2009 Glenn and Tom dialogue -- gallery comments


#1

Great post Glenn.

For now I’ll just make three quick comments.

One, the triangle illustration rocks! Love it. So helpful. It locates both the issues and how the different views relate given their stand on the issues. Great tool that!

Second, there’s some ambiguity regarding the understanding of terms used by theologians and missiologists (I was a missionary for many years) regarding the fate of the unsaved. Glenn takes “exclusivism” to refer to “those who believe that God will not save everybody” and who limit the scope of God’s love. I’ve been out of this particular discussion for some time, but when I was in it the term “exclusivism” was used on different levels to refer to the ‘origin’ or ‘ground’ of salvation, that is, how salvation is ‘provided’ for. And exclusivists where those who argued that salvation is provided for ‘exclusively’ through the person and work of Jesus. It was also used by some (perhaps unhelpfully) to refer to how the salvation that only Christ provides is ‘mediated’, and exclusivists were those who insisted that salvation is mediated ‘exclusively’ through placing faith in the historical Jesus as the object of one’s faith. The salvation that only Jesus provides is only mediated or offered—in terms of faith’s content and object—through the historical Jesus. I think the latter point eventually came to be referred to as “restrictivism,” which said the experience of the salvation that only Jesus provides is restricted to those who hear the gospel, believe in Jesus, etc.

But in either case, “exclusivism” didn’t entail the belief that “God will not save everybody.” Yes, in point of fact, most exclusivists aren’t universalists and so don’t think that eventually all are saved. But it doesn’t follow that one can’t be a universalist and an exclusivist (i.e., believe that salvation is both provided for exclusively in Christ and mediated exclusively through [or restricted to] a critical information mass regarding Jesus, and that eventually all we apprehend the necessary truth about themselves and Christ and so choose).

**Lastly, what if we move the immortality question away FROM properties which inhere in human nature per se TO God’s choice to will the continued existence of some entity or not. I mean, there’s no question that immortality is conditional, even if universalism or ECT (eternal conscious torment) is true, since the continued existence of any created entity is conditioned upon God’s sustaining presence. I’m a universalist, but I don’t think human beings are ‘inherently’ immortal if that means God has irrevocably installed in human beings a kind of mechanism for enduring existence. I rather think that created entities continue to exist (or not) depending upon God’s creative presence willing their continued existence. This moves the immortality question away FROM properties which inhere in human nature per se TO God’s choice to will the continued existence of some entity or not.

My point is that (for me) annihilation becomes possible only if I can imagine a scenario in which God would no longer ‘will’ the continued existence of a human being. And the only scenario in which I can imagine God’s no longer willing the continued existence of a rational creature is that in which a creature irrevocably solidifies into evil so that there literally is no longer any possibility of Godward movement. IF that is an achievable state (and it’s debatable I know), then I’d agree God would annihilate such persons. In fact, their reaching such a state would essentially constitute their ceasing to exist. But personally I don’t think such irrevocable solidification is a possible state of affairs, which was my point here:

Basically, so long as God (as love) is present in his sustaining activity, the possibility of Godward movement remains. God constitutes this possibility. God presence IS the offer of Godward movement. No created entity can will itself out of that sustaining relationship, out of that offer. It’s asymmetrical. Only God can sever it. And so long as God’s presence in sustaining us continues, we are invited to move toward God. It’s not a quality inherent in human nature (in the Platonic sense). To exist at all as created-rational being is to exist as invited by sustaining presence of the free and creative God. So to exist is to have a future with God. So when it comes to annihilation, I ask why would God will to no longer sustain in existence creatures who nevertheless have a future with him? Why would a God of love do that? Wouldn’t a God of love continue to pursue us so long as there was any possibility of winning us?

TomB


#2

By the way, I very much appreciate the admins moving this thread (and the other discussion commentary thread) to its own subcategory within Premier Quarterly! (The dialogue thread, in case you’re wondering, can be reached most quickly by clicking this link.)

I am not entirely sure how dialogue participants will be able to address comments here, though. By reference during the dialogue, or by creating new topical threads for discussion outside Premier, I suppose.

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EDITED TO ADD: Gene (Auggy) has set up things so that we can in fact compose and send comments to the authors themselves, posting them to the dialogue thread–but the comments will not become visible, including to the authors, until after the dialogue has basically finished. (This is in order to keep the form and content of the dialogue itself as focused as possible while allowing audience interaction with the authors eventually. Please see Auggy’s announcement here if you haven’t done so yet.)

