Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Does damnation promote the glory of God

If you go over to Triablogue, you will find all sorts of dismal remarks about how poorly I have made the case for the critics of Calvinism. In the process I do think I have learned a good deal about who Calvinists think about the relevant issues. With respect to some issues, related to biblical interpretation, I don't think I have anything to add to the discussion that has not already been brought up in other discussions of the subject.

What maybe I have come up with, however, is an argument concerning the concept of glory that I don't think has been satisfactorily answered.

To do this I need to narrow my claims a little bit. Initially, when I blogged on this 3 years ago, I said that Calvinists can't solve the problem of evil. But, very quickly, I had to acknowledge that "solving" the problem of evil is a tall order and that it may be difficult to anyone to solve it.

Most study of the problem of evil suggests that with respect to a portion of human suffering, we can come up with possible scenarios according to which we can see why God would permit it. With other suffering, we aren't in a position to see why it occurs, but we are nevertheless entitle to believe that there is an answer even if we can't see it.

With respect to some evils, it seems possible and in some cases easy to see why God permits them. With others, there is considerably more mystery.

Let's take the evil of everlasting suffering in hell. On a free will view I can see how someone might end up permanently in rebellion against God and unable (because they are unwilling to serve) to receive the joys of heaven. Read The Great Divorce for how that goes. But why, on a Calvinist view would anyone end up in hell?

The first answer for the Calvinists has to be that they are sinners and deserve it. This assumes a couple of things, first that a temporal sin can deserve an infinite amount and duration of punishment, and second that humans can deserve retributive punishment for actions that they are determined by another to perform. (This is a strong form of compatibilism. Many compatibilists are not retributivists about punishment. They argue, for instance, that even if determinism is true, you can still deter crime by punishing criminals.) But let's grant these highly counterintuitive claims for the sake of argument. We still need to explain why God would create a permanently unrepentant sinner, when he could preordain them not to sin or preordain them to receive God's irresistible grace and save them.

The unanimous answer in Calvinist theology seems to be that God does it for his own glory. This seems as little counterintuitive as well--people who cause others to suffer for their own glory here on earth are considered bad, not good. But let's grant that counterintuitive claim also. Glory, it seems to me, analytically requires that it be glory in the eyes of someone. (Is there any Scripture verse that suggests a different conception of glory?) On the face of things, the way a God pursuing his own glory to achieve that goal would be to save everyone so that there could be as many people as possible praising Him forever. But no, Calvinists say that God can demonstrate his wrath against sin by having some lost people (lots and lots of lost people, actually). The idea, I take it, is that the saved will praise God more because they recognize God's holiness and absolute opposition to sin by seeing people in hell. And my response is that God, as an omnipotent and completely sovereign being can decree into place any state of mind that he wants without having to use the means of damned souls to create this glory for himself. (Let's also put to the side any Kantian worries about using people as a mere means). So the instantiation of damned essences doesn't serve any conceivable greater good, because that good could be accomplished without the damnations.

I read the Walls passage that Paul referenced about God's glory in damnations, according to which people in heaven see that God has done everything possible to save someone but respects their freedom. Even there I don't think Walls holds that the ultimate purpose of all God's actions is to glorify himself.

Now, the Calvinist can respond by saying that there is a purpose for reprobations, even though we have no clue as to what it is. In fact, Paul constantly reminds me that I said that there have to be possibilities for God that we are not in a position to consider. However, unlike Paul, I am kind of agnostic about what will transpire eschatologically, or how it works. Calvinists claim that they know that there will be some people in hell and that God's predestination, through the means of their own sin, puts them there. The agnosticism the Calvinist at this point can insist upon concerns why.

My conclusion is if people are reprobated there is no understandable reason why this is so. It is completely and totally beyond my comprehension. I can't even see through a glass darkly how this could possibly be justified. The reasons that are offered for reprobating people don't work even on their own terms. That doesn't make the position impossible to hold, just, at least to my mind, a whole lot more difficult. Everyone uses mystery maneuvers at some point (even materialists!) but the less you use them, the more epistemically adequate your position.

What I have shown here is that Calvinists cannot solve the problem of the evil of eternal suffering in hell, in the sense that they can't provide any understandable reason for it. This is a narrower claim than what I began with, but it is still not completely without significance for the credibility of Calvinism.

I'm not appealing to intuition here. Calvinism is counterintuitive in many ways, but I am simply arguing that whatever glory God wants or needs he can accomplish without inflicting eternal punishment on anyone. Therefore, even granting several Calvinistic assumptions, eternal damnation remains an apparently gratuitous evil.

Arminians can "solve" the problem of reprobation in the sense that considerations from their own theology make it somewhat understandable, though hardly problem-free.

It's my contention, however, that the more you appeal to mystery, the worse it is for you epistemically. The more of an explanation you can have for suffering, the better your theology is, all things being equal.

38 comments:

Ilíon said...

I'd meant to comment to one of your prior blog items as I do here, but life does interrupt.


VR: "The first answer for the Calvinists has to be that they are sinners and deserve it. This assumes a couple of things, first that a temporal sin can deserve an infinite amount and duration of punishment, ..."

Here you're making, or at least coming very close to making, an error that is common amongst us Arminians.

Simply put, this error is to think that we human are sinners because we commit sins. [error 1, "small" error at the beginning]

Therefore, if we (that is, if some individual human self) do not commit sins, then we are not sinners. [error 2, the bigger error which follows from the previous error]



To correct the "small" error at the beginning: we commit sins because we are sinners.

