(For the sake of anyone who reads this I am quoting a previous article: https://cerebralfaith.net/qa-molinism-gods-love-and-those-that-will-never-be-saved/).
“It’s been a while since I’ve heard from you, Sam. It’s good to talk to you again.” Yeah sorry about that. I have been somewhat busy both with everyday life and more recently with studying Islam. I enjoy our discussions as well.
Lets jump right into it. The first counter argument you made was that it is impossible to seek the wellbeing of those that don’t and never will exist. This may be somewhat subjective, but the way I see it is that if I refuse to create someone because of concern for how much their life will suck, then that is seeking their wellbeing. If it is better for them to never be born then their non-being is their wellbeing, thus seeking their non-being is seeking their wellbeing if that makes sense. Many anti-natalists for example are seeking what they believe is the wellbeing of all children, since they believe that non-being is closer to wellbeing then existing in this world. If their existence would be a curse, then stopping someone from existing is seeking what is best for them. For most people, non-being is wellbeing- if Christianity (and this also applies to Islam) is true.
The second one is that if you create someone whose life will be worse then their non-existence and you try to (futilely) prevent them from going down that route then you are still seeking their wellbeing. I disagree strongly with this and think this can be demonstrated. As I put in parenthesis, on Molinism Jesus’s dying on the Cross is futile in terms of saving the non-believers and God knows it to be so. Any offer of salvation was not done with the INTENT to save them. Since he knows they were going to reject it, that couldn’t have been the goal. He may wish he could save them, but it wouldn’t be the goal. At best one could say that Jesus died to provide the non-Christians a path to salvation. (A path that will by the way only increase their guilt for rejecting the path to salvation. (John 3:18)).
To address your example, you write:
“Suppose also that I know that this son of mine who will die as a drug addict has a twin brother who would be born at the same time as him, and as a result of seeing the self-destructive tendencies of his brother, the twin DOES go on the straight and narrow path. Unlike his brother Bob who suffered and died from drug addiction, the twin, Sam, has a good and happy life, becomes a successful doctor and discovers the cure for cancer. Ultimately, if I sire Bob and Sam, even though Bob meets and unfortunate end, many others prosper…
Now, I understand that you said that your objection here isn’t that siring Bob isn’t ultimately justified, it’s whether or not I was seeking the well-being of Bob or just simply using him as a means to an end. Well, did I not do everything I could do to turn him from his self-destructive ways? I showed him before/after pictures of meth heads, showed him documentaries of the horrors of drug use, I counseled him, and, when he did get addicted, I even pleaded with him to go to rehab. I did everything in my power to turn him from his fate except violate his free will.”
If you in this thought experiment have middle knowledge of what will happen then you know that your efforts “to turn him from his fate” are futile. You know that it won’t save him and will actually make the situation worse for Bob. Your intent may be in some sense to show that you care about him, but I fail to see how you could actually have the intent to save him when you know all of your “efforts” are going to be futile.
“Moreover, from a conditionalist/annihilationist point of view (which I now hold), it seems to me that what God does is more loving to the ultimately damned than never creating them at all. Now, I would not say this if I still held to ECT, but for God to bring people into existence and give them several decades and a plethora of chances and opportunities to come into a personal relationship with Himself is more loving than never creating them at all and never giving them even one chance. Granted, they will eventually be destroyed, but when you think about it, they aren’t going to be any worse off than they were prior to God’s decision to create them. True, they will suffer a period of torment for a finite amount of time (how long they suffer depends on how serious their earthly crimes were), but they’ll be annihilated, and they won’t feel a thing anymore (Psalm 37:2, Isaiah 66:24, Matthew 3:12). They have non-existence book-ended with pleas to enter eternal bliss in between. As Shakespeare said “Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all”. I think we can say “Better to have been offered a chance to have a relationship with God and lose it forever than to never have had the chance at all”. So, contrary to what you’ve said, I do think conditionalism helps here.”
Remember on Molinism all of those pleas are futile and known to be so. They will not achieve the purpose of getting them saved, and were never even intended for that purpose. They may be necessary in order to achieve that best feasible world God could get via chaos theory, but they weren’t for the sake of the non-Christian. For the objection about giving them chances, the chances are not good for them!! They would be far better of never existing and never experiencing all of the temporary torments in the afterlife before being annihilated again. I think this is a crucial question here: would God actualize a possible world with only the damned existing? Would he do that on order to love them by giving: “them several decades and a plethora of chances and opportunities to come into a personal relationship with Himself” when they never will? Isn’t the reason God is creating them in the first place, for the sake of the believers?
I definitely don’t agree that it is: “Better to have been offered a chance to have a relationship with God and lose it forever than to never have had the chance at all.” If you rejected Christ, and were going to be annihilated would you not regret it in the meantime? You would have all kinds of self loathing and would quite possibly wish you were never born or at least were never offered that opportunity so you wouldn’t have that guilt and shame. You yourself have argued (I believe) that one of the reasons God may actualize a world where many people don’t hear the Gospel is to prevent them from having more culpability. That sounds reasonable to me. So it would certainly be seeking their wellbeing to not expose them to the Gospel. And it would be better for them if Jesus never died ‘for their sins’ as they wouldn’t be as guilty. You may argue that it would be unfair to not have Jesus die because of the “why should those who choose to be unsaved have veto power’ objection but the point remains Jesus dying was a misfortune for the non-Christian.
Perhaps it is true that you think that: “the atonement is limited in one sense, but it is not unlimited in another. It is limited in its application, but unlimited in its provision. Calvinists believe that the atonement is limited in both areas.” However saying that Jesus died for everyone is misleading, since on Molinism Jesus never died with the intent or goal of saving everyone. He died so that everyone may have a path to salvation-and he only intended it to be applied to a few. (Matthew 7:13-14). He may have wished the others would take the path, but he never intended it and it wasn’t his goal. When a person says that they did something FOR purpose X, they mean that they have a goal or intent to achieve that purpose. On Molinism that isn’t true. If I say that a person died for everyone, in common speech, I don’t mean that they died to provide everyone an opportunity to escape when they knew beforehand that many of the individuals in question would not be saved. Especially when that opportunity will only harm them when not taken.
Practically speaking it doesn’t seem to matter if the atonement is limited in the Calvinist sense or not. An Open Theist can easily believe that Jesus intended for each individual who hears the Gospel to come to repentance, (as the Open Theist God doesn’t know who won’t be saved and he knows that each individual might be saved and thus the pleas are sincere and are seeking their wellbeing), a Molinist cannot consistently believe that, and I am not sure which category simple foreknowledge Arminianism falls into. All or most of those verses you quoted as saying that Jesus died for the sins of everyone, destroy Molinism alongside Calvinism. On Molinism all you can say is: “For God so loved the elect that he gave his only son that the elect shall not perish but have everlasting life.” And you could also add that he also sacrificed the non-elect and made them more culpable in the process.
Don’t worry about the late response. I’d have been too busy to respond anyway. In fact, you may have seen the Facebook post I left promising to get to this soon. Since recently becoming an annihilationist, I’ve been working hard on a new book on Hell that reflects my updated views. That’s taken up a good chunk of my time as well as trying to get caught up on the Podcasts I listen to.
Since you’re studying Islam, I would recommend the late Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God But One: Allah or Jesus and his first book Seeking Allah: Finding Jesus.
I will now respond to your counterarguments.
Non-Being As Wellbeing
I still don’t think your first argument is coherent. Since wellbeing is a state of being, no one who has non-being can have wellbeing. Indeed, there is no such thing as a person who has non-being as a state. If any person were in any state at all, they would exist, and ergo not be a non-being. It would be analagous to saying that Jesus Christ is looking out for his physical health by choosing not to assume a human nature. You can’t have an unhealthy body if you don’t have a body at all, so by choosing not to become a physical creature, Jesus is in better physical health than if He became a physical creature. But obviously, being a purely immaterial being consisting of only a divine nature, Jesus obviously would not have any status of physical health at all. Precisely by not being physical, Jesus would neither be physically healthy nor physically unhealthy. So, it would be incoherent to say that Jesus is seeking bodily health by choosing not to have a body. Likewise, it’s incoherent to say you’re seeking someone’s wellbeing by seeking their nonbeing. The only way this might be coherent is in cases where a person or animal is in unremitting pain and they are euthenized to put them out of their misery. This is what quality-of-life philosophers argue should be done in cases where a person’s quality of life is so low, we should end it for them. Whether such a philosophy is morally tenable (or biblical) is another issue though. However, someone who has never and will never exist, there is no being to whom non-being can be sought as better state of affairs.
Because God Knew The Non-Elect Would Reject Him, Jesus Couldn’t Have Intended To Save Them
“Theologians have taken substantial interest in the issue of God’s will over the ages to the point that most consider that God’s will is not simple but complex or it is instead simple but fragmented. For the most part there have been approximately four views posited on the issue of God’s will. The view I adhere to is called the “Antecedent/Consequent wills” paradigm and I think resolves the issue well.
Historically the Church has generally had a consensus concerning this paradigm view of God’s two wills. This consensus was attained through a series of church councils such as Ephesus (431), Arles (475), Orange (529), and Quiersy (853). The exception to this consensus though is the Calvinistic tradition, which rejects the antecedent/consequent wills paradigm in favor of a hidden/revealed wills paradigm. With the hidden/revealed wills paradigm there are an assortment of issues that make it more than less than favorable. Simply put on the hidden/revealed wills paradigm those who are lost aren’t saved because God doesn’t want them to be saved. When we know scripturally that God genuinely desires that all repent and be saved then it refutes a position that turns around and claims the opposite about God for the sake of a view.
In antecedent/consequent wills paradigm the “antecedent” part is meant as God’s will before taking into consideration anything in man. By the “consequent” part it is meant as God’s will after an action of man that God takes into consideration. While the antecedent will is in a sense very similar to God willing absolutely his consequent will could be called “conditioned.” This ‘conditioned’ is not based on some variable in God, but in the sense that it depends on a condition in man. Antecedently God loved the world and gave his son so consequently that any who believes would not perish but live.
……. Thomas Oden lays out several characteristics of both the antecedent and consequent parts in his book “The Transforming Power of Grace”. On the antecedent will Oden describes four characteristics: 1.) It is universal. 2.) It is impartial. 3.) It is sincere and 4.) It is an ordinate will. In this it is impartial because God desires ALL to be saved. In this it is universal because grace is offered to ALL. In this it is sincere because grace is provided for ALL. It is inordinate because grace is provided prior to anyone’s accepting or rejecting of it.“ 1
So, does God “intend” to save the non-elect? Perhaps the answer is both yes and no. Yes, antecedently. No, consequently. Antecedently, God intends that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Consequently, God intends that no one be saved except through freely chosen repentance and through the blood of the cross. God intends that all who are outside of Christ perish.
You wrote \\“Remember on Molinism all of those pleas are futile and known to be so. ….They may be necessary in order to achieve that best feasible world God could get via chaos theory, but they weren’t for the sake of the non-Christian. For the objection about giving them chances, the chances are not good for them!!\\” — On the contrary, all of those chances made eternal life available to them. They choose not to receive it. Is that God’s fault? How can God be blamed for the free choices of His creatures? They are the ones who resist His Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) and who spurn His love until the day they die. Because Jesus died for them and The Holy Spirit extended Prevenient Grace, damnation was not inevitable. They had numerous chances to respond but chose not to. One of the issues I have every time the “Why would God create those He knew would never believe” argument comes up is that the objector consistently places all or even most of the blame on God. “God shouldn’t have created them since He knew the bad choices they would make”. Well, people shouldn’t make bad choices! Especially this choice of eternal significance. The pleas of God, the death of Jesus, the Prevenient Grace constantly poured out to the impenetant are good for them because it means their choice of destiny is truly up to them. Eternal life is available if they would just receive it.
Ezekiel 18 is a relevant passage to this topic.
“If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of The Lord is not just’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust? Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” – Ezekiel 18:26-32
In this passage, the people of Israel have accused God of being unjust. God defends Himself by telling the people of Israel that He will only destroy them if they do not repent from their sins, but if they do repent, He will forgive them. God tells Israel that He gets pleasure out of seeing people turn to Him in repentance rather than seeing the wicked perish in their sinfulness. God defends Himself against charges of unfairness in these passages, saying essentially “It isn’t I that’s unjust. You’re the ones that are unjust. If you don’t want to be destroyed, just repent!” If a person sins, they will be justly judged by God. However, if they turn away from their sin, God will forgive them and they will not fall under judgment. That seems fair to me. If you don’t want to be destroyed, repent. If you don’t repent, you have no right to complain when you’re destroyed.
Better To Have Never Been Born?
You wrote \\“They would be far better of never existing and never experiencing all of the temporary torments in the afterlife before being annihilated again.”\\ —
I’m afraid I just don’t see how one is worse off having temporary existence than never having existence at all. The damned are no worse off post-annihilation than they were before their conception. I’ve had atheists tell me that they don’t fear non-existence because “It didn’t bother me that much before”. Of course, on annihilationism, one would have retributive suffering to dread, but as horrible as that would be, they’ll be dead infinitely longer. Any suffering they do receive in Hell will be a microscopic blip on the timeline of eternity. And, if you’ve read my previous book on Hell, you’ll know that The Bible teaches that there are varying degrees of punishment. Christopher Hitchens would suffer a billion times less intensely and not as long as someone like Adolf Hilter. Hitchens was a much better person than Hitler by leaps and bounds!
You ask “If you rejected Christ, and were going to be annihilated, would you not regret it in the meantime?” Of course! But who would I have to blame? God? How could I blame God? Jesus died on the cross for me and The Holy Spirit tugged on my heart for decades! I heard the gospel preached countless times. I asked for evidence for Christianity and encountered it in the writings of Lee Strobel and William Lane Craig. Missionaries repeatedly came to my door. I turned God down every time. If I rejected Christ and were going to be annihilated, I might shake my fist at God as I have no doubt many will on judgment day, but if I were honest with myself, I would have no one to blame but myself.
You wrote \\“You yourself have argued (I believe) that one of the reasons God may actualize a world where many people don’t hear the Gospel is to prevent them from having more culpability.”\\ — I have never made that argument. Instead, I argued that it may possibly be the case that if someone would receive the gospel if they were presented with it, then God would providentially organize the world so that this person does in fact, here it. Maybe He does this and maybe He doesn’t. But in either case, the unevangelized can be saved in light of their response to the revelation they do have in nature (Romans 1:20) and conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Those who are lost in unevangelized areas may very well, for all we know, not have responded to the gospel even if they had heard it preached.
Would God Actualize A World With Only The Damned Existing?
No. Simply because that kind of world wouldn’t be the best feasible world. God would prefer to actualize a world in which many are saved than none are saved. The question is whether He can do this without also actualizing a world in which some damned exist alongside the saved. If God’s only choices consist of worlds where no one is saved VS. worlds where many are saved, given that He desires all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), naturally, He would choose to actualize the latter over the former. And He would actualize a world in which all are saved if such a possible world were actualizable.
Also, this is where my question (which was actually a quotation from William Lane Craig)2 comes into play. If it is the case that God cannot actualize a world where saved individuals exist without also actualizing a world in which lost individuals exist, then the latter shouldn’t “have a veto power” over God and compel Him to actualize no world at all, or a world where everyone is causally determined to do His will (which would be a world without true love since true love requires libertarian free will). Why should I be prevented from enjoying eternity with God just because my non-Christian friend refuses to?
1: “How God Shows No Partiality In Relation to Salvation” By Phillip A. Mast | August 15, 2017 — https://freethinkingministries.com/how-god-shows-no-partiality-in-relation-to-salvation/
2: William Lane Craig has said this several times in his discussion on God’s creation of those who are never saved. Once, in one of the segments of the On Guard: DVD Companion, and also, I think, in chapter 10 of Craig’s book On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision.