Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My descriptive project on Calvinism and evil

Steve Hays seems to have thought that my most recent posts about Calvinism are implicit attacks, and that my disclaimers are phony. Even though most people know that I don't accept Calvinism, my project was descriptive rather than argumentative.

VR: The Calvinist has to say not merely that our conduct is sinful, but that our natural understanding of what is right and wrong is so badly tainted by sin that what we would ordinarily think of as bad really good if it is claimed that God has done it.


SH: i) This is one of Reppert’s conceited blindspots. In his furry little mind he imagines that deep down, in their heart-of-hearts, all Calvinists share his moral intuitions. Yet they’ve suppressed their moral intuitions to knuckle under the brute authority of Scripture, as they understand it.



But, speaking for myself, I don’t share his moral intuitions on a wide range of issues.



VR: I think choosing a world in which some people suffer eternally over a world in which they don't would appear wrong in most human contexts, and the only thing that can save the Calvinist is a greater good which is a function of God's unique status.



If I had the power to prevent the Holocaust and could do so in a way that was perfectly consonant with the all parties involved having free will in whatever sense of free will you are willing to recognize, then I would be considered acting wrongly if I failed to prevent it.

And the claim that God's chief praiseworthy characteristic is holiness rather than goodness was taken straight from Bnonn.

What you seem to deny is that human beings ordinarily know how to apply the term "good," and that the statement "God is good" means something based on some kind of commensurability between goodness as we apply it in human contexts and goodness as we apply it in theological contexts. Most moral theories, and even most moral codes, seem to include some requirement on our part to promote the happiness of others, although some put some people in the "not my neighbor" class.

In short, this is theological voluntarism in effect, with what I call the eliminative solution to the problem of evil. Let's look at the typical formulation of the argument from evil:

1. If God exists, then there are no gratuitous evils.

2. There are gratuitous evils.

Therefore,

3. God does not exist.

It seems to me that you a moral skeptic can get rid of 1 by saying that we don't have the kind of moral knowledge to identify gratuitous evils, either in this life or in eternity. We may dislike the fact that certain people are damned, especially if they are near and dear to us, but we can't use that as a reason to doubt God. This is what I mean by claiming that Calvinism invariably leads to the problem of evil being treated as a pseudoproblem.

So, setting aside your tendentious descriptions of our differences, I think my overall assessment of what Calvinism entails with respect to the argument from evil is correct. It is an eliminativist solution. You may in fact see that as a strength for the Calvinist.

I think you are right to raise questions about how I described the Calvinist view, in that I do think you are right in supposing that I was presupposing that there are general moral concepts that we can at least try to apply to God's actions, which a Calvinist could deny. Though lots of Calvinists tell me that their initial inclination when first becoming a Calvinist was to find it morally counterintuitive. Not every Calvinist is the moral skeptic you are.

It does matter to me that the project here was principally descriptive, an attempt to describe the Calvinist response to the problem of evil rather than an argumentative project attempting to show that Calvinists have it wrong. It seems to me that almost every time you sit down to your word processor you want to make some polemical point. That just isn't how I operate. Trying to "beat" the other guy, to show him or her up for a fool, has limited utility as I see it, because all that would show would be that my opponent wasn't all that great as a representative for his position, and surely there are better ones out there. The project of understanding the Calvinist, even though I disagree with him, is a worthwhile project in and of itself. You know that I don't agree with Calvinism, and you may try to "head off at the pass" some argument that I might make, but you should understand that I am not making one at the moment. If my statement of what Calvinists hold is inaccurate, then that is another matter. But there was not argument against Calvinism in my post, stated or unstated. You have to respect the content of the text. In fact, I always think twice about actually debating this issue. A big part of me wants to leave that job to others.

I do harbor a suspicion that, when everything is boiled down, the Calvinist theodicy is going to be a "might makes right" argument. But I haven't made that argument yet, of course. And it will probably turn out that I am too much of a moral realist to be a good Calvinist. But that is not part of the current project.

19 comments:

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Victor—

I think choosing a world in which some people suffer eternally over a world in which they don't would appear wrong in most human contexts, and the only thing that can save the Calvinist is a greater good which is a function of God's unique status.

But how many times does it have to be pointed out that this is not a Calvinist distinctive‽ Did God not choose a world in which some people suffer eternally under your own view? You've stated you aren't a universalist. And you appear reluctant to embrace open theism. So the answer, apparently, must be "of course he did". So why are you raising this issue with regards to Calvinism, as if your own theology is unaffected by it? What the hell, Victor?

