The Instigator
popculturepooka
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
philochristos
Con (against)
Winning
5 Points

If God is sovereign in the Calvinist sense, then universalism should be true.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
philochristos
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/4/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,288 times Debate No: 29885
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (34)
Votes (2)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

Introduction

I thank philochristos for agreeing to debate me on this very interesting topic and I suspect it will one of kind (at least on this website)!

In this debate I will be arguing that if God is sovereign in the Calvinist sense, then universal salvation/reconciliation* should be true. This debate will be rooted firmly within the context of Christian theology - specifically the Reformed/Calvinist** branch of Christianity - so many propositions shall be taken for granted. Some would be that God is all-knowing, all-good, and all wise; that Jesus died and atoned for humans' sin, and so on and so forth. When I say "sovereign in the Calvinist sense" I mean to refer to the the Calvinistic notions of theological determinism. *** My main contention here will be that if universalism is denied this generates an intractable problem of evil that would cast doubt on God's omnibenevolence which would, in turn, cast doubt on the proposition that God exists. To avoid this conclusion one who thinks that God is sovereign in the Calvinist sense

Notes

* In Christian theology, universal reconciliation (also called universal salvation, Christian universalism, or in context simply universalism) is the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of divine love and mercy—will ultimately be reconciled to God. [1]
** Calvinism (also called the Reformed tradition or the Reformed faith) is a major branch of Western Christianity that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice of John Calvin and other Reformation-era theologians. [2]
*** Putting it all together, Edwards’s theological determinism amounts to this: all created objects depend both for their existence and for the instantiation of whatever properties they exemplify on the immediate, total, and exclusive causal activity of God, and the lawful regularities in nature are expressions of God’s faithfulness in ordering the world after a fashion that appears, sub specie temporalis, as though every event were causally necessitated by antecedent events. To complete the picture, we need to make explicit a final element Edwards leaves suppressed: it is not within the power of any human person to cause God to will what He does, and no human person has the power to frustrate the efficacy of the divine will. [3]


Rules

1st round for acceptance.
Rounds 2 - 4 for the argumentation.

Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://faculty-staff.ou.edu...
philochristos

Con

I accept.

Thanks to popculturepooka for the challenge.

I agree with all of the definitions and explanations, but I would like to add a couple more just for people who may not traffic in this subject.

By sovereign in the Calvinist sense is meant that every last thing that happens in the universe and in all of reality, happens because God intended it to happen. That includes all of our choices as well as every event in the subatomic world. As the Westminister Confession puts it, "God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass."

Theological determinism is similar to what most people understand as compatibilism. The only difference is that theological determinism is more comprehensive, and God is the "prime mover." That does not mean that God directly causes each event that happens. He uses secondary means to accomplish his purposes.

Compatibilism is the view that free will is compatible with determinism. Compatibilists define free will as the ability to act on purpose, out of our own desires or motives, without being forced against our wills to act otherwise. Jonathan Edward's view was that all of our acts (the ones we do on purpose) are determined by our strongest desire or motivation at the moment of choice.

Libertarianism is the view that free will is incompatibile with determinism. Libertarians define free will as the ability to act without any antecedent causes or conditions (including their own psychological states) up to the moment of choice determining what one's choice will be. When a person acts freely in the libertarian sense, they could have done otherwise.

Although Pro didn't say so, I'm assuming we have a shared burden of proof. He has already explained the point of view he will defend. I'll just be denying his claim. That is, I'm going to defend the notion that divine sovereignty does not entail universal salvation, and that Calvinists are consistent in affirming both divine sovereignty and that some people will not be saved, and that affirming both does not create an unsolvable problem of evil.

Good luck, popculturepooka!
Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks again to philochristos.

I will be drawing a lot of inspiration from Oliver Crisp's article "Augustinian Universalism". [1]

I'll set the stage a little bit. Calvinism is an essentially deterministic theology. As explicated in round 1 nothing happens that is ultimately outside of God's will or control - this includes the salvation of the elect (which are those humans who are rejuvenated through God and thus go to heaven) and the damnation of the reprobate (who are the non-elect). Humans have free will but only in the compatiblistic sense. Humans can not ultimately frustrate Gods' will. If one is elect they can not become non-elect because God ordained them to be elect. And vice versa for the reprobate. This ties in closely with the notion of predestination where God temporally and logically prior to humans' existence determines who will be elect and non-elect. The mechanism of this selection process typically proffered by Calvinists is that those chosen to be elect are not chosen because of meritorious virtues or actions on their behalf - the selection has nothing to do with human efforts or wills at all. God's grace and mercy are shown by his ordaining of the elect and his wrath and justice are shown by his ordaining (or "passing over") of the reprobate. One unfamiliar with the theology might ask an obvious question: why doesn't God just show grace and mercy to ALL humans and make them ALL elect? The typical defense will be that God is not JUST mercy, grace, love, and kindness he is ALSO a holy God righteously angered by sin who must punish it wherever he sees fit. This depends on the plausible assumption (within the Christian context) that all God's essential attributes must be manifested within his creation to (in part) display His own glory as an intrinsically good thing. So the argument is that just as his mercy and grace must manifest in him choosing the elect his justice and wrath manifest in choosing the reprobate.

