Decoding the Divine: Does God Love Everyone?

What we’ve got here is [a] failure to communicate…

I’m thinking of starting a new recurring blog-post series called “Decoding the Divine.” It would be based on a phenomenon I’ve referred to elsewhere as the problem of miscommunication, which is essentially the observation that theists in general–and very often adherents to the same brand of theism–often disagree about what constitutes divine truth. I can’t resist paying homage here to the classic Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke:

One example of this phenomenon that I was reminded of recently is the internal Christian debate between free-will salvation (Arminianism) and predestination (Calvinism). This is a complex theological debate over which oceans of ink have been spilled, but in its simplest terms concerns whether God has chosen a select group of humans for salvation in a way that precludes free will, or whether humans are able to freely choose whether or not to accept God’s grace and be saved. I was first exposed to this internal theological debate as a freshman in college when I shared a dorm room with two fine fellows–one a staunch Arminian and the other a Calvinist (Calvinism is also commonly referred to as Reformed theology)–who were well-educated in and apt to staunchly defend their respective theologies against the other. I found it educational and often times highly entertaining to be a fly on the wall observing them deliver their arguments. (Up until that point in time I hadn’t even been aware that such a debate existed within Christianity. Unbeknownst to me I had been raised in the Arminian tradition in the Evangelical Free Church and had never been exposed to Reformed theology.) I witnessed a perpetual volley of bible verse after bible verse, at each turn my friends believing they were delivering the winning overhead smash against his opponent. Of course, the volley was never-ending, although there were frequent pauses for eating, sleeping, computer gaming and other essential college-freshmen activities.

A question that is closely related to the Christian debate over salvation, but is rarely discussed, is whether God loves all human beings. After all, can it really be that God loves someone whom he condemns to an eternity of hell despite their inability to freely choose whether or not to accept his grace? Why not settle the debate by seeing what the Bible (God’s revealed truth) says about God’s love for mankind? Well, at least one Reformed Christian apologist is brave enough and has the intellectual honesty to follow the Calvinist line of reasoning to its logical conclusion:

Of course, Dr. Morey claims his conclusions to be reflective of True Christianity©. He “submits to what the Bible teaches,” and any other self-designated Christians who fail to come to the same conclusions should “stop cluttering up the pews” and “go find another religion.” Yet many Christians of the Arminian tradition would be aghast at the notion that God loves some people and hates others. This isn’t a simple disagreement over whether to sing a hymn or a contemporary Christian pop ballad in a church service.

[Cue the voice of the prison warden: “What we’ve got here…”]

To my Christian friends out there who are of the Arminian tradition, whom Dr. Morey classifies as “deadbeat, unregenerate humanists,” I say: welcome to the club!

Advertisements

15 comments on “Decoding the Divine: Does God Love Everyone?

  1. Papalinton
    September 27, 2010 at 10:41 am #

    Where did Morey buy his PhD from? This guy is a nong. For every quote he selects from the writings that were a product of the minds of bronze-age goat herds, there is an equal and opposite quote that counters his particular selection. He represents the classic gang-member mentality of a tribal elder of a particular brand of woo-woo that is both exclusionist and xenophobic by its very nature; a petty internecine warrior that has little to offer or contribute to community; indeed a rebel without a clue.

    Cheers

  2. C.L. Allen
    September 27, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Dr. Morey is a rebel indeed. I used to be one of his biggest admirers. Now as I am looking in from the outside, I cannot believe how brainwashed I was.

    Yes you are correct, if a Calvinist follows his line of thinking to it’s conclusion they will embrace “God does not love everyone”

    I used to challenge people by saying “If you are a true Calvinist, then you should walk up to someone and tell them God does not love them”. This would really infuriate the people I told this. They would try to get out of it by saying thing like this, ” God loves and hates people at the same time”, “It is a love hate relationship”. “A human shows different types of love, A man does not love his brother the same way he loves his wife”. Therefore, God loves his chosen people with a special intimate love in the same way a man loves his bride”.

    Of course these Christians would use all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid telling people God does not love them. I would just come right out and tell people “God hates You”. Of course that did not make me a very popular dude, but I was just carrying my theology out to it’s logical conclusion.

  3. Rob R
    September 27, 2010 at 3:45 pm #

    It sounds like your friends were as adept at discussing the issue as most bloggers, which is via red herrings. Perhaps not, but if you just answer a bible verse with a bible verse, you very well may not be dealing with how to correctly interpret those bible verses.

