Thursday, October 4, 2012

God, Election, and Judas

“God, of course, assigns callings according to his foreknowledge. But although Jesus may have known the hearts and reactions of those he chose, nevertheless his choice of Judas was no different than his choice of John. He said that he knew a disciple would betray him, but he did not cause Judas to fall.”

            This quote comes from a section in Forster and Marston on the biblical concept of election. They argue that the primary use of election in the New Testament is in regards to God choosing someone for an office, which office has a certain task to be done. A person appointed to some office does not have the power to do the task and so such an appointed person must meet a condition given  by God in order for him (God) to give them the power to do the work. The condition is merely that one is willing to do the task appointed to the office. There are several cases of this and one is Jesus’ and God’s appointing of the apostles.
            With this backdrop let us look at what is being said here. So God assigns callings or offices on the basis of his foreknowledge. Although God may have known the hearts of those he chose, “nevertheless his choice of Judas was no different than his choice of John. He said that he knew a disciple would betray him, but he did not cause Judas to fall.” Okay, so God assigns his calling to Judas to be an apostle knowing that Judas would betray Jesus and fall, but merely by knowing God did not cause Judas to betray Jesus or to fall.
            But what was God’s purpose in calling Judas since he knew that he would do these things? Was it that God hoped that Judas would end up not betraying Jesus and falling away even though he knew for certain that Judas would do these things? Surely if the answer is yes to the last two questions, then God is acting irrationally. But if God acts irrationally then God is not perfect. But perfection comes with the job description of being God, and so we know this way of understanding why God appointed Judas though he knew he would fail isn’t a satisfactory way out.
            Perhaps, one might answer, God elected Judas even though he knew that Judas would fall so that God could use Judas’ willful misfortune for other people’s benefit. This says that God uses a person’s misfortune for his own ends. How nice!
This means that even if God isn’t the cause of Judas’ misfortune, and Judas’ own willful choice is the cause of his downfall, yet God elects Judas to an office that God knows Judas will not fulfill (even though God knows that potentially Judas could). Further, perhaps we could say that in one sense God elects Judas to his office because he knows Judas will fail and because God will use that failure to accomplish his own personal ends. In fact Forster and Marston later on suggest something similar when they say, “The great thing about God is that he is able, in his foreknowledge, to make use even of those who rebel against him. Thus, although Judas rejected him, God used this rejection to set in motion the events leading up to Christ’s atoning death” (emphasis added).
            Last night, 10/3/2012, there was a presidential debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Let us suppose that there was some president or other leader who appointed a person to some office knowing that that person would fail, because that president or leader wanted to use that appointee’s failure to accomplish his own personal program. I want to suggest that even if the program that comes about through the president’s or leader’s appointee’s failure benefits or helps other people, there still seems to be something that is intuitively fishy with how the leader accomplishes his/her program. If one shares with me this intuition, the idea of why this is intuitively fishy seems to be that it is not completely morally acceptable to appoint someone to some office, knowing they are going to fail, in order to use that failure to accomplish one’s own ends. Even if the ends are beneficial to many people, it seems that even in those cases, ends don’t necessarily justify means, and don’t massage shady means.
            So if this is the case for some leader, what gets God off the hook of this objection? I am not sure. There may be some nuanced explanation, but I will leave that to someone else to explain. What I want to suggest is what the case is if God can’t get off the hook to an objection like this. This is a hypothetical, and I am asking my readers here to just assume the objection of moral shadiness applies to Forster and Marston’s analysis of God’s appointing Judas (or similar analyses) for the sake of argument. Well if it is shady for a great leader, then it seems shady for God. Someone might say, rightly, that the person who failed did so because of their own neglect or abuse or character. So if this leader does this, though it is intuitively shady to us, well, he didn’t cause the appointee’s failure he merely used the appointees failure to accomplish the ends he so desires. In doing so, he is not acting completely, and in an out and out fashion, immoral. Rather it just seems to us, intuitively, to be shady.
Here is the thing, God is purported to be omnibenevolent. That means that God always lives up to the highest moral standards, and if our shared intuition (given that someone does share this intuition with me) suggest anything, it suggest that there is a better way to go about accomplishing one’s purposes than to set someone up, or appoint them to some position that you know that the person will fail at, (even if it is because of the appointee’s own will that the failure takes place) and then use that failure for one’s own ends. Surely, intuitively, we don’t think that this is the ideally right or moral way to go about establishing one’s plans and goals. But if it is not the ideal, then by definition it is not the best; and if it is not the best or most moral way, then by the definition of omnibenevolent suggested above, God could not do it. Or, worse yet, God is not omnibenevolent.
            I think what someone has to do is either show that the leader case does not really apply to God in the Judas situation. Say that it would apply if God so appointed Judas to the office of an apostle, but that God doesn’t in fact elect or appoint Judas to the office of an apostle (and thus reject Forster and Marston’s analysis). Show that I have not defined my terms correctly, or that my dilemma has no intuitive force to it. Or to just accept God is not omnibenevolent.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Critique of Gauker's Critique of Grice, from Words Without Meaning