Where my argument comes into the picture is according to internal logic of the theology briefly sketched above it is perfectly compatible with universalism. And that God DIDN'T elect all humans vitiates against the claim that God is essentially good.

1) The Problem of Arbitrariness [2]

The problem is basically that say that we have any number of elect in this world (call that that number of elect E). There would be a possible world where the number of elect is E + 1. That is he could have created one less person as reprobate and one more as elect. The question comes into focus: doesn't it seem arbitrary that the number of people saved in the actual world is E instead of E + 1? In fact, it would seem better of God if he inducted as many people as possible into the set of E (since the alternative is an eternity of punishment and suffering) and as little possible remaining amongst the set of reprobates. We can ask the question potentially indefinitely; we can always ask why isn't there one more person that is elect than there actually is. There is nothing within Calvinist theology that says that the number of reprobate must be more than one. Even if we remember the Calvinist supposition that both mercy/grace and wrath/justice must be manifested it's unclear how not just have 1 reprobate wouldn't satisfy God's need to manifest his wrath and justice.

The kicker is that this reprobate need not actually be a human person in order to satisfy God's manifestation of wrath and justice. It merely needs to be something like a demon (or the baddest of the bad) Satan. So, God could have arranged affairs in such a way that only Satan is a reprobate and all of humanity is elect. This would mean that universalism obtains. That this doesn't obtain would make it seem that God is arbitrarily capricious and evil in not choosing all humans to be elect. This would obviously mean God is not essentially good and thus this generates a problem of evil.

2) Calvinistic universalism

Another way universalism should be true given Calvinistic considerations is that given:
(a) the need for an infinite retributive punishment to be meted out for the sin of those human agents who are fallen.(b) the need for sin to be atoned for (in Christ's death on the cross) for sinful human agents to be counted among the elect.18
(c) the need for the display of both God's grace and mercy and his wrath and justice in his created order. [3]

These are the reasons given by most Calvinists to defend the claim that that are both elect and reprobate humans.

Universalism is entirely compatible with (a) - (c). The following syllogism shows how:
(1) God decrees to create and elect all human agents.
(2) God decrees that the mechanism by which the sin of all human agents is atoned for is the death of Christ.
(3) The sin and guilt accruing to all sinful human agents is transferred to Christ, who is punished on their account on the cross.
Thus,
(4) all human agents are saved; none are lost, and none are in hell. [4]

Given the background assumption of penal substitution theory (which is the traditional Calvinistic theory of atonement) wherein Jesus the Son takes on the wrath and justice of the Father in order to atone for humans' sin and make effective the elects' salvation. [5] It should be clear here that there is nothing within point (a) that contradictions the previous syllogism. God metes out punishment for the sin of human agents who are fallen. The syllogism is also not inconsistent with (b). Sin is atoned for by the universalism advocated for in in the syllogism by Jesus' death. Jesus takes on the wrath and justice meant for all humans so that God can elect some humans. But in this case, he takes on the wrath and justice of the Father so that ALL humans can be elect. (c) is easily met. God shows his grace and mercy by electing all humans through Jesus and he shows his wrath and justice in the death of Jesus.

All this shows is that given the sense of sovereignty in the Calvinist sense and other Calvinistic theological considerations then universalism should be true. If a Calvinist wants to deny the conclusion of this argument it would seem that they have to do so at the expense of a of an intractable problem of evil. It would seem that God damns some human beings to hell even though it is not required in any sense by Calvinistic theological considerations. Meaning God could have saved all human beings from an eternity of punishment and suffering and misery (at no cost to God's personage)but he didn't for some inexplicable, arbitrary reason. This would strip God's goodness of any sensible understanding.


Sources

[1] http://www.jstor.org...
[2] ibid, pgs 131 - 132
[3] ibid, pg 134
[4] ibid, pg 135
[5] http://www.theopedia.com...
philochristos

Con

Thanks to popculturepooka for that lucid opening.

Intro to Calvinism

Pro's explanation of Calvinism is mostly correct except that he appears to think double predestination is the Calvinist position when, in fact, it is a minority position.

Double predestination is the idea that God predestines both the elect to salvation and the reprobate to damnation. Most Calvinists think God predestines the elect to salvation, but passively allows the reprobate to fall into damnation. Damnation is the default fate of everyone unless God intervenes to change their hearts. Most Calvinists will say that God predestines some to salvation, but refrains from predestining others, who naturally fall into damnation.[1]

I say that for information purposes only. I'm one of the few Calvinists who subscribes to double predestination, so this correction shouldn't be an area of contention in this debate.

I. The problem of arbitrariness

Pro concedes (at least for the sake of argument) that God's ultimate goal is the demonstration of his glory, and he demonstrates his glory in the display of both his mercy and his wrath. But it strikes him as arbitrary that God doesn't put one more person in the "mercy" category and one less person in the "wrath" category. As long as both mercy and wrath are displayed, God's glory is satisfied. It could be satisfied even if all humans were saved because God could demonstrate his wrath on demons. Presumably, any person who could have received mercy without sacrificing God's glory, but who does not, calls God's goodness into question. Since Calvinists believe many people will be damned, then Calvinism calls God's goodness into question.

