Sunday, July 31, 2011

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.

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