The following is a guest post by Dan Johnson, associate professor of philosophy at Shawnee State University and co-editor of the recently published Calvinism and the Problem of Evil.
The Central Argument in Walls’ New Book Against Calvinism is Logically Invalid
The argument that lies at the heart of Jerry Walls’ recent book Does God Love Everyone? What’s Wrong With Calvinism is reproduced here:
- God truly loves all persons.
- Not all persons will be saved.
- Truly to love someone is to desire their well-being and to promote their true flourishing as much as one properly can.
- The well-being and true flourishing of all persons is to be found in a right relationship with God, a saving relationship in which we love and obey him.
- God could give all persons “irresistible grace” and thereby determine all persons to freely accept a right relationship with himself and be saved.
- Therefore, all persons will be saved. (p. 30)
He points out that the argument results in a contradiction (between premise 2 and the conclusion, 6), though he could have just as easily removed premise 2 and just noted that the argument proves something Calvinists reject. He says that Arminians reject 5, but since 5 is an obvious implication of Calvinism and Calvinists also accept 2 and 4, Calvinists have to reject 1 or 3.
Walls treats this argument like it is a logically valid argument. He calls it a “logical argument,” and he thinks you need to deny one of the premises in order to avoid the conclusion of the argument: “Now Calvinists and Arminians generally agree that 2 is true and is clearly taught in Scripture. Therefore, both sides will deny the conclusion (number 6) that says “all persons will be saved.” But here is the question: which of the other premises will you reject if you deny that all are saved? Will you deny 1, or 3, or 4 or 5?” (p. 31) Only logically valid arguments – arguments where it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false – are such that you must deny a premise in order to avoid endorsing the conclusion of the argument. With invalid arguments it is possible for all the premises to be true while the conclusion remains false. So Walls must think this is a logically valid argument.
[This is the third in an n-part series, where n>1 and probably n<10.]
In this unintentionally and regrettably sporadic series, I’ve been considering the question: How well is Molinism supported by the Bible? In the first post I argued that the Bible affirms (1) comprehensive divine providence and (2) God’s knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom (i.e., knowledge of what any created agent would freely choose if placed in specific circumstances), but Molinism holds no advantage over Augustinianism with respect to (1) and (2). I concluded with this statement:
If we want to show that Molinism has better biblical support than Augustinianism (or vice versa) then we need to find some proposition p which is affirmed by Molinism and denied by Augustinianism (or vice versa) such that p enjoys positive biblical support (i.e., there are biblical texts which, on the most natural and defensible interpretation, and without begging philosophical questions, assert or imply p).
In the second post I examined one candidate for proposition p: the proposition that moral freedom is incompatible with determinism (which Molinists invariably affirm, but Augustinians typically deny). I concluded that the Bible offers no support for incompatibilism. In this post I’ll consider a second candidate for proposition p: the proposition that God desires all to be saved.
One common argument against the traditional Christian view of hell, understood as an eternal punishment for unrepentant sin (Matt. 25:41-46; Mark 9:48; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:9-10), is that it is intrinsically unjust to inflict infinite punishment for finite sin. This argument has been deployed by both universalists and annihilationists. Defenders of the traditional view have responded to the objection in a variety of ways, but in this post I want to question the underlying assumption that the traditional view entails that hell is an infinite punishment. Not only does this not follow from the traditional view, I suggest, the idea itself should be rejected as incoherent. Objections to the idea of infinite punishment are really a red herring in debates over the doctrine of hell.
1 I am speaking the truth in Christ — I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit — 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4 But then I remind myself that no one will be finally accursed and cut off from Christ and that puts a swift end to the great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 5 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, and Esau I loved too.”
6 What shall we say then? Is God unloving? By no means! 7 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on everyone, and I will have compassion on everyone.”