Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bill Craig's Molinist Defense of Everlasting Punishment

I think I actually side with the Calvinists here (!) (But, of course, not only with them). A God with middle knowledge should be able to save everyone.

16 comments:

Steven said...

That's not true. It could be that some people would always freely choose to sin, even in Hell.

Victor Reppert said...

But presumably God could choose not to instantiate the essence of anyone who suffers from transworld damnation.

Steven said...

He could instantiate those people anyway to bring about some good, namely, the punishment of some sinners for his glory, or perhaps he uses them to persecute the elect so that they can grow in their dependence on him, or whatever. The Molinist can think like a Calvinist here, I think.

Victor Reppert said...

He could, of course. But don't Molinists want to defend an all-loving God that they think Calvinism ultimately denies? The point that Calvinists like Bnonn like to make about some forms of Arminianism is that ultimately God decides to create people knowing they will be damned, and even if their damnation is the result of free choice, God sees the damnable free choice coming and chooses to instantiate them anyway (and makes this choice before the foundations of the world). I believe that Bnonn means to make this charge with respect to a wider range of positions that Molinism, but I was saying that, as far as I can tell, Molinism does have this problem.

If an Arminian has to make all the Calvinist theodicy moves, it's hard to make a case for preferring Arminianism to Calvinism on the grounds that Arminianism has a better response to the problem of evil (or, in this instance, the problem of eternal evil) than does the Calvinist.

Though I will say that there are possible worlds a Molinist God can't instantiate, but a Calvinist God can. However, it seems probable that there are plenty of universalist worlds that God had the power to actualize, given Molinism.

Steven said...

Well fine, maybe if no matter what we can't find a way to say that God has love and a desire to save and positive, good intentions for everyone, regardless of our assumed soteriology, then we ought to abandon the idea altogether that God loves everyone, desires everyone to be saved, and has only good intentions for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Victor, the project of Molinism is to reconcile God's Sov with human freedom, not that other stuff you said.

bossmanham said...

A God with middle knowledge should be able to save everyone

Victor, Craig says this is true, but it would require God to strip us of free will. He contends that there is no possible world of free creatures where there would be no sin.

Steven said...

Suppose God knows of some possible world where everyone in the world will eventually freely agree to be saved.

But it may be that this is the case: in such a world, so few people are around to be saved that an atonement is not even worth it.

In which case, a world with an atonement worth making would contain some amount of people being damned.

bossmanham said...

Suppose God knows of some possible world where everyone in the world will eventually freely agree to be saved.

Craig's contention is there is no such possible world.

Jason Pratt said...

Bossman: surely WLC means that this is improbable, not impossible? To say that it is impossible, would be to claim that it is impossible for free willed creatures not to choose to continue being loyal rather than rebellious; which would be a contradiction in terms.

Can you give a link? Because I'd be very interested to see him saying (or rather trying to say) it's principly impossible.


Steven: {{But it may be that this is the case: in such a world, so few people are around to be saved that an atonement is not even worth it.}}

Christian theologians, though (and laity, too) have typically believed that if there was only one sinner, God would still atone with that sinner even if it still required something equivalent to the historical Passion of Christ (or even something worse!) I don't think this is only hymnic rhetoric; would any husband refuse to atone his erring wife (or vice versa) if he only had one wife, and only consider it worthwhile if he had a hundred erring wives?--is that how true love is? Is that the parable of the lost sheep?--that the angels rejoice more over the 99 lost sheep recovered than they do over the one that stays in the fold, and the shepherd only waits until enough are lost before going out (and moreover persisting) to rescue them?

I think I recall reading something else, but I've admittedly slept since then. {lopsided g}

JRP

Steven said...

Suppose there are only a few hundred people on earth, and the worst sin they've ever committed among themselves is a white lie or so.

Is it worth an incarnation and an atonement for that?

Anonymous said...

Is a “white lie” sin? If the answer be yes then an incarnation and atonement would be needed in order to be reconciled again with a HOLY God.

Jason Pratt said...

Steven,

I don't consider the number of people to be principly relevant (except that it should be a real non-zero number of course); so reduce it down to only one person (as I myself mentioned in my reply) who has only told a white lie, out of any population of non-sinning persons (e.g. one lost sheep out of ninety-nine who never have strayed--or one lost sheep out of a total flock of only one, even.)

My first question for clarification is whether the white lie really is supposed to be a real sin (since 'white lies' are typically considered debatable as to whether they count as sins or not due to the intention involved.)

If so, then the principle question is, is it "worth it" for God to atone the sinner?--period. (Not yet considering what it would take for God to atone only one sinner whose one and only sin is a white lie, assuming a white lie even counts as a sin per se. Not-incidentally, the NT language is uniform about the sinner being the object of the action of {katallaso_} {hilast-} and cognates, i.e. atonement/reconciliation and propitiation; with God (Father or Son) usually the doer of the action, or in the couple of places where God is not in view as the doer at least the one who has been sinned against. I discuss both word uses in some depth here and here.)


Assuming an actual sin has taken place; and assuming that God is a self-begetting self-begotten trinitarian unity of persons as the eternally active ground of all existence (i.e. that orthodox trinitarian theism is true); then I would answer that it is not only "worth it" for God to act to atone the sinner, but that if God did not act to do so then at the very least the person would simply pop out of existence in annihilation (at least as a person, if not the corporate elements thereof) having acted against the ground of his own existence. (i.e., I am one of those theologians who affirm that any sin, no matter how 'small', is mortal apart from the grace of God--a position I develop against myself as a sinner here, among other places.)

I would argue further that for God not to act to atone the person with Himself, He would thus be choosing to act instead against the ground of His own self-existence, much like the sinner was doing (the principle difference being that the sinner is derivatively existent, not self-existent); the result being that God would cease to exist (just like the sinner in annihilation), along with all reality dependent upon God for existence--which is everything.

