Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How God Gets All the Praise and No Blame

I said in passing in my last post that if free will exists, and is a factor in salvation, then humans have some claim to some praise. This is an old Calvinist argument which has been plausibly refuted. Along with this, I would like to note the requirement that salvation be "only by grace" in some way .

Refutation 1:

God gave us free will, thus our good actions that are done by means of free will are only able to be done because God, in his grace, gave us the free will that extends to the ability to do them. Everything is by grace alone, whether our having a body or our having a free will, and thus whatever good we do with our free will is also by grace alone.

Response 1:

Well, then, if we praise God alone for our salvation, done by our free will, which is given by his grace. What about those bad actions, the ones free will is supposed to free God from the blame of? If we praise God for our salvation because he gave us the ability to freely accept it, then why not blame God for our sins, since he gave us the free will which extends to the ability to do that too?

Refutation 2:

Since Christ died on the cross for our salvation, and this being his grace to us, therefore our salvation is by grace alone, not of ourselves, since we did nothing to force God to offer this salvation to us.

Response 2:

This only accounts for it being somewhat of grace. To be all of grace, all the components that are necessary for one's being saved must be out of grace. This attempted refutation leaves the act of free will as a component that is not of grace, yet which  is necessary for one's being saved. How is it that we do not incur praise by accepting salvation, then? Or, if we do not, how do incur blame by our freely willed sin?

Refutation 3:

God, in his grace, gives us a free will which extends to both allow us to accept the free gift of salvation, and to sin, as in Refutation 1, but in such a way that neither blame nor praise passes through that. We praise God, instead, for the act of grace which is Christ's work on the cross, as in Refutation 2.

Response 3:

This seems to suffer from the same problem as either Refutation 1 or 2. If praise or blame can still be incurred by freely willed human acts, then there is still praise that seems due to human beings. If praise and blame instead cannot be incurred by freely willed human acts, then we can blame no one for sin, nor can God. This removes all possibility for freely willed acts which result in guilt, and thus, either the only morally significant acts are determined, or it removes the necessity for salvation and the justice of hell.

The Problem:

Either free will incurs both praise and blame to us, or it incurs neither. If both, then there is some praise which is due us, but not God. If neither, then there is no blame due to us such that we need salvation and are justly under the penalty of death.

Transcendence/Immanence: Solution For Determinists or Compatibilists.

At first look, the same problem seems to rear its head for one who says that God actually does ordain everything as the one who grants God praise because he gave us the free will with which we accept salvation. The distinction I would like to make here, as usual, is between God's transcendent and his immanent acts. In the refutations above, I have assumed that all actions are immanent. This works, because God's giving us free will would presumably be an immanent act in his creating us, and humans can only act immanently.

When a human being acts due to an immanent act of God, the praise passes through the human and arrives at God. I doubt anyone will have a problem with this. However, God's immanent acts are always good even with respect only to what has occurred up to that point. All of God's acts are good transcendently. Thus, all that occurs due to a transcendent act of God is good transcendently, i.e., it is good that it happens in the final analysis, though not necessarily in the present moment when it occurs.

When a person sins due to a transcendent act of God, which I believe happens, since all things are at least transcendently caused by God, why is the person blamed but God is praised? The reason is that they are different actions. When the person sins he does so for some purpose that is not for God's glory--else it would not be sin. When God acts, however, it is for his name's sake, his glory, and out of the abundance of his wisdom and loving-kindness. Also, all transcendent acts are but one total singular act of the creation of all things, and thus the same act whereby he causes someone to sin is the act whereby he brings about the redemption of his chosen people by the death of his Son. Transcendent acts cannot be compared with immanent acts, nor can a transcendent act be assumed to be the same as an immanent act, unless the immanent act is the last act, done at the last time, in which case they are both done with respect to the entirety of history. I do not expect that such an act is possible, but even if it is, I also know that it will be good, for it will be done after Christ has redeemed his world.

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