Ari: Consider this horrific theology: God forces Sally to sin, in a way that takes away her responsibility, and then he intentionally causes eternal torment to her.
Cal: I thought you were smarter than that. That isn’t Calvinist theology! Calvinism holds that God intentionally causes people to sin in a way that retains their responsibility, and then punishes some of them.
Ari: I didn’t say it was a Calvinist theology. You agree that this is a horrific theology, I take it?
Cal: Yes, of course.
Cal: Because God is punishing an innocent.
Ari: I said nothing about punishment. I said God intentionally caused eternal torment. I didn’t say that the torment was a punishment.
Cal: How does that make it not be horrific?
Ari: I agree it’s horrific. I just want to get clear on why. It’s horrific because eternal torment is intentionally imposed on an innocent, right?
Ari: And why is that horrific?
Ari: It’s obvious, isn’t it? It’s horrific because eternal torment is an extremely great harm, and it is being imposed on an innocent.
Cal: Yes. But I said: that theology isn’t mine.
Ari: And I didn’t say it was. But now, you agree that eternal torment is deserved for sin or at least some sin.
Cal: For all sin.
Ari: Very good. And punishment should be proportionate to the crime?
Cal: Yes. And sin is a rebellion against God. Every sin is horrendous.
Ari: Right. And do you agree with Socrates that it is better to suffer wrongdoing than to act wrongly?
Cal: There is eternal punishment, after all.
Ari: Would it be true even if there were no hell? Socrates thinks it is in itself better to suffer wrongdoing than to act wrongly.
Cal: I guess he’s right.
Ari: And the worse the wrongdoing, the worse it is to for the wrongdoer?
Ari: And so, if sin is an extremely great evil, it is an extremely great harm to the wrongdoer, right?
Cal: That sounds right.
Ari: But now let’s go back to your theology. Your theology is that God intentionally causes some innocent people to sin…
Cal: … in a way that retains their responsibility.
Ari: Exactly. It wouldn’t be sin in the full sense without the responsibility. But we also agreed that it is an extremely great harm to the sinner to sin.
Cal: I guess so.
Ari: And we agreed that the horrific theology is horrific precisely because it has God intentionally imposing an extremely great harm on an innocent person. Yet according to your theology God intentionally imposes an extremely great harm on an innocent person–the harm of sinning. Moreover, this harm appears to be of the same order of magnitude as eternal torment, because the sin deserves eternal torment and punishment needs to match the crime.
Cal: I’ll need to think about this. But one quick thought comes into my mind: God causes people to sin in order to glorify himself through redeeming some and punishing others.
Ari: But my horrific theology wouldn’t be a good theology if we added that God somehow makes use of the eternal torment of the innocent person to glorify himself. Maybe the innocent person is so good that she sings praises to God for eternity, and such singing of praise, despite eternal torment, has extremely high value. Now maybe you don’t buy that it has such great value. But I submit that even if it did, intentionally imposing eternal torment on an innocent would not be justified. And for the same reason, intentionally imposing sin on an innocent is not justified.