And the claim that God's chief praiseworthy characteristic is holiness rather than goodness was taken straight from Bnonn.

Thankfully, I've never claimed that my particular beliefs are necessarily representative of all Calvinists. In fact, many of my views are not representative of the majority of Calvinists. Most are very reluctant to call a spade a spade when it comes to God, evil, and human free will. And most, lacking an awareness of the history of Calvinism, consider my view on the atonement to be all but heretical (James White would call me a confused Arminian).

That said, I do think that the term "holiness" summarizes all of God's attributes into a single term. But that said, I'd point out that the doctrine of simplicity in some ways makes that a moot point. Trying to play God's attributes off against each other, or prioritize goodness or love above the others, won't fly with me, and it shouldn't fly with anyone who holds to an orthodox view of God's nature.

What you seem to deny is that human beings ordinarily know how to apply the term "good,"

On the contrary, what we deny is that human beings know how to apply the term good, not in ordinary situations, but in extraordinary ones. There is no problem with using the term "good" in most cases of moral relationships between one human being and another. But there is a categorical difference between those kinds of moral relationships, and moral relationships between humans and God. It might be good, in relation to an old lady, for an atheist to help her across the road. But that doesn't mean it's good in relation to God, since "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin". And it might be evil, in relation to a group of people, for a scientist to wipe them out with a plague. But that doesn't mean it's evil for God, since "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein". It's not like this hasn't been explained to you before, so your continued harping on this point is baffling.

In short, this is theological voluntarism in effect

That's a slur; not an argument.

Victor Reppert said...

Why does theological voluntarism have such a negative connotation? Some people have espoused it, no? It's not intended as a slur. What it means is that Calvinists position themselves to throw any argument from evil out from the get-go, on the grounds that they don't have a conception of divine goodness that would allow anyone to point to anything as an example of gratuitous evil. They challenge the coherence of the very idea of gratuitous evil.

Technically, I think you would have to say that I reserve judgment on universalism. There are some biblical arguments for it, as there are for open theism. Doctrines like Molinism attempt to avoid what they take to be the bad consequences of Calvinism. But, then again, it may not work. I believe that a disjunction on non-Calvinistic views are possibly true. This drives you guys up the wall, I know.

It is indubitably easier to apply our moral categories to one another than to God, and a too-straightforward application of human moral categories to God leads to a premature victory for the argument from evil. However, if we widen the chasm between moral attribution as it concerns man and as it concerns God, then the use of the ordinary term "good", applied to God, becomes empty. One gets the sense that one comes to believe that we are supposed to come to believe that there is one being in the universe more powerful than any other, who created everything, and as a result of this recognition of power, anything he does is going to turn out to be good by definition.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

Why does theological voluntarism have such a negative connotation? Some people have espoused it, no? It's not intended as a slur.

Because it makes goodness a mere matter of arbitrary fiat, rather than something grounded in God's character. It's a slur to attribute voluntarism to people who have publicly repudiated that view as false and inadequate.

What it means is that Calvinists position themselves to throw any argument from evil out from the get-go, on the grounds that they don't have a conception of divine goodness that would allow anyone to point to anything as an example of gratuitous evil. They challenge the coherence of the very idea of gratuitous evil.

I don't see how voluntarism follows from challenging the coherence of gratuitous evil under a Christian worldview.

However, if we widen the chasm between moral attribution as it concerns man and as it concerns God, then the use of the ordinary term "good", applied to God, becomes empty.

Only if you're working backwards by applying human notions of goodness to God, instead of properly applying God's notions of goodness to humans. Steve has called you out on this several times—most recently in the very post you're responding to—as have I.

One gets the sense that one comes to believe that we are supposed to come to believe that there is one being in the universe more powerful than any other, who created everything, and as a result of this recognition of power, anything he does is going to turn out to be good by definition.

Inasmuch as divine simplicity holds that God's power is his goodness is his holiness etc, sure. But if you're artificially segregating power for the purposes of claiming that Calvinist metaethics boil down to "might makes right", then you're sorely mistaken. That's the charge of voluntarism that we object to.

Joshua Allen said...

For the record, Victor, I don't believe that you're as free from agenda as you try to seem in this post. But I generally like your approach anyway.

So far, I agree with Dominic, though -- the description you've put out there is by no means specific to Calvinism.

Victor Reppert said...

I should say rather that it shares a certain characteristic with voluntarism, and that is that the ascription of goodness to God is not really commensurable with ascriptions of goodness in human contexts. It doesn't even strike me as really analogous, even. In order for "perfectly good" to have a descriptive content (as opposed to an emotive one) you need to have a possible circumstance where you would say "If a supremely powerful being did that, He would not be good."

One could reply that God would not be good if he failed either to punish sin or to atone for it. But why say that? If the Omnipotent one had a different ethical character, and created the world, and then forgave sin without any atonement, why would we say that God would not be good? Who are you, o man, to answer back even to a counterfactual God?

Victor Reppert said...

So, Bnonn, I appreciate your pointing out a descriptive error, in that there is a highly significant difference between your own Calvinistic view and voluntarism. However, there is no difference that I can see in the implications for the relationship between God and evil.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

One could reply that God would not be good if he failed either to punish sin or to atone for it. But why say that? If the Omnipotent one had a different ethical character, and created the world, and then forgave sin without any atonement, why would we say that God would not be good? Who are you, o man, to answer back even to a counterfactual God?

The scenario makes no sense. God is a necessary being. You don't get counterfactuals where God has a different ethical character any more than you get counterfactuals where 2 + 2 = 5. Even saying, "If God did not punish sin, then he would be ethically deficient," is incoherent, since the statement is predicated upon the nature of justice as requiring punishment of evil—which is inherent to God to begin with.

Jason Pratt said...

Vic: {{It seems to me that you a moral skeptic can get rid of 1 by saying that we don't have the kind of moral knowledge to identify gratuitous evils}}

I think you meant they get rid of 2, not 1. (Since the challenge is against the claim of existence of gratuitous evils.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Dom: {{But how many times does it have to be pointed out that this is not a Calvinist distinctive‽}}

That's a very good point. Even non-open-theist universalists like myself have to concur that, even when considering a Boethian/Lewisian notion of God's omniscience and omnipotence (top-down at analogical right-angles to creation, rather than historically pre-determining as though acting within historical constraint from a temporal starting point), choosing a world in which some people suffer unjustly at all over a world where God ensures there is no unjust suffering (or maybe no suffering at all) would appear wrong in most human contexts, and the only thing that can save the ethical theist (including such a universalist) is a greater good which is a function of God's unique character.

Certainly the same must be true of Arm and Calv positions, too; and certainly the same would apply to the Arminian per se (in regard to a world in which some people suffer eternally) if it applies to the Calvinist. I am not entirely sure the Arm could avoid it even by appeal to open theism, but certainly an indeterminate appeal to open theism being possible after all maybe, doesn't avoid categorizing the Arminian position in parallel! (Since that can hardly shut out some form of non-open-theism being possible after all maybe either.)

JRP

a helmet said...

And the claim that God's chief praiseworthy characteristic is holiness rather than goodness was taken straight from Bnonn.

What's that supposed to mean? Holiness is the fruit of righteousness. The good fruit of a good tree. And obviously, righteousness is goodness, no?

Calvinism has enmeshed itself in such a mess that it's simply goofy how some proponents still keep babbling around the utter inconsistency and folly of their system.

a helmet said...

They challenge the coherence of the very idea of gratuitous evil.

The existence of gratuitous evil is the very basis for culpability. Yet calvinism doesn't deny the reality of human guilt. For if they did, the consequence of this (unreal) culpability, namely the exertion of mercy and justice, would be just as unreal also. The exertion of mercy an justice however, is considered to be the very greater good that is served by the existence of evil in the first place.

But if the evil is not "really evil", then the sinner isn't really guilty either.

Culpablility by definition is a contradiction in terms.
To be guilty simply by definition is to be NOT guilty at all.

Jason Pratt said...

Dom: {{Trying to play God's attributes off against each other, or prioritize goodness or love above the others, won't fly with me, and it shouldn't fly with anyone who holds to an orthodox view of God's nature.}}

I would be more impressed by this if you indicated how God always eternally acts in full and absolute love to the non-elect commensurate to the way He acts in love to the elect. Otherwise, the problem isn’t with universalists and some Arminians “prioritizing love above other attributes of God or playing them off against each other”. It’s with Calvinists (and some Arminians) prioritizng some attribute other than love above love, in regard to the hopelessly damned, and (certainly in my experience) even playing it off against love. (e.g. God does justice rather than mercy to the non-elect; or even mercy rather than justice to the elect.)

This is especially true if you agree that trinitarian theism is “an (rather the) orthodox view of God’s nature”. If (and only if) ortho-trin is true, then God is essentially love; consequently any doctrine that involves God refusing to act to fulfill love to and with another person, involves God being just as much of a sinner as any derivative person refusing to act to fulfill love to and with another person.

I don’t think I recall you denying that God is a self-begetting self-begotten interpersonal unity, eternally acting to fulfill coherent fair-togetherness (the term which from Greek we English as “righteousness”) between persons (at least of the Trinity); though of course if you are a tri-theist or a modalist or an Arian or a Muslim or a pantheist or anything other than a trinitarian theist, then you would have a very different idea of what is orthodox, and so could logically claim that God’s love is only contingent like His wrath and thus need not be expressed to fulfillment toward this or that personal object. (Or possibly you think that God being essentially wrath is an orthodox view of God’s nature.)

I will however point out that whenever I have brought up this topic in discussion with Calvinists here on DangIdea, I am routinely told that orthodox trinitarian theism is at best irrelevant to soteriological questions. (And often the retort is rather more derisive than that.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Dom: {{But there is a categorical difference between those kinds of moral relationships, and moral relationships between humans and God.}}

That would only be true if morality has nothing to do with the fulfillment of fair-togetherness between persons. But aside from this hearkening back to my observation that whenever I actually bring up God’s orthodox nature in these discussions I am routinely told His trinitarian nature is irrelevant to morality and soteriology, it ought to be blatantly obvious even on Biblical testimony that morality not only from man to man but from man to God (even setting aside whether this is true from God to man) is rootly concerned with the man fulfilling fair-togetherness in his relations with other persons, whether those persons are derivative humans (and angels) like himself or whether those persons are the compound unity of the Godhead. And frankly it looks blatantly obvious to me that at least some morality in scripture involves God acting in personal faithfulness to His creatures, too. (Moreover, this includes faithfully and ever-persistently acting to restore fellowship on our part with Him by triumphantly saving at least the ‘elect’ from sin: a doctrine that I have imagined, perhaps, was crucially important to Calvinist understanding of true Christianity, though perhaps I have been misinformed about that.)

Once those are acknowledged, it is simply ludicrous to propose that there is some sheerly categorical difference between human moral relationships and the moral relationships of humans and God; even if ortho-trin is dismissed from consideration on the topic. (Though I will point out that if there was such a sheer categorical difference in moralities, then the orthodox two-natures doctrine of Christ must eventually be rejected, or else accepted at the cost of rejecting any relevant connection of morality to the atonement of God and man through the actions of Christ in any way.)

That proposed categorical difference would mean, also, that it is in fact wrong to even suppose that “it might be good” for an atheist to help an old lady across the road. Or rather, the categorical difference would lead to absurd results like it really being good (as between humans) for an atheist to do so and also not really being good (because the atheist, at least in theory, has no personal relationship to God) but rather a sin for the atheist to help the old lady across the road--a categorical identification would mean either that the atheist cannot really be doing good (period) but only sinning to help the old lady across the road, or else that “inasmuch as you have helped even the least of these, My brethren, you have helped Me” and “whenever those of the nations that have no law, by nature may be doing this the law, these having no law are law to themselves, whoever are displaying the action of the law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying together and their reckonings between one another, accusing or defending in the day when God will be judging the hidden things of humanity through Jesus Christ. For the doers of law shall be justified.” (While the goats, who are surprised to hear that they have not been serving Christ, go in for some brisk eonian cleaning.)


Dom: {{But that doesn't mean it's evil for God, since "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein".}}

Which is purely an appeal to relative power-level; which is exactly the kind of ethical voluntarism Victor suspects Calvinism implicitly involves but which you insist you reject. (It’s not like this hasn’t been explained to you before. {wry g})

If you think it’s a slur to be accused of appealing to mere power-level as ethical justification for an action of God, then I recommend you appeal instead to something other than mere power-level as an ethical justification for God wiping out a group of people with a plague (for example).

JRP

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...

I would be more impressed by this if you indicated how God always eternally acts in full and absolute love to the non-elect commensurate to the way He acts in love to the elect. Otherwise, the problem isn’t with universalists and some Arminians “prioritizing love above other attributes of God or playing them off against each other”. It’s with Calvinists (and some Arminians) prioritizng some attribute other than love above love, in regard to the hopelessly damned, and (certainly in my experience) even playing it off against love. (e.g. God does justice rather than mercy to the non-elect; or even mercy rather than justice to the elect.)

What is this hogswash? I'm not playing your troll's game, Pratt. Insisting that God shows love to everyone is a patent example of prioritizing God's love above his other attributes. As if he's only allowed to show his justice in small doses, and has to kiss and make up with the reprobate afterward. Your pansy-ass nancy-boy God sickens me.

If (and only if) ortho-trin is true, then God is essentially love; consequently any doctrine that involves God refusing to act to fulfill love to and with another person, involves God being just as much of a sinner as any derivative person refusing to act to fulfill love to and with another person.

Garbage. If "ortho-trin" is true, then God is essentially justice, and essentially wrath, and essentially righteousness, and essentially all of his attributes. Your argument would only be sound if there was no sin. God is not under obligation to love evil. Like all universalists, your notion of love is depraved.

Unlike you, this is where I stop. I've seen you in action before, and I'm not wasting my time on your passive-aggressive heretical posturing. You're a wolf in sheep's clothing, and you're in for a nasty surprise on the final day if you don't repent.

8 said...

Any variety of monotheism which does not recognize merit, virtue and dare we say good works runs into the same problems that Calvinism does.

Which is to say, any notion of a G*d which has no relationship to human ideas of Justice is not G*d. Calvin the Reformer hisself did not quite meet his own criteria (and resides in Hades)


Vaya Con Deeos

Jason Pratt said...

Well! I’m finally (more-or-less) over the pseudo-flu, and in the process of catching up on correspondence from last month. (whew) So, let’s see what kind of logical arguments Dom put up in reply since I was last... ... um...

Dom: {{What is this hogswash? I'm not playing your troll's game, Pratt. [...] Your pansy-ass nancy-boy God sickens me. [...] Garbage. [...] Like all universalists, your notion of love is depraved. [...] You're a wolf in sheep's clothing, and you're in for a nasty surprise on the final day if you don't repent.}}

--AHHHHH!!! My eyes! The goggles!--THEY DO NOTHING!!!!

{g}

So anyway, having now dealt with the worthless ad-hom vitriol being thrown in my face in lieu of an actual point, I’ll consider the logical portions (such as they are), at least for the sake of other thread readers. (Especially if Victor reposts the thread eventually, since by now the thread has run off the bottom of the main page. Pseudo-flu’s fault, btw, not Dom’s, in case future readers are wondering; he replied very quickly, as can be seen by his time-stamp. I was the late one.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Dom: {{Trying to play God's attributes off against each other... won't fly with me, and it shouldn't fly with anyone who holds to an orthodox view of God's nature.}}

Actually, I agreed with that in principle, and so wanted to see how far you were willing to really go with that. Since in practice, this would mean that you shouldn’t be playing God’s attributes off against one another either, by (for example) claiming God does something other than eternally acting in full and absolute love to the non-elect commensurate to the way He acts in love to the elect.

You weren’t prepared to go very far with not trying to play God’s attributes off against one another, though, as it turns out:

Dom: {{Insisting that God shows love to everyone is a patent example of prioritizing God's love above his other attributes.}} [Dom’s emphasis]

That would only be true if God’s love and God’s justice were mutually exclusive attributes of His character such that God has to do one thing or the other toward an object (or toward a personal object anyway), not both to the full: setting aside one to do the other. (Or, as you put it, “As if he's only allowed to show his justice in small doses, and has to kiss and make up with the reprobate afterward.”)

I’m not the one, however, claiming that God acts toward an object in “justice” and not in “love” or in “love” and not in “justice”. I’m the one who claims that God always and eternally acts toward fulfilling love and positive justice to all persons.

You might think that’s an incoherent claim, because you think that God’s justice is mutually exclusive to His love (in terms of God’s operant action, such that He can do one or the other but not both simultaneously in regard to a person). And that’s a position well worth discussing if so. But then it ought to be blatantly obvious that, theologically, you are the one prioritizing one essential attribute of God above other attributes in regard to a person--God’s justice over against His love, in regard to the non-elect for example--and playing them off against each other.

And so we’re back to my actual agreement, in principle, with your statement earlier: trying to play God's attributes off against each other, or prioritize goodness or love (or justice or any other essential attribute of God) above the others, won't fly with me, and it shouldn't fly with anyone who holds to an orthodox view of God's nature.

I hold to an orthodox trinitarian view of God’s nature. And I don’t prioritize God’s love over His justice, nor His justice over His love: I believe and claim that God acts always and fully in regard to the fulfillment of both those attributes to all persons.

Whereas, you obviously don’t. (And Calvinists, as a rule, very obviously don’t, either.) Even though you’re trying to be ortho-trin.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

I had briefly (and only half-seriously) wondered previously in this thread, whether you considered God’s wrath to be one of His essential attributes, such that God [i]is[/i] wrath (as well as being love, justice, righteousness and all His essential characteristics). I mention that sometimes, because I often get that impression from non-universalists. But I rarely see one actually go the distance and declare it to be true!

Dom: {{If "ortho-trin" is true, then God is essentially justice, AND ESSENTIALLY WRATH, and essentially righteousness, and essentially all of his attributes.}}

Really. Hm.

Whereas, I don’t consider God to be essentially wrath, although (specifically as an orthodox trinitarian theist) I do consider Him to be essentially love, righteousness and justice.

Nor does my position, that God is not essentially wrath, require there to be no sin. It does require that the Persons of the Trinity act in love toward one another; that they are eternally and actively righteous toward one another; and that they thereby fulfill positive justice toward one another: being thus the eternally self-existent ground of all existence and, simultaneously, the final standard (in their own single-substance nature) of all morality. It is only in the trinitarian God that an ‘is’ and an ‘ought’ are mutually derivable from one another and indeed are identifiable with one another. (Field-goaling directly between the horns of Euthyphro’s Dilemma, not incidentally.)

Or, put another way, I suppose my position does require that God not be ever sinning against Himself (such that wrath is eternally necessary and enacted between the Persons of the Trinity somehow): that at the fundamental level of reality, if nowhere else, there is no sin but only the justice of righteousness. Alternately, my position also requires that there not be an equal and opposite anti-God for God to be eternally and essentially wrath against (and vice versa). But these are widely regarded, even by non-universalists, to be key precepts of trinitarian theism, so I don’t know why my affirmation of them (as someone holding to and professing orthodox trinitarian theism) should be opposed. Not by another trinitarian anyway. (I can understand a cosmological dualist opposing my position thereby, of course, but despite my wry observation in an earlier comment I don’t really expect you’re cos-du. Not intentionally anyway.)

You’re certainly welcome to try explaining how God is essentially wrath in relation to His own self-existent interpersonal relationships, if you want. But I’m glad that that isn’t my job. {g}

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

(Final comment for my set today, btw.)

My position does also require that God act in wrath against sin, and even against sinners insofar as persons insist on holding to their sins. But this hardly requires that God essentially be wrath, no moreso than God’s declaration through Isaiah that “There is no wrath in Me” means that He cannot or does not act in wrath toward those who go out to war against Him with thorns and thistles. On the contrary, He burns up their thorns and thistles when they do so--but it’s so that they will cling to Him as their refuge instead. (A common OT theme, most often but not exclusively applied toward Israel.)

For which affirmation, ironically, I am sometimes accused of preaching a “wrath-filled God”. (Late in this thread, for example--though, just as ironically, the same critic declared earlier that I must not believe in the wrath of God at all!) That isn’t true, but it’s closer to the truth than that I deny the wrath of God.


{{God is not under obligation to love evil.}}

Of course not!--I have never once claimed that He is. On the contrary, God is under obligation of His own self-existent coherency to eternally act toward fulfilling justice, opposing and destroying injustice. God is obliged (if one wants to put it that way, though I don’t much like using that term in this context since it usually carries contexts of appealing to an overarching moral authority) to hate evil. I have always said so, and have never once said anything different.

What I do also say, though, is that God is ‘obliged’ (if that term must be used), for exactly the same reason, to love persons. To love the sinner while hating the sin. God is obliged to be wrathful to the sinner contingent to God fulfilling love and justice to the person.

This really shouldn’t be difficult to understand. It’s what even Calvinists claim God does for at least the ‘elect’. Calvs may not much like using the term ‘oblige’ in that context, and I certainly sympathize with the reluctance to do so (for the ontological reason I mentioned earlier); but that reluctance doesn’t go for much if the Calvinist goes on to insist that God is (in effect, if not specifically using this term) obliged to be non-lovingly wrathful to the non-elect (in order to fulfill ‘justice’ against them, for example).

JRP