Victor Reppert said...

So you can be a sinner without committing any sins?

Mike Darus said...

Victor,
Ilion is very close to saying what I want to add. Heaven is not something that everyone deserves unless they continually reject God. The entrance requirement for Heaven is righteousness which no one attains on thier own. The only sufficient righteousness is an imputed righteousness that Jesus Christ "earned" and is given to those who believe on Him.

Your scenario of universal salvation is still possible but not because Hell is too terrible of a place for decent folks. It will only happen if God universally imputes righteouness to all. C.S. Lewis's approach to Hell is much more palatible to a philisophic mind because it minimizes the suffering while maximizing an ongoing free choice. What is lost is the seemingly biblical assumption that our choices in this life have eternal consequences. Somehow it really does matter how we play this game. As to whether the degree of the punishment fits the crime, even Dante had rings of severity. There is very little data in special revelation on the nature and extent of the sorrow.

I agree with you that "God's glory" is more difficult to define than it might appear. It seems to have the meaning of God's reputation before humans in some contexts, but that can't be the totality of it. Remember that we are dealing with the Triune God here. The Son can applaud the Father. God is manifesting his character. He does not need a human audience or be judged by our standards of fairness.

Someone should remind you that when you cannot comprehend why any would suffer reprobation, your argument is not with Calvinism, it is with all of orthodoxy. The mystery is not why some are reprobated but why any are justified. There is no good reason for any of to be granted entry into heaven...except grace... which is no reason at all.

Mike Darus said...

VR:So you can be a sinner without committing any sins?

Depends on your exegesis of this:

Romans 5:12Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

15But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, ...

17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

19For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Victor Reppert said...

I am not sure that historically orthodox Christians have taken the view that there is a retributive requirement of infinite punishment for sin. Is that idea prevalent before Augustine?

When I ask "Why does anyone go to hell?" I am asking that question in the context of the Calvinist claim that God, in the final analysis, controls everyone's conduct. God chooses my actions, if I sin God determines that I sin. God could have made me a sinner or a non-sinner. If God makes me a sinner, there has to be some good that is brought out of it, if I am a reprobated sinner, then there must be something gained from my being a reprobated sinner. I didn't say that I didn't understand why anyone should receive reprobation, I said that I didn't understand how anyone would be reprobated if it were strictly up to God.

I never claimed God owes us salvation, I argued that God has something to gain from saving us but nothing to gain from reprobating us, if it is strictly up to him.

The three persons of the Trinity do not need reprobated souls in order to glorify one another. I didn't say that God need a human audience to be glorified, I meant that the glory God receives from reprobation must come from humans, and, I take it, it's got to come from saved humans.

When you say "God is manifesting his character" the work "manifesting" implies at least some audience. If I make something manifest, I make it manifest to someone. That's what the word means.

Again, I do not even rule out the possibility that God might have a reason for reprobating persons in the way Calvinists suggests. So I'm not claiming a comprehensive refutation of Calvinism. All I am claiming is that such reasons are completely obscure to me, and that the reasons that Calvinists offer for this are inadequate, because on their own view God could produce the same results, the same glory, with no hell.

Ilíon said...

VR: "So you can be a sinner without committing any sins?"

But, of course. 'Sinner' is what we are; it is not what we do.

This is what the doctrine of "Original Sin" is about. The doctrine is not that we, Adam's children, are being held accountable -- and liable to punishment -- for his one single sin; it us that his one sin changed all of Creation ... including his nature, and therefore the nature of his children.

"In sin I was born" is not calling sex and/or sexual reproduction sinful; it is stating a fact about human nature.


So, apparently you *do* make the error I mentioned. There is a third (and larger, major) error which follows from that "little" error at the beginning, and which I had hoped you might see for yourself:

[Error 1] I am a 'sinner' if/because I commit sins.

[Error 2] Therefore: If I do not commit sins, then I am not a 'sinner.'

[Error 3] Therefore: If I do not commit sins, then I can 'save' myself -- at least theoretically, *I* do not need Christ!

normajean said...

1. Rom 5 is a little messier than Illion makes us to believe. See various commentaries. Perhaps, Witherington's work from "The Problem with Evangelical Theology." 2. I know no one except new school calvies who believe that our "nature" is sinful. You may review Luther on this topic. 3. I'd love to see "human nature" in the greek! 4. I'm going to bed.

normajean said...

Illion,

Here's a resource you may find helpful.

http://www.paulcopan.com/articles/pdf/Original-sin-christian-philosophy.pdf

Blessings,

Norma

Victor Reppert said...

I should note that the argument I actually give concedes, at least for the sake of argument, that we all deserve to go to hell.

Paul Manata said...

Hi Victor,

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2008/05/no-god-you-couldnt-possibly-have-reason.html

Ilíon said...

NormaJean:

I haven't yet read this myself (I encountered it because I am procrastinating from what I *ought* to be doing right now): Pastor, What is the Difference? on the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. It looks interesting.

I came across the link to the above in the comments to this blog entry: An Interview with Thomas McCall

And I came across *that* blog entry linked from this one: Two Cheers for the Resurgence of Calvinism in Evangelicalism: A Wesleyan-Arminian Perspective (I've read, and highly recommend, this last).

Ilíon said...

Oh, and the last was via a link/reference on Ben Witherington's blog.

