a future, eschatological judgment (sometimes! I’ve seen some more immediatel punishments, too, for refusing to have hope for the salvation of our enemies. {self-critically wry g!}) Consequently, we can develop an expectation that we can get away with it. But this, I contend, simply plays into our corrupted natural tendency to only hate our enemies instead of hoping for their well-being and salvation.”

No, I wasn’t talking about immediate retribution and/or eschatological judgment with reference to the punishment of Christians who refuse to pray for their enemies or hope for their salvation. Rather, I was talking about the punishment of unbelievers.

We are to pray for unbelievers during the church age. But this is not because it’s inherently wrong to take satisfaction in divine justice. Indeed, the Book of Revelation is full of imprecations.

That’s because the Apocalypse is assuming an eschatological viewpoint. It is inherently right and righteous to hope and prayer for the judgment of the wicked. And that will ultimately take place at the final judgment. But until the eschaton arrives, the accent lies on the salvation of the lost rather than the punishment of the lost.

I’d add that if a wicked man dies, then we should rejoice in his demise. He has passed into judgment. He is receiving his just deserts. At that point we have no obligation to love him or pray for him.

“If the defense of a position requires promoting the idea of a morality so alien to us that we not only can’t understand it but actually perceive it to be injustice, then you needn’t paint me as trying to ‘becloud’ the issue! Aim that brush over at Calvin! Once this idea is in place, then it becomes functionally impossible to correct any mistaken interpretation of scriptural teaching; the erring teacher can just toss up his idea about a text onto the invisible anti-rational skyhook and insist it be accepted thereby.”

This is a stock tactic by theological liberals, in which they confound what the Bible writers believed with what we are prepared to believe. They don’t allow the Bible to teach something that comes into conflict with their preconceptions. So they reinterpret the Bible whenever an apparent teaching of Scripture collides with the liberal orthodoxy of the day.

Paul Manata said...

Hi all,

I was reminded of this discussion and so I clicked on the comments link. I see Jason's response to me, but don't feel the need to respond, especially since the combox appears to have taken a turn. I also feel that my main point - the Nivlac straw man - was granted by Jasosn, and so I don't feel the need to debate the other issues. My goal was simply to undermine that this was a "challenege" for Calvinists.

I also note that Plantingafan has read way too much into my reverse parable than I intended. I know he likes Plantinga 'n all, but that's too much analyzing, even for a Plantinganian!

I think my main point in my reversal was made - Paul shuts off questioners in the same way Nivlac did. When soneone asks a question according to their "human understanding" Paul says, "Who are you to talk back to God?" This is *precisely* what talbott railed against Nivlac for! Furthermore, Talbott made the claim that those who are insecure in their religious beliefs try to "undermine" human reason (whatever that means). I simply showed Paul doing the same.

Next, some of my reversal hinged on the fact that some would cry foul. That I took Paul out of context (and I did in some places), thus creating a straw man. the reason: tit for tat.

I think Jason caught part of the drift of my reversal when he wrote:

***

"I think I should recognize some possibility, though, that PaulM was satirizing the total inappropriateness of the albinism example-as-illustration by doing his own totally-inappropriate portover. That would require imagination, and admirable quantities of it; but might be plausibly judged to have been too obscure as a tactical choice for rebuttal."

***

But I should point out that I think I did show that, despite some details, Paul did the *exact same thing* Talbott criticized Nivlac for.

Anyway, I made some other posts on T-blog, and so my side of the story is over there.

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/10/talbott-versus-proverbs-35.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/10/morg-and-nivlac-luap.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/10/attack-of-50-foot-straw-man_21.html

Tom talbott said...

Hi Steve,

Anonymous hasn’t replied yet to the question I put to him, though he may yet do so. But I thought I would put to you the same kind of question that I had intended, and still may, explore with him. For your latest post deals with roughly the same issue that he raised. You wrote: “Both in the parable, and in his general series, which the parable serves to illustrate, Talbott is using moral intuition as a criterion to judge the truth or falsity of revelatory claims.”

May I presume that by “a revelatory claim” you simply mean the claim that some proposition is true because it is part of a revelation from God? And may I also presume that by “moral intuition” you simply mean a moral conviction? If so, then I agree with you that many of my moral convictions, including those on the basis of which I might judge a specific revelatory claim, are both fallible and historically conditioned; I also agree that my own moral convictions are often in conflict with those of others. So you don’t need to tell an elaborate story to persuade me of that. But here is my question: Given that your present moral convictions and mine are both fallible, to what should we appeal, or perhaps lift up, as a corrective for our fallible moral convictions? And why?

I note that in your last post you spoke of a deadline, and I can appreciate that because I am facing a host of deadlines right now myself. But perhaps we can continue this conversation as each of us finds the time.

-Tom

steve said...

“May I presume that by ‘a revelatory claim’ you simply mean *the claim* that some proposition is true because it is part of a revelation from God?”

In the context of this discussion, I mean something that claims to divine revelation, whether or not the claim is true. It could either be a true claim or a false claim.

I’m also assuming that divine revelation is true. However, there are theological positions, like open theism, in which something could be genuinely revelatory and yet be mistaken, inasmuch as God could be mistaken. But that is not my own position.

“And may I also presume that by ‘moral intuition’ you simply mean *a moral conviction*?”

No, that’s too simple. Moral intuition isn’t synonymous with moral conviction, for moral conviction is a broader category. I’d define a moral intuition, like intuitions generally, as a pretheoretical conviction. And moral intuitions would be a subset of moral convictions. However, a moral conviction may be a refined intuition—refined by subsequent analysis.

“But here is my question: Given that your present moral convictions and mine are both fallible, to what should we appeal, or perhaps lift up, as a corrective for our fallible moral convictions? And why?”

God’s word (i.e. the Bible) would be the moral arbiter of our moral convictions. A full explanation would be complicated, but briefly, I regard saving faith as a mode of knowledge rather than opinion.

Therefore, while some of my religious beliefs may be mistaken, I don’t think a Christian can be systematically mistaken in his Christian faith—including his conviction that Scripture is the word of God.

If I were going to defend this philosophically, I might formulate this in terms of reliabilism. Scripture is divine testimony. It is possible for belief in testimony to count as knowledge if the belief-forming process is reliable. As a philosopher, you know how the argument goes.

Hence, while moral intuition can stand above a false revelatory claim, it will necessarily stand below a true revelatory claim.

Tom Talbott said...

Thanks for your further clarifications, Steve. The important one, as I see it, concerns your use of the term “moral intuition.” I like the way you put it here: “Moral intuition isn’t synonymous with moral conviction, for moral conviction is a broader category. I’d define a moral intuition, like intuitions generally, as a pre-theoretical conviction. And moral intuitions would be a subset of moral convictions. However, a moral conviction may be a refined intuition—refined by subsequent analysis.”

So let’s go with that. I previously asked: “to what should we appeal, or perhaps lift up, as a corrective for our fallible moral convictions?” And you replied as follows: “God’s word (i.e. the Bible) would be the moral arbiter of our moral convictions. …I regard saving faith as a mode of knowledge rather than opinion.”

Of course, as you know, Osama bin Laden might make a similar claim, provided that we replace “the Bible” with “the Qur’an.” So perhaps the bottom line is this: If you have saving faith and through it God produces in you a belief that the Bible is the Word of God, then this belief qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion; and similarly, if Osama (or perhaps some more reasonable Muslim cleric) has saving faith and through it God produces in him a belief that the Qur’an is the Word of God, then this belief also qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion.

So far, so good. But now I am wondering whether your saving faith, assuming you have it, also enables you to believe infallibly (or to know) that Paul actually wrote I and II Timothy or that every decision of the great councils concerning which books truly belong in the canon were correct. Beyond that, I’m wondering how you would assess two kinds of revelatory claims: First, on its face the claim that the 66 books in the Protestant Bible are the very Word of God seems quite consistent with the claim that additional books in the Catholic Bible, or perhaps the Gospel of Thomas, or even the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon are likewise genuine sources of revelation in the world. So as you see it, does your saving faith enable you to believe infallibly (or to know) that some of these writings are not, despite many claims that they are, genuine revelations from God? Does your saving faith enable you to know, in other words, that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the Word of God?

Second, and perhaps more important for our present purposes, many Christians have held that the moral law written in our hearts (Rom. 2:15) and even the creation itself (Rom. 1:20) are genuine sources of revelation. Would you reject this idea? Or, if you would accept it, would you nonetheless deny that these additional sources of revelation can sometimes refine our theological convictions and even correct our understanding of the biblical message? For my own part, I think they can, but I won’t pursue that any further until I see how you answer the above questions.

Anyway, thanks again for your clarifications, and I’ll look forward to your next installment.

-Tom

Jason Pratt said...

Paul (whom I accidentally called Tom once earlier--sorry {g}):

{{I also feel that my main point - the Nivlac straw man - was granted by Jason}}

That’s good, since I had always been doing so. {g}

{{I think my main point in my reversal was made - Paul shuts off questioners in the same way Nivlac did.}}

If that was true, then St. Paul would not have gone on to expound (at some length) with his imaginary complainers. I’m pretty sure Romans 9:20a doesn’t continue with Romans 12:1. It continues on through 11:36 at least. {g}

In short, whatever else St. Paul is doing, it isn’t what Calvin was doing in the portion of the Institutes quoted by Tom. St. Paul doesn’t appeal to an intrinscially inscrutable overtly unjust (by all possible appearances) position and just say (in effect) take it or else. (Also, if that was the case, the lynchpin verses wouldn't be about the mercy of God.) Even Calvin knows there’s more going on in that passage than that.

{{Next, some of my reversal hinged on the fact that some would cry foul. That I took Paul out of context (and I did in some places), thus creating a straw man. the reason: tit for tat.}}

I wondered about that myself. {nod} Good!--I would much rather that that have been true than the other. {s!}


Steve,

I have a singularly long reply typed up (which might be edited down somewhat--I write and then trim back where I can). But I'm loathe to do so when you're actually corresponding with Tom at the moment (especially since he's the invited guest.) Even though I'm chomping at the bit, I think I'll hold back for a while: Tom and I approach things in a significantly different fashion, and I don't want to blorp another macro-post down on top of his participation in the thread. {self-critical g!}

JRP

steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve said...

At 10:33 AM , Tom Talbott said...

“Of course, as you know, Osama bin Laden might make a similar claim, provided that we replace ‘the Bible’ with ‘the Qur’an.’ So perhaps the bottom line is this: If you have saving faith and through it God produces in you a belief that the Bible is the Word of God, then this belief qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion; and similarly, if Osama (or perhaps some more reasonable Muslim cleric) has saving faith and through it God produces in him a belief that the Qur’an is the Word of God, then this belief also qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion.”

i) Your question is predicated on the hypothetical assumption that a Muslim can exercise saving faith. I deny that assumption. A Muslim can convert to the Christian faith, and thereby exercise saving faith, but a Muslim qua Muslim is not in a position to exercise saving faith. From a Biblical standpoint, Islam is just another form of idolatry.

ii) Moreover, belief in a false proposition or set of false propositions wouldn’t countt as knowledge. For something to even be a possible object of knowledge, a necessary precondition is that it be true. And God wouldn’t produce saving faith in a false prophecy (prophecy in the broader sense in which Scripture distinguishes between true and false prophets.)

A reliable belief-forming process is not a sufficient condition to produce knowledge. There must also be a true object of knowledge.

“So far, so good. But now I am wondering whether your saving faith, assuming you have it, also enables you to believe infallibly (or to know) that Paul actually wrote I and II Timothy or that every decision of the great councils concerning which books truly belong in the canon were correct. Beyond that, I’m wondering how you would assess two kinds of revelatory claims: First, on its face the claim that the 66 books in the Protestant Bible are the very Word of God seems quite consistent with the claim that additional books in the Catholic Bible, or perhaps the Gospel of Thomas, or even the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon are likewise genuine sources of revelation in the world. So as you see it, does your saving faith enable you to believe infallibly (or to know) that some of these writings are not, despite many claims that they are, genuine revelations from God? Does your saving faith enable you to know, in other words, that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the Word of God?”

One has to sort out a number of issues here.

i) Islam and Mormonism are Christian heresies. They take the Bible as a standard of comparison. If, therefore, their “scriptures” contradict the Bible, then they have falsified their own revelatory claims. Therefore, we can discount Christian heresies on their own grounds, since they are at loggerheads with their own frame of reference.

ii) The Gospel of Thomas disqualifies itself in a different way. We’ talking about a 5C Coptic MS, which we can trace back, in some form, to a mid-2C Greek exemplar. Since the date of the original would postdate the life of the Apostle Thomas by many decades, we’re dealing with a pious fraud or forgery. It can’t be written by Thomas since it was written long after he died. Therefore, it’s not what it claims to be.

iii) As to the Catholic canon, I assume you’re alluding to differences between the Catholic OT canon and the Protestant OT canon. This, in turn, involves debates over the status of an Alexandrian/LXX canon in relation to a Palestinian/Hebrew canon. I think that scholars like Roger Beckwith, Robert Hanhart, and David DeSilva have convincingly demonstrated the originality of the Palestinian canon, whereas the Alexandrian canon is something of a scholarly legend.

iv) I could also discuss the authorship of 1-2 Timothy, but you are using all these examples to illustrate a larger issue, so I think it’s more efficient if I graduate to your larger issue. I think the question you’re angling at is whether knowledge is compatible with probabilistic evidentiary arguments. We associate evidentiary arguments with probability, we associate probabilities with degrees of uncertainty, and we associate uncertainty with a belief that falls short of knowledge. Is that the point you’re making?

v) One thing I’d say is that even flimsy evidence can sometimes point us in the right direction. Suppose I believe that one of my correspondents lives in Cincinnati. I believe that because the letter I received from her is postmarked from Cincinnati.

Of course, that isn’t compelling evidence. Maybe she lives in Boca Raton, but was visiting Cincinnati at the time she mailed the letter.

On the hand, suppose she does, in fact, reside in Cincinnati. In that event, I formed a true belief about her whereabouts, even though I did so on the basis of a very flimsy piece of evidence.

Now, I’m aware of the fact that true belief is not equivalent to knowledge. I simply use this example to illustrate the fact that while I might have been mistaken, I wasn’t mistaken.

At the very least, it is possible for a probabilistic argument to yield a true belief. So the appeal to evidence does not, of itself, undermine the possibility of knowledge. If, in light of the evidence, I truly believe something, then it’s possible that I can also know it—even if an additional condition must be met to raise true belief to the status of knowledge.

vi) Put another way, we could say that, counterfactually speaking, my belief (in the whereabouts of my correspondent) could have been erroneous, but—as a matter of fact—my belief was not erroneous. So unless someone can either demonstrate the counterfactual or shift the onus, I think it’s illicit to cast doubt on every noetic claim merely on the grounds that it’s hypothetically possible that the evidence is less than compelling.

vii) Moreover, the status of certain religious beliefs doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is God’s will that his people come to saving knowledge of truth.

And before you accuse me of vicious circularity in my implicit appeal to Scripture at this point, I would note that this proposition (regarding God’s will) is redundantly attested in Scripture, so it doesn’t depend on any particular verse or book of the Bible.

viii) Furthermore, I, as a Calvinist, have a robust doctrine of providence—which is also redundantly attested in Scripture.

I also think one could mount a transcendental argument for divine providence as a precondition of knowledge. As Plantinga and others have argued, (naturalistic) evolutionary psychology undermines rationality. The logical alternative would be a doctrine of creation and providence.

ix) Apropos (vii)-(viii), it is God’s will that his people come to a saving knowledge of the truth. We form our beliefs, in part, on the basis of the available evidence. And the evidence available to us is not a historical accident, but the evidence that God has preserved for us.

When I form critical judgments on canonicity or authorship, I’m using the best evidence I have at my disposal, and that is also the evidence that God has left at my disposal.

It’s like one of those spy novels in which a covert insider wants to expose government corruption, but he doesn’t want to expose himself in the process, so he feeds a number of anonymous tips and clues to an investigative reporter. He is guiding the reporter every step of the wait, until the reporter discovers the “shocking” truth.

Taken by itself, each piece of evidence is less than compelling, but the reporter is also aware of the fact that someone in the know is feeding him one lead after another. So beyond the evidence itself is the directed process by which the evidence is being leaked—like a treasure hunt.

Or perhaps the reporter knows his source. He knows that his source is a reliable, well-placed informant. So the reporter’s confidence goes beyond the immediate evidence to include the source of the evidence.

“Second, and perhaps more important for our present purposes, many Christians have held that the moral law written in our hearts (Rom. 2:15) and even the creation itself (Rom. 1:20) are genuine sources of revelation. Would you reject this idea?”

I’m inclined to agree with Cranfield and Wright that Rom 2:15 is probably referring to Gentiles Christians. However, I’ll concede your general point.

“Or, if you would accept it, would you nonetheless deny that these additional sources of revelation can sometimes refine our theological convictions and even correct our understanding of the biblical message?”

Several issues:

i) Moral conviction as a result of natural revelation would be raw intuition, not refined intuition.

ii) Paul goes on to say that unbelievers suppress the truth in unrighteousness. So natural law doesn’t retain its prelapsarian purity.

iii) Exegesis isn’t based on moral intuition—although it makes use of logical intuition. The proper way to understand the Bible is to employ the grammatico-historical method.

To take a concrete example, if I find the divine command to execute the Canaanites morally offensive, does that entitle me to reinterpret the account such that God did not order their execution—even if the text explicitly and repeatedly attributes the command to God himself? How do my scruples in any way affect the objective assertions of the text?

Tom Talbott said...

PART I

Wow, Steve, you really do try to cover a lot of ground with breathtaking speed! But believe me, I don’t need to be informed that a “reliable belief-forming process is not a sufficient condition to produce knowledge.” Nor do I need to be informed that “belief in a false proposition or set of false propositions wouldn’t count as knowledge.” I think we can both agree that no one can know a false proposition! What I do need explained to me, however, is how these comments are even relevant to the context in which they appear.

Recall that you had previously written: “God’s word (i.e. the Bible) would be the moral arbiter of our moral convictions. …I regard saving faith as a mode of knowledge rather than opinion.” And in response I wrote the following: “Of course, as you know, Osama bin Laden might make a similar claim, provided that we replace “the Bible” with “the Qur’an.” So perhaps the bottom line is this: If you have saving faith and through it God produces in you a belief that the Bible is the Word of God, then this belief qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion; and similarly, if Osama (or perhaps some more reasonable Muslim cleric) has saving faith and through it God produces in him a belief that the Qur’an is the Word of God, then this belief also qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion.”

Now the passage just quoted is perfectly accurate, despite your objection to it. You wrote: “Your question is predicated on the hypothetical assumption that a Muslim can exercise saving faith. I deny that assumption.”

But unfortunately, that response exhibits a two-fold confusion. First, although it may seem like a rather picky point, the quoted passage includes no question at all; therefore, no question there is “predicated on the hypothetical assumption that a Muslim can exercise saving faith.” Second, although the quoted passage does include a couple of conditionals, the same is true for them; neither of these conditionals is “predicated on the hypothetical assumption that a Muslim can exercise saving faith.” The truth of a conditional, remember, in no way entails the truth of its antecedent. As an illustration, suppose that I am out of town and suddenly remember having left a fancy dress shirt on a chair in my front yard, and suppose that I should exclaim: “Oh dear, if it is raining back home, then that shirt will be ruined!” Such an exclamation in no way rests upon the assumption, hypothetical or otherwise, that it is indeed raining back home. I may just not know. And similarly for the following conditional: If Rumi has saving faith and through it God produces in him a belief that the Qur’an is the Word of God, then this belief qualifies as knowledge rather than merely as an opinion. This conditional is no more “predicated on the hypothetical assumption that Rumi can exercise saving faith” than the one about rain rests on the assumption that it is raining back home.

We could, of course, consider a host of other conditionals, such as the following: If through “a reliable belief-forming process” God produces in Talbott a belief that the Reformed Doctrine of Reprobation blasphemes God’s holy name, then this belief also qualifies as knowledge. And, as a matter of fact, I do hold such a belief. But if it is false, then it does not qualify as knowledge; and similarly, if your beliefs that the Bible is the Word of God and that God restricts his mercy to a chosen few are both false, then neither do they qualify as knowledge. So where does this leave us? We can all agree, I presume, that, if through “a reliable belief-forming process” God produces true beliefs in us, then those beliefs qualify as knowledge. But once we have acknowledged that obvious point, all the interesting theological and philosophical disputes remain right where they were, whether they be disputes between Christians, between Christians and Muslims, or between Christians and atheists.

PART II

At the risk of violating one of my own principles and making this post way too long, I also want to clarify the point behind the first set of questions in my previous post. For you seem to have missed that point entirely, no doubt because I failed to make it clear enough. You wrote: “I think the question you’re angling at is whether knowledge is compatible with probabilistic evidentiary arguments. We associate evidentiary arguments with probability, we associate probabilities with degrees of uncertainty, and we associate uncertainty with a belief that falls short of knowledge. Is that the point you’re making?”

No, that is not the point I was making. Indeed, I was not making any point at all; I was merely asking some questions in an effort to get clearer about your own view. But again, we can surely agree about this: If my belief that Neil Armstrong once walked upon the moon rests upon evidence of a probabilistic kind, that in no way excludes it from the category of knowledge. So your long excursus into epistemology, even to the point of mentioning Plantinga’s argument for the irrationality of naturalism(!), seemed to me quite unnecessary—as did your spelling out what you take to be compelling reasons for denying that the Gospel of Thomas, for example, belongs in the canon. For the truth or falsity of your beliefs in such matters was not my concern; I was instead trying to clarify in my own mind how exclusively you want to identify the Word of God with the Bible. I therefore posed a series of questions that led up to the crucial one, which, despite the length of your reply, you never addressed. The question was this: Does your saving faith enable you to know … that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the Word of God?” I was wondering, in other words, whether you would claim to know that every book in the Bible truly belongs there and also claim to know that nothing outside the accepted canon could qualify as the Word of God. And after reading your latest post, I still have no idea how you would answer that question.

I was also wondering how far you would take your claim of infallibility with respect to beliefs that unquestionably do rest upon probabilistic evidence, that is, beliefs that may indeed qualify as knowledge, provided that they are true. For in the post to which I was responding, you had also written the following: “Therefore, while some of my religious beliefs may be mistaken, I don’t think a Christian can be systematically mistaken in his Christian faith—including his conviction that Scripture is the word of God.” I took this to imply something more than that certain Christian beliefs are properly basic in Plantinga’s sense; I took it to imply that many distinctively Christian doctrines—the doctrine of the Trinity, perhaps—are such that Christians cannot be mistaken about them.

So I guess one question I would put to you is this: However strong you may think the probabilistic historical evidence for excluding the Gospel of Thomas from the canon, do you claim infallibility in this matter? I wouldn’t. But then, I doubt that saving faith requires many distinctively Christian beliefs at all, not even the belief that Christ was raised from the dead; much less does it require the belief that the Bible is the Word of God. According to the author of Hebrews, after all, Abraham had saving faith, and Abraham held neither of these beliefs, at least not during his earthly life.

Anyway, thanks for your latest reply.

-Tom

steve said...

tom talbott said...

“Wow, Steve, you really do try to cover a lot of ground with breathtaking speed! But believe me, I don’t need to be informed that a ‘reliable belief-forming process is not a sufficient condition to produce knowledge.’ Nor do I need to be informed that ‘belief in a false proposition or set of false propositions wouldn’t count as knowledge.’ I think we can both agree that no one can know a false proposition! What I do need explained to me, however, is how these comments are even relevant to the context in which they appear.”