Meaning, we wouldn't be here to even be discussing the matter, if that was ever true.

(continued in next comment...)

Jason Pratt said...

(continuing with answer to Steven’s question)

As to what would be involved in God's atonement with the sinner: I am one of those theologians throughout history (Lewis was one as well) who strongly believes there would have been an incarnation even in a sinless natural world, as part of God's fulfillment of relationship with His natural creation; and furthermore (following from the principles of the Son's self-sacrificial action at the root of even God's own self-existent reality, much moreso at the root of the creation of any not-God reality), that such an incarnation would involve a passion and even a death and resurrection of God, even if there had never been any sin. (I think the passion would have been rather different, and far more related to the marriage of God to His beloved creation, as hinted at even in regard to a fallen creation in Rom 8:18-23. I will note that this expectation, of a self-sacrificial passion, even to a unique death, is rather more rare among theologians than that there would have been an incarnation after all, however.)

Consequently, insofar as any sin involves acting 'against God', I would expect any atonement of the sinner by God to involve the self-sacrifice of God in some fashion related to the extent of the sin. But I wouldn't necessarily expect the intensity to be equivalent to what happened historically. Similarly, I would expect there to be punishment of the sinner by God (effects of which would be shared by God with the sinner in solidarity with the sinner, as the Son on the cross is reckoned with transgressors), as part of the atonement of the sinner by God; but I would expect the intensity of the punishment to be (by God's grace) limited to what God deems sufficient to lead the sinner to repentance. It could be as minimal as anything imaginable; though I consider scriptural revelation to indicate that for at least some sinners the punishment will be maximally imaginable (within the constraints of God's nature including His necessary relationships with the sinner.) This is aside from what may be considered incidental woes devolving on the sinner as results of his sin, although scripture (especially the OT) tends to present God as having authoritative and active responsibility in this, too.

(The scroll of Joel is a short, interesting example of a number of principles involved in God's authoritative punishment of sin, including the goal of leading the sinner to penitence and restoration; even more interestingly, the punishers are regarded both as valid agents of God in His eschatological judgment and as villains who by acting as they do in God's judgment against Israel will themselves be punished by God afterward for what they did to Israel, while Israel will be restored.)

JRP

Steven said...

You used some strange metaphysical language (like the sinner's failing to existing, God's failing to exist if he didn't try to atone for the sinner) and I don't know exactly what sense to make of it.

It seems to me that if God had to atone for sin, such that if he hadn't he would fail to exist, then it hardly seems to be gracious on his part.

Jason Pratt said...

Catching up on correspondence after a bout of pseudo-flu...

Steven: {{It seems to me that if God had to atone for sin, such that if he hadn't he would fail to exist, then it hardly seems to be gracious on his part.}}

That’s an important objection, because if all the factors aren’t taken into account, it can easily look as though God only atones sinners out of what amounts to self-preservation. Somewhat the same way that scriptural ethics can be read as ‘do this or burn’: one one hand, we realize that even though this may be the most basic accessible introduction to training in ethical action (e.g. the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom), we are also supposed to grow to realize that, to put it (perhaps a bit over-)shortly, we ought to be good for goodness’ sake--not in order to achieve any advantage for ourselves (or not primarily for that reason anyway). We are led through disciplinary training to help hone our attitudes and understanding on this: count the cost before following Christ, because He will expect you to pick up your cross in self-renunciation for sake of fulfilling all righteousness. And so forth.

On the other hand, it certainly seems true in some way (and I would agree that it is true, from a standpoint of metaphysical logic), that the scriptural testimony is in fact turn or burn: there are consequences for sinning, and we aren’t going to like them, and it would be better (other things being equal) to avoid those consequences. I mean better for us, the sinners, not only better for our victims (and/or God).

Consider the example of, say, some unfallen entity, like the archangel Michael. One would suppose he isn’t so galactically ignorant that he isn’t aware that if he sinned there’d be a price he’d have to pay which he wouldn’t like: there’s Satan’s example in practice, beyond even the intellectual acknowledgement in principle. So, is he loving and just only out of a selfish rationale to avoid the result if he chooses otherwise?--or even out of any such rationale (in combination with other reasons) at all? Most ethicists wouldn’t agree so; and I wouldn’t either.

Ditto for God.

However, I would go even further in God’s case, because (if the theology I believe is true) God’s self-existence is due from the outset to gracious action on the part of the self-begetting and self-begotten Persons of His corporate unity: the Father graciously begets the Son, and the Son graciously chooses to self-sacrificially submit to the Father (completing the infinitely active circuit of self-existence, so to speak). The Spirit, the 3rd Person, notably proceeds in distinction compared to the begetting/begotten relationship. That’s a different kind of action of God: the first type of categorical action available for the Godhead would be the (entirely gracious!) processional generation of a Person of the Godhead as gift between the Father and the Son. The next type of categorical action (as far as I can tell) would be the generation of a not-God system of reality through the sacrifice of the resultant action (the 2nd Person) of God: again, an entirely gracious action.

When considered in this context--which was the context I presented it in--the atonement of sinners by God continues the gracious action of God. If God didn’t act graciously to even derivative persons, then He would be acting against the foundation of His own self-existence--just as when we do not act graciously to persons (even when we have to oppose and fight and maybe even kill them to some extent) then we are sinning.

When we choose to not act graciously, then we act in a way that would result in our annihilation except for the grace of God. If God chooses to not act graciously, then He would be acting in a way that would result in His annihilation--period. Because the grace of God, by which God Himself exists (and everything else in derivation), would then be broken by God.

JRP