Commentary here should not be considered addressed to the authors directly, even though they have the ability (I suppose?) and the right to address issues raised here during the dialogue. (Remember, the authors are currently restricted from commenting here in the gallery; again, this is for helping keep their dialogue focused. But as far as I know they can still read the comments here in the gallery, if they want to.)
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True; even though (as I expect Tom will point out) this is not the only triangle possible for illustrating that (as Glenn puts it) “There are really three views on hell within the Christian faith.” The other triangle can include the three options of this triangle, but doesn’t focus on these issues particularly. (Just as this one can include the three options of the other triangle–God does this and that; God does this not that; God does that not this–without focusing on those issues particularly.)

But yes, I like this triangle, too. :smiley:

To this, I would add that “exclusivism” when compared to “inclusivism” can mean a reference to God’s intentions which, in the former case, definitely would exclude universalism, too. Any soteriology where God either gives up on saving sinners eventually or never even intended to save some sinners, must be exclusivistic in that sense.

So, for example, C. S. Lewis, among some other Arminians, can be considered “inclusivist” for affirming post-mortem salvation (the scope really being ‘everyone’ in fact, not ‘everyone’ only in theory); but is also “exclusivist” in affirming that eventually God chooses permanently to stop seeking some sinners’ salvation from sin. (I suspect that something similar could be allowed under the TULIP of Calvinism, per se, although the Calvinist would then have to admit something like the Roman Catholic view of purgatory–not common among Calvs, to say the least. :wink: But it could still be both “inclusivist” and yet ultimately “exclusivist” in the senses mentioned above for some Arm theologians.)

Some good questions/observations (which I quite agree with) in the third point, too. :slight_smile:

Edited to add: uh, whoops–my other one brief comment so far got accidentally annihilated :mrgreen: when Auggy was (rightly) cleaning up the thread to begin with actual gallery comments instead of with my temporary posts keeping readers up on progress in opening the dialogue.

Fortunately, I can resurrect the comment after annihilation, maybe better than before (though doutbless not as thoroughly and completely as God could.)

What I had said, was that I agree with Glenn that it is wrong for us universalists to claim that non-universalists do not believe in “a loving God”. This is simply not accurate. There may be some pagans who do not believe any gods love (though most pagans do); and probably some pantheists (naturalistic theists) consider God to be ‘beyond love’; and probably most (if not all) cosmological dualists; and probably nominal (certainly minimal) deists (among supernatural theists–the previous examples not being in this category).

But Jews and Muslims and Christian unitarians all believe in “a loving God”, and I have certainly never met a Christian who accepted the Incarnation of God who did not believe in “a loving God” (although admittedly some docetists can come close to that). Heck, I know (and in one case devotedly admire) agnostics who believe in a loving God, insofar as they can see darkly through the glass.

The issue isn’t whether non-universalists “truly believe in a loving God”. Of course they truly believe that. Just like they “truly believe in a wrathing God” (to coin a term: I mean a God Who does wrath).

The issue is whether non-universalists truly believe that God is essentially love.

(And this is probably what Tom had meant to be talking about. I see he has his reply up; I’ll go read it now, yay! :smiley: )


#3

I imagine that Thomas will address this, but I’ll comment anyhow. I don’t have the book in front of me but from the quote it seems Thomas is not saying all christians do not believe in a loving God but rather that mainstream theologeons (an expression of meaning those who believe in eternal conscience torment) do not believe in a loving God. It is here that defining exclusivism is important.

There is no disputing this fact. I myself have become frustrated and acted in childish manners which only shame me rather than produce anything fruitful.

I hope we can all agree here with Glenn. His point here is not just a point of wisdom but I believe a christian point of view. For if any particular view is correct it should be scrutinized and tested. And if anyone becomes obstinate or unruly upon the questioning of their belief, then may they come to defend their position with kindness, love and understanding. Our call to be fair and just is as important in our discussion of God as they are in how we treat others.


#4

ABSOLUTELY!–with Gene and Glenn both. :smiley:


#5

Opps. Apparently this wasn’t what Tom had been talking about! :open_mouth: :blush: :laughing: :mrgreen:

Oh well. I’m pretty sure he’ll get to it later.

That being said–when I wrote

I meant Calvinists, too. I think I’ll have to stay with Glenn on this one, for now. I know perfectly well that Calvs believe and truly believe “in a loving God”, inasmuch as they truly believe God at least loves the elect. The Calvinistic setup Tom describes (well-quoting from Clark) does not abrogate this; any more than a proposal of a tribal god who loves a particular people and hates everyone else would abrogate such a god from being considered, and truly considered, a “loving god”. (Note: I don’t mean that Calvinists believe in such a minor pagan god–just pointing out that in either case, the deity is still accurately describable as “loving”.)

It would however abrogate the concept of such a God being essentially love. Which is why I expect Tom to get around to that, sooner or later. (I’m pretty sure I recall him bringing this up in his own work. I’m just a little surprised he isn’t doing it here yet. Possibly he’s still thinking in terms of trying to explain what his dissonance was way back when he first was dissenting from Calvinism.)


#6

A brief note: I’d still have to go with Glenn, obviously. :wink: (Although I still suspect that Tom was trying to explain what his position was back when he first started having serious conceptual problems with non-universalism, particularly Calvinism. We’ll see on the next reply, hopefully.)


#7

Meanwhile, if I may essay a slightly more substantial note:

what I was saying earlier in this thread, about there being a HUGE difference between saying that someone does not believe in “a loving God” and saying that someone does not believe “God is essentially love”, can be exemplified by the quote Glenn gave from Calvin on the 1 John text concerning the statement “God is love”. (This isn’t a criticism of Glenn, btw. Yet, anyway. :mrgreen: )

It is blatantly obvious that Calvin believed, and taught, that God is loving. The quote Glenn gives is evidence enough of that; and vastly much more evidence could be adduced to this effect from Calvin’s work. Nor should this be surprising; the idea that a deity is loving is hardly news in the history of the world’s religions, and even the idea that the chief of deities is loving isn’t exactly news.

The quote from Calvin, though–and his whole exposition on this verse is well worth looking at for verification–shows just as well that Calvin did not believe, and was teaching something other than, that God essentially is love.

It isn’t that Calvin meant to deny the truth of orthodox trinitarian theism–again, one could adduce vast amounts of evidence showing he clearly believed and taught that. But his understanding of trinitarian theism is principly divorced from the notion of God actually being an actively self-begetting self-begotten interpersonal unity: that God is essentially in His own self-existence love.

Which is a major dissonance. And it entirely opens the door to the notion (easily found throughout Calvin’s work) that love is only something God does which, like wrath, He might or might not do according to His choice of how to act in regard to a situation. Love–the actively chosen and enacted fulfillment of fair-togetherness (righteousness) between persons–isn’t what God is in Calvin’s theology.

The consequence is that Calvin teaches trinitarian theism overtly (and I’m sure quite entirely honestly); but then tacitly (thought surely without realizing it, or so I hope) denies it–when its logical implications get in the way of another doctrine he is insistent on being true: God’s choice to not act toward saving at least some sinners from sin.


#8

I’m very, very sypmathetic with Glenn. I think your right JP that it’s no news break to say calvinist believe in a loving God. However, Talbott is explictily speaking in regards to a God who makes men hate him and then damns them for doing the very thing he wanted them to do.

In this case I think they are both right. Glenn is speaking in a subjective mode, that means he wants everyone to sit at the table and subjectively say everyone believes in a loving God regardless of what their God does.

The Muslim Extremist who bellieves Allah is compassionate and has a bomb strapped on his back to blow up jewish school children is a great example.

Glenn wants to say (and rigthly so) in order to reach this extremist, one must approach him with respect and honor. If the extremist says he believes Allah is compassionate then treat him as such and work from there.

Talbott is coming from a more objective view. Talbott wants to define “love” and go from there. In the example I gave, Talbott questions the extremist on his definitions of “compassion” in order to prove his view of Allah is not one of compassion but one of violence.

Thus Glenn is right that Calvinists do believe in a loving God (in their own mind) and Talbott is right, by definition, that the God of calvinism is hardly loving.

Hopefully they’ll understand and move on.

Aug


#9

I had that example in mind, too; but a lot of Calvinists don’t like it when I point out what a dedicated belief in their idea of non-election leads to. :wink:

Even so: I really would put it the other way around. It is Glenn who is insisting on objective accuracy here. If Allah is God, Allah still acts in mercy and compassion–to some people. God still does love–sometimes, and absolutely not in others. I would have to say it is Tom who is introducing a category error, from an emotional (subjective) dislike of the results.