This is not a case of explaining things to you as if I’m teaching you something you don’t already know. Rather, I do it for a number of other reasons. This is for the benefit of lurkers who may be following this thread. This is so that you know what underlies my position. And to head off certain potential objections.

“But unfortunately, that response exhibits a two-fold confusion. First, although it may seem like a rather picky point, the quoted passage includes no question at all.”

I see any no confusion on my part. You are asking me questions, and the business about the Muslim *functions* as a question (directed at me), whether or not it takes the literary form of a question.

“Second, although the quoted passage does include a couple of conditionals, the same is true for them; neither of these conditionals is “predicated on the hypothetical assumption that a Muslim can exercise saving faith.” The truth of a conditional, remember, in no way entails the truth of its antecedent.”

Once again, I see no confusion on my part. I say “hypothetical” and you say “conditional.” Do you think there’s a material difference between a hypothetical and a conditional?

Can we move past the semantic quibbles to the substantive issues?

“So where does this leave us? We can all agree, I presume, that, if through ‘a reliable belief-forming process’ God produces true beliefs in us, then those beliefs qualify as knowledge. But once we have acknowledged that obvious point, all the interesting theological and philosophical disputes remain right where they were, whether they be disputes between Christians, between Christians and Muslims, or between Christians and atheists.”

But I didn’t leave it where I found it. You attempted to construct a symmetrical claim. I then gave concrete reasons for why your parallel was disanalogous. So I didn’t discuss the comparison between Christian and Islamic revelatory claims at a purely abstract level. Rather, I proceeded to show why the hypothetical equivalence was equivocal once we delve into the details.

“At the risk of violating one of my own principles and making this post way too long, I also want to clarify the point behind the first set of questions in my previous post. For you seem to have missed that point entirely, no doubt because I failed to make it clear enough…No, that is not the point I was making. Indeed, I was not making any point at all; I was merely asking some questions in an effort to get clearer about your own view.

I’m beginning to observe a discrepancy between your self-perception and the way others perceive you. For example, you denied that your parable was an argument against Calvinism. But when Jason, Victor, Manata and I all take it otherwise, then maybe you need to reexamine your self-perception.

You seem to have a very atomistic or compartmentalized notion of what you’re trying to accomplish at any particular moment. You’re not merely asking me questions to be clear on my own view. Rather, you have your own position to promote to promote, and as a preliminary exercise you want to be clear on my own view so that you can critique it in order to promote your own position. I don’t have a problem with that. But I’m puzzled by the consistently defensive tone of your replies.

You have a theological agenda, and I have a theological agenda. Let’s be upfront about our ultimate objectives.

“But again, we can surely agree about this: If my belief that Neil Armstrong once walked upon the moon rests upon evidence of a probabilistic kind, that in no way excludes it from the category of knowledge. So your long excursus into epistemology, even to the point of mentioning Plantinga’s argument for the irrationality of naturalism(!), seemed to me quite unnecessary.”

It’s unnecessary if you concede the point. I don’t know in advance what you’re prepared to concede until I lay it on the table.

“As did your spelling out what you take to be compelling reasons for denying that the Gospel of Thomas, for example, belongs in the canon.”

I don’t know why you think that’s unnecessary. It was your example, not mine. If my response was unnecessary, then your example was unnecessary.

You said, “on its face the claim that the 66 books in the Protestant Bible are the very Word of God seems quite consistent with the claim that additional books in the Catholic Bible, or perhaps the Gospel of Thomas, or even the Qur’an and the Book of Mormon are likewise genuine sources of revelation in the world.”

I’m simply answering you on your own grounds. That’s how you chose to frame the discussion. Why do you react this way?

“I was instead trying to clarify in my own mind how exclusively you want to identify the Word of God with the Bible. I therefore posed a series of questions that led up to the crucial one, which, despite the length of your reply, you never addressed. The question was this: Does your saving faith enable you to know … that the Bible, and only the Bible, is the Word of God?” I was wondering, in other words, whether you would claim to know that every book in the Bible truly belongs there and also claim to know that nothing outside the accepted canon could qualify as the Word of God. And after reading your latest post, I still have no idea how you would answer that question.”

That’s partly a chronological question, and partly a terminological question:

i) Not everything that God ever spoke to a prophet or apostle, or inspired him to say, was committed to writing and preserved for posterity. So, historical speaking, the word of God is not conterminous with the Bible. Not every one of his words was canonized.

However, from our contemporary position, in contrast to the situation of an OT Jew or 1C Christian, the word of God is conterminous with the Bible. The history of revelation and the history of redemption run on parallel tracks which converge in the Christ-Event (Heb 1:1-2).

ii) Jews also drew a categorical distinction between canonical revelation and subcanonical forms of revelation like divination. See David Aune’s analysis in Prophecy In Early Christianity.

Hence, a prophecy could be a word of the Lord without being God’s word in the canonical or scriptural sense.

So, in terms of this classification scheme, you could have an instance of divine speech that is not Scriptural speech. It falls outside the boundaries of Scripture.

Whether the Bible is identical with God’s word therefore depends on your relative timeframe as well as your prophetic taxonomy.

You also seem to be bundling two distinct questions in one:

i)*Is* the Bible the only word of God?

ii) Can the Bible be *known* to be the only word of God?

The former is an ontological question, the later an epistemic question. Were you intending to ask two distinct questions? Obviously the answers will differ.

I think I just addressed the former question. In answer to the second, yes I think person can *know* the word of God is *now* conterminous with the Bible (i.e. the Protestant canon of Scripture).

“I was also wondering how far you would take your claim of infallibility with respect to beliefs that unquestionably do rest upon probabilistic evidence, that is, beliefs that may indeed qualify as knowledge, provided that they are true…I took this to imply something more than that certain Christian beliefs are properly basic in Plantinga’s sense; I took it to imply that many distinctively Christian doctrines—the doctrine of the Trinity, perhaps—are such that Christians cannot be mistaken about them.”

i) It’s true that I’m staking out a stronger position than Plantinga insofar as properly basic beliefs only enjoy prima facie warrant, and can be overturned in the light of contrary evidence. I reject that with reference to saving faith.

ii) At the same time, the content of saving faith is, to some extent, person-variable. To whom much is given, much is required. So saving faith varies in some degree with one’s natural aptitude, exposure, and the scope of revelation at that point in redemptive history.

Conversely, the Bible also says, on the one hand, that certain beliefs are a necessary precondition of salvation while, on the other hand, certain contrary beliefs are damnatory. So sheer ignorance is not exculpatory.

“So I guess one question I would put to you is this: However strong you may think the probabilistic historical evidence for excluding the Gospel of Thomas from the canon, do you claim infallibility in this matter? I wouldn’t.”

Since the Gospel of Thomas is a Gnostic gospel, the theology of which is incompatible with Biblical theology, it couldn’t be canonical scripture.

“But then, I doubt that saving faith requires many distinctively Christian beliefs at all, not even the belief that Christ was raised from the dead; much less does it require the belief that the Bible is the Word of God.”

As a universalist you will obviously have a very elastic definition of saving faith.

“According to the author of Hebrews, after all, Abraham had saving faith, and Abraham held neither of these beliefs, at least not during his earthly life.”

i) As I’ve said before, we make allowance for one’s historical position in the course of progressive revelation.

ii) At the same time, the author of Hebrews is warning his readers that the history of revelation is irreversible. They can’t turn back the clock. What was saving faith for Abraham ceases to be saving faith for 1C Jews living on the other side of the cross.

Tom Talbott said...

Hello again Steve,

I can appreciate why you would ask: “Can we move past the semantic quibbles to the substantive issues?” For although you and I probably have very different conceptions of what counts as a semantic quibble and what counts as a substantive issue, I have an evolving sense that our discussion got off track almost from the beginning and hasn’t been very fruitful so far; maybe you share this sense as well, or maybe not. But in any event, the fault is surely mine because I failed to keep my own focus narrow enough at certain crucial points in the discussion.

Allow me to explain. There is only one assured way, as I see it, for two people with fundamentally different views to discuss a substantive issue fruitfully, especially in these electronic forums, and that is to proceed very slowly, taking one baby step at a time. As you may have noticed, this was already a recurring theme of mine even before you and I began discussing anything. If a party on one side of a dispute makes ten points, the party on the other side will be tempted to answer each one of them in his or her reply and to make several additional points as well. In the all too typical case, so I have observed, each subsequent post will then become longer and more convoluted than the previous ones with no real discussion or engagement between the two disputing parties.

Suppose, by way of illustration, that I were to succumb right now to the natural temptation—a powerful one indeed—to respond to everything I disagree with in your latest post (which is almost everything). The result would be a convoluted mess, and this is but one reason why so many of these blog discussions turn out to be, in my opinion, a waste of everyone’s time. It is not my responsibility, of course, to control how others choose to frame their posts, nor should it be any concern of mine. But it is my responsibility—and herein lies my greatest failure in our discussion—to frame my own posts in accordance with my own principles, which require that I proceed slowly and stay focused on one issue at a time. So, as you can see, you were pretty insightful when you observed the following about my approach to a discussion such as ours: “You seem to have a very atomistic or compartmentalized notion of what you’re trying to accomplish at any particular moment.” That is correct: one tiny baby step at a time. I learned a long time ago that, if one tries to cover too much ground too quickly, nothing substantial ever gets accomplished. Indeed, too often things progress quickly to the point where a third party cannot even follow the discussion.

Part of the problem is the immediacy of the medium and the decisions that people inevitably confront as a discussion becomes increasingly diffuse. Consider, for example, a question that you asked in your latest reply. You wrote: “I say ‘hypothetical’ and you say ‘conditional.’ Do you think there’s a material difference between a hypothetical and a conditional?” The short answer: Of course not; these terms, as I typically use them, are synonymous. But the short answer, which takes up almost no space at all, hardly clarifies the underlying issue. So in the present post I had to decide whether or not to answer your question. If I should ignore it, I might have more room to address some other issue or perhaps even some of your personal comments. But I would also be letting the implication that I had been engaging in a semantic quibble, as you called it, go unchallenged. And because I did not want to do that, I decided to answer your question and to ignore other equally important matters.

So here is the rest of the story. I could hardly care less which of the two synonymous expressions you might choose to use, and the fact that you would assume otherwise indicates that I was not successfully communicating much of anything at all. Had I proceeded more slowly, however, it might have been clearer that I was not quibbling over the meaning of a word, but making a substantive point about the logic of conditionals/hypotheticals, namely this: Because the truth of a hypothetical (if you prefer that term) does not entail the truth of its antecedent (what comes after the “if” and before the “then”), one can assert the hypothetical without assuming the truth of its antecedent. Thus my example of rain. It is, to be sure, a reasonably subtle point, and herein lies the great value of a more leisurely pace in these discussions: If my example failed to persuade you, or if, alternatively, I had misunderstood the point you were making, we could then have continued to explore that single issue without a lot of additional distractions. For it is the distraction of too many issues being covered too quickly that inevitably results in people simply talking past each other.

Now finally, I’m going to indulge myself, one time only, to the point of addressing a couple of your personal comments. Normally I simply ignore such comments as distracting irrelevancies. But given the sort of meta-level on which I am now operating, it might be useful to illustrate why such comments really are distracting irrelevancies. Consider the following comment: “I’m beginning to observe a discrepancy between your self-perception and the way others perceive you. For example, you denied that your parable was an argument against Calvinism. But when Jason, Victor[?], Manata and I all take it otherwise, then maybe you need to reexamine your self-perception.”

Observe first that the quoted comment has no relevance whatsoever to any substantive theological or philosophical issue, whether it by my parable, my critique of Calvin in the section entitled “A Critical Response,” my questions posed to you previously, or my conception of the nature of an argument. It is, to the contrary, the kind of comment that deflects attention away from substantive issues, as does your comment about the allegedly “defensive tone” of my replies. For the record, I did say that the parable was not an argument and therefore not a straw man argument. But this has nothing to do with either my self-perception or the perception of others whom you might list; instead, it has everything to do with my (rather standard) conception of an argument as a set of propositions with premises and a conclusion. If you would like to take issue with that conception, please feel free to do so; if you believe that I have somehow misrepresented Calvin in the section where I actually discuss him, I invite you to point out where I have done so; and if you would like to challenge some specific point in my critique of Calvin, I invite you to do that as well.

One final example: I found it most interesting (and possibly revealing) that you would write: “You’re not merely asking me questions to be clear on my own view. Rather, you have your own position to promote, and as a preliminary exercise you want to be clear on my own view so that you can critique it in order to promote your own position.”

Steve, are you sure you know what my motives are here?—or that you are not simply projecting your own attitudes onto me? It is not my place to judge this matter. But in general I do not engage someone in a conversation merely for the purpose of criticizing his or her position or of promoting my own. The best discussions, as I see it, are focused discussions in which two participants try to clarify with some degree of care their areas of agreement and disagreement—though, admittedly, this rarely works out fruitfully in these electronic forums, where too often the main idea seems to be to “score points” against an opponent. I have to admit, moreover, that before writing my previous post I consciously decided to make it rather pointed and hard hitting, as I sometimes do in an effort to refocus a discussion that seems to be wandering all over the map, so to speak, with too many points being covered way too briefly. But as I also have to admit, such a tactic almost never seems to work and is probably counterproductive.

Be all of that as it may, I will now let you have the final word on anything I have written in this post. Thanks for your latest reply.

-Tom

steve said...

"If you believe that I have somehow misrepresented Calvin in the section where I actually discuss him, I invite you to point out where I have done so; and if you would like to challenge some specific point in my critique of Calvin, I invite you to do that as well."

Case in point. You said:

"The only problem is that his assumptions also undermine the Christian faith entirely, because they undermine the very possibility of trust in God. If God can ‘justly’ do anything whatsoever, including predestine some to eternal perdition, then he can also ‘justly’ engage in cruelty for its own sake, "justly" command that we torture babies or that we produce as much misery in the world as we can, and ‘justly’ punish acts of love and kindness. So why should we even care whether God is just or righteous if his righteousness excludes nothing at all? And on what grounds can we trust him? If, as Calvin claims, there is no answer to the question, ‘Why does God act from one set of motives (e.g. love) rather than from another (e.g., hatred or deceitfulness),’ then nothing in God's nature precludes him from lying or breaking promises or deceiving all Christians regarding the conditions of salvation. For all we know, therefore, perhaps God has deceived all Christians regarding the conditions of salvation in order that he might display the true nature of his righteousness."

You're claiming that Calvin is a theological voluntarist. And this is central to your critique of Calvinism.

I believe that this identification is incorrect. For starters, read “The Power Dialectic” in Paul Helm’s book on Calvin’s Ideas (Oxford 2004), chapter 11.

Tom Talbott said...

Thanks a million, Steve, for pointing to the place where you believe that I have misrepresented Calvin. You wrote:

“You're claiming that Calvin is a theological voluntarist. And this is central to your critique of Calvinism.”

That is correct if by “theological voluntarist” you mean what I think you do and we restrict our attention to Calvin’s understanding of divine justice. For I do interpret Calvin as a theological voluntarist with respect to divine justice, and that is indeed central to my critique in the paper, as you have rightly discerned. But the more general line of criticism, not necessarily reflected in the paper, would be this: Either Calvin is a theological voluntarist in the relevant sense, or he is unable to block moral objections to his understanding of predestination and reprobation.

Here are the words of Calvin that lead me to interpret him as a theological voluntarist:

“For God's will is so much the highest rule of righteousness that whatever he wills, by the very fact that he wills it, must be considered righteous. When, therefore, one asks why God has so done, we must reply: because he has willed it. But if you proceed further to ask why he so willed, you are seeking something greater and higher than God's will, which cannot be found. Let men's rashness, then, restrain itself, and not seek what does not exist” (Institutes, Bk. III, Ch. XXIII, Sec. 2—my emphasis).

These words represent Calvin’s attempt to block an important moral objection to his understanding of reprobation, that is, to his claim that some, such as Esau, were already predestined, even before they were born or had done anything good or bad, to eternal damnation. The crucial objection, as stated in Calvin’s own words, is that the reprobate are being treated unjustly “if they are predestined to eternal death solely by his decision, apart from their own merit” (ibid,—my emphasis).

Now in the above reply to the objection, Calvin first claimed that “God’s will is … the highest rule of righteousness” or the very standard of justice, and he then argued as follows: If you ask why “Esau, as yet undefiled by any crime, is hated” (Institutes, Bk. III, Ch. XXII, Sec. 11) or why God predestined him to eternal damnation, that question has no answer, because there is nothing “greater and higher than God's will” to explain why he wills this way rather than that in such matters. Suppose, then, that we pose this question: Does God choose to predestine Esau to eternal damnation because it is just to do so? Or, is it just to do so solely and only because God in fact chooses to do so? It certainly looks as if Calvin answers “no” to the first question and “yes” to the second, and on its face that looks very much like theological voluntarism. And furthermore, a number of Calvinist thinkers, such as Gordon Clark, have certainly interpreted him in this way (see Religion, Reason, and Revelation, Chapter 5).

Of course, Paul Helm is, in my opinion, a far better trained and more astute philosopher than Gordon Clark ever was. So he no doubt has a lot of important things to say, and I will definitely have to read his book sometime in the not too distant future. Because, however, I already have too much on my plate right now, I must leave it for you to explain whatever points seem to you the most salient in the present context.

Anyway, setting aside for a moment the label “theological voluntarism,” here is the question I would like someone to answer, whether it be Calvin, or you, or Helm, or someone else. If God can justly predestine Esau to eternal damnation, why can’t he also justly break his promises or justly send all Christians to hell as well? And if he cannot justly do the latter, how is it that he can justly do the former? What is it about the nature of divine justice, in other words, that permits predestination to damnation but precludes breaking promises and sending Christians to hell?

Does Helm suggest an answer to such questions?

Thanks,

-Tom

Jason Pratt said...

Excellent exchange, Tom, especially in the most recent post. {bow}

JRP

steve said...

tom talbott said...

“But the more general line of criticism, not necessarily reflected in the paper, would be this: Either Calvin is a theological voluntarist in the relevant sense, or he is unable to block moral objections to his understanding of predestination and reprobation.”

i) Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Calvin cannot block the moral objections to his position. What would follow from that admission?

Calvin was not a philosophical theologian in the sense that Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and Scotus were. He’s not making a philosophical case for reprobation.

So there’s a certain asymmetry in this debate. Calvin subscribes to reprobation on exegetical grounds, but he’s fielding philosophical objections to reprobation. Now it may be that Calvin lacks the philosophical aptitude or sophistication or conceptual resources to offer a philosophically satisfying counterargument. That isn’t his m├ętier.

ii) This is an issue that shades into the Euthyphro dilemma and the problem of evil. As you know, many theologians representing varying theological traditions wrestle with these issues.

Reformed theology is a species of Protestant theology. It subscribes to the Protestant rule of faith (sola Scriptura).

To successfully attack Calvinism, you would have to attack in on its own (exegetical) grounds. In principle, there are two ways you could do this:

i) Challenge Reformed exegesis;

ii) Challenge the Reformed rule of faith.

In the present thread you seem to be doing the latter. That is to say, you appear to be mounting a sort of transcendental argument against Calvinism by claiming that if, ex hypothesi, Calvinism were true, then divine revelation would be untrustworthy.

Of course, that’s a very different objection than Calvin was dealing with, so it would be anachronistic to look for answers in Calvin to questions which he never had to confront.

One more point (maybe more than one) before we move to your next point:

i) There’s no doubt that Gordon Clark was a theological voluntarist. And that position is sometimes attributed to William Twisse—although I think that attribution is suspect. In general, though, theological voluntarism is not a defining tenet of Calvinism.

ii) Now, the will of God came up in the conflict with Rome. Why does God elect A, but reprobate B?

In the traditional context, Calvinism is opposing Catholic synergism. The ultimate answer is not to be found in the sinner, but in the will of God.

That may *sound* like theological voluntarism, but that interpretation is misleading because it overlooks the concrete framework of the debate, in which certain assumptions were a given.

Since all sinners are worthy of damnation, sin or demerit is not, in and of itself, the reason that God reprobates A rather than B. For if that were a sufficient condition, then God would reprobate A and B alike.

So, in that particular respect, Calvinism appeals to the will of God as the ultimate explanation since there is no morally distinguishing property in the sinner to differentiate one sinner from another for purposes of reprobation.

iii) However, reprobation does take demerit into account. Just not in that particular respect. But it’s still the case that sinners are damned.

(I’d add that in Reformed theology, you don’t have to be guilty of actual sin to be guilty. You can be guilty of original sin.)

iv) In theological voluntarism, by contrast, God is free to damn the innocent. That is not the position of Calvinism.

v) I’d also add that even when we appeal to the will of God as the final explanation, this doesn’t mean that God no reason whatsoever for discriminating between one sinner and another. Election and reprobation aren’t brute facts.

Rather, God elects some and reprobates others to underscore the gratuity of grace; to wit, that God owes no one his saving grace.

vi) Finally, to indulge in a bit of speculation, there may be other reasons, irrespective of merit, why God elects A and reprobates B. (“Irrespective” in the sense of being over and above that consideration.)

A world in which God elects A rather than B will be a different possible world than one in which God elects B rather than A, or a world in which God elects A and B, or a world in which God reprobates A and B. So who is elect or reprobate does make a difference in the history of the world. These are not identical scenarios. Rather, they’re distinct alternatives.

Hence, God’s will in this matter is not arbitrary or inexplicable in the sense of violating Leibniz law. So while the distinction between elect and reprobate is morally indiscernible, it isn’t metaphysically indiscernible.

In that respect, God may have a reason for choosing person A over person B because he has a reason for choosig world A over world B.

“Anyway, setting aside for a moment the label ‘theological voluntarism,’ here is the question I would like someone to answer, whether it be Calvin, or you, or Helm, or someone else. If God can justly predestine Esau to eternal damnation, why can’t he also justly break his promises or justly send all Christians to hell as well? And if he cannot justly do the latter, how is it that he can justly do the former? What is it about the nature of divine justice, in other words, that permits predestination to damnation but precludes breaking promises and sending Christians to hell?”

i) I may already have answered your question. Demerit is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of reprobation. Demerit is a morally sufficient condition for reprobation. The reprobate merit their damnation on account of sin.

It is not unjust for God to discriminate between the elect and the reprobate since neither group has a prior claim on the mercy of God. Since no sinner is entitled to salvation, God wrongs no sinner by damning a sinner—for God has not denied him his rights when he gives the sinner exactly what he deserves.

ii) In a supralapsarian theodicy, moreover, there is reason for electing some sinners and reprobating others. God is good, and knowing God is good. God’s justice and mercy are goods. But an existential knowledge of his justice and mercy presupposes the fall, and subsequent redemption. The experience of God’s mercy towards the elect, and justice towards the reprobate, enriches our knowledge of God.

iii) As to why, on a Calvinistic scheme, God can’t break a promise, I’m not sure that justice is the most relevant attribute. Wouldn’t truth be a more pertinent attribute? Or perhaps the wisdom of God. God is not a rationally capricious being.

iv) In Reformed theology, it would be unjust of God to send all (or any) Christians to hell since the Jesus died to redeem the elect from their sins.