The problem of comparing the alligator with wings to the issue of meaningnn something by something is that with items or entities like alligators and rabbits and winged creatures we already know what these things are. This is not a settled case (at least by the time of Grice’s analysis, hence his theory) with what conditions are satisfied when communication takes place. There is also the obvious difference with the fact that alligators and rabbits are things that are concrete, and meaningnn is at least not a concrete entity in the same way, and more than that it seems to Grice to be some function on some thought or proposition that is in itself moodless. These are points under consideration in the philosophy of language, and thus not known prior like how we in our culture know an alligator and a rabbit. Any idea or image we have of what goes on in or during meaningful interaction or communication seems mostly intuitive or at least the process of justifying and even falsifying aspects of our theories relies more on intuition than being strictly empirical. So we can see why Grice’s relies on intuition in his examples of the handkerchief and Herod having intention but not having meaning. Not only does it seem true that an important part of our analysis of meaningnn is on an intuitive level and that this process of communication can not be reduced to mere observation, but also the way we verify of falsify the various conditions is different for the two different kinds of examples. For alligators and rabbits and winged creatures we merely look and see, or base our judgments on looking and seeing, that alligators don’t have wings and are not rabbits. With meaningnn or communication by meaningnn this is something that we do and that we might perceive ourselves as accomplishing, but we certainly don’t observe these things in the same way that we observe alligators and rabbits, and that’s because these are two different kinds of entities. In fact one of the questions Grice is trying to answer is what kind of entity meaningnn actually is.
            If the above reasons do not show that the fallacious way of reasoning that Gauker points out (which reasoning itself is a part of Grice’s persuasive strategy, where the persuasive strategy is a piecing together of items that are deemed necessary for U to meannn p by some utterance s given some audience A) is not in fact fallacious, it may achieve giving at least an approximation on why there is a difference in intuitive plausibility, where we see off the bat that winged alligators are absurd and yet some can see Grice’s persuasive strategy as having more intuitive plausibility. I think the fact that there is some who see a more intuitive plausibility for Grice’s analysis of meaning something by something than the winged alligator example is seen in the reaction of the graduate students to Gauker’s illustration of the alleged fallacy Grice makes. In fact, and moving for a minute away from what was just said in the previous sentence, we can think of examples and culture where a winged alligator might not be thought implausible, for instance, perhaps in some fourteenth century Amazon hunter and gather society. Perhaps certain people have worshiped such fictional entities, or the like, as a deity, and even if they didn’t, we might find that it is intuitively plausible that there might have been such people or such a society.
These considerations, so far as I can tell and intend, don’t really get at the heart of Gauker’s objection. His objection is, at the heart, that every step of Grice’s persuasive strategy incorporates a fallacious way of reasoning in order to fix some previous oversimplified account of how we meannn something by something. I see little reason to take this objection seriously if Grice is merely giving us an account of what we do when we perceive ourselves as having or getting at communication. Perhaps it is strictly fallacious for me to think that there are other minds in light of insufficient evidence and not the best kind of arguments that there are, but I just intuitively and naturally think that there are other minds and I take myself and all others who think that there are other minds as acting rationally in so believing. Me believing in other minds is just how I behave, and I just take it for granted, perhaps without persuasive arguments and evidence, that this is rationally okay for me to do. So it seems to me that Gauker’s argument is irrelevant if we are describing how the activity or cooperative endeavor that we call communication or meaningnn something by something actually takes place. Perhaps Gauker’s objection is that we shouldn’t communicate this way but rather we should communicate or meannn in a way that doesn’t involve a fallacy, but this objection isn’t that we don’t in fact reason this way but rather that we shouldn’t and so the objection doesn’t seem to undermine Grice’s analysis if Grice is giving us an analysis of what we in fact do in meaningnn something by something. So Gauker’s objection might be taken as indicating that Gauker thinks there is a way that we could do it better than the way we actually do it. If Gauker really wants to knock down the argument, he probably should show that these are not steps we actually take in communication, and then his fallacy adds plausibility that Grice’s analysis isn’t how we in fact meannn something by something else.
I think that the more promising route is for Gauker to give arguments that this isn’t in fact how we mean something by something. This Gauker does by saying that this is an over intellectualizing what goes on in communication. In spite of what Grice intends, says Gauker, his analysis is “peopling all our talking life with armies of complicated psychological occurrences” (386). This objection isn’t terribly persuasive to me because of how much of human rational structures we take for granted in our everyday life of the mind. For instance, we just take it for granted that there is some rational “structural” relation between what is and what is knowable, and that having some sort of value is necessary to move forward rationally. Certain rational items are terribly complex in themselves, and when spelled out in relation to other rational items we might have an even more complex analysis of what goes on in human thought and communication and at first sight the mere elaborateness might seem unrealistic. However there is little that I see from keeping us from thinking that these rational items are so up in front of our rational processes that we take them for granted. Taking them for granted means that these interrelated rational structures are so obvious to us as to be difficult to bring them and the details of their procedures into focus. Yet we seem to have certain processes and relations in the front of our minds in every instance of thought to the extent that the average and the brilliant wield them the same way and take them for granted in the same sense. So just because an analysis is complex or seems to involve many steps doesn’t falsify an analysis of human behavior, even if it seems that humans are not conscious of the processes, if the items in the analysis are necessary for human rationality and language.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thoughts on St. Augustine's Confessions part 1