(Edited to add: although I am still hoping that he will go on to clarify that this was how he thought and felt back when he was beginning to struggle with Calvinism, but that now he is being more precise in his applications.)

The concept that God utterly hates some people and chooses to love other people, is not in itself the same as saying that God is “not loving”. If God utterly hated everyone and everything, then it would be accurate to say that God is not loving, in the sense that people who believed in such a deity do not believe in “a loving God”.

Ironically, the God Who loves some things and utterly hates other things, is hardly a God Whose ways are “not our ways” and Whose “thoughts are not our thoughts”. I don’t have any problem at all, naturally, hating whatever happens to be opposing me, with an utter implacable hatred. I have much more difficulty, naturally, loving even my enemies and sacrificing myself for their sake. I sure couldn’t naturally imagine sharing their sorrows and punishment with them. I’m much more of a “nuke the site from orbit, cloud of vapor the size of Nebraska” kind of guy. :mrgreen: A kamakazi strike would be about my natural limit. Actual solidarity with sinners? Bah! How could solidarity with sinners be righteous!!? How dare he eat and drink with traitors and prostitutes…!

Opps.

:slight_smile:


#10

Disagree JP,
Tom is basing it totally on a definition of Love and what it means to believe. If Allah is God and Allah fails to love just one then he is proned to loving none of them. Who can say for sure if a god who loves one and hates another will ALWAYS love the one he finds favor with.

So Thomas has narrowed down his point of not loving to the very specific view of exclusivism that calvinists hold.

Now the response from Glenn seems to be that Clark is an offshoot who is a poor example. That’s fine, but in my experience (probably like that of Talbott’s) calvinists (consitent) are hyper-calvinists who endorse double pre-destination with which the non-elect are meant and are hated by God.

If Glenn holds that it is unfair (which he does) to say someone does not believe in something because the thing they logically believe is fallacious then at one point can anyone say someone does not believe something. Meaning, if Hitler stated it’s his loving God who brought him to cook so many Jews, then would glenn say he in fact does believe in a loving God or would he say He does not believe in a loving God because BELIEF in a loving God would NEVER call someone to cook Jews at all.

Similarly, if someone claims they believe in God but walk with demons, then do they believe in God? Scripture seems to point - “no”. Would Glenn be willing to say, eveyone believes in God (who claims to) and will be saved (jn 3.16) or would he then say believing is more complicated than just intellectual assent. If believing means more than just intellectual assent then I agree with Talbott, they in fact DO NOT believe in a loving God. And it seems Talbott is holding that the God of the Bible is the only God. Thus it’s deduced, calvinists do not believe in a loving God though they give intellectual assent to a loving god.

Thus there are two definitions at play:
Believe
Love

My guess is this kind of logic (how one knows something) is far beyone my scope and so I’ll stop here on this part of the discussion.


#11

I’ve made exactly the same argument myself (elsewhere) and I stand by it. But what you’re appealing to is an ontological distinction between a God Who merely does love and a God Who is in intrinsic essence love. (i.e. you aren’t actually disagreeing with me; except maybe over whether Tom is making this distinction in his presentation so far.)

I’ve pointed out before that I hope this is what Tom is going for; but at present he is engaging in a category error which isn’t helping his position: a God (or god) who loves one and hates another is still a loving entity. If His hatred of the other is not contingent upon His love for the other, then He cannot be intrinsically essentially love; and as you rightly point out, this will lead directly to the question of whether or why we could trust Him to continue loving whichever persons He is (from our temporal perspective) currently loving. A question which Arminian soteriologists will often (though not always) answer with a ‘duh, of course He need not always continue loving all persons.’

Well, yes, duh, of course not: if love is only something God does and isn’t something God is. Similarly, no one claims that God is intrinsically wrath; so few if any theologians attempt to claim theological incoherence on hearing a doctrine that God can and does cease doing wrath toward at least some persons or even never does wrath at all toward some persons.

At the risk of sounding even more nitpicky: there is no definition of love here. :wink:

And my answer would be yes: it is entirely logically possible (assuming we ignore prior metaphysical analysis about whether any God other than a self-begetting, self-begotten interpersonal unity is logically possible) that a (merely) “loving” God would set up the universe in the way that Clark describes. It is no more logically discontinuous than that a (merely) “wrathing” God would do so.