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

"that was true, then St. Paul would not have gone on to expound (at some length) with his imaginary complainers. I’m pretty sure Romans 9:20a doesn’t continue with Romans 12:1. It continues on through 11:36 at least. {g}

In short, whatever else St. Paul is doing, it isn’t what Calvin was doing in the portion of the Institutes quoted by Tom. St. Paul doesn’t appeal to an intrinscially inscrutable overtly unjust (by all possible appearances) position and just say (in effect) take it or else. (Also, if that was the case, the lynchpin verses wouldn't be about the mercy of God.) Even Calvin knows there’s more going on in that passage than that."


This makes my Luap counter all the more apropo. For you see, Calvin went on for 40 some odd pages after the quote Talbott took. So, I think my counter successfully pointed out that if Morg and Nivlac is a good critique of Calvinism then Morg and Luap is a good critique of Paulism. :-)

So, in *the portion quoted* what Paul/Luap and Calvin/Nivlac are doing is *precisely* the same thing.

Paul Manata said...

TT,

"If God can justly predestine Esau to eternal damnation, why can’t he also justly break his promises or justly send all Christians to hell as well? And if he cannot justly do the latter, how is it that he can justly do the former? What is it about the nature of divine justice, in other words, that permits predestination to damnation but precludes breaking promises and sending Christians to hell?”

1) The principles of covenant theology come into play here. God has said that if he broke his covenant promises then he'd kill himself. Since a necessary being cannot kill himself, then he's saying he can't break his promises to his covenant people. That answers your "can't" question.

2) As Steve noted, reprobation doesn't take place in a vacuum, without the concept of demerit. He can "justly" do so to Esau because Esau justly deserves death. Why would you think a Christian justly deserves to be lied to?

3) The Bible says it is impossible for God to lie - where does it say it is impossible for him to justly ordain Esau to hell?

4) If God can "lovingly" allow a baby to be born with a terrible disease what's to say he can't "lovingly" predestine someone to hell forever? :-)

Jason Pratt said...

{{This makes my Luap counter all the more apropo. For you see, Calvin went on for 40 some odd pages after the quote Talbott took.}}

Lol! {bow!} I acceed the point on that one, then.

{{So, in *the portion quoted* what Paul/Luap and Calvin/Nivlac are doing is *precisely* the same thing.}}

A completely worthless point, however, if the portion quoted is not representative of the larger context. And Tom’s parable was only intended to be paralleling Calvin/Nivlac. No one appears to be denying (anymore) that the Calvin/Nivlac quote is structurally parallel; though I deny that the topic is sufficiently parallel for Tom’s purposes (specifically the use of albinism.) I’m pretty sure no one is denying that the quote from the Institutes, chosen for parabalization, is indicative (on the face of it) of Calvin’s thrust in those 40 subsequent pages. The question of larger context, then, is either absent or moot for the parable’s structure. The failure to be indicative of Calvin’s theology has to be in the parabolic material as given, then.

And notably, the defense has turned to the more important issue of whether Calvin is rightly representing St. Paul (essentially conceding that the parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all): a question that cannot be addressed without the larger contexts; because now we’re talking about what Paul’s meanings, there and elsewhere in his writings (not even counting the rest of scripture), should be understood as. More to the point, the dispute between theologians in regard to Romans isn’t only about two or three or five or six verses in chapter 9.

{{God has said that if he broke his covenant promises then he'd kill himself. Since a necessary being cannot kill himself, then he's saying he can't break his promises to his covenant people.}}

Kind of begs the question, though. Aside from the fact that there’s a big difference between the ground of all existence not being able to kill Himself and choosing not to kill Himself, you’re basing your answer on why we can trust God to keep His promises in regard to x by appealing to a place where He said He would keep a promise (that will never in fact come to pass!) regarding y. Moreover, by the terms of this defense “justness” doesn’t even enter into the equation, so the defense as it stands is about something else than the question at hand.

Which is not to say that I’m not impressed by the appeal to the faithfulness-or-death promise made by God (on His part). On the contary, I believe this has deeply intrinsic connections to the true justice of God. But then, I’m an orthodox trinitarian theist, so that’s to be expected. {g}

In any case, none of this answers the question that Tom asked: “what is it about the nature of divine justice that permits predestination to damnation but precludes breaking promises”? Appeals to covenant theology simply means ‘but God is precluded from breaking promises’. That’s not an answer; that’s part of Tom’s question.

{{He can "justly" [predestine Esau to eternal death] because Esau justly deserves death.}}

Again not an answer: unless the answer is that the reprobation is taking place in a conceptual vacuum (which you and Steve deny that it’s doing). You might as well stop with ‘because God says it’s just’; and then we’re back to Tom’s (still) unanswered question about why one thing is supposed to be commensurate with God’s justice but not another.

We think Esau doesn’t justly deserve to be pre-set to eternal damnation for exactly the same reason we think a Christian doesn’t justly deserve to be betrayed by God in convenant theology. Or (perhaps not counting Tom) I think so anyway: because either one of those involves God fulfulling non-righteousness, i.e. non-fair-togetherness, thus working at finally contradictive principles to God’s own actively coherent interPersonal self-existence. That’s why Satan would be wrong to be doing either of those, too; or me, for that matter. (I’m pretty sure it says in the Bible somewhere that God is not a worker of iniquity. {wry s} In effect that means we can expect Him not to pre-damn Esau to hopeless torture and/or annihilation which is the sort of thing we would normally expect Satan or some other sinful tyrant to do, not God, the One Who is Good.)

What’s obviously missing in all this discussion (including on Tom’s side) is the trinitarian factor. If it wasn’t for the occasional reference to the Incarnation, I might as well be watching Muslims debating soteriology. (But then Steve has made it clear that he will not be accepting trinitarian theism as a ground for interpreting scriptural teaching on God’s relationship to creation, sin, condemnation, salvation, etc.)

If I think orthodox trinitarian theism is true, then I am not going to accept a doctrine or interpretation somewhere else that involves my denial or abrogation of orthodox trinitarian theism--not if I intend to have (and teach) a coherent theology. I’m either going to keep the orthodoxy and adjust the other; or I’m going to keep the other and affirm a non-orthodox theology instead.

{{If God can "lovingly" allow a baby to be born with a terrible disease what's to say he can't "lovingly" predestine someone to hell forever? :-)}}

Um, everyone who knows what a category error is would say that? {g} In one case an innocent is allowed to suffer temporarily for (in effect) God’s love for the guilty. In the other case, an innocent is permanently corrupted by God’s own direct decision--and the innocent who had no original say in the matter is then hopelessly tortured forever by God for what God did--and at best one might say that God did this for love of the innocent. (Or at least for the other people He predamned but also chose to eventually save.)

But surely the obvious answer is implicit in your own question: the love God has for the baby results in eventually saving the baby from the state required of the baby for God’s love of the guilty (and/or the amoral). No one would claim that God was loving the baby in allowing her to be born with a terrible disease if God never brought salvation for the baby (commensurate with having had to go through that condition).

Put another way, by asking the question in parallel with a blatantly obvious lack of love for those predestined to hell forever (and even those Calv theologians who would insist God is still showing the pre-damned some other love but not ‘salvific’ love, would be hard pressed to say that God was lovingly pre-setting their not-being-loved-by-God), in effect you call into inextricable doubt whether God truly “loves” anyone at all. That, or His “love” is so alien to us that we might as well not even be talking about it: including ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’ That can only be some words, nothing more.

In any case, “I would rather myself be cut off from God than that any should be lost” is the cry of Paul and Moses for the people they love. I will not have my salvation from sin bought by the necessary damnation of other people, especially ones who never had a choice in the matter. It is God’s own blood He sheds on the cross, not Esau’s; and it is not by the blood of Iscariot hanging from a tree and splashing to the ground that God hopes and acts to reconcile all things whether in the heavens or in the earth.

God joins in solidarity with the innocent to be sacrificed for the sake of the guilty, and it isn’t so that the guilty can be hopelessly condemned forever (pre-set that way by God or not): but so that the guilty may be saved. God joins in solidarity with the guilty even (or so say St. Paul being very daring), and that certainly isn't so that the guilty can be hopelessly condemned forever (pre-set that way by God or not): but so that the guilty may be saved. (Similarly Christ dies and is buried so that all may be made alive in His rising: He brings us all up with Him. It is indisputable that this is at least in regard to the resurrection of the evil as well as the good.)

JRP

steve said...

At 11:41 AM , Jason Pratt said...

“And notably, the defense has turned to the more important issue of whether Calvin is rightly representing St. Paul (essentially conceding that the parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all)”

This is hardly a “concession” on our part. Talbott is the one who chose to frame this discussion in terms of Calvin, so we’re merely answering him on his own grounds.

“More to the point, the dispute between theologians in regard to Romans isn’t only about two or three or five or six verses in chapter 9.”

Who said otherwise?

“We think Esau doesn’t justly deserve to be pre-set to eternal damnation for exactly the same reason we think a Christian doesn’t justly deserve to be betrayed by God in convenant theology.”

Jason seizes on “preset” damnation, but since he’s a universalist, he seems to be equally opposed to damnation, per se—whether of the Reformed or libertarian variety. So does he think there’s a moral distinction to be drawn?

“Or (perhaps not counting Tom) I think so anyway: because either one of those involves God fulfulling non-righteousness, i.e. non-fair-togetherness, thus working at finally contradictive principles to God’s own actively coherent interPersonal self-existence.”

And why is Manata “kinda begging the question” but Jason is not? You might as well stop with ‘because God says it’s unjust’.”

“In effect that means we can expect Him not to pre-damn Esau to hopeless torture and/or annihilation which is the sort of thing we would normally expect Satan or some other sinful tyrant to do, not God, the One Who is Good.)”

Three problems:

i) I don’t base my theology on what I’d “expect” God to do. An atheist doesn’t believe in God because he doesn’t expect God to allow evil, period.

ii) Is hell equivalent to “torture”?

iii) Jason is now resorting to the boilerplate blasphemies against God’s character that we encounter in Ingersoll.

“What’s obviously missing in all this discussion (including on Tom’s side) is the trinitarian factor. If it wasn’t for the occasional reference to the Incarnation, I might as well be watching Muslims debating soteriology. (But then Steve has made it clear that he will not be accepting trinitarian theism as a ground for interpreting scriptural teaching on God’s relationship to creation, sin, condemnation, salvation, etc.)”

Jason is simply hiding behind the mock piety of his Trinitarian buzzwords as a face-saving device to disbelieve whatever he finds offensive in the witness of Scripture while keeping up pious appearances. It’s no different that the homosexual activist who reinterprets the Bible to agree with his twisted idea of divine love.

“If I think orthodox trinitarian theism is true, then I am not going to accept a doctrine or interpretation somewhere else that involves my denial or abrogation of orthodox trinitarian theism--not if I intend to have (and teach) a coherent theology. I’m either going to keep the orthodoxy and adjust the other; or I’m going to keep the other and affirm a non-orthodox theology instead.”

Again, this is a sophistical and quite transparent effort to extort the acquiescence of his opponents by pretending that it comes down to a choice between the Trinity and hell.

“Um, everyone who knows what a category error is would say that? {g} In one case an innocent is allowed to suffer temporarily for (in effect) God’s love for the guilty. In the other case, an innocent is permanently corrupted by God’s own direct decision--and the innocent who had no original say in the matter is then hopelessly tortured forever by God for what God did--and at best one might say that God did this for love of the innocent. (Or at least for the other people He predamned but also chose to eventually save.)”

If its unjust for some to suffer as a consequence of something in which he had no say, then it’s unjust whether the suffering is temporary or interminable.

“Put another way, by asking the question in parallel with a blatantly obvious lack of love for those predestined to hell forever.”

I agree that God doesn’t love the reprobate.

“In effect you call into inextricable doubt whether God truly “loves” anyone at all.”

That’s an assertion, not an argument. And it’s far from self-evident. Must I doubt that my wife loves me unless she loves every other man?

“That, or His ‘love’ is so alien to us that we might as well not even be talking about it.”

Jason has now inverted and subverted the Biblical notion of God’s mercy. From a Biblical perspective, what is counterintuitive is the idea that a just God would love the unjust, that a holy God would love the unholy.

The idea of good loving evil is alien to us, whereas the idea of good hating evil is natural to us. So Jason has everything turned around and upside down.

Jason Pratt said...

Steve (and hereafter): {{Talbott is the one who chose to frame this discussion in terms of Calvin, so we’re merely answering him on his own grounds.}}

I wasn’t disputing that, incidentally.

JP: “essentially conceding that the parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all”

Steve: “This is hardly a “concession” on our part.”

Ah! Sorry, somehow way back up there I had gotten the impression that you (and PaulM) thought his parable wasn’t very accurate at relating Calvin’s theology. I even spent time agreeing (though on some different grounds) that it misrepresented Calvin’s theology, and Tom defended against your straw-man claim by trying to tell us the parable wasn’t an argument and so couldn’t fall prey to the straw-man fallacy (which defense, incidentally, I didn’t buy any more than I recall any of you buying it), and PaulM wrote a counter-parable largely predicated on (from what he said) coming up with an equally illegitimate representation to show that anyone could do that. Or something.

Anyone else here besides me remember all this?? I know I’ve been gone for half a week, but this was a big deal last time I was here... Maybe you meant you haven’t conceded that his parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all? Or that turning to the more important issue of whether Calvin is rightly representing St. Paul, in relation to critiquing the parable, doesn’t count as a concession that the parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all? (I might buy that one, maybe... Some help here among the options?)


{{Who said otherwise?}}

Limited context comment on my part, to which you were replying there. It only has to do with a very particular discussion PaulM and I were having, regarding links between parable feasibility, critiques thereof, and the wider scale theological debate. i.e. no one doubts that the Calv paragraph (not counting any conceptual fumbles in porting it over to the Nivlac parable) is properly representative of the gist of Calv’s 40 subsequent pages. But theologians do dispute strongly about whether those few Pauline verses taken by themselves are properly representative of the larger Pauline (not to say NT and OT) context, including in chapter 9. Otherwise we wouldn’t have (using Protestant categories) the Calv/Arm/Kath schools of interpretation.

{{Jason seizes on “preset” damnation, but since he’s a universalist, he seems to be equally opposed to damnation, per se}}

Not at all, as I think I made clear enough somewhere back in that huge mass of commentary. {g} But rather than having to look through it again, and on the off-chance I didn’t bother to say so (though usually I do because I know it’s an issue in these discussions): I have a very strong belief not only in condemnation but in hell (hades and Gehenna both, if you care for the distinction.) Couldn’t be much of an orthodox trinitarian if I wasn’t affirming the omnipresence of the Holy Spirit and God’s permanent, final and uncompromising antipathy to sin per se! (On the contrary, it isn’t uncommon in these disputations for my opponents to sooner or later try to deny God’s omnipresence. I haven’t admittedly seen much of that yet in this discussion, but the topical spread wouldn’t lend itself in that direction either. Yet. {shrug})

What I am opposed to, is God refusing or being unable to act in hope toward the salvation of the persons in hell. On the contrary, I believe the Holy Spirit (in conjunction with the 1st and 2nd Persons) is doing exactly that in Gehenna (and in hades, too, insofar as the puria of Gehenna applies to that state, which by scriptural testimony it apparently does in some way. This is why I become impatient with well-meaning attempts by other universalists, as well as a couple of annihilationists come to think of it, to downplay the presence of the fire in hades, as related in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. No, the parable isn’t primarily about the fire; but it’s by God there. {g})

{{So does [Jason] think there’s a moral distinction to be drawn?}}

Not that I’m trying to avoid the question, but I don’t understand what you’re asking. A moral distinction to be drawn between Reformed or libertarian varieties of damnation doctrine? No, not really. A moral distinction to be drawn between Reformed and/or libertarian varieties of damnation doctrine and an opposition to damnation at all per se? No, not really. A moral distinction to be drawn between Reformed and/or libertarian varieties of damnation doctrine and (call it) orthodox katholic (not to be confused with RCC) damnation doctrine?

Yes--on that, I believe there’s a moral distinction to be drawn: one that is fundamentally related to God’s own self-existence as an eternally coherent active interpersonal unity (and thus as the ground of morality at all).

If you were asking about my thoughts on some other moral distinction to be drawn, then I’ll have to plead mea culpa: I didn’t understand the question.

{{And why is Manata “kinda begging the question” but Jason is not? You might as well stop with ‘because God says it’s unjust’.”}}

What part of “working at finally contradictive principles to God’s own actively coherent interPersonal self-existence” had anything to do with merely saying ‘because God says it’s unjust’? If God acts against fulfilling righteousness, He goes ‘poof’ (and everything else with Him, too): all reality including God’s own existence is absolutely dependent on the Father and the Son acting to fulfill fair-togetherness.

In any case, it ought to be blatantly obvious that if God refuses to act toward reconciliation with sinners (or worse can’t act toward that anymore), then either God Himself or something that trumps God is working at fulfilling and sealing non-fair-togetherness. We call that rebelling against God when we do it: we’re trying to go against the very action on which all existence (including our own) is based--an action that is itself interPersonal fair-togetherness not merely in declaration but in living deed. And I can’t help but notice that there’s a pretty strong theological trend among Calvs and Arms (but especially Calvs) to the effect that what would obviously be sin for us if we did it, is not sin if God does it--mainly on the mere ground that God is the one doing it. Muslims, and deists (such as Ockham), go that route, too, among many other kinds of theists. But they aren’t trinitarians. Orthodox trinitarian theology really does (or at least is supposed to) make a crucial difference in what a theist believes.

{{I don’t base my theology on what I’d “expect” God to do.}}

Fair enough--until it comes time to have a coherent theology. Fair enough even then, if you have no concern about having a coherent theology. But if that’s true, then there isn’t any point in having a discussion with you, since even translation and interpretation of scripture in order to have beliefs relies on having coherent understandings about what we’re doing.

In any case, I base my expectations of what God will do, on my theology about (duh) God. I don’t base my theology about God on some fantasy-imagined expectations. That includes the expectation you’re having problems with there, btw. (Very briefly the expectation followed from the doctrine that God does not work iniquity; which, despite my quip, I was not pulling out as a prooftext, btw. You forgot to quote that part.)

{{An atheist doesn’t believe in God because he doesn’t expect God to allow evil, period.}}

Actually, in the case you’re talking about, the atheist doesn’t believe in the God proclaimed by a particular theology (or set of theologies) because he thinks the theology is incoherent with the existence of evil. Given the theology, he’s led to expect one thing, but finds something else. So he concludes (too hastily in his case) that the theology is wrong. Or, it might not be hasty: he might be right about the theology being incomplete or incoherent. I’m not going to complain about an atheist rejecting Islam; are you? {g}

{{Is hell equivalent to “torture”?}}

Sorry; replace ‘hopelessly torture’ with ‘hopelessly torment’ if you prefer. Any better?

{{Jason is now resorting to the boilerplate blasphemies against God’s character that we encounter in Ingersoll.}}

That’s very curious, since my position was that we could expect Him NOT to do those things. So... you agree, then, that we can expect God not to pre-damn Esau to hopeless torment (if you prefer that to torture) and/or annihilation? You do at least seem to agree that this is something we could expect of Satan or some other sinful tyrant; thus that it would be a blasphemy against God’s character for us to claim that He would do this obvious sin. Yes? (No??)

{{Jason is simply hiding behind the mock piety of his Trinitarian buzzwords}}

Which in essence tells me you haven’t understood a single reason for why I’m bringing them up. It also tells me that one of us here thinks of trinitarian doctrine as being (in effect) only buzzwords, that should make no practical difference to our theology (especially its coherence). That, however, would not be me. {s}

In any case, it remains clearly and obviously the case that (a) people have been discussing this so far (which is very normal in my experience) as if mere monotheism is what we’re talking about; and (b) you will not be accepting trinitarian theism as a ground for interpreting scriptural teaching on God’s relationship to creation, sin, condemnation, salvation, etc. (Which, to be fair, gells together very well with why you haven’t bothered discussing the matter as if you were something more than a mere monotheist.) If you think such teaching is only buzzwords, then of course I agree you shouldn’t accept it as a ground of interpretation. I wouldn’t expect a Muslim to accept it either.

And, incidentally, I was making a technical observation; not a pious one.

{{It’s no different that the homosexual activist who reinterprets the Bible to agree with his twisted idea of divine love. }}

Also, incidentally, I’m against homosexuality. {g} I’m even more strongly against murdering my neighbor in my heart and committing adultery in my heart, which I happen to be very much more naturally (and sinfully) fond of doing. So, why am I not hiding behind the mock piety of my Trinitarian buzzwords as a face-saving device to disbelieve injunctions against those things in the witness of Scripture? Hm. (Maybe I’m different from the homosexual activist after all...)

But I think it’s interesting that you consider orthodox trinitarian theism to have nothing to do with divine love. (Or perhaps that it’s a twisted idea of divine love??)

{{Again, this is a sophistical and quite transparent effort to extort the acquiescence of his opponents by pretending that it comes down to a choice between the Trinity and hell.}}

Almost correct. I’m saying it comes down to a choice between the Trinity and hopelessness. (And I’m not pretending about that.)

{{If its unjust for some to suffer as a consequence of something in which he had no say, then it’s unjust whether the suffering is temporary or interminable.}}

The two situations, as given by PaulM, were rather more complex and detailed than what you’re describing here. I took the details seriously as they were; why didn't you? They were also quite opposite in principle application. (Maybe that's why you retreated to the oversimplification...)

Also, my own argument is not that it is unjust for someone to merely suffer as a consequence of something in which he had no say. We’re derivative entities living in a created natural system: we’re going to react to the environment around us to some degree.

My explicitly stated argument in regard to comparing the born-sick baby with the pre-damned Esau (and I’m eliding past the observation that Esau’s story has exactly nothing at all to do with being pre-damned to hell, and lots to do with Jacob the sinner being brought into the history of salvation by the wrath and eventually the reconciliation with Esau--though I don’t think that this observaton is trivial), was that in one case God intends to bring about a reconciliation, and in the other (proposed case) He doesn’t. And that the lack of the latter is very obviously non-fair-togetherness; whereas in the former case fair-togetherness is delayed for a time but is still being aimed for by God in what He is doing: and He will complete it (or so I agree we should believe and trust).

{{Must I doubt that my wife loves me unless she loves every other man?}}

You might reasonably doubt that your wife is completed in love unless she loves every other man (even if only one is her husband with the special privleges proper to that). But this is not parallel with PaulM’s example, which was juxtaposing God “lovingly” allowing a baby to be born sick, and “lovingly” pre-damning the reprobate; and his argument, implicit in his question (which you apparently missed), was that if God could “love” in one way then we should have no problem believing He could “love” in the other way, too.

Except, as you agree, under Calv (I would add Arm) theology, God doesn’t love the damned. Do you see now why wrote to PaulM that in putting his case like that, he only in effect calls into inextricable doubt whether God truly “loves” anyone at all?

{{From a Biblical perspective, what is counterintuitive is the idea that a just God would love the unjust, that a holy God would love the unholy.}}

I’m pretty sure I’m not the one denying this. {s} I agree that it’s counterintuitive, too; and that such a thing is taught in the Bible.

But it’s only counterintuitive due to my sin: my selfishness and uncharity against my enemies. At the risk of plopping more buzzwords in front of you and sounding pious while doing so, though: as an orthodox trinitarian theologian, God loving the unjust and the unholy isn’t counterintuitive to me at all. It fits in perfectly.

