Friday, September 18, 2009

A Thought Experiment for Calvinists

Suppose the best reading of Scripture were to yield the following version of Calvinism: God before the foundation of the world chose some for salvation and some for damnation, and what is more, we can be sure that everyone with black skin has been preordained for damnation.

Would such a God be worthy of worship?

19 comments:

steve said...

When you resort to purely hypothetical interpretations of Scripture, that's a backdoor admission that you lost the exegetical side of the debate. I appreciate your tacit admission of defeat. Just keep waiving the white flag.

drwayman said...

Dr. Reppert - you have truly hit the nail on the head. Calvinism is a mistaken theology. No reasonable person would accept the premise that people with dark skin are automatically damned. However, some branches of Christianity have no qualms in believing that God automatically reprobates certain individuals.

steve said...

Wayman illustrates how quickly Arminians are prepared to sell out the authority of Scripture in their opposition to Calvinism.

Reppert is using the same tactics that homosexual activists use. They begin with the postulate that since God is love, a loving God wouldn't condemn homosexuals. Having stipulated that unacceptable consequence, they then proceed to reinterpret Rom 1 and other offending passages to neutralize the Biblical witness against sodomy since, from their viewpoint, any possible interpretation of Rom 1 is preferable to one which condemns sodomy or lesbianism.

But Scripture means whatever it means, whether we like it or not. Reppert is using "interpretation" as a stalking horse to undermine the inspiration and authority of Scripture in case it comes into conflict with his "intuitions."

In addition, pigmentation is not a culpable condition, like sin. The fact that Wayman thinks the two are interchangeable may say something about his teutonic Aryan sympathies, but it says nothing about Calvinism.

Robert said...

“Dr. Reppert - you have truly hit the nail on the head. Calvinism is a mistaken theology. No reasonable person would accept the premise that people with dark skin are automatically damned. However, some branches of Christianity have no qualms in believing that God automatically reprobates certain individuals.”

I really don’t like racial prejudices and other prejudices that come from hateful hearts. And they have certain common features, such as the racist decides beforehand, completely apart from what the person does or what kind of a person they are, that an entire class of human persons is worth being hated and mocked and destroyed. And for the racist if someone is from that class of hated non-persons, then anything evil done to them is justified. For the Nazis it was the Jewish race that needed to be eliminated by any means at their disposal. For the KKK it was the blacks. I find these groups and their actions to be morally reprehensible and showing the most ugly aspects of what humans are capable of.

And yet if the calvinists are correct about God and the “reprobates”, then God is the ultimate racist.

He decides beforehand that certain individuals will be part of the class of reprobates. He then hates everyone in this class regardless of what they do or what kind of person they are. He just hates them because they are reprobates (and he decided they would be in the reprobate class, the class of those “automatically damned”). And the calvinists just can’t understand why non-Calvinists find their system to be so morally objectionable. That is like the Grand Dragon or Imperial Wizard not understanding why non-racists find their beliefs and practices to be morally objectionable. The parallels between racists like the KKK and the Nazis and the God of calvinism who reprobates most of the human race for his pleasure are chilling.

Robert

Joe Carter said...

The problem with such thought experiments are that they are antithetical to Christianity. When we put ourselves in the place of judging whether God is worthy of worship or not, we cease to be creatures and put ourselves above the Creator.

I would also say that you are dangerously close to saying that if Calvinism is true then you don't want to be a Christian. I certainly hope that is not the case and that you are not attempting to put your own morality and wisdom above God's.

a helmet said...

Robert,

Very good thougths. Besides that, the doctrines of grace are biblically absoltely unsustainable, a fact I don't tire demonstrating.

-a helmet

D.J. Lower / KKairos said...

"They begin with the postulate that since God is love, a loving God wouldn't condemn homosexuals."

This case is not at all the same as Calvinism. In Calvinism, if you're damned, there's not a damn thing you can do to change it. General staunch Christianity, at least the reasonable branches, distinguish homosexuality (state) from going out (or in) and having gay sex--thus the condemnation is something that a person can change, unlike Calvinist reprobation which the person can do nothing to change.

I personally find this thought experiment uncharitable, or at least uncharitably phrased. But I think Reppert's point might be to get people to ask if the arbitrariness is correct. Just like persons with different colors of skin are all still persons, reprobate sinners and saved sinners are all still (at least before the elect get their grace) sinners.

Robert said...

Steve Hays wrote:

“Wayman illustrates how quickly Arminians are prepared to sell out the authority of Scripture in their opposition to Calvinism.

Actually it is because we believe that scripture has authority that we accept scripture and reject the Calvinistic system.


“But Scripture means whatever it means, whether we like it or not. Reppert is using "interpretation" as a stalking horse to undermine the inspiration and authority of Scripture in case it comes into conflict with his "intuitions."”

Scripture does mean whatever it means. And calvinists reject the plain and clear teachings of scripture because of their false man invented system of theology. You really can’t be any more plain and clear than when God says “For God so loved the world that . . .” We take it to mean what it was intended to mean. Necessatarians on the other hand have to **reinterpret** texts like John 3:16 to fit their a priori system, so they lose their plain and clear intended meanings. And in so doing they are attempting to take truth away from the church. Fortunately the vast majority of Christians have seen through this little calvinist magic trick.

And my intuition that racism is wrong does not conflict with scripture but is supported by scripture. And your system of theology which makes God into the worst racist in existence is contrary to both my intuition and the scripture. So both our intuitions and scripture are against the racist Calvinistic theology. The theology that makes God a racist against the reprobates. With the non-reprobates then wearing the white sheets and justifying and rationalizing their hatred. And like the KKK the calvinists have the gall to use scripture to justify and rationalize their hatred.

“In addition, pigmentation is not a culpable condition, like sin. The fact that Wayman thinks the two are interchangeable may say something about his teutonic Aryan sympathies, but it says nothing about Calvinism.”

The dirty little secret Hays keeps putting under the rug or hiding in the closet is that if all events are predetermined by God (as Hays wishes were true) then God predecides every choice that we will make. And so every time we sin we are only doing what God predecided in eternity that we would do and then ensures that we do in time by controlling us and forcing us to do the sins that he predecided that we would do. God makes all of the choices; we just carry out the orders as he controls us and forces us to do what we do like the good sock puppets that we are. And being forced to do things, is not coercion against our will, rather, it is being forced to do things because he directly and completely and continuously controls our wills.

Oh and Steve if anything I say here upsets you or frustrates you, (assuming your system to be true), then I am only following orders, only doing what I was controlled to do. I couldn’t help myself, it was impossible for me to do otherwise. So if you have a problem with anything I say then take it up with your puppet master version of God.

Robert

Blip said...

My gut tells me that it is wrong if God reprobates them because being black is a morally relevant feature when deciding who to reprobate. But not otherwise.

Is that OK?

Victor Reppert said...

Steve: Why do you think when I bring up other topics that I am admitting defeat in the exetgetical side of the debate? The point is this: Is mere power sufficient to make some being worthy of worship? Or do we have to see something in the moral character of this powerful being in order to make them worthy of worship?

When we say "X is worthy of worship" we are, I take it, making a moral claim about this being. In fact, as I understand it, the use of the term "God" actually implies moral approval, since I accept the definition of God that for a being to be God that being has to be omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good."

Joe Carter, I appreciate your entrance in to this discussion. But I would ask you, is creation sufficient for worship-worthiness? If I created a race of androids with the kind of rich moral life that we humans have, and I treated them the way the worst of slaveowners treated black plantatino slaves, would those plantation slaves owe Massa their undying moral approval and unquestioning obedience?

Further, I see no contradiction between the following claims.

1) Scripture is in fact inspired, infallible and inerrant, inspired by a God who is in fact worthy of worship.

2) On some possible interpretations of Scripture, (ones which I consider to be false), the being referred to in Scripture as God would not be worthy of worship, and therefore could not be called God.

Second, I don't think

1) Scripture is inspired, infallible and inerrant.

entails

2) Nothing other than exegetical considerations are relevant to the understanding of biblical passages.

I don't think an inerrantist about Scripture has to make inerrancy an absolute presupposition.

Where is the logical contradiction between these two claims. Where?

You aren't going to get a precise entailment relationship between Scripture and doctrine. Not going to happen. The Talbott essay gives you his understandings of biblical passages. There is that Hamilton essay on Romans 9. In fact, you can't go onto a website dedicated to the defense of Arminianism and not find some sort of analysis of Romans 9. The medievals said "authority has a nose of wax." The Bible, all by itself, is not going to grab us by the scruff of the neck and force all Christians to accept one particular solution to the question of Calvinism. This is not a matter of willingness or unwillingness to obey it, it is a matter of how interpretation works.

My expertise in not in biblical scholarship. But there are plenty of biblical scholars who

I don't see anything fundamentally un-Christian about saying that, as best as one can tell, certain moral characteristics of God make him worthy of worship which, if they were absent, would make God not worthy of worship.

There is an independent moral question of the goodness of any particular omnipotent being described in any particular holy book. We would insist on it where the Qu'ran is concerned. Why not where the Bible is concerned as well.

Robert said...

Victor wrote:

“Is mere power sufficient to make some being worthy of worship? Or do we have to see something in the moral character of this powerful being in order to make them worthy of worship?”

Well Victor if a Christian was really going to worship and ENJOY Him forever, what does it say of this supposed Christian if he/she delights in a sadistic despot simply because he is the most powerful being in the universe? Christians love the Lord because He is worthy of praise because He does have praiseworthy characteristics, not just because he is the most powerful person.

“But I would ask you, is creation sufficient for worship-worthiness? If I created a race of androids with the kind of rich moral life that we humans have, and I treated them the way the worst of slaveowners treated black plantatino slaves, would those plantation slaves owe Massa their undying moral approval and unquestioning obedience?”

Your illustration again goes to the point of whether we worship and enjoy God merely because we are submitting to the most powerful being, or whether he is worthy of praise. When Christians worship the Lord they don’t’ just sing about his power, but also about his love and his mercy and his kindness, etc.

“The Bible, all by itself, is not going to grab us by the scruff of the neck and force all Christians to accept one particular solution to the question of Calvinism.”

Put another way you can know the truth and still choose not to do it (cf. to him who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, it is sin) which is itself another evidence of the reality of libertarian free will. Ask anyone who preaches or teaches regularly if the mere presentation of the scripture alone results in people doing the right things. People can hear it and know it, but they have to choose to do it as well. The famous proverb says it as well: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink! :-) That is one of the major problems with many of these theological types by the way: they supposedly have lots of head knowledge but their actual Christian practice is far below what they supposedly know.

“I don't see anything fundamentally un-Christian about saying that, as best as one can tell, certain moral characteristics of God make him worthy of worship which, if they were absent, would make God not worthy of worship.”

Nothing wrong with this notion, Christians look at the beliefs of say non-Christian cultists and make evaluations where we conclude that the God they are presenting is both not the God of the bible and also not a God worthy of worship. What a Christian does (or should do, because they can choose not to do so) is to derive his/her conception of God from what God reveals about Himself in scripture properly interpreted. We aim to find this in order to be worshipping the true God and also in order to avoid the sin of idolatry/worshipping a false conception of God.

Robert

Dale Eisma said...

Suppose the best reasding of Scripture were to yeild the following version of Arminianism: God before the foundation of the world created a world where he foresaw that 99% of white people would be in certain circumstances where they would libertarianly choose him, and 99% of black people would be in circumstances where they libertarianly disbelieved in him. Would this God be worthy of worship?

Quick, get Plantinga, Craig, Fredosso, Flint, Blomberg, to name just a few, on the phone and let them know that Victor reppert has refuted Molinism!



Suppse the best reading of Scripture were to yeild the following version of Open Theism: God before the creation of the world created a world without knowing what his free creatures would do and, as it turns out, only white people believed in him, all people of color went to hell. Would such a God be worthy of worship?

Quick, get Hasker, Rhoda, Bassinger, Boyd, to name just a few, on the phone and tell them Victor Reppert has refuted open theism!

steve said...

Victor Reppert said...

