Monthly Archives: January 2012

Love/Justice or Love vs Justice?

I recently watched a couple parts of a conversation (Youtube) between Michael Horton (For Calvinism) and Roger Olson (Against Calvinism) and there was one issue which kept coming up, and that was the idea of love. Dr. Olson claimed that he couldn’t be a Calvinist because if he did, it would require him to believe that God was a monster. (real middle of the road statement, right?)

The accusation was brought up that if God were love, then He wouldn’t chose some for salvation and lock others out of it. Dr. Horton responded by starting to quote Romans 9:14 “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” but Dr. Olson interrupted and said something like “No! The issue is love, not fairness or justice, and I keep saying that and Calvinists don’t seem to understand that.”

Ok, so let’s take that accusation seriously. Are Calvinists simply ignoring the other side? I’m not entirely sure this is an argument you can make. In one sense, yes, the words love and justice/fairness are not the same, but it is also possible that those words could mean the same thing. If you look at it in terms of argument, one side is making the other side out to say “yes, God is not love(ing)” and the other to say “yes, God is not just/fair”. I didn’t really get an explanation of why the two statements “If God is loving, then He would save everyone” and “It’s unfair that God doesn’t save everyone” aren’t essentially the same, and I think that’s where a lot of the confusion lies. Wouldn’t an unloving God therefore be an unjust or unfair God? In terms of Divine Simplicity, aren’t God’s love and His justice/fairness the same?

Be that as it may, let’s go ahead and give Dr. Olson the benefit of the doubt here and say he’s right, that Calvinists aren’t listening to the real issue and it is actually an issue of love. So the assertion is that if God is loving (and we know that Scripture says He is love 1 John 4:8) then He would save everyone. Now, where does Dr. Olson get this idea from Scripture? The text of 1 John 4:8 doesn’t give him that. In fact, in order to understand that passage, it’s helpful to look at it in context.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” – 1 John 4:7-12)

The question arises; who is it that John is writing to? You see it twice in that section. John is writing to those he identifies as “Beloved”. In other words, John is writing to Christians, and that is why he is stressing that we love one another, because by doing that we demonstrate the love of God. John goes on to say later in the passage that if someone claims to love God, but hates their brother, then that person is a liar. These concepts are intimately linked. So we have established at least one thing, that Dr. Olson does not get the foundation of his assertion from this passage.

Perhaps Dr. Olson gets his thinking from reflecting on families. I believe he has a family anyway. It wouldn’t be very loving of him to play favorites, as it were, to his children. In fact, we would say it is poor parenting indeed to love one of your children more than the other, and even more so if you loved one and did nothing but punish the other for no reason. You would say that wouldn’t be fair to one of the children. (haha, sorry, I couldn’t resist making that connection.) However, this isn’t exactly the same assertion that Roger is making. If we were to accurately compare his assertion with this analogy we would have to say that what he, as parent, should do is love all the children of the world equally in every way as he loves his own. In order to truly be as loving as Roger wants God to be, by way of this analogy, Roger would have to love everyone’s wife as much as he loves his own. How would we view such a man?

Dr. Olson is essentially arguing that God have a love that is subhuman. That is, a love like described above, and one that we would never expect a human to have, and indeed we would say there is some sort of moral deficiency with someone who had this kind of love. Yes, we agree that people should love one another in the sense of the golden rule, but this is not the same as saying that everyone needs to have undifferentiated love for everyone else.

It seems to me (and to Dr. Horton and a lot of people in the reformed camp) that the underlying problem many Arminians have is the “that’s not fair!” assertion. However, if they were to make that claim, then they would run into certain Biblical texts, plus they wouldn’t be able to argue that Calvinists are denying that God is loving that way. Is that a cheap shot? Probably, but help me out here. I just don’t see where the two assertions are different.

Even if Roger Olson were right in his assertion, I’m just not sure what standard he has that he is judging the actions of God by. However, a student once asked him in a class if it could be shown that the Scriptures teach exactly what the Calvinists think it teaches, would he believe it? He answered with “no.” I think that’s revealing.

The truth is, there would be nothing unloving, unfair, or unjust in God if He did not save anyone. God never has and never will need us. There was perfect love and community within the Trinity from eternity past. When He did create us, we rebelled against Him. That is how we show our appreciation for the love God showed in simply creating us. The fact that God would chose to save any of us, is an act of incredible love.

One last thing that needs to be corrected in Dr. Olson’s assertions against Calvinists is this idea that God chooses some to salvation and then locks others out of it. This completely ignores the fact that all men are fallen. In our very nature we are opposed to God. We love our sin and naturally hate our God. The actions of God in election and in reprobation are not the same. In election, God goes in a removes hearts of stone and replaces them with hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) and actually changes our nature so that instead of being antithetical toward God, we actually want to go towards God and to please Him and follow His laws. In reprobation, God simply removes His hand and gives sinful man the desires of his heart. One group gets mercy, while the other group gets justice. There is no inconsistency between love and justice in God. In fact, I would argue that God’s love and His justice are the same.



Hanna, movie review

*spoiler alert*

For those who haven’t seen the movie, I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. From a purely esthetic point of view, it’s not a good movie. The acting is ok, but not great, the cinematography is not great, and the plot is fairly nonexistent. Why do a review? Because it struck me after I had watched it that from a philosophical/cultural analysis point of view, it makes a few interesting points. I could entirely be wrong here, but these are the things that have stood out to me.

Ok, so the movie starts out in the woods of the arctic, and has a young girl (Hanna) out hunting a reindeer. She shoots an arrow and hits the elk and it goes running off, and after a small chase the reindeer goes down and Hanna says that she just missed its heart, and then proceeds to kill it. As she is gutting the animal, a guy comes up from behind her saying that he’s already killed her (caught her off her guard) and a fight ensues, with the man winning and Hanna having to carry the animal back herself for it.

We eventually learn that the man with her out in the woods is her father Erik, and that he’s been training her for who knows what, but he reads to her from what looks like an encyclopedia so that she has knowledge of the outside world. He has trained her to fight, to hunt, and to survive (as well as speak at least 4 languages). She keeps telling him that she’s ready, and eventually he brings in a radio-ish thing which, once turned on, will bring “her” down upon them and that either she will kill Hanna, or Hanna will kill her. Erik tells Hanna about music, and she says she wants to hear it, and he tells her that they have everything they need as it is, but she insists that they do not. Once Hanna flips the switch, Erik cleans up his look, gets dressed in a suit, and leaves while telling Hanna where to meet him in Berlin. Hanna has a prefabricated backstory about where she lives and what she likes to do and is involved with, supposedly for if anyone asks about her.

We find out that Hanna is “abnormal” after she is caught by whoever it is that is hunting her (it could be the CIA, but I forget). Turns out Erik is ex-CIA, and disappeared after awhile, so now there are people hunting both him and Hanna, who escapes their custody after killing several people. The whole movie hinges around Hanna’s experience with the “real world” and her trying to go to where her father is to meet up with her. Along the way she meets a family of tourists, whom she sneaks a ride from and then eventually openly travels with them. Among the family is a little (looks maybe 13?) girl who is about as stereotypically materialistic as possible, and talks constantly. At one point she tells Hanna that she probably would like to be a lesbian, but not a fat, ugly one. One that is a supermodel and eventually ends up marrying a man. Coincidently, or perhaps not, the two of them sneak out to a party in which a guy tries to kiss Hanna, but she ends up attacking him, while later on, in a heart to heart conversation between the two girls, the little girl gives Hanna a friendship bracelet, and Hanna gives her a kiss before going to sleep. The girl calls her a freak, but a friend.

Eventually, some of the people that are hunting for Hanna catch up with her and the family and she has to run, killing one of them and getting away, while the family is caught and eventually give up where she is going. Hanna finds her way to where she is to meet up with Erik and the man living there (who writes children’s fables) meets her and gives her a warm welcome. The man is a bit strange, eccentric to say the least, and tells her that her dad hasn’t told her about any of the good things in life, things like music, magic, and dancing. The bad guys catch up and kill the man, while Hanna escapes.

Along the way, Hanna learns certain things about her, from a computer searching for both her father Erik and for a piece of paper she stole about herself from the CIA, detailing her DNA work. Eventually, Hanna and Erik meet up in a house (the house of her grandmother, before she was killed) and there is a full detailing of where Hanna came from. Erik is not her father, as she was born in a research facility. Some people were doing genetic testing on humans, so that they could essentially breed super soldiers (isn’t that always what it is?). People who are faster and stronger, have suppressed empathy emotions and the like. Therefore, Erik is not her real father, but has raised her from an early age and loves her, but Hanna ends up running out (after a bit of a fight) because of the truth she finds out. It is also revealed along the way that the main person that’s been hunting them is someone who knows about Hanna (presumably, she was involved in her creation at some point) and has an unnatural attachment to her. I believe the woman desperately wants to be Hanna’s mother, though I’m not sure why. She ends up attempting to kill Erik and Hanna’s biological mother and does end up killing the mother, while Erik and baby Hanna escape.

Erik eventually kills everyone that is hunting him, only to be killed by the man woman (Marissa). Interestingly, when Marissa asks Erik why he chose to come back now, he only responds with “children grow up”. When she shoots him, Hanna falls to her knees as if she’s felt the death, or at least heard the gunshot.

Hanna runs back to the original fairytale house, only to find it’s occupant dead. Marissa finds Hanna there and a chase/fight ensues. Eventually, Marissa shoots Hanna in the stomach, while Hanna shoots an arrow at Marissa. The movie ends with Hanna standing over Marissa and telling her that she barely missed her heart, and then shoots her.

You may be asking yourself what the point is, and to be honest, I think the point is that there is no point. It seems to me that this movie is a philosophical statement of nihilism. First, we have the opening and closing scenes in the movie. Hanna kills both the reindeer and Marissa in the same way, and with the same “I barely missed your heart” line. Why would those two scenes be made the same? It seems there is the blatant statement of man and animal being of the same value, with a particular reference to the heart because when people refer to things that make man different from animals, emotion is usually mentioned. Interestingly, when it comes to emotion, we know that Hanna herself has been genetically modified so that her emotions are not as they naturally would be.

There are good guys and bad guys in the movie…sort of. It would seem that perhaps the only protagonist in the movie is Hanna, with Erik being mostly a protagonist, though it’s unclear why he was training her for “her time” in the first place, except maybe so that she could extract revenge. Marissa eludes to the fact that Hanna had been prepared, but never contracted, though that is never expanded. She does seem fairly adamant that Erik is a national security threat, and that Hanna is of secondary concern. Marissa is the main antagonist, though her role is also somewhat obscured. She seems to have a strong emotional attachment to Hanna, even though she deliberately goes around killing anyone related to her. She has tapes, perhaps taken from Hanna’s grandmother, detailing what sounds like her mother’s experience in giving birth to Hanna and the experience of the “procedures” done with the genetic experimenting etc.

Another true good guy would be the eccentric man, Knepfler, who lives in a fairytale house, and represents “all that is good in the world”, namely magic, music, and dancing. Interesting how the only good things in the world are things that exist in a place designed to be a real life version of a series of fairytales. Hanna seems to enjoy the magic and the music and the dancing and the environment while she is there for a brief time, but eventually he gets killed and she moves on. Remember that her father told her, only after she mentions wanting to hear music, that they had everything they needed in their cabin in the woods. At one point, Hanna is in a cheap hotel room and the owner shows her the bed and there is a TV, an electric kettle, and some lights. Hanna gets scared by all the noise of all the electric things in the room, and turns on more while trying to turn some off, and she runs out.

For those of you keeping score, we have total seclusion in the woods as not being good enough, modern conveniences as being scary, no real sense of good people or bad people, man as equal to animal, and the only good things in the world are equated with fairytales and magic.

You have to ask what the whole point of the movie is. Hanna kills the bad guy in the end, but nothing is really solved. She learns the truth about herself, but all that really ends up doing is getting her hunted down and her “father” killed, the only friends she’s made presumably killed, her actual family killed, and she is left alone and does what? She kills Marissa. She does what she was programmed to do. At this point, man becomes even less than animal, he becomes machine. Nothing is solved, because nothing is set forth to solve. The only truth revealed in the movie is pointless because it doesn’t change anything.

If this isn’t a movie about nihilism, then I’m not sure what it could be about. The overwhelming theme is meaninglessness. Nietzsche pronounced that God was dead, and then if God was dead, then so was man. This is the attempt of the materialistic worldview trying to pull meaning out of meaningless simply by pointing it out.

Not really a new blog.