True, as I satirized here and in the subsequent comment when dialoging with Steve Hays recently, the kind of “love” such a God would engage in might be categorically indistinguishable from Satanic tyranny. But only if we focus again on the ontology characteristics of such a concentratedly monopersonal entity. Supposing for purposes of argument that a deity Who isn’t intrinsically love could or would create any not-God reality, though, it isn’t immediately obvious that such an entity wouldn’t choose on occasion to indulge in some kind of actual care for His creation. (Although I’ll grant that an ontologically supreme being would not be in any position to ignore the necessary characteristics of His ontological status, whatever those are. Zeus can in theory and maybe even in practice be something other than purely selfish because Zeus isn’t primal Kaos or the coldly amoral Fates of deterministic law–or, more pertinently, he can be something other than purely selfish because the ontological source and standard of morality really is itself something other than those things. :slight_smile: )

True; but he has so far been treating this “not loving” as though this is all the Calvinists are saying (which it isn’t) and as if this “not loving” is mutually exclusive to any kind of loving (which it isn’t). Humans, as I noted recently, are entirely capable of both kinds of behavior. If Tom wants to claim mutual exclusion of principle for these behaviors by God, he has got to start overtly synching this directly with God’s ontological characteristics–ideally those characteristics also agreed to nominally by the Calvinists! Hinting by innuendo that an authoritative pre-diselection is morally repugnant, won’t cut it.

Glenn does try to claim that Gordon Clark is more gung-ho than some other Calvinists would feel comfortable saying on this topic. But this is not at all Glenn’s main response, even in regard to Clark. Glenn immediately goes on, past this, and asks, “is it really true, not only that he is wrong about the way in which God’s love operates, but that he is wrong because he literally doesn’t even believe in a loving God – any more than an atheist? I continue to think that this is simply unfair.”

This is a critique very much to the point. Similarly, I’ve had non-universalists insist that I must not believe in God’s wrath. This is factually incorrect; I don’t believe in a hopeless or unloving wrath, which is the kind of wrath they consider supremely worthy of God (at least on par with a loving wrath, if perhaps not ultimately supreme to loving wrath.) Similarly again, it would be factually incorrect of me to try to claim that someone who admits to God’s loving wrath in only some cases, does not believe in a loving wrath of God. Of course they do. They believe in something else, too: an utterly unloving wrath of God. I may oppose that belief, but I would be the one engaging in logical category error if I tried to make it seem as though they didn’t believe in the other thing.

As though it is impossible to believe a mistake?? Plus the logical fallaciousness ought to be demonstrated in dispute. So far Tom hasn’t done this.

And I am very careful about claiming against stated belief from a person that they do not believe that statement. Even when I was critiquing the special-case situation of hyperfideism here, I tried to position it in terms that at best such a ‘belief’ must be utterly inaccessible to the extent that I could have no reason to call it a belief.

So for example, assuming (which I have never heard) that Hitler did state that he believed in a loving God Who wanted him to liquidate the Jews: does the man have a detectable history of saying things just to get on the side of the mob? Does he have a detectable history of retracting and denying such statements when speaking in confidentiality? Is his personal philosophy actually geared around a loving God, or does he speak far more often and consonantly about the mere exercise of power (particularly for his own advantage) while deriding love as sentimental weakness? The more such things are obvious in his personal history, the less I am inclined to believe that he really believes in a “loving God”.

Even so, though, that doesn’t mean it is logically impossible for him to believe in “a loving God”, or even to think that “a loving God” wanted him to liquidate the Jews. God loves the Aryan people and hates the Jews as scurrilous inhuman vermin who threaten the honest moral Aryan people. Sure, I want to vomit even typing that sentence. But as far as it goes it isn’t logically contradictory. Even if it happened to be wrong as to factual data, it still wouldn’t be logically contradictory as far as it goes.

What would be logically contradictory would be to claim that a God Who Himself is intrinsically love, refuses to act to fulfill love to X people. Notably, Calvin disassociates his theology from affirming that God is intrinsically love–saving his theology from immediate logical incoherence. (I’ve seen Arminians do this, too.) The next question, though, is whether it makes any logically coherent sense to claim that this technical disaffirmation is consonant with trinitarian theism. To which I say no.