There are three problems with this argument:

1. We're not in a position to say why God didn't save one more person.

In any situation where God's glory is manifest raises a similar question. If God's glory is manifest in the stars that fill the heavens, why not one more? We can't answer questions like that.

Surely Pro would agree that God had a reason for creating humans. There was some good in it. So why not one more human? And concerning evil, why not one less evil? Why not one less degree of suffering?

It's an interesting question--why God chose a certain number of this or that to display some aspect of his character, but the Bible doesn't answer questions like that. The most we are given is that God predestined some to salvation "in accordance with his pleasure and his will" (Ephesians 1:5).

2. It pits God's goodness in saving people against his goodness in displaying his wrath.

Since the display of God's glory is a good in itself, then anything God does to display that glory is good. So the display of God's wrath is also good, no less so than the display of his mercy. It doesn't make sense, then, to call God's goodness into question just because he didn't display more mercy and less wrath. We could just as easily ask why he didn't display more wrath and less mercy. There is a hidden assumption Pro seems to be making--that the display of God's mercy is good, and the display of his wrath is not good, but is just a necessary evil. But it's not a necessary evil. It's actually a good because it reveals God's glory.

3. It ignores the fact that everybody who is damned deserves it, but nobody who is saved deserves it.

Since everybody sins, God's goodness shouldn't be called into question for punishing anybody. God is under no obligation to save anybody, so he would be perfectly good even if nobody got saved. Since he would be perfectly justified in condemning everybody, his goodness shouldn't be called into question just because he doesn't save everybody. Saving sinners is a supererogatory act, not something that is morally required.[2]

This moral dimension is frequently ignored in discussions like these. People think of salvation the same way they think of saving a drowning man. If you see a man drowning, and it's within your power to save him, then you have an obligation to save him. But there is no obligation for God to show mercy to a sinner who deserves punishment. In fact, God detests acquitting the guilty (Proverbs 17:15), which is why atonement was necessary instead of arbitrarily pardoning people without payment.

II. Calvinistic Universalism

This argument strikes me as being almost identical to the first argument except that the object of God's wrath is different. Pro argues that the display of both God's mercy and wrath could be demonstrated even if all people are saved. God's mercy could be demonstrated in saving all people, and his wrath is demonstrated by the crucifixion of Jesus for sins. Since under Calvinism, God could save all people without compromising his glory, the fact that he doesn't creates an "intractable problem of evil."

I have two responses:

1. It again neglects the fact that people are sinners who deserve damnation and nobody deserves salvation.

I already addressed this in I.3 above.

2. It could be that God's wrath being poured out on the reprobate enhances our appreciation of Christ's sacrifice.

People sometimes wonder why Jesus only had to suffer temporarily for everybody's sins, whereas if we had paid for our own sins, it would've required eternal punishment. From appearances alone, it seems that God's wrath is more severe when poured out on sinners than it was when poured out on Christ. But it is because of Christ's infinite worth and value that makes his atonement sufficient.

Granted, Christ's atonement does display God's glory in the demonstration of both his mercy and his wrath, both are more fully demonstrated by God punishing those who are actually guilty of sin. It shows the elect precisely what they are being saved from, which, in turn, shows how merciful God was in sparing the elect. And it shows the severity of God's wrath in a way that may not be quite as illustrative in the crucifixion of Jesus.

Moreover, this would explain why there are fewer people who are saved than who are damned. Exceptions are always fewer than the norm, by their very definition. If there were more people saved than damned, then being damned would be the exception. But that would give a distorted picture of things since being damned is the default situation people are in, whereas being saved is an undeserved act of grace.

I am just speculating, but if there's even a possible reason for why God would choose not to save all (or even most), then that solves the "intractable problem of evil."

III. The sovereignty of God in salvation

Pro and I agree in our view that the Bible is the word of God, so if it can be shown that the Calvinist view of God's sovereignty is true, then that should settle the matter. Even if we didn't know the solution to the "problems" Pro raised against Calvinism, we would have to conclude that there is a solution.

God's sovereignty in salvation is shown in John 6 and 10. Jesus explains that the reason some believe and some don't is because some are givien to Jesus by the Father and some aren't. So it's all up to the Father.

In John 19:26-27, Jesus explains: "But you do not believe, because you are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." So you have to be Jesus' sheep before you can believe in him. We become Jesus' sheep by the Father giving us to him, as it says in verse 29. In John 6:37, Jesus said, "All that the Father gives me will come to me." So a person's coming to Jesus is determined by the Father giving them to Jesus. It's all up to the Father.

Conclusion

A lot of people are really turned off by Calvinism, and they even have strong negative emotional reactions to it. With that in mind, I ask the readers to exercise special care in not being swayed by your own biases. Try to be fair. It may be harder in this case than in most others.

