One of my earliest posts was one entitled "Why Calvinists Can't Solve the
Problem of Evil" Steve Hays on Triablogue responded to it,
SH: Let's return to his syllogism:
1. God, if God exists, is omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good.
2. If there is a God, then there is no unnecessary evil, that is, an evil
that the world would be better off without. As Leibniz would say, if there
is a God, then this is the best of all possible worlds.
3. But there is unnecessary evil. This is clearly not the best of all possible
4. Therefore God does not exist.
The weak link is #2.
1.Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there is a best possible world,
why is God obligated to create the best possible world?
The choice between better and best is not equivalent to a choice between
good and evil. A second-best possible world could still be a world without
any unnecessary evil. Indeed, it could be a world without any evil at all.
Or does Reppert deny the possibility of alternative goods? Can?t there be
more than one good state of affairs?
VR: I didn't necessarily support this version of the argument, and since I?m
a theist I of course don?t think its conclusion is true. Perhaps Leibnizian
creative requirements are excessive. What we are talking about here, though,
are gratuitous damnations. We are talking about people suffering an eternity
of torment and separation from God. I take it the Calvinist is claiming that
God could have given everyone free will (in the compatibilist sense) and
then caused everyone to do what is necessary to receive saving grace. If
there was a reason for God not to make earth the World of Mr. Rogers, surely
God should make eternity the world of Mr. Rogers.
SH: 2.That brings me to the next point: why assume there is a best possible world?
It's like asking if a Gothic cathedral is better than a Byzantine basilica.
Now, you can say that one Gothic church is better than another, or that one
basilica is better than another.
But one type of architecture may have distinctive esthetic values which cannot
be replicated in another type of architecture.
VR: Maybe there isn't a best of all possible worlds. Maybe God created all the
good worlds. The question is, is a world in which someone is damned by decree
before the foundation of the world a good world?
SH: Is the common good the greatest good? What if there is no greatest good for
the greatest number? What if there's a tradeoff between a greater good for
a lesser number, and a lesser good for a greater number?
Reppert says: "And there are situations which persevere into eternity which
very clearly could have been better. In particular, "Smith's going to hell"
is a situation which goes preseveres into eternity and is not going to get
No doubt the situation could have been better for Smith. But is what is good
for Smith equivalent to the summum bonum?
What is good for Smith is good also for those who love Smith. And someone
who is being perfected in love is going to love Smith. The more we love our
neighbor as ourselves, the more we find the eternal damnation of our neighbors
I realize that this is in large part Tom Talbott's argument for universalism.
The only conceivable escape from it is the argument that Smith has chosen
self over God, and that God could have done nothing to prevent Smith from
continuing in that choice without violating Smith's freedom. However, that?s
an Arminian theodicy of damnation, not a Calvinist one.
SH: What if a greater good for Smith entails a lesser good for Baker, Brown,
How could it? Baker, Brown and Jones all love Smith, since they are in God?s
community of love.
SH: 3.In addition, what if greater goods are second-order goods, contingent on
the evil abuse of first-order goods?
I don't see any possible second-order good arising from a disobedience that
persists for an eternity.
SH: 4.In fact, don't we find this very theodicy implicit in the pages of Scripture?
To take a few examples:
It was not that this [blind] man sinned, or his parents, but that the works
of God might be displayed in him? (Jn 9:3).
Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this word, that those who do not see
may see, and those who see may become blind?" (Jn 9:39).
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace
abounded all the more? (Rom 5:20).
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ?For this very purposes I have raised
you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed
in all the earth'? (Rom 9:17).
What if God, desiring to make known his power, has endured with much patience
vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches
of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory??
But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by
faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe? (Gal 3:22).
None of these involve eternal disobedience. In one passage at the end of
the famous Romans 9-11 section, Paul says:
For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.
So that's the point of all the shutting up in disobedience, the hardening
of hearts, the vessels of wrath. This is all aimed at having mercy upon all.
And no, let's not play any Calvinist word games about what all means.
SH: 5.As to his final paragraph, there are a couple of problems:
i) As a matter of human experience, is love always a choice? Isn't it natural
for parents to love their children, and children to love their parents? As
a rule, isn't this a spontaneous and involuntary affection for our own?
But is a love that is guaranteed by the actions of the one being loved real
love, or puppetry?
ii) Reppert begs the question of whether it's even possible for God to confer
libertarian freedom on his creatures. There are some things God cannot do
without ceasing to be God.
Now look who's putting limits on the power of God.