#12

This conversation so far – this “clearing of the rhetorical underbrush” – is fascinating and I think well illustrates the truth that “WE SEE THINGS NOT AS THEY ARE, BUT AS WE ARE”. And of course, how could it be otherwise??? Does anyone hold a belief which to them seems false?

It seems in the nature of intelligent communication that agreed upon definitions are simply mandatory for anything we say – or anything we hear – to be meaningful. As I observe culture, and especially politics, it seems that much of the stress and drama and tension and, dare I say it, fight, is over definitions – and who gets to control and approve them. Think of the words “liberal” or “Islamofascist” or “war on terror” or “feminist” or any of a host of words which are used as compliment – or epithet – with seemingly equal abandon. So what gives? Language, that tool of unity and personal communion, becomes the very thing which divides us!! That is deeply intriguing to me.

So it seems to me as if the very definition here of “love” is being used differently by Glenn and Tom. (As well perhaps, as the words “fair” “free” “will” and others…) It seems ones entire argument might well be contained in ones definition of a word like “love”. And it seems we who hold to UR really DO define love in such a way that UR is necessarily true! (ie “love” wants what is only “best” for another and what is best is eternal oneness with creator God therefore a “God of love” will see to it; somehow. etc etc) Except what if someone smuggles in (not hard – for the bible sure seems to allow for it, when interpretted with this bias) the notion of a “love” which understands that “best” for this particular individual is eternal death?? ie this individual is incapable of finding happiness with God?

If too much is simply set aside by the tactic of “agreeing to disagree” what then can we say about the use of language to convey ANYTHING at all?? Maybe that’s where this conversation is going – I don’t know. The mixing of the painful or evil or incoherent (by the way, who measures incoherence though – if not each individual for himself??) with the “pure” words – like holy and love and mercy – can render meaning “meaningless” can’t it?? So Tom finds exclusivism and love not to cohere; much the way I find love and violence don’t cohere. Yet for others, there ARE ways to see coherence where I might see none…

Such is life…

All very interesting indeed.

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#13

I should add a quick note that, having read Tom’s second reply, I see he is now trying to go the route I expected (from principle, and from having read his work).

This is something he should have tried to clarify from the outset, though, rather than treat the phrase “a loving God” as though it could only have one meaning. (Ditto now with “X is not in God’s nature”–this can have more than one meaning relevant to the discussion.) Glenn started out worked up about this, and obviously had not much idea what Tom could mean other than how Glenn understood the phrase. It was Tom’s responsibility to at least clarify what he meant by the phrasing from the outset; and really, I have trouble believing Tom didn’t (or doesn’t??) know that there are multiple ways to mean those phrases. (Not least because I know for a fact that Tom is entirely aware that Calvin has two distinct meanings for the phrase “X is not in God’s nature”.)

The way Glenn is thinking of the phrase “a loving God” does not have the contradiction (immediately anyway) that Tom is thinking of in the way he is thinking of the phrase “a loving God”. This could have been and should have been fairly acknowledged by Tom, while clarifying what specifically he was talking about in regard to that phrase and why this meaning is so important to soteriological (and ontological) issues. (Which it is.)

Tom has taken steps in his second reply to clarify this better–which is good–but has not really acknowledged yet the meaning Glenn is talking about. i.e., the meaning that doesn’t have the contradiction Tom is talking about. (Not immediately anyway; in a far more roundabout way it can be said to arrive at the same result, but a lot more work has to go into it to get there. It isn’t anyone’s fault that this is not obvious; it can be fairly said that that Glenn’s notion of “a loving God” is not immediately contradictive to the notion that God chooses to completely not love some persons.)

Anyway, I haven’t read Glenn’s new reply yet this morning, but I wouldn’t blame him if he complains some more about the disparity in usage of those phrases.


#14

Ding!

Now, I know from experience, and from principle (and from studying Tom–which to be fair to Tom, Glenn could have done somewhat better, obviously :wink: ), that Tom had this meaning in mind all the time. The problem isn’t that Tom has now shifted to a somewhat new goal; he actually hasn’t. The problem is that Tom wasn’t being clear from the outset about what he meant; and the problem is that Tom wasn’t recognizing and acknowledging what Glenn was talking about.

