This is a sequel to “The great implausibility of Calvinistic Damnation Part 1. In that discussion we considered an argument for why God, on the Calvinistic view, opts to damn some people. According to that view the reason is because God necessarily always acts to manifest his glory most fully and it so happens that the way to do that is through willing that some people eternally reject God. Hence, to recap,
(2) The maximal state of affairs that manifests God’s glory most fully involves the salvation of some creatures and the reprobation of others.
But how can this be? What reason is there to think that (2) is true? This is a crucial question because at first blush (2) is extraordinarily implausible. Think about the following two scenarios and ask yourself which would seem to be more glorifying to God:
Scenario 1: God wills that some of his creatures continue to reject his rule eternally. As a result they are subjected eternally to the most unimaginable tortures throughout which they either (a) continue to curse and spit at God or (b) will experience unimaginable remorse for their decisions but will be faced with the futility of their state.
Scenario 2: God wills that all his creatures repent and submit to his will. From this point on all follow God’s will perfectly and there is no more sin or suffering. Instead, everyone continues to grow in their knowledge and love of God and one another in perfect harmony.
Now why would anybody think the first scenario is more glorifying of God than the second? That is, why would someone think that God is somehow obliged to damn some people to unspeakable torment eternally in order to receive maximum glory?
The standard answer is that the first outcome is on the whole preferable and more glorifying because it allows God to manifest the full range of his attributes in a deeper way than would otherwise be possible. This is because God can exercise his sovereign wrath at the same time that he manifests his merciful love by damning some and saving others. In this way those who are saved have a fuller apprehension of God’s goodness than would otherwise be possible.
This strikes me as bizarre and indefensible. But I’ll hold those comments for now and simply note that this interestingly makes God look like the ultimate utilitarian, that is as one for whom the end justifies the means. Of course there is one important deviation from previous utilitarian theories. Instead of the units of utilitarian exchange suggested in the past (e.g. pleasure or love) let’s think of the summum bonum as being units of divine glory. To parallel classic utilitarian terminology we can call units of God’s glory hedons and units of God’s unglory (for wont of a better term) dolors. All God has to do then is run the numbers and damn the right number required to maximize the greatest balance of hedons over dolors (thereby maximizing the divine glory). If that means damning all or none then he’d do it, but as it turns out the optimal number to manifest God’s glory is somewhere in the middle. And so that’s where we are.
A Calvinist can argue this way. Apparently many do. But let us not miss the irony, for if there is any ethical theory that is maligned among contemporary evangelical Christians it is utilitarianism. And yet God, we are to believe, is the ultimate utilitarian? Go figure.