All quotes are from the Barnes and Noble edition of this work. The original translation used is that by Albert Outler, and revised by Mark Vessey. 

About delight and pleasure.
“But what was it that delighted me except to love and be loved?” (19). “You were always by me, mercifully angry and flavoring all my unlawful pleasures with bitter discontent, in order that I may seek pleasures free from discontent. But where could I find such pleasures except in you, lord--except in you, who teach us in by sorrow, who wound us to heal us, and kill us so that we may not die apart from  you. Where was I, and how far was I exiled from the delights of your house, in that sixteenth year of my flesh, when the madness of lust held full sway in me--that madness which grants indulgence to human shamelessness, even though it is forbidden by your laws--and I gave myself entirely to it?” (20).

So first it seems that Augustine was delighted in giving and receiving love. He mentions “pure affection” and as an example he described the “way of the love of mind to mind--the bright path of friendship” and also the way of marriage (19). But he goes so far as to say that the only place to find pleasure without discontent is in God, and that when he was estranged from God, he was “exiled from the delights of God’s house” (20). Does it not seem likely that “delights” here is similar if not the same as “delighted” in giving and receiving love? So here is a question: Is friendship and marriage in themselves sufficient to give us delight or contented pleasure and joy, or are they merely means to curb worse ways to seek pleasure and delight, such as fornication? Are even friendship and marriage inadequate (in the sense of having pleasure in these things without, or free from,discontent) for pleasure and delight outside of a having our pleasure and delighted found, and contentedly found, in God?

Pros to this interpretation: First, friendship is mentioned here to indicate a way to love and be loved without “unholy desires.” While marriage seems to be given as a way not to let passion, and “the imagination of puberty” drag him “down over the cliffs...into a gulf of infamy.” So marriage seems to play a role of diverting his desires from mere sexual gratification, to more family oriented delight of giving and receiving love. I imagine, or take it that it was his assumption, that this is, or was to him, a more “pure affection.” If this is the case, since he speaks of (through a rhetorical question) love being that which he delighted in, and finally, since he says that God is the (perhaps, at the very least) the only place where one can find pleasure without discontent and that while he was seeking mere sexual gratification he was exiled from the delights of God’s house, all these things suggests that the above interpretation is correct.

Cons of this interpretation: 1) It relies on Augustine meaning the same thing by ‘delight’ in both places (doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable), and that pleasure and delight overlap to a great enough extent that the majority of the time that you speak of one you are also implying the other (which also doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable). 2) This may be the strongest con that I come up with, and that is that Augustine is limited in his ideas of one only finding pleasure free from discontent in God’s life (narrowly, as in God and not creation). Perhaps Augustine is broader in his understanding of pleasure free from discontent being found in God alone. Perhaps he means in all of God’s ways. Since friendship and marriage are ordained by God, then one can find pleasure or delight free from discontent in these institutions, and that because these are a part of God’s sum total of work and desire and ordinances. I think this second con is also not persuasive because of the predominance of NeoPlatonism in the Confessions. Surely God, since he is the one "with whom being and life are one," is the only true pleasure free from discontent, since he is the one being, or, the being who is perfectly and simply one (all other things being coming from the overflow of this one, but being privative).

