Good question…Why didn't God stop the process before it started, if He knew of the massive amounts of suffering that would befall many of His creatures?? (con't)


(Beginning of Series, gr5part1.html)


Part Four: Criterion Two and Criterion Three

 

 

Criterion Two: The lives of the good and the evil intertwine inseparably; or that history is “of one piece” (that in the existing history, you cannot “rip out” those who "will end up in hell", without “tearing up” the others in the process, cf. Matt 13.24ff)

The Matthew passage reads like this:

 

He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 “But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. 26 “But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 “And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 “And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ And the slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29 “But he *said, ‘No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 ‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

 

 

What this issue concerns is basically "could we have even had all the Christians without the non-Christians being created?" in the actual world. What we need to show here is that at least some of the Christians in the actual world would not have either (a) become Christians [at least to the best of our knowledge]; or (b) existed at all, without the actual existence of some non-Christians. [I will use the Christian/non-Christian dichotomy instead of the good choosers/evil choosers dichotomy for clarity sake in this section of the discussion.]

 

If this can be shown, then we have made a case for Criterion One--that a change in history to remove evil individuals may also have sabotaged the futures of the good individuals. The lives within history are inseparable (as a whole, and maybe as sub-wholes).

 

 

This Criterion is much easier to demonstrate that Criterion One, because analogs of it are experienced frequently by people. We can note a few simple situations that would suggest the accuracy of this Criterion:

 

  1. From Christian experience, we know that many people become Christians in the aftermath of being victimized by the ruthless or the exploitative. The historical situations that gave rise to their opening up to God and accepting His offer of a relationship, came at the hands of those not so inclined. Their lives, which stream on into eternity, were radically changed by the lives and actions of violent or malicious people. The persecutors in this case, were important to the conversion of numerous victims, and thus to "populating heaven" accidentally. Had the evil been ripped out, the crisis prompting reflection (and subsequent seeking God) would not have occurred (or at least we have no reason to believe it would have).

 

  1. A related phenomena was the example of the early Christian martyrs. The oft quoted statement that "the blood of the martyrs' was the seed of the church" is an apt expression that the persecution of earnest and well-grounded followers of Jesus, was a major contributing influence to those non-Christians that observed their composure in the face of such suffering. The persecutors in this case, were important to the conversion of numerous bystanders and spectators, and thus to "populating heaven" accidentally. Had the evil been ripped out, this spectacle prompting reflection (and subsequent seeking God) would not have occurred (or at least we have no reason to believe it would have).

 

  1. The Christians "created" in situations #1 and #2 above might (and frequently do) marry and produce children--many of whom also become Christians through the nurture and example of the parents. In this case, the second generation Christians would NEITHER have existed NOR become Christians without the trickle-down from the evil individuals in #1 and #2. Their lives and their kids ad infinitum would not have existed without the evil threads in the tapestry.

 

  1. Many children born to non-Christian parents later become Christians themselves. Clearly, they would not have existed had their 'pre-parent parents' been ripped out of history before coming into existence.

 

  1. Finally, you have all the people downstream (that the people of #1-4 above tell about Jesus)  who enter into a trusting relationship with Him. Their streams of existence reach into heaven because of the antecedent non-Christian individuals mentioned in #1-4 above.

 

 

This should be enough examples to show that Criterion Two is fairly obvious.

 

Additionally, we might note the possible relevance of one of the 'free will' issues mentioned in our opening discussion:

 

Case One: God decides to create 100 people. He knows 53 of them will "chose bad" consistently, and 47 will "choose good" consistently. So, in order to keep the 53 from being punished, he decides not to create them at all--He only creates the 47 good ones. So, did the 47 good-choosers  really have "free will"? Did the bad-choosers really have "free choice"?

 

Our discussion here highlights the questionableness of even the scenario (since some of the 100 people might have been interrelated in ways like #1-5 above).

