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I personally believe that Christian morality is ultimately utilitarian. I see God as a utilitarian genius that is doing His best to guide His creation towards maximum utility, subject to certain constraints (e.g., respecting the free will of His creatures, etc.)

I feel persuaded to believe this is the case because I see many correlations between what God commands or desires and what promotes happiness and well-being. I'll enumerate some examples:

  • Example 1: Heaven vs. Hell. This is the clearest one. Heaven represents the utilitarian utopia, a place of maximum happiness, maximum well-being, and minimum (zero) suffering. In contrast, Hell is the complete opposite. So if God is a utilitarian, it makes perfect sense that He wants to maximize the number of people who make it to Heaven and minimize the number of people who wind up in Hell.

  • Example 2: Love vs. Hate. Love is good. Hate is evil. Love promotes well-being. Hate promotes violence, crimes & suffering. As a utilitarian, it makes perfect sense that a loving state of being should be preferred over a hateful state of being.

  • Example 3: Love vs. Lust. Lust can be tricky, but if we acknowledge that lust and love cannot simultaneously coexist in the same person (they are mutually exclusive), and if we acknowledge that a profoundly loving state of being produces much more well-being than a profoundly lustful state of being, then, as a utilitarian, it makes perfect sense that love should be preferred over lust. Love produces more utility.

  • Example 4: Self-control vs. Addictions/Compulsions. This is pretty much self-evident. People who are enslaved by addictions and compulsions are vulnerable to all sorts of health problems, can sometimes be quite dysfunctional, cause accidents, underperform and become less productive in their jobs, etc. A society in which all individuals are masters of themselves can be much more productive and prosperous than a society in which everyone is compulsively distracted by the urge to get their next fix.

  • Example 5: Honesty vs. Lying. Misinformation can cause a lot of trouble. People can make all sorts of terrible decisions based on bad information and lies. A lot of suffering could be spared if people only reported accurate information (to the best of their ability) in good faith. It makes sense, therefore, that honesty should be preferred over lying in most situations (with the typical exception of lying to the Nazis to save a Jewish family that is hiding in your basement).

And so on and so forth. So I'm wondering if my reasoning is flawed, and therefore I would like to ask for counterexamples, that is, examples in which it is nearly impossible, or at least extremely difficult, to make sense of them in utilitarian terms.

Are there examples of good and evil in Christianity where utility doesn't play an obvious role?

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    But Jesus says more people will go to hell than be saved...
    – curiousdannii
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:49
  • @curiousdannii Thank you for at least explaining the reason behind the downvote. I can make sense of that through the constraint of respecting the free will of the individuals, which is something I mentioned in the first paragraph of my question.
    – Mark
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 22:51
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    "I see many correlations between what God commands or desires and what promotes happiness and well-being." Me too. But maybe the correct name is not utilitarian, but hedonism. See John Piper's core theological stance: Christian hedonism. Commented May 12, 2023 at 23:17
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    'Utilitarian genius' in no way equates to the Righteousness of God revealed in holy scripture. Describing human morality and imposing it upon the Almighty is inappropriate and contrary to the Living Word of God.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:34
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    @NigelJ You are correct that righteousness is a different and disjoint concept from ethics.
    – Fomalhaut
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 16:36

4 Answers 4

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Utilitarianism is the doctrine that actions are right because they are useful. It is a doctrine that claims that the greatest happiness of the greatest numbers should be the guiding principle of conduct.

A fundamental flaw in supposing that God is utilitarian is that nobody needs to even believe God exists in order to live what most other people would consider to be a highly moral and utilitarian life, helping others, giving and even doing without for the good of others, working to promote a better world based on kind and loving actions. If the claim is made that Christianity is a utilitarian religion, then what of atheists who promote utilitarianism? The highly moral ones somewhat (unwittingly) put a spanner in the works here, do they not?

Another problem is that the examples provided all look at those issues from the human point of view, which is understandable, but Christians have been given the very words of God as to how he views such moral issues. If there was time and space to compare the five examples offered, showing where God's stated viewpoint differed from the human viewpoint, that could run to 50 pages or so. Therefore, the only Christian point I will make here is that all humans are finite, imperfect sinners in God's eyes, whereas he is pure and holy, righteous and just, loving and merciful, and with total knowledge of everything - all to a degree that none of us can fathom. That is why the need is to take God's statements on such issues as our starting point. Even though we cannot fully understand, and even though some of his statements might upset or alarm us, no other starting-point can possibly lead to the answer to this question. I would note that no words of God have been included in the five examples given.

You ask for an example "of good and evil in Christianity where utility doesn't play an obvious role". There is no greater example of that than the voluntary death of Jesus Christ (John 10:11, 18). This also shows up the dangers of looking at this issue from the human point of view, which accounts for a wide variety of theories about what his death actually achieved, or the reasons for it. So, has God given any statements about this? Plenty! And they are all to be found in the Bible, many of them from the lips of Jesus himself, before he submitted to that cruelest of deaths, crucifixion.

The history of theories about Christ's death is revealing. The one for which a massive amount of biblical texts can be quoted in support, is Substitution: Christ died in the place of sinners, bearing God's wrath, satisfying his justice and thus enabling those putting faith in that provision to be reconciled to the Father (e.g. 2 Cor.5:21; Rom.6:6-7; 1 Peter 3:18 & 4:13). This view can be tracked back in Christianity to the apostles themselves. It is all about God's righteousness and justice, and the inability of sinners to merit this reconciliation; God takes the initiative, based on who he is.

Approaching the third century, we find human philosophies creeping in. One is known as "the classic", also as "the Ransom theory". Here are quotes from this book detailing such ideas:

"But when penal substitution is denied, we are left with subjective theories that reduce Christ's work to its effect on us (in relation to our own repentance) rather than for us (in relation to God's justice). According to the moral influence and governmental theories, Christ's death incites us to virtue, converts us through a demonstration of God's love, warns us about how seriously God takes sin, and encourages us to join God in his work of bringing peace and reconciliation to the world...

...the "classic" theory (because of its association with Origen and other early Alexandrian theologians), this view held that Christ's death was a ransom paid to Satan for the ownership of humanity. However, Scripture represents Christ's death as a payment of our debt to God's justice, not to Satan...

Moral Influence - This view interprets the atonement as a demonstration of God's love rather than as a satisfaction either of God's dignity or of his justice. The effect of the atonement is to provide a moving example of God's love that will induce sinners to repent. This view is associated with Abelard (1079 - 1142), has been held by Socinians and Arminians, and has been the central idea in Protestant liberalism.

Moral Government - According to this view, Christ's atonement exhibits God's just government of the world and thereby establishes repentance as the basis on which human beings approach God. It was formulated in Arminian theology, especially by Hugo Grotius (1583 - 1645)." Pilgrim Theology, Michael Horton, pp. 207-8, Zondervan, 2011 [Bold italics mine]

God's good deals with human, and satanic, evil via Christ's death, but in such a way as to appear so devoid of utilitarianism, some humans felt the need to come up later on with theories that try to put utilitarianism into it.

This one example is my answer to the question. Much more could be said, but I think that all other examples are just peripheral to the fundamental issue here, regarding utilitarianism. God is not utilitarian, therefore, Christianity is not utilitarian, the supreme proof of that being how God and Christ initiated the only righteous way of dealing with all sin.

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  • Thanks Anne for your response. I edited my question with additional comments in response to some things that have been said in the answers posted so far.
    – Mark
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:26
  • @Mark - In light of your added, final paragraph, it would be interesting to get an atheist responding to your view! Perhaps they would claim to be the only truly altruistic utilitarians?!?
    – Anne
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:55
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What are counter examples to the position that God is utilitarian ?


DEFINITION :

That property in any object, whereby it tends to produce benefit, advantage, pleasure, good, or happiness ... [or] to prevent the happening of mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness to the party whose interest is considered.

Definition of Utilitarianism by Jeremy Bentham, its Founder


The supreme counter examples to the idea that God, himself, acts in a utilitarian way are the statements that :

God is love [1 John 4:8 and 16 KJV]

: and that God's purpose is to bring many sons to glory, Hebrews 2:10, and that the will of God the Father is that every one who sees the Son, and believes on Him, should have eternal life, John 6:40.

But :

utilitarianism considers the interests of all sentient beings equally.

Utilitarianism - Wikipedia

. . . . which 'sentient beings' includes Satan himself, satanic spirit-beings who follow him, and includes all of those upon earth (and many now in hades) who choose/chose not to repent of their ungodliness and who choose/chose not to believe in, nor to follow and nor to submit to, the Son of God's love, the Christ sent to redeem.


God is righteous, says the Christian Bible, and none else is, says the Christian Bible. Rightness is within God alone. For God alone is right (and none else is, says the Christian Bible).

Thus righteousness, itself, is the conformity to what is of God, what is for God, what is according to God's purpose, and what is in agreement with God's will.

Nothing else is 'right'.

Nor can it be.

Which is a totally opposite view to utilitarianism.


God made this very, very plain in the very beginning of humanity when He informed the first man that partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (and, thus, any attempt at mankind evaluating what was good and evil, out of mankind's scale of values) would be not only disastrous - but immediately fatal.

And so it was, as Genesis informs us and as the Christian Gospel explains to us.

Utilitarianism is not only not how God loves, it is also not how humanity lives.

Else, we die.

And that eternally.

Thus says the Christian Bible and the Christian Gospel.

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I will offer 4 counter-examples to this hypothesis; I will also acknowledge a few shortcomings of these counter-examples.

1. Minimizing suffering

Some forms of utilitarian thought--such as negative utilitarianism--prioritize the minimization of suffering (example), as opposed to classical utilitarianism which weighs total well-being (total good & total bad). I have even seen utilitarian proposals which suggest minimizing suffering should be the only variable considered in a utility equation.

This form of utilitarianism does not appear to be consistent with the Christian concept of God. If God solely wanted to minimize suffering:

  • Why engage in the creation in the first place?
  • Why wasn't the first order of business in Eden to incinerate the tree of knowledge of good & evil?

Both have led to a significant amount of suffering.

However, this objection is readily neutralized if the utility function includes total well-being rather than just total suffering, and the question then simply collapses into the problem of evil, which Christian writers have responded to many, many, many times.

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2. Heaven-Hell dichotomy

A system which ultimately consigns all humans to one of two states:

a. Infinite happiness OR

b. Infinite misery

Is remarkably non-utilitarian (various arguments for such a system have been made...but they aren't utilitarian arguments). This is especially true if one understands Matthew 7:13-14 to indicate that a larger share of humanity will be consigned to option b. However, even if the split were 50/50, or even 90/10, the argument below still works.

The problem of the marginal soul

If heaven & hell are the only options, where do you draw the line between who is in and who is out? Wherever that line is drawn, there will be people who "just missed" heaven. For such an individual, well-being would be unimaginably greater if there had been a 3rd option in between.

This is not an argument against justice being part of the nature of a perfect Being. Rather, it is an observation that consigning all who don't make it to heaven to the same fate as Genghis Khan is not at all utilitarian.

This objection, of course, is less forceful against belief systems which suggest a multi-tiered afterlife (examples here & here), wherein someone who is unable to remain in the presence of God may still reside somewhere better than a lake of fire.

Additional comments

The objection was raised that even a multi-tiered system can be critiqued along the same lines. A 3-tiered system will be more utilitarian than a 2-tiered system. A 4-tiered more than a 3-tiered system, and so on. N+1 is always more utilitarian than N, so any system with N tiers is sub-optimal. This is a good objection--in fact it may even be fatal to multi-tiered systems like Dante's Inferno or the 7-tiered system I linked in the previous paragraph (I don't know, I lack the expertise to give an informed opinion on those particular beliefs--I simply supplied the 2nd link to show there are a variety of multi-tiered beliefs out there)...but this objection is ineffective against the multi-tiered system described by Paul--see Appendix 1 below.

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3. Christians aren't commanded to be utilitarians

The Bible records hundreds of commands, none of which instruct humanity to maximize a particular utility function. Even if an Omniscient Being giving these commands were a utilitarian, it is not difficult to see why commands would be given in the "thou shalt not" form as opposed to the "weigh these variables" form.

Let us say that for a given moral decision, there are 100,000 variables in play (including butterfly effects that will result from this particular decision), and we are aware of maybe 6 of those variables. We're hopeless! We would have no chance of identifying the decision that maximizes utility (and that's even before we get into the problem of what utility we try to maximize).

In theory, if one had all information, it would be possible to plug every variable into a massive equation and mathematically determine the morally correct decision in any circumstance. However, we don't have that kind of information and so we cannot be perfect utilitarians.

Instead, God gives rules of thumb like "thou shalt not bear false witness", and occasionally instructs His prophets when a very rare exception needs to be made (the OP has already noted a strong case for a morally correct exception to this particular rule of thumb).

This doesn't mean that God could not be a utilitarian, but it does show that the Christian morality He commands people to adhere to is not strictly utilitarian. This may create a conundrum when we consider the instruction:

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

We are given general commands that aren't strictly utilitarian, and we are commanded to be like our Father in Heaven. Does this mean our Father in Heaven is not strictly utilitarian?

(Possible counterpoint - it may be extremely utilitarian on God's part to use "rules of thumb" rather than utility equations because rules of thumb will be more effective in this world. In a future state wherein our nature is more perfectly aligned with God's--see 1 John 3:2-3--perhaps we could argue that God expects us to become utilitarians at some point in the future, but knows we're not quite there yet. In the meantime those rules of thumb are still in full force and Divine Command Theory prevails)

--

4. Loving parent

We are the offspring of God (Acts 17:29) and He loves us (1 John 4:10).

Let's imagine a possible world with 1,000 people, and the conditions of that world can be set such that the maximum number of people (let's say it's 750) will enter into eternal bliss, and the minimum number of people (the other 250) will go to eternal torment. Classical utilitarian thought would favor this as the optimal outcome.

However, what if there is a different set of conditions, wherein 2 of the 750 now fail, and go to eternal torment, but 1 of the 250 now pursues a different path and receives eternal bliss (we'll say his name is Simon). Classical utilitarian thought would oppose this outcome, as it maximizes well-being for 749 versus an alternative which reached 750.

So far no issue right?

What if you are Simon's loving parent?!?!? Are you going to sacrifice Simon because under the set of conditions wherein he fails 2 others do not fail?

While fully granting that Simon may choose to reject what God offers him, the dilemma here is that there's a possible world where Simon doesn't reject it. Any parent of more than 1 child will readily recognize that a loving parent does not pursue gladitorial trade-offs where one child succeeds at another child's expense. (okay maybe a parent will permit that for some trivial competition, but not for something that really, really matters)

Additional comments

The objection I don't follow the logic here was given. True, I did not present this argument formally. Here it is:

P1: A loving parent intends to do everything possible for the well-being of each child

P2: God is a loving parent

C1: God intends to do everything possible for the well-being of each of His children (from P1, P2)

P3: God is Omnipotent--that which He intends to do, He does

C2: God does everything possible for the well-being of each of His children (from C1, P3)

P4: If God creates system750 (the system above where Simon fails that 2 others might succeed), God does not do everything possible for the well-being of Simon

C3: God does not create system750 (from C2, P4)

The final conclusion is simply an if A then B, not B, therefore not A argument. P2 & P3 are not at all controversial (among Christians). P4 is demonstrated in the original post. The crux of the matter is P1. A disinterested utilitarian philosopher may not see P1 as an obstacle: sacrificing 1 to gain 2 increases the utility of the system. But the Father is not a disinterested utilitarian philosopher, He's a Father (I believe it is noteworthy that of all the titles He could have selected, it is the title of Father by which He would like to be addressed--see Matthew 6:9). I challenge any parent of 2+ children to rebut premise 1.

However, in an effort to not only argue this as an appeal to the best intentions of parents, I've addressed some theology relevant to this topic in Appendix 2.

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Conclusion

If we allow for:

  • The exclusion of negative utilitarianism
  • A variety of possibilities in the afterlife (a la 1 Cor. 15:40-42)
  • A utilitarian God giving simplified, user-friendly commandments

Then God is a utilitarian genius may be a true statement, but I would add a critical caveat: He is enough of a utilitarian genius to know when not to use utilitarianism. His utility function appears to be tempered by variables such as Paternal love & respect for human moral agency.

If He is a utilitarian, I propose He employs utilitarianism at a level far beyond what was conceived of by Jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill. I see in God's plan a system in which everyone achieves the absolute best outcome they possibly can. Everyone has the potential for salvation in the fullest sense of the word, and will receive whatever portion of God's goodness & blessings they are willing to receive (sadly many will choose to reject much of what God offered). No one is eternally sacrificed against their will in order to maximize the utility of another.

If that is a utility function, that would indeed be the work of a utilitarian genius - a system in which utility is not only maximized collectively, but it is also maximized individually for every single participant.


Appendix 1 - Paul's multi-tiered afterlife


For those not already committed to a binary model of the afterlife, there are 2 passages from Paul which suggest a more complex arrangement exists. I'll review 1 Cor. 15:40-42 here (the other is 2 Cor. 12:2). Speaking on the subject of the resurrection Paul states:

40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption

Paul did not expand upon this to provide a detailed theological treatise (later writers have done so), but he has acknowledged that in the resurrection there will be bodies raised to different degrees of glory. He has given 3 groups or categories, which he contrasts via comparison to heavenly bodies. He has also acknowledged that within a given category (stars in this case), that the amount of glory is not the same.

Paul lived in a world where there was no word for "trillion". One of the common means in the ancient world to express "a really big number" or "numberless" was by comparison to the stars (which, if you're constrained by the limits of Roman numerals, are effectively numberless). Genesis 26:4 is an example of this phenomenon. Paul is acknowledging variations in resurrected glory that differ as the numberless stars in the sky.

Paul precisely meets the challenge raised in the objection, by teaching a system in which individual outcomes can be individually tailored.

This addresses the blessings/glory/happiness side of the utilitarian scale, but what of suffering?

In a multi-tiered afterlife such as described by Paul, the utilitarian's problem of minimizing suffering is readily resolved: never-ending torment in a lake of fire is no longer the base case if one has not entered into God's glory. If unrepented sin is the basis for punishment in the afterlife, the sinner suffers for his own sin, but not anyone else's (see here). Suffering is thus specific to the individual. The duration of suffering is addressed in the second half of my post here.

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Universalism was proposed as an alternative solution to the heaven-hell dichotomy. I see the appeal (who doesn't want to be told eat, drink, and be merry, do whatever and there will be no consequences?), but even if universalism can offer an escape from the heaven-hell conundrum, it fails the utilitarian test at the other end of the spectrum: the argument from evil is a formidable objection to universalism.

If suffering is not teaching, refining, and making us into people prepared for God's gift of eternal life (since under Universalism we can skip the refining and still get eternal life anyway), the world has an awful lot of unnecessary suffering.

Universalism also suffers from the handicap of not being taught in the scriptures.


Appendix 2--does someone get the short end of the stick in order to save someone else?


If there is a possible world where Simon (random name chosen in the example above) will accept God's plan and repent, would God implement a different possible world, in which Simon does not do so?

  • Isaiah suggests the answer is no. His parable of the vineyard suggests God has done everything possible, and that only after that is ultimate punishment is given.
  • Peter suggests the answer is no. God wishing for all men to repent, and God setting up a system that permanently handicaps some from doing so, appear to be mutually exclusive.
  • Lehi suggests the answer is no. Men are given all things that are necessary, and they are free to choose eternal life. That freedom would appear to be impaired if one's best chance to exercise it were taken away
  • Alma suggests the answer is no. He reports:

15 But this cannot be; we must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance. (Alma 12:15)

Perhaps others come to different conclusions, but I struggle to read that verse and imagine that God does not justly & mercifully give as much opportunity to one man as He gives to any other.

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One more theological rabbit hole

In the hypothetical where Simon is given less-than-ideal circumstances and is condemned, because that scenario allowed 2 others to be saved, we have a very theologically thorny problem.

First, we might ask why would God put Simon on earth in the first place if Simon were destined to fail? Would not the utility function be better served if God didn't have a child named Simon, and 750 people still entered into God's glory, but only 249 were condemned? (we could then run that recursively for each of the other 249, including anyone who would not repent in any possible world, until there's nobody left in the condemned group, and the total population is just the 750)

Utilitarianism's only escape is to contend that Simon's influence is indispensable to the system, and that without him there will not be as many people saved. In other words, Simon is brought into the system because sacrificing Simon makes saving others possible. Wait, what?!?

There is only one Savior (Isaiah 43:11) and that is Jesus Christ (Luke 2:11). And He volunteered.

In offering this objection to the objection to the objection to the original objection in my post, I recognize a possible objection to the very simple presentation of the rabbit hole given here. I also have a response to that recognized objection. In other words, I could write an objection to the objection to the objection to the objection to the objection to the original objection...but the matter is sufficiently complex that it would have to be its own post, probably longer than this entire post. We may have to save that one for another time.

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  • Thanks Hold again for your response. I wrote a few comments in response to this (and Anne's) answer as an extension to my original question.
    – Mark
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 15:25
  • @Mark thanks for the well-thought-out response. See additional comments in sections 2 & 4, and two appendices added to the post. Commented May 14, 2023 at 3:40
  • Hey HoldToTheRod, great update to your answer. I do have an objection, which I'm curious to see how you resolve. You essentially said that for each person X, (1) there is at least one possible world where X gets saved, and (2) if God creates X, He will do it in one of such possible worlds. But we all live in the same world, which means that this world belongs to the intersection of all possible worlds of all people. Therefore, it follows that 100% of the people can be saved in this world (this is the ideal world for everyone at the same time) ...
    – Mark
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 13:58
  • ... Yet, many fail to be saved. How come? If everyone can be saved in this world, how come not everyone is saved in this world?
    – Mark
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 13:58
  • A second objection I have is that in your thought experiment you offered only two possible worlds as options: system75% and system74.9%. If these are the ONLY two options available, of course system75% should be preferred in an utilitarian sense, because the 'loving parent' objection would apply to both options. However, you appear to be saying that there is always a third option, system100%, where everyone gets saved. In other words, when you presented system75% vs. system74.9%, you were hiding the third ideal option that you claim always exists ...
    – Mark
    Commented May 14, 2023 at 14:07
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God's ways are higher than our ways, as the Bible often reminds us. This means that any metric we may propose as the one that God is seeking to optimize is flawed. Most of them restrict God's sovereign freedom. So even if God is utilitarian, we will never be able to define that.

The most glaring example concerns suffering. Minimizing suffering cannot be one of God's goals. The Book of Job teaches us that Job learned greater wisdom and righteousness through the suffering he endured. Suffering is one of the channels of communication between God and us. Then in Hebrews, we see that even Jesus learned from suffering, meaning that wisdom was communicated to him:

7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10)

One can tackle every proposed metric in this way and find counterexamples. But rather than tackling them piecemeal, consider this:

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:31-36)

We see a progression here. The Father holds the totality of the infinite Holy Spirit in His hands, then gives it to the Son without limit, an infinite gift. The Son then distributes the Holy Spirit to all who are saved; an infinite gift.

How can you optimize infinity? How can you add to everything?

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)

God does for us abundantly more than we can ask or imagine, as Ephesians 3:20 tells us.

When we finally receive the Holy Spirit without limit, there will be no calculus about it. Solomon had it right:

6 Do not eat the food of a begrudging host,
    do not crave his delicacies;
7 for he is the kind of person
    who is always thinking about the cost.
“Eat and drink,” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.
8 You will vomit up the little you have eaten
    and will have wasted your compliments. (Proverbs 23:6-8)

Jesus said that the Father desires mercy, not sacrifice. The one who is always thinking of what they are giving up is sacrifice minded; that is not love. The merciful person is always thinking of the one they are blessing.

God is merciful.

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