Monday, August 11, 2008

Calvinism, love, and the biblical jigsaw puzzle

That was the humor. Now for the real argument.

It occurred to me in reading a critique of Walls and Dongell's Why I am not a Calvinist (IVP 2004) that one could argue against Calvinism without appealing to any moral intuitions whatsoever; that indeed what I objected to in Calvinism wasn't just that I found Calvinism morally repugnant. I do, of course. But what I find equally disturbing is the fact that Calvinists use terms in ways which render those terms unrecognizable.

First of all, we must describe the biblical jigsaw puzzle. What there seems to be, in Scripture, is prima facie support for three claims.

1) God can, and does, sovereignly determine all human destiny. (The usual Calvinist proof-texts for this, Rom 9, Eph 1, John 6:44. etc. etc.

2) God loves all persons, wants them to be saved, and died for all of their sins. (John 3: 16, I Tim 2: 4,2 Cor 5: 15, 2 Pet 3: 9 etc. etc. )

3) God punishes some persons eternally in hell. (Mt 25: 41-46, Rev. 21: 8, 2 Thess 1: 9).

These claims, taken together, are inconsistent with one another. Hence, the claim above that these passages offer prima facie support for the propositions thus stated. Perhaps through a careful study of these passages we can figure out that the support is only apparent and not real. Calvinists either reject 2 or, perhaps, the natural entailments of 2. Universalists think 3 is false. Arminians reject 1.

It seems to me that there are four possible conclusions that can be drawn with respect to the relationship of these claims to special revelation.

1) The detailed study of Scripture adjudicates the issue in favor of Calvinism.
2) The detailed study of Scripture adjudicates the issue in favor of Arminianism.
3) The detailed study of Scripture adjudicates the issue in favor of universalism.
4) The detailed study of Scripture is inconclusive with respect to this issue.

Calvinists claim that they can put the jigsaw puzzle together in their own favor. They maintain the exegesis of the relevant passages leads to one and only one conclusion.

Now, in order for an appeal to special revelation, such as this one, to work, we have to insist on what I call the principle of semantic integrity. First, we must believe that Scripture is not only true, but interpretable and translatable. Otherwise, 4 simply wins by default. Remember too, that the Calvinist thinks that biblical case for Calvinism is sufficiently strong that even if we have strong intuitions that a God who did this would not be good, we ought to set those intuitions aside and accept what God has revealed in his Word.

What this means is that in order for Scripture to have any real authority we have to insist on what I call the Principle of Semantic Integrity. Let's call it PSI for short. Words have to mean what they mean in the language into which the Bible was translated. If we say God loves people, the word "love" has to mean something recognizable as love in English. Otherwise, the translators need to go find another word. If it says he desires all to be saved, then the use of "desires" has to be consistent with normal use of the terms. Of course some deference must be paid to the difference between attributing something to God and attributing it to humans, but this deference can only go so far. Otherwise, the word just stops meaning anything. What is more, if the Calvinist helps himself to deviant meanings for the terms he finds inconvenient, the Arminian, the Universalist, or even the Jehovah's Witness can do the same thing. A postmodern nightmare looms.

Does God love those whom he has not elected? People who are, basically, everlasting toast as a result, ultimately, of a choice by God? My inclination is to say that the only sensible response is to say no. God's love is only for the elect, and the lost are people God hates. But Calvinist D. A. Carson says "Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them." Why, because, he finds attempt to exegete around passages indicated that God loves everyone to be unconvincing because there are "simply too many texts on the other side of the issue." In short, to deny God's love for all persons runs afoul of too much Scripture to be viable. Jesus loves me and everyone else, the Bible tells me so.

What he proposes is, I think, a mainstream Calvinist response, which is that although God loves everyone, his love for some is not an electing love. That kind of love is restricted to, you guessed it, the elect. But the question is whether someone God destines for perdition when he could have destined them otherwise can sensibly, in any recognizable sense, be considered to be loved by God. I think ordinary usage makes it clear that some conduct toward another person is inconsistent with the idea that God loves them.

Take for example an abusive husband. Ann Coulter once said "Liberals love America like O. J. loved Nicole." At some point abuse becomes so severe that no sensible person can reasonably call it love anymore. Or, consider the humorous lyrics of Weird Al Yankovic's "You don't Love me
Anymore."

We've been together for so very long
But now things are changing, oh I wonder what's wrong?
Seems you don't want me around
The passion is gone and the flames died down

I guess I lost a little bit of self-esteem
That time that you made it with the whole hockey team
You used to think I was nice
Now you tell all your friends that I'm the Antichrist

Oh, why did you disconnect the brakes on my car?
That kind of thing is hard to ignore
Got a funny feeling you don't love me anymore

I knew that we were having problems when
You put those piranhas in my bathtub again
You're still the light of my life
Oh darling, I'm beggin', won't you put down that knife?

You know I, even think it's kinda cute the way
You poison my coffee just a little each day
I still remember the way that you laughed
When you pushed me down the elevator shaft

Oh, if you don't mind me asking, what's this poisonous cobra
Doing in my underwear drawer?
Sometimes I get to thinking you don't love me anymore

You slammed my face down on the barbecue grill
Now my scars are all healing, but my heart never will
You set my house on fire
You pulled out my chest hairs with an old pair of pliers

Oh, you think I'm ugly and you say I'm cheap
You shaved off my eyebrows while I was asleep
You drilled a hole in my head
Then you dumped me in a drainage ditch and left me for dead

Oh, you know this really isn't like you at all
You never acted this way before
Honey, something tells me you don't love me anymore, oh no no
Got a funny feeling you don't love me anymore

Now, the Calvinist might respond "Ah, but these people in hell are getting their just deserts. God loves them, but is giving them what they deserve." But does this make sense? A family member of a victim who wants nothing more than to see the murderer get his just deserts doesn't love the murderer. The murderer's family member may accept that the murderer ought to receive just deserts and may desire that, but cannot be said to love that murderer unless he desires that that murderer cease to perform those actions that result in the murderer's receiving further punishment. Without a redemptive goal, love is just plain empty.

Or imagine this. Suppose someone, from the beginning of your life, made you miserable. The person ruined your relationships, destroyed your finances, undermined your reputation at every turn, and alienated you from everyone you held dear. You do not forgive this person. There is not the slightest hint of forgiveness in your soul for this person, and you spend your life plotting revenge. Then, by some magical happenstance, you have complete power of that person's existence for all eternity. If you haven't forgiven him, you make his existence, forever and ever, a living....you guess it, hell. You do to that person what the loving God of Calvinism effectually plans from the foundation of the world to do to the damned.

So the attempt to preserve the content of Scripture by saying that even though God predestines some to hell he nonetheless loves them strikes me as a violation of PSI. Now, if you notice, I have in no way appealed to moral intuition. I have not argued that if God is good God will not reprobate anyone before the foundation of the world. I am simply leaving the Calvinist with a choice. Either deny that God loves the non-elect, and call "Jesus Loves Me" sung by anyone who does not know himself elect an expression of false doctrine, or reject Calvinism.

Please note also that Calvinists cannot escape this with a tu quoque. This is an argument that 1) above is false. Similar objections against 2) and 3) only support 4, not 1.

32 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, I may respond at more length later, but for now I'd like to question the biblical basis for (2). Or, at least, I'd like to question the biblical basis specifically for the proposition that God loves the reprobate. It seems to me that a Calvinist can consistently deny this. If you think he would run aground on Scripture by doing so, isn't the burden of proof on you to show this? Can you provide some passages from the Bible which state that God loves the reprobate?

Regards,
Bnonn

Darek Barefoot said...

Bnonn

How about Matthew 5:43-48?

Jason Pratt said...

Incidentally (or maybe not, given Dom's reply {g}), I have personally never once met a Calvinist who, when discussing the topic, did not eventually agree that God must cease loving the permanently condemned completely. He only has wrath, and only acts in wrath, against those in hell (per those Calvinists. Possibly not per all Calvs, but again I myself have never met or read one who didn't eventually go the distance when pressed on the topic.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Also, in fairness I should point out that element 2 is composed of several perhaps-distinct positions. ("God loves all persons" "God wants all persons to be saved from sin" "God dies for the sins of all persons", or some variation of the third position.)

I'm quite certain that any Calv, per se, would consider at least some of these positions to be affirmably distinct from each other, so that affirming one does not necessarily require affirming any or all others.

JRP

Robert said...

Dominic the Calvinist that he is, wants to question whether or not God loves the "reprobates" and writes:

“Victor, I may respond at more length later, but for now I'd like to question the biblical basis for (2). Or, at least, I'd like to question the biblical basis specifically for the proposition that God loves the reprobate. It seems to me that a Calvinist can consistently deny this.”

We need to remember that for the Calvinist God loves only those who will eventually be saved with a salvific love (desire for them to be saved and in relationship with Him).

Dominic ends with an incredible question. I am amazed that he asks this question, but at the same time, since he is a Calvinist, and since they deny biblical truth about God's love, the question should not be surprising:

“Can you provide some passages from the Bible which state that God loves the reprobate?”

How about the passage that the majority of Christians take at face value, and because they do so, they reject Calvinism and its misguided soteriology in which only the elect are loved by God?

That passage would be John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world but that the world should be saved through him.”

The key is the meaning of that word “world.” While “world” has different meanings in the bible, the meaning here is that it refers to the rebellious group of human persons that opposes God. God’s love is amazing precisely because he loves sinners, he loves those who are part of that “world” those who are actively opposing him and living lives independent of Him. All Christians come out of the “world” to become part of God’s kingdom. But the issue is whether or not “world” also includes folks who will never come out of the “world” and become Christians (i.e., what the Calvinists like to call reprobates). Since I, and the vast majority of Christians across all theological lines (including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and Independents) take “world” in John 3:16 as referring to both people who will come out of that “world” and become believers as well as people who will never come out of the “world” and will remain unbelievers, we conclude that this passage clearly and unequivocally teaches that God loves the “reprobates” as well. This really is a watershed issue between Calvinists and non-cavlinists. If you believe that God loves the world as John 3:16 clearly states to be the case, then you will be a non-calvinist and reject Calvinism (and vice versa). The non-calvinist interpretation takes John 3:16 at face value while the Calvinist has to engage in some real eisegetical gymnastics to reinterpret the verse so that lines up with his Calvinist system.

Robert

Mike Darus said...

I don't think John 3:16 is as decisive as it seems. Even if God expresses his love for everyone by sending His Son, the benefits of this love are only experienced by "whoever believes." You still end up with two groups - those who experience God's love and those who do not. The Universalist position is in trouble. This contingent kind of love means that those who do not believe are still in trouble. Both the Calvinists and Armininians are fine because now they can discuss where the believing comes from.

Mike Darus said...

Victor,
Please consider re-framing #1. It is over reaching to the point where it will make it difficult for good interaction. A better statement reflecting the mainstream of Calvinism would be: 1) God elects some to salvation.

This focuses the discussion on the more clear biblical statements about God's decrees. It is less clear from Scripture that God determines everything. It will also include those Calvinists that deny that God's election to salvation implies election to perdition.

As it is, #1 can make your argument susceptible to the claim that you are misrepresenting the Calvinist position.

Jason Pratt said...

Mike,

Would 1.) be better phrased as "God does sovereignly decide whom He will and whom He will not act toward saving from sin"?

I understand wanting to get away from possible misunderstandings of the word "determine", but God's sovereignty is a pretty strong element of Calv soteriology (as it is for Arm and Kath, for that matter {s}). This would focus the issue on salvation from sin instead of opening up possibly specious digressions on determinism; and it might not necessarily be a statement that those Calvs who do not affirm (or even who positively deny) God's "election of the reprobate" would disagree with.


In regard to Jn3:16 (and locally related vss): the universalist position is not remotely in trouble by God expressing His love to those in hell, nor by those in hell refusing the benefits of God's continuing action of love toward them. If that's what you're talking about. (I'm the universalist, btw; Robert's more Arminian. {s}) The universalist position is in trouble if God refuses to ever even try to save some sinners from sin, or eventually gives up trying to save some sinners from sin. (As Lewis and some Arminians would allow, God still acts in love to those in hell, but simply doesn't try to save them from sin anymore.)

I suspect, though, that by "contingent kind of love" you mean that God's love to the world depends on whether or not... something. I'm a little fuzzy on what this is supposed to be dependent on. But in any case, this would still seem to include the reprobate (in the Calv sense of that word), too, in an explicitly soteriological way. It isn't a non-soteriological love.

But if God loves this and that sinner and acts therefore to save them from sin, whether or not one repents and the other doesn't; then the Calv doctrine of irresistible grace (which is probably better expressed as the doctrine that we can trust God not to give up on whomever He intends to save from sin but to be successful sooner or later) becomes imperiled if the sinner who refuses to repent is eventually given up on. This is precisely why a typical Calv theological move is to divorce the love for the non-elect from the saving-love-for-the-elect.

But this will go against the gist of Jn3:16!--for there is no distinction there between sinners Jesus came to save and sinners Jesus didn't come to save. Saving love is offered to all the cosmos, so that we should not be perishing.

JRP

Robert said...

Hello Victor,

“It occurred to me in reading a critique of Walls and Dongell's Why I am not a Calvinist (IVP 2004) that one could argue against Calvinism without appealing to any moral intuitions whatsoever; that indeed what I objected to in Calvinism wasn't just that I found Calvinism morally repugnant. I do, of course. But what I find equally disturbing is the fact that Calvinists use terms in ways which render those terms unrecognizable.”

I have been saying for a long time now that Calvinists engage in what I call semantic word games: clear and unambiguous words and biblical texts suddenly are reinterpreted to fit Calvinistic beliefs.

“First of all, we must describe the biblical jigsaw puzzle. What there seems to be, in Scripture, is prima facie support for three claims.

1) God can, and does, sovereignly determine all human destiny. (The usual Calvinist proof-texts for this, Rom 9, Eph 1, John 6:44. etc. etc.

2) God loves all persons, wants them to be saved, and died for all of their sins. (John 3: 16, I Tim 2: 4,2 Cor 5: 15, 2 Pet 3: 9 etc. etc. )

3) God punishes some persons eternally in hell. (Mt 25: 41-46, Rev. 21: 8, 2 Thess 1: 9).”

I would question claim (1). The biblical definition of God’s sovereignty is that He does as He pleases. Well if that is true, what if it pleased him to create human persons with libertarian free will. And what if he developed and carried out a plan of salvation that though sufficient to save all, nevertheless saved only those who trust Him (i.e., only believers, those who live lives of trust in the Lord will be saved)? If those things are true then God foreknows the eternal destinies of every person, but He does not predetermine people’s destinies. Rather, their destiny is a result of the interplay of God’s efforts at reaching out and saving them and their response to God’s efforts.

“Calvinists claim that they can put the jigsaw puzzle together in their own favor. They maintain the exegesis of the relevant passages leads to one and only one conclusion.”

The bible does in fact teach principle (2) here, which Calvinism contradicts, therefore Calvinism is false. The bible does in fact teach principle (3) here, which universalism contradicts, therefore universalism is false. Arminianism affirms all three if we modify (1) to reflect what the bible means by God’s sovereignty as well as God’s revealed plan of salvation.

“Now, in order for an appeal to special revelation, such as this one, to work, we have to insist on what I call the principle of semantic integrity. First, we must believe that Scripture is not only true, but interpretable and translatable.”

In other words we prohibit semantic word games, correct? :-)

“What this means is that in order for Scripture to have any real authority we have to insist on what I call the Principle of Semantic Integrity. Let's call it PSI for short. Words have to mean what they mean in the language into which the Bible was translated. If we say God loves people, the word "love" has to mean something recognizable as love in English. Otherwise, the translators need to go find another word. If it says he desires all to be saved, then the use of "desires" has to be consistent with normal use of the terms. Of course some deference must be paid to the difference between attributing something to God and attributing it to humans, but this deference can only go so far. Otherwise, the word just stops meaning anything. What is more, if the Calvinist helps himself to deviant meanings for the terms he finds inconvenient, the Arminian, the Universalist, or even the Jehovah's Witness can do the same thing. A postmodern nightmare looms.”

Right we avoid the “postmodern nightmare” if we avoid semantic word games and take words in their ordinary and plain meaning (or we take them as the bible writers intended them, not take them to support some extra-biblical system of theology).

“Does God love those whom he has not elected?”

Yes if He really loves the world as John 3:16 says he does (minus the semantic word games).

“People who are, basically, everlasting toast as a result, ultimately, of a choice by God? My inclination is to say that the only sensible response is to say no. God's love is only for the elect, and the lost are people God hates.”

As one noncalvinist says about this, what love is this? Reprobating people and predetermining they be hell bound before they set foot on the earth, is not **love**. Unless of course you are a Calvinist, then its all good.

“ But Calvinist D. A. Carson says "Of course I tell the unconverted that God loves them." Why, because, he finds attempt to exegete around passages indicated that God loves everyone to be unconvincing because there are "simply too many texts on the other side of the issue." In short, to deny God's love for all persons runs afoul of too much Scripture to be viable. Jesus loves me and everyone else, the Bible tells me so.

What he proposes is, I think, a mainstream Calvinist response, which is that although God loves everyone, his love for some is not an electing love. That kind of love is restricted to, you guessed it, the elect.”

Carson is a calvinist and is misleading. He will say that God loves all as John 3:16 clearly affirms, but then turn around and carefully craft multiple types of love and then argue that when it comes to wanting to save everyone, God does not have that kind of love for the reprobates (I mean he reprobated them to hell right?)

“But the question is whether someone God destines for perdition when he could have destined them otherwise can sensibly, in any recognizable sense, be considered to be loved by God. I think ordinary usage makes it clear that some conduct toward another person is inconsistent with the idea that God loves them.”

This is a key observation. This is a major reason why **Christians** of all theological persuasions find Calvinism and its doctrine of reprobation to be gruesome morally speaking, and biblically speaking not taught in the bible (unless one engages in more semantic game playing).

“Take for example an abusive husband. Ann Coulter once said "Liberals love America like O. J. loved Nicole." At some point abuse becomes so severe that no sensible person can reasonably call it love anymore.”

This issue of abusive husbands has particular meaning for me, as my wife once worked at a home for abused women as the children’s counselor. She would tell me stories of what these vicious guys would do, even to family pets, to torment their victims. I cannot accept that God predetermined (planned for and ensured for it to come to pass controlling every circumstance involved to cause it to happen) and desired for this suffering on the part of the women and children nor the sinful actions of the abusers. And yet under Calvinism, they have to believe that it was all predetermined to happen and exactly what God wanted to happen.

“Now, the Calvinist might respond "Ah, but these people in hell are getting their just deserts. God loves them, but is giving them what they deserve." But does this make sense? A family member of a victim who wants nothing more than to see the murderer get his just deserts doesn't love the murderer. The murderer's family member may accept that the murderer ought to receive just deserts and may desire that, but cannot be said to love that murderer unless he desires that that murderer cease to perform those actions that result in the murderer's receiving further punishment. Without a redemptive goal, love is just plain empty.”

This claim by the Calvinist that they are just getting their “just desserts” is vacuous. The dirty little secret about exhaustive determinism that the Calvinist tries to cover and conceal with word games again is this: if God predetermines all events as they claim, then every event of the hell bound sinner was predetermined and desired by God to occur in exactly the way that it occurs. Take the abusive husband. From eternity God planned for, predetermined, intended that he would be evil and vicious, inflicting serious physical and emotional harm on women and children. And then God “punishes” him eternally in hell for doing and living out precisely the life that God had predetermined for him.

“So the attempt to preserve the content of Scripture by saying that even though God predestines some to hell he nonetheless loves them strikes me as a violation of PSI. Now, if you notice, I have in no way appealed to moral intuition. I have not argued that if God is good God will not reprobate anyone before the foundation of the world. I am simply leaving the Calvinist with a choice. Either deny that God loves the non-elect, and call "Jesus Loves Me" sung by anyone who does not know himself elect an expression of false doctrine, or reject Calvinism.”

They do violate what you call PSI and engage in what I call semantic word games. And regarding the song “Jesus Loves Me” if John 3:16 is interpreted correctly, then the song is an expression of true doctrine. But if calvinism is true, then the song must be rejected and John 3:16 reinterpreted, actions of PSI must be conducted to clean things up and maintain and protect the Calvinistic system.

Robert

Anonymous said...

"This is a key observation. This is a major reason why *Christians** of all theological persuasions find Calvinism and its doctrine of reprobation to be gruesome morally speaking, and biblically speaking not taught in the bible (unless one engages in more semantic game playing)."

Aren't Calvinists christians?

Have to admit to being more than mildly amused at the sight of Christians arguing amongst themselves as to the true interpretation of their holy book. It all looks like semantic games to me.

Dmitry Chernikov said...

I endorse universalism. But suppose that universalism is false. To love for God is primarily to will good to a creature. So, it could be argued that God loves the damned for as long as they live in this world, insofar as He wills to them the power to acquire and enjoy temporal goods. But God neither wills them salvation and eternal happiness (and so does not love them to this extent) nor wills them eternal death in hell (and so does not hate them to this extent) but allows them to kill their own souls. (If a question arises why God would allow such a thing, the answer might be, "Why not; it's their fault and choice." or "Because it's beyond God's power to save them; they are necessarily depraved." or "It's due God's utilitarian tinkering with the world." or something like that.) It is only once they are in hell than we can say, perhaps metaphorically, that God hates them.

Victor Reppert said...

Victor, I may respond at more length later, but for now I'd like to question the biblical basis for (2). Or, at least, I'd like to question the biblical basis specifically for the proposition that God loves the reprobate. It seems to me that a Calvinist can consistently deny this. If you think he would run aground on Scripture by doing so, isn't the burden of proof on you to show this? Can you provide some passages from the Bible which state that God loves the reprobate?

Bnonn: By way of brief response to this, yes the Calvinist, as I indicated, escape inconsistency by just denying that God loves those he reprobates. This would involve saying that when Scripture says God loves "the world" in John 3:16, that love is really restricted to the elect. This has what I think some would consider to be an untoward result of making "Jesus loves me" a presumptuous song on the part of anyone who does not know himself to be elect.

But as I indicated, it's top Calvinist exegete D. A. Carson who says, on p. 75 of his Difficult Doctrine book, that "there are simply too many texts on the other side of the issue." It seems pretty clear that many Calvinists prefer to follow Carson in saying that God does love everyone. In my view they sacrifice semantic integrity in order to affirm what we have good reason to suppose the Bible affirms.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor,

I was wanting to put pressure on your point (2) because I think that other Calvinists can consistently deny it, and you haven't given any reason to reject such a denial. I actually do hold, as Carson, that God loves the reprobate. However, my own view of God's love still puts pressure on (2), because I don't believe that God loves the reprobate unqualifiedly. I will agree that it is inconsistent with both Scripture, and God's nature as love, that he would love anyone made in his image. However, I do deny that this love is a covenantal love; that it is like a brotherly love, or a love of commitment. The Bible uses the term in a lot of ways, and the love which God has for the reprobate, as exemplified in Matthew 5:43-48 which Darek mentioned, is manifestly an attitude of benevolence. It is not more than that. It is a straightforward moral attitude of goodwill on the basis of God's own nature.

Romans 2:4 and 3:25 indicate that this love does not exclude judgment and wrath; and indeed that God would be unrighteous not to punish sin eventually, even though he exercises "divine forbearance" by not doing so immediately. Paul says this forbearance is meant to lead sinners to repentance, and explicitly warns against presuming upon it, since by doing so sinners are storing up wrath for themselves on the day of judgment. So evidently it is possible for God to love the reprobate; yet for that love to be qualified with the certainty of later of judgment and wrath.

This indicates that (2) and (3) in your post above are not intrinsically inconsistent with one another. It is possible for God to love the reprobate, and for him to later exercise his wrath upon them nonetheless. And this is entirely consistent in turn with your point (1) under a Calvinistic scheme, because God's love for the reprobate is contingent upon their mere existence; not upon his purpose in creating them. Since God is love, it would be inconsistent of him not to have a simple moral attitude of benevolence towards people made in his image. This benevolence would presumably encompass a desire that they be saved. But this doesn't imply that he purposes to save them. Consider the structure of God's intentions in the Calvinist view:

i. God purposes to glorify himself through (a) the redemption of an elect people (glorifying his love and mercy), and (b) the reprobation of sinners (glorifying his justice and wrath).

ii. God brings about the created order through which he will achieve this purpose, thus creating sinners made in his image, using the fall as the mechanism for this.

iii. Through (ii), the conditions are established in which God, because he is love, has a straightforward moral attitude of benevolence towards all sinners without exception—even those whom he has purposed in (ib) to be lost.

As you can see, (iii) is actually contingent upon (ii), which in turn is contingent upon (i). Thus, God’s universal benevolence toward all sinners is actually indirectly predicated upon his prior intention to reprobate some sinners to hell. There is nothing inconsistent here; all that is being affirmed is that God, like us, is capable of complex intentions.

Under your view, however, you have a totally different state of affairs which leads to a number of inconsistencies between God’s actions and his intentions. I propose that it looks something like this:

iv. God purposes to create mankind to live in a perfect relationship with him.

v. Mankind falls, contra (iv).

vi. God desires and purposes to reconcile all of mankind to himself.

vii. But he then continues to create people he knows will not be reconciled to himself, such as those in countries which have not yet received the gospel, or those under the old covenant who were outside his chosen nation, contra (vi).

viii. And in addition, even those who can be reconciled to himself will not necessarily be, because of their free will, contra (vi).

This view of God, frankly, is insulting to a being who is unqualifiedly wise and powerful. Better put, this is a view of God in which he is not unqualifiedly wise and powerful. Rather than, from the beginning, declaring the end, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,” the exact opposite is true. Isaiah 46:10 comports exactly with the Calvinist superlapsarian view; and it contradicts the view you want to take just as aptly.

As regards the song 'Jesus Loves Me'—I'm at a loss as to why you keep bringing it up. Do you care if it is theologically errant? If you're holding to a theological position because you want to sing a children's ditty without being a hypocrite, I'd suggest that you have some pretty strange priorities.

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

The children's song simply points out the natural conviction that many Christians have the we can so to anyone whatever that God loves them, and can do so without putting a lot of asterisks and qualifications in doing so. Of course, I'm not making an inerrancy claim for it, but what I am doing is pointing to what many people read straightforwardly from Scripture.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Fair enough.

Victor Reppert said...

As you can see, (iii) is actually contingent upon (ii), which in turn is contingent upon (i). Thus, God’s universal benevolence toward all sinners is actually indirectly predicated upon his prior intention to reprobate some sinners to hell. There is nothing inconsistent here; all that is being affirmed is that God, like us, is capable of complex intentions.

Bnonn: It's just difficult to see what this benevolence amounts to. God's purpose is for those people to suffer the worst fate possible. Calling this benevolence or love just makes a hash out of the normal use of the word. That's the point of the Yankovic song and the Coulter quote, and the thought experiment concerning the person who wants nothing but revenge against his enemy. Calvinists say things that all them to say everything that the Bible says, but then when you look at what it amounts to, you find that nothing means what it ordinarily means when the words are used in English speech.

As for difficulties for non-Calvinistic positions, I have deliberately set that issue aside by introducing option 4, the claim that Scripture, even if inerrant, doesn't adjudicate the question of Calvinism. In that case the issue would have to be adjudicated some other way, moral intuitions maybe?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Bnonn: It's just difficult to see what this benevolence amounts to. God's purpose is for those people to suffer the worst fate possible. Calling this benevolence or love just makes a hash out of the normal use of the word.

But Victor, my entire premise was that it is not God's ultimate purpose which is benevolent (his ultimate purpose being their reprobation), but his contingent attitude. You're equivocating between God's purpose for the reprobate from eternity, and his straightforward moral attitude toward them in time. The latter is benevolent; the former is not. When Calvinists say that God loves the reprobate, they are not lying or violating semantic integrity. They are simply presupposing a certain context or category in which the statement exists. Similarly, when they say that he hates the reprobate, the same is true: a different context or category is being presupposed. This seems to me the only way to equitably and faithfully affirm both sides of Scripture's teachings about God's intentions toward the lost.

Regards,
Bnonn

Darek Barefoot said...

Bnonn

>>Paul says this forbearance is meant to lead sinners to repentance,<<

"Meant" would normally indicate purpose in a statement like this.

Matthew 5:43-48 is an exhortation for us to imitate God's attitude toward the wicked. Most of us take this to mean we should desire their repentance and hope that they do, in fact, repent. But we can only draw that conclusion if God desires and hopes for their repentance. I guess we are back to Calvinism's claim that God hopes and desires for something that he nevertheless purposes not to happen.

Robert said...

Victor you wrote:

“The children's song simply points out the natural conviction that many Christians have the we can so to anyone whatever that God loves them, and can do so without putting a lot of asterisks and qualifications in doing so.”

Actually I believe that “many Christians” base this belief not upon mere “natural conviction”, but upon biblical revelation. Specifically, John 3:16-17 is so clear and unequivocal, that it is upon this scripture that the song is based. Ask any Christian for the justification for that song and they will immediately refer to John 3:16-17. The passage says that God loves the world (which is a larger group than just those who eventually become Christians) and says that the Father gave the Son, Jesus, for this group. And this giving is in reference to redemption or salvation, clearly indicating that God desires the salvation of all people. If all of this is true, then calvinism is false. If calvinism is true, then John 3:16-17 must be reinterpreted by means of semantic word games, and we really should not sing this song or allow it to be sung as it is extremely misleading.

“Of course, I'm not making an inerrancy claim for it, but what I am doing is pointing to what many people read straightforwardly from Scripture.”

And again, the Scripture that they are reading straightforwardly **is** John 3:16-17.

Robert

Anonymous said...

Regarding point 4) and the ongoing discussion of John 3:16 and the scope of God's love:

1) Isn't it odd to interpret John 3:16 now in a way that would be quite different than the original listener?

2) Isn't it odd to interpret John 3:16 now in a way that would be quite different than somone reading it in 75 A.D.?

3) Does one always need Romans 9 as a hermeneutic for the whole Bible?

Jason Pratt said...

Dom,

For the sake of those who don't have Bibles handy, or (like me {g}) are kind of lazy, the relevant verses of GosMatt read (NASB):

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR' and hate your enemies.

"But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, in order that you may be (or show yourselves to 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.

"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."

So, the injunction to pray for those who persecute us so that we may be perfect (that's a strong word) as our Father in the heavens is perfect, is supposed to amount to a sort of incidental benevolence and feeling of goodwill toward those who persecute us? We can have a sort of secondary feeling of love toward them, and even some polite shows of affection, but not purpose their reconciliation with us?

This is certainly not what I was taught! Nor was I taught to be partial about this; though naturally, being only human and a sinner, I cannot help but be only partial about it. But then, I am not love and fair-togetherness in my own essential being, as God is.

But then again, most Calvs I've met, when it comes down to it, are required to deny that God is love and active fair-togetherness in His own essential being. That pretty much parallels denying that God's ultimate purpose is benevolence, even in His wrath.


Also, not incidentally, I find when I read the scriptures that God's attitude toward sinners at any particular stretch of natural time may be (literally 'temporarily') hostile, but that His ultimate purpose is benevolence and reconciliation with them. Which certainly comports better with the doctrine that God is love. (It also comports extremely well with God's practices toward us who once were lost but now are found. {s})

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Dom (again), backing up a bit:

(btw, Anon, I very much love Romans 9. {universalistic g!})

{{iv. God purposes to create mankind to live in a perfect relationship with him.

v. Mankind falls, contra (iv).}}

As I recall, you yourself just agreed (as if it was a point in Calvinism's favor) that God can have complex purposes. Are you recanting this now?

After all, "we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", including under Calvinism last time I checked. Did God not purpose to create at least the elect to live in a perfect relationship with him? And yet we have fallen, too, and still do sins. (I am supposing that you consider yourself to be one of the fortunate elect, and also a sinner. If not one and/or the other, let me know and I'll modify my appeal. {g})

Or, possibly, you didn't mean to imply that (iv) is one of the 'numerous inconsistencies' unique to non-Calv positions. In which case, please disregard my comment on it.

{{vii. But he then continues to create people he knows will not be reconciled to himself, such as those in countries which have not yet received the gospel, or those under the old covenant who were outside his chosen nation, contra (vi).}}

Obviously a problem for Arminians, I would agree. {s}

{{viii. And in addition, even those who can be reconciled to himself will not necessarily be, because of their free will, contra (vi).}}

This is why I would bet on God, not on sinners. {g} But I do acknowledge that those will not be reconciled so long as they refuse to be reconciled.

JRP

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

So, the injunction to pray for those who persecute us so that we may be perfect (that's a strong word) as our Father in the heavens is perfect, is supposed to amount to a sort of incidental benevolence and feeling of goodwill toward those who persecute us? We can have a sort of secondary feeling of love toward them, and even some polite shows of affection, but not purpose their reconciliation with us?

Jason, (a) I never used the word "incidental". I said God's love was contingent. I choose my words carefully. "Incidental" connotes more than mere metaphysical contingency, as I suspect you are quite aware. The contingency of God's love doesn't make it less real or genuine, as if he can have insincere moral attitudes. But a real, sincere, genuine moral attitude does not have to be determinative. (b) Christians are also God's enemies before they are converted. (c) Does God pray for his enemies?

But then again, most Calvs I've met, when it comes down to it, are required to deny that God is love and active fair-togetherness in His own essential being. That pretty much parallels denying that God's ultimate purpose is benevolence, even in His wrath.

(d) Why would Calvinists need to deny that God is love? Maybe you mean that Calvinists deny that God is only love in his essential being; as if there is nothing else. That would make sense, since you imply that God's ultimate purpose is benevolence, rather than his own glory. Naturally a Calvinist will deny such nonsense.

(e) As regards God's complex intentions, I think it's clear that I was showing an inconsistency between God's ultimate purpose under a non-Calvinistic model, as compared to the consistency under the Calvinistic one. Your objection is misplaced.

Regards,
Bnonn

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor, further to my previous comment, I appreciate that you are trying to offer a more nuanced and robust critique of Calvinism than you have in the past. However, as in the past, this critique evidences a certain ignorance of Calvinist literature on the topic(s) with which it attempts to interact. For example, consider what Dabney says on this very issue:

---
For if God actually has a state of pity towards the sinner that dieth—although it does not rise to the executive grade of a volition to save him—why should he not say in his word that he has it? It is the exact expression of the state of the case. Washington had a sincere sentiment of compassion for André, which patriotism, wisdom, justice, restrained from the release of the criminal. Why should he not express it? Why should he not permit it to prompt him to send the condemned man comfortable food from his own table, and to protect him from every needless indignity? He would be an impertinent caviller, indeed, who should ask, Cui bono? or should argue that all these manifestations of magnanimous tenderness were futile or deceptive, because still they permitted the destruction of their object. Cui bono? Who does not perceive these good ends: that the virtue and philanthropy of him who was to be the great pattern of American manhood might have their appropriate manifestation. That the claims of the divine attribute of pity might be illustrated for us all in our provocations by the homage of a Washington. That the unavoidable rigors of war might be mitigated so far as justice allowed. Now, our God is as high above the noblest human ruler as the heavens above the earth. But we see not why this fact destroys the propriety of his glorifying his own infinite goodness in the parallel way. Being omniscient, he is able to hold all the multifarious ends of his vast kingdom, from its foundation to its everlasting future, together in his mind. His government is, therefore, just so much the more a connected whole than that of any wise creature. Must it not follow that there is far more of inter-adjustment in his own views and aims? Among all those countless subordinated aims, the honor of his own character, as infinitely holy, equitable, true, and benevolent, is properly the ultimate convergent end. Hence it is worthy of him, not only that he should so reveal himself as to secure the salvation of the particular objects of his mercy, but that he should so fulfil his legislative functions, irrespective of men's choosing to hear or to forbear, as to clear all his attributes of purity and goodness at once. Just as it is most right and worthy that he should tell men their duty correctly, whether he foresees their obedience or disobedience; so it is most worthy of his truth and benevolence that he shall acquit himself by exhorting men from their own self-destruction, whether they reject or accept his mercy.
---
Robert L Dabney, God's Indiscriminate Proposals of Mercy (http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/dabney/mercy.htm).

As you see, the question you raise has certainly occurred to Calvinists in the past, and has been examined in detail by them. I'm not suggesting that you need to read through great volumes before you can validly critique the Calvinist position on a given area of theology; but surely you'd find it helpful to familiarize yourself with the standard Calvinistic views on that area. There are plenty of summaries available on Google, which will point you to the pertinent sections of the works of the great Calvinist theologians.

Regards,
Bnonn

Victor Reppert said...

Are you aware that Walls and Dongell deal with the exact Washington and Andre example that you are bringing up here?

But my argument relies on an understanding of language and its use. The "two wills" position rings hollow, as do the way in which God can be said to "love" someone who is ultimately condemned eternally. Look at the way the words like "wills" and "loves" are used in ordinary speech, and we find that these uses just don't capture what those words mean.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I wasn't aware of that, no. But in what way have I not addressed your objection about semantic integrity in my previous comments?

Robert said...

“But my argument relies on an understanding of language and its use. The "two wills" position rings hollow, as do the way in which God can be said to "love" someone who is ultimately condemned eternally. Look at the way the words like "wills" and "loves" are used in ordinary speech, and we find that these uses just don't capture what those words mean.”

The “two wills” nonsense allows the determinist to mask contradictions and make them more palatable. It is significant that when people are attempting to manipulate others with words, they will use ordinary words, but not with the normal or ordinary meanings attached to them. Reminds me of Orwell’s “Animal Farm” where all the animals are “equal”, some **more equal** than others.

Regarding the two wills verbal slight of hand shell game. There is the secret and sovereign will says the determinist. This is God’s will for what He wants to happen in each and every circumstance. This “will of God” is always done and inevitable. Then there is the moral will, or what God **says** that He desires, and this “will of God” is expressed in the bible, it may or may not occur. Where the contradictions come in, is that God **says** things in the bible that we are supposed to trust in and believe and obey, but then the secret will has something completely opposite the expressed will, being God’s actual will His real intention, what he really wants to occur.

So God **says** “Be holy as I am Holy” in the bible. But then in the secret will He predetermines and ordains every sin that Christians commit. According to the expressed will we are supposed to be holy and separate from sin, but then according to the secret will we are supposed to commit every sin that we commit. This is a contradiction masked by the two wills language. Or take another example, which came up here recently. In Matt. 5 we are told to love our enemies so that we will be like our Heavenly Father who is perfect (presumably the expressed will is saying that we are to be like God who loves both good and bad people, so should we). But in his secret will, the lives he wants for the “reprobates”, the predetermined plan for these folks, and then their being eternally separated from God in hell, is what God really wants to happen (and by no stretch of the imagination can this be considered “love”). Victor you have been touching on this one lately: how can the bible say that he loves (as per Matt. 5, or John 3:16-17) “reprobates”, when the secret will desires things that in no way can be conceived as love? As one of my friends succinctly puts it: there is what God really wants, and there is what he tells us in the bible that he wants, and they are not the same thing. Well that is highly problematic and non-calvinists reject this as leading to false conclusions about the character of God. Another friend of mine describes it as: if these two wills are in existence, then the expressed will is just the facade, like those imaginary buildings in Hollywood movie stages where the building looks real from the front until you look behind it and see there is nothing to it, while the real will of God is what actually happens, the reality masked by the facade. When it comes to human persons I would not have much trust or confidence in someone who makes certain public statements that are accessible to all, when I know that what they really want and are planning is contrary to the publicly expressed statements. The two wills concept leads to all sorts of situations where God says one thing in the bible, but then what He really wants to occur, what will actually occur, is quite different.

Robert

Jason Pratt said...

Dom,

Incidentally, when you write that St. Paul says that forbearance is meant to lead sinners to repentance, this obviously cannot be in regard to the reprobates of Calvinism (or of the sort that you’re exemplifying anyway), as you have averred that God has no intention of saving them from sin in the first place, benevolent though He may be to them in ways that are... well... incidental to His ultimate purpose for them. {s} (Though you didn’t use the word “incidental”, that’s true. Do you deny that God’s benevolence to the non-elect is incidental to His ultimate purpose for the non-elect?)

Consequently, it’s pointless to mention this in connection to how God treats the reprobates. True, God’s forebearance to the elect sinners whom He intends to save would, incidentally, spare the non-elect in some regards. But that is beside the point. It isn’t love to the non-elect; it’s love to the elect, which the non-elect happen to benefit from.

{{[God’s love for the non-elect is] manifestly an attitude of benevolence. It is not more than that. [...] God’s love for the reprobate is contingent upon their mereexistence; not [contingent] upon his purpose in creating them. Since God is love, it would be inconsistent of him not to have [only] a [mere] simple moral attitude of benevolence toward [non-elect] people made in his image. [...] I choose my words carefully.}} [original emphases italicized; my emphases bolded; some brackets added for clarity]

May I please be forgiven for thinking that this amounts to an incidental benevolence? {s}

The ‘desire to save them’ (from their sins? from something else other than their sins?) might be ‘presumably’ there along with this, but it has to be something vestigal; it has nothing to do with God’s purposes for them.

Which brings us the notion of a God Who (supposedly) is love, but Whose love for the non-elect has nothing to do with His purposes for them. Thus, God’s purposes for the non-elect have nothing ultimately to do with what He ultimately is. At best you’d have to add “God is wrath” to the mix in some dichomatic fashion. “God is justice” won’t help either, unless you mean by that “God is wrath”, since as a universalist I can very easily and strenuously agree that God is justice, too. But I don’t have to claim that God sets aside His justice for His love or vice versa. (Or, worse, both.)

{{"Incidental" connotes more than mere metaphysical contingency, as I suspect you are quite aware.}}

Actually, in some ways I would say it connotes even less than mere metaphysical contingency. {s} Metaphysical contingency can still be important and something more than a mere “attitude” about something’s “mere existence”.

When you whiffle the love down to some kind of mere vestigal attitude, even if it’s “based” (for the moment and only for the moment) “on what God is”, then I call the result incidental.

Also, the moment you use the phrase “the contingency of God’s love”, you’ve eliminated any right to use the phrase “God is love” in an essentially meaningful fashion (so to speak). I can say that God’s wrath is contingent because God is not intrinsically wrath. I cannot sensibly say that God’s love is contingent and also God is love. (Nor do I.)

Admittedly, a contingent love of God wouldn’t make it unreal or not genuine--although, since He can stop doing that which is contingent (like wrath), I would probably have to contend that a contingent love is “less real” in some way (namely compared to God’s essential existence and characteristics). But that isn’t your main problem. Your main problem could be poetically summarized by comparing “the contingency of God’s love” to the great declaration of 1 Cor 13. Nothing remotely contingent about love there, and it’s the “more excellent way” that the apostle is calling us to aspire to. Is that, then, a love that is more than God’s contingent love?! (Or somehow less than God’s contingent love??!)

{{Christians are also God's enemies before they are converted.}}

Consequently, then, we are to pray for the eventual-Christian enemies who persecute us, but not for the others, so that we may be perfect as our Father in the heavens is perfect? (But since we don’t know who those are, we default to everyone, and so hope in practice for everyone? God’s more perfect contingent love, however, does not hope in practice for everyone nor seek their salvation from sin?)

{{Does God pray for his enemies?}}

“Father forgive them!” Um, yep, check. {g} I seem to recall the Son and the Spirit both making intercession for us with the Father, too. Though that doctrine has to be kept free of the notion that the Father wanted to do one thing but got talked out of it by the Son and/or the Spirit.

You might say that only applies to those enemies God intends to save from sin; which I would certainly agree with. We’d only be disagreeing about the scope. (I go with the scope represented by RevJohn 22, among other places.)

Relatedly, we are strenuously warned many times in the Gospels that we had better forgive our enemies and be merciful to them, or we are the ones God is going to zorch. (Though strictly speaking we’re all going to be salted with the everlasting fire of Gehenna, toward the goal of having salt in ourselves and being at peace with one another; or so Jesus promises in Mark 9:49-50. So the zorching isn’t hopeless, even for those Christians who refuse to have mercy on their enemies. {s})

I don’t intend to stand before the throne of the Lord of Justice and insist on not having mercy and forgiveness to my enemies! Even if I have to fight them (and I’m quite militaristic--see the icon of my novel’s cover over there on the right {wry g}), that’s very different from refusing to have mercy toward them or refusing to seek reconciliation with them or refusing to hope for their salvation from sin as much as for my own salvation. Nor am I going to deny (especially before the throne of God) that the Lord God saves or even that the Lord is Salvation. (We were warned in the strongest terms not to be doing that either, in the Gospels.)

How about you?

{{Why would Calvinists need to deny that God is love [in His own essential being]?}}

Discussed above. You’re doing so the moment you claim God’s love is only contingent, for example.

{{That would make sense, since you imply that God's ultimate purpose is benevolence, rather than his own glory.}}

Actually, I’m not the one contrasting or distinguishing between the two. {s} I affirm that God’s glory is fair-togetherness, and that this action toward fair-togetherness is intrinsic to His own self-existence as the self-begetting/self-begotten multi-Personal God. (I’m on record numerous times in the past around here, on this topic.) You’re the one making the benevolence out to be contingent; thus claiming that His glory need not have anything necessarily to do with His benevolence. i.e., God’s glory need not be benevolent.

You may of course prefer to deny that God in His own self-existent nature acts toward fulfilling fair-togetherness between persons. But then we will have more fundamental theological issues to be discussing. {orthodox g!}

{{As regards God's complex intentions, I think it's clear that I was showing an inconsistency between God's ultimate purpose under a non-Calvinistic model, as compared to the consistency under the Calvinistic one.}}

So, then, you were claiming that v. is an inconsistency with iv., unique to non-Calvinism. Just checking. {g}

So when did Calvinists start contending that only some of mankind has fallen? Or when did Calvinists start contending that God didn’t purpose at least some of mankind to live in a perfect relationship with Him? Because if Calvinists agree (which they do, last time I checked) that God purposes at least some of mankind to live in a perfect relationship with Him, and if Calvinists agree (which they do, last time I checked) that all mankind nevertheless fell (or at the very least that God saves at least some of the persons from sin whom He created to live in a perfect relationship with Him)...

...then I have to register a fuzziness on how your (iv) and (v) represent some kind of inconsistency unique to non-Calv positions.

(You didn’t bother to explain this, by the way. You simply rejected my attempt at giving you an easy face-saving out, by clarifying that you did after all mean to imply that (iv/v) is one of the numerous inconsistencies unique to non-Calv positions. And simply asserted my objection was misplaced, without even mentioning what my actual objections were. This can only look peculiar.)


{{For if God actually has a state of pity towards the sinner that dieth—although it does not rise to the executive grade of a volition to save him—why should he not say in his word that he has it?}} [quoted from Dabney]

Aside from Rev 22 (already mentioned), the Old Testament has frequent references to the pity and sorrow of God toward His rebel children who are punished and die “and are not”. I will suppose that this is what Dabney is referring to.

Dieth-ing, however, is not the end of the matter; which is why there is a resurrection of the evil as well as of the good. This is very well exemplified in God’s relationship to Israel: Rachel weeps in Ramah for her children, “for they are are not”, because God has punished rebel Ephraim. (And is God, Who is love, supposed to show less pity and grief for His rebellious children than David did for Absalom who died hanging with a bleeding skull and speared side from a tree, in the forests of Ephraim?! Jeremiah doesn’t think so!) But the prophet says that Rachel should be comforted, because God is going to restore her children to her.

Similarly, that famous “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God”, in Romans 9? That was typically a rebuke from God to those who believed God would simply abandon His punished children to permanent destruction and not save and restore them after the destruction. (Is 29, 45, 64. Jer 18 admittedly doesn’t talk at the time about restoration after the total destruction, but that’s certainly in there later: most famously in 31:15-22, which I’ve already referenced.)

Is 45 puts it best: “Shame on him [says YHWH] who argues with his Maker, though naught but a potsherd of earth! Shall the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?--your work has no handles!’ [or, “to its maker, ‘you have no hands”) Shame on him who asks his father, ‘What are you begetting?’, or a woman, ‘What are you bearing?’” Thus said the Lord, Israel’s Holy One and Maker: “Question Me on the destiny of My children? Instruct Me about the work of My hands? It was I who made the earth and created man upon it; My own hands stretched out the heavens, and I marshalled all their host. It was I who roused him [Cyrus, acting as a figure for the Messiah to come, pouring out destruction upon Israel] for victory, and Who level all roads for him. He shall rebuild My city and let My exiled people go without price and without payment,” said the Lord of Hosts.

(After which God shows that He will not only restore fallen rebel Israel but bring the pagans into subjection to her so that all nations shall give glory to God. For the Lord and Creator of heaven and earth did not create it to be a wasteland and a devestation. For God declares very strongly at the end of the chapter that He shall bring every knee to bow to Him--in the heavens and on earth and below the earth as St. Paul confirms the scope--and every tongue swear loyalty. This isn’t only about the salvation of Israel from rebellion after their destruction, it’s about the salvation of ‘Egypt, Nubia and Saba’, too.)

God does have pity on those in “the pit”, which is why the tree of life is in the pit with Egypt: so that even Egypt may rise again with the tree of life. (Not in those references, but I’ve definitely run across it somewhere in the Prophets. God willing I’ll find it again someday. {s})

{{He would be an impertinent caviller, indeed, who should ask, Cui bono? or should argue that all these manifestations of magnanimous tenderness were futile or deceptive, because still they permitted the destruction of their object.}} [Dabney again]

Supposing that the good ends Dabney proceeds to list would also apply to André (which is the issue at stake here), despite André’s execution: how exactly are these supposed to be something other than futile for André, unless there is hope for André after his execution? And if God parallels this in His infinite goodness, would there not be more hope for André despite his execution, not less?! (I mean less than whatever Washington, a mere man, might have been willing to have for André?)

Dabney doesn’t even address the former question (in the quote you excerpted anyway), and appears entirely willing to answer ‘no’ to the latter.

To which the semantic question again can be raised: what is the point of claiming God has infinite love (much moreso that God loves infinitely), if He is not loving those in hell? (Which as I've noted before many Calvinists would claim: that God shows no love, much less infinite love, to those in hell.) It would be like claiming God is omnipresent and also not present in hell. (Which, come to think of it, is a fairly common doctrinal attempt, too; though not something every Calv or Arm claims.)

JRP

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, If you're a biblical skeptic concerning the perspicacity of Scripture, just say so. I've recognized for some time that the Bible was not consistent enough to be able to forge a "systematic theology" out of it that could convince people holding differing theological views. Inerrancy is dead. But so is the myth of the infallibility of the magisterium of the Catholic church. So what's left? More questions than answers.

One cheer for Vic! Hip!

Victor Reppert said...

More precisely, what I believe is that there are issues which the Bible does not fully and completely adjudicate. Scripture leaves us with a jigsaw puzzle and doesn't tell us how to put it together. What I'm claiming we are not permitted to do is to render Scripture "consistent" by understanding words and terms in a way that violates ordinary usage.

Jason Pratt said...

In fairness to the Calvs, I'm less concerned with 'ordinary usage' violations (since after all our notion of what counts as even ordinary usage might not be the same as Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and street-Greek, and even that might not be what God would prefer us to mean by word usage), than with theological inconsistencies in their presentation.

JRP

(btw, congrats on the Blackwell natural theology commentary inclusion! {bow!}{g})

a helmet said...

I strongly disagree with Calvinsm especially insofar it is not derived by "Sola Scriptura" at all. I just startet another blog commited to combating Calvinism based on their own main scriptural pillars. You might check it out (http://combatingcalvinism.blogspot.com)

Greetings
-a helmet