Where do I start with Evan Minton’s sort of response to my criticism
of his argument? Well, first of all, the title of his response to me is wrong: “The
Maximally Great Argument against Calvinism” is not the name of the argument I
criticized. I criticized the article in as it was titled originally and that
appears in the title of this post and here.
Evan’s first criticism of me concerns “Perfect Being Theology.” A subject that I really didn’t address because I view it as an unnecessary distraction. Minton says, “Here, right off the bat, Mr. Dingess makes a philosophical boner. He shows absolutely no understanding of Perfect Being Theology or how one concludes that Perfect Being Theology is true. One could hold to Perfect Being Theology without being a proponent of any version of The Ontological Argument For God’s Existence whatsoever. However, if any version of The Ontological Argument is sound, it not only proves that God exists, but it proves that a Perfect Being or A Maximally Great Being (MGB) exists.”
It is true that a person could hold to Perfect Being Theology without being a proponent of The Ontological Argument. But this misses the point. I actually do believe that God possesses all perfections that a being could possibly possess, making God the most perfect that exists. My seminary training focused on systematics. So much for my “lack of understanding of Perfect Being Theology.” I must confess, interacting with these young philosopher types is quite annoying given their proclivity for intellectual idolatry. The arrogance it spawns is always a pitiful distraction. It is shows up in those young men who have an unhealthy penchant for philosophy. They mistakenly think it makes them smart. Personally, I think it has it’s source in an internal lack of confidence in them, but I am not a psychologist.
So, what is my point of contention with the use of Anselm’s argument in Minton’s “maximally great argument for Arminianism?” It is simple. Anselm’s argument fails for the reason I said it did. Since human beings are created in God’s image, they already know such a being exists. What modern classical apologists do is “pretend” that people don’t know and then they take these traits that we already know belong to God and employ them to prove God. It is a vicious circle. How could you ever invent the criteria for the maximally greatest being if in fact you really had no idea coming into the discussion? The idea and criteria are already established and the ONLY way they can be established is if we already know or have some sense of this being. In addition, the argument fails to prove that this being is the God claimed to exist in the Christian religion. This means that any argument formulated in support of Arminianism that is based off The Ontological Argument is highly suspect.
A Maximally Great Being would Love All People
Minton says, “This shows yet another misunderstanding on Dingess’ part. I didn’t “presuppose that a Maximally Great Being would be the sort of being that would love all people”. I argued for it! I argued for it on the basis of intuition.”
But did Minton argue for it?
- If God Is a Maximally Great Being, then He would love all people.
- If God loves all people, He would desire to save all people.
- If God desires to save all people, He would die on the cross to atone for the sins of all people and send Prevenient Grace To All People.
- God is a Maximally Great Being.
- Therefore, God loves all people.
- Therefore, God wants to save all people.
- Therefore, God died on the cross for all people and sends all people Prevenient Grace.
No, he did’t. He included in the conclusion of his argument the first premise. That’s what we call begging the question. Now, Minton has revised his original argument and I suspect this is why. He admitted that he made a bad argument. He sent this email to me: “All right. I have had a look at your critique. I have to say I’m convinced I made a bad argument on the basis of your response.” Now he is revising his argument to look like this:
1: A Maximally Great Being has all great-making properties to the greatest extent possible.
2: Love is a great-making property.
3: Therefore, a Maximally Great Being has love to the greatest extent possible.
4: Loving all individuals is necessary for love to be at its greatest extent possible.
5: Therefore, a Maximally Great Being would love all individuals.
What is wrong with this argument? For starters, it is not the product of sound biblical exegesis. When I went to school (many moons ago) and studied math, my favorite subject by the way, the teacher always made us “show our work.” What I would like to have seen from Minton is sound biblical exegesis supporting his conclusions regarding Arminianism, prevenient grace, and God’s universal love for all humans without exception. Instead, we get this philosophical argument that references NOTHING in Scripture. Scripture is, after all, our epistemic authority for knowledge of God.
NOTE: In my first article I criticized Minton for NOT making a distinction in God’s love for human beings. A Calvinist can look at this argument and agree with it without qualification and still oppose Minton’s inference that this argument actually means that God loves all men to the same degree without exception. That is just one problem for the argument. To be specific, the argument is ambiguous at best. I am a Calvinist who finds prevenient grace to be a serious error and I can affirm Minton’s argument at face value. So what does it actually accomplish? Nothing.
But let’s assume that Minton means what most Arminians mean whey they say that God loves everyone. What they mean is that God loves everyone the same. I wonder if Minton believes that God loves the fallen angelic beings? Does God love Satan? If God is a maximally great being and love is a great-making property and such a being must have love to the greatest possible extent and loving all beings is necessary for love to be at its greatest extent possible, then a maximally great being would love the devil. How silly is that? Examine Scripture from Genesis to Revelation and then tell me what God’s attitude toward Satan is. And if you can conclude that it’s love, I have some healthcare professionals you should probably see.
The arugment is colossal failure. It seems that Minton was deliberately vague whereas in his last attempt he was too specific. The argument fails because it is ambiguous at best. It fails because he proves too much: God loves the devil.
One other area I want to criticize is Minton’s treatment of atonement. I want to know, if Christ atoned for the sins of all men, why Hitler is in hell. Minton writes, “The death of Christ did not automatically transfer salvation to everyone whom it was intended for even on The Calvinist system! No matter what your soteriology, no one believes that they were saved the moment Christ uttered “It is finished” and breathed his last.”
This is true. But what we do believe is that Christ’s death
on the cross guaranteed that the redemption that had been accomplished would be
applied to those for whom it was intended. What we reject is that God would
intend to apply Christ’s work to Hitler but somehow, strangely enough, would
fail to do so. The payment was intended for those to whom the Holy Spirit would
apply it. The lapse of time between the actual payment and its application is
irrelevant. The cross looked to the final judgment. That’s the point. The
transaction at Calvary was a legal transaction. What happens as a result of
that work is that those whom God chose from the beginning will receive a new
heart and the gift of faith from God the Holy Spirit at regeneration. This is
redemption applied. Minton’s response is a moot point.
Minton goes on to say, “Jesus technically only paid the
debt for the sins of the elect, but that doesn’t mean the atonement was
intended only for the elect. God wants all saved (2 Peter 3:9), so He died for
all (2 Corinthians 5:15), it’s just that many won’t believe and are lost (John
3:18, John 3:36).“
Minton equivocates on the word “atone.” He refuses to allow that word to stand on its own two feet. To atone for someone’s sin is to pay the debt for those sins. Minton gives atone his own definition so that he can escape this obvious problem is has put himself in. I will say it again: if Jesus died for all the sins of all people, then that means he paid the debt for all the sins of all people. One of those sins is the refusal to believe. This means God has NO legal basis to send anyone to hell, even just for the sin of refusing to believe. Atone means atone. It’s pretty simple. If Minton is going to hold onto to his Arminianism and insist on holding onto human logic, then he will have to reject the penal-substitutionary view of the atonement. And doing so will only push him further from historic Christianity.
I could say much more about Minton’s argument but honestly, I said much more than I needed to.