[1] This is the position R.C. Sproul takes in Chosen By God. http://www.amazon.com...

[2] http://plato.stanford.edu...

Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to philochristos for his thoughtful round. I appreciate his fair summing up my arguments as well. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, I take issue with a lot of it.

I. The problem of arbitrariness

1. We're not in a position to say why God didn't save one more person.

I think this objection is mistaken.

First, we are not talking about changing or adding to the total number of humans as we would be in the case of God creating 1 more person ex nihilo to be added to the "elect" class. We are talking about God electing E + 1 people from the set of humans that are in any particular possible world. So, the rhetorical questions to illustrate Con's point (I'll call it the stars + 1 objection) don't quite get off the ground.

Second, I think given my sketched scenario reducing the amount of suffering is something an omnibenevolent God would do. Why? Because given my scenario he can already satisfy the actualization conditions for justice and wrath with a much less number of the reprobate (much less suffering) than he actually does. That God would opt for a situation wherein there is much more suffering on the reprobates part when he could have done much with less (without changing the magnitude of his glory) doesn't seem to me to be very benevolent - much less omnibenevolent!

2. It pits God's goodness in saving people against his goodness in displaying his wrath.

My arguments need not assume that good aspects of God's nature are being pitting against each other. I even think that wrath, properly understood, is a good thing (but I understand it in a rehabilitative sense, not retributive). But even on a retributivist understanding of wrath that is being seen as good the objection doesn't seem to hold weight. Given that the goodness of his wrath can still be displayed on demons/Satan while all human beings are elect (which shows his goodness in mercy and grace). If we accept the plausible assumption that omnibenevolence has to do with loving and wanting to maximize the welfare of loved ones (the elect) then God preferring that there are more people who don't have their welfare maximized when he could absolutely do with less suffering is just undermines the whole concept. If we accept God as the maximally perfect being it would seem that it's greater to love all humans with the same love rather than a select few.

3. It ignores the fact that everybody who is damned deserves it, but nobody who is saved deserves it.

My arguments need not assume this either. It could be the case that it a fact that all deserved to be damned and none deserve to be saved. Indeed, that is a common theme amongst all denominations of Christians. It is also common that God in his infinite love and grace decided to show mercy on humans and elect them. None of this scenario requires talk about moral obligations and such. It could simply be that God's nature is to love, be gracious, and merciful and it's not that some obligation requires him to save - it's that by his very nature he is motivated to do such a thing. And, given the most common and plausible understanding of love, graciousness, and mercy, and given that he could satisfy his need to actualize his justice and wrath with much less suffering of humans it would seem God would do so.

II. Calvinistic Universalism

1. It again neglects the fact that people are sinners who deserve damnation and nobody deserves salvation.

I addressed Con's 1 earlier.

2. It could be that God's wrath being poured out on the reprobate enhances our appreciation of Christ's sacrifice.

I think this reply here overlooks several more plausible replies, that, unfortunately are not consonant with this line of reasoning.

For one, I should think that given traditional Incarnational theology wherein in Christ is both 100 % divine and 100 % human God pouring out his wrath on Christ in the atonement should be more than sufficient enough to get humans to appreciate what they are being saved from apart from God's saving love. Indeed, if all humans were saved it would lead to more appreciation of God's amazing grace and love and wonderment at what we rightly deserved but did not receive.

For two, it's unclear, again, why the reprobates would have to be human persons. Surely we could appreciate the demonstration of his wrath on non-human moral agents (such as demons) that are actually guilty of sin and God would still be able to get his point across. Heck, God could create a massive illusion where "virtual reality" reprobates are shown to the elect having Gods' wrath poured upon them. God would not have to tell the elect that this is a non-real scenario, the elect would have their appreciation of God's graciousness maximized, and actual moral agents capable of suffering would not be hurt.

Sure the above are highly speculative, just as Cons replies are, but I think my speculations hold up better.

III. The sovereignty of God in salvation

I do agree with Con that the Bible is the word of God (although I am almost 100% certain we differ on what exactly that means and entails) but I would not quite agree with Con's analysis here. Even if it were to be shown that Calvinism (and by extension it's take on sovereignty) was unquestionably the best theology on offer of the Bible this problem would still remain. Because my line of argument here is essentially parasitic off of Calvinistic theology - it shows that following the line of reasoning with the theology one could consistently be a universalist. And then this would give rise the question of why God didn't actualize a world where universalism is true over one where it's not true. There appears to be no reason if my arguments are successful. Which would again count against the claim that God is all-good. If Calvinism truly has this sort of internal problem than it'd be best to remain agnostic on the relevant questions in any case.

I actually don't agree with some aspects of Calvinism as I think there are good biblical reasons to be a universalist. [1]
That's neither here nor there in this debate. I think a version of the problem of evil still remains embedded within Calvinistic theology.