But Glenn, from his perspective, was never in any position to see this. Theoretically he could have figured it out from reading more of Tom or from reading Tom more accurately, but as Tom himself has pointed out: Tom is far more likely to know Tom’s mind than Glenn is! Consequently, it was Tom’s responsibility to clarify himself from the outset in comparison to what Glenn was meaning instead.

(I’m putting it this way, not meaning to disavow any responsibility on Glenn’s part, but because I really do consider Tom to have the superior position. With greater power comes greater responsibility, as some prophet or other once said. :mrgreen: )


#15

It looks like we have arrived at the most salient issue of all that has been discussed: what does 1John 4:8 say? What does it mean. Each man in this debate has a different idea of what it means to say “God is loving”.


#16

Can anyone help here?
It’s hard to accept that I have trouble getting this:
I’m having trouble understanding the following that Tom just said (see between the ****s):

“The proviso is that one does not in general regard a doctrine as heretical unless one also believes it to be mistaken or false. ****So even if, with respect to every consistent proposition p, someone or other should regard p as false, it would hardly follow that any specific person believes that every consistent proposition is false. Similarly, where S is the set of all religious doctrines that some Christian or another has believed to be heretical, it hardly follows that some Christian believes that every religious doctrine in S is heretical. ****So the term “heretical,” like the term “false,” still carries a specific meaning. But in any event, you have just described why I couldn’t care less about the issue of heresy. If I had a dollar for every person who regards universalism as a heresy, I would be a rich man–mega-rich, as a matter of fact. So, does it bother me in the slightest when someone describes my own view as heretical, as many do? And would I respond as if this were an instance of “rhetorical naughtiness,” to use your own term? Not at all. It is not my place to exercise a kind of intellectual tyranny over the religious concerns of others or to dictate how they should frame their own arguments. Besides, in what other way could some people express their honestly held opinion that universalism is indeed heretical?”


#17

Yeah, it’s a little wincy. Wincey. Wince-y. Whatever. :wink:

Tom had written, as an appendix, specifically for explaining why he chose to use “heresy” in the title of an article:

Tom’s point was not originally, though, that anyone would have to admit that the “temptation to distinguish between us vs. them” is a temptation to error (i.e. to heresy) merely because some people (like himself) think that such a distinction is heresy. Temptation doesn’t usually mean any possible inclination to believe something (certainly a theologically unfamiliar way of meaning it!), but an inclination to believe something evil (or at the very least erroneous). People don’t usually consider something a heresy unless they themselves believe it to be false.

Instead of putting it more plainly like that, Tom chose (for whatever reason) to put it in logical algebra. :unamused:

I suspect Glenn was thinking more in terms of relative socio-cultural references; on which Tom agreed, of course, that no one at this site could deny that other people think universalism is a heresy. Tom’s “rhetorical naughtiness” however wasn’t that kind of “kick”. He actually believes that the stated position is a religious error, and thus a heresy (technically speaking); consequently, he was very amused at using that term in regard to Augustine and Calvin, who (unlike Tom) considered heresy a crime worse than patricide or matricide. His amusement was at the irony of them judging against themselves (as Tom believes) in such an unwitting fashion.


#18

Been awhile since I added any commentary on the (slow-running :mrgreen: ) debate!

I wrote earlier, in this commentary thread: “Humans, as I noted recently, are entirely capable of both kinds of behavior. If Tom wants to claim mutual exclusion of principle for these behaviors by God, he has got to start overtly synching this directly with God’s ontological characteristics–ideally those characteristics also agreed to nominally by the Calvinists! [And/or by the Arminianists, of course.] Hinting by innuendo that an authoritative pre-diselection is morally repugnant, won’t cut it.”

In Glenn’s latest comment he writes:

I expect Tom will reply that Glenn is foisting a false dichotomization in his criticism here, by trying to make out that the issue is God’s logical consistency rather than His love; when of course the issue is the logical consistency of God’s love.

But, leaving that aside (since I am unsure to what extent Glenn’s criticism requires that false topical division), Glenn is correct to be criticizing a certain amount of logical handwaving being done by Tom. What Glenn wants to see is some logical reason for why it would be logically impossible for God to cease loving some person (or, per Calvinism, to never love them at all).

I think Tom presents more of a logical argument than Glenn allows, even in the quote he provides from chp 8. Tom is clearly attempting a logical principle application of the following type:

1.) We cannot love God while hating those God loves.
2.) Thus, neither can God love us while hating those we love.

This is at least something like a logical proof (Glenn’s rhetoric notwithstanding), even if Glenn is correct about it being less substantial that it may first appear to be.

What Glenn wants to see, is why the principle should be considered to obtain in parallel application. Why is it reciprocal? Why is it not asymmetrical instead? Glenn sees no logical necessity for the application to be reciprocal, and doesn’t think Tom has provided good reasons for even inductively supposing the principle applies in parallel; whereas there are at least some asymmetrical characteristics of God’s love of us compared to our love of God.

So, for example, if we tried to claim:

1.) We cannot love God while refusing to serve God above all else.
2.) Thus, neither can God love us while refusing to serve us above all else.

This would turn out to be a false application of parallel principle, insofar as “above all else” involves recognizing the object of love as being the ontological ground of all reality including all morality. (I qualify this because there may be other ways of construing “above all else” that would in fact apply in parallel. But this is the sense Glenn is clearly talking about, and I agree he’s right to bring this up as a falsification example for supposing the parallel principle must always obtain. Neither, I agree, should we worship, as actually being God, all those whom God commands us to love!–but only the persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. No matter how much I may and do love my most beloved under God, and no matter how much God may love her, nevertheless she is not God and never will be; consequently I mustn’t “offer her service as to a deity”, as the scriptures put it.)

As Glenn also rightly notes–and as he (surely rightly!) expects Thomas to agree–we may in fact be wrong about what counts as being “in our best interests” or not; consequently, in lieu of an argument based on positions that Glenn and Tom both agree on, that arrives at God’s love for all the persons we love being necessarily “in our best interests”, Glenn has no reason to accept that love as being necessarily “in our best interests”, especially if he thinks he has reasons to actually think otherwise.

I am not so sanguine about all apparently non-universalistic scriptural testimony being resolvable on pure exegetics without recourse to metaphysical principle, as Glenn seems to be about all apparently universalistic (or otherwise non-annihilationistic) scriptural testimony being similarly resolvable on pure exegetics. I think there will be exegetical deadlock sooner or later on the topic, which can only be resolved in any direction by some appeal to metaphysical principle (even if the resolvers don’t quite recognize they are doing this.) But I do at least agree in principle that if there was a logical deadlock, and if scriptural testimony was in fact clearly resolvable one way and not another, then (assuming we already agree that this set of religious scriptures should be paid attention to on this topic of course) we should go with the scriptural testimony.

But the short version is that Glenn is correct to be asking for an establishment of the kind of logical impossibility that Tom is trying to appeal to.

That having been said: I also have to admit that I find disturbing, Glenn’s willingness to acceed to the idea that God chooses to act in ways that are absolutely against some people’s actual real best interests – not that He acts temporarily against their personal convenience, nor that He acts in some fashion that is actually in their best interest (though to us it may currently appear otherwise), but that in principle God willingly chooses to act to fulfill against the best interests of at least some persons. (Even C. S. Lewis, whom Glenn cites in passing, came to believe that annihilation was somehow in the best interest of the annihilated sinner; his earlier reluctance to believe annihilation true was, in turn, based on best-interest for the sinner, though then he thought eternal conscious torment was somehow in the sinner’s best interest.)

Because, when we act against even what we understand (even if we understand incorrectly) to be against the best interest of people, even our enemies, the scriptures call that injustice and sin. (Strictly speaking, whether we were in fact acting against their best interests is irrelevant; what counts is that at the time we willingly acted in principle either against their best interests or at least in flagrant and willing disregard of their best interests.) This necessarily introduces not merely an a-symmetry but an outright schism between God’s morality and what God expects of us morally.

Yet when God, through prophets in the OT, reminds His hearers that His ways are not our ways, but are higher than our ways–He is typically talking about mercy, forgiveness, and the salvation and restoration of even His enemies.


#19

For me if the universalists are wrong then the whole thing takes on the appearence of an experimental breeding programme to produce worshipers for God with an acceptable amount of collateral damage as a by-product. For every human animal that develops the ‘desired’ kind of free will to freely accept the gift any number of ‘defective’ wills are considered acceptable and can be destroyed with impunity.

Ooh! I’m grouchy today :frowning:


#20

If I had fewer scruples, more time and maybe more money, I would mass email that statement to the computer of every English speaking person on the planet. :sunglasses: