Saturday, July 4, 2009

Two models of hell

The idea of a finite creature being punished for an eternity seems to break all of our justice analogies. For example, it's hard to imagine a just judge sentencing a kid who steals a pack of candy to death along with a pedophile rapist, for the two crimes warrant separate punishments. This is why most Christian philosophers have completely abandoned the traditional idea that hell is a place of punishment for what's called the Choice Model. However, I don't see how the Choice Model fits any better with the Bible than does universalism - unless it is combined with a Punishment Model.

Here would be an example of the Choice Model combined with the Punishment Model. A person P commits x amount of sins in his lifetime that warrants y amount of punishment. God punishes P from time t to time t2. At time t2, in his perfect goodness, God offers P the chance to be reconciled. But P being a free agent chooses to reject God, and God respects this choice, which results in P being separated from God. Now one might wonder if God, being perfectly good, would continue to offer reconciliation to P. If this is the case, then God would offer P the chance to be reconciled again at time t3, at which point P would reject God, and so on into eternity. Now one might hold that a well-informed decision to be separate from God amounts to annihilation, in which case God only offers P the chance to be reconciled once. This model does two things. First, it tries to paint a picture of hell that fits with our intuitions of justice. Second, it allows for someone to be lost forever. Of course, universalism is contingently possible given this model, for P could have accepted God at time t2.

There is another option. It could be that sin continues in hell. So, for example, a person P sins x amount in his lifetime which warrants y amount of punishment. God punishes P from time t to time t2, satisfying the amount of punishment y. But at t2, P sins again, warranting further punishment, so God punishes P to t3. But at t3, P sins again, so God punishes him until t4, and on and on into eternity.

Of course, this second model raises numerous questions. For example, is it even possible for someone in hell not to sin, so as to reconciled back to God? If not, it's hard to see how hell is just. Moreover, where does atonement fit into this model? This model seems to paint a works-salvation picture. That is, P remains in hell only because he fails to meet a certain standard. But if we accept a substitution theory of atonement, why isn't P offered the option to accept Jesus as an atonement for his sins? It seems that if God is perfectly loving, the offer of salvation would be on the table, in which case we would be right back to the above Choice Model, whereby one continually rejects God by his own free will.

Both of these models raise serious questions for accounts of providence. For in open theism, the idea that free creatures would eternally reject God seems extremely improbable. In Molinism, of course, it's possible that the counterfactuals of freedom are such that God could actualize a world in which everyone is saved, so to reconcile the above models with Molinism, we would have to hold to transworld damnation (TWD) and refute the objections.

Thoughts on transworld damnation

Craig's defense of hell seems to rely on the following proposition:
(C) A perfectly good God could choose a world where more people are saved at the cost of some people being damned to a world where all people are saved, even if it is a very small amount.
For example, maybe God has the option between only two feasible worlds, W and W2. In W, everyone is saved, but only 5 people. In W2, in contrast, 1000 people are saved, but 5 are damned. Now the question is whether God, being perfectly good, can choose to actualize W2 over W. Contrary to Craig, it doesn't seem obvious that he can choose to actualize W2 over W. For in actualizing W2, God seems to prefer quantity over quality: it doesn't matter to God that some are getting damned if it gets him a few more people in heaven. Is this really an image of a perfectly good God? I'm not sure. If I had the time, I could probably come up with a good argument by analogy to illuminate this issue. (For example, God choosing W2 over W seems sort of like a business man trading with countries who employ child labor if it means he gets more products.) However, I think there is an easier way to show that (C) is false.

We need to take seriously the idea - expressed in Scripture - that God desires everyone to be saved. Now, if (C) is true, what God truly desires is not that everyone is saved, but that a great amount of people are saved. For if God truly desires everyone to be saved, then he would actualize the world in which everyone is saved. Now there is a powerful objection to this. First, God does not desire anyone to sin, and yet he has clearly actualized a world in which there is sin. Second, if no world were feasible for God in which everyone is saved, we should not expect God to refrain from actualizing any world at all. Now these objections can be met by restating the claim that God desires everyone to be saved with the claim that (1) God desires everyone to be saved (2) God will satisfy this desire as long as it is feasible for him to do so.

Essential Goodness and Freedom

There seems to be a tension between the essential properties of God and the Free Will Defense. After all, if God is perfectly good, then it seems that there are some states of affairs that God is not free to actualize, but other beings are free to actualize. Take, for example, torturing someone for a thousand years without a reason. While it seems possible for humans to actualize such a state of affairs, it does not seem possible for God to actualize such a state of affairs - for in actualizing such a state of affairs, God would fail to be perfectly good.

But if God, a perfectly good being, cannot actualize states of affairs that are incompatible with perfect goodness, then what is so good about free will? On the one hand, if we say free will is a great good, then we admit that God lacks a great-making property - that is, the ability to actualize states of affairs that are incompatible with perfect goodness. But if we say that God's freedom is better than free will, on the other hand, then it's hard to see how free will justifies the existence of evil, for God had a clearly better option: create essentially good free creatures that never do evil. Thus, there is a dilemma:
(1) Either God is free to actualize states of affairs that are incompatible with perfect goodness or he is not.

(2) If God is free to actualize states of affairs that are incompatible with perfect goodness, then God is not essentially good.

(3) If God is not, then God lacks a great-making property. So:

(4) God is not essentially good, or God lacks a great-making property.
Now one might object to (3) and argue that God's freedom is great. But in this case, (3) can be revised:
(3") If God is not, then free will is not as good as God-freedom and God should have actualized a world in which creatures have God-freedom.
Now one might object to (2) by saying that God never acts in a way that is incompatible with his perfect goodness, but he could if he so willed. But this does not seem to solve the problem. For in saying that God is essentially good, the theist seems to affirm:
(G) God is perfectly good in all possible worlds.
And in saying that God could act contrary to his perfect goodness the objector seems to imply:
(P) There is a possible world in which God behaves in a way that is incompatible with his perfect goodness.
But (G) and (P) are contradictory: they cannot both be true. For if God is perfectly good, then there is no possible world in which he behaves in a way that is incompatible with his perfect goodness; and yet (P) affirms the opposite.

Is there a way to fix this from a Molinist perspective? That is, could it be that God does not behave contrary to his perfect goodness in any possible world, and yet there is a counterfactual of divine freedom that is true, such that if it is true, God could behave contrary to his perfect goodness? For example:
(C) If God were in circumstances C, God would freely torture a rabbit for a thousand years without a reason.
This could be true while at the same time there is no possible world in which God freely tortures a rabbit for a thousand years without a reason. What would the circumstances C be, then? I don't know. Could there be any circumstances under which God would freely torture a rabbit for a thousand years without a reason? (Maybe circumstances in which God is not perfectly good - which seems impossible.) Also, under what type of knowledge would such a counterfactual fall - God's middle knowledge or God's free knowledge? I'm not sure.

An argument against Universalism from atonement

Many universalists seem to assume two things. On the one hand, Universalists accept
(A) Jesus died as a substitionary atonement.
And, on the other hand, universalists accept
(B) Some people will be punished after death.
Now, given a certain (popular) conception of universalism, (A) and (B) seem to be incompatible. For (A) seems to entail
(A*) People needed salvation from x.
Now, the question is, what is x? Some sort of punishment, presumably. Is the punishment to which x refers the same as the punishment mentioned in (B)? Not obviously. For many universalists seem to distinguish between the punishment people in fact receive and the punishment they would have received had Jesus not died as an atonement. For example, Keith DeRose writes, "Weak exclusivism, then, will be the position that combines the exclusivist thesis that Christ's saving work is necessary for the salvation of any person - so that were it not for Christ, none could be saved ... The scriptural basis for exclusivism is overwhelming." This line of thought seems to entail
(C) If Jesus had not died as an atonement, everyone would have suffered x.
Now this raises the question again, What is x? Whatever it is, everyone has been saved from it by Christ (hence "if not for Christ, none could be saved"). Now this raises a big problem. For (B) above states that some people will be punished. But if Jesus' atonement saves people from what they would have faced, then it must follow that:
(1) Either no one is punished [~(B)] or people are not punished justly (they do not receive what they deserve and would have received).
This means that the universalist must reject (B) above. Thus, universalism emerges as a position that fails to retain any form of retributive justice that is not directed at Jesus as an atonement. But a further objection can be raised. If the above dilemma is not a false dilemma, then it seems that one's accepting Christ during this lifetime is completely irrelevant. For example, consider Jim and Joe. Jim accepts Christ in his lifetime and Joe rejects Christ in his lifetime. If (1) is true, it follows that both Jim and Joe do not receive punishment after death. But then what was the purpose of Jim accepting Christ? Nothing having to do with punishment.