    But of course, there can often be more than one way to take a text, but not all texts are equally flexible.

    Morey’s example of Esau and Jacob ignores scriptural idioms (hate may be used for “loved less” as it does with Jacob’s relation as contrasted with Rebbecca). It is also not of the prophecy of the Jacob and Esau (it was not that older would be hated, but that he would serve the younger), when that story could have turned out differently and the prophecy still could have been satisfied. Furthermore, not only is Paul NOT quoting the prophecy, he is quoting a prophet who wasn’t even speaking of specifically Jacob and Esau, but he was using the individuals to speak of the nation of Israel vs. the Nation of Edom. This is fundamental to the Calvinist mistake of there take on Romans 9. It’s not about individualistic predestination, it is about the question of whether God is still faithful to his original covenant and to the Jews as he is forming a new covenant with all people outside the scope of the Mosaic law and physical ancestry through the Jews to Abraham. And as he discusses How God has been faithful to Jacob even while Esau is shunned, towards the end of romans 9 and on through to romans 11, God is turning things around where Esau (those who originally weren’t choosen) may enter the covenant while Jacob (the original covenant people) is being hardened. Not for the reprobation unto eternal hell, but with the expectation of their hardening, they would (in Paul’s words) become jealous and return to God.

    As for the topic, does God love everyone?

    Again, language has ambiguities. Because of this, you can word things in different ways that are easily interpreted as contradictory when what is meant isn’t contradictory at all. We have a great English phrase that expresses this perfectly: “It is and it isn’t.” This isn’t because we believe that the truth is contradictory, but again, that in the simple, truths might be worded to look contradictory. And we who believe that God “hates the sinner but loves the sin” and that God so loved the world that he sent his only son (and no, we don’t buy the Calvinist claim that this is of the believers) can accommodate the passages Where God is said to hate various sinners. After all, our rebellion is a part of us and colors our identity. It is a part of us, it is what God hates in us, thus you could say that God hates us sinners. But the deeper truth is that these sinners whom God hates are loved on a deeper level because again, that rebellion isn’t necessary to our identity since we can repent.

    • Louis
      September 28, 2010 at 4:37 am #

      Rob,

      Apparently unbeknownst to you, your comment emphasizes my point supremely. How do you know that your particular interpretations of bible verses are the correct ones? How do you know which texts are flexible and which ones are not? Equally committed and convicted followers of Christ disagree vehemently with you. And if Christians themselves cannot agree on how to interpret and apply said purported divine revelation, what does that say about the likelihood of it truly being divine revelation and our ability to extract truth from it? It says that it’s most likely not divine revelation at all and at best we should be agnostic towards it.

  4. Robert Fisher
    September 28, 2010 at 12:45 am #

    “Of course, my colleague claims that ‘4’ is the True Answer © to the question ‘What is 2+2?’. He ‘submits to the axioms of math,’ and any other self-designated mathematicians who fail to come to the same conclusions should “not be allowed to teach math” and “go find another profession.” Yet many mathematicians of the Postmodern tradition would be aghast at the notion that 2+2 has only one answer.”

    Why is it so unthinkable for you that one side might actually be right and the other wrong? You can’t prove things by scare quotes and the copyright symbol. You also can’t disprove something by trotting out a group of people who would be “aghast” at it.

    I’d venture to say you do reason in this fashion in any other area in life that requires you to read something. Why here?

    If you are uninterested in working through the texts, why not just say so? Why put on this postmodern posture that you would not take seriously in any other area of life?

    • Louis
      September 28, 2010 at 5:04 am #

      Robert,

      I am not putting on a postmodern posture–far from it. If the world’s mathematicians were split into two camps about whether or not 2+2 = 4 and each had supporting evidence for believing so I would be less confident in the reliability of mathematics as a source of knowledge. My specific argument here is simply that agnosticism is the most generous justified epistemic position relative to the bible since even Christians cannot agree on its fundamental “truths.” Christian theology isn’t just like “any other area in life” because it posits a completely unique, controversial category of knowledge derived from purported divine revelation. If said revelation is to be viewed as a reliable source of truth, its followers should be expected to at least agree on its fundamental propositions.