Jason Pratt said...

Brief distinguishing comments from (one of {g}) the local orthodox universalist theologians:

1.) I have no problem at all accepting original sin as an inherited sin-effect.

2.) I certainly don't think we can save ourselves from our sin 'apart from God' in any fashion. (Or do anything else 'apart from God', for that matter. I am no cosmological dualist.) Moreover, ontologically God will and must have the priority in salvation: if God has no interest in saving someone from sin, that's the end of it, it won't happen. (I think all three soteriological options agree on this, at least nominally, within orthodoxy.)

3.) That being said, I also affirm my own personal responsibility as an active sinner. Whatever my condition is, I intentionally make it worse by choosing to sin. Consequently, I do in fact also affirm that I am a sinner because I commit sins. (In both senses of 'because', cause/effect and ground/consequent.) It isn't the only reason I am a sinner, but it's there and I have to face up to that, too.

4.) Actually, I think "grace" (especially as this means the "joy" freely given) is an excellent reason for our salvation from sin! {g!} To consider it otherwise, is tantamount to considering God's love to be something He merely does in a (philosophically) 'accidental' fashion. God's love is not arbitrary nor a mere response on His part (willing though that would still be and not forced by circumstances) to situational realities of Creation. Love is what God is, in His own eternal self-existence.

If that's being denied--and I find it routinely being denied, at least tacitly and sometimes even explicitly, among non-universalists--then theologically we're talking (semantic similarities notwithstanding) about two very different Gods. The difference would literally be equivalent to anything (Mormon, Arian, Muslim, mere monotheistic Judaism, whatever) other than orthodox trinitarian theism.

In which case we all have other more primary theological matters to be discussing. {s}

JRP

Ilíon said...

J.Pratt: "The difference would literally be equivalent to anything (Mormon, Arian, Muslim, mere monotheistic Judaism, whatever) other than orthodox trinitarian theism."

Isn't the Mormon conception of God little different than Zeus, in that this 'God' is an effect of "the universe," rather than its Creator/Cause?

Jason Pratt said...

Il,

That's definitely one of the main Mormon theological positions. Although I understand there's a debate among Mormon theologians about whether that's supposed to be true (in which case reality might be ultimately atheistic by contrast--they'll either be denying any greater god or affirming that whether there is one is completely irrelevant/unknowable/whatever); or whether cosmological tritheism is supposed to be true (in which case there would be at least three Independent Facts, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one of which Incarnated as Christ; there would be no unity of substance in the plurality of Persons.)

Either way, God (singularly) would not be, in His own self-begetting/self-begotten essential existence, love. At the end of the day, when it comes down to the bottom line, only orthodox trinitarian theism (or binitarian perhaps) can coherently make that claim. Any other theism, or quasi-theism, falls short; put bluntly, they can only be kidding (or, let us say, speaking more-figuratively than we are {g}) if they make the claim.

God actually being love, instead of only doing love, though (i.e. the second proposal involves love being only a secondary action of His that has nothing to do with His essential self-existence), has definite logical corollaries in the topic of soteriology. Which is why in disputation with Calvinists and Arminians, it isn't usually long, in my experience, before I find them trying to get away from the idea that God actually is love. I've seen them even explicitly deny it, too. (It's happened before in comments here on Victor's journal, though I don't know if I'd ever be able to find it again. {s})

Anyway, yes, derivative-polytheism such as the various Greek pantheon concepts (where the deities are ontologically dependent on something other than themselves for their existence) would, so far as it goes, fall into the class of 'the final Fact of reality is not intrinsically love', too. So would the Greco-Roman "three Fates", while I'm thinking about it. {g}

JRP

John W. Loftus said...

I suppose it's too much for me to say that you guys are trying to make sense of a barbaric text written by superstitious people, right? Carry on then. This is fun. I am so glad I don't have to reconcile what I believe with a barbaric and superstitious text.

Spare me the "where's your objective moral standard" crap. I have the same one on this issue that Vic does. And until you can refute the Euthyphro dilemna you have the same standard that I do. You merely claim otherwise, when the evidence is overwhelmingly against what you claim.

Jason Pratt said...

I’m sure one of these days Victor will go back to critting problems and internal-debates among atheists and agnostics in regard to reason, morality, etc. John. And, last I checked, y’all don’t have an ancient text written for a superstitious and barbaric people as y’all’s excuse. {g}


{{I have the same one on this issue that Vic does.}}

Oddly enough, we’ve been saying all along that you did. (AfM arguments are directed at working out the implications of having such a standard, for instance.) Though admittedly the Calvs can get kinda waffly on that. {s}


{{And until you can refute the Euthyphro dilemna you have the same standard that I do.}}

Oddly enough, I agree with that, too, and always have. For that matter, even when I think I’ve field-goaled the horns, I still think you have the same standard we do (even if you don’t recognize it yet, for one or another reason.)

I mention that in your favor, btw. Also, it’s in the barbaric and superstitous text, in your favor. {s} (Though I’ll understand if that doesn’t count much to you.)

JRP

John W. Loftus said...

{{I have the same one on this issue that Vic does.}}

Oddly enough, we’ve been saying all along that you did.

Jason, just a quick question.

If this is so, then why do Vic and my standards differ on this whole issue from Manata and Hayes' standards?

And why do mine differ with Vic's on the probability of Theism?

I'm sure you can explain this. But when you do can you show me any evidence for prefering your explanation?