In conclusion, it seems that a traditional understanding of the atonement forces universalism into an undesirable reformulation. However, the universalist might simply water down atonement by interpreting x differently. It could be that x is not what everyone would have suffered, but that x is what some people will in fact suffer. In other words, Jesus' atonement saves people from the (finite) punishment they deserve. In this case, those that accept Jesus as an atonement go straight to heaven, whereas those who do not face their just deserts first. The question is whether or not this conception of atonement is adequate.

An argument for the incompatibility of Defensive prayer and the FWD

It seems that defensive prayer dealing with demonic activity is incompatible with the Free Will Defense. Many Christians, particularly those that come from Pentecostal leaning backgrounds, believe that demons are active in the world. Demons persecute people both physically and mentally; some people suffer from thorns in the flesh, while others suffer demonic possession. However, prayer can change this. On the one hand, one might pray that God offers protection from demonic activity. On the other hand, one might take part in an exorcism. In either case, there is an implicit tension with the Free Will Defense (FWD).

First, the FWD. The FWD assumes that free will is such a great good that it justifies the existence of moral evil. The FWD can also be used to argue that the only evil that actually exists is moral evil, since natural evil is possibly the activity of free, spiritual agents. In other words, many conceptions of the FWD hold
(D) Demons have free will, and since free will is such a great good, demonic moral evil is justified.
Defensive prayer, in contrast, takes for granted that one's prayer and God's activity can sway demonic activity. For example, one might pray for protection from demonic activity, or pray to be freed from demonic influence or control. In either case, defensive prayer seems to assume implicitly
(P) God can and sometimes does prevent demons from harming humans.
The question is whether or not (D) and (P) are compatible. As of now, (P) and (D) do not directly contradict each other, but there might be a proposition or group of propositions such that if it is added to (P) and (D), it leads to a contradiction. It seems given the FWD, there is such a proposition or group of propositions.

After all, to say that (P) is true seems to presuppose
(P*) God sometimes thwarts the free decisions of demons.
Now (P*) seems incompatible with the free will defense. For if God sometimes thwarts the the free decisions of moral agents, then it was obviously possible for God to create a world W, where
(W) In W, agents have free will, and whenever an agent is going to exercise his free will so as to bring about moral evil, God either (a) prevents the agent from exercising his free will in that way (b) quarantines the consequences of the agent's actions so that no other moral agent suffers a moral evil (c) convinces the agent to act otherwise or (d) prevents the moral evil in some other way, without removing the agent's free will.

Now (W) is clearly better than (P*), so if both were feasible for God and God actualized a world where (P*) is true rather than the world W, then - absent further theodicy - God is not perfectly good. In other words,
(1) Either God actualizes a world where agents have free will and God always respects the free decisions of those agents without interfering, or God does not actualize a world with free will at all.
Given the appeal of a Free Will Theodicy, we'll want to accept the first disjunct:
(1*) In the actual world, God always respects the free decisions of agents without interfering.
Now if (1*) is true, it follows that (P) above is false. For example, (P) seems to entail
(P*) In the actual world, God does not always respect the free decisions of agents without interfering.
But (P*) and (1*) contradict each other.

In conclusion, it seems that the FWD is incompatible with defensive prayer. In other words, if the FWD is true, then prayer cannot and God will not sway the decisions of demons.

Monday, May 18, 2009

List of journal issues I'm considering buying - for reference

1998, 15:1

Connell, George. Deconstructing Caputo's Demythologizing Heidegger (1998, 15:1) 28-40.

*Forrest, Peter. Answers to Prayers and Conditional Situations (1998, 15:1)

*Hasker, William. The Foundations of Theism: Scoring the Quinn-Plantinga Debate (1998, 15:1) 52-67.

Moreland, J. P. Searle's Biological Naturalism and the Argument from Conscience (1998, 15:1) 68-91.

**Murphy, Mark C. Divine Command, Divine Will, and Moral Obligation (1998, 15:1) 3-27.

*Sudduth, Michael L. Czapkay. Calvin, Plantinga, and the Natural Knowledge of God: A Response to Beversluis (1998, 15:1) 92-103.

1985, 2:3

**Davis, Stephen T. Naturalism and the Resurrection: A Reply to Habermas (1985, 2:3) 303-308.

*Gutting, Gary. The Catholic and the Calvinist: A Dialogue on Faith and Reason (1985, 2:3) 236-256.

*Habermas, Gary R. Knowing That Jesus' Resurrection Occurred: A Response to Davis (1985, 2:3) 295-302.

Jacquette, Dale. Analogical Inference in Hume's Philosophy of Religion (1985, 2:3) 287-294.

Mavrodes, George I. Necessity, Possibility, and the Stone Which Cannot Be Moved (1985, 2:3) 265-271.

*Morriston, Wesley. Is God "Significantly Free"? (1985, 2:3) 257-264.

*Oakes, Robert. Mysticism, Veridicality, and Modality (1985, 2:3) 217-235.

*Robbins, J. Wesley. Does Belief in God Need Proof? (1985, 2:3) 272-286.

1987, 4:3

Adams, Robert M. Divine Commands and the Social Nature of Obligation (1987, 4:3) 262-275.

Goold, Patrick. Kierkegaard's Christian Imperative (1987, 4:3) 304-318.

Hasker, William. The Hardness of the Past: A Reply to Reichenbach (1987, 4:3) 337-342.

**Mar, Gary T. and James G. Hanink. What Euthyphro Couldn't Have Said (1987, 4:3) 241-261.

*Mellema, Gregory. What Is Optional in the Fulfillment of Duty? (1987, 4:3) 282-293.

*Murphy, Jeffrie G. Kantian Autonomy and Divine Commands (1987, 4:3) 276-281.

*Purtill, Richard. Alpha and Beta Virtues and Vices (1987, 4:3) 319-329.

*Zagzebski, Linda. Does Ethics Need God? (1987, 4:3) 294-303.

1990, 7:1

**Davis, Stephen T. Doubting the Resurrection: A Reply to James A. Kellar (1990, 7:1) 99-111.

*Keller, James A. Response to Davis (1990, 7:1) 112-116.

Miller, Barry. Analogy Sans Portrait: God-Talk as Literal but Non-Anthropomorphic (1990, 7:1) 63-84.

Schoen, Edward L. The Sensory Presentation of Divine Infinity (1990, 7:1) 3-18.

*Talbott, Thomas B. The Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment (1990, 7:1) 19-42.

*Wainwright, William. Jonathan Edwards and the Sense of the Heart (1990, 7:1) 43-62.

*Walls, Jerry L. Is Molinism as Bad as Calvinism (1990, 7:1) 85-98.

1995, 12:3

**Cavin, Robert Greg. Is There Sufficient Historical Evidence to Establish the Resurrection of Jesus? (1995, 12:3) 361-379.

Hasker, William. Chrzan on Necessary Gratuitous Evil (1995, 12:3) 423-425.

*Jackson, Timothy P. Is God Just? (1995, 12:3) 393-408.

*Menssen, Sandra and Thomas Sullivan. Must God Create? (1995, 12:3) 321-341.

O'Connor, David. Hasker on Gratuitous Natural Evil (1995, 12:3) 380-392.

Peterson, John. God as Truth (1995, 12:3) 342-360.

Smith, Huston. The Religious Significance of Postmodern (1995, 12:3) 409-422.

2000, 17:1

Brueckner, Anthony. On an Attempt to Demonstrate the Compatibility of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom (2000, 17:1) 132-148.

Cooper, John W. Supplemental but not Equal: Reply to Dell'Olio (2000, 17:1) 116-125.

Evans, Stephen C. Kierkegaard on Religious Authority: The Problem of the Criterion (2000, 17:1) 48-67.

*Hasker, William. Anti-Molinism is Undefeated! (2000, 17:1) 126-131.

Kirmmse, Bruce H. The Thunderstorm: Kierkegaard's Ecclesiology (2000, 17:1) 87-102.

McClelland, Richard T. and Robert J. Deltete. Divine Causation (2000, 17:1) 3-25.

Plekton, Michael. Kierkegaard at the End: His 'Last' Sermon, Eschatology and the Attack on the Church (2000, 17:1) 68-86.

**Seymour, Charles. A Craigian Theodicy of Hell (2000, 17:1) 103-115.

Wielenberg, Erik J. Omnipotence Again (2000, 17:1) 26-47.

1986, 3:4

*Kruschwitz, Robert B. Christian Virtues and the Doctrine of the Mean (1986, 3:4) 416-428.

**MacIntyre, Alasdair. Which God Ought We to Obey and Why? (1986, 3:4) 359-371.

**Holmes, Arthur F. Biblical Justice and Modern Moral Philosophy (1986, 3:4) 429-439.

*Meilander, Gilbert. Eritis Sicut Deus: Moral Theory and the Sin of Pride (1986, 3:4) 397-415.

**MsClendon, James W. Narrative Ethics and Christian Ethics (1986, 3:4) 383-396.

**Quinn, Philip L. Christian Atonement and Kantian Justification (1986, 3:4) 440-462.

Van Wyk, Robert N. Autonomy Theses Revisited (1986, 3:4) 372-382.

1991, 8:1

*Basinger, David. Plantinga, Pluralism, and Justified Religious Belief (1991, 8:1) 67-80.

*Brown, Robert F. God's Ability to Will Moral Evil (1991, 8:1) 3-20.

Craig, William Lane. The "Kalam" Cosmological Argument and the Hypothesis of a Quiescent Universe (1991, 8:1) 104-108.

*Herbert, R.T. Is Coming to Believe in God Reasonable or Unreasonable? (1991, 8:1) 36-50.

Nerney, Gayne. Aristotle and Aquinas on Indignation: From Nemesis to Theodicy (1991, 8:1) 81-95.

Pentz, Rebecca. Hick and Saints: Is Saint-Production a Valid Test? (1991, 8:1) 96-103.

Sessions, William Lad. Plantinga's Box (1991, 8:1) 51-66.

Sullivan, Thomas D. Omniscience, Immutability, and The Divine Mode of Knowing (1991, 8:1) 21-35.

1988, 5:4

*Alston, William P. Religious Diversity and Perceptual Knowledge of God (1988, 5:4) 433-448.

*Basinger, David. Hick's Religious Pluralism and "Reformed Epistemology:" A Middle Ground (1988, 5:4) 421-432.

Griffiths, Paul J. An Apology for Apologetics (1988, 5:4) 399-420.

Hick, John. Religious Pluralism and Salvation (1988, 5:4) 365-377.

Hick, John. A Concluding Comment (1988, 5:4) 449-455.

McKim, Robert. Could God Have More Than One Nature (1988, 5:4) 378-398.

Runzo, William L. God, Commitment, and Other Faiths: Pluralism vs. Relativism (1988, 5:4) 343-364.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Response to a post on Universalism

I'm a little late to the discussion, but I have some questions that the comments do not seem to address. Just to let you all know, I'm fairly new to the world of philosophy. Right now I'm attending a community college for general studies, but I plan to major in philosophy once I transfer to a university. So, please excuse me if I make a fool of myself.

I'm wondering how justness fits into the discussion. Is not God, for example, all-just? If he is, then (4) should be revised to say: (4') It is no cost to an omnipotent, all-just God to sustain R in existence until tF. (Now maybe an all-just God annihilates those who fail to accept the gospel, in which case God does does not sustain R in existence until tF).

If God is all-just, then could it not be that if God sustains R in existence until tF, then at the time tF, God as all-loving and all-just is committed to both continuing to punish R and reconcile R (assuming for the moment that R's choices warrant R's being eternally punished, in which case R's punishment has not terminated at an earlier time t0, and a deliverance of God's all-goodness is his desiring to reconcile all people)? This would be a sort of conflict of properties: God's all-goodness would contradict his all-justness.

Consider the following analogy. Jim lives in a good but just society. One day Jim ends up killing his friend, Joe, in cold blood (for whatever reason). Jim never repents for his crime and would probably do it again if given the chance. According to the law, the government legitimately sentences Jim to life in prison. However, at a later time t (maybe, say, 20 years into his sentence), Jim finally comes to realize the significance of his actions. He understands what he did was wrong. He earnestly wants to repent and change for the better. Maybe he even becomes a Christian. Now, it would seem that if the society is truly good, then Joe's family should forgive Jim for his mistakes (especially if Jesus' commandments to forgive and turn the other cheek are objectively good commandments), and the government should offer him a second chance and incorporate him back into society. On the other hand, if the government is just, then Jim should not be absolved of his punishment (life in prison). So which should the society do? Keep Jim in prison (since justice demands it)? Or offer Jim a second chance (since prima facie goodness demands it)? I have no idea!

I wonder if predicating the property of "justness" to God presupposes other philosophical theories or views, like retributive justice. How might those presuppositions effect the eternal torment-universalism debate?

Three more things...

First, it seems like the view floating around with most evangelical Christians about hell is really inadequate. Hell went from a place of torment or punishment (created and sustained by God) to a mere separation from God dependent on choice. But how exactly is a separation from God dependent on one's ongoing choice really a punishment? Say Jim asks Joe to go to a party. The party is the talk of the town and by everyone's standard will offer a great time. Joe, however, just isn't interested. He chooses not to go. Instead, he stays home and watches TV. Now maybe nothing is on TV, and Joe ends up having a really lousy, and boring time, and he misses out on the great time he could have had at the party. Or maybe Joe genuinely enjoys his time watching TV: there's a documentary on about Christian philosophers debating about hell. In this case, Joe is happy he chose not to go to the party. Now, presumably if we're comparing Joe to someone that finds himself in hell, then Joe in fact had a bad and boring time staying home watching TV. Now the question is, how exactly is Jim choosing not to go to the party even remotely comparable to a "punishment?" It seems like that if people actually choose to stay in hell, then hell is no punishment at all. I also don't see how separation from God is a punishment, since according to many Christians, atheists are "separate" from God (God does not live in their hearts and so on), but many of them seem quite happy. Look at Joe: he might enjoy missing the party to watch TV.

Second, if Molinism is true (and I understand it correctly), could not God have actualized a world such that all men find themselves in situations where they choose to accept the gospel? If God desires all men to saved (which it seems like an all-good being would surely desire), then wouldn't he actualize such a world? Maybe it's possible that there are some people whose essences are such that no matter what possible world they are instantiated in, they still reject the gospel (presumably even after death). Still, God could have simply chosen not to instantiate those individuals (if he knew they would not be able to choose the gospel and God did not desire that). It might be possible, moreover, that a necessary condition of many people choosing to accept the gospel is God instantiating those individuals (who will never choose to accept the gospel), in which case instantiating those individuals would serve a greater good. In that case, would God desire those individuals to end up in hell, or would he not desire it, but he had no other choice? Nevertheless, wouldn't a God who actualizes a world such that all people eventually choose to accept the gospel or believe in God be "better" than a God who couldn't? So if we're merely dealing with possibility, then shouldn't we, given Molinism, prefer the view that it is the case God actualized such a world (and universalism is true)?

I might completely misunderstand Molinism, of course.

Finally, why is the Christian who accepts libertarian free will committed to holding that God desires/wills all people to believe and be saved? Is this desire a necessary deliverance of God's all-goodness? That is, if God did not desire/will all people to believe and be saved, then would that contradict his all-goodness?

My post ended up a little long. Hopefully my points are coherent.