I think it’s funny that you’re claiming that I have inverted and subverted the Biblical notion of God’s mercy, though; since between the two of us, it’s pretty obvious which of us is actually going the distance with affirming and not denying that God loves the unjust and the unholy (and seeks their salvation, so that they will be just and holy.)

And, frankly, it isn’t counterintuitive to me at all that some-kinda-God would sooner or later give up on doing this or never even begin at all in the case of some sinners. That fits right in with... well... with my own sinful impulses. That’s what I, the sinner, would do to my enemies sooner or later. It can even make logical sense in a way, if all we’re talking about is some-kinda-montheism.

It doesn’t make logical (thus also theological) sense for God to do this if trinitarian theism is true, or so I find. But we’ve been through that already.

{{The idea of good loving evil is alien to us}}

More alien to some of us than others, apparently. {lopsided g} You did understand that when I was talking about an ‘alien’ love, I meant a ‘love’ so different from anything we know that we’re supposed to believe it is good when to all possible appearances it only looks evil, right? Specifically, the kind of “love” Paul Manata was asking us to accept God having for the pre-damned, in pre-damning them. (Which in turn PaulM was comparing to God “loving” a baby by allowing her to be born sick.)

{{So Jason has everything turned around and upside down.}}

Hm; having a lot of trouble finding where I was presenting the idea of good loving evil as being natural to us, and the idea of good hating evil as being alien to us. Especially in relation to the part you were replying to there.

JRP

Paul Manata said...

Jason,

"A completely worthless point, however, if the portion quoted is not representative of the larger context."

It's not a wasted point since my counter-parable is of the same worth as his parable. I countered every point, to a T. So, the cash value of my parable is that you could simply switch Calvin with Paul and the parable would work. Thus, if you don't like how I used it against Paul, you shouldn't like how Talbott used it against Calvin. To go further than that is to ask to much out of what I was doing.

"Kind of begs the question, though. Aside from the fact that there’s a big difference between the ground of all existence not being able to kill Himself and choosing not to kill Himself, you’re basing your answer on why we can trust God to keep His promises in regard to x by appealing to a place where He said He would keep a promise (that will never in fact come to pass!) regarding y."

Begs the question only if God's testimony has been caled into question by me. I'd take Plantinga's and Bergmann's position on testimony and defeaters here. Anyway, are you saying that one must assume the Bible is false in order to deny my answer? I like where that puts me, orthodoxically speaking. :-) SO, yes, I start with the presupposition that God is trustworthy, I take it as basic, and I'd need to see arguments to the contrary. talbott was trying to offer an *internal* critique, and so I called upon the *internal* logic of my position. he asked how could *I* trust God. Standardly, knowledge by testimony is taken to not have warrant if you have reason to doubt the testifier. I don't start with that position, though. Indeed, as T. Reid has said, "I believed by instinct whatever my parents and tutors told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or a thought of the possibility of their deceiving me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I found that they had acted like fair and honest people, who wished me well. I found that, if I had not believed what they told me, before I could give a reason for my belief, I had to this day been little better than a changeling."

"In any case, none of this answers the question that Tom asked: “what is it about the nature of divine justice that permits predestination to damnation but precludes breaking promises”?"

Because God is giving just deserts. I guess I'd need to see an argument that says Christians *deserve* to be lied to. I don't have a problem saying that sinners deserve hell (as I've argued, predestination to damnation, contrary to Talbott's straw man, isn't an amoral concept - albinism. Indeed, as you noted above, "For that matter, the albinism itself is not a good choice for paralleling with a biblical sin," So, the question actually besg the question. I don't even understand why Tom would be using "justice" out of the context of "deservedness." It's obvious to me that sinners deserve hell, it's not obvious that God's new covenant members deserve to be lied to.


"Again not an answer: unless the answer is that the reprobation is taking place in a conceptual vacuum (which you and Steve deny that it’s doing). You might as well stop with ‘because God says it’s just’; and then we’re back to Tom’s (still) unanswered question about why one thing is supposed to be commensurate with God’s justice but not another."

It's not taking place within a vaccum. So, Esau is ordained to hell not without recourse to his unholy, unacceptable nature.

Furthermore, God predestines those to life out of his love for them. As a libertarian, you should accept the idea that a person is freee to love who he chooses. Love is discriminatory. Loving all makes love seem meaningless. Even James Rachels makes this point. As an atheist, and therefore a non-Calvinist, I'm not appealing to some "hatful" Calvinistic conception. Election is election *out of* something. Out of what? Out of the fallen and reprobate mas of humanity. Thus those still in the mass go to hell, and not for amoral reasons.

"Um, everyone who knows what a category error is would say that?"

Good job, Jason, you spotted Tom's error! :-)

In one case a non-innocent is given his just deserts, in another, one isn't. Pretty simple.

Also, I didn't quite get your answer. If it's loving to allow a bay to be born horrendously sick, then why is it automatically unloving to allow someone to go to hell forever?

You say, "But the baby will get to go to heaven, and that's ultimately a good."

But this "kind of begs the question." :-)

I think God glorifying his attribute of holiness, via the function of pouring out wrath, is a good. Indeed, God is the highest good. glorifying himself - which means cross-attributinally - is a great good.

steve said...

jason pratt said...

“Ah! Sorry, somehow way back up there I had gotten the impression that you (and PaulM) thought his parable wasn’t very accurate at relating Calvin’s theology. I even spent time agreeing (though on some different grounds) that it misrepresented Calvin’s theology, and Tom defended against your straw-man claim by trying to tell us the parable wasn’t an argument and so couldn’t fall prey to the straw-man fallacy (which defense, incidentally, I didn’t buy any more than I recall any of you buying it), and PaulM wrote a counter-parable largely predicated on (from what he said) coming up with an equally illegitimate representation to show that anyone could do that. Or something.__Anyone else here besides me remember all this?? I know I’ve been gone for half a week, but this was a big deal last time I was here... Maybe you meant you haven’t conceded that his parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all? Or that turning to the more important issue of whether Calvin is rightly representing St. Paul, in relation to critiquing the parable, doesn’t count as a concession that the parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all? (I might buy that one, maybe... Some help here among the options?)”

No, you are insinuating that Manata and I lost the argument with Talbott over the accuracy of his parabolic analogy, thereby conceding that argument to him, and then, as a fallback position, shifted gears to a discuss St. Paul’s teaching instead of Calvin’s teaching. Manata and I have never “conceded” that point. When Talbott wants to talk about Calvin, we talk about Calvin. If Talbott would rather talk about St. Paul, we’ll talk about St. Paul.

Of course, we also reserve the right to challenge the way in which he framed the debate, but that implies no concession on our part.

“Not at all, as I think I made clear enough somewhere back in that huge mass of commentary. {g} But rather than having to look through it again, and on the off-chance I didn’t bother to say so (though usually I do because I know it’s an issue in these discussions): I have a very strong belief not only in condemnation but in hell (hades and Gehenna both, if you care for the distinction.)…What I am opposed to, is God refusing or being unable to act in hope toward the salvation of the persons in hell. On the contrary, I believe the Holy Spirit (in conjunction with the 1st and 2nd Persons) is doing exactly that in Gehenna (and in hades, too, insofar as the puria of Gehenna applies to that state, which by scriptural testimony it apparently does in some way.

Now you’re indulging in evasive equivocation. As a universalist, you are opposed to everlasting punishment, whether it’s “preset” by God or set by the human agent.

The fact that you subscribe a purgatorial redefinition of hell as remedial punishment is irrelevant to the question of whether you have a special objection to a “preset” version of everlasting punishment, or would be opposed, perhaps equally so, to any version of everlasting punishment, such as a libertarian version rather than a Reformed version.

Are you capable of giving a straightforward answer to this question, or will you engage in further evasive maneuvers the next time around?

“What part of “working at finally contradictive principles to God’s own actively coherent interPersonal self-existence” had anything to do with merely saying ‘because God says it’s unjust’? If God acts against fulfilling righteousness, He goes ‘poof’ (and everything else with Him, too): all reality including God’s own existence is absolutely dependent on the Father and the Son acting to fulfill fair-togetherness.”

All you’ve given us is a circumlocution for your belief that God is a universalist, sans the supporting argument. You accused Manata of begging the question when he said “God has said that if he broke his covenant promises then he'd kill himself. Since a necessary being cannot kill himself, then he's saying he can't break his promises to his covenant people.”

You also said: “You might as well stop with ‘because God says it’s just’; and then we’re back to Tom’s (still) unanswered question about why one thing is supposed to be commensurate with God’s justice but not another.”

However, you own opposition to Calvinism and everlasting punishment boils down to the same thing in reverse: “‘because God says it’s unjust.”

You simply posit certain claims about “God fulfulling non-righteousness, i.e. non-fair-togetherness, thus working at finally contradictive principles to God’s own actively coherent interPersonal self-existence.”

So this is just a cumbersome way of saying that you think Calvinism and everlasting punishment are contrary to God’s character. A way of stopping with “because God says it’s unjust.”

Absent from your side of the discussion is anything resembling an actual, exegetical argument for your so-called Trinitarian “fair-togetherness” shtick. You’re invoking that (“fair-togetherness”) as if it were a brute fact to automatically negate Calvinism and everlasting punishment.

BTW, I’m by no means granting that Manata is guilty as charged. My point, rather, is that if he were guilty as charged, you would be equally guilty of the very thing you accuse him of doing. You camouflage your own theological brute facts in portmanteau verbiage, but you’ve done nothing to show that you aren’t begging the question in favor of universalism.

“In any case, it ought to be blatantly obvious that if God refuses to act toward reconciliation with sinners (or worse can’t act toward that anymore), then either God Himself or something that trumps God is working at fulfilling and sealing non-fair-togetherness.”

This is a tendentious assertion in lieu of a reasoned argument. Repetitiously intoning talismanic phrases like “fair-togetherness” and “non-fair-togetherness” is a sorry substitute for giving us a single reason to take your position seriously.

“And I can’t help but notice that there’s a pretty strong theological trend among Calvs and Arms (but especially Calvs) to the effect that what would obviously be sin for us if we did it, is not sin if God does it--mainly on the mere ground that God is the one doing it.”

Once again, you make an assertion that is loaded with question-begging assumptions about what would be sinful for us, and what would not be sinful for God, even if it were sinful for us. Absent, here, is anything resembling a reasoned argument for your assertion.

And, yes, as Bible-believing Christians, Manata and I begin with God’s self-revelation in Scripture regarding what he has done and shall do—in contrast to your armchair postulates.

“Fair enough--until it comes time to have a coherent theology. Fair enough even then, if you have no concern about having a coherent theology. But if that’s true, then there isn’t any point in having a discussion with you, since even translation and interpretation of scripture in order to have beliefs relies on having coherent understandings about what we’re doing.”

Now you’re involved in a bait-and-switch tactic whereby you swap out “expectation” and swap in “coherence.”

“In any case, I base my expectations of what God will do, on my theology about (duh) God.”

And what is the source of your theology?”

“I don’t base my theology about God on some fantasy-imagined expectations. “

You haven’t given us a single solitary reason for supposing that your theology about God is anything other than “some fantasy-imagined expectations.“

“(Very briefly the expectation followed from the doctrine that God does not work iniquity; which, despite my quip, I was not pulling out as a prooftext, btw. You forgot to quote that part.)”

There was nothing for me to respond to since you offered no argument for your contention. Here’s a little experiment which you might wish to try just once: when you insinuate that Calvinism or everlasting punishment makes God a worker of iniquity, you might consider actually developing a supporting argument to underwrite your assertion. I realize that would be a novel experience for you, but that would also make it all the more exciting.

“I’m not going to complain about an atheist rejecting Islam; are you? {g}”

And I’m not going to complain about an atheist rejecting universalism.

“Sorry; replace ‘hopelessly torture’ with ‘hopelessly torment’ if you prefer. Any better?”

It’s fine with me if you’d rather shirk your intellectual responsibilities every step of the way in the exchange we’re having.

“That’s very curious, since my position was that we could expect Him NOT to do those things. So... you agree, then, that we can expect God not to pre-damn Esau to hopeless torment (if you prefer that to torture) and/or annihilation? You do at least seem to agree that this is something we could expect of Satan or some other sinful tyrant; thus that it would be a blasphemy against God’s character for us to claim that He would do this obvious sin. Yes? (No??)”

I see that you’ve mastered the fine art of duplicity. Did this take a lot of practice on your part, or does it come naturally?

Both you and Ingersoll oppose the doctrine of everlasting punishment, and both you and he defame the God who would punish sinners with everlasting damnation. Both you and he (we could add Clark Pinnock for good measure) don’t hesitate to profane the name of God in acting as the Judge in the living and the dead, by penalizing the damned with everlasting retribution.

You’re the flipside of a militant, sacrilegious infidel. You’ve burned your bridges with the God you blaspheme.

“Which in essence tells me you haven’t understood a single reason for why I’m bringing them up. It also tells me that one of us here thinks of trinitarian doctrine as being (in effect) only buzzwords, that should make no practical difference to our theology (especially its coherence). That, however, would not be me. {s}__In any case, it remains clearly and obviously the case that (a) people have been discussing this so far (which is very normal in my experience) as if mere monotheism is what we’re talking about; and (b) you will not be accepting trinitarian theism as a ground for interpreting scriptural teaching on God’s relationship to creation, sin, condemnation, salvation, etc. (Which, to be fair, gells together very well with why you haven’t bothered discussing the matter as if you were something more than a mere monotheist.) If you think such teaching is only buzzwords, then of course I agree you shouldn’t accept it as a ground of interpretation. I wouldn’t expect a Muslim to accept it either.”

This is Jason’s challenge. He is attempting to peddle a historic heresy—not to mention, unscriptural. So, like any cagey advocate, he goes on the offensive. His tactical ruse is to whip out a creditable doctrine like the Trinity, then polish his discreditable heresy with the chamois of a creditable doctrine so that he can wipe away the odium of his pet heresy, and transfer orthodox sheen of Trinitarian theology to his tarnished belief-system.

In a word: virtue-by-association. Like John Gotti having a photo-op with the Pope.

Keep dropping the word “Trinity” in every other clause, and the reader may just forget that what we’re talking about is not the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, but the heterodox doctrine of universal salvation.

“So, why am I not hiding behind the mock piety of my Trinitarian buzzwords as a face-saving device to disbelieve injunctions against those things in the witness of Scripture? Hm. (Maybe I’m different from the homosexual activist after all...)”

You’re methodologically the same.

“But I think it’s interesting that you consider orthodox trinitarian theism to have nothing to do with divine love. (Or perhaps that it’s a twisted idea of divine love??)”

The same gimmick, repeated ad nauseum. This is his game: let’s all pretend that universalism is synonymous with Trinitarianism. Therefore, an attack on universalism is an attack on Trinitarianism. This equation would come as a great surprise to most-all of Nicene, ante-Nicene, and post-Nicene Fathers.

Because universalism is ipso fact indefensible, Jason prudently avoids getting into a direct debate over the merits of universalism. Instead, he tries to change this into a debate over the Trinity—so that anyone who opposes universalism is a crypto-unitarian. It’s the last-ditch ploy of the theological scoundrel.

“My explicitly stated argument in regard to comparing the born-sick baby with the pre-damned Esau…was that in one case God intends to bring about a reconciliation, and in the other (proposed case) He doesn’t. And that the lack of the latter is very obviously non-fair-togetherness; whereas in the former case fair-togetherness is delayed for a time but is still being aimed for by God in what He is doing: and He will complete it (or so I agree we should believe and trust).”

You have a habit of substituting adjectives for arguments. If you had a real argument, you wouldn’t have to keep reminding us that your position is “very obviously” the case. You haven’t given us an argument in this paragraph.

You haven’t defined your terms. You have given no exegetical argument for you distinction between “fair-togetherness” and “non-fair-togetherness.” And so on and so forth.

“Do you see now why wrote to PaulM that in putting his case like that, he only in effect calls into inextricable doubt whether God truly ‘loves’ anyone at all?”

No, because that’s just another orphaned assertion. Where is the argument that unless an agent (in this case God) loves everyone, there’s reason to doubt that he loves anyone? This is not self-evidently true. It is not even evidently true. If anything, it’s evidently false.

“At the risk of plopping more buzzwords in front of you and sounding pious while doing so, though: as an orthodox trinitarian theologian, God loving the unjust and the unholy isn’t counterintuitive to me at all. It fits in perfectly.”

Same old racket. Verbally associate universalism with Trinitarianism, minus anything resembling an argument, much less a sound argument, to connect the two.

Maybe, because Jason is fairly clever, he’s used to getting away with these rhetorical stunts. But he’s not the only clever person in the world, and some of us are less than spellbound by his raggedy bag of conjuring tricks.

“You did understand that when I was talking about an ‘alien’ love, I meant a ‘love’ so different from anything we know that we’re supposed to believe it is good when to all possible appearances it only looks evil, right?”

Once again, you’re subverting fundamental principles of justice. Yes, we’re supposed to believe that retributive justice is good. And only an evil man thinks that it’s evil for God to judge evildoers by punishing them for their sins.

The fact that, “to all possible appearances it only looks evil” to you is a damning (pun intended) admission on your part that you’re the one who embraces diabolical standards of good and evil.

“Specifically, the kind of ‘love’ Paul Manata was asking us to accept God having for the pre-damned, in pre-damning them.”

Did Manata cite reprobation as an example of God’s love? Or would that be an instance of God’s justice—in exacting retribution on the unjust?

Plantinga Fan said...

Manata in discussing reprobation with Jason writes:

’It's not taking place within a vacuum. So, Esau is ordained to hell not without recourse to his unholy, unacceptable nature.’

There is no biblical text saying that Esau was “ordained to hell”. When Esau and Jacob are discussed in the early part of Romans 9 the preference of Jacob over Esau before they were born is in reference to the birthright. Normally the elder son received the birthright, but in this case God wanted the younger son, Jacob, to receive this birthright. The apostle Paul in Romans 9 is discussing God’s sovereignty in his dealings with Israel throughout their history. Paul’s reference to Jacob and Esau in Romans 9 is not referring to unconditional election to salvation or to reprobation; Manata reads his Calvinism into the passage (eisegesis) when it is not the intended meaning of the discussion of Jacob and Esau.

Manata further discusses his view of unconditional election and writes:

’Furthermore, God predestines those to life out of his love for them. As a libertarian, you should accept the idea that a person is free to love who he chooses.’

I don’t think that Jason is a libertarian. As a Universalist, it is more likely that Jason, like Talbott, is a compatibilist who believes that God has predetermined all events and in the end all will be predestined to salvation.

A libertarian would suggest that God is free to love who he chooses and He tells us explicitly that He loves the world (John 3:16 – which Manata in order to preserve his Calvinism has to reinterpret so as to lose its intended meaning) and the world includes many who will never become Christians. God is also free to offer salvation to the world (which He does and again this is clearly and explicitly taught in the bible; unless you are Calvinist and then you have to reinterpret clear texts to fit the party line). It is also part of the libertarian view that God created human persons with the capacity to freely choose whom they would love and freely choose whom they would reject (as Plantinga would say, that is part of the divine cognitive design plan for human persons).

Manata because of his system of theology has to restrict the love and grace of God to the “elect” (Calvinists like himself) so he has to argue that God does not love all human persons and definitely does not love them all in a salvific sense. Again, because of his system he is driven to deny (by reinterpreting) clear and obvious bible passages (Jn. 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:3-6, 4:10; 1 Jn. 2:2). His system demands that God does not love the world in a salvific sense, instead He restricts His love and grace only to some, in this false system God does not desire to save all human persons.

So he writes: ‘Love is discriminatory. Loving all makes love seem meaningless. Even James Rachels makes this point. As an atheist, and therefore a non-Calvinist, I'm not appealing to some "hatful" Calvinistic conception.’

Loving all does not make love “meaningless”. Rather it shows the extensiveness of God’s love, confirms the scripture which teaches that “God is love” and shows how incredible this love is in seeking out the lost, those who are in active rebellion to God. As Christians we are called to love our neighbor (which is everyone we come in contact with), love especially our spiritual brothers and sisters/the church, and even love our enemies. In the famous Sermon on the Mount the indiscriminate love for all kinds of people is explicitly affirmed. After commanding the love of enemies, Jesus contrasts the discriminatory love of worldly people with the indiscriminate love that is to characterize his disciples: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:46-48) When Jesus tells them to be “perfect” this refers to their love being complete, being directed at both those who love them and their enemies, just as God’s love is also complete (cf. Matt.5:45 “that you may be sons of your Father, who is in heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous”). In these verses Jesus makes it absolutely clear that it is worldly people, nonbelievers, the hated tax gatherers, the Gentiles, who loved their own and hated others, who practiced Manata’s discriminating “love”. Jesus says His people, his disciples; Christians are to be different than that. How sad to see a modern professing follower of Christ so directly arguing against the very teachings of the one who is supposedly His Master.

Calvinists because of their love and grace restricting theology have to argue against what the bible says about God’s love for human persons. Because the bible is so clear on this, the vast majority of bible-believing Christians have no difficulty in rejecting the false theology of Calvinism. It is also because the bible teaching on the love of God is so clear that some (such as Jason and Talbott) adopt universalism.

Calvinism intentionally argues against the salvific love of God for the world (by reinterpreting the relevant bible texts). Universalism incorporates this love, which is clearly and explicitly taught, but then intentionally argues against the reality of eternal separation from God which will be experienced by some human persons. Both of these man-invented systems of theology have things they want to keep and other things they want to get rid of, or put under the rug. The majority of Christians see through both of these intentional and mistaken evasions and so the orthodox and Christian view has always been that God has a salvific love for the world AND those who freely reject God and his love end up eternally separated from Him.

Plantinga Fan

Plantinga Fan said...

Hello Jason,

Well Jason I told you so. I told you that the guys at Triablogue are extremely hateful but you didn’t want to hear it. Now Hays the leader writes a post full of personal attacks against you. It is sad that someone who professes to be a Christian as Hays does, can be so hateful of others he disagrees with. Apparently, he has become just like his hero, Calvin (and you function as his Servetus).

Hays writes:

‘Here’s a little experiment which you might wish to try just once: when you insinuate that Calvinism or everlasting punishment makes God a worker of iniquity, you might consider actually developing a supporting argument to underwrite your assertion. I realize that would be a novel experience for you, but that would also make it all the more exciting.’

Very sarcastic and claiming that you have never had the experience of developing a supporting argument.

’It’s fine with me if you’d rather shirk your intellectual responsibilities every step of the way in the exchange we’re having.’

You “shirk your intellectual responsibilities every step of the way”. Hays ought to be more concerned with the beam in his own eye: all of the biblical commands he shirks in his interactions with those with whom he disagrees.

’I see that you’ve mastered the fine art of duplicity. Did this take a lot of practice on your part, or does it come naturally?’

So he is asking, since he claims you engage in intentional dishonesty (and he says you are a master of it) you are a liar, did you practice to be such a liar or does it just come to you naturally? We could reverse this on Hays: did you practice to be so hateful of others you disagree with or does it come naturally?

A friend of mine showed me a place where Hays states that He believes that God has the character of a cheating card sharp. Interesting that for Hays it is OK for God to act in such a duplicitous manner, but then he claims you are doing so and it is not OK.

’Both you and Ingersoll oppose the doctrine of everlasting punishment, and both you and he defame the God who would punish sinners with everlasting damnation. Both you and he (we could add Clark Pinnock for good measure) don’t hesitate to profane the name of God in acting as the Judge in the living and the dead, by penalizing the damned with everlasting retribution.’

So Jason you defame God and profane the name of God, because you disagree with Steve Hays.

’You’re the flipside of a militant, sacrilegious infidel. You’ve burned your bridges with the God you blaspheme.’

Now he claims that you are a blasphemer of God with the same hatred of God as a militant atheist.

’So, like any cagey advocate, he goes on the offensive. His tactical ruse is to whip out a creditable doctrine like the Trinity, then polish his discreditable heresy with the chamois of a creditable doctrine so that he can wipe away the odium of his pet heresy, and transfer orthodox sheen of Trinitarian theology to his tarnished belief-system.’

According to Hays you are a heretic and a cagey one at that!
:-)

’Instead, he tries to change this into a debate over the Trinity—so that anyone who opposes universalism is a crypto-unitarian. It’s the last-ditch ploy of the theological scoundrel.’

You are a “theological scoundrel” as well. Are you starting to feel good about yourself yet? :-)

’Maybe, because Jason is fairly clever, he’s used to getting away with these rhetorical stunts. But he’s not the only clever person in the world, and some of us are less than spellbound by his raggedy bag of conjuring tricks.’

I am sure glad that Steve Hays has come to the rescue to save the rest of us from your “rhetorical stunts” with which you keep everybody else spell bound with!

Wanna see a real conjuring trick: check this one out, the bible explicitly and clearly teaches that God has a salvific love for the world, but presto- chango and Hays makes this biblically revealed truth disappear and it is then replaced by a God who takes pleasure in reprobating the vast majority of the human race! Now that is a real conjuring trick, fortunately, most Christians are clever enough to see through this ruse on the part of Calvinists like Hays.

’The fact that, “to all possible appearances it only looks evil” to you is a damning (pun intended) admission on your part that you’re the one who embraces diabolical standards of good and evil.’

Well since Hays has already told us that you are a heretic, practiced in duplicity, incapable of developing an argument, a theological scoundrel, etc. etc. why should we be surprised that he also says that you embrace “diabolical standards of good and evil”?

This is another interesting charge, as it comes from someone who is happy that God preselects who will be saved and who will be damned before they are born. Others have characterized the God characterized by Calvinism as being sadistic and cruel with human persons. Who really has the diabolical standards of good and evil here?

Jason, I disagree with Universalists like yourself (because I believe the bible properly interpreted presents the possibility of eternal separation from God), but I can understand and appreciate someone who wants to believe that eventually everyone will be saved. On the other hand, someone who hates all who disagree with him, and sees everybody else as blaspheming God is harder to understand. Especially when they claim to be a follower of Jesus.

Plantinga Fan

Paul Manata said...

PF: (btw, PF also posts as Henry and Robert. I don't really care to deal with him and all his other personalities)

"There is no biblical text saying that Esau was “ordained to hell”."

Never said there was, PF. It would obviisly be an *implication* from *other* texts. I also hold that what scriptutre *logically implies* is just as authoritative as what it says. There's no biblical text that says, "God is triune."

Regarding Romans 11, I'm sure you don't expect me to be bothered by you offering the Arminain party line on those verses. I'd send you to Moo, Schreiner, &c for refutations of your points. In fact, Paul ends of ch. 8 speaking about *salvation* and *being united to Christ.* he's carrying on that discussion, beginning by "wishing he could be cut of from Christ (ch.8) for their sake. He's most definately talking about salvation.

Re?: Jn 3:16, I already answered Plantinga Fan/Robert/Henry before. I have nothing new to say. Of course, sionce PF can't win the debate, he needs to employ question begging epithets: "Manat reinterprets scripture." Sorry, PF, I'm not bothered by bully tactics and I trust critical thinkers here aren't either.

I restrict God's electing love to the elect, yes. But I can use God's love in different senses too.

"Loving all does not make love “meaningless”. Rather it shows the extensiveness of God’s love, confirms the scripture which teaches that “God is love” and shows how incredible this love is in seeking out the lost, those who are in active rebellion to God."

Yes, it does. Just like if I told my wife that I would show NO GREATER LOVE AS A HUSBAND TO A WIFE by buying her flowers, and then I bought every woman in the world flowers, my wife would rightly take my flowers to her as meaningless.


PF is just debating at an unsophisticated and sophormoric level. Trading on people's emotions to try and "score points" with the audience. he has shown here (by talking about me behind my back, leveling charges at me - which Matt 18 says he should come to me first, btw) that he has no desire to have a serious dialogue. Since he's a libertarian free will theorist, I grant him his wishes. If I were Kant, I'd say that he's showing that he wants his actions to be universalized, and so I'll end the *dia*logue and wish him all the best. If he ever chooses to try to have a rational discussion, seek to understand his opponent, and show himself a workman approved by God by knocking off the straw men arguments against Calvinism, then maybe we can have something to talk about again.

Tom Talbott said...

Steve asked: “Suppose, for the sake of argument, that Calvin cannot block the moral objections to his position. What would follow from that admission?”

I suppose nothing much of interest would follow, Steve, beyond the fact that Calvin failed to meet an objection he was trying to meet. But of course my claim about Calvin was but a specific instance of a more general claim, namely this: For any person s who accepts the Reformed understanding of predestination and reprobation, either s will be a theological voluntarist or s will be unable to block moral objections to these doctrines.

You went on to write: “Since all sinners are worthy of damnation, sin or demerit is not, in and of itself, the reason that God reprobates A rather than B.”

But unfortunately, in asserting that “all sinners are worthy of damnation,” you are already assuming the very point at issue between us. Why suppose that God could justly treat Esau as worthy of damnation when, even before Esau was born or had done anything good or bad, God had already predestined (or causally determined) that he would be a sinner? If God could justly predestine, first, that Esau would be born a sinner, second, that he would never repent of his sin, and third, that he would nonetheless be punished with eternal damnation for his sin, why couldn’t God likewise justly consign all Christians to hell and grant to all non-Christians the eternal bliss of heaven? So far as I can tell, you have not so much as addressed this question; much less have you provided a persuasive answer to it.

The following, at least, is hardly an adequate answer: “In a supralapsarian theodicy, moreover, there is reason for electing some sinners and reprobating others. God is good, and knowing God is good. God’s justice and mercy are goods. …The experience of God’s mercy towards the elect, and justice towards the reprobate, enriches our knowledge of God.”

You will agree, I presume, that having a reason to do something in no way guarantees having a just reason; even a demonic god, after all, would have a reason for his tyrannical actions. So let us suppose that Belial should construct the following parallel to your statement above: “In demonic theodicy, moreover, there is a reason why God punishes Christians and extends his mercy to non-Christians. For God is good, and knowing God is good. God’s justice and mercy are goods. So the experience of God’s boundless mercy towards non-Christians and of his severe justice towards those whom he deceives and consigns to hell enriches our knowledge of God.”

When judged by our fallible human intuitions, the deceiving God that Belial here describes no doubt seems terribly unjust. But against those Christians who trust such intuitions and begin to doubt God’s justice, Belial could simply quote the words of Calvin and castigate "these venomous dogs" who "spew out more than one kind of venom against God." Then, still using Calvin’s own words, he might continue: "But we deny that they [the Christians whom God deceives and sends to hell] are duly excused, because the ordinance of God, by which they complain that they are destined for destruction, has its own equity [or justice]—unknown, indeed, to us but very sure" (Institutes, Bk. III, Ch. XXIII, Sec. 9).

Nor will it do to quote, at this point, those Scriptures according to which God can neither lie nor deny himself. For according to Belial, God is in no way denying himself; to the contrary, he is precisely being true to his own deceptive nature. And besides, so Belial might also contend, the lie that God cannot lie is but one of the means by which he justly plays his joke on Christians, deceives them to their own destruction, and finally sends them all to hell.

So here, perhaps, is another way of putting my question: If I cannot trust my seemingly clear and decisive intuition that a perfectly just (not to mention a perfectly loving) God would never cause Esau to sin and then damn him eternally for it, how can I trust my seemingly clear and decisive intuition that a perfectly just God would never deceive all Christians and damn them eternally for their deception?

Thanks for your latest reply.

-Tom

Paul Manata said...

Tom assumes the points at issue as well.

"When judged by our fallible human intuitions"

That is, his objection and question only follows because he *assumes his moral intuition.* Perhaps Steve doesn't share Talbott's intuitions. He doesn't itch where Talbott does.

So, Talbott's argument can be restated: "When I view Calvin's God from Talbott's assumptions, Calvin's God is a big meany."

Why put any stock in Talbott's intuitions?

If Steve assumes points at issue, so does Talbott. His questions do have presuppositions attached to them, ya know.

He writes,

"Why suppose that God could justly treat Esau as worthy of damnation when, even before Esau was born or had done anything good or bad, God had already predestined (or causally determined) that he would be a sinner? If God could justly predestine, first, that Esau would be born a sinner, second, that he would never repent of his sin, and third, that he would nonetheless be punished with eternal damnation for his sin, why couldn’t God likewise justly consign all Christians to hell and grant to all non-Christians the eternal bliss of heaven? So far as I can tell, you have not so much as addressed this question; much less have you provided a persuasive answer to it. "

Seems to me that he's leaving out secondary causes:

1) He was not predestine to be *born* a sinner without the *means* of his representative federal head, Adam. It's not a fatalistic predestination.

2) Esau will freely (in a semi-compatibilist sense) choose not to repent. The end (Esau's predestined non-repentence) doesn't take place irrespective of the means (Esau's choice to not repent). Since Esau chose to not repent, and was not coerced or forced against his will, what's the problem?

3) And he would nonetheless be punished for those things he freely did (or would have done since Adam was the best possible representative for man). And, if we want to deny Adam's federal headship, we can't just take Christ's 'cause it is good for us).

Thus Talbott's questions are only problems if one denies other doctrines the Calvinist holds. So, we can restate Talbott's position: If we deny some of Calvinisms doctrines, I can show how they would have problems with other doctrines. Sorry, not persuaded.

So, the first part of the question has people getting their just deserts, the second doesn't. I don't get what's so hard about it? We can give reasons why Esau's punishment is just, I can't think of any why the other is just. Talbott is still assuming that God is preestinbing Esau irrespective of any moral considerations, as if Esau was viewed as a morally neutral agent. Talbott has the wrong opinion of Calvinism, and that leads him to ask bad questions of Calvinism.

Paul Manata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Manata said...

Consider This Parable

Assumption 1 : We determine what is just for God to do: "When judged by our fallible human intuitions"

Assumption 2: Hundreds of years ago, blacks were considered less than human. As was said in the Dred Scott case, for example, black people were: "beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." This was according to the "common moral intuitions of the time."

The Parable:

The 1850's universalist said, "God will save all men. They will all go to heaven."

An uppity theologian asked about "the blacks" if they went to heaven too.

"Why do you ask," said the 1850's universalist.

"Why, I am committed to Scripture, and it seems that Scripture teaches that the blacks are fully human. Thus I'm sure you believe they will go to heaven as well?", said the uppity theologian.

"Why that's pure nonsense", said the 1850's universalist. "Indeed, though I grant that the arguments I've heard you can present from the Bible are very fine indeed, but I cannot believe a loving creator would allow these despicable animals into heaven to dwell in God's glory forever. 'So if you are right about the meaning of these verses--mind you, I'm not saying you are right--but IF you are right, then these verses are just wrong; they are not a true revelation from God.' For you see, good sir, it is common moral knowledge that black people are evil beings, not even to be called human, God's love does not extend to them just as God will not have all the slugs, snails, and demons in heaven with him!”

"Well I don't think your moral intuitions are correct," replied the uppity theologian, "and we can look into your specific arguments for them if you wish, but in the meantime God has taught us that these men are humans, we should not deny his revelation to man. After all, if God is all-knowing, and if this is his revelation, then when his infallible word runs up against your fallible intuitions, guess who wins? Not you."

"How cute....and naive of you young man" exclaimed the 1850's universalist. "Do you believe that God will allow the slug and the demon into heaven too?"

"No," replied the uppity theologian.

"Well answer me this: How can God allow the black animal to enter heaven, but not the slug and the demon?", asked the 1850's universalist.

"Because they are people made in God's image," replied the uppity theologian.

"But that is what's in dispute. And, given our (fallible) moral intuitions, I, and the fine folk listening to us, cannot conclude that God would do as you say. A good and just God would not do things contrary to out common moral intuitions" replied the 1850's universalist.

The End...

steve said...

At 1:55 PM , Tom Talbott said...

“But unfortunately, in asserting that 'all sinners are worthy of damnation,' you are already assuming the very point at issue between us. Why suppose that God could justly treat Esau as worthy of damnation when, even before Esau was born or had done anything good or bad, God had already predestined (or causally determined) that he would be a sinner? If God could justly predestine, first, that Esau would be born a sinner, second, that he would never repent of his sin, and third, that he would nonetheless be punished with eternal damnation for his sin, why couldn’t God likewise justly consign all Christians to hell and grant to all non-Christians the eternal bliss of heaven? So far as I can tell, you have not so much as addressed this question; much less have you provided a persuasive answer to it.”

I haven’t addressed this question before because, to my recollection, this is the first time that you’ve raised that particular question—in the course of the current thread.

This is, of course, a stock objection to Calvinism. There are different ways of broaching the answer:

i) It isn’t clear to me what, exactly, you’re objecting to. Do you distinguish between determinism and predeterminism? Do you find predeterminism more objectionable than determinism?

ii) Or is your objection, not to determinism/predeterminism, per se, but to a particular (odious) outcome?

iii) Likewise, as a universalist, is your objection specifically to a Calvinistic version of everlasting punishment? Or would you be equally opposed to a libertarian version of everlasting punishment?

iv) Is your objection specific to Calvinism, or do you object to any form of determinism, whether it’s hard determinism or soft determinism?

At one level, you—as a universalist—‘are raising the same objection to Calvinism that a libertarian will raise to determinism. Unless we are free to do otherwise, we can’t be blameworthy.

As a philosopher, you’re well aware of the fact that there are astute representatives of semicompatibilism (e.g. John Martin Fischer) and hard incompatibilism (Derk Pereboom) who—on the one hand—field standard objections to soft/hard determinism while—on the other hand—lodging objections to libertarianism. Likewise, there are distinguished proponents of libertarianism like Peter van Inwagen who ultimately retreat into mystification.

On the face of it, you’re leveling an objection that has already been addressed, in considerable detail, by a number of sophisticated philosophers. Perhaps you find their explanations unsatisfactory, but I don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel unless you can refine your objection.

v) So what, once more, is the precise point of your objection?

a) Is your objection that an agent is not responsible for his actions unless he is free to do otherwise?

b) Or is your objection that a particular outcome—in this case, everlasting punishment—is morally unacceptable?

In theory, you might reject (a), but affirm (b). Perhaps you don’t think there’s anything wrong with a deterministic outcome per se, but only with a hellish outcome.

vi) Are you merely objecting to the idea of original sin, or to the idea of original sin when it leads to damnation?

vi) Are you merely objecting to the idea that Esau couldn’t repent, or to the idea that his inability was predestined? Or to the consequence of impenitence (i.e. damnation)?

vii) As to the question of causality, the Bible, being a practical book, written at a popular level, doesn’t offer a theory of causation. And as you know, there is no theory of causation that commends the general consent of the philosophical community.

The Bible gives a number of examples of what we would identify and cause-and-effect relations, but it offers no theory of causation to explain the nature of that relation.

On the face of it, the decree (i.e. predestination, foreordination) doesn’t cause something to happen in the way that the cue-ball causes the 8-ball to move.

Predestination specifies a particular outcome, and ensures a particular outcome. The outcome is certain.

But the decree, in and of itself, doesn’t cause anything to happen. Everything happens according to the decree, but the decree isn’t causing it to happen.

Rather, the decree is implemented by such causal modalities as creation, providence, and miracle. And providence involves second-causes. Esau is an agent in his own right.

“You will agree, I presume, that having a reason to do something in no way guarantees having a just reason; even a demonic god, after all, would have a reason for his tyrannical actions. So let us suppose that Belial should construct the following parallel to your statement above: ‘In demonic theodicy, moreover, there is a reason why God punishes Christians and extends his mercy to non-Christians. For God is good, and knowing God is good. God’s justice and mercy are goods. So the experience of God’s boundless mercy towards non-Christians and of his severe justice towards those whom he deceives and consigns to hell enriches our knowledge of God’.”

The problem with invoking Cartesian demons to undercut Calvinism is that your incantation cuts both ways. Cartesian demons are mercenaries. You can hire a Cartesian demon to bedevil any theological option.

For example, in your book, The Inescapable Love of God, you attempt, among other things, to mount an exegetical defense of universalism. And in another book, Universal Salvation: The Current Debate, you defend your exegesis against the objections of I. H. Marshall.

But let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that your exegesis is correct. The Bible does, indeed, teach universalism.

Unfortunately, this is a diabolical deception. The Cartesian demon inspired St. Paul to teach universalism.

So it seems to me that this line of argument either proves too much or too little.

“When judged by our fallible human intuitions, the deceiving God that Belial here describes no doubt seems terribly unjust.”

I have the same problem with fallibilism that I have with Cartesian demons. This is just another double-bladed sword. If fallibilism undermines Calvinism, it equally undermines universalism.

“But against those Christians who trust such intuitions and begin to doubt God’s justice, Belial could simply quote the words of Calvin and castigate ‘these venomous dogs" who "spew out more than one kind of venom against God.’ Then, still using Calvin’s own words, he might continue: ‘But we deny that they [the Christians whom God deceives and sends to hell] are duly excused, because the ordinance of God, by which they complain that they are destined for destruction, has its own equity [or justice]—unknown, indeed, to us but very sure’ (Institutes, Bk. III, Ch. XXIII, Sec. 9).”

I don’t know why you’re hung up over Calvin’s invective. Invective was common coinage in the polemical theology of that day in age—whether Catholic, Lutheran, or Reformed.

“Nor will it do to quote, at this point, those Scriptures according to which God can neither lie nor deny himself. For according to Belial, God is in no way denying himself; to the contrary, he is precisely being true to his own deceptive nature. And besides, so Belial might also contend, the lie that God cannot lie is but one of the means by which he justly plays his joke on Christians, deceives them to their own destruction, and finally sends them all to hell.”

And, as I’ve said, one can redeploy the Cartesian demon to deceive the universalist. It’s a wash.

“So here, perhaps, is another way of putting my question: If I cannot trust my seemingly clear and decisive intuition that a perfectly just (not to mention a perfectly loving) God would never cause Esau to sin and then damn him eternally for it, how can I trust my seemingly clear and decisive intuition that a perfectly just God would never deceive all Christians and damn them eternally for their deception?”

Several more issues:

i) We need to distinguish two questions: (a) Is Scripture true? (b) What’s the true interpretation of Scripture?

Assuming, for the sake of argument, that your intuition is sound, that would not call into question the Reformed interpretation of Scripture, but rather, the veracity of Scripture. Can Scripture be trusted?

ii) Even if, ad arguendo, our intuition tells us that God would never reprobate Esau, this doesn’t mean our intuition also tells us that God will save Esau—much less everyone else.

iii) I don’t think intuition tells us that:

a) An agent is blameless unless he *could* do otherwise.

Rather, I tend to think people confuse this with a more plausible principle, to wit:

b) An agent is blameless if he *would* have done otherwise.

In other words, I think the popular intuition you appeal to is, at best, a truncated intuition. If we spell it out, the full formulation would be something like:

b2) An agent is blameless unless he could have done otherwise—provided that he would have done otherwise.

I’m not saying if this intuition is correct. But, when you unpack it, that’s the moral intuition.

The intuition instantly loses its intuitive appeal when you insist that an agent is blameless if he couldn’t do otherwise even if he wouldn’t do otherwise given the chance.

iv) Let’s take a Lady and the Tiger scenario. Behind door A is the princess. Behind door B is the tiger. Do both doors need to be unlocked for this to be a fair ordeal? Does the suitor need the freedom to open either door for this to be a fair ordeal?

Why would that be the case? He has a choice. He can only choose one door or the other.

Suppose he chooses to open door A, but door A is locked. As a fallback, he tries to open door B. Door B is unlocked. As a result, he is devoured by the tiger. Intuitively speaking, I suppose most-all of us would regard that outcome as unfair.

Take 2: suppose, once again, door A is locked. But, this time, door A isn’t his first choice. Door B is his first choice.

Now, unbeknownst to him, door A is locked. So he couldn’t open door A even if he wanted to. Since, however, he never wanted to open door A, why is it necessary for that to be a live option?

We could run through the various permutations, but you get the drift. The fact that a dire outcome awaits him if he opens door B, and the further fact that door A is secretly locked, is not, of itself, morally significant. His fate is not unjust if wasn’t free to make a choice he was never going to make in the first place.

So, for your intuition even to get off the ground, you would need to demonstrate that, if Esau had been given the opportunity to repent, he would have seized the opportunity to repent.

v) Let’s take another example. We generally view a stacked deck as unfair. As cheating. The game is rigged.

However, in a game of chance, the odds are that—sooner or later—a randomly shuffled deck will have the same sequence as a stacked deck. In that event, the outcome will be the same whether or not the order of the cards is a result of determinism or indeterminism.

The same player will play the hand he’s dealt, whether the dealer is a card sharp or an honest broker. And there are situations in which random circumstances just so happen to yield the same result as controlled circumstances. A player could win or lose under either scenario.

So, once again, for your intuition to even get off the ground, you need to explain why a predeterminate outcome is unfair if an indeterminate outcome would be identical with a predeterminate outcome. Or, to put it another way, you need to show that the outcome would differ in any particular case.

vi) And that’s assuming that intuition is the deal-breaker. The limitation of moral intuition is that it’s like a brute fact. You can try to explicate your moral intuition and defend it. But it ultimately comes down to your personal impression that something *just seems* to be right while something else *just seems* to be wrong. So intuition really can’t justify itself. You rapidly get to the point where you can’t *argue* for your moral intuitions.

Like the old Kennel Ration commercial (“My dog’s better than your dog!”), it boils down to the claim that “My intuition is better than your intuition!”

vii) And that’s also the problem when you say that I’m “already assuming the very point at issue between us.” Can you yourself offer a non-circular justification for your own intuitive appeal to universalism? Or does your objection quickly and inevitably degenerate into a stalemate?

viii) On a final point, I find the Bible intuitively compelling. There are no moral intuitions that trump my intuitive faith in Scripture. (My faith in Scripture isn’t limited to sheer intuition, but for purposes of this discussion, that’s the aspect I’ll accentuate.)

Therefore, on intuitive grounds alone, there is no intuitive defeater to my intuitive conviction that Scripture is the word of God.

Tom Talbott said...

Hi Steve,

I have decided, for a variety of reasons, to make this my final post here, with the possible exception of one additional post with some basic information in it. So, before answering a few of your questions, I want first to thank everyone who participated in the discussion; I also want to apologize to Ron for not pursuing any farther than I did the discussion that began with him. I felt that you and I could have had a fruitful discussion, Ron. But unfortunately, I am confronting too many deadlines right now and also have too many personal responsibilities, so I am unable to pursue a further discussion at the present time.

Anyway, Steve, here is my answer to some of your questions:

Steve’s question: “i) It isn’t clear to me what, exactly, you’re objecting to. Do you distinguish between determinism and predeterminism? Do you find predeterminism more objectionable than determinism?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second? In raising such a question, moreover, I am not attempting to draw a distinction between determinism and predeterminism, nor do I have a clear idea of what such a distinction might be.

