Friday, October 09, 2009

A defense of Hell

A redated post, and maybe something Steve Hays can use against me in a discussion I'm having with him concerning retribution over at Triablogue. What a difference a t makes.

By Mark Talbot. One t.

20 comments:

Joel said...

There's no link.

Ilíon said...

The title of Mr Reppert's post contains the link. Or, here it is

Darek Barefoot said...

Talbot's defense is inadequate.

If sin is an enormity that by its very nature merits everlasting conscious torment, then every sinful baby that dies (at least every baby of unbelieving parents) "deserves" to be tormented unspeakably and eternally. But this is so contrary to sense that almost every evangelical authority tries someow to get those babies and young children out of the very place they supposedly deserve to be--even on the flimsiest scriptural basis.

God said that in return for Judah's sins he would consume Jerusalem's gates with fire that could not be put out. He said that there would be so many dead bodies that they could not be buried--meaning they would have to be sprinkled with sulphur and burned or else rot as maggots ate them. He said that his people would behold these rotting and burning corpses (Isa 66:16, 24). This image of retribution is the source of Jesus' comment about the worm not dying and the fire not being quenched. If this literally lasts forever, then according to Isaiah God's people will be watching it happen forever (v. 24).

Jude 7 says that Sodom underwent the punishment of everlasting fire, apparently meaning that the fire is an everlasting testimony of God's judgment on sin.

In any case, neither Jesus nor Paul dwells luridly on the unending, unceasing torture of hellfire. They simply affirm a terrible and irrevocable judgment on unrepentant sinners.

If someone wants to see what their sin deserves, look at what Christ suffered. He was cast out, branded a blashpemer, scourged as a traitor, spat upon, abandoned by all, and cruelly tortured to death. He took our punishment upon himself. If a sinner is so determined to own that punishment that he refuses to let Christ bear it for him, I doubt if any hellfire sermon will be enought to disuade him.

Ilíon said...

DB: "Talbot's defense is inadequate."

I haven't read it ... and probably won't get around to doing so ... so I have no opinion either on it or on your opinion that it is inadequate.


But, of the rest of your post, I'd have to say I essentially agree (other than that aside "at least every baby of unbelieving parents" ... since "God has no grandchildren").

8 said...

Wow Herr Idion Talbot the sunday schooler says Der Fuhrer's in Hell! Bad news for you and the Feiserites.

Victor Reppert said...

Huh?

J said...

Talbot, unlike many right-wing xtians, says Der Fuhrer rests in the deepest pit of Hades:

Hitler, as the ultimate perpetrator of the Nazi Holocaust, ought not to be able to escape being brought to account for his crimes against humanity by just blowing out his brains. Death, and then oblivion, is not the appropriate denouement for such crimes. Indeed, something would be profoundly wrong with a world where its Hitlers could, when the time of reckoning drew near, just step off into nescience.

What about other nazis, however, not quite as guilty? Or Mussolini? Stalin, and his cronies?

It would seemingly be a sort of an inverted high-rise (tho' downtown, cheap tenements, poor ventilation, so forth)

Jason Pratt said...

J: {{Talbot, unlike many right-wing xtians, says Der Fuhrer rests in the deepest pit of Hades:}}

Most right-wing Christians of my acquaintance would agree with him on that. (I know some conservative annihilationists, but they're outnumbered by ECTs.) They may not like to dwell on it much, and they may try to get out of the notion that God is the one doing the punishing (with Hitler and Satan etc. just being allowed by God to go off and do their own thing to each other in a pocket subreality or whatever), but I don't think most conservative Christians are annihilationists. Maybe not even many, proportionately speaking. (Obviously there are a few conservative Protestant congregations which specifically teach annihilationism, so the proportion would be understandably higher in that case; but they still amount to a proportionate minority, I think, even among conservative Protestants.)


As to the Isianic imagery: that's all true; but it's also true that Jesus didn't just leave it at that. (Mk 9:49-50.)

JRP

Edward T. Babinski said...

You can justify eternal punishment and eternal concentration camps if you're into that sort of justifying rationalization. On the other hand you can also justify unversalism. You can also justify soul death as well. Different Christians have justified each of those and go into immense detail on all the additional lesser justifications also involved in keeping their one main justification afloat. So what?

Personally, I find it difficult to wish even a toothache THAT LASTS ETERNALLY on my enemies.

Secondly, this world does not appear to exist to simply "build character," it also mutates and destroys it.

If this world is all there is, it appears to be a big net in which God catches souls for eternal hell, including any soul that commits a single sin, or has the slightest reasonable doubt concerning the "power of the blood," et al.

steve said...

Edward T. Babinski said...

"Personally, I find it difficult to wish even a toothache THAT LASTS ETERNALLY on my enemies."

You've been very lucky in your choice of enemies. Others haven't been as lucky.

"Secondly, this world does not appear to exist to simply 'build character,' it also mutates and destroys it."

True. And that's a problem for Arminianism and universalism but not for Calvinism.

Jason Pratt said...

Steve: {{[That the world mutates and destroys character as well as builds it] is a problem for Arminianism and universalism but not for Calvinism.}}

Hm. Odd. My universalism doesn't require that the world only builds character. My universalism doesn't require that the world (per se) builds any character at all. I'm not aware of any universalists whose universalism requires that the world only build character either, or even that the world happens to build character, too. (Though perhaps such universalists exist somewhere. Who knows what the so-called unitarian-universalists believe? They aren't even strictly 'unitarian'. {wry g})


My supernaturalistic theism does involve noticing that actions cannot even in principle arise from reactions; and that while various reactive systems do help foster action-ability, they far more often hinder and destroy our action-ability than help maintain it. My trinitarian theism, being a type of supernaturalistic theism, depends logically on that observation, too. My universalism, being a logical corollary of trinitarian theism, depends therefore (among other things) on the observation that the world mutates and destroys our personality.

Wow. Exactly the opposite of your claim about "universalism" broadly.

(I doubt Ilíon or Victor or any other Arminianistic Christian will have trouble refuting your claim either, on their side of things. But for what it's worth, I would never bother claiming that Calvinism either depends on this world simply building character, or is in any way inconvenienced by the observation that this world tends to mutate and destroy character. I know my opposition better than that.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Okay, as a self-critical correction: it happens that my supernaturalistic theism (over against some kinds of naturalistic theism) does in fact depend logically on the necessity of a not-God system of reality which, despite its various resultant risks, functions as a framework within which not-God persons (such as myself) may exist in communion with each other and with God.

This is not the same as saying that my supernaturalistic theism depends on the natural world only "building character"--and I don't explain the occurrence of suffering, undeserved or otherwise, in popularly understood terms of "building character". But I have to admit, my supernaturalistic theism (as a metaphysical conclusion) does depend on the natural world being a neutrally reactive field of reality for growing derivative persons (and so for "building character" in various senses), both as a matter of principle and as a fact inferred from best observations. (I mean that the evident system of Nature is a neutrally reactive non-personal field of reality within which we exist and upon which we have at least some dependence for our existence, seems to me to be the best conclusion from the best and widest scope of observations about evident reality.)


Consequently, since trinitarian theism is a type of supernaturalistic theism, and since my belief in universalism follows (in terms of metaphysical logic) as a corollary from trinitarian theism, then my universalism does in fact follow logically (quite a few steps afterward) from my belief that several key properties of Nature as discovered from observations, are in principle necessary for the existence and growth and development of not-God persons. (Which should not be confused with a belief that our Nature with these properties must exist necessarily, i.e. as the Independent Fact of all reality.)


This is hardly a position of weakness compared to the other two main Christian soteriologies, though, since one way or another they must make do with the same evident facts (at least; and I would expect the same principles, too. It was from Calvinistic and Arminianistic Christians, after all, that I first learned those principles of relation between derivative persons, Nature and God.)

JRP

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

"Hm. Odd. My universalism doesn't require that the world only builds character. My universalism doesn't require that the world (per se) builds any character at all. I'm not aware of any universalists whose universalism requires that the world only build character either, or even that the world happens to build character, too. (Though perhaps such universalists exist somewhere. Who knows what the so-called unitarian-universalists believe? They aren't even strictly 'unitarian'. {wry g})"

So you think God saves the lost in the afterlife by destroying their faith in him in this life. By turning them against him through tragedies which make them bitter, cynical infidels.

"(I doubt Ilíon or Victor or any other Arminianistic Christian will have trouble refuting your claim either, on their side of things."

Since Reppert and other Arminian types have chronic problems trying to refute my claims, your assertion is empirically unimpressive.

"But for what it's worth, I would never bother claiming that Calvinism either depends on this world simply building character, or is in any way inconvenienced by the observation that this world tends to mutate and destroy character. I know my opposition better than that.)"

In Calvinism, God visits tragedy on the elect to refine their character, not destroy it.

Jason Pratt said...

Steve: {{So you think God saves the lost in the afterlife by destroying their faith in him in this life. By turning them against him through tragedies which make them bitter, cynical infidels.}}

No, I think God saves the lost in the afterlife (and in this life, too) despite tragedies which make them bitter, cynical infidels in this life. Not at all the same thing, which you ought to be aware of already.

(But then, you do have chronic problems trying to refute me. {g})

This neither means my universalism requires this life to be simply for "building character", nor means my universalism is inconvenienced by people's characters being warped or even (temporally speaking) destroyed by the world in this life.


{{In Calvinism, God visits tragedy on the elect to refine their character, not destroy it.}}

True--though I will suppose you aren't trying to claim thereby that brain damage and consequent character deterioration are evidence of that person being non-elect--but that still doesn't amount to Calvinism requiring the world to be simply for building character; much less does it amount to Calvinism being any way inconvenienced by the observation that the world tends to mutate and destroy character.

But possibly you weren't trying to correct my observation (which was after all in your favor), but only were offering an example of what I had said.

An example which, by the way, Arms and Kaths can each easily agree with, too, in various ways (aside from the specifically Calvinistic notion of elect and non-elect of course.) Which, again, I won't suppose you didn't already know.

JRP

steve said...

Jason Pratt said...

“No, I think God saves the lost in the afterlife (and in this life, too) despite tragedies which make them bitter, cynical infidels in this life. Not at all the same thing, which you ought to be aware of already.”

What I’m aware of is that John Hick has made a soul-building theodicy a central plank of his universalism. And I’m also aware of the fact that Tom Talbott incorporates that same “Irenaean” theodicy into his own version of universalism.

So, on that view, the lost aren’t eventually saved “in spite of” tragedy. Rather, tragedy is *instrumental* to their eventual salvation.

Apparently, you’re banking on the fact that lurkers at Dangerous Idea haven’t read the standard literature on universalism, and therefore depend on your slanted description.

“This neither means my universalism requires this life to be simply for ‘building character’, nor means my universalism is inconvenienced by people's characters being warped or even (temporally speaking) destroyed by the world in this life.”

Well, the difference between one version of heresy and another version of heresy makes no great difference to me, but I’m not saying anything Marilyn McCord Adams hasn’t said at length regarding the counterproductive effects of horrendous evil on the spiritual advancement of the victims.

And, of course, you’re going to introduce weasel words like “simply” to insulate your claims from direct falsification. But the problem with hedging your bets is that your position stands for nothing in particular.

“…but that still doesn't amount to Calvinism requiring the world to be simply for building character; much less does it amount to Calvinism being any way inconvenienced by the observation that the world tends to mutate and destroy character.”

In Calvinism, nothing happens “in spite of” God’s redemptive purposes for the elect. Just as nothing happens in spite of God’s damnatory purposes for the reprobate. Everything that happens does so to facilitate God’s designs.

Jason Pratt said...

Part 1 of 5. (I don’t think any part goes the full 4096 character limit, though; I’m just sorting by topic. In total, it would be a little more than 3 full replies.)


Let’s backtrace a bit:

Ed wrote: “This world does not appear to exist to simply ‘build character’, it also mutates and destroys it.”

Your reply to that quote (specifically quoted by you), Steve, was “True.” Meaning you agree that the world does not simply build character but also mutates and destroys it. Or, maybe you were only agreeing that things appear this way, while actually meaning that you disagreed with one or both of Ed’s observations. But I took you, perhaps wrongly, to be agreeing with both of Ed’s observations as being accurate to the facts; since you didn’t go on to state how you disagreed with it, but instead went on to write “And that’s a problem for Arminianism and universalism but not for Calvinism.”

Or, rather--and this may be where I misunderstood you--I read your answer to mean this rather than that the reason for the world to exist (i.e. the reason for God to create the world) was not only to build character but to also mutate and destroy character. Because Ed’s statement could be construed as (and was probably intended as) a challenge from a teleological perspective, along the lines that apparently God intended the world to (harmfully) mutate and even destroy character (since that happens, too).

I also agreed, in detail (including with some self-correction), that the world does not simply ‘build character’ but also mutates and destroys character. I did not agree that God intended the world to exist in order to mutate and destroy character; which I expected you to also reject. Consequently, since I was answering your challenge, not Ed’s, I didn’t approach it from the notion that a Calvinist was trying to say that God intended the world to harmfully mutate and destroy people’s characters. I only approached it from what I expected you were trying to say: yes, the world helps build character but it also mutates and destroys character, too.

Before I continue farther, then, I suppose I will have to ask: should I have understood you to be meaning that you think God intends the natural world to mutate and destroy character?--specifically, to use your example, that God intends the natural world to destroy people’s faith in Him in this life, turning them against Him through tragedies which make them bitter, cynical infidels, ensuring thereby that they will be “lost”? (Since per Calvinism there is no salvation for the non-elect, whether in this life or in the age to come, and you don’t seem likely to be saying that God does this to His elect.)

I DID NOT understand you to have been meaning that. But if you did mean that, then I should go back and start over on my replies to you.


Part 2 next

Jason Pratt said...

Part 2 of 5

Assuming until I hear otherwise, though, that I understood you correctly the first time, such that you only meant to be agreeing that the world is a tool (in various ways) to help build character, though it also mutates and destroys character, too (in various ways):

my universalism would only be in trouble if it required either that the world only “simply” built character, or that the world only (harmfully) mutated and destroyed character. (Or if neither of those happened, I suppose, so that the world’s existence and operations were totally neutral as to the development of character.)

But my universalism doesn’t require only one or the other to be true. Nor does it require neither of those things to be true. (Nor, for that matter, does it require only simplicity in any way that the world helps build character.)

Nor does Arminianism require those options instead of what we actually find. Nor does Calvinism require those options instead of what we actually find.

Thus, as I wrote, “I doubt any Arminianistic Christian will have trouble refuting your claim” that the occurrence of both factors is a problem for Arminianism.

Thus, as I also wrote, “I would never bother claiming that Calvinism either depends on this world simply building character” as though Calvinism couldn’t incorporate complex ways of God using the world to build character (which clearly Calvinism can, as I know very well), “nor [that Calvinism] is in any way inconvenienced by the observation that this world tends to mutate and destroy character.” Certainly, nothing you wrote afterward, one way or another, indicated you thought Calvinism only required simple character-building by mediation of the world, or that you thought Calvinism was in any way inconvenienced by the world tending to mutate and destroy character.

The only disagreement between us so far, then, is on where you wrote that the combination of factors is somehow a problem for universalism! (Of course, if I misunderstood you from the outset, and you actually had meant to say that God intentionally set up the world to destroy some people’s characters so that they would become bitter, cynical infidels, remaining lost in the afterlife--then, duh, that would be a problem for universalism in several ways, if that was true. But then we would have something else quite different to be talking about.)

Part 3 next.

Jason Pratt said...

Part 3 of 5

It ought to be obvious that if a universalist subscribes to a soul-making theodicy (of various types common among Arminians and Calvinists both, not incidentally) this is not the same as necessarily requiring such a theodicy for his universalism per se. (I’m actually something of an exception to this, since unlike most universalists I believe universalism follows as a corollary from trinitarian theism; and since a complex accounting of what happens to persons in relation to Nature is part of my metaphysical grounding for orthodox trinitarian theism, then in a way my universalism does in fact depend on that complex accounting of what happens to persons in relation to Nature. But the connections are far enough back that even I didn’t remember them at first. And the vast majority of universalists, in my experience, don’t have that detailed theological connection to ortho-trin, even when they affirm ortho-trin as the priority doctrine.)

Similarly, it also ought to be obvious that a complex theodicy isn’t an either/or situation: if a person is led to be disloyal to God rather than loyal before death, or if their character is otherwise corrupted ‘by the world’, this is no more an inconvenience for universalism per se than it is for Calvinism. There may be universalists who think that God saves a person entirely through what happens with and to a person in this world (I know I don’t believe that; and I know Tom Talbott doesn’t believe this), but even those universalists cannot sensibly try to claim that people’s characters aren’t harmfully mutated and destroyed by the world--because the end-result (so far as this world is concerned) routinely stares us in the face (and maybe routinely beats us over the head and shoulders.) On the contrary, universalists are more likely to hope for such people beyond what has resulted to (and maybe with) them in this life.

Strictly speaking, Arminians and even Calvinists can hope for such people, too, beyond this life, in their own ways: Arminians can hope for a last-ditch witness by Christ on the threshold of death beyond our perception, or (like Lewis to give a site-relevant example {g}) can hope for various kinds of post-mortem evangel. And Calvinists aren’t supposed to make judgments about who really is and really is not elect--if God elected Hitler, Hitler will be in heaven one way or another (perhaps after going through some kind of purgatory, or having accepted an evangel by Christ at the moment of death). The only principle difference between Kaths and Arms or Calvs on this point, is that (with Calvs) Kaths believe God won’t give up acting to lead any soul to salvation He intends to save and (with Arms) that God acts to lead all souls to salvation.

Which is the same principle difference as always.

Part 4 next.

Jason Pratt said...

Thus if a universalist recognizes that tragedy is sometimes instrumental to a person’s salvation, that must not only mean universalists believe all tragic results are only instrumental to a person’s salvation but also that this must lead to such people becoming obviously sinless and personally and overtly loyal to God in this life!--and since those results obviously don’t universally obtain (pardon the pun) in this life, then universalism must be false.

But that argument is exactly as worthless as it would be against the incorporation of tragedy in a soul-building theodicy by any non-universalist, and for much the same reasons. (With the added reason that if universalism is true, God never gives up on the salvation of any person from sin, in this life or in the next.)

{{Well, the difference between one version of heresy and another version of heresy makes no great difference to me}}

Obviously not; or you’d bother to be more critically accurate. For example, if I write that my universalism is not inconvenienced by people’s characters being warped or even (temporally speaking) destroyed by the world in this life, I am hardly denying that horrendous evil (and even merely natural tragedy) can and does have counterproductive effects on the spiritual advancement of the victims. (Not only do I not deny it, I include such counterproductive effects on a regular basis in my novels!)

So, I was not denying (and even affirming) such things happen, too; and I certainly wasn’t claiming you were denying such things happen, too (on the contrary I expected you to affirm such things happen, too). And yet you present a reference to Marilyn McCord Adams talking at length about such things happening, as though that somehow answers against what you quoted me saying (or had ever said, at any time, anywhere, including in this thread).


{{And, of course, you’re going to introduce weasel words like “simply” to insulate your claims from direct falsification.}}

You don’t even remember that I wasn’t the one who introduced that term into the discussion. Ed introduced that term; and then you agreed (in some significant sense as "true") with what he said, calling what he said (when he used that term) a problem with universalism. My use of the term follows after that, topically.

Last part next.

Jason Pratt said...

Part 5 of 5

{{In Calvinism, nothing happens “in spite of” God’s redemptive purposes for the elect. Just as nothing happens in spite of God’s damnatory purposes for the reprobate. Everything that happens does so to facilitate God’s designs.}}

So, you’re agreeing with me when I wrote (as you quoted in replying to me here) that Calvinism is not in any way inconvenienced by the observation that the world tends to mutate and destroy character.

Though the particular shape of your agreement brings us back to the first topic of part 1 of my reply: because it looks like you’re now clarifying that you meant to be agreeing with Ed in this way, that (per Calvinism) God not only intends Nature to help build character (specifically of the elct) but also intends Nature to harmfully mutate and destroy the character of the non-elect, according to His “damnatory purposes” for them.

As it happens, I do think the logic of Calvinism does come out that way; though I also think many (or even most) Calvinists would strenuously deny it. To give the most immediately relevant example, I vividly recall you swearing up and down, at length, several months ago, that God does not act to make some persons (i.e. the non-elect) hopelessly lost, but only chooses not to do anything at all to even possibly save them. (As though this insulated God from being authoritatively responsible for those people being evil. But the point is that you were emphasizing a totally hands-off approach--until punishment time anyway.)

So up to this point, I’ve given you the benefit of the doubt, that you actually meant something other than that God intends for the world to ruin the faith of lost people turning them into bitter, cynical unbelievers--actively ensuring that those lost people (unlike the elected lost people) would be and remain hopelessly lost forever.

And yet--here we are, after all. God designed Nature to facilitate the counterproductive effects of horrendous evil on the spiritual advancement of the victims, according to God’s damnatory purposes for the non-elect.

Unless you didn’t mean to claim that. In which case, I suggest rephrasing one or another (or both) of your comments. {s}

JRP