 

 

There is one other aspect of this "of one piece" argument that I want to surface, and it is that of its impact on "what is possible" for God to do in very large-scale projects such as human history. I want to cite a long selection from Moreland/Habermas again [CS:IOSD:178-180, sections], summarizing the approach of William Lane Craig on "Why did God create people whom he knew would not choose him?" This, of course, is an aspect of our larger question of "Why go ahead with the whole project?", but focuses only on the post-death experiences. [Note also the excellent example of a 'one piece' scenario, involving different impacts of different circumstances.]

 

"Craig's solution to this problem is to reject 1'-3' and replace them with these statements that are more likely to be true:

 

(1') There are some possible persons who would not freely receive Christ under any circumstances.

(2') There is no possible world in which all persons would freely receive Christ.

(3') God holds that a world in which some persons freely reject Christ but the number of those who freely receive him is maximized is preferable to a world in which a few people receive Christ and none are lost.

 

"Let us look at these in more detail. We have already discussed 1" in conjunction with universalism. There we saw that God cannot guarantee that a free creature would accept Christ. That is just what it means to be free. Therefore, of all the possible persons God could have created or did create, some would freely reject Christ no matter what the circumstances. How could God guarantee a set of circumstances for each person in which that person freely receives Christ? Statement 1" seems clearly true then.

 

"For all we know, of all the possible persons God could have created, the vast majority of those who would have rejected Christ never get created in the first place. The number of people who reject Christ may be an act of mercy on God's part. But still, Craig reminds us, the objector may respond by asking why God created anyone whom he knew would not trust Christ.

 

"Craig's answer is 2". Perhaps there is no world God could have created in which all persons freely receive Christ. Now on the surface of it, 2" does not seem plausible. Suppose of all the possible persons God could have created (including some he did create and some he did not create), there is a set n composed of all and only those people who would trust Christ. Then why couldn't God just create a world composed only of people in set n? What is the problem here?

 

"Craig's solution is this: It may not be possible to create just those persons and just the right circumstances for all to be saved. Why? It may well be that if God changes the circumstances that allow Smith to freely trust Christ, this alteration may bring it about that Jones will freely reject Christ even though Jones would have accepted Christ in a world without the circumstances needed to bring Smith to saving faith.

 

"An example may help to illustrate this point. Suppose God can bring about two circumstances, one in which my father is offered a job in Illinois while I am a young boy and one in which no offer is forthcoming. In the former case, suppose my father freely accepts the offer and we move to Illinois. In the latter case, we stay in Missouri. Let us call these events C and D, respectively. Suppose further that in circumstance D, three years after the offer could have been given (but wasn't), I will meet just the right person in just the right circumstances and come to Christ. It is entirely possible that I would have had no such opportunity in circumstance C. So my salvation is dependent upon D obtaining as opposed to C In addition, suppose that if D obtained, I would lead five others to Christ in Missouri in my lifetime, but if C had obtained, then a neighbor of mine in Illinois would have come to Christ by watching my non-Christian life fall apart, but without my bad example he would freely reject Christ. Now suppose this neighbor would have led ten people to Christ. In circumstance D, six people come to Christ (I and five others), and in C, eleven come to Christ. C and D cannot both obtain and, thus, free human choices responding to different influences make it impossible for God to bring about the conversion of all seventeen people.

 

"This example shows that adjusting the circumstances in a possible world has a ripple effect. Not even God can change things piecemeal and respect freedom. If one thing is changed, this has an impact on other things. Additionally, the more people God creates, the greater the chance that some of the people he makes will not trust Christ. So 2" seems reasonable and quite plausible...

 

"These considerations show that creating a world with a large number of people may have the result that a number of them may be permitted to be lost for some justifiable reason in order to respect human freedom and accomplish some task known by God. What might that task be? Statement 3" gives us an answer: God prefers a world in which some persons freely reject Christ but the number of saved is maximized over a world in which a few trust Christ and none are lost.

 

"Consider two worlds, W1 and W2. In W1, suppose 50 million are saved and 5 million are lost, while in W2, 5 million are saved and none lost. It is not clear that W2 is morally preferable to W1.  If W2 is morally preferable, then hell has veto power over heaven. God's purpose becomes the negative one of keeping people from hell, not the positive one of getting people to heaven.

 

"The actual world contains an optimal balance between saved and unsaved, and those who are unsaved would never have received Christ under any circumstances.

 

"This would seem to explain why God would create individuals whom he knew would not trust Christ in any circumstances.

 

 

Long-time readers of the Tank will obviously anticipate the methodological qualms I have about this generally effective argument--especially the discussion about how souls completely divorced from history, personal experience, kerygmatic presentation/encounter, memory, previous choices, and personal influences (!) would "choose" or "reject" Christ. [This anxiety applies to most systems, of course, since almost all of them have before-time activities of God relative to historical individuals.] I have difficulty even being sure I understand what is being asserted--the language on holiday thing, I guess... But apart from my personal reservations, the argument overall seems on track and the 'of one cloth' aspect of history and its importance is illustrated well.

 

So, Criterion One and Criterion Two seem to be substantiated...let's move on to Criterion Three.

 

 

 

....................................................................................................................................

 

Criterion Three: No one is discriminated against—that all are treated at least “fairly” (whatever that means)

 

This is a bit vague, of course, but our general moral notion here is that 'unwarranted partiality' does not affect who will be adversely affected. In the case of an organizational decision, for example, this would be violated if an executive 'protected' his kinfolk in the organization, or took 'bribes' to protect others, or allowed personal vindictiveness or prejudices to affect who would be adversely affected. [There may be 'warranted partiality' in which key managers or employees are shielded from negative effects, but only on the assumption that they add superior value to the organization, and therefore allow the resultant organization to continue to produce good going forward. This is simply a matter of who can contribute the most to the organizational health, and thereby allow the organization to provide jobs for as many employees as possible, and make contributions to the society as much as possible.]

 

Now, at some level this issue has become much less important, since Criterion One indicated that the range of outcomes (for at least the vast majority of humanity) was between "unimaginably wonderful" and "neutral or minimally good", INSTEAD OF between "unimaginably wonderful" and "barely imaginably torturous".

 

With this understanding, all we might need to do here is to demonstrate that:

 

  1. each individual is the dominant factor/influence in determining where in that range he or she falls;

 

  1. individuals "choosing God" are not shielded from the "random" adversity of life that otherwise afflicts mortals.

 

 

The second point is the easiest to demonstrate, so let's look at that first.

 

Historically, Christians are just as plagued by externally-originated (i.e., random or non self-caused) violence, rape, abduction, molestation, abuse, untimely deaths among loved ones, oppression, accidents, and non-communicable diseases as their non-Christian counterparts. Christians may have fewer incidences of certain communicable diseases (at least those more closely correlated with personal choices), but this might be "made up for" by the additional persecutions (including mutilation, torture, burning, executions, and public rapes, e.g., the Roman persecutions).  So, this second point is rather straightforward.

 

 

The first point may not be as obvious to some as the first point.

 

Let me approach this by sketching out the basics of the Christian worldview position on this.

 

 

1. Judgment is ALWAYS on the basis of the deeds/intentions (esp. toward others) that one did during life. Judgment always proceeds on the basis of how I treated and responded to people, myself, the world, and God (i.e., reaping and sowing). [See the additional discussion in whyjust.html.] This is the consistent teaching of Scripture, and the only way to escape this judgment is to honestly and humbly accept a pardon from God, on the basis of the work of Christ on the Cross (bearing, as our substitute, the judgment we deserve so we would not have to bear that justly-earned judgment).

 

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44 “Then they themselves also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 “Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ [Matt 25:41 ff]

 

 

 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; 8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  [Rom 2:6ff]

 

 

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. [Heb 4:12-13]

 

 

For example--esp. relevant to our situation here--would be Matthew 5.7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

 

 

2. BOTH of these judgments are a result of OUR choices and OUR actions.

 

 

3. The judgment of our actions and deeds are clearly a result of our "actions and deeds" (duh), and the presumably wide variation in outcomes will reflect this (see also Deut 25.2):

 

That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.  48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. (Luke 12.47f)

 

 

4. Some variance in outcomes will be explained on the basis of ignorance or willfulness/presumption:

 

“‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering.  28 The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven.  29 One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. 30 ”‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people.  31 Because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.’”  (Num 25.27ff)

 

"Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. (1 Tim 1.13)

 

 

 

5. How we treat others is also reflective of our attitudes and openness toward God.

 

In some special way, God is in solidarity with humans. How we treat others is somehow reflective of our attitudes and openness to God. Consider a couple of verses:

 

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him. (Prov 14.31)

 

Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; (Prov 17.5)

 

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full. (Prov 19.17)

 

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me. (Matt 25.40)

 

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Heb 6.10)

 

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (I John 4.19)

 

 

One possible way of understanding how this might work is via the Image of God in us. As His followers grow in character and humility and honesty and gentleness and trustworthiness and virtue and forgiveness and respect for others, the image of God in them becomes more visible and distinct to others in their life. How other people respond and interact with these more distinct "images of God" (on their 'good' and 'more consistent' days, smile), is apparently "counted" by God as treatment of Himself. It may be a response to a virtue they manifest at a point in time (e.g., compassion) or it may be a response to the entire character--either understanding would support this point.

 

This is more easily seen when referring to those growing more like Him through interaction and providence (i.e. the righteous), but the OT "poor" might manifest the "humility" of God, as exemplified in Christ--cf. Matthew 11.28ff: "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. 30 “For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.” That this doesn't refer to simply the humanity of Christ might be seen in the quote from Jeremiah 6.16 in that passage, in which God promises Israel rest from His moral outrage if they only pay attention.

 

[There are staggering implications of this principle, which I cannot explore here, but I hope to later--especially in regards to 'openness' to the testimony of others...]

 

And our response is something we obviously have the dominant influence over.

 

 

6.  In addition to this daily confrontation with the "image of God" in our lives, as we interact with noble elements and "random acts of virtue" coming from our families, our friends, our social groups, and our institutional involvements, we have the general and specific revelation of God through other media.

 

These channels of general revelation of God's existence and aspects of His character are generally considered to include conscience, natural forces toward social ethics, the grandeur/design/existence of the creation, consciousness, and perhaps the "existence" of ideals (e.g., numbers and mathematical truths).

 

There are also vestiges of special revelation in most world religions and in common moral codes.

 

How people respond to this information (at least over the long-haul) is dominantly influenced by themselves. Cultural conditioning, family pressures, and personality types can all attempt to be the dominant influence (and certainly are for at least pockets within our lives), but that the individual still can have the last word is obvious from:

 

(a) the fact that God-seekers that end up in heaven come from ALL cultures and backgrounds, even now, and will do so more and more in the future (cf. Rev 7.9: After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”)

 

(b) built-in events in people's lives in which they 'transcend' their background temporarily and re-evaluate their past "conditioning"--what I call the loci of freedom [see wall97b.html and  the discussion in the Black and Blue Books, bnb001026.html] and the intrinsic capabilities upon which those events are based.

 

 

7. In fact, how people respond to these more ubiquitous messages/presence of God determines the character and types of exposure to FUTURE messages/manifestations of God (if needed for the specific cases). Evangelicals, of traditional persuasions have consistently maintained this, especially in discussions of "What about those who never heard" (see my own analysis of that issue in hnohear.html).

 

Consider these statements from two well-respected evangelical books:

 

First Moreland/Habermas [CS:IOSD:175f]

 

"We also need to observe that, according to the Bible, God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Ezek. 18:23, 32), and he judges fairly (Job 34:12; Gen. 18:25) and impartially (Rom. 2:11). The biblical God is not a cold, arbitrary being, but a God who deeply loves his creatures and desires their fellowship and worship."

 

"Also, all humans have some light from creation and conscience that God exists, he is personal and moral, and they are guilty before Him (Rom. 1:18-20, 2:11-16)."

 

"With all this in mind, we can begin to address the first question raised: What about those who don't have a chance to hear the gospel? The Bible doesn't address this question explicitly and for obvious reasons. The Word of God doesn't usually offer a plan B if the church chooses to reject God's plan A. Scripture commands us to go to the world and be sure no one fails to hear the gospel. It doesn't explicitly say, "Here is what will happen if you decide not to act on God's command." So whatever view we reach here must be formulated theologically from God's attributes and general considerations in Scripture.

 

"Here is another point: We must distinguish between the means of salvation and the basis of salvation. Christ's death and resurrection have always been the basis for our justification before God. However, the means of appropriating that basis has not always been a conscious knowledge of the content of the gospel. Saved individuals before Christ (and surely justice includes people who lived and died within a few years after Christ's execution when the gospel couldn't reach them) were saved on the basis of Christ's work, but they did not know the content of the gospel. They were saved by responding in faith and mercy to the revelation they had received at that point (Gen. 15:6).

 

"Furthermore, most theologians believe that those who cannot believe (infants and those without rational faculties capable of grasping the gospel) have the benefits of Christ applied to them. Many argue this on the basis of 2 Samuel 12:23, where David expresses his conviction that he will be reunited with his deceased infant in heaven. They also appeal to the fact that there is no mention of perdition for children in all the Bible, and they cite God's clear desire to save all humanity, his justice, and his love.",

 

"So we believe it is certainly possible that those who are responding to the light from nature that they have received will either have the message of the gospel sent to them (cf Acts 10) or else it may be that God will judge them based on his knowledge of what they would have done had they had a chance to hear the gospel. The simple fact is that God rewards those who seek him (Heb. 11: 6)

 

Now one from Sir Norman Anderson [WR:CWR:153f]

 

"If a man of whom this is true subsequently hears and understands the gospel, then I believe that he would be among the company of those, whom one does sometimes meet on the mission field, who welcome and accept it as soon as they hear it, saying (in effect): 'This is what I have been waiting for all these years. Why didn't you come and tell me before?' We must, of course, emphasize the wonderful way in which such people often have been brought the message they longed for (e.g. Cornelius); but I myself cannot doubt that there may be those who, while never hearing the gospel here on earth, will wake up, as it were, on the other side of the grave to worship the One in whom, without understanding it at the time, they found the mercy of God.... for I dare to believe that if in this world a man has really, as a result of the prompting and enabling of the Holy Spirit, thrown himself on the mercy of God (like the tax-collector in the Temple who cried out 'God be merciful to me, a sinner'), that mercy will already have reached him - on the basis of the propitiation which has been made 'once for all'- and he will have been 'justified'. With much less knowledge he has taken up the same position as the tax-collector who 'did not deserve forgiveness on account of his submissive prayer, but through his self-despising confession of guilt was in a condition to receive the forgiveness granted by God to the penitent. For ... the publican the general rule held good that ... he who really humbles himself (with sincere confession of guilt) will be exalted' (Geldenhuys, p.451). What will happen to him beyond the grave can best be described, as I see it, as an adoring recognition of his Saviour and a comprehension of what he owes him."

 

 

8. It needs to be emphasized that our actions/intentions used in the judgment are used as  indicators/evidence of our true character/heart, and strictly speaking, it is our 'finished character' that is the basis of final judgment:

 

Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.  34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.  36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.  37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.  (Matt 12.33ff)

 

 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’” (Matt 15.18)

 

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders  10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6.9ff; note that this represents people characterized by these various types of moral evil, and not just 'occasional' or 'one-time' users)

 

 

 

 

 

9. We grow our character in this life with our steady stream of choices, thoughts, and responses to our situations, and it is our character that ' dominantly influences' how we respond to God in our encounters with His manifestations/messages in this life.

 

We do not simply 'choose heaven or hell', we grow into the type of person who would 'always choose heaven or always choose hell'. Some become people who will "fit in" and "enjoy" heaven, just as others become people who will "not fit in" and "hate" heaven.

 

Walls uses the term "decisive response" when speaking about character-based response to God's overtures to us [TH:HLD:89,90,94]:

 

"First, let us state more completely what a decisive response amounts to. I would propose that it is a settled response which is made by one fully informed of the Christian faith. Such a response would not be haphazard, superficial, or prone to change in shifting circumstances or with awareness of new information. Such a response could be described as a rooted disposition. As such, it normally would not be achieved in a moment, but rather only through a longer series of choices. Thus, one's initial choices might be against God and the good, but in the long run one might come to love God in a settled way. What is decisive is not one's initial choices, but the settled disposition one ultimately acquires.

 

"Given God's desire to save all persons, a decisive negative response makes sense only in light of the idea of optimal grace. That is to say, a negative response to God is decisive only if one persists in rejecting God in the most favorable circumstances. Only then is it clear that one has rejected God in a settled way with true understanding.

 

"Another way of making this point is to say that a negative disposition to God is decisive only if it has been formed by a deliberate rejection of God's grace. Such a disposition would not be decisive if it were formed by other factors or influences. Optimal grace may overcome a negative disposition to God which is due to contingent circumstances, but it would not help a person whose negative reaction to God was shaped precisely by the persistent refusal of grace."

 

"Anyone who understands the argument I have presented is probably fairly well informed on religious matters. Such persons would not likely be among those who do not understand the Christian message. If such persons continue to reject salvation on the presumption that they can repent later, it may well be that they are forming, by that very attitude, a settled disposition to prefer their will to God's. At the very least, this may make it much more difficult for them to come to accept God's will." (p.04)

 

CS:IOSD:168 states it thus:

 

"Character is shaped moment by moment, day by day, in the thousands of little choices we make. Each day our character is increasingly formed, and in each choice we make we either mover toward or away from God. As our character grows, some choices become possible and others impossible. The longer one lives in opposition to God, his truth, and his ways, the harder it is to choose to turn that around."

 

One should be able to see, that if we confront God in a myriad of ways in this life--especially in interactions with other "images" of Him--then we will develop a character that either 'likes' God or 'dislikes' God, and this is obviously a decisive factor in how strongly we would either want to be included in heaven, or excluded from heaven.

 

"So, Swinburne's argument is that heaven is suitable for people of a certain sort (those who really want to be there and who base their choice on true beliefs), and their decision to go there must be made freely. Hell is a place for people of a different character who freely chose to be there." [CS:IOSD:164]

 

 

10. To be sure, God himself is a Free Agent in our universe (!!!), and  'woos' us [Matthew 11.28ff] and 'pursues' us [Is 65.2] and 'appeals to' us [2 Cor 5.20] and presents Himself to us in the many ways noted above (with special clarity in/from the lives and words of those closest to Him in character and relationship), but in the final analysis, the hell-choosers choose hell freely (and individual evil choices freely, too) and in preference to God's good.

 

At the end of his chapter on "Hell and Human Freedom," the traditionalist Walls makes this statement [TH:TLD:138]:

 

"The main thrust of the chapter has been to argue that even when the choice is thus narrowed [tn: to between annihilation and eternal conscious hell], some may elect eternal hell. Now, as at the beginning of the chapter, the claim that such a choice is possible strains credibility, I have addressed this perplexity by trying to show that an intelligible account can be given not only of what it means to choose evil decisively, but also of the motivation involved. My case has hinged crucially upon the notion that a person can so deceive himself into believing evil is good, or at least holds sufficient advantage to be gained, that he comes to the point where he consistently and thoroughly prefers evil to good. I will be satisfied if the case I have argued has made even partially comprehensible the remarkable claim that some may likewise come to prefer hell over heaven."

 

And, from CS:IOSD:163ff:

 

"Can God force the bad to become good? No, says Swinburne, not if he respects our freedom. God can't make people's character for them, and people who do evil or cultivate [deliberately] false beliefs start a slide away from God that ultimately ends in hell. God respects human freedom. We could add here that it would be unloving, a sort of divine rape, to force people to accept heaven and God if they did not really want them. When God allows people to say no to him, he actually respects and dignifies them. We may rush in to force our children to do something in their best interests, but our paternalism drops out when they grow up, because we wish to respect them as adults. Similarly, God dignifies people and treats their choices as significant by allowing them to choose against him, not just for him."

 

 

 

 

This basic summary of the 'fairness' issue should show Criterion Three to also be satisfied.

 

 

Just for illustrative purposes, let's consider what this might look like in the business analogy I have been working with...

 

If we re-swizzle the business analogy a bit further, we can see some of these principles in that setting. Let's recast the analogy by using a better version--a firm being acquired by a bigger, better firm. In this scenario, the new parent firm is nimble, vibrant, customer-focused, innovative, energetic, and expanding. There are plenty of opportunities for the acquired employees to find new jobs in the new, combined firm. But these new jobs would require the "old" employees to change their behavior. For example, the acquiree may have had a traditional, stodgy, lethargic, bureaucratic,  hierarchy-perpetuating, self-protecting, internally-focused corporate culture. The new jobs (plenty to go around) offered to the old employees would be so offered on the understood assumption that the employees would operate under the new corporate culture of innovation, risk-taking, self-direction, collaborative teams, stretch goals, matrix-management, customer-orientation, and high levels of ambiguity.

 

In this scenario, the analogical version of Criterion Three would be that:

 

1. All employees were offered a slot in the new organization.

 

2. None were forced to accept the offered job against their inclinations/will, nor to decline the offered job against their inclinations/will.

 

3. Those that accepted the new jobs would not be spared from the extra upfront work associated with moving, learning, adjusting, reorientation, etc., nor from any lower compensation or benefits that might occur.

 

4. Those that decided to opt out, would not be "cut off" immediately, but get severance pay, job placement support, and job search training for some period after termination--after which period they would be on their own..

 

5. No one was excluded from the offer (esp. for incidental reasons such as race, gender, national origin etc.).

 

6. The 'best jobs' were not offered to certain individuals on the basis of favoritism or nepotism, but perhaps on the basis of hard work, personal investment, learned expertise, and demonstrated performance at the old position. [If this was gained by working under an over-demanding and unreasonable boss, it might be a good example of the "one piece" concept above--their strengths were related to a 'less good' boss...]

 

Management knows ahead of time which individuals will not (likely) move to the new firm, on the basis of personal work attitudes, personality style, and/or relational styles and habits. But the merger means more opportunity for everyone, a better future for those who accept (the vast majority) , better economic security and benefits for the employees, and higher capacity for helping customers.

 

So, let's see how these might map over into our analysis above...

 

1. All employees were offered a slot in the new organization.

 

This is fairly clear from the points about 'light' being available everywhere, and in a constant stream.

 

 

2. None were forced to accept the offered job against their inclinations/will, nor to decline the offered job against their inclinations/will.

 

This could be seen in the points about free choice and self-determination.

 

 

3. Those that accepted the new jobs would not be spared from the extra upfront work associated with moving, learning, adjusting, reorientation, etc., nor from any lower compensation or benefits that might occur.

 

This is fairly clear from the fact of persecution, non-exemption from 'random' adversity, constant divine impetus to change/growth/stretching, and the call to the "less-materialist" lifestyle of Jesus (not often heeded by the Western church, sadly)

 

 

4. Those that decided to opt out, would not be "cut off" immediately, but, in addition to a period in which to evaluate the offer before making a final decision,  get severance pay, job placement support, and job search training for some period after termination--after which period they would be on their own..

 

Most of this is obvious: the not 'cut off' immediately and evaluation period describes this life pretty well (with its stream of encounters with God's revelation). The support for some interim period would not have a clear analog to our situation, but the "being own their own" could easily be seen as the exclusion motif (which only occurs as the very end of the process).

 

 

 

5. No one was excluded from the offer (esp. for incidental reasons such as race, gender, national origin etc.)

 

This is actually just a reworded version of  point #1 (all are offered a slot).

 

 

6. The 'best jobs' were not offered to certain individuals on the basis of favoritism or nepotism, but perhaps on the basis of hard work, personal investment, learned expertise, and demonstrated performance at the old position. [If this was gained by working under an over-demanding and unreasonable boss, it might be a good example of the "one piece" concept above--their strengths were related to a 'less good' boss...]

 

The biblical data is quite insistent that 'advanced responsibility' in the New Creation is based on faithfulness (e.g., the parable of the Talents, Matt 25; also Luke 12.44; 22.29) and love (e.g., I Cor 13), and includes people from all parts of the world (cf., Is 66.21; Matt 8.11).

 

 

So, in our business project analogy, Criterion Three would also hold.

 

Onward now to Criterion Four...[gr5part5.html]

 


The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations [bookabs.html])