Steve’s question: “ii) Or is your objection, not to determinism/predeterminism, per se, but to a particular (odious) outcome?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second? And no, my question does not concern determinism per se, or even “a particular (odious) outcome” per se. All Christians suffering everlastingly in hell would certainly be an odious outcome. But the issue here is whether God could justly produce such an odious outcome.

Steve’s question: “iii) Likewise, as a universalist, is your objection specifically to a Calvinistic version of everlasting punishment? Or would you be equally opposed to a libertarian version of everlasting punishment?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second? In raising such a question, moreover, I am not specifically concerned with the truth or falsity of universalism at all, nor with various freewill theodicies of hell.

Steve’s question: “iv) Is your objection specific to Calvinism, or do you object to any form of determinism, whether it’s hard determinism or soft determinism?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second? And no, my question does not concern the truth or falsity of determinism, whether it be hard determinism or soft determinism.

Steve’s question: “v) So what, once more, is the precise point of your objection?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second?

Steve’s question: “a) Is your objection that an agent is not responsible for his actions unless he is free to do otherwise?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second? For the record, however, I do not believe that moral responsibility always requires the freedom to act otherwise.

Steve’s question: “vi) Are you merely objecting to the idea of original sin, or to the idea of original sin when it leads to damnation?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second? And no, in raising this question I am not, even implicitly, raising an objection to the doctrine of original sin.

Steve’s question: “vi) Are you merely objecting to the idea that Esau couldn’t repent, or to the idea that his inability was predestined? Or to the consequence of impenitence (i.e. damnation)?”

Tom’s answer: The question in my previous post concerned the nature of divine justice. I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second?

And now here is my question for you, Steve. Why not just address a question simply and directly? I still have no idea of what your answer to my question, repeated several times in this post, might be. If you think that a confusion lies behind the question, just spell it out, one step at a time, so that your post does not wander all over the map, so to speak. Do you really believe that a post such as your latest one, or several others you have written, is conducive to an intelligent discussion? I’ll let you answer that question in any way you see fit without any further comment from me.

Anyway, I wish you well.

-Tom

Paul Manata said...

Notice that Tom continues to state that he has strong intuitions against such and such being just. Notice too that he has not offered reasons as to why it is unjust for God to predestine Esau to hell. I understand why he'd say what he says about lying. but, I don't understand why he thinks predestining Esau to hell is unjust. It isn't an intellectual virtue to just assert "Cause I intuite that it is. And, I admit my intuitions are fallible."

Paul Manata said...

I think it is interesting to pause here and note a paper Dr. Michael Sudduth wrote where the issue of calvin and voluntarism is discussed:

http://www.homestead.com/philofreligion/files/Calvin_Distinction_FD.htm

Also, some quotes are relevant to undermine Talbott's claims about Calvin. Talbott's problem stems from quote mining and unfamiliarity with the corpus of Calvin's writings:

From the paper:

**********

"Calvin writes:

That Sarbonic dogma, therefore, in the promulgation of which the Papal theologians so much pride themselves, “that the power of God is absolute and tyrannical,” I utterly abhor. For it would be easier to force away the light of the sun from his heat, or his heat from his fire, than to separate the power of God from His justice. Away, then, with all such monstrous speculations from godly minds, as that God can possibly do more, or otherwise, than He has done, or that He can do anything without the highest order and reason. For I do not receive that other dogma, “that God, as being free from all law Himself, may do anything without being subject to any blame for doing so.” For whosoever makes God without law, robs Him of the greatest part of His glory, because he spoils Him of His rectitude and justice. Not that God is, indeed, subject to any law, excepting in so far as He is a law unto Himself. But there is that inseparable connection and harmony between the power of God and His justice, that nothing can possibly be done by Him but what is moderate, legitimate, and according to the strictest rule of right. And most certainly, when the faithful speak of God as omnipotent, they acknowledge Him at the same time to be the Judge of the world, and always hold His power to be righteously tempered with equity and justice."[24] (Emphasis mine)

[...]

"Perhaps more than any other single passage in Calvin this statement is crucial to understanding Calvin’s position on both voluntarism and the Distinction. What is striking about this passage is that in it Calvin clearly denies that God can do just anything without being subject to blame for doing so. Similarly he denies that God is exlex or super legem (beyond law). Furthermore, Calvin is explicit that God has reasons for what He does, and they are just reasons, but they are simply hidden from us in this life. These points set definite moral constraints on what God can do. I take this to be evidence against the voluntarist reading of Calvin alluded to earlier (in section II). For the voluntarist, God cannot act inordinately because whatever God does is just by virtue of his doing it. The divine act makes the moral fact. Calvin, however, following theologians such as Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas, maintains that God cannot act inordinately because of the consistency of the divine nature. God’s being righteous may be epistemically mysterious in many respects, but it is not ontologically vacuous."[25]

[...]

"Calvin insists that we should not ask why God wills what He wills for no such reason can be found by us. He follows this, though, by denying that God is a law unto Himself. Calvin seems to be making epistemic, not ontological, statements about justice and the will of God. He is saying that God’s willing something ought to be a sufficient condition for us to regard the thing as just, not that God’s willing it is what makes it just.[26] Why should we regard as just what God wills? Because we presuppose that God is just and acts for just reasons. God’s willing something reveals that it is right. It does not necessarily make it right (as if anything would be right if God willed it). Nor does Calvin’s insistence on God as the cause of all things and His will being caused by nothing imply voluntarism. Calvin is merely restating Augustine and Aquinas: “Nothing is greater than God’s will. Therefore, no cause for it should be sought” (Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a.19.5).


**********

I, for one, would appreciate some retractions.

Given the above, Steve's arguments, and my counter parable based on "common moral intuitions" of the 1850's, I think it is safe to say that Talbott's parable, and anti-Calvinist arguments, are paper tigers. Not only that, it seems to suffer from the slight problem of being outrightly false.

steve said...

“And now here is my question for you, Steve. Why not just address a question simply and directly? I still have no idea of what your answer to my question, repeated several times in this post, might be. If you think that a confusion lies behind the question, just spell it out, one step at a time, so that your post does not wander all over the map, so to speak. Do you really believe that a post such as your latest one, or several others you have written, is conducive to an intelligent discussion? I’ll let you answer that question in any way you see fit without any further comment from me.”

Well, you’ve peppered me several questions in the space of this one paragraph. By way of answer:

i) I’m puzzled by the anti-intellectual character of your reply. You are, after all, a philosophy prof.

ii) Why don’t I just address a question simply and directly? Because your questions are loaded with ambiguous, theory-laden assumptions. For example, this was one of your questions:

“Why suppose that God could justly treat Esau as worthy of damnation when, even before Esau was born or had done anything good or bad, God had already predestined (or causally determined) that he would be a sinner? If God could justly predestine, first, that Esau would be born a sinner, second, that he would never repent of his sin, and third, that he would nonetheless be punished with eternal damnation for his sin, why couldn’t God likewise justly consign all Christians to hell and grant to all non-Christians the eternal bliss of heaven?”

But that’s hardly a “simple” question, which is why I tried to break it down into its component parts and treacherous assumptions.

When you say, “If God could justly predestine, first, that Esau would be born a sinner,” that’s presumably an allusion to the doctrine of original sin, and—by implication—, you’re evidently taking the position that it would be unjust of God to damn Esau on account of original sin. So this is why I asked you if that’s a correct interpretation of the element of your question.

When you also say, “second, that he would never repent of his sin,” the apparent implication is that you think it would be unjust of God to damn Esau if he could not have done otherwise (i.e. repented of his sin). So that’s why I asked you if you regard libertarian freedom as a necessary precondition of culpability.

When you also say, “and third, that he would nonetheless be punished with eternal damnation for his sin,” it’s unclear whether you think the injustice lies in the *duration* of the punishment, or in the fact that Esau was *predestined* to this particular fate—which is why I asked you to distinguish and relate the two.

You ask, “If [I] think that a confusion lies behind the question, just spell it out, one step at a time.” That’s exactly what I was doing.

When you say, “You will agree, I presume, that having a reason to do something in no way guarantees having a just reason; even a demonic god, after all, would have a reason for his tyrannical actions. So let us suppose that Belial should construct the following parallel to your statement above,” you seem to be invoking the specter of Cartesian demons as a defeater or undercutter for Calvinism.

If so, I point out that a parallel argument can be constructed for universalism. Indeed, you yourself were trying to construct a parallel argument with reference to Calvinism, so I’m merely taking my cue from you and doing the same thing in reverse. Why do you think your argument would count against Calvinism, but not against universalism?

Finally, when you say that “judged by our fallible human intuitions, the deceiving God that Belial here describes no doubt seems terribly unjust,” you appear to be invoking fallibilism against Calvinism—but if that’s a cogent objection to Calvinism, then why isn’t that a cogent argument against universalism.

If I’m “wandering all over the map,” that’s because my GPS system is keeping track of all your circumnavigations.

When you ask if I “really believe that a post such as [my] latest one, or several others [I’ve] have written, is conducive to an intelligent discussion?” I can’t think of a tactful response since your accusatory question is so self-incriminating.

When my replies are pegged to your questions every step of the way, and you then ask if my replies are “conductive to intelligent discussion,” the only candid answer is that if my replies are not conductive to intelligent discussion, then that’s because they follow the counters your chosen framework. I guess that answers can only be as intelligent or unintelligent as the questions.

At this point I really don’t know what your problem is, Tom. Are you unable to follow your own argument? And why do you object when I follow every twist and turn of your own argument, even if you are unable or unwilling to do so? Why do you react in this fashion when I merely andress you on your own terms?

I’d add that if you don’t like my minute analysis, you could always respond to Manata’s pithy counterarguments, which meet you on your own ground. Yet you treat him like a potted plant.

iii) As to your oft-repeated question, you ask: “I have a strong intuition, as you presumably do as well, that God could not justly deceive all Christians and send them all to hell as a kind of divine joke. I also have a strong intuition that God could not justly predestine Esau to an everlasting hell. So my question is: Why should I trust my intuition in the first case, but not in the second?”

Actually, I reject your intuition in the first case. I have no *intuition* against God deceiving Christians and damning them to hell. Rather, I have a *revelation* against God deceiving Christians and damning them to hell.

I have no idea why you think that intuition speaks to the fate of Christians. Apart from revelation, intuition tells me absolutely nothing about Christians.

If I were born on a desert island, in the proverbial state of nature, intuition wouldn’t even speak to me about the existence of Christians, much less their eternal fate—for better or worse.

There’s nothing the least bit intuitive about that belief. You’ve been so conditioned by your upbringing and your particular interpretation of *Scripture* that you’ve long forgotten where the source of your confidence comes from, and you now mistake your *acquired* conviction for *intuition*. It’s nothing of the kind.

And that’s’ one reason you can never appeal to your intuition to trump a revelation regarding the fate of humanity. For your putative intuition is, in fact, contingent on your interpretation of God’s revelation in Scripture. Throughout this thread, you overestimate intuition, and underestimate revelation.

Now, I think it’s possible to have an intuitive faith in Scripture, if we define intuition along the lines of an illative sense or tacit knowledge—a la Newman, Polanyi, and Mitchell. But intuition is not the *source* of that knowledge. Rather, it takes Scripture as its *object*.

So—as you set up the question—even if there were a parallel between the two cases, yet since—as a matter of fact—your faith in the first case cannot be informed by intuition, but only by revelation, then—by parity of argument—there is likewise no support for the second case.

iv) Apart from the Bible as a whole, I’d find myself in the same situation as Solomon, in Ecclesiastes. There’s plenty of natural evidence for the existence of God. But the distribution of blessing and bane is so disparate and apparently random at best, or perversely unjust at worst—with the wicked prospering at the expense of the righteous—that l’d be in a complete quandary. Left to my own devices, I could discern a providential pattern to the natural order, but not to the moral order.

Jason Pratt said...

GAAHHH!!! I go away for half a week, and when I come back there are so many things to address (maybe) that I have to wait until Saturday, at which time there are so many more things...

I’m gonna have to bookmark this thread, I guess, since it has now run off the bottom. Maybe twice. {g} But obviously still a popular thread and ongoing discussion. (And that’s understandable; it’s an important topic.)

In order to maintain a modicum of topical coherency, I’ll be setting up comments for each participant; but mainly addressing ongoing conversations between participants and myself (though I reserve the right to comment on a detail of another conversation, in passing. I’ll try really really hard not to just double-up on something that’s already been said, though.)

First up after my most recent post is Paul Manata, I think...

Paul (and henceforth for this comment: {{It's not a wasted point since my counter-parable is of the same worth as his parable.}}

Well, see, then we get back to the issue of: if the parable is faulty (and I’ve agreed that it is) as an illustration of Calvin, then trying to build a counter-parable of the same worth is going to be similarly flawed as an illustration of Paul. {s}

That would be a fine enough point (i.e. “if you don’t like how I used it against Paul, you shouldn’t like how Talbott used it against Calvin”); except I keep getting this impression that you think your counter-parable actually properly represents Paul and should be used as an illustration of Paul’s larger context (the way that a proper use of Calvin in Tom’s parable would have been illustrative of Calvin’s larger context.)

But maybe that’s a misimpression on my part. Just saying, that (mis?)impression is what is causing my confusion about what the worth of your counter-parable is supposed to be.

{{Thus, if you don't like how I used it against Paul, you shouldn't like how Talbott used it against Calvin.}}

Or the other way, either: if I don’t like how Tom used it against Calvin, I shouldn’t like how you used it against Paul. (And that’s not even counting the whole other debate of whether Calvin rightly understood Paul.)

{{In one case a non-innocent is given his just deserts, in another, one isn't. Pretty simple.}}

Almost pretty simple. The one thing Tom has going in favor of his albinism example, is that (like the condition of human sin) the people born with that condition didn’t ask for it.


{{Begs the question only if God's testimony has been caled into question by me.}}

Also begs the question if this is being given as an answer for why we should trust God, though. The question of why we can trust God personally at all, has to go back to an understanding of God’s characteristics; not to some other promise about His promises which (in the nature of the promise) He supposedly wouldn’t ever be fulfilling anyway! (He promises to kill Himself if He breaks a convenant promise; but if He breaks one promise what exactly is going to keep Him from breaking His promise to kill Himself for doing so??)

{{I'd take Plantinga's and Bergmann's position on testimony and defeaters here.}}

I don’t really think Plantinga’s position on testimony and defeaters is going to be able to save an appeal to a promise to do (a) if promise (b) is ever broken, as ground for trusting that promise (b) won’t be broken. Whatever Begmann’s position on testimony and defeaters is, Plantinga’s is going to be based more positively on an inductive expectation inferred from known reliable fulfillments, plus an initial rational charity to accept promises when no grounds for believing otherwise are known of. Neither of which involves circular appeal to a promise about keeping-promises-or-else. Satan could promise exactly the same thing, but we wouldn’t trust him to keep promise (a) (about killing himself) any more than keeping promise (b) (about covenants); maybe less so! It goes back to character and characteristics.

{{Anyway, are you saying that one must assume the Bible is false in order to deny my answer?}}

Pretty sure my rejection of your answer has nothing at all to do with that. Just checked back over it again, and still don’t see that there. {shrug}

{{SO, yes, I start with the presupposition that God is trustworthy}}

In which case, appealing to a prooftext about God promising to kill Himself if He ever breaks a covenant promise, is still pointless. {s}

{{I like where that puts me, orthodoxically speaking. :-)}}

And yet, what part of this is based on distinctively Christian orthodox theology? Muslims could take it as a basic presupposition that God is trustworthy, too.

Admittedly, not all issues have to refer back to orthodox Christian theology per se (though at least they shouldn’t tacitly deny it, if this theology is supposed to be coherently held to!) But where an orthodox proponent is pointing out a special distinction that follows from holding coherently to orthodox theology per se (in comparison to other proposals of theism), then the challenge has to be met on that level.

{{talbott was trying to offer an *internal* critique, and so I called upon the *internal* logic of my position. he asked how could *I* trust God.}}

‘I just do, so there,’ is not specially orthodox in its theological content, either. {s}

‘Because God is Himself an eternally active self-generating interPersonal relationship, and if He refused to fulfill a promise eventually then He would be acting against His own principles of self-existence by enacting non-fair-togetherness, meaning it would be tantamount to suicide for Him to do so, and thus the destruction of all dependent reality, past present and future (from our perspective)--yet here we still are, so we can be sure He won’t ever simply refuse to fulfill a promise He gives.’ That would be a specifically orthodox theological answer as to why we can trust God even in tough situations where we can’t see the fulfillment of fair-togetherness happening yet (or even happening anytime in the future so far as we have been allowed or are able to see). Not-incidentally, it happens to gell up nicely with a promise reported from God in the OT about what would happen if He ever broke His covenant promises. Go orthodoxy! {g}

I don’t think you’re going to agree with that as being an answer, and understanding, that we should accept, though--even though it is overtly orthodox-and-not-just-merely-theistic-or-something-else in its theology.


{{•Because God is giving just deserts.• I guess I'd need to see an argument that says Christians *deserve* to be lied to.}}

That, on the other hand, is a straight enough answer to Tom’s question: God is giving ‘just deserts’ to sinners by making sure ahead of time that they are born in a condition from which He has no intention of saving most of them but for which He has every intention of tormenting them hopelessly forever.

Except that this still only provides an answer to “the nature of divine justice” (on the Calvinist plan) implicitly: apparently, divine ‘justice’ is such that it is what we would otherwise call Satanic level injustice, except that it happens to be God Who is doing it. A more explicit answer would have been better.

{{It's obvious to me that sinners deserve hell, it's not obvious that God's new covenant members deserve to be lied to.}}

And yet, some of those sinners (a bare handful though they may be, proportionately) are not going to get what they ‘deserve’, even on this plan. This introduces either a mutually exclusive schsim between grace and justice, or else a concept of two mutually exclusive notions of justice (one of which is still mutually exclusive in schism to the grace of God--yet still enacted by God!)

For what it is worth, it is obvious to me that sinners deserve hell, too; and it is obvious to me that covenant members do not deserve to be either betrayed or lied to. The difference is that I have a notion of justice that is not opposed to grace (which affirmation follows as a corollary from orthodox trinitarian theism, not-incidentally), and I do not have a notion of two mutually exclusive kinds of God’s justice (which denial also follows as a corollary from orthodox trinitarian theism, not-incidentally). The notion that the justice of God is anything apart from the grace of God, is a flat (even if tacit) repudiation of orthodox trinitarian theism--which is one reason why serious and thoughtful Jewish and Muslim theologians often have a hard time understanding why we Christians would even bother theologically affirming that God would sacrifice Himself (submitting to the hands of traitors no less!) to save His own enemies.

{{So, Esau is ordained to hell not without recourse to his unholy, unacceptable nature.}}

Which, per typical expositions of predestination, God foisted on him in the first place by a predecision that it should be so. It’s still ‘because God says so’, and nothing more than that.

{{As a libertarian, you should accept the idea that a person is free to love who he chooses.}}

That’s true, I do.

As an orthodox trinitarian theist, you should accept the idea that God in His own self-existence is love. Thus if He ever chose to do any wrath or hatred toward an object, that was not secondary to and contingent upon His continuing active love toward that object, He would be acting in opposition to His own action of self-existence: the action of fair-togetherness.

When we act against fair-togetherness, that’s a sin against God (and also against any derivative object we are including as victim of our sin). When God acts against fair-togetherness...? But I, specifically as an orthodox trinitarian theist, affirm that He does not act to fulfill non-fair-togetherness. He acts to fulfill fair-togetherness, including in regard to the objects of His wrath. He is not a worker of iniquity (i.e. of in-equity, unfairness, injustice.)

Now, I can accept both positions entirely coherently: that of libertarianism, and that of trinitarian theism and its corollaries. God’s love is freely given, and freely received, between the Persons of God. He could choose to do something else, but He does not choose to do that; not the Persons in regard to each other, and not the Persons (in unity) in regard to His creations.

You ought to be able to do the same. {s} You have the advantage of already being a trinitarian theist (at least nominally so!) I affirm the libertarianism, too. I draw the logical conclusions from those: God freely loves everyone, and we can trust Him to keep doing so, forever.

{{Love is discriminatory.}}

If you mean ‘particular’, I certainly have no objection. If you mean discriminatory in the sense of accepting and rejection, I have no objection either: by tautology, true love rejects sin--but truly loves the sinner. God’s love is ultimately true, as true as He Himself is in His own self-existence, not partial or temporary. That’s one of Calvinism’s real advantages over Arminianism (in Protestant categories): y’all do in fact affirm this. (But only for a limited elect.)

{{Loving all makes love seem meaningless.}}

If that was true, then the love of the Father and the Son and the Spirit for each other would be meaningless without a sinner to hate-and-not-love. Which I suppose would explain why God decided to invent some sinners, so that His love would be meaningful.

I, though, think His love would be meaningful anyway, even without creation (much moreso without sinners). And I am reasonably sure that when a sinner is saved, the angels and the Persons of the Trinity do not tell each other ‘wait, hold up, if we save anyone else then love will be proportionately less meaningful! So we’d better be sparing about who gets saved!’

In any case, I am one of the all whom God loves, and I sure don’t think that this makes His love seem meaningless. The ones whom I love (even when they are not Christian) are also beloved of God, I believe; and I don’t find that this makes God’s love seem less meaningful. The ones whom I don’t love are also beloved of God, I believe; and as a penitent sinner, I certainly can testify that I don’t find that to be a meaningless concept!! (On the contrary, it is excellent ground for me to get my act together and start loving them, too, even if I still end up having to fight them.)

{{As an atheist, and therefore a non-Calvinist...}}

Just a note that I understand this was supposed to have been in quotes, attributed to James Rachels. {g}

{{Election is election *out of* something.}}

{shrug} Whereas I, the non-atheist trinitarian theist, think that election is primarily to something. {s} Where sin exceeds, grace superexceeds; and not as the sin is the grace.


{{If it's loving to allow a bay to be born horrendously sick, then why is it automatically unloving to allow someone to go to hell forever?}}

I’m tempted to answer, in regard to the latter, “Because Calvinists routinely say so!” That would seem to include you in your previous defense attempts of the discriminatoriness of love and how loving all would make love seem meaningless, etc.

(Also, things are set up so that babies, until recently anyway, were not routinely born horrendously sick, but died in utero, perhaps before ever becoming conscious. But that’s admittedly beside the point. Even one case would be sufficient for the problem.)

I thought I made it fairly clear that love to the baby would involve at least two things: 1) curing the baby eventually, one way or another; and 2) suffering in solidarity with the baby if things were such that it was in fact better in the long run for the baby to be temporarily hurt in such a fashion. The resurrection to come (at the very least) provides element (1), and the cross (at the very least) provides element (2). Love to something else other than the baby might require, in the balance, that the baby be yoked with this for a time (a yoke that will be shared by God if God loves the baby, too.)

In any case, no solid Calvinist is talking about God simply allowing someone to go to hell forever: that’s an active choice by God, which God is enacting. (Indeed, on typical expositions of predestination, God has chosen this for the person regardless of the choices of the person!)

So, on the face of it (not to say in actual Calvinistic defenses I run across, including about five minutes ago in your comment!), God is being unloving to the sinner to send the sinner to hell forever. As I think I already noted, even Calvinist exponents who try to come up with some other kind of love God is still showing the sinner in that situation (John Piper comes to mind), still end up having to affirm that God doesn’t even have the intention (much less, goodness forbid, any obligation of any kind) to fulfill fair-togetherness with those persons. The evil ones, at best, are sacrificed by God for the sake of the good.

But God, the One Who is good, sacrifices Himself for the sake of the evil ones. That sacrifice isn’t only indicative of His glory, it quite literally is His glory (in the sense of the Jewish shekinah) in action, up there on the cross.


{{You say, "But the baby will get to go to heaven, and that's ultimately a good."

But this "kind of begs the question." :-)}}

Not so: it’s an example of how love will be fulfilled to the baby, in fair-togetherness. The person consigned by God forever to hell, on the other hand, is by God’s action hopelessly shut off against any eventual fulfillment of fair-togetherness, neither between himself and God nor between himself and any of the sinner’s victims. There is no eventual reconciliation to hope for. That refusal by God to keep acting toward reconciliation with the sinner, is not love to the sinner, by any coherent standard, including by the highest possible standard of love: the eternally coherent love of the Father and the Son by which God continues eternally existing at all (and in Him, all of us, sinners included.)

{{I think God glorifying his attribute of holiness, via the function of pouring out wrath, is a good.}}

So do Muslims. The theological distinction is...?

{{Indeed, God is the highest good. Glorifying himself - which means cross-attributinally - is a great good.}}

Obviously, I agree. But I’m being specifically orthodox in my theology when considering this, and its corollaries. And that’s where the difference (even the technical difference) between us is tallying up.

A point of comparison:

{{But there is that inseparable connection and harmony between the power of God and His justice, that nothing can possibly be done by Him but what is moderate, legitimate, and according to the strictest rule of right.}} [your original emphasis]

Calvin and I both agree on this. But when I say something of the sort you bolded (moreover the corollary position following in that sentence), I am explicitly thinking about (and probably explicitly talking about), the love and justice shown to each other by the Father and the Son in God’s eternally active transpersonal unity.

If I do that, though, then there are logical corollaries that follow, including in what we can expect to be ultimately happening in regard to scriptural revelation on the topic of salvation and condemnation. The details may legitimately vary, but the ultimate aim behind the details will not be varying.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Steve,

{{you are insinuating that Manata and I lost the argument with Talbott over the accuracy of his parabolic analogy}}

That’s because I keep getting multiple impressions, from you and PaulM. Sometimes it’s ‘the parable is a travesty of illustration’, more or less, and sometimes it’s ‘but Calvin was only saying what Paul was saying, which in fact is what Nivlac is saying, which can be demonstrated if we replace Nivlac with Luap (quoting Paul directly from a place or two); so if Paul was saying it rather than Nivlac then that shows Tom has nothing to complain about via the parable.’

Not that it’s overly important; the parable is minor. The far more important things are (1) what was St. Paul actually saying and meaning; and (2) did Calvin accurately theologize from that? Thus (as I suggested), “turning to the more important issue of whether Calvin is rightly representing St. Paul, [even] in relation to critiquing the parable, doesn’t count as a concession that the parable was close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all.”

Thus, I wouldn’t remotely consider a turning of the discussion to St. Paul’s teaching (or even to Calvin’s teaching, directly), to be a fallback position taken by you and/or PaulM. I would consider those to be highly relevant (especially the former), whether or not y’all decided the parable was accurate-enough-to-never-mind after all. The only difference would be a minor adjustment in the approach.

The confusion also arises because (as I demonstrated a long time ago), the Nivlac/Calvin quotation is precisely analogous in its construction--_except_ for the albinism replacing some kind of notion of sin. The implication is that had Tom used ‘sin’ instead of ‘albinism’, then the parable would be properly illustrative of Calvin. Thus, with that adjustment, the parable is close-enough-to-never-mind about Calvin after all, and thus all the complaints begin about the peasant woman not having the right to judge against Calvin (for instance) on this matter. Why? Because (per the further defense) Calvin is only saying exactly what St. Paul was saying; and what St. Paul was saying in that one place was, like the one quote from Calvin’s Institutes, properly representative in itself of all the surrounding contexts in Romans (not to say the other epistles, the NT and the OT generally.)

That critique of the parable and of Tom’s implicit arguments in the parable (and I agree he has them), doesn’t even stand a chance of working, therefore, unless it is admitted that Tom’s original parable was close enough to make work for Calvin after all (once the albinism is corrected to Calvin’s actual topic).

The only reason I call this a concession, is because waaaaaaaaay back up there in that thread, I kept reading complaints to the effect that Tom wasn’t even close to what Calvin had said. But in fact he was close; had he topically adjusted one thing (or if he hadn’t topically adjusted that one thing, rather {g}), he would have been right on the money.

{{Of course, we also reserve the right to challenge the way in which he framed the debate, but that implies no concession on our part.}}

Agreed.

What would be more interesting as a challenge, would be to see Tom re-adjust his parable so that the albinism was something more appropriate to Calvin’s actual topic; and then go from there. (But maybe this has been done already, and I haven’t caught up yet.)


{{Now you’re indulging in evasive equivocation [in regard to belief about God’s action in hell].}}

Um. Nope, I’m pretty sure I stated what I meant flat out, and very straightly. I said I have a strong belief not only in condemnation but in hell; and I meant that. I said that what I am opposed to (instead of what you thought I was opposed to, i.e. hell at all), is God refusing or being unable to act in hope toward the salvation of the persons in hell; and I meant that, too. What part of that involves being evasive?

{{As a universalist, you are opposed to everlasting punishment}}

No, I’m opposed to the hopelessness of the punishment. In theory, the human (or other sentient) agent could simply continue refusing to ever repent and wash in the river of life flowing out of the never-closed gates of Jerusalem. My theological position is restricted to God’s side of things. Certainly, I’m going to trust in (and thus bet on, so to speak), God and not Satan! But Satan or any other sinner remains a derivatively free agent, not merely a sock-puppet of God’s.

Since I find (and find that I ought to believe) God’s punishment is hopeful, then of course I have no theological problem with the doctrine that God is not ever going to give up on the punishment. (Nor have I ever said anything different, btw.) The sin has to go, and God is committed to acting toward that. But it’s for the purpose of saving the sinner, and it’s toward fulfilling fair-togetherness. If I can’t count on God to keep acting toward that, then “there is none who is righteous, no not one” must also include God! But this I deny, specifically as a trinitarian theist.

{{The fact that you subscribe a purgatorial redefinition of hell as remedial punishment is irrelevant to the question of whether you have a special objection to a “preset” [or perhaps any] version of everlasting punishment}}

Of course I wouldn’t call it a “redefinition”, except in comparison to you-all. {g} But, purgatorial remedial (i.e. hopeful) punishment cannot be irrelevant to an objection to any doctrine of hopeless punishment (“preset” or otherwise). The two notions are at absolute odds to one another.

{{Are you capable of giving a straightforward answer to this question, or will you engage in further evasive maneuvers the next time around?}}

At the risk of sounding evasive: you didn’t ask a question before. You stated, “Jason seizes on ‘preset’ damnation, but since he’s a universalist, he seems to be equally opposed to [any] damnation, per se”.

Nor did you ask a question in your commentary to my correction of the statement you had made about what you expected me to believe.

If you have an actual question, ask it. Meanwhile I have stated my position in correction to that expectation of yours: I am not against all condemnation; I am only against all hopeless condemnation. I very strongly affirm hopeful condemnation.


{{All you’ve given us is a circumlocution for your belief that God is a universalist, sans the supporting argument.}}

Um, nope, I don’t consider providing an argument for this based on God’s trinitarian characteristics, to be either a circumlocution or not providing a supporting argument.

God is an interpersonal unity of distinct persons in one substance, the Father being God self-begetting, the Son being God self-begotten (and the Holy Spirit being God proceeding--thus being distinct, not in substance, but in relationship to God’s eternal action of self-existence). If you weren't an orthodox trinitarian theist, then I could understand needing to have this established first, before accepting any position standing as a corollary to this.

But what all that means, is that God is love. Really. {s} He doesn’t just do love here or there in regard to this or that; He really is love: the Persons of the Father and the Son act to fulfill fair-togetherness in God’s own eternal self-existence; and the Spirit acts to do the same thing, in regard to God’s relationship to creation (along with whatever unimaginable else the Spirit eternally does in the divine economy), proceeding from the Father and the Son. (I’m western orthodox, not eastern.) God may do actions in regard to His creation which, from temporal standpoints within creation, involve a temporal delay of the fulfillment of fair-togetherness; but for Him to act toward fulfilling non-fair-togetherness would be for God to act against His own principle of self-existence. A sinner might do that; and God admittedly could do that (thus we aren’t doing something simply impossible for God by sinning)--but if God ever did do that, then God (by acting against His own deepest reality) would cease to exist and so would everything else, everywhere at all times. But we’re still here, so we can be sure that God won’t ever do that.

This is the same argument I’ve been giving all thread long. It isn’t a circumlocution; you just don’t want to hear it.

If you have problems with the argument, then give them. Previously your main problem with it, was that I would bother trying to argue a subordinate point (as God’s relation to sinnners must be in any case, unless sin is supposed to be on an ontological parity with God--which is Satan’s claim, not mine!) from God’s character and characteristics at all.

{{You accused Manata of begging the question when [appealing to one scripture about God promising to keep His covenant promises, as a reason to accept some other promise in scripture about God keeping His covenant promises.]}}

Yep, pretty much. And, per my recent letter to PaulM, I stand by that. Not that I think he’s wrong to ref the verse--on the contrary, I think he’s more right than he realized in doing so! {g} But the reference cannot logically serve the particular purpose he was aiming for there.

{{However, you own opposition to Calvinism and everlasting punishment boils down to the same thing in reverse: “‘because God says it’s unjust.”}}

Annnnnd so we’re back to me asking again: where does my explanation amount at all, in any way, to God merely saying that this is unjust?! Which, by the way, you didn’t answer. (Even charging that my explanation is a circumlocution, isn’t the same as demonstrating that my explanation amounts in the end only to ‘because God says it’s unjust’.)

{{You simply posit certain claims about “God fulfulling non-righteousness, i.e. non-fair-togetherness}}

Oh? So, you-all are claiming God is fullfilling fair-togetherness with the people He is hopelessly punishing forever in their sins?! I somehow missed that part.

If, on the other hand, your position involves (as it obviously does) that there will never be loving cooperation between those people and God (or even between those people and any other derivative creature, such as their victims); and if your position involves this as resulting, on God’s part, from God’s choice that this shall never possibly happen because He chooses to never work toward bringing this about (or chooses to stop working toward it eventually)--then I am not “simply positing certain claims” about this. I am responding to your own theological positions.

It shouldn’t be necessary to add, though I’ve done so already, that in Greek (and in Hebrew/Aramaic, too), the word we typically English as ‘”righteousness” means “fair-togetherness”. Considering that the whole theological point to orthodox trinitarianism (compared to other theisms, not to say other not-theisms) is that God is a transpersonal unity, I don’t believe I am going off the tracks in making such a literal use of dikaisune_.

So, I’m not simply positing claims about God fulfilling non-fair-togetherness, if I’m responding to claims of yours that He is choosing (on His part) to not act toward fulfilling fair-togetherness toward sinners. And I am not simply positing that ‘righteousness’ == ‘fair-togetherness’. And I am not simply positing that orthodox trinitarian theism is intrinsically connected to God eternally acting to fulfill fair-togetherness (as the basic relationship between Father and Son). Consequently, I am not simply positing that God fulfilling non-fair-togetherness == God fulfilling non-righteousness; and I am not simply positing that doing this fulfillment involves working at finally contradictive odds “to God’s own actively coherent interPersonal self-existence” (as I put it).

Was there anything else in there that you meant to identify as ‘simply positing,’ on my part? Or will you merely sniff about this being “portmanteau verbiage”?

(Admittedly, someone who wasn’t already convinced that he should affirm and not deny orthodox trinitarian theism, might with some plausibility complain that I was simply positing that--because for this discussion, that’s what I’ve been doing, figuring that among trinitarian theists I wouldn’t have to go through the hassle of establishing that.)

{{So this is just a cumbersome way of saying that you think Calvinism and everlasting punishment are contrary to God’s character.}}

It’s cumbersome to say it, yes (unfortunately--Christian theology per se is more complex than simple monotheism. Sorry; that goes with the territory.) Hopeless punishment is contrary to God’s character, yes.

Equivalent to stopping with “because God says it’s unjust”--no. This has nothing to do with God merely declaring anything. This has to do with God’s own self-existent character and characteristics. Unless you think orthodox trinitarianism is simply a cumbersome way to say nothing more than what mere monotheists claim is true. (Which I suppose you might, but if so then we have more fundamental theological issues to be debating.)

{{Absent from your side of the discussion is anything resembling an actual, exegetical argument for your so-called Trinitarian “fair-togetherness” shtick.}}

You actually do want me to exegetically establish the active transpersonal unity of the Trinity in a comment??? Sorry, I can’t possibly do that in a comment. Go read Morey or something; he and I will disagree hugely on what it means (and like most Christian theologians he kind of whiffles away the whole point of this relationship actively happening); but he can set up the relationships of the Persons in a unity of the substance fairly well. You’ll like him: he’s a Calvinist. {g} (I think. Well, he isn’t a universalist anyway.)

{{You’re invoking that (“fair-togetherness”) as if it were a brute fact to automatically negate Calvinism and everlasting punishment.}}

I wouldn’t say “automatically”, but I would say “logically”. (And I wouldn’t say it negates everlasting punishment; I say it negates hopeless punishment.) It isn’t as though I haven’t been saying this the whole time: I’m a universalist because I accept orthodox trinitarian theism to be true.


JP: “if God refuses to act toward reconciliation with sinners (or worse can’t act toward that anymore), then either God Himself or something that trumps God is working at fulfilling and sealing non-fair-togetherness.”

{{This is a tendentious assertion in lieu of a reasoned argument.}}

Well, someone here can’t recognize an argument when he sees one... (If you had said it was a faulty argument, or too simple an argument, that would be one thing. Calling an if/then inference “an assertion in lieu of an argument”, is... well... not much of an indication you would recognize a more complex argument as such, if you saw it.)

{{Repetitiously intoning talismanic phrases like “fair-togetherness” and “non-fair-togetherness” is a sorry substitute for giving us a single reason to take your position seriously.}}

True; good thing I’m not doing that then, hm?

Not that I couldn’t do that: fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness non-fair-togetherness...

ugh. Makes my eyes hurt. Also it’s boring. I think I’ll go back to doing the other thing instead.

Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer to actually recognize and critique the if/then inference I actually made, instead of pretending I was repititously intoning a couple of phrases talismanicly? Talismaniacally? Whatever? Because there seems to be a significant difference in the formal structure, and trying to make one out to be the other seems specious (at best).


{{Once again, you make an assertion that is loaded with question-begging assumptions about what would be sinful for us}}

Actually, in the statement to which you were replying (which was “I can’t help but notice that there’s a pretty strong theological trend among Calvs and Arms (but especially Calvs) to the effect that what would obviously be sin for us if we did it, is not sin if God does it--mainly on the mere ground that God is the one doing it”), I thought I was describing (as I said) a theological trend among Calvs and Arms.

Not that I wasn’t making a critique while doing so. But you could have at least quoted the critique, if you were going to reply to it. {g}

Here, I’ll quote it for you:

“We call that [working at fulfilling and sealing non-fair-togetherness] rebelling against God when we do it: we’re trying to go against the very action on which all existence (including our own) is based--an action that is itself interPersonal fair-togetherness not merely in declaration but in living deed.”

Okay, now you can comment on it:

{{Once again, you make an assertion that is loaded with question-begging assumptions about what would be sinful for us, and what would not be sinful for God, even if it were sinful for us. Absent, here, is anything resembling a reasoned argument for your assertion.}}

That’s because I did the argument earlier. Which you apparently mistook, in its various portions, for repetitiously intoning talismanic phrases. Which repetitious intonation I've now given an actual example of, above, for comparison. Having mistook my discourse previously for repeating a handful of phrases fifty or sixty times, though, I can see how you’d have trouble dealing with my statement there, too. (I would give a more substantitive reply, but you aren’t giving me much to work with here. Sorry. Specifics would have been better.)


{{Now you’re involved in a bait-and-switch tactic whereby you swap out “expectation” and swap in “coherence.”}}

And yet, if that was true, I wouldn’t have immediately written afterward “I base my expectations of what God will do, on my theology about (duh) God.” Which, as it happens, I did.

Expectation follows perceived (and hopefully understood) coherency. They aren’t mutually exclusive, and I don’t have to swap them in and out for each other.

{{And what is the source of your “theology?”}}

God. {g} Is there some higher source I should be appealing to?

Depending on whom I’m discussing things with at the moment, I may make use of scriptural revelation (where I’m talking with people who agree with me already about a set of scriptures providing such revelations), or I may go the route of general revelation and appeal to metaphysical analysis without scriptural data. The truth comes out the same either way. Though one can hardly appeal to scripture qua scripture in any case. Reason has to be used in all cases, including in accepting one set of scriptures as being a specially authoritive record of revelation, and in interpreting scriptural claims in regard to each other.

Reasoning goes with the territory of being a creature made in the image of God: the scriptures were made for our benefit, not us for the scriptures. (Despite what some rabbis would have us believe. {wry s})

Again, if you aren’t interested in having a coherent theology from the scriptures, then there isn’t any point in us having a discussion about theological coherence or incoherence. If you’re interested in having a coherent theology, then you’ll have to reason some things out, or accept that other people have done the reasoning. I recommend the former, though, if you yourself are going to try to discuss (much moreso criticize) a theology.

That means, if one verse (involving a saying of Jesus from GosMark) talks about everyone being salted by the everlasting fire in Gehenna (with the salting being good and something we should have in ourselves so that we may be at peace with one another), and another verse (involving an exhortation from the Jacobin epistle) talks about trying to save people from the fire, then you’re going to have to make a decision about which one of those verses to read in light of the other (or disregard or creatively interpret, or whatever.) And the principles you use for that aren’t ultimately going to be something you found in a third scriptural verse somewhere. Even if you found a third scriptural verse to use as arbiter for the first two, which perhaps isn’t impossible, your ground for applying it as the arbiter of the case couldn’t be that scripture itself.

The fact of the matter is that eventually we have to appeal to something outside of scripture, even to read scripture in the first place, much moreso interpret its meaning and adjucate bewteen verses. And Calvs and Arms do routinely adjucate between verses, just as much as Kaths do: which is why English Bibles typically replace ‘brisk cleaning’ with ‘punishment’ for kalosis in the judgment of the sheep and the goats; and why English Bibles have tended (until very recently) to replace “shepherding” with “ruling” in RevJohn 19, in regard to what Christ will be doing to those final rebel armies. (Otherwise the scene would be too obviously a working-out of Psalm 23!!--the Psalm we all like to sing in regard to ourselves and our hope for our salvation by God!)

Whether or not translators are doing the right thing by making those choices, it cannot be denied that they’re making the choices to do that; just as people make interpretive choices about which elements of the final scene in RevJohn to pay attention to. When I was growing up, I was always taught that John was flashing back topically to the evangelical duty of the church to reach the lost, because the duty and hope of evangelising them is so totally obvious--John couldn’t therefore be talking about a situation after the lake of fire judgment, right? (This explanation never sat very well with me.)

Then I began running into people who taught that John was certainly (because this is quite obvious in the topical procession of the text) talking about a situation after the lake of fire judgment; but then those people seemed curiously unable to see the heavy evangelical theme continuing on there, or else they would try to explain it away. Because it’s after the lake of fire judgment now: it’s too late for there to be any hope for the ones outside the city who are still loving and practicing their lying. Right? (That explanation never sat very well with me either. {s})

People in authority made those choices to teach and interpret those situations (and a few dozen others I can think of), in ways quite different from what the texts themselves might otherwise seem to say.

I’m not saying such things don’t have to be done. I’m just saying, when it comes time for me to make a choice one way or another, I go with the choice that involves charity. Which is a very simple way of saying (which I could do far more complexly) that I go with orthodox trinitarian theism.

The other people didn’t. And don’t.

{{you might consider actually developing a supporting argument to underwrite your assertion.}}

Did it already. More than “just once”. You thought I was only repetitiously intoning a couple of phrases like they were talismans. {shrug}

{{And I’m not going to complain about an atheist rejecting universalism.}}

Me neither. {wry g} Why should he accept it? He doesn’t even believe God exists, much less that God is an eternally active interpersonal relationship in His own self-existence (the Father begetting, the Son begotten). Apparently, you don’t believe that either. Or if you do, you don’t have the slightest idea why actively maintaining this relationship would count as fair-togetherness being fulfilled by the Persons. Coherency of the substance? That’s just Portman 2 talk. Pfft.

{{It’s fine with me if you’d rather shirk your intellectual responsibilities every step of the way in the exchange we’re having.}}

You didn’t prefer ‘hopelessly torment’ either? You clearly don’t have hope for them; maybe you think there’s no torment involved? I sort of got the impression you did, but I admit I could be wrong about that.

(Doubtless, this will be described as “duplicity”.)

{{I see that you’ve mastered the fine art of duplicity. Did this take a lot of practice on your part, or does it come naturally?}}

So... gosh, you’re hard to pin down. You think we can expect God to pre-damn Esau to hopeless torment (or hopeless torture or hopeless something) and/or annihilation. (Yet when I noted this before, you called this a boilerplate blasphemy. As if we shouldn’t attribute this kind of thing to God.)

{{Both you and Ingersoll oppose the doctrine of everlasting punishment, and both you and he defame the God who would punish sinners with everlasting damnation.}}

So this isn’t something we would normally expect Satan or some other sinful tyrant to do? Maybe the problem was that I wrongly attributed the enaction of hopeless vengeance on someone who had been assigned the role of being the target of this wrath and never had any hope of being anything other than the target of this wrath, as being an action we would normally expect of a sinner?

(My original quote, for reference, was, “We can expect Him [because fulfillment of fair relationships between persons is in fact His very life and how He eternally exists--the Father loving the Son, the Son loving the Father] not to pre-damn Esau to hopeless torture and/or annihilation which is the sort of thing we would normally expect Satan or some other sinful tyrant to do, not God, the One Who is Good.”)

{{both you and he defame the God who would punish sinners with everlasting damnation.}}

I tend to associate hopeless condemnation with something a sinner would do, that’s true. It runs rather against the hymn of St. Paul: these three things shall be remaining, faith and hope and love (and the greatest of these is love). So Paul was talking about some imperfect and/or even sinful human (or diabolical?) ‘love’ there? It’s a wonder he recommended this as being a more excellent way for us to aspire to, then!

(I tend to think he was talking about God’s love; and I notice most theologians tend to agree with me on that. {s} What were the characteristics of that love again...?)

{{Both you and he (we could add Clark Pinnock for good measure) don’t hesitate to profane the name of God in acting as the Judge in the living and the dead}}

Mm-hmm. So, hey, which of us is denying “the Lord is salvation” (or “the Lord saves”, depending on which Aramaic form was actually used)? I’m pretty sure it isn’t me. Are you denying this? I ask, because whenever someone starts talking about how I’m profaning the name of God, I’m left sitting scratching my head about how I’m supposed to be the one denying the name of Jesus... because I trust God to never give up (much less never even start) acting to save sinners from their sin.

It seems fairly clear to me that I would be denying the name of Jesus, if I believed something else than that. And yet, I’m supposed to be the one making the name of the Lord common and worldly, merely as the world might do, if I reject the claim that He enacts hopeless judgment against sinners, confirming them in their sin forever.

{{You’ve burned your bridges with the God you blaspheme. }}

You wouldn’t happen to be a contributing poster on Triablogue occasionally, would you? Just checking. {side-nudge to PaulM}

I bet me a Subway Melt that we’ll hear from Plantinga-fan on this, too. (It’s late here and I’m hungry. Seems a safe bet. {wry g})


{{His tactical ruse is to whip out a creditable doctrine like the Trinity}}

Well at least you think it’s creditable! (I think it’s essential. But that includes creditable, too. {s})

{{then polish his discreditable heresy with the chamois of a creditable doctrine}}

More like grounding a doctrine as a corollary to a doctrine. To which I could reply yet again, that this means “you will not be accepting trinitarian theism as a ground for interpreting scriptural teaching on God’s relationship to creation, sin, condemnation, salvation, etc.”

{{the reader may just forget that what we’re talking about is not the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity}}

Actually, I’ve been talking about it constantly. One of us does appear to want the reader to forget it and ignore it in discussions about soteriology, though.

{{You’re methodologically the same.}}

I think I’m methodologically not; but the point there was that you were making a character critique of me that doesn’t in fact fit my practice. Otherwise I would be hiding behind the mock piety of my Trinitarian buzzwords as a face-saving device to disbelieve injunctions against things I happen to sinfully like doing. But I don’t. (Unlike the homosexual proponent.)

{{The same gimmick, repeated ad nauseum.}}

So, you do consider orthodox trinitarian theism to have at least something to do with divine love? You could have at least said so.

(It’s interesting that you accused me of avoiding a question you never even asked, when in fact I addressed it at length; and yet when I ask questions, I frequently get complaints about gimmickery. And nothing even remotely resembling an answer to the question. Not always, but frequently.)

{{This is his game: let’s all pretend that universalism is synonymous with Trinitarianism.}}

Not only am I not asking us “all” to “pretend that universalism is synonymous with Trinitarianism”, I’ve never once expected anyone to accept it unless they actually came to understand it to be true. I bring it up in discussions of soteriology, because I find and believe it to be crucially relevant. You’re acting as though it would be harmful somehow to discuss salvation and judgment in light of our beliefs about the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

{{Therefore, an attack on universalism is an attack on Trinitarianism.}}

I do believe that’s true (and vice versa, incidentally); but I don’t find people trying to do this on purpose. (Usually.) They just haven’t thought out the implications.

{{This equation would come as a great surprise to most-all of Nicene, ante-Nicene, and post-Nicene Fathers.}}

Perhaps. What wouldn’t come as a surprise to the Nicene Fathers (at least), is that trinitarian theism is specifically a defense (and an absolutely essential defense) of the doctrine that God is love. Which wouldn’t come as a surprise to at least some of the post-Nicene Fathers, either. (Pre-Nicene, not sure how much they even thought about it.)

{{Because universalism is ipso fact indefensible}}

I think it’s highly defensible.

{{Jason prudently avoids getting into a direct debate over the merits of universalism.}}

Not at all. One might, however, turn the charge back around: because Steve intuits that admitting the Trinity into the discussion would in fact threaten a non-universalist position, he does everything he can to shut down its inclusion as a factor (including ignoring when arguments are actually being made and derisively pretending the arguments are anything other than arguments).

It’s simply the fact, though, that I find universalism follows from trinitarianism as a corollary. I could spend forever debating exegetical issues with you; there are plenty of scriptures that point in the direction of universalism, not only at face value but in immediate context, too. But sooner or later we’re going to come up on sets that have apparently opposing immediate context value: on what ground, then, will we choose hopelessness or hopefullness?--reading one set in light of the other?

I’m realistic and informed enough about the situation to know that the scriptural evidence is not clearly uniform. And I’m informed enough theologically to understand the implications of trinitarian theism, in regard to God’s relationship and intentions toward His creations (including His rebellious ones). That’s why I go the way I do. I don’t expect others to do so if they can’t see good reason to do so; but I am going to report what I’ve found, when I see that it’s relevant to the discussion.

JP: “My explicitly stated argument in regard to comparing the born-sick baby with the pre-damned Esau…was that in one case God intends to bring about a reconciliation, and in the other (proposed case) He doesn’t.”

{{You have a habit of substituting adjectives for arguments.}}

No, I have a habit of using adjectives in arguments. You have a habit of trying to pretend the arguments aren’t there and (for instance) that I am only repetitively intoning some adjectives in a talismanic fashion instead.

You don’t deny that you think God has no intention of bringing about a reconciliation with Esau. (I noticed that we’ve skipped right on over the whole ‘but the story of Esau wasn’t even about this kind of thing anyway!’, but I guess I invited the skip.) No reconciliation means that God and Esau won’t ever be cooperating together fairly with one another; they will always be at emnity with one another, and this is by God’s choice not only Esau’s (much less insofar as God pre-determined this for Esau).

If this was because Esau was never going to even try to let go of his sin anymore, then in principle I would have no objection: the hopelessness would be being enacted by the sinner (duh, of course.) If this is because God is going to give up trying to save Esau from his sins (or worse, never intended to try in the first place), then I have problems: the first of which is that this means God (not just Esau) is the one Who is ensuring there will never be fair cooperation between them, not even the possibility of it, period.

When I point this out, you clearly agree that this is what you mean--and then you traduce me for also pointing out that this is the typical behavior of sinners. But you wouldn’t be so annoyed at me pointing this out (about it being typical sinner behavior), if you were not agreeing that this is what you believe God is going to do.

If God is therefore acting (on His part) to ensure that there will never be even any possibility of Him and Esau cooperating fairly together, then how exactly is it that you think this doesn’t count as God enacting non-fair-togetherness!?

On the other hand, if you agree that this means that you expect God to enact non-fair-togetherness, then why the (inaccurate) complaints about me “substituting adjectives for arguments”? Why not just say, ‘yes, that’s right, God is going to enact non-fair-togetherness toward those sinners’?

{{You haven’t defined your terms.}}

I did. At length. You didn’t want to listen.

{{You have given no exegetical argument for you distinction between “fair-togetherness” and “non-fair-togetherness.”}}

I have to give an exegetical argument to the effect that righteousness is distinct from non-righteousness??!

(Even if you don’t accept that dikaisune_ == fair-togetherness--and obviously you don’t, though you’ve given no reason at all to explain why you don’t--it would be ridiculous to require an exegetical argument for the distinction between a positive and a negative enactment.)


{{Did Manata cite reprobation as an example of God’s love?}}

You didn’t even read PaulM’s example? He called it “loving”.

{{Where is the argument that unless an agent (in this case God) loves everyone, there’s reason to doubt that he loves anyone?}}

I didn’t make that argument, so in this case it isn’t surprising you didn’t find it there. But then you didn’t find my actual argument there either (again). (Nor even bother to pay attention to what PaulM had written, before criticising me on my reply to PaulM concerning what he had written and asked.)

PaulM’s example involved callling a situation you and I both agree would certainly not be ‘love’ (if it happened) “loving”; and linking this to an example where we naturally doubt whether God is loving, too (but still called it “loving”). His invitation was that if God was “loving” in one case then why would we have a hard time believing He is “loving” in the other case. But we agree that He would not be loving in that other case!! (i.e. the predaming of Esau.) Consequently, PaulM has only succeeded in calling into question whether anything we call “loving” counts as “loving” at all: if something we agree isn’t “loving” is to be called “loving” anyway, then we might as well give up talking about love.

Please, stop a moment and consider, whatever else you might think of my rebuttal: IT IS NOT EVEN REMOTELY THE SAME THING AS ARGUING THAT UNLESS GOD LOVES EVERYONE THERE’S REASON TO DOUBT THAT HE LOVES ANYONE!!

I wish I didn’t have to put it in all-caps like that, but you attributed a completely opposite argument to what I was actually doing in my critique.

I did say that if Paul's wife didn’t love everyone, he would have reason to suspect that her love was not yet complete. But this also IS NOT EVEN REMOTELY THE SAME THING AS ARGUING THAT UNLESS YOUR WIFE (much less God) LOVES EVERYONE THERE’S REASON TO DOUBT SHE LOVES ANYONE!!

On the other hand, at another place nearby (and in various places along the way, I think), I did argue that if God is love (which is what is involved in an eternal and eternally coherent enacted interpersonal relationship in a substantial unity, namely the Father and the Son), then He must love everyone--which I have also pointed out in various places is not incommensurate with Him being angry and punishing sinners. (I can point to scriptural prooftexts of this, if you will not accept commensense and/or experience that love and wrath can be expressed to the same person simultaneously with the wrath being based in love to the person.) Since His very self-existence is love, we can trust Him never to cease loving derivative entities either. But if God is not in His own self-existence love (which is another way of saying that something other than trinitarian theism is true), then we have no particular reason to trust that God will continue acting in love toward anyone. Including His promise to do so. (Keeping promises is an act of love toward someone.) He might or might not; if He decided not to, that would just be that.

Everyone agrees that God can set aside His wrath: all of us hope for this in our own salvation, for instance! But He can set aside His wrath because His wrath is not constituitive of His own self-existence. He can cease doing wrath toward us.

But He cannot cease doing love toward us, even in His wrath, without ceasing to exist--if trinitarian theism is true. That’s part of what it means for trinitarian theism to be true true (though most people don’t realize it), instead of some-other-kind-of-theism being true.

Even then, I wouldn’t argue that unless God loves everyone there’s reason to doubt that He loves anyone.There would be no particular reason to trust that He would continue loving any given person, but that’s not the same thing. Obviously I think loving everyone must be the completest and truest love; and I admit I’m doubtful we would have any reason to believe God even could (much less would) love everyone, if trinitarian theism isn’t true. (Most non-trinitarian theists throughout history would agree with me on that, though not necessarily for the same reasons I have.) Thus I do believe that unless God is true love, then we will not be able to possibly find a love so good and true. If God is not true love (as I said to PaulM, if I recall correctly), where will we go to find true love!?

Even that, though, is not quite the same as arguing that unless God loves everyone, there’s reason to doubt that He loves anyone. He would just love them with less than true love. (I mean the ones He bothers to love at all, in that case.)

{{Maybe, because Jason is fairly clever, he’s used to getting away with these rhetorical stunts.}}

Well, someone here has been pulling a lot of rhetorical stunts... I can’t honestly say they’re very clever, though.

For example:

{{only an evil man thinks that it’s evil for God to judge evildoers by punishing them for their sins. }}

And never once did I ever say that it would be evil of God to judge evildoers by punshing them for their sins. On the contrary, I very explicitly said I was strongly in favor not only of punishment but of hell. (Which you then called avoiding the question, though you hadn’t actually asked a question but stated what you thought I must believe.) My distinction was, and has been, and remains, one of hopefulness vs. hopelessness, on God’s part. (I do not even deny that the sinner may be striving for hopelessness of reconciliation--on the contrary, that’s exactly what I would expect from a sinner, among other things.)


{{The fact that, “to all possible appearances it only looks evil” to you is a damning (pun intended) admission on your part that you’re the one who embraces diabolical standards of good and evil.}}

Ah, yes, hope of salvation from sin is typically a diabolical standard of good and evil... {eye rolling}{sarcasm proceeding} Because evil people so commonly and naturally want not only themselves but everyone to be saved from sin and live happily ever after together under God. Moreover, evil people actually hope for this!--I mean usually. Or the very evilest people do anyway. Evilist. Whatever.

So again, looking to the love of the Father and the Son, is yet another diabolical standard of good and evil: indeed the very worst kind! (Since this is presented as being the chiefest good on which all reality depends for its existence.) Satan himself fell, the chief of sinners, by looking to the love of the Father and the Son and taking that as his standard of moral behavior; doubtless! God knows, Satan lusts to be free of his sin, to repent and sorrow for what he has done, and be reunited with God under His Lordship, loving God and loving his neighbor, at-oning with them for what he has done, accepting the atonement of Christ, so that God will be all in all and the Son (His atoning work then complete) will submit Himself to the Father as the Son’s enemies have finally submitted to Him. That is how diabolical Satan’s evil and pride is!

Instead, I should embrace hopeless vengeance instead as being the epitome of the standard of good--even though that kind of thing is what (lesser??) evils often hope for and try to enact. A lesser love than being love: that is a higher standard than, well, being love!

To think otherwise is to subvert and invert fundamental principles of justice! Clearly!

Well--principles of justice do seem to be being subverted and inverted here, I’ll give you that...

{{Did Manata cite reprobation as an example of God’s love?}}

Personally, I would consider re-probation and re-tribution as examples of God’s love; but then I actually mean re-probation and re-tribution. I would also consider the punishing of sin an instance of God’s justice. I don’t schism between the two, either one or the other; nor do I imagine two mutually exclusive kinds of justice of God. The sin has to go, and reconciliation of the sinner must be achieved. Otherwise there is no justice. (Except the only kind of ‘justice’ Satan could imagine. I think God is a better person than Satan, although this will probably be derided as a question-begging assumption on my part.)

It ought to be blatantly obvious (though just as obviously it isn’t blatantly obvious to a lot of people), that so long as injustice remains, which will remain so long as the unjust persons remain unjust, then justice has not been fulfilled and completed. On the non-unversalist plans, though, God acts to ensure that the unjust will hopelessly remain unjust and never have any more possibility (or even any to begin with!) of being just instead of unjust. God’s “justice” then involves ensuring unjustice will continue on hopelessly and permanently.

If I complain about this, though, I shall be accused of subverting and inverting the fundamental principles of justice; doubtless, it only shows my freakish wickedness that I would observe that to ensure the permanent continuation of injustice is, by tautology, not an instance of doing justice.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Plantinga-fan,

THANK YOU FOR BOTHERING TO ACTUALLY DISCUSS THE STORY OF ESAU!!! {G} (at least a little bit)

I could say something similar, though much much less obvious, about St. Paul’s use of pharoah, too.

See previous remarks to PaulM's comment, about my libertarianism (which explicitly includes God’s choice to love, though He could in theory choose something different.)

I’m glad we have an Arminian representative in the discussion, btw. It helps round things out. {g} {bow!}

{{Universalism incorporates this love, which is clearly and explicitly taught, but then intentionally argues against the reality of eternal separation from God which will be experienced by some human persons.}}

Well, yeah, if I’m going to affirm omnipresence, I can’t really turn around and affirm separation from God. That would be theologically inconsistent. Also not theologically orthodox. {g} (Not that people trying to keep orthodoxy haven’t often tossed omnipresence anyway, of course. In order to keep the hopelessness, I mean.)

Kind of funny that the very next thing you talk about is man-invented systems of theology having things they want to keep and other things they want to toss out. The Calvs, for instance, have just as strong a point about the persistence of God in saving those He intends to save from sin, which is why we can trust Him to not give up on us (even if He has to punish us, too). I mean their point is just as strong as your point about God loving everyone and seeking the salvation of everyone.

Also--when it comes right down to it, you get rid of the love part, or put it under the rug. That, or you disassociate God from having anything to do with punishment in hell. Which is even funnier, because one might have expected the universalist to be going with that! And yet, I don’t. I find and believe that God is doing the punishment in hell. Unless there’s some everlasting unquenchable fire other than the Holy Spirit. But then we’re talking about cosmological dualism again, or some entirely non-orthodox theological position of that sort.


I’ve got the love (in spades, it’s central to the whole trinitarian theism claim); I’ve got the justice being fulfilled (and not injustice being permanently sealed into existence, which most people would usually think involves sealing injustice permanently into existence, not fulfilling justice {g}); I’ve got the punishment; I’ve got the salvation; I’ve got the persistence of God in saving whom He seeks to save; I’ve got the intention of God to save everyone; I’ve got the free will of God to choose whether He will ever stop loving; I’ve got the assurance (via trinitarian theism + our own obvious continuing existence) that He will never stop loving; I’ve got the free will of man to choose whether he will ever start repenting; I’ve God as the ontological priority for salvation; I’ve got the sinner’s own responsibility to repent and turn to God, thus making proper use of God’s freely given grace rather than abusing it; I’ve got no schisms between love and justice (which means you’ll never catch me having to say that God is being unjust in His love); I’ve got God being of a single mind toward us, not of two minds; I’ve got the Father, the Son and the Spirit being distinct Persons; I’ve got God being a unity of substance; I’ve got no operational schisms where one Person is in operation without the others; I’ve got no intentional schisms where, for instance, the Father wants to do one thing in regard to us but the Son wants to do something else and so convinces the Father to do that instead; I’ve got the Son Incarnate being the express image of the Father; I’ve got the two-natures doctrine and no schisming between them, docetically or otherwise; I’ve got the omnipotence; I’ve got the omnipresence; I’ve got the omniscience (real omniscience, not wussy-mere-probability-and-possibility omniscience per open theism); I’ve got nothing above or beside God; I’ve got all things existing by Him and in Him and through Him and for Him; I’ve got the real hope of God being all in all and every tongue confessing (a word used for legitimate praise and testimony of God’s mercies and rescues and mighty deeds to save) that Jesus is Lord of all; I’ve got the lake of fire judgment; I’ve got the eons of the eons; I’ve got the eonian fire and the eonian life and the eonian ruination; I’ve got the baptism in spirit and in fire; I’ve got the salting of everyone by the fire in Gehenna; I’ve got the shakable being shaken until the unshakable remains; I’ve got Psalm 23, including at RevJohn 19; I’ve got the final chapter of RevJohn (!!!THANK GOD!!!--I mean really, my job scripturally couldn’t be much easier than that...); I’ve got the wrath of God; I’ve got God saying there is no wrath in Him but that He burns up the thistles and thorns with which others come out to war against Him (so that they will cling fast to His refuge--making Him their friend, making Him their friend); I’ve got the rightful destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; I’ve got the resurrection and salvation of Sodom and Egypt (even if those were meant typologically for Israel and Judah, still the frame of reference is striking); I’ve got Christ waging war in righteousness (i.e. in fair-togetherness), and scattering the bodies of His enemies for the birds of the air to feed on; I’ve got God Incarnate on the cross paying for our sin with His own blood; I’ve got Egypt down in the pit--with the tree of life from the Garden of Eden, with which it will rise again one day...

I’ve got all of that and lots, lots more.

The one, only thing I _don’t_ have--

--is the hopelessness.

(But then, I have these “three things remaining” when all other things have passed away. So I can do without the hopelessness. {s} If agape_ can hope for all things, I can, too.)

Admittedly, the majority of Christians have the hopelessness. But, then I discover they also have to give up some of that other stuff, when push comes to shove, in order to keep the hopelessness. I get to keep it all, though; just not the hopelesness.

{{I told you that the guys at Triablogue are extremely hateful but you didn’t want to hear it.}}

Funny; I recall saying ‘Yes, I’ve seen what happens over there, though I don’t recall PaulM ever doing that to me, yet. But people have done it to me before and I expect they’ll do it again.’ Or words to that effect.

Meanwhile, yay, I owe myself a Subway sandwich! {g} (I bet myself you’d say something about it. Only now it’s 2:00am. sigh, long day...)

Incidentally, Paul Manata has not yet been, let us say, extremely oppositional to me. (In fact he PM’d me before he wrote back, just to apologize in case he _had_ ever said anything like that to me. Which I thought was very nice.)

So that was Hays? Heh. {g} This is funny because when I {nudged} PaulM earlier, during Steve’s diatriablougueing, I didn’t realize Steve was that Steve. I guess I should’ve clicked his blue-thing to see where he was coming from. But really, it doesn’t matter where.

{{It is sad that someone who professes to be a Christian as Hays does, can be so hateful of others he disagrees with.}}

He’s doing what he thinks is right. Not very eptly, but still. I don’t have anything against him on that score. (Also, I did say some provocative things. Not always what Steve represented me as saying, but still some provocative things.)

{{So Jason you defame God and profane the name of God, because you disagree with Steve Hays.}}

I gathered that it was because I disagreed with God (so Steve Hays thinks). Among other things, which I’ve already gone into elsewhere.

{{According to Hays you are a heretic and a cagey one at that!}}

Striclty speaking, according to you, too. {g} Man-made theology and all that.

Heresy charges don’t bother me; they’re part of a legitimate theological discourse. In point of fact I work pretty hard to avoid heresy and affirm theological orthodoxy, for the simple reason that I believe it to be true and I ought to be consistent when I think and talk and teach about it. Which is why you won’t ever catch me claiming that sinners are separated (eternally or otherwise) from God. {g} (Boooo non-omnipresence; yay omnipresence; go orthodoxy.)

But if I did claim that sinners could exist separated from God, then I’d be engaging in one of several technical heresies (or more than one), and someone ought to try to tag me on it.

What Steve is pinging me on, is on something traditionally believed to be heresy (and not always so, incidentally); not on a technical heresy, except for a few he made up or misunderstood me to be saying. Yep, as far as the Roman Catholic Church goes, I’m a heretic for being a universalist!--can’t deny it! Also a heretic for being a Protestant. I’m not a heretic among the Eastern Orthodox for being a universalist, though I might be for affirming the filioque. I’m not a heretic among Protestants for being a Protestant, meanwhile. {g}

This is why I prefer to stick with technical heresies. We all agree we aren’t supposed to be introducing schisms in the intentions of the Persons of God, for instance. Some of us just need reminding of that, occasionally. Ditto things like omnipresence. {s!}

{{You are a “theological scoundrel” as well. Are you starting to feel good about yourself yet? :-)}}

Not really my place to feel good about myself. {s} Considering that I think I have no advantage even over Satan, even in my penitence (we’re still both intentional rebels), he can’t really say anything worse than what I already believe to be true about myself. I trust God to save me from my sins and to never give up on me. Not Steve Hays. (Or you either, or Paul Manata, or Victor, or my Mom, or John Loftus, or Pope Benedict, or John Calvin, or Moses, or St. Paul, or any other derivative person past present or future, including the one whom I love the most under God; God’s grace on her. {s})

{{On the other hand, someone who hates all who disagree with him, and sees everybody else as blaspheming God is harder to understand.}}

Not really: he sees me as a threat to other people’s salvation, like Satan. It’s hard to understand how he’s getting there, in some ways (though not so hard if salvation-by-doctrinal-accuracy is true); but once he’s there it isn’t hard to see why he would think I’m blaspheming God, and thus am someone he should hate.

No one is tolerant of Ebola virus, and Steve thinks I’m the spiritual equivalent of Ebola. q.e.d.

In any case, as I’ve said before (and before and before): the concept, in itself, that various parties interpret scripture doesn’t bother me. The issue I have always been focusing on, is why interpret passages one way instead of another. Obviously there are times when immediate narrative context (for instance) suffices; but there are times when it doesn’t.

JRP

George Karl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Talbott is putatively attacking double predestination, but this is clearing the ground for his alternative—which is universalism. And universalism no doubt enjoys a certain superficial appeal. But it’s only appealing to pampered folks like Talbott who’ve led a charmed existence. I daresay that universalism is not the least bit appealing to the victims of horrendous violence and galling injustice. "

Quite an odd comment as according to Calvinism many of the victims of the grossest injustices of this life will also then be given their marching orders straight to hell for more punishment. For example, the vast majority of the Jews gassed at Auchwitz, where do you think they are heading Steve?
No one is talking about people getting off scot free, we are talking about punishments fitting the crime, a very biblical concept.

lee woo said...

Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength. See the link below for more info.

#gentleness
www.ufgop.org