Regardless, it seems that there are two models here that might be reasonably embraced by a Christian. One is that pleasure and delight free from discontent are found in God alone in a narrow sense. On this model one cannot find pleasure free from discontent in one’s marriage or friendships, but only in God alone, in the society of God life. So perhaps this might be that a person finds contented delight in God, and then they have contentment in everything else, in marriage/family, friendship, business, etc.

On the other model one can and should find pleasure free from discontent in one’s family/marriage and friendships when one’s family and friendships are functioning the right way, the way God designed them to. When one so finds pleasure in these relationships, they are finding pleasure and delight in God alone.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Why Did God Create? What Kind of World is This One? McCall, Piper, and Christianity's Options part 4

            This will be the last blog post in this series. I hope that all who have read any or all of them have found them somewhat interesting, and they might even stimulate some positive thoughts.
            Now in my last post I decided that whatever considerations by which we decided whether or not God “does what is best” it is not really terribly relevant to the bigger point, and really, it wasn’t to the point made in the last post (given we understand “morally right” as “doing and intending what is best in whatever circumstances one finds oneself”). But in this post it could not be more relevant. For, if we reject the divine command ethic, and in light of no alternative except for some standard for what is best that is distinct from God, we fall precisely into Thomas McCall’s trap for us, that is, that we deny divine aseity. And I certainly don’t want to do that, nor intend to, but fear we might be dangerously close to doing it nonetheless. But, let us explore the options as I see them, and then decide whether we have escaped, or whether the this whole series of blogs is how NOT to reason about these issues J
            Now I am going to use two terms that will apply to two distinct, but related, issues that we will be talking about in this last post. We will be talking generally and generically about God’s motivations for creating any world and His criteria for creating any world. In this discussion we then have two issues and also how these issues relate to one another, namely why God creates at all and how God determines what to create. In this discussion I will use two broad categories to throw out some ideas, and the two terms for distinguishing and connecting the various relationships between God’s motivation and a criterion for creation, are “Himself” and “others” (this is going to be a fairly brief post, by the way, just in case some reader is getting concerned for the space I am using to say what I am "going to" write about).
            Now with this basic groundwork laid, I am assuming that everyone has been powerfully convinced by my last post (just kidding) that if God is omnibenevolent, then He must create the a world that is not possible (or feasible, as we shall see) that there be a better one. And we will just take for granted that God is omnibenevolent. With these qualifications made, I see at least four possible ways to look at the relationship of why God creates and how God creates, or, God’s motivation for creation and His criterion for how He creates a world in which there is none better. The first I will speak of is the one it seems that McCall in his first article sees as Piper’s position. That is, that the motivation that God has for creating is for Himself, and the criteria by which He creates a good world is concerning Himself (His glory, let’s say). In this instance, one may rightly call God’s aseity into question, although, I must say, I cannot see how it is necessarily the case that this position leads to undermining God’s aseity. On this position, it is merely irrelevant to appeal to the suffering in the world as a problem for this being a world in which it is not possible that there be a better, for, the creature’s happiness or misery isn’t intrinsically a part of the criteria or motivation. Another position would be that God’s motivation for creating is Himself, but the criteria by which He creates (the criteria for a best possible world) is other’s outside Himself (their good). Maybe a reader can supply me with an example of a group or person who holds to this view. Since I don’t have someone or some-group off the top of my head, I will move on. Third, there are those who believe that God’s motivation for creating is others, and the criterion for the creating (a good world) is Himself, that is, that He is maximally glorified. This seems to be Piper’s actual position according to his article. Thus, the good of this world for the redeemed is God being most glorified in them when they are most satisfied in Him. For the damned, though it grieves God in a way (in itself), in another way it glorifies Him and thus, it seems, adds to the qualitative and quantitative joy, delight, etc, of all the rest of creation. It is hard to see how this works for the damned, but nevertheless it is an option (Piper doesn’t say that this is exactly how His position works by the way, and so I am just giving a possibility on this view). The final option I wish to discuss is that the motivation for creating the world on God’s part is others, and the criteria for determining a world is others. This is the view of several Wesleyan Arminians that I know. God creates to share His love with others, and the world is good only if the persons He creates freely love Him, and are one with His inner-Trinitarian life. In this case, one could appeal to molinism (a position that I am interested in) and say that this is the best feasible world in which this criterion is satisfied.
Out of the four, all might be possible so that aseity is held consistently with omnibenevolence, but the best options to me seem to be 1, 3, and 4. Three seems hardest out of this group because of the issue of the damned, but, given Calvinism, this is not really an issue. And so, given one accepts Calvinism, we can affirm via 3, omnibenevolence and aseity (because “others” doesn’t, though it could have, referred to the whole human race). Option 1 seems impersonal and narcissistic of God, but it has being consistent going for it (so God’s a tyrant, but we don’t have a problem with either aseity or omnibenevolence, omnibenevolence being defined as Him doing what is best for Himself, say, to maximize His glory). The fourth option also allows us to keep aseity and omnibenevolence, and also allows God to grant each person freedom. The tragedy of this world is the tragedy of human freedom. A fault of this position is just that it suggests that even though it is logically possible that there is a world better than this one (more saved, less pain suffering and evil) it is not feasible.
All of these options still doesn’t help us with the issue of telling the person on the street that it is either not possible or not feasible that there be a world that it is better than this one. But that may have to be the price we pay for being consistent and holding a high view of God.