Sources

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org...
philochristos

Con

Popculturpooka must be messing with me by waiting until minutes before his time is up to post. :-)

I. The problem of arbitrariness

1. We're not in a position to say why God didn't save one more person.

It doesn't matter whether we're talking about creating more of something for God's glory, or taking more or less from a set that already exists for God's glory. In the case of God's mercy and wrath, he is glorified in the demonstration of both. In any situation in which God designates a fixed number of people for one purpose and the rest for another, we can't say why he chooses the precise number that he does. To attempt to draw significance from the number of people who serve God's purposes in a particular way is to make an argument from ignorance. I grant that I can't say why God doesn't save one more person than he does, but I equally can't say why he doesn't save one less (after all, nobody deserves to be saved). In both cases, he would be glorified by the demonstration of both his mercy and his wrath.

Originally, Pro argued that if God doesn't save as many as possible without sacrificing his glory, then "God is not essentially good," and that it "generates a problem of evil." But now, he has changed goodness to benevolence, saying that if God doesn't save everybody he can, then he would not be "very benevolent - much less omnibenevolent!" I'll say address that under the third point.

2. Pitting God's goodness in saving people against his goodness in displaying his wrath.

Pro doesn't dispute that both saving people and demonstrating his wrath are good. He acknowledges that they are both good. But then when he goes on to say that the benevolent and loving thing to do is to save as many as possible, it is implicit in his argument that if you have a choice between making somebody an object of wrath and making them an object of mercy, the good thing would be to make them an object of mercy and not wrath, which is implicitly to say that making them an object of wrath is evil. After all, that's why he thinks Calvinism causes a problem of evil. He thinks it's evil for God to punish sinners when he could have saved them. But that contradicts what he said about wrath being good. If both wrath and mercy are good, then Pro is inconsistent to turn around and say the good thing for God would be to show mercy as far as possible, and it's evil if God shows wrath instead.

3. It ignores the fact that everybody who is damned deserves it, but nobody who is saved deserves it.

This is the biggest problem with Pro's argument. He wants to argue that if God damns somebody when he could have saved them, then he's evil. But it's only evil to damn people if they don't deserve it. But everybody deserves it. This point alone refutes Pro's entire case in this debate.

Pro doesn't dispute my point that God has no moral obligation to save anybody. If God has no moral obligation to save anybody, then he cannot be considered evil for not doing so.

So Pro changes his argument. Instead of arguing that goodness entails that God save people as far as he is able, he now argues that God's "infinite love" and "omnibenevolence" entail that he save people as far as he is able.

Before Pro can make the case that God's sovereignty in salvation, combined with God's "infinite love," entails universal salvation, he first needs to make the case that God's love is infinite in the sense that he means. After all, Calvinists think God's love is discriminatory. He doesn't love everybody in the same way. He certainly didn't love Jacob and Esau the same (Romans 9:13). The Bible is clear in many places that God does not love indiscriminately (e.g. Psalm 11:5). Just as husbands are to love their wives in a way they don't love other men's wives, so also is Christ's love for his bride (i.e. the church) special (Ephesians 5:25). God loved the patriarchs and Israel in a way that he didn't love other nations. He loves Christ specially (Matthew 12:18). Etc.

II. Calvinistic universalism

1. It again neglects the fact that people are sinners who deserve damnation and nobody deserves salvation.

See I.3 above.

2. It could be that God's wrath poured out on the reprobate enhances our appreciation of Christ's sacrifice.

Pro makes the modest point that his speculative scenario holds up better than mine. But his point is too modest to carry his burden of proof, which is that under the assumption of God's sovereignty in salvation, his unwillingness to save as many people as possible creates an "intractable problem of evil." The problem of evil is solved by the mere possibility that God's glory is more manifest in pouring his wrath out on actual sinners rather than on Christ alone (or on non-humans, or virtual reality). Pro will have to do better than offer a speculative scenario that he thinks holds up better than mine. He will have to say it's not even possible that God could be more glorified in his wrath toward sinners than without it. Otherwise, the problem of evil is not intractable as he said.

Moreover, even though he claims this his scenario holds up better than mine, mine actually has the advantage of being Biblical. In Romans 9:21-24, it says, "Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate his wrath and make his power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And he did so to make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom he also called, not from among the Jews only, but also from among the Gentiles." That is precisely the scenario I offered. I only speculated about how the vessels of wrath enhanced the demonstration of God's glory.

III. The sovereignty of God in salvation

Pro may not have understood my argument here. Let me try to clarify. If Pro and I agree that the Bible presents a consistent theology, then whatever theological points can be accurately derived from scripture must be consistent. If the Bible teaches that (1) God is sovereign in salvation, (2) God is perfectly good, and (3) not everybody is saved, then we must conclude that these three points are consistent even if we don't know how to reconcile them. That, in turn, means that universalism doesn't not follow from 1 and 2, and that affirming 1 and 3 does not create a problem of evil.

Pro agrees with 2 and 3 (as far as I know, anyway). I gave an argument for 1. It follows that there is no problem of evil under Calvinism, and universalism doesn't follow from the Calvinist view of God's sovereignty. It should be noted that Pro gave no refutation of my argument for God's sovereignty in salvation.

IV. God has a purpose in not saving all people

The Bible tells us explicitly that God has a purpose in not saving all people. In Proverbs 16:4, it says that God made everything for a purpose, including "the wicked for the day of evil." In Romans 9:17 it says that God raised Pharaoh up in order to demonstrate his power and make his name known. He demonstrated his power in Pharaoh by pouring his wrath out on him. There is also Romans 9:21-14, which tells us that's God's purpose in vessels of wrath is to demonstrate his glory.

Conclusion

There are three points I want to emphasize in conclusion. First, because we are all sinners, God would be perfectly good even if none of us were saved. Second, that God's sovereignty in salvation is taught in scripture, as I have demonstrated and Pro has not challenged. Third, Pro has changed the debate over whether God is good/evil under Calvinism to whether God is infinitely loving/benevolent under Calvinism. He must argue that God is morally obligated to save as far as possible before his argument from evil can go through. And he must argue that God loves indiscriminately before his argument for universalism can go through. I've challenged both.

Debate Round No. 3
popculturepooka

Pro


I. The problem of arbitrariness

1. We're not in a position to say why God didn't save one more person.

First, I think Con is simply missing the point of my argument here. It's not an argument from ignorance. The line of logic in my argument gives good reason to thin that all should/will be saved or one runs into unpalatable theological arbitrariness. If Con wants to deny the reasons/implications of the argument it will not do to simply leave it at a charge of an argument from ignorance.

Second, Con's charge of me basically changing my argument doesn't stick. Because a) benevolence is essentially being used as a synonym for goodness and b) nothing hangs on me using "goodness" and "benevolence" interchangeably. If they are not the same thing, then surely "benevolence" would be a good making property. When people say God is all good, benevolence (among many other properties like love, kindness, mercy, just, etc) is subsumed under that set of all those good-making properties. Benevolence would just be one specific aspect of God's goodness.

2. Pitting God's goodness in saving people against his goodness in displaying his wrath.

Of course, this seems to miss my point where I elucidated that wrath - properly understood in the rehabilitative sense - is good. No one would argue that that wrath simplicter is good. No one would argue that a husband's wrath who flies into a jealous rage and beats his wife in his wrath because of his insecurities is good. But ignoring that point, even understanding wrath in a retributivist sense, as I've argued, that is no stumbling block to him saving all humans (i.e demonstrating his wrath on demons/satan). It might be "good" to demonstrate wrath on humans, but it'd be better if it was demonstrated without the damnation of a single human (because, after all, humans hold a special, valued place within Christian theology). All of this argument works even on the assumption that humans do not deserve anything from God - it could simply be that demons/satans deserve salvation even less than humans.

3. It ignores the fact that everybody who is damned deserves it, but nobody who is saved deserves it.

Again, Con misses the point. He seems to to want to frame the entire debate in terms of God's moral obligations to his creatures. The thing is, my argument doesn't depend on that. God could have no moral obligations whatsoever (which is what certain versions of Divine Command Theory entail) and still be motivated by his good making properties (like loving, kindness, mercy, justice, etc) to save all human beings. For example, it may not have been required (in the morally obligatory sense) for Mother Theresa to devote so much of her time to helping the poor and sick, but her character or nature was such that she literally could not live without helping people in this sense. Not required but unavoidable, nonetheless. I'm talking about much the same situation would obtain with God. It's simply uncontroversial to say if God doesn't display some essential good making properties, then God isn't good. That's the whole thrust of my argument.

Con's point about it only being evil to damn people if they don't deserve it seems patently false in any case. Imagine there is a father to three unruly and disobedient children. He constantly tells them over and over again not to disobey him and skate on the ice when it is thin because the ice might break and they might die. He even shows them what would happen as they freeze and drown to death. Perhaps they even curse him as a fool for even suggesting such a thing. Being the unruly and disobedient children they are, they don't listen to him and, just like father said, the children fall through the ice and start drowning and suffocating. Father jumps in the water and only saves one of the children even though he could've saved all three. He wanted to "make an example" of the other two. In one sense, they deserve exactly what they got; Father told them not to do it. But, when reflecting on the notion of Father being a good person (loving first and foremost) if Father did not save his children even when he could have that seems to vitiate against the claim that Father is a good person.

My point here is simply that if God is love is discriminatory in the sense that Con claims and if God is sovereign in the sense Con claims than the PoE remains for those who want to deny universalism. Pointing to bible verses doesn't resolve the internal theological, philosophical, and moral problems. The charge of changing arguments, again, doesn't stick because notions of "infinite love" and "omnibenevolence" are intimately tied with the notion of "perfect goodness". And if we were to subscribe to perfect being theology (as is implicit in this debate) then it would be better that God's love extends to all humans rather than some. It might be that God could get by on lesser goods - I have no idea if that's true or not - but surely not at the expense of greater goods that could be actualized.

II. Calvinistic universalism

2. It could be that God's wrath poured out on the reprobate enhances our appreciation of Christ's sacrifice.

My argument is not too modest because Con seems to take a overly restrictive view of "intractability" here. If the best and most plausible answer to the logical problem of evil is that ducks are awesome, therefore a good God could coexist with evil, then I'd certainly say we'd have an intractable problem of evil on our hands. If the most "plausible" answer is that implausible that is not a good thing. It might be possible that is why God allows evil, but it's not plausible. In any case, I see no reason why my argument must be cast in terms of logical impossibilities/possibilities like Con seems to think. It could be cast in an evidential problem of evil fashion, where plausibility judgements come into play more heavily. And I think my speculative scenarios are much more evidently plausible than Con's. If Con's scenario is the best on offer, it would seem the problem of evil in this context (with respect to sovereignty and universalism) remains intractable.


III. The sovereignty of God in salvation

On the other hand, if the Bible allegedly teaches Con's (1) - (3), yet the theological system used to make sense of (1) - (3) entails - or gives good reason to deny - (3) if one does not want to sacrifice (2) (as no Christian should) then that would either imply that a) the theological system in question is inconsistent or b) God is not good. Which is exactly what I have been arguing. Mere logical or epistemic consistency can not do the heavy work of coming up with a plausible answer to the challenge. That'd be like arguing that the mere logical possibility of some esoteric theory of quantum gravity solves the intractable problem of how to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics given our current understandings of how they work.

IV. God has a purpose in not saving all people

And I'm arguing that given the line of logic internal to Calvinism generates a tension in the form of a PoE. It's not a matter of proving this or that doctrine from scripture (because otherwise my case would look a lot different); it's the matter of showing that given Calvinistic assumptions (and working within the Calvinistic theology) about God's sovereignty, universalism should obtain. If these theological points deriven from scriptures generate a PoE the intractable problem doesn't go away because of the fact they are deriven from scripture.

Conclusion

Thanks for the debate, Con, and thank you every one for reading!
philochristos

Con

I. The problem of arbitrariness

1. We're not in a position to say why God didn't save one more person

I insist that Pro's argument is an argument from ignorance. He's arguing, essentially, that because we cannot account for why God doesn't save one more person (or damn one less person), or how it makes his glory one bit more or less, that it's therefore arbitrary. But that doesn't follow.

Con equates "benevolence" with "goodness" because benevolence is a great-making property. I agree that benevolence is good, but goodness does not require indiscriminant benevolence or mercy. As I argued earlier, saving people by grace is a supererogatory act. Pro never responded to that point.

2. Pitting God's goodness in saving people against his goodness in displaying his wrath

I did get Pro's point about wrath for the sake of rehabilitation being good. I ignored it because it's not relevant. Nor is "wrath simpliciter." What's relevant is wrath for the sake of retribution. In this sense, Pro admitted that "It might be 'good' to demonstrate wrath on humans." I would make a stronger claim and say that it is good. It's what justice demands. God did not pour out his wrath on Pharaoh's army to rehabilitate them. He killed them! Nor did he pour out his wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah to rehabilitate them. Nor did he pour out his wrath on Christ to rehabilitate him. These are all examples of retribution--giving people what they deserve (or, in Christ's case, what we deserve). That is good.

Pro claims that it is better to show mercy than wrath, but he never substantiates that claim. In fact, Romans 9 makes it very clear that God is perfectly justified in showing both at his discretion. Moreover, he ignores my scriptural point from Proverbs 17:15 that God detests acquitting the guilty.

3. It ignores the fact that everybody who is damned deserves it, but nobody who is saved deserves it.

Since Pro is atttempting to derive a problem of evil from Calvinist theology, moral obligation is absolutely relevant in this debate. One can be perfectly good if one fulfills their moral obligations, even if one does not go above and beyond the call of duty. Since God is not obligated to save anybody, he cannot be called evil for his unwilllingness to save everybody.

Pro's analogy with the Father breaks down because disobeying your dad does not justify your dad in letting you drown. The punishment does not fit the crime in Pro's analogy. However, sinning against God does justify God in punishing you in the final judgment where God repays each person according to their deeds (Matthew 16:27). In the case of God's judgment, the punishment does fit the crime.

As long as Pro does not dispute the authority of the Bible, showing that God's love is discriminate certainly does solve the problem of evil that Pro raised against Calvinism. Pro's argument is based on the unscriptural assumption that God's love is indiscriminate. I showed that assumption to be false. Since his argument depends on that assumption, his argument fails. He should have attempted to refute my Biblical argument, but he didn't.

II. Calvinist universalism

1. It again neglects the fact that people are sinners who deserve damnation and nobody deserves salvation.

Addressed in I.3 above.

2. It could be that God's wrath poured out on sinners enhances our appreciation of Christ's sacrifice.

It is true that I took Con's argument from evil against Calvinism to be a logical problem of evil. He doesn't dispute that my argument solves the logical problem. Instead, he says it is an evidential problem of evil. In that case he's right that mere possibility is not enough to solve the problem.

However, I think i did better than provide a merely possible explanation. I provided an explanation that is supported Biblically. I showed that it is essentially the same scenario that Paul explains in Romans 9:21-24. Pro ignored that point.

III. The sovereignty of God in salvation

I did better than offer a merely logical possibility of the consistency of these three statements: (1) God is sovereign in salvation, (2) God is perfectly good, and (3) not everybody is saved. I pointed out that all three are actually true. It follows inescapably that there is a solution to Pro's challenge. We don't even have to know what that solution is. Pro mistakenly thinks we need to know what the solution is before we can refute his argument. His argument is that if God is sovereign in salvation but doesn't save everybody, then he's evil. Or, if he's sovereign in salvation, and perfectly good, then he would save everybody. But that is false, and we can know it's false by knowing that 1-3 are all actually true.

IV. God has a purpose in not saving all people

Pro seems to think this point is irrelevant because whether the Scriptures teach the doctrines of Calvinism or not, universalism would still follow from the Calvinist view of God's sovereignty, and a problem of evil would still follow from denying universalism. But that is only true if Pro jettisons his belief in the authority of the Bible on theological issues. If he means to play devil's advocate in this debate and pretend that he does not subscribe to the authority of the Bible, he should say so. From what I understand, he accepts the authority of the Bible.

But anyway, he missed my point. My point was to strengthen other arguments I had made in this debate. Under III, I showed that we can know there's a solution to the problem of evil Con raised without even knowing what that solution is. The point I made in IV strengthens that case because it shows that God actually has a purpose in expressing his wrath toward sinners.

It also refutes Pro's claim in I. Since God has a purpose in pouring out his wrath on sinners, it is not arbitrary that he does so. To be arbitrary means that there is no purpose.

Conclusion

I think I have shown quite conclusively that universalism does not follow from God's sovereignty in salvation. Neither is there an intractable problem of evil for Calvinists who deny universalism.

Thank you for coming to tonight's debate. And thanks to popculturepooka for the challenge and for not forfeitting (which I was afraid of twice!).

Debate Round No. 4
34 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Hilarious.
Posted by devient.genie 4 years ago
devient.genie
More interesting topic with the same level of reality behind it:

How much light is projected if Santa has two Rudolph's?
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
This wasn't a debate about whether Calvinism is justified or whether the bible teaches Calvinism or anything of that nature though - that is a debate where scripture would figure heavily. If it was I would've taken an entirely different tact. It was about the consistency of the internal logic of a system of theology.
Posted by Paradox_7 4 years ago
Paradox_7
Apologies for not explaining the source vote. It was because through entire debate, you never used any scripture. Since this a debate about theology, and the bible was agreed as the word of God, you should have atleast put one scripture to support your claims.

Maybe you did and I missed it, but after brushing through it for the second time, I didn't notice the bible as a source.
Posted by philochristos 4 years ago
philochristos
I'll send him a message in case he's not subscribed.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
But thanks for the votes Noumena and Paradox.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Sources vote? o_O
Posted by Noumena 4 years ago
Noumena
There were a lot of points made and I won't have space to cover all of them here. But the two points which stood out to me as the most important were Con's charge that Pro was delegating a morally obligatory command to God (which doesn't obtain) and the problem of Biblical inerrancy and authority. If Con is right on the former than it destroys Pro's entire groundwork in the debate. If he's right on the latter than Pro implicitly contradicts himself.

On the former, I think it should have been clear that Pro wasn't discerning moral obligations here. It wasn't that God should do something owing to his omni-benevolence. It's that omni-benevolence itself implies that God *would* do something. The change seems minor but it has important reprecussions. If Pro was making a moral demand than we would be able to conceive of holding God accountable or calling him evil. But this was never in question that he was good. Pro was extrapolating from a definition, not holding God to a standard.

On the latter, I thought Pro would have done better to cover more ground on his specific interpretation of scriptural authority on the matter. Con's case was that given God's sovereignty, his goodness, and non-universalism as allegedly purported in the Bible, a solution necessarily exists *somewhere* even if we don't know the specifics. Pro mentioned his different take on Calvinist theology in passing but made it clear that wasn't relevant here. What was relevant was the fact that we can't just presume at the outset that a solution exists somewhere in the face of Pro's logical argument. If it does than it brings the whole of Calvinist theology into question. Therefore falling back on Calvinist theology to save Calvinist theology is out of the question.

Good debate to both sides though. While I'm not a theist, Christian, Calvinist, or universalist it's always interesting to me to delve into the inner debates among Christian theology.
Posted by Noumena 4 years ago
Noumena
Fuuck. Halfway through my RFD and all the computer's in the library turn off. Guess I'm starting over.
Posted by unitedandy 4 years ago
unitedandy
Great debate guys. I'll need to read it a couple of times to make sure to judge it properly, but well done to both of you.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Paradox_7 4 years ago
Paradox_7
popculturepookaphilochristosTied
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Reasons for voting decision: It shouldn't be to surprising that I voted the way I did. However, I will say I was surpised at how convincing PRO's arguments were in the R2. It actually had me leaning toward his position, in that it wouldn't affect the gospel. Then, CON presented his counter argument, and PRO was unable to show how God's wrath was evil/bad. CON successfully refuted all of PRO arguments and had room to place additional obstacles which PRO made no mention of or simply couldn't challenge. Great debate from both sides.
Vote Placed by Noumena 4 years ago
Noumena
popculturepookaphilochristosTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.