Thursday, April 03, 2008

Answering back to God, or is it Fred?

God could want there to be wicked creatures for his own good purpose???

Which purpose? So that others might be saved. We can imagine the following scenario: Smith and Jones are members of the Crips, Jones dies is a drive-by shooting and Smith has a vision of Jones in hell. Smith repents of his sin, accepts Jesus as his Lord and Savior, becomes an inner-city minister who brings thousands of kids otherwise headed for a life of gang violence to Jesus.

Except for one one thing. Smith, and every one of those gang kids could have been saved by God's sovereign decree if he had chosen to give it. Jones' eternal damnation could have been avoided without any further loss of souls.

It is easier to make these "hidden good" arguments where the hidden good might become evident once if we knew what free choices other people might have made, or where we don't know the final outcome of everything. Hurricane Katrina, for all its horror, could end up resulting in more people going to heaven than would otherwise have gone to heaven. But for every soul which suffers eternal punishment. we know that that sould could have been saved, and that that person's being saved would not have resulted in any other person's being lost. The final result is known, to suggest that some other final result would not have been better would be to violate every moral intuition I have.

But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word? God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God. So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred.

Who are you O man, to answer back to Fred? Not such a show-stopper, is it?

7 comments:

Paul Manata said...

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/04/answering-back-to-reppert-or-is-it-god.html

Hans said...

So if fine-tuning showed that there was a creator of the universe, that would be no proof of a god, unless that creator was also shown to be infinitely good.

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

It appears that you have disturbed the calvinist hive and you’ve really got them agitated and buzzing! :-)

“God could want there to be wicked creatures for his own good purpose???”

I would distinguish between God creating a creature with the express purpose of that creature being evil, and God creating a creature with the capacity to become evil. Satan and Adam when first created were not evil nor would they be considered evil creatures in their intended or initially designed state.

“It is easier to make these "hidden good" arguments where the hidden good might become evident once if we knew what free choices other people might have made, or where we don't know the final outcome of everything.”

While we may not know or understand why every event occurs, there are some evil events, most notably the crucifixion of Jesus which God foreknew and allowed to occur in order to bring about a greater good.

“But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word?”

We need to make some important distinctions. The bible teaches that God is sovereign meaning that He does as He pleases. The bible does not teach that God has predetermined all events (which would mean that He had predetermined everyone’s eternal destinies independent of anything they did). The bible does teach that God foreknows who will believe (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2) and the bible says of those: “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Note it does not say they are predestined **to salvation**, rather, it says they are predestined **to be Christ-like**.

We do not need to defend the character of God as He has revealed Himself in scripture (it is the God conceived of by calvinism that needs defending as He is not the God of the bible). The God of the bible is perfectly good and manifests love for the world in sending Christ to die for the world (not just those preselected to salvation; but also those who will never accept Christ and will perpetually rebel against Him). The God of the bible calls us to love even our enemies. A friend of mine likes to say: a good leader does not call his followers to do something he already practices. The bible says that “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”/Rom. 5:8 (so he took the initiative, he died for his enemies before they ever loved him or were appreciative of him, and even for those who will never love him or appreciate him). The “god” of calvinism is everything the God of the bible is not: harsh, cruel, not good, not merciful, not loving, **setting up** the majority of people for eternal punishment with no hope of salvation, etc. etc.

“God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God.”

The God of the bible **is** omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. It is the “god” of calvinism that is not good or loving or merciful. It is the “god” of calvinism that cannot be defended from a moral and biblical perspective.

“So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred.”

The bible teaches that God foreknows all events, but foreknowing them all is not the same as predetermining them all. Believers (those foreknown to be believers) **are** predestinated to be Christ like (again, Romans 8:29). They are also, according to Ephesians 1 chosen **in Christ** (and the issue then becomes how does a person get **in Christ**? With the biblical answer being by faith alone). And the calvinistic notion that God predetermines people’s eternal destinies is not taught in the bible (though calvinists will appeal to a few favorite “proof texts” to attempt to persuade people otherwise).

“Who are you O man, to answer back to Fred? Not such a show-stopper, is it?”

In Romans 9 the skeptic challenges God’s sovereignty (his right, his prerogative to do as He pleases in all situations). God answers that he has mercy on whom he has mercy and hardens whom he hardens (9:18). But these acts of having mercy and hardening occur in relation to **actually existing persons**, so these actions refer to God’s sovereign actions **in history** (we are not told about God’s actions in eternity, of God preselecting who will be saved and who will be damned in Romans 9).

It is also important and noteworthy that Romans 9-11 functions as a unit and at the end of the unit, just before Paul launches into a doxology praising God (Rom. 11:33-36) Paul speaks of God having a universal mercy on mankind: “For God has shut up all in disobedience [in Roman law a person was “shut up” when the charges against him were so clear that he stood condemned and had no answer to the charges, his “mouth was shut”; Paul argues in the earlier chapters of Romans that because all have sinned, whether Jew or Gentile, all are guilty before God and all of us are like the defendant in a roman court room whose mouth is stopped; yet God does not leave us in that condition of being separated from him by our sins) that He might show mercy to all” (God allowed all to be guilty in order that he might have mercy on all, and this mercy is seen is the sending of His Son Jesus to die for the sins of the world, cf., 1 Jn. 2:2, and it is a universal mercy, if the “shutting up” is universal so is the mercy, 11:32).

There may be occasions when we are tempted to wonder why God allows something to occur or why he does not punish an evil person immediately or why . . . God is sovereign and we are not and he is under no obligation to explain why every event occurs. And yet this sovereign God is also loving and merciful to all, desiring the salvation of all (cf. 1 Tim. 2:1-6; 4:10; 1 Jn. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:9, Jn. 3:16; Rom. 11:32).

And yet when a false system of theology comes along that makes God into a person who is not loving to all, is not good, is not merciful to all, does not desire to save all, did not send His Son to die for all, makes God the author of all sin and evil, makes our experience of choice illusory, **contradicts God’s character as revealed in scripture**, and **contradicts God’s express statements** in scripture. That system needs to be confronted and shown to be the monstrosity that it is. And this really is not that difficult if you look at what God says about Himself and what His explicitly stated desires concerning the salvation of all human persons are.

Robert

Ilíon said...

Is it contrary-to-goodness for God to (as we phrase the idea) send Satan to hell?

If it is, why is it?

If it is not, then why is it contrary-to-goodness for God to send Adam (using 'Adam' generically) to hell?

Ilíon said...

VR: "But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word? God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God. So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred.

Who are you O man, to answer back to Fred? Not such a show-stopper, is it?
"

[I understand Hans' question to be mostly addressed to the above]

Hans: "So if fine-tuning [or, really, any argument] showed that there was a creator of the universe, that would be no proof of a god, unless that creator was also shown to be infinitely good."

Firstly, it is critical to the Biblical conception of what we mean by the word (capital-G) 'God' that he is (morally) good, that there is nothing about him which is (morally) evil. -- I intentionally put "morally" into parenthesis to try to highlight the equivocation that frequently exists in such discussions: people use words like 'good' and 'evil' (or 'bad') unqualified, and then equivocate back-and-forth on whether they are making a moral statement in using the terms.

As much as it pains me to say this, I think Mr Reppert is (unintentionally, no doubt) engaging in this very equivocation about "perfect goodness" and the Calvinist belief/assertion about predestination.

Mind you, I think that Calvinism is fundamentally erroneous on the issues which divide it from the rest of Christianity (yet, I also recognize that Calvinists do sometimes make valid criticisms of certain beliefs held or asserted by "Arminians" ... the quote marks are because in this respect even Catholics seem to be "Arminians" from the Calvinist point of view).


Then, when people whinge along the lines of the purported (by them) immorality of "eternal torture for minor "sins" [part of this whinge is to deny the actuality of sin] by a supposedly Good God [part of this whinge is to deny that God is good]," on top of that common equivocation in the use of the term 'good,' they are also -- and this is significant -- demanding/asserting that unless God is unjust then he is immoral. (In part, this is wat I was attempting to get at in this post.)

But, of course, and definitionally, to be unjust is to be immoral. So, the complaint is an attempt to impose an irrational and self-contradictory Catch-22 on God: he's asserted to be immoral if he is just, while definitionally he's immoral if he is unjust.

Ilíon said...

VR: "... But for every soul which suffers eternal punishment. we know that that sould could have been saved, and that that person's being saved would not have resulted in any other person's being lost. The final result is known, to suggest that some other final result would not have been better would be to violate every moral intuition I have.

But shouldn't I nevertheless accept it because it is taught in God's word? God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God. So if the Bible teaches predestination and reprobation, it is not God's word, but only the Word of an omnipotent Fred.

Who are you O man, to answer back to Fred? Not such a show-stopper, is it?
"

What does it mean to say "God is perfectly good?"

What does 'good' mean in this context? You rightly object to the attempts of some (Calvinists, for instance) to assert that God's (purported) goodness has little to no relationship to our every-day understanding of 'goodness.' But that still doesn't tell us what 'goodness' *is* nor what are the criteria for judging whether something measures up.

Is 'goodness' merely something like "that which is preferred" ... and by whom, and what privileges *that* person's preference over any other person's preference? Or, does 'goodness' have something to do with morality? And, are you equivocating between these two quite distinct understandings of 'goodness?'


Now, if 'goodness' is ... unequivocally ... being used to mean something like "conformance to morality" [but then an argument might errupt over what 'morality' means], then I simply have to ask: On what grounds is it not-good for God to "predestine[ some] people for everlasting punishment?" [Assuming that this is what actually God does, and assuming that we time-bound creatures can even understand what "everlasting" means.]



VR: "Who are you O man, to answer back to Fred? Not such a show-stopper, is it?"

Is 'Fred' the Creator of "O man" and the Sustainer of his every moment of existence (and of the very existence of all things)? If so, then who, indeed, is "O man, to answer back to Fred?"

On the other hand, if "O man" is the moral equal of 'Fred,' then 'Fred's' question cannot possibly be a show-stopper.

Some human persons (Calvinists, for instance) sometimes attempt this ploy as a means to protect their arguments/assertions against criticism -- essentially, the person attempting this is asserting that he possesses a greater moral worth than the critic, and therefore the critic has no standing to criticize the arguments/assertions.

John W. Loftus said...

Vic said...God, by definition, is a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. A being who predestines people for everlasting punishment doesn't meet the third requirement, and therefore isn't God.

We agree about this Vic, very much so. The difference is that when I make this same argument Hayes and company ask me where my standard for objective morality comes form. Funny, the argument seems to stand on its own, for surely (without reading their comments) they cannot say that of you.

Which should they believe, that they have properly interpreted a historical conditioned book, or that the logic you present indicates that they have misinterpreted it?

Like you I'd go with logic every time, and they cannot say you don't have a standard for logic either. Yes, the divine decree is indeed "horrible" but those who accept that it is a divine decree are made to be horrible.

Oh, I'm sorry, I cannot make that same argument, can I? LOL