Why Did God Create? What Kind of World is This One? McCall, Piper, and Christianity's Options part 3

           Okay, so last time I laid out why and how Piper views this world as the best possible one, and how that it is not in spite of but because of the proportion of evil and suffering in this world that we can say that it is in fact the best possible world (or one of or from the set of best possible worlds). Piper says, and McCall in his last article recognizes that Piper says, that God could have refrained from creating this world, that is, God is a se and therefore needs nothing outside the Trinitarian life. However, says Piper, if god creates, He must create in such a way as to glorify Himself maximally or He will be considered an idolater.
            Now obviously many will disagree with Piper, and many will, with McCall, call this whole scheme of theology into question. But, without defending Piper’s scheme (and this is important to me that everyone understand that I am not defending Piper, and one can miss my broader purpose if they miss this), I want to show how this is an important issue to consider and is tough for all involved in the process of theologizing. Let me quote from Piper’s article to show this idea:

            “The question of aseity arises for me because a huge part of my theological burden is the answer to the question why God created the universe. I recall wrestling in the Spring of 1971 in a class at Fuller Seminary with the dilemma of, on the one hand, thinking of God’s creation as purposeful (and therefore giving the impression that he depended on the accomplishment of that purpose to be complete or happy) or, on the other hand, thinking of God’s creation as unpurposeful (and therefore, apparently, whimsical and capricious). In the first case, we would sacrifice his aseity, in the second, we would sacrifice his wisdom.
            “I point this out to emphasize how difficult this problem is for all of us. The problem is not unique to one theological tradition” (Piper, 2008).