Ilíon said...

Loftus: "I suppose it's too much for me to say that you guys are trying to make sense of a barbaric text written by superstitious people, right? Carry on then. This is fun. I am so glad I don't have to reconcile what I believe with a barbaric and superstitious text."

Mr Loftus,
You're such a fool! Moreover, you *know* you're a fool ... and so you have no excuse, whatsoever. The run-of-the-mill village atheist *might* have some excuse (before other men, though not before God).


Loftus: "Spare me the "where's your objective moral standard" crap. I have the same one on this issue that Vic does. And until you can refute the Euthyphro dilemna you have the same standard that I do."

And, you're dishonest, too. Well, that does rather comport with being a fool.

John W. Loftus said...

ilion, and that answers me how?

Oh, I see, you must be a Calvinist (just a guess). For then you have every moral right to heep insults on reprobates like me and probably would have gladly lit the fires that would burn me at the stake too. Surely you'll deny this, but you exhibit the same mentality that Vic and I disagree with on several different levels.

Carry on then.

Tell me more about who I am and how bad I am. Yep, that answers my arguments. Heeep it on more. I like it.

Sheesh, idiots. There are too many of them in this world.

Ilíon said...

Why would any one ... well, a *serious* anyone, at any rate ... imagine that I imagine I have a moral responsibility and obligation to "answer" the non-serious and non-honest "arguments" raised by Mr Loftus?

Ilíon said...

Mr Pratt,
I'm reading your linked essay. Yes! God *IS* Justice (just as God *IS* Love).

Ilíon said...

Ilíon (to NormaJean): "I haven't yet read this myself (I encountered it because I am procrastinating from what I *ought* to be doing right now): Pastor, What is the Difference? on the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. It looks interesting."

Well! That was certainly one-sided and tendentious.

Jason Pratt said...

John,

{{If this is so, then why do Vic and my standards differ on this whole issue from Manata and Hayes' standards?}}

The better question is why Manata and Hayes keep trying to make out that non-Christians actually (not merely apparently) operate according to a totally different standard than the common overarching standard that Victor, Paul, Steve and I would otherwise all agree grounds all justice. This is connected to a common Calvinist claim (though I've seen it picked up by Arms, too, on occasion), that the non-elect have to be completely and utterly sequestered from relationship with God, both now and later (except for, y'know, the whole punishing part. {wry s})

They still have to admit, in order to even attempt to keep that doctrine, that God's justice is both overarching and applicable to you and that your sins, just like ours, occur within that referential and ontological framework. They just don't want to admit any real credit on your side. (Unless you happen to be 'elect' after all.)

There are dozens of technical issues around that debate (some of which Victor and Paul have been discussing, again, in recent weeks). But in my own analytical experience, the basic difference comes down to a choice: for or against hope. Which, more basically, is a choice for or against charity.

However strongly I might criticize your reasoning or even your ethics on this or that topic, I had better (quite literally) damned well remember to be looking for every credit I can recognize for you, too, now or in the future. Otherwise, I'm the one who is choosing to show no mercy.

And we were told quite clearly, in that barbaric superstitious text, what I can expect to happen for refusing to show mercy. {s}


{{And why do mine differ with Vic's on the probability of Theism?}}

Not an ethical standard question, generally speaking. But, it isn’t the standard where you differ with Vic, in this case, either: both of you are agreeing to (what amounts to) a Bayesian evaluation. Y’all differ in intuitive estimation of likelihoods. As far as I can tell from corresponding with him over the years, Victor agrees with me that this isn’t necessarily a fault on your part. (Fudging is a whole other question; but I’m not typically expected to evaluate whether someone is fudging, even though I do know it happens. It’s far more important to watch to make sure that I’m not fudging, than for me to make guesses, educated or otherwise, about whether you or any other opponent, Christian or otherwise, is fudging.)

{{I'm sure you can explain this. But when you do can you show me any evidence for prefering your explanation?}}

I dunno; do you prefer an explanation that requires me to be charitable to you, or one that doesn’t? I’ll have to refer you to Paul and Steve et al if you’d prefer the latter. {shrug}{s}

(Ilíon probably agrees with me more than with them, on this, in principle. Whether and to what extent he’s prepared to put it into practice, is his business, not mine. Nevertheless I’ll add a {cough} here as well as a {wry g}...)


Il: {{You're such a fool! Moreover, you *know* you're a fool ... and so you have no excuse, whatsoever.}}

{cough}

I assure you, no one has ever accused me of going soft on J’oftus. (Especially John himself. {ironic g}) However, it should also be noted that this was not how I chose to reply to his baiting, either.

JRP

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "You're such a fool! Moreover, you *know* you're a fool ... and so you have no excuse, whatsoever."

Jason Pratt: "{cough}

I assure you, no one has ever accused me of going soft on J’oftus. (Especially John himself. {ironic g}) However, it should also be noted that this was not how I chose to reply to his baiting, either.
"

*I* have only two ways to "reply" to such dishonesty as Mr Loftus is fond of employing: 1) try to ignore it (which isn't a reply, at all); 2) bluntly call it what it is.

That *you* may have a third way, is all well and fine. For you. I don't insist that you (or Mr Reppert) treat persons such as Mr Loftus as I do; can you extend me the same (for lack of better word) courtesy?

I, personally, think it's a grave mistake to treat the behaviors such as Mr Loftus commonly exhibits as honest error.


John Loftus: "I'm sure you can explain this. But when you do can you show me any evidence for prefering your explanation?"

Jason Pratt: "I dunno; do you prefer an explanation that requires me to be charitable to you, or one that doesn’t? I’ll have to refer you to Paul and Steve et al if you’d prefer the latter. {shrug}{s}

(Ilíon probably agrees with me more than with them, on this, in principle. Whether and to what extent he’s prepared to put it into practice, is his business, not mine. Nevertheless I’ll add a {cough} here as well as a {wry g}...)
"

I meant exactly what I said.

Charity can (and must) be extended to those making an honest error. And, in general, it is proper to assume that a disagreement is due to an honest error.

Yet, the fact remains that not all disagreement is due to honest error. And, when one simply cannot believe or continue to support the default assumption that the other's error is honestly made, then what is one to do? How can one possibly be charitable when one is convinced that the other is dishonest? Must one become complicit in the other's dishonesty ... for the pretense of "civility" and a false charity?

I do not believe so; nor can I do so.


ps. For all that I'm convinced that Calvinism contains a foundational error, I am *also* convinced that Mr Loftus misrepresents Calvinism and/or Calvinists in his accusation about me and them.

John W. Loftus said...

As far as who the fool is See this.

Best to y'all.

Ilíon said...

Is there a Cosmic Reset Button (of which no one has yet deigned to inform me)? Does reality really begin anew each day ... or with each new blog-thread or post?

While I do make a conscious effort to ignore Mr Loftus (and Mr Babinski), I am not *totally* unaware of their behaviors and attitudes. And I decline to pretend it is other than it is.

Jason Pratt said...

{{I don't insist that you (or Mr Reppert) treat persons such as Mr Loftus as I do; can you extend me the same (for lack of better word) courtesy?}}

Certainly. Just pointing out the difference. And I can point out some entries where I call John down on dishonesty, too, where appropriate. (JP Holding even quoted me on it at one point.)

Since, however, I’m able to extend courtesy to John at this point, then that’s what I did.

{{I, personally, think it's a grave mistake to treat the behaviors such as Mr Loftus commonly exhibits as honest error.}}

I, personally, would am more concerned with the error than with whether it’s honest or not; and I’m more concerned with charity than with uncharity. Consequently, I default (unless I have good non-presumptive reasons not to) in the direction of honest error on a case-by-case basis--while looking for opportunities for agreeing that he’s getting something right. (Those do occur, too. {s})

{{And, when one simply cannot believe or continue to support the default assumption that the other's error is honestly made, then what is one to do?}}

“But Master, must I really forgive my brother up to seven times?!”

“I am not saying to you ‘seven times’, but...!”

Until I have specific reason to believe a particular error is dishonest, I try not to hold inductive expectation against a person. However, since you may have been paying attention to John on this particular topic recently, you may be in a better position to render that kind of judgment; I shouldn’t dismiss that possibility either.


{{Does reality really begin anew each day ... or with each new blog-thread or post?}}

Hope and charity do, yeah. {s} More frequently than each day or blog-thread, too.

{{While I do make a conscious effort to ignore Mr Loftus (and Mr Babinski), I am not *totally* unaware of their behaviors and attitudes.}}

Ditto; but I take the opportunity of ignoring them as a cool-down period. {g!}

JRP

John W. Loftus said...

I'm telling you guys that I am not easily ignored! ;-)

And I'm also warning you that you will not be able to ignore my book in a few months. That much is guaranteed.

Scoff at it now all you want. But you will change your tune. Be careful what you say now, for I love to watch people eat their own words.

Flame away.

Don't let me stop you.

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "And, when one simply cannot believe or continue to support the default assumption that the other's error is honestly made, then what is one to do?"

Jason Pratt: "But Master, must I really forgive my brother up to seven times?!"

*This* simply will not do.

Firstly, Mr Loftus is emphatically not my brother ... he *chooses* to reject the Master he once claimed. He *chooses* to reject the possibility possibility of Brotherhood with Christ and in Christ with you and me.

Secondly, the question was not about forgiving, it was about honesty with oneself (and with the other) about what one *sees* in the other's behavior.

Thirdly, in segregating each sentence, you are disregarding the *context* of all of them together, as they were intended.


Jason Pratt: "Until I have specific reason to believe a particular error is dishonest, I try not to hold inductive expectation against a person."

Let's recall your prior statement: "I assure you, no one has ever accused me of going soft on J’oftus. (Especially John himself. {ironic g}) However, it should also be noted that this was not how I chose to reply to his baiting, either."

Now, when one characterizes another words/behavior as "baiting," one isn't *necessarily* asserting that there is something dishonest about it. However, that is *commonly* what is meant.

So, it seems to me that in characterizinf Mr Loftus' statements in this thread as "baiting," you were either claiming that there was something about them which was dishonest ... or, you were making

Ilíon said...

Mr Loftus,
I've been ignoring you for *many* months. Can it *really* be so difficult? Or, is it perhaps that I have an iron will (which has only just now developed a spot of rust) in the one matter, if no other, of having consciously decided to ignore you?


Amusingly, you act as though it *matters* whether or not we, or at any rate some of us, eat our own words. Really! Can you not grasp the most basic point of your own willfully chosen metaphysic?

NOTHING MATTERS!


"Flame away?!?"

You're a comedian!

Ilíon said...

[to continue the tail-end of the prior post]

... So, it seems to me that in characterizing Mr Loftus' statements in this thread as "baiting," you were either claiming that there was something about them which was dishonest ... or, you were making emotive, but essentially meaningless, noises.

Is there another way that "baiting" can reasonably be understood?

Jason Pratt said...

Ilíon (and afterward): {{Firstly, Mr Loftus is emphatically not my brother}}

Well, he is a rational agent whose father is God, as I am. So I treat him as he actually is: my brother. That doesn’t mean I either like him or even have to like him. It does mean I have an absolute obligation to treat him fairly.

Is he a rebel? Yep, just as I am, the sinner. You think I don’t do just as badly or worse whenever I sin?! (On the contrary, if anything I have less excuse than John does; and I mean that, whatever his level of honest epistemology is.)

St. Peter has done even worse than John (whatever John has done), but that doesn’t mean that Peter was not my brother between Friday morning and sometime Sunday. A primary relationship, such as we have in our common Father, can be neither superinduced nor actually dissolved. (The Calvs would recognize this as the relationship of the ‘elect’. And whatever they might be prepared to believe in theory, in point of fact they really have no way of knowing that John after all isn’t one of ‘the elect’. Nor that they themselves are of ‘the elect’, instead of hopelessly deluded non-elect, as it happens. {s})

Does God reject John’s sin? Absolutely; though most of the time I am more profitably engaged in remembering that this is true about me, too. Does God reject John? No, not finally. Otherwise John wouldn’t be in existence now for us to be talking about him. God is keeping him in existence, and he is still a rational entity, and that means John is my brother. As annoying as I personally find that to be, sometimes. {s}

{{Secondly, the question was not about forgiving, it was about honesty with oneself}}

True; but obviously the question should have been about forgiving. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been so hot to deny that John is your brother, too. (If he isn’t your brother, you don’t have to worry about forgiving him, do you?--no more than you have to worry about forgiving a rock that thwacks your head.)

As far as honesty with one’s self goes: I am a sinner, too. And even if most of the time I was a dishonest fudger, that wouldn’t necessarily mean I was doing so all the time. And even if I was doing so all the time, that wouldn’t necessarily mean I will always be doing so all the time hereafter.

That’s rather beside the point, though. I’m pretty sure John was only doing baiting; but what he said was consonant enough with people who are honestly rejecting what we’re talking about, too. And I’m not in any position to know for sure to what extent his rejection is honest or not. But even if it was completely dishonest this time (which it needn’t have been), that wouldn’t mean his rejection will be completely dishonest next time. I’d rather look forward to that hope, pauce though it may seem to you, than choose to reject the possibility of that hope. Because then I’m the one “choosing to reject the possibility of Brotherhood with Christ” (whether absolutely or in an improvement thereof) “and in Christ with you and me”, with the object of that rejection being John.

I’m no Calvinist. And even if I was, I’d still be obligated not to either assume or infer that John is one of the non-elect.


As for what one sees in the other’s behavior: well, I haven’t been paying attention to John lately (see quips about ignoring him {g}), so I’m in no position to make more than a proportionately distant educated guess as to whether that remark is only more of the same, assuming I thought that everything John was doing was only dishonest (which incidentally I don’t think). As I noted, you might be in a better position than I am on that. But regardless of what I think about John’s honesty now or in the past, my hope isn’t restricted to what I can see. {s}

{{Thirdly, in segregating each sentence, you are disregarding the *context* of all of them together, as they were intended.}}

I strenuously doubt this, as contextualization is one of my fortes. Nor, up to this point, have you said anything to clarify any differently what I thought you were saying before. For example, you haven’t corrected anything I said by quoting something else of yours to show that I wasn’t reading for context.

{{Now, when one characterizes another words/behavior as "baiting," one isn't *necessarily* asserting that there is something dishonest about it.}}

True; John, as we both know, is very fond of attention, and enjoys provoking reactions. But that doesn’t mean he is necessarily being dishonest in what he uses for his provocations. Heck, I’ve often thought much the same myself when I see various classes of atheists sparring against each other. Or, for that matter, watching the Arm vs. Calv debates recently here on DangIdea. If I wrote what John did, though, at worst I would only be being disrespectful.

I treat baiting as being primarily about provoking a reactive response. John knows that by calling the scriptures barbaric and superstitious he’s likely to get some attention. I personally have very little doubt that he actually believes them to be just that. (It doesn’t hurt that I can easily find barbarism and superstition in them myself. {shrug}{g}) But I know very well that that isn’t the whole story with the texts he’s disrespecting; which formed part of my own ironic retorts. To that extent, I was reminding him, too, that he’s being willfully disconsiderate of some of the data--while admitting, in passing, that certainly there are parts that could be described the other way as well.

The fact that the scriptures can be described with some real accuracy as barbaric and superstitious doesn’t bother me remotely as much as it does John. I’d rather he be curious as to why I can recognize that without it bothering me overmuch. (On the contrary, it helps factor into my positive appreciation and admiration for the product as a whole. {s})


JRP

Ilíon said...

Jason Pratt: "But Master, must I really forgive my brother up to seven times?!"

Ilíon: "Firstly, Mr Loftus is emphatically not my brother ... he *chooses* to reject the Master he once claimed. He *chooses* to reject the possibility of Brotherhood with Christ and in Christ with you and me."

Jason Pratt: "Well, he is a rational agent whose father is God, as I am. So I treat him as he actually is: my brother. That doesn’t mean I either like him or even have to like him. It does mean I have an absolute obligation to treat him fairly."

God is *not* the Father of Mr Loftus ... you really do need to rein in the more outlandish aspect of your universalism.

Not a one of is a child of God by virtue of being a human being. By birth, we are God's enemies; we become his children ... if we ever do ... by adoption.

Mr Loftus once claimed Christ -- and I have no reason that I know of to doubt his sincerity at the time. Now, he emphatically rejects Christ ... and he glories, such as this glory is, in his rejection of Christ.

Just as I know of no reason to doubt Mr Loftus' sincerity when he did claim Christ, I know of no reason to doubt it now that he claims to reject Christ. Ergo, since he consciously rejects Christ, he is *not* a child of God, and he is *not* my brother.

Mr Loftus is *not* an unfortunate person in some remote village who had never heard even the name of Christ, much less been taught the Gospel, and yet is living by what light he does have ... and thus whom I fully expect *is* my brother in Christ. Mr Loftus *knows* the Gospel, even if he never actually knew the Christ to whom the Gospel points; and he rejects the Gospel: he is *not* my brother.


Ilíon: "Secondly, the question was not about forgiving, it was about honesty with oneself (and with the other) about what one *sees* in the other's behavior."

Jason Pratt: "True; but obviously the question should have been about forgiving. Otherwise you wouldn’t have been so hot to deny that John is your brother, too. (If he isn’t your brother, you don’t have to worry about forgiving him, do you?--no more than you have to worry about forgiving a rock that thwacks your head.)"

Now you're becoming amusing. This isn't meant as a compliment.

Do you *always* pay Homage to the Circle?

Ilíon said...

A further point I'd meant to make ... yet again, for it echos the point of my question regarding your characterization of Mr Loftus' comments as "baiting:"

As I said, when one characterizes another's words or actions as "baiting," one is not necessarily claiming that the other has done something wrong.

However, when one claims that a third party (that would be me) *ought* to forgive the one who has done the "baiting," then one *is* claiming that the second party (that would be Mr Loftus) has done something wrong.

Your whole approach acknowledges that something about what Mr Loftus has done is wrong -- while delicately avoiding just what that might have been. And yet, here you are expending all this effort to make it that *I* have done something wrong in using very Biblical concepts (and terms) to characterize Mr Loftus' behavior.


Look, Mr Pratt, you certainly have more education than I. You may even be more natively intelligent that I. But, on this, I'm right and you're wrong.

John W. Loftus said...

Wow, you guys are debating each other over li'l 'ole me.

*blush*

Ilíon said...

No.

Over principle.

Jason Pratt said...

In fact, as well as in principle, John is more than only an example of principle application... {s} But no, the debate needn’t have been about John specifically.

{{Your whole approach acknowledges that something about what Mr Loftus has done is wrong -- while delicately avoiding just what that might have been.}}

Odd. I thought I had been pretty explicit (as well as wryly tacit) about it, especially recently.

{{And yet, here you are expending all this effort to make it that *I* have done something wrong in using very Biblical concepts (and terms) to characterize Mr Loftus' behavior.}}

And yet, I get the impression that you wouldn’t affirm that I couldn’t have done anything wrong in using very Biblical concepts (and terms), with my reference to the attitude check from Matt 18... (Maybe it’s how such things are used, then, that makes the difference.)

Also, I have made sure to point out at least twice before now, that since I haven’t been keeping up with John lately, you might be in a better position than I am to nail him on being merely dishonest in this particular baiting attempt of his. (Those were openings for you to add details of what John has been up to recently that would justify that judgment. Which you haven’t done so far, including in your most recent replies; but the opening remains available.)


{{God is *not* the Father of Mr Loftus ... you really do need to rein in the more outlandish aspect of your universalism.}}

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that my universalism is (partially) grounded on that observation. i.e. this doesn’t come from my universalism. It comes from my accepting orthodox theology instead of, say, ontological dualism. Perhaps we should be discussing whether John has become an Independent Fact, or is dependent for his existence on the continuing action of something else ultimately other than God? Or is it that you deny that John is a living soul capable of rational action? (I’ve seen Calvinists take that position in regard to the non-elect, but I have yet to see an Arminian take it. Before final perdition in principle anyway. Perhaps you believe that John no longer exists as a rational soul, however, having already reached final perdition; in which case we are dealing with a mere simulacrum--who cannot even be worth being punished.)


{{Not a one of is a child of God by virtue of being a human being.}}

Compare this counter-claim of my expected position, to what I’ve written above (which is far from the only time I’ve ever said such things.) John is a human being by virtue (and grace) of God, and thereby is a child of God. His denial of this, for whatever reasons, does not change this fact; any more than Satan’s rebellion means he can actually become capable of self-existence (or existence in dependence of anything more ultimately than God--though the greatest and most persistent rebel wouldn’t be satisifed with that, either, I expect. {s})

Now, you might try rejecting that position on technical grounds; or you might even prefer to reject it because, though technically correct (which btw it is {g]), it might lead to universalism. (I don’t recommend the latter tactic, but I’ve seen Arms and Calvs both try it.) But for purposes of accurate criticism, you need to know that I’m not saying it because I’m a universalist.

{{By birth, we are God's enemies;}}

By having an inherited corrupted nature, we are certainly inclined to be God’s enemies; and that’s a condition that needs healing whether we ever intentionally sin or not. But our birth can only occur from the love of God in the first place.

{{we become his children ... if we ever do ... by adoption.}}

We become inheritors by ‘adoption’. The word St. Paul uses is actually more like ‘son-placement’, and doesn’t primarily refer to what we would think of as ‘adoption’, (though that possibility is included, too.) It refers analogically to the practice common both in Greco-Roman society and Jewish society, of the father of a child deciding when the child has become responsible enough to be given formal acknowledgment as an authorized representative of the family. (Somewhat like being promoted to ambassador.) Until then, we are like children under tutors; God intends, as a loving father, for us to be inheritors, but that cannot happen until we are finally free from sin. If the child refuses to act responsibly, the Father won’t give the inheritance; not until the child begins to cooperate properly and becomes trustworthy. Moreover, the Father Who intends His child to inherit, will punish the irresponsible child until the child repents and learns to do better. (The OT and NT both have a lot to say about that. Whenever someone in the Gospels, for instance, asks Jesus, “What shall I be doing to enjoy the allottment/inheritance?” that’s what they’re talking about.)

We become inheritors by ‘son-placement’. We’re children by the creation of God, in His image (defaced though that image may be). Even a rebel child is still a child--though not an inheritor, yet.

Not-incidentally, this has a lot to do with the topical question Victor was asking in the main post. {s}


{{Mr Loftus once claimed Christ -- and I have no reason that I know of to doubt his sincerity at the time. Now, he emphatically rejects Christ ... and he glories, such as this glory is, in his rejection of Christ.}}

But you have reason to doubt his sincerity about this?

{{Just as I know of no reason to doubt Mr Loftus' sincerity when he did claim Christ, I know of no reason to doubt it now that he claims to reject Christ.}}

Ah. Just checking. {s}

Those who speak a word, even to blasphemy, against Christ will be forgiven. It is those who are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit who will not be forgiven, now or in the age to come. Consequently, one could be doing the former without necessarily doing the latter. In any case, while it may perhaps be your place to do so, it is not usually my place to be judging about whether and to what extent someone is rejecting what light they truly can see. (I have enough on my plate already watching for my own rejections of that. {s})

{{Ergo, since he consciously rejects Christ, he is *not* a child of God, and he is *not* my brother.}}

I recall the older brother in the parable of the prodigal having much the same opinion. His problem was not primarily that he rejected the penitent return of the younger brother; that was a latter result of his own problem. Had the prodigal not returned, the older brother would have still had his own problem; it would only have been less obviously exhibited. Clearly the father, though, still regarded the younger brother as his child, too (even though lost and dead, in a sense.)

Doubtless, narrative counterexamples can be found in various places. But insofar as both kinds of data are represented, we have to choose which ones to read in light of the others. I try to go with the interpretations that synch up best with orthodox trinitarian theism; otherwise I wouldn’t be very apt as that kind of theologian. {g} Another option would be to reject orthodox trinitarian theism for something else; but since I remain convinced of the truth of trinitarian theism, that can’t be a live option for me at this time. (Nor do I foresee it ever being such an option, fwiw.)

{{Mr Loftus is *not* an unfortunate person in some remote village who had never heard even the name of Christ, much less been taught the Gospel, and yet is living by what light he does have ..}}

No; he is more like me, the sinner. Except less like me, because I still believe and yet am also a sinner. I consider myself to be more culpable than he is.

{{even if he never actually knew the Christ to whom the Gospel points}}

If that happens to be true, then the Christ he is rejecting would be a false Christ. This would not be a bad thing, in itself!


{{Now you're becoming amusing. This isn't meant as a compliment.}}

So, you do think you have a duty to forgive John even though you believe that he isn’t your brother? (You didn’t actually say so, so I can’t tell for sure from your reply here, but if that’s what you meant then I recant my comment. If I understood you correctly, then my comment stands as given.)

{{However, when one claims that a third party (that would be me) *ought* to forgive the one who has done the "baiting," then one *is* claiming that the second party (that would be Mr Loftus) has done something wrong.}}

In that case, the wrong would be the uncharity of being disrespectful in order to provoke comments about little ol’ him. {s} Nor, by the way, would I agree that you have to complete a forgiveness of him before he’s repentent about it (that would be a contradiction in terms anyway).

But forgiveness is about more than accepting someone else’s penitence (important though that is to the process). Forgiveness is also an attitude of one’s own will toward the object.

It is entirely possible (perhaps even probable) that John will only take advantage of such an attitude, for his own self-aggrandizement or whatever. God takes the same risks with all of us, myself included. I guess I don’t even have a “but” to follow that; it just goes with the territory. {s}

However, if charity can only be extended to an honest error, then none of us have any hope of salvation from sin--yourself included. You can’t earn God’s charity, including by repentance--He has to be already giving it first before your repentance, in many fashions. That’s His choice. You can either choose to do likewise (as far as you can), or not. I try to do likewise, as far as I can. (Which sometimes isn’t very far; but I do understand that I am supposed to be acting toward that.)


For what it’s worth, one application of those principles would be this: you might have been giving what little two cents of charity you could give to John. And if that was all you had to give, then in God’s evaluation you might very well be far ahead of me. That’s something I’m obliged to keep in mind as well.

Just like I try to do for John. {s} (Annoying and problematic and apparently fruitless as that can be. {g})

JRP