"Steve: Why do you think when I bring up other topics that I am admitting defeat in the exetgetical side of the debate?"

Because you have a modus operandi. Because I remember, apparently better than you do, what you've said in the recent past. You said that if you were convinced that Scripture taught Calvinism, then that would be a reason to reject Scripture. Remember that?

So that's something you keep in your hip pocket to whip out in case you lose the exegetical debate.

Steven said...

I don't understand the line of reasoning here... My ideas of what is good and worthy of worship are to be valued over what scripture teaches? As if my intuitions and subjective values mean anything at all with regards to the way the universe is! This isn't rational; this is childish.

Gordon Knight said...

Of course from an open theist perspective, who is or is not saved cannot be determined by scripture, except perhaps in the sense that one believes God's resources are so great that its extremely likely that God will save all (my view) or, alternatively, in the sense that some people have characters so corrupted that not even God can turn them around. But not even God knows with certainty how this will turn out.

Victor Reppert said...

There is no conflict between believing that Scripture is inerrant, and believing that if one came to believe Scripture taught something that one in fact now believes that Scripture in fact *does not teach*, that that would be reason to doubt inerrancy.

Consider the following.

S believes in inerrancy.
S believes that biblical inerrancy is compatible with an ancient earth.
If S were to come to believe that no interpretation of Scripture consistent with an ancient earth were consistent with the literal acceptance of the Genesis text, then S would cease to believe in inerrancy.

All these can be true together. If we are assessing whether someone believes in inerrancy or not, we have to assess this relative to what the person thinks that Scripture actually teaches, rather than assessing it relative to what they say they might do if they were do discover that Scripture teaching something else.

How a Calvinistic God would reconcile me to the idea of reprobation in such a way as to permit me to worship him is difficult for me to comprehend. I sympathize with Talbott's statement 'I will not worship such a God, and if such a God can send me to hell for not so worshipping him, then to hell I will go'.

But let's put it this way. Suppose I became convinced that I couldn't deny Calvinism without denying inerrancy, and also that I couldn't reject inerrancy without undermining Christianity. (This is a real hypothetical scenario, but let's go there for a minute). Then I would be left with my intuition that this sort of God was acting wrongly, and what would I do with that? Could my intuitions be in error?

I think I would pose the question as follows. Can Calvinism offer any reason for worshipping their God that is not a dressed-up version of the might-makes-right argument? If no, then I'm with Tom Talbott. I won't worship on the basis of mere power alone. If yes, then I can imagine questioning my intuitions. There are plenty of possible all-powerful beings who deserve to be answered back to and not worshipped. Is there something better than a might-makes-right argument that can be made on behalf of a Calvinistic God? That would be the question.

But we are a long way from this situation. I will repeat that the closest I ever came to atheism was when I started reading the Bible Calvinistically at the age of 19. However, I don't see any superiority in Calvinist interpretations of Romans 9, John 6:44, Ephesians 1:14, or whatever the other Calvinist proof-texts are, to anti-Calvinist interpretations (Hamilton on Romans 9 looks pretty good to me), and since I agree with Steve that a consistent Calvinist has to deny that God loves the reprobate, and I find the attempt to reconcile this denial with John 3:16 and verses like it to be strained. So I'm not, at the moment, faced with the hypothetical problem I posed for myself above.

Victor Reppert said...

Steven: I don't believe that moral values are subjective, I believe they are objective truths. Further, what makes Scripture Scripture is that it is the word of God. What makes God God is that He is perfectly good. So we have to know what good is, before we can decide who God is, and we have to decide who God is, before we can determine what Scripture is. I don't see any way around this argument, and if you try to get around it you end up using a "might-makes-right" argument which I consider to be morally unacceptable.

drwayman said...

Dr. Reppert - In light of Steve's comments about me, I went back and did the math: 11:52-11:06=46 minutes. Maybe I should change my screen name to Flash.

Kyle said...

I've been ignoring this blog for a while, but this post is just too classy to skip. how's this one:


God before the foundation of the world chose some for salvation and some for damnation, and what is more, we can be sure that everyone who dies a Muslim has been preordained for damnation.

I think I'm okay with such a God.