            I think that I agree with John Piper on this point. Perhaps I don’t agree with him so much on the issue of God’s aseity (as I will make a passing reference to in the next post), but I do agree with him about the issue of the relationship between why God creates and how God creates. My ideas of the relationship between why and how (mainly just the options and a brief consideration of the implications of what each particular option means) will be considered in the next post. There is no question, if you are a Christian theist of the traditional type (creedal), that God creates. But how, or in what way concerning quality, does God create? Is this the best world God could have created? That, as we will see, depends on one’s criterion. Now Piper’s second case, where the world is unpurposeful (or whimsical), is one which, as Piper points out, one could call into question God’s wisdom, and no doubt rightly so. But I want to call into question God’s omnibenevolence given that this is not the best possible world (or one of the set of best possible worlds, or, if you don’t like that phrase, one of the worlds that it is not possible there be a better). My argument is going to be very simple, but I think that it will have the desired affect. Let us define what it means for God to be omnibenevolent. According to Alvin Plantinga, in God, Freedom, and Evil, for any being to be omnibenevolent that being “could perhaps always do what is morally right, so that it would not be possible for it to be exceeded along those lines” (91). Now let me add to this. In order for a being to do what is morally right, that being most do and intend what is best in the circumstance that being finds him/her/itself. Now for a being to be omnibenevolent, that being must do what is best in every circumstance that being is in. Let me say here, right off the bat, that the idea of “best” is sort of slippery when it comes to God, for, is there a standard distinct from God that determined what is best? I have questions and some unresolved issues with divine command ethics, but just for the sake of appeasing those who might bring up this point, let us just give any reader what standard of ethic God recognizes. To be honest, this issue is somewhat irrelevant to the larger point.
            Now most traditional believers in God believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent. But if God is omnibenevolent, God always does what is best. God created this world, and in creating this world, it would follow that He created a world in which it is not possible that there be a better. But this world not only had the possibility of sin and evil and suffering, but God knew that it would actually have sin and evil and suffering. Then a world that actually has sin and evil and suffering is a world in which it is not possible to be better. Therefore this world (the actual one) is a world in which it is not possible that there be a better world. Simply, if God always does what is best, and God created this world, then it follows that this world is a best possible world. So this “dilemma” is a little different from Piper’s. In this one, we either deny that God is omnibenevolent and that this is not a world in which it is not possible that there be a better, or we affirm both that God is omnibenevolent and that this world is a world in which it is not possible that there be a better. The latter option is good for affirming a traditional conception of God, but bad in the sense that we must explain exactly how this world, with huge amounts of evil and suffering and sin, is a world in which it is not possible that there be a better one. Now this at first may bother some Christian theists, but please do not be alarmed, this issue is not new or novel. There are good answers to this problem, and the issue really boils down to (in a large way) what is the criterion by which we understand “do and intend what is best.” Piper gives us one of these options by saying that the criteria that determines what a “best” world is, is that God is maximally glorified. In such a world, the existence of evil and suffering is just a means or avenue by which God is maximally glorified, and even though God hates evil in itself, in relation to Him being maximally glorified it is part of the world in which He is glorified the most (that is, the most possibly, so that it is not possible for Him to be glorified more in a creation or world). So our last post on this topic will be one on the criterias for creating and those of creation (a best world).  

Why Did God Create? What Kind of World is This One? McCall, Piper, and Christianity's Options part 2

     Last time I wrote very generally about the main theme of (at least) the first two articles by McCall and Piper. But one thing that seems to me to sort of bother McCall is that Piper argues that this world is the best possible world that God could have created. This world, with all its evil (moral and natural), is the best possible world according to Piper (or at least McCall’s interpretation of Piper). Now, that seems odd. Couldn’t there have been a better world than this one? Piper’s answer is, no! Why? Because this world gives God maximal glory, and that because God’s mercy and wrath according to election are clearly and fully revealed, His mercy is revealed on the vessels of mercy and His wrath is revealed on the vessels of wrath. Now in order for this to be the best possible world it must also be said that it is not possible that God’s mercy and wrath be revealed, or displayed, in any way that is clearer or better than the way they are displayed and are being displayed in this world. Now to get the full effect of this, please do the following: please go out to the worst neighborhood you can, or go to some ICU at your local hospital, and tell everyone that you come across that it is not even possible that there be a better world than this one. The highest percentage of the responses, verbal and non-verbal, should tell you how that sounds to many, many people. If one goes to the poorest country on earth, and tells the citizens of that country that it is not even possible that there be a better world, even an illiterate person living in that country will tell you that he or she can think of some way that this world could be better, thus disproving forever the notion that this is a world in which it is not even possible to be better, right? Wrong! Notice that the criterion determining which world is good or bad is not, on Piper’s (or at least McCall’s understanding of Piper’s) view, to have anything to do, ultimately, on the happiness of misery of creatures. The criterion instead is about whether or not God is maximally glorified in and by His creation, and not whether His creation is happy or miserable.
Now, one might ask, what on earth is the term “ultimately” doing in the previous paragraph? Either God does or doesn’t take creaturely happiness or misery as part of the criteria of what makes a good or bad world, right? There is no middle option. Is this just another of Sam’s ways of not sounding too extreme? No, this time at least, it is not. The term “ultimately” here is to notice that Piper believes that the Bible does indicate that God is sensitive toward creaturely well being. God is genuinely sad at the pain of the creature, He is genuinely sad when sinners reject Him, and He genuinely hates that which is evil and loves that which is good. How is this so, since, this world is the best possible one and He chose to create it, and this world is the best possible in fact because God is maximally glorified? Piper makes a distinction between a thing in itself and a thing in relation (as we all, so it seems to me at the moment, should). God in fact hates the evil in itself, He pities, genuinely and consistently, the suffering and evil that befalls His creation and specifically His conscious creatures. He has real remorse and sorrow over people going to hell. But He ordains these things happen, and brings it about (by whatever means, like I said earlier, I don’t follow Piper so I can’t say exactly how his determinism works) that in relation to sin and evil He can most glorify Himself in His creation, and thereby, constitute that this is in fact the best of all possible worlds, and also, that the best of all possible worlds must have the amount of suffering and evil that it does have. So in the narrow lens of God’s love and nature, he genuinely pities the evil and suffering of creatures, and that many will go into hell (ordained). But He does not decree or determine which world is good or best or great on that account, for even though He recognizes that these things are bad in themselves, He still sees them in relation to the bigger picture. And the big picture indicates that these things are the means by which He in creation and by creation will be most glorified. And because He being most glorified is what makes a world one in which it is not possible that there be a better, the sin in this relation is a good thing though in itself it is awful.
Now, I can see my Arminian friends being repulsed by this. Now before you allow yourself to get red under the collar, and your eyes start bulging out of your head, and you write a very bold and powerful refutation of my post and blog, let me say that I am not endorsing all or everything or anything in Piper’s position. I am merely laying it out to the best of my recollection what Piper is saying. Unfortunately this blog post is already too long, and so I will have to continue with these thoughts in my next post.

Why Did God Create? What Kind of World is This One? McCall, Piper, and Christianity's Options part 1

Alright, it is time for something new. I want to quickly give some thoughts I’ve had while looking at three articles that I've been reading this past week. Now the blogs on these articles are liable to change, as all opinions here expressed are, but especially on these particular articles because I have not put the time or energy into understanding them as I did with Cohen, and as I have with other writings (I am working through an article much more carefully right now that I hope to blog about later on). If anyone who reads the posts concerning these articles, and my thoughts related to them, and sees anything wrong in the reasoning or any misunderstanding of the material, please comment a correction.
Now, which articles am I speaking of? Well, this past week I have been reading three articles on God’s sovereignty (and things related to it) from Trinity Journal. The first and last articles are from Thomas McCall of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), and the middle article is by John Piper, who is Pastor for Preaching and Vision at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The main issue that is raised in McCall’s first article, in which Piper responds in his, is Piper’s concept of God’s sovereignty and how Piper’s view undermines God’s aseity. Why, you might ask, is McCall calling into question Piper on his view of sovereignty and how is that view undermining God’s aseity? Well, according to McCall, Piper is arguing that this world must exist in order for God to be maximally glorified. Piper rejects this as what he intends, but acknowledges that some things he has said in his published work seem to suggest this conclusion.
Now I, without reading much of Piper, could see fairly clear (before I even read Piper’s response) that Piper was not saying what McCall was saying Piper was saying. I could see that McCall’s “Modal Argument” did not follow if one merely added the term “ad extra” after one of the crucial premises and then adjusted the premises following that one accordingly. And from what I can remember, that was sort of the big argument that was suppose to prove that Piper is undermining God’s aseity, because in that argument, God needed the world in order to be maximally glorified. McCall took Piper to be saying that essentially God needed the world in order to be maximally glorified, whereas Piper was saying that if God was to create, which He could refrain from because of His aseity, but nevertheless, if God created He must create such and such a world. The world that Piper said God must create would of course be the best possible world (or one of the set of best possible worlds, we shall look at this idea later). Let me say a caveat right now that might be leading some astray. I am not a Piper Calvinist, a follower of Piper, or anything of the sort. For the last ten years I have been back and forth over whether a form of Calvinism is what I believe or a form of Arminianism. Right now I have come from being a die hard Calvinist to sort of re-evaluating again what I really believe (that is, which form of orthodox Christianity I believe). That is to say that I really don’t know which I believe is correct (maybe neither) and so I am open to either side, therefore I am not defending Piper out of some loyalty to his theological position.
It is clear from Piper’s response that he is not saying that God needs the world in order to be maximally glorified essentially, and McCall in the last article in this series acknowledges that. The posts, though speaking of God’s sovereignty, and the differences between a Reformed view of sovereignty (which, though it is very tempting, I will not give McCall’s definition of that view of sovereignty and that because it would distract the direction of these posts) and a more simple view (one that is minimally required for all Christians everywhere), has a related theme that is very important to me and probably many people. It is this theme which I want to talk about in my next post.