      • Robert Fisher
        September 28, 2010 at 7:39 pm #

        I think the fundamental problem is that there is no immediate corrective to doctrinal error, as there is to, say medicine. It’s like a deaf man whose speech deteriorates. That doesn’t mean there’s a correct pronounciation, but there is no empirical corrective. I think the Bible is very clear on the issue though. Arminian prooftexts turn out to be neutral. Exhortation passages don’t demonstrate free will (as Luther shows in Bondage of the Will) and the “universal” passages could just as easily refer to all kinds of men (as in Rev 14:6). Romans 9 and John 6 speak clearly and unequivocally on the issue.

        As for Rob R’s comment on Romans speaking of Jacob and Esau as “nations”, what does he make of Romans 9:11, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil”. Are the “children” really “nations”? Seriously? The devil’s in the details, and Arminians always resort to vague pronouncements rather than looking at the actual text when dealing with this issue.

        This seems to be a case of, the text is clear, the truth is knowable in this case, but people don’t like what it says and there is no empirical corrective except the text itself, so they are allowed to progress in their error as a deaf man losing his power of speech. He could look at an oscilloscope and compare his speech patterns to correct ones, but he’s probably too lazy to do so.

        Agnosticism about certain things is certainly a coherent position, but it doesn’t seem to apply here.

      • Robert Fisher
        September 28, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

        duh of course I meant “that doesn’t mean theres *no* correct pronounciation, but there is no empirical corrective or feedback”.

  5. paul collier
    September 28, 2010 at 2:17 am #

    I think he’s right about one thing: the Biblle definitely says nowhere that God loves everyone. The God of the OT is the contrivance of bitter psychopathic old men, upon whom they projected all their own ugly personality disorders. And this twisted asshole shows that that venerable spirit is alive and well, at least in this benighted country.

  6. cipher
    September 28, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    I got as far as his obnoxious mimicry, and that was all I could take. What a piece of garbage – and I don’t mean the video.

  7. Rob R
    September 29, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    How do you know that your particular interpretations of bible verses are the correct ones?

    By doing the only thing that I can, reasoning through the text, dealing with one set of interpretations, explaining it’s strengths and explaining the weaknesses of the other. That someone of the other perspective could respond conversely only means that I would have to adjust and respond and perhaps expand the issue. So these conversations go on. If this is suggested to be a problem than I can only conclude that the response of the skeptic believes that if it is difficult, it is not worth pursuing, or if there is controversy, truth cannot be found, or if too many details are involved, it’s best not to get into it. All of these seem very false to me.

    if Christians themselves cannot agree on how to interpret and apply said purported divine revelation, what does that say about the likelihood of it truly being divine revelation and our ability to extract truth from it? It says that it’s most likely not divine revelation at all and at best we should be agnostic towards it.

    I’ve already pointed out the fallacious appeal to controversy at John Loftus’ site.

    I would add that your conclusion isn’t the only one. That Christians disagree may also merely demonstrate that we need to continually do what the church has done, expand our resources in studying scripture, read scripture as a community and continue to grow in the knowledge of God. One might suggest that all we have here is just an endless back and forth argument that never gets anywhere. And this is only evidence of a lack of knowledge of church history and even modern biblical scholarship which demonstrates from my perspective that God has never ceased teaching the church.

  8. Rob R
    September 30, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    I generally don’t read through all of the responses in a thread but I just noticed this one.

    “As for Rob R’s comment on Romans speaking of Jacob and Esau as “nations”, what does he make of Romans 9:11, “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil”. Are the “children” really “nations”?

    Again, Romans is about covenant identity and the question of Romans 9 is about whether God has been faithful to his promise.

    So what is it in view here. Is it just any sort of the performance of “good or evil.”

    The current research on this has been very doubtful. Paul spends much time on “faith vs. works” for entry into the covenant and yet, the idea that one can get into the covenant just by merely performing good works and avoiding evil ones is an argument against a position that is almost unheard of in ancient judaism if at all. Most if not all ancient Jews just did not think of salvation as obtained through good works and they in fact believed in a religion of grace. So what was Paul talking about? It was the works of the law.

    Again, what was romans 9 about? It is about God’s faithfulness and consistency to the old covenant, to the mosaic covenant. The point of reference to the womb as prior to the boys performing anything good or bad is about God’s soverign choice apart from the Mosaic law. God is soverign over the covenant, thus it is God’s right to form a new one that is entered not by birth, not by the mosaic covenant but through faith.

    Individualistic predestination is not the point (and again, it is not consistant with the larger section of romans 9-11 where those who were not originally choosen may now enter the covenant, and those who have been hardened, those who part of the pot created for destruction may repent and escape that destruction).

    If you want to make an issue of the fact that the image here points to two individuals, then I’m going to ask why God is so concerned over the salvation of pottery. In other words, not everything about the examples is relevant.

  9. JT
    September 30, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Instead of trying to determine the correct interpretation of Romans 9-11, I want to engage with Louis’ claim that there is a “problem of miscommunication” for theists in general, and for Christians in particular. The problem of interpreting the text of the Bible leads to what many people consider bizarre and utterly impractical ideologies such as the one espoused in the video, but it is by no means a problem for theists alone.

    I don’t think it is legitimate to claim that theists have a problem of miscommunication without acknowledging the same limitations inherent in all forms of communication and epistemology. The debate above over how to interpret Romans 9-11 is no different from the debate raging in American politics over how to interpret the Constitution. Some people find Obama’s interpretation to be as bizarre as Arminians find Dr. Morey’s Calvinism, and vice versa. The reality is that different groups and/or individuals use different tools and assumptions to approach “texts”, and elicit a wide variety of meanings from them. As has been alluded to already in this conversation, how we interpret flows out of our cultural/structural framework. No one approaches a text with pure objectivity.

    The agnostic response to Christians is that the Bible is supposed to be God’s revelation, so by their own beliefs it should be profoundly clear, and interpretation should be consistent, perhaps by the influence of God’s Holy Spirit. However, the Bible is in the form of a text, which means its ability to communicate is limited, and even interpreting the idea of “the Holy Spirit’s influence” is itself bound to one’s assumptions about the text. Realistically, any text can be interpreted in a variety of ways, including “2+2=4”, depending on one’s interpretive framework and definitions (http://virgil.azwestern.edu/~dag/lol/TwoPlusTwo.html).

    A final point: Most theists would claim that knowledge of the divine is not limited strictly to the understanding and interpretation of texts; theistic communities almost always expect to “experience” the divine in their lives. As with all texts, the Bible is a speech-act, either by God or by “bitter psychopathic old men”, or both. It is intended (“illocutionary force”), as the U.S. Constitution was intended, to form a community which believes and acts within an ideological spectrum, and not merely to be studied and analyzed from a distance. To that end, the Bible, the Constitution, and many other religious texts have, in my opinion, been quite successful (“perlocutionary force”), even though they have no “empirical corrective except the text[s themselves]”.

    • Louis
      October 12, 2010 at 3:28 am #

      JT,

      Thanks for your comment. In many ways you clarify the fundamental points at issue, but I feel your arguments support agnosticism more than they do rebut it. You appear to hold the Bible to the same standards as any document of human origin (such as the U.S. Constitution by your own example), arguing that similar difficulties of interpretation arise in both cases. And that is precisely what I as a non-theist am asserting: the Bible looks exactly as one would expect of a human artifact with no outside divine influence. You also appear to maintain that God could, but doesn’t, intervene to provide his followers the intellectual and spiritual guidance necessary to interpret his true will. The crucial question is: could God have communicated more clearly in the text and is he able to provide the intellectual and spiritual influence to enable his followers to achieve unity of doctrine and thought? Sam Harris makes the point much more clearly and articulately than I ever could in Letter to a Christian Nation:

      If you think that Christianity is the most direct and undefiled expression of love and compassion the world has ever seen, you do not know much about the world’s other religions. Take the religion of Jainism as one example. The Jains preach a doctrine of utter non-violence. While the Jains believe many improbable things about the universe, they do not believe the sorts of things that lit the fires of the Inquisition. You probably think the Inquisition was a perversion of the “true” spirit of Christianity. Perhaps it was. The problem, however, is that the teachings of the Bible are so muddled and self-contradictory that it was possible for Christians to happily burn heretics alive for five long centuries. It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed outright (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently–though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?

      The argument from divine miscommunication supports the conclusion that the Bible is not divine in origin, especially not by a deity alleged to be all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 2010 in Review: My Blog in Numbers « The Enchanted Naturalist - January 2, 2011

    […] Decoding the Divine: Does God Love Everyone? September 2010 14 comments 3 […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: