Surely y’all ain’t too old to remember the Rascals singing “Good Lovin’.” In the song the singer begins by visiting the doctor about a particular ailment. The song does not spend much time describing the symptoms but the antidote soon becomes clear:
Now honey please, squeeze me tight (squeeze me tight)
Don’t you want your baby to feel alright
I said baby (baby)
Now it’s for sure (it’s for sure)
I got the fever, yeah
And you got the cure (got the cure)
Admittedly this isn’t exactly profound, but it does provide a minimal condition for a person loving someone: to love someone means you want them to feel alright. And actually you want a bit more besides. I’m going to suggest that to love a person means that, if it is at all possible, you want that person to achieve shalom, that is completeness, fullness, wholeness. I am not suggesting that this provides an exhaustive definition of love by any means but minimally to love a person means to desire that they achieve shalom.
With that in mind I recently stated that I don’t see how “God loves Jones” is consistent with “God willing that Jones be subjected eternally to the most unimaginable suffering when God could easily spare Jones that suffering.” Paul Manata demurred:
I don’t see the incompatibility. It seems you do. So perhaps you could help me by showing the incompatibility such that both propositions cannot have true truth values. Just for starters, I can see a governor loving his son, a convicted murderer, and yet refusing to pardon his son, or grant him a stay of execution, saving him from the death penalty. Obviously there’s disanalogies here, but I think it at least supports the compatibility of S loving S* while also punishing S* for S*’s crimes, even though S could pardon or grant a stay of execution for S*.
Certainly I agree with this case. All things being equal a father may wish shalom for his son even though he also wills that his son face the death penalty. For one thing, he might believe that this is the best way to bring his wayward son to repentance. Or he may believe that it is not possible to pardon his son consistently such that to do so would impugn the integrity of the justice system that he has been called to uphold.
But I also find the case critically disanalogous with what we’re concerned with. Let’s make the case more relevant to the Jones proposition. To recap: ““God willing that Jones be subjected eternally to the most unimaginable suffering when God could easily spare Jones that suffering.” So here is a refashioned and more apposite analogy:
When his son was conceived the governor had a microchip implanted in the son’s brain in utero when he was an itty bitty fetus. And the governor used that microchip to implant beliefs and desires in the son’s mind that would lead him to pursue certain courses of behavior which would place him on the wrong side of the law and eventually result in him committing crimes for which he would be placed on death row. Thus the father was the primary cause of the son’s actions (he placed the desire to murder in the son) even as the son was the secondary cause (he was the one who drove the knife into his victim). Why did the father do this? So that he could provide a visible demonstration of his concern for justice as the governor by refusing to commune the sentence of his own son.
Does the father love his son? In other words, does the father wish his son achieve shalom if that were possible? Clearly not.