Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Purpose for Reprobation? Not this one

“Victor Reppert said...

“Do we really need reprobates over in hell so that the blessed can appreciate the graciousness of their salvation? God can't impress it on them any other way? You've got to be kidding me.””

Hays then writes:


“Which is exactly what the Bible says.”

VR: I hope that we can avoid interpreting the Bible as saying something that absurd. Are we being told that Almighty God, in dealing with those who have voluntarily submitted their wills to Him, has to have damned souls in existence so that the blessed can appreciate the graciousness of their salvation? These are people, presumably, who in the course of being saved, have recognized their need for, and have received, the Redemption of Christ. People whose arms are open to receive whatever God has for them. But, if universalism turns out to be true, they're all going to think they earned their way into heaven even though God has explicitly told them otherwise???

If such a claim were biblical, it would be a case against inerrancy. Fortunately I think we can interpret the relevant passages differently.

16 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Do we really need reprobates over in hell so that the blessed can appreciate the graciousness of their salvation? God can't impress it on them any other way? ... I hope that we can avoid interpreting the Bible as saying something that absurd.

Absurd by whose standards? I see nothing absurd in this. Indeed, it's your denial that appears absurd—even disregarding the biblical evidence itself. Salvation, to be salvation, must be from something. What kind of person would not appreciate their salvation far more after witnessing the torment of lost souls in hell—torment in which they should, by rights, be sharing? I just don't understand your objection.

But, if universalism turns out to be true, they're all going to think they earned their way into heaven even though God has explicitly told them otherwise???

How does this follow? What does the number of people saved have to do with the means of salvation? Even if there is no actual hell to be saved from, this doesn't imply works-salvation. It just implies that salvation is an empty word. The gospel is empty news. Evil is an empty thing. Sanctification is an empty gesture. Everyone ends up in heaven anyway.

Dustin said...

What kind of person would not appreciate their salvation far more after witnessing the torment of lost souls in hell—torment in which they should, by rights, be sharing?

What kind of person would? You would honestly be made *happier* to know that, while you enjoy eternal bliss, billions of people no worse than you will be enduring unimaginable torment for all eternity? Do you realize the extent to which this makes you sound like a monster? Understanding what *would* have happened had you not been saved make you more appreciative, but knowing that other people are actually going through that...

It just implies that salvation is an empty word. The gospel is empty news. Evil is an empty thing. Sanctification is an empty gesture. Everyone ends up in heaven anyway.

So if God saves everyone... he hasn't saved anyone? There was nothing to be saved from? What on earth are you trying to say?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

What kind of person would? You would honestly be made *happier* to know that, while you enjoy eternal bliss, billions of people no worse than you will be enduring unimaginable torment for all eternity?

Did I say "happier"? Let me check now...no?! Astounding—you must have put that word in my mouth.

So if God saves everyone... he hasn't saved anyone? There was nothing to be saved from?

You appear to suffer from an acute deficiency in reading comprehension. Go back and re-read what I actually wrote.

Dustin said...

Did I say "happier"? Let me check now...no?! Astounding—you must have put that word in my mouth.

Okay, then--"more appreciative." I guess it depends on what you mean by "appreciative," but I'm not sure any definition will really help you out here. I mean, I might "appreciate," in a certain sense, the fact that I wasn't sexually abused by my father if I see that my sister was emotionally destroyed by being sexually abused by him, or I might "appreciate" a man saving me from drowning more if I watch a dozen other people die because he's arbitrarily decided not to save them, but I'm not quite sure that makes things any better...

You appear to suffer from an acute deficiency in reading comprehension. Go back and re-read what I actually wrote.

Okay. I reread it. Apparently my education is failing me. How does salvation being more effective make salvation an empty word?

Trav said...

The last line in intriqued me, Victor. Thinking about the whole Calvinism/Arminianism issue makes me question my views on inerrancy more than anything else.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Okay, then--"more appreciative." I guess it depends on what you mean by "appreciative," but I'm not sure any definition will really help you out here.

Since you're not merely illiterate, but also apparently too incompetent to educate yourself despite having the entire internet at your fingerips, allow me to help:

ap·pre·ci·ate transitive verb 1 a : to grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of [appreciate the difference between right and wrong] b : to value or admire highly [appreciates our work] c : to judge with heightened perception or understanding : be fully aware of [must see it to appreciate it] d : to recognize with gratitude [certainly appreciates your kindness] (Merriam-Webster Online, 'appreciate').

Notice that the primary definition is precisely the one I am using, and definition (c) applies also.

How does salvation being more effective make salvation an empty word?

You conveniently left off my three additional comments re the gospel, evil, and sanctification—despite that I made them in parallel to saying that salvation is an empty word under universalism. This may surprise you, but to a Christian, "salvation" and "the gospel" are intimately linked, even being interchangeable terms at times. Under universalism, this is not the case—indeed, the purpose of the gospel is itself fairly unclear. Similarly, under universalism, evil is trivialized, since all are forgiven and end up in heaven regardless of how heinous their sins, and regardless of their relationship before God while alive. And that leads directly into my comment about sanctification. If everyone is saved anyway, let's eat, drink, and be merry. Since all sins will be forgiven, let's make the most of it.

a helmet said...

Dominic B T,

What biblical evidence do you mean in your first comment?

Anonymous said...

Victor, a question: Say you got hit by a car, die, and then get ushered into heaven. You see angels, pearly gates, and feel some major heavenly bliss, or whatever you think heaven is like. Dead relatives come up to you and tell you this is heaven, etc. Now, this booming voice comes from the sky and says, "Hey Vic, I am God, there is a hell, look over to your right, and this is so that you can appreciate the graciousness of your salvation. And, might I add, Calvinists were mostly right (no is totally right but me). I predestined all of this to occur."

Okay, now grant that GOD told you all of this (and my story is obviously lacking, but I trust we get the point). Would you then say that this would be a case against God being infallible? Would you say, "I'll be damned, guess God lies after all"?

Blue Devil Knight said...

There has been no mention of specific bits of the Bible in this argument about what is Biblical. What are the relevant passages (I assume they are well known to many here, so please excuse my ignorance).

Jason Pratt said...

BDK: there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of relevant passages on all sides of the question. It would literally take books to ref and discuss them all.

The particular passage being reffed by Steve in his reply to Victor from the previous thread, is the famous Rom 9:22-24 (plus surrounding contexts, of course).

NASV (maybe the previous edition from current release--my copy is a little old) reads: "What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And (He did so) in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (even) us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles."

The Greek (USB 4th edition) reads:

22: ei de thelo_n ho theos endeixasathai te_n orge_n kai gno_risai to dunaton autou e_negken en poll(i)e_ makrothumia skeue_ orge_s kate_rtismena eis apo_leian

23: kai hina gno_ris(i)e_ ton plouton te_s doxe_s autou epi skeue_ eleous ha proe_toimasen eise doxan

24: hous kai ekalesen he_mas monon ex Iudaio_n alla kai ex ethno_on


The text is very settled in transmission, except for the conjunction {kai} at the beginning of verse 23 being absent in some texts (probably because its inclusion looks grammatically difficult). In the Greek above I've put underscores after long 'o' and long 'e', and parenthesized sub-iotas.

JRP

Victor Reppert said...

Let me reiterate my point. We're talking about the blessed in heaven. We are talking about people who have received the redemption of Christ and are getting ready to enjoy God forever. What this is telling me is that God, who is omnipotent, somehow needs to have a predestined hell containing millions of people, otherwise the blessed will lack something in their appreciation for the graciousness of their salvation. You are telling me that a God who sovereignly created the world, had the world go precisely according to the plan he set before the foundation of the world, down to the falling of the smallest leaf (and yes, Mike Darus, you can have Calvinism without this, but Bnonn and Steve are theological determinists), that this God can't produce the necessary appreciation any other way. In short, the damnation of millions of souls is a means to an end that God could produce by, figuratively, snapping his finger. Or by showing everyone pictures of fictitious denizens of hell and saying that, of course, he could have done that to the blessed (who, given universalism, would now be everybody). I am inclined, paradoxically, to ask the Calvinist "What part of sovereign don't you understand?"

Of course Calvinists could say that the Bible teaches that this is what God actually did, not that he could not produced the same effect in a different way. I don't think Scripture teaches anything of the sort. Still, if we say this, then we have no real explanation whatsoever for why God, when ex hypothesi it was strictly up to him, elected to actualize a world with reprobates as opposed to a universalist world, since the very effect toward which God was aiming could have been achieved in ways that don't require so much pain being inflicted on so many people.

Now I do understand that the reason for a reprobate world might be completely opaque to humans, so the Calvinist can make a mystery maneuver here if he wants to. Mystery maneuvers are, however, epistemically expensive. If a mystery maneuver has to be made, I prefer to place it with my ability to interpret Scripture as opposed to the character of God.

Jason Pratt said...

BDK,

Incidentally, I didn't mean to imply that you were asking for all the passages, nor that you didn't realize there were so many. I meant that as more of an editorial remark: as important as this passage is, it's part of a cumulative case.

(Which does introduce the question of principles by which to interpret some passages in light of others, where that turns out to be necessary. So, to give a pertinent example, should we interpret this passage in light of immediately preceding verses, or the other way around, or is there any need at all to use one for interpreting the other? If context from previous verses is important, should we consider St. Paul's quotation from the OT important for understanding this passage?--and if so, which verse or verses? And how far in context around those verses? Or should we consider the OT passages to be explained by how Paul uses them here? Etc.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Meanwhile, although I could write at length (speaking actually as a universalist) about various universalistic approaches to salvation (only one far-left version of which is being mentioned by Dom--one I absolutely reject), I'm leery about going much further off the topic of Victor's original post.

Though on the other hand, Victor has already created a new post where the original topic here would also be discussed. But then, anyone reading the original topic material wouldn't be able to know that this new topic (universalistic concepts of salvation) is now being discussed in the comments.


After pondering for a while, I think I may wait until Victor creates (or maybe reposts?) a new original post for that topic, so as to minimize topical mis-expectation by readers.

JRP

Dustin said...

Notice that the primary definition is precisely the one I am using, and definition (c) applies also.

Yes, exactly. That's what I was saying. If I see that my father emotionally destroyed my sister my sexually abusing her, that I will "grasp the nature, worth, quality, or significance of" not being sexually abused more--but I certainly won't then say, "Gee, Dad, thanks for sexually abusing her!" I'm having trouble seeing--especially when, as Victor has pointed out, God *could* have made us more appreciative in some other, less heinous way--this is supposed to morally salvage your theology.

This may surprise you, but to a Christian, "salvation" and "the gospel" are intimately linked, even being interchangeable terms at times. Under universalism, this is not the case—indeed, the purpose of the gospel is itself fairly unclear. Similarly, under universalism, evil is trivialized, since all are forgiven and end up in heaven regardless of how heinous their sins, and regardless of their relationship before God while alive. And that leads directly into my comment about sanctification. If everyone is saved anyway, let's eat, drink, and be merry. Since all sins will be forgiven, let's make the most of it.

You seem to have a very flawed understanding of universalism. It does not (or at least, does not have to) teach that there is no punishment after death, or that our actions have no eternal consequences, or that Christ's work was/is not necessary for salvation. It only teaches that, at some point, all will eventually be saved.

As for trivializing evil, yes, a universalist thinks Hitler won't be tortured for ever. You, however, think that each of the Jews Hitler killed will, despite the fact that God could save them, endure unending torment for all eternity. Each of them will suffer more than the sum total of earthly suffering throughout all of history, and after that, they will not be one-one thousandth closer to relief. And you consider this not only acceptable, but the plan of a morally perfect being. So um yeah.

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Jason: thanks. One thing that makes it hard to interpret is the "what if" at the start of the passage (I include three translations, including the NASV provided by Jason, for comparison). Because the passage starts with 'what if', it isn't clear that the text is saying the bits quoted are what truly happened, but because it is hypothetical it could just be something to think about, a cautionary tale or something.

Obviously I am no theologian but the exegesis does seem very tricky with that passage. I'd be curious to see other passages relevant to Victor's discussion, as many people seemed very attached to what Victor was saying was bogus.

Reminds me of that bit in the Simpsons where Reverand Lovejoy says to Marge "See you in hell". he then walks out of the Simpson's house, and then pokes in his head to clarify, "From heaven."

Including the Greek, is, well, lost on me, but very cool nonetheless.

NASV:
"What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And (He did so) in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, (even) us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles."

New Int Ver:
" 22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?"

King James:
" 22What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, 24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?"