Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hell, Hays, and the criminal analogy

I think we have to go back to the context of your using Grayling's employment of the Polanski case in the defense of hell. There are some important differences between this kind of criminal case and the problem of sin. Grayling would not have been making his case if Polanski had served his full sentence and was about to be released. The point is that our judicial system allows people to be released from their punishment once proportionality is reached (with a lot of other considerations thrown in as well). The passage of time without punishment doesn't release one from guilt, that was Grayling's point. In our judicial system, the doing of time in prison "pays one's debt to society."


You are the one using the criminal reasoning to justify hell. But the analogy to the criminal justice system is precisely what propels the proporitionality objection. To get a defense of hell of the ground you have to argue either that the case is different with sin because it is against God, or argue that the damned sinner is unrepentant and therefore reoffends continuously. Those are precisely points at which the criminal justice analogy breaks down.
In my view the retribution analogyis too closely connected to the concepts of criminal justice to justify hell, and that is why I think of hell primarily as a natural consequence of the fact that one is rebelling against the source of goodness itself. If you're doing that, you can't be happy, and here case of Aslan and the dwarfs and the Great Divorce helps us see that. No fire and brimstone is necessary to make us miserable if we are trying forever to find happiness apart from the Source of happiness.

12 comments:

unkle e said...

"No fire and brimstone is necessary to make us miserable if we are trying forever to find happiness apart from the Source of happiness."

But where does the Bible teach that we are immortal and therefore will live, in heaven or hell, "forever"? I would have thought the clear Biblical teaching is that we are made of dust and to dust we return. Once we understand that, the whole argument about hell has a different basis.

Jason Pratt said...

{{Here [the] case of Aslan and the dwarfs and the Great Divorce helps us see that. No fire and brimstone is necessary to make us miserable if we are trying forever to find happiness apart from the Source of happiness.}}

Though interestingly, something like fire and brimstone is on the way after all in TGD--and its first effect is to strike a terrible knowledge into the heart of Lewis (as narrative character): "Screaming, I buried my face in the folds of my Teacher's robe. 'The morning! The morning!' I cried. 'I am caught by the morning and I am a ghost!' But it was too late. The light, like solid blocks, intolerable of edge and weight, came thundering upon my head."

There are definite indications earlier in the book, that something worse is on the way for the spirits in hell, too--something that will shatter their acclimatizing self-delusions about their condition. (Maybe two somethings, one demonic and the other beatific.)

JRP

Robert said...

Unkle e asked:

“But where does the Bible teach that we are immortal and therefore will live, in heaven or hell, "forever"?”

Have you not read the famous passage about the sheep and goats in which the sheep represent the believers and goats represent unbelievers?

Particularly significant from this famous and clear passage (Matt. 25:31-46) is what Jesus says about the **duration** of the blessed life of the sheep and the duration of the life of the goats after this judgment: “And these [the goats] will go away into ETERNAL punishment, but the righteous [the goats] into ETERNAL life.”

The text cannot state any clearer that the destiny of the sheep is ETERNAL and the destiny of the goats is ETERNAL. Whatever eternal means with respect to the sheep it must also mean with respect to the goats.

Jesus spoke these words and they are clear and unequivocal and first century readers would have had no difficulty understanding exactly what he was saying and they would have concluded that he was teaching that believers have an eternal destiny as do unbelievers.

Unkle e the Matt. 25:31-46 passage answers your question directly and clearly.

Robert

Jason Pratt said...

Robert,

Actually, first century readers of Greek (or even of the underlying Hebrew) would have understood that the adjective {aio_nion} doesn't necessarily mean unending quantity of duration--which is why various Biblical authors use the word every once in a while to talk about things that definitely ended or will definitely end.

But the rhetorical contrast with those that have zoe eonian most likely does indicate a parallel use of 'eonian' here; so, like you say, the term ought to be applied the same in both cases.

On the other hand, I'm not aware of any theologian who thinks 'zoe eonian' merely means living forever, either. {wry g} It means something very much more qualitatively important than that, concerning the ultimate source of that life. Which ought to be applied, by parallel, to the 'kolasis eonian', too.

(Meanwhile, first century readers of Greek would have likely recognized 'kolasis' as being a term of chastisement, discipline, and hopeful punishment, too. {g})

JRP

Anonymous said...

“Actually, first century readers of Greek (or even of the underlying Hebrew) would have understood that the adjective {aio_nion} doesn't necessarily mean unending quantity of duration--which is why various Biblical authors use the word every once in a while to talk about things that definitely ended or will definitely end.”

The first century hearers hearing Jesus talking about the sheep and goats would have figured out that he was not giving a lesson on agricultural practices. They also would have figured that he was picturing the final judgment and the final separation of believers and unbelievers. In other words they would have understood that he was using figurative language in describing the final judgment of mankind. They further would have understood that what happened to these “sheep” and “goats” following this separation/judgment would have been their **eternal** destinies. It is true that the adjective/aio nion doesn’t **necessarily** mean unending quantity of duration every time that the term is used.

But the issue is what does it mean ***in Matt. 25***?

There it does mean “unending quantity of duration” because it is referring to the destinies of sheep/believers; goats/unbelievers **after** the final judgment/separation. Unless one does not want to accept the text at face value.

“But the rhetorical contrast with those that have zoe eonian most likely does indicate a parallel use of 'eonian' here; so, like you say, the term ought to be applied the same in both cases.”

That is the point, the meaning must be the same in both references. If it means a limited time frame that stops, in reference to the goats, then it means a limited time frame that stops with the sheep as well. But I hardly believe that the first century audience would have taken Jesus to be saying that the eternal life of the sheep would last for a time and then stop! And conversely if it is meant to mean eternal duration with the sheep then it also means eternal duration with the goats as well. One must engage in extreme eisegetical gymnastics to escape the plain and intended meaning of this text.

Robert

Robert said...

“Actually, first century readers of Greek (or even of the underlying Hebrew) would have understood that the adjective {aio_nion} doesn't necessarily mean unending quantity of duration--which is why various Biblical authors use the word every once in a while to talk about things that definitely ended or will definitely end.”

The first century hearers hearing Jesus talking about the sheep and goats would have figured out that he was not giving a lesson on agricultural practices. They also would have figured that he was picturing the final judgment and the final separation of believers and unbelievers. In other words they would have understood that he was using figurative language in describing the final judgment of mankind. They further would have understood that what happened to these “sheep” and “goats” following this separation/judgment would have been their **eternal** destinies. It is true that the adjective/aio nion doesn’t **necessarily** mean unending quantity of duration every time that the term is used.

But the issue is what does it mean ***in Matt. 25***?

There it does mean “unending quantity of duration” because it is referring to the destinies of sheep/believers; goats/unbelievers **after** the final judgment/separation. Unless one does not want to accept the text at face value.

“But the rhetorical contrast with those that have zoe eonian most likely does indicate a parallel use of 'eonian' here; so, like you say, the term ought to be applied the same in both cases.”

That is the point, the meaning must be the same in both references. If it means a limited time frame that stops, in reference to the goats, then it means a limited time frame that stops with the sheep as well. But I hardly believe that the first century audience would have taken Jesus to be saying that the eternal life of the sheep would last for a time and then stop! And conversely if it is meant to mean eternal duration with the sheep then it also means eternal duration with the goats as well. One must engage in extreme eisegetical gymnastics to escape the plain and intended meaning of this text.

Robert

J said...

Religious hypocrites of all sorts rest in the the lowest realms in Dante's inferno, while virtuous pagans--like Aristotle-- make it into limbo-land. An intelligent Deity, if He exists, would hopefully have more respect for Thomas Jefferson than Jonathan Edwards. Similarly Dawkins, AC Grayling etc might have a good shot at limbo-land. On the other hand Hagees, Falwells, corrupt priests, imams, rabbis, etc--hellbound.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Jason Pratt said...

Robert: {{They also would have figured that he was picturing the final judgment and the final separation of believers and unbelievers.}}

Well, they might figure that as a guess; but only if they were ignoring the typical metaphorical use of {kolasis} for hopeful, not hopeless, punishment. The same agricultural metaphor, though not the term itself, is used in Rom 11:19-24 precisely for hopeful, not hopeless, punishment. (Paul in fact specifically rebukes his congregation for supposing the punishment to be hopeless.)

Despite what you seem to think, my reply was predicated from the start on the imagery being understood as a metaphorical illustration.


{{It is true that the adjective/aio nion doesn’t **necessarily** mean unending quantity of duration every time that the term is used.}}

It is also true that the adjective never means **merely** unending quantity of duration, every time that the term is used; including in Matt 25’s reference to zoe eonian. (You still haven’t caught up with my actual comment yet.)


{{There it does mean “unending quantity of duration” because it is referring to the destinies of sheep/believers; goats/unbelievers **after** the final judgment/separation.}}

So, why does {kolasis} not mean a hopeful punishment here (i.e. not “accepting the text at face value” in its typical cultural application?) Because {aio_nion} is used to describe the result as being of unending quantitative duration. Why is {aio_nion} to be primarily read this way instead of some other way (as it can certainly be read in other cases)? Because it is referring to the result of {kolasis} as a hopelessly final judgment.

At least I’m not appealing to a totally circular justification. {wry g} Which most logicians (though apparently not all) would consider to be “extreme eisegetical gymnastics”, by the way.


{{That is the point, the meaning must be the same in both references.}}

Now you’re finally starting to catch up with my comment.


{{If it means a limited time frame that stops, in reference to the goats, then it means a limited time frame that stops with the sheep as well.}}

Similarly, if it doesn’t primarily reference a quantitative timeframe in reference to the sheep, then it doesn’t in reference to the goats either. In that case, the question of mere duration per se would be beside the point, and so might be variable in application. Is there any indication in the text that such a secondary application might be variable in the case of the goats? Yep, as it happens in this case there is: the goats are sent off for brisk cleaning (kolasis) as their punishment--which also happens to be “the plain and intended meaning” of that word.

The main issue, then (as I stated earlier--but which you notably didn’t address at all, out of everything else I wrote), is whether “eonian” primarily means only some ongoing quantitative continuance when speaking of “zoe eonian”. I’m pretty sure I’m standing with virtually all Christian theologians in history, on this one, when I deny that “eternal life” is only (or even primarily) about mere immortality. (Even hopelessly damned souls have that, unless they are sooner or later annihilated; yet souls in punishment are never described as having “zoe eonian”, including by the way here in Matt 25.)


JRP

J said...

Like the New Testament as a whole, the book of St. Matthew is not exactly consistent in regards to Hell. In some sections, something like degrees of punishment are indicated:

16-27: For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

Small latin, less greek have I but most translate the greek "πρᾶξιν"/ praxin as "deeds" (--not solely faith). So much for Calvinists, or Marty Luther who insisted the entire teaching of NT was summed up by Saul's "the just shall live by faith..."

Jason Pratt said...

Oh, the NT paints a consistent enough picture; it's just a rather complex consistency. {g} (Ditto for its theology/Christology.)

An interpretation that doesn't take these complexities into account, can't be very much said to be a systematic theology, at least. Not much of a concern for some theologians, of course (much less for many Christians--and I can hardly blame them for that). But one would suppose it was of some concern for Calvinists and Arminians (and their non-Protestant analogues), considering how many "systematic theologies" have been delivered by Calvs and Arms. {g!}

For which I'm very sympathetic. But, if I'm going to have a systematic theology, I want it to be actually systematic, both in its analysis of scripture and in its metaphysical coherency. And so we're back to considering a more primary meaning for {aio_nion}, for example; one that accounts for why sometimes the word is used for things that can never end, and sometimes (though less often) for things that do have temporal endings.

Nor does the student have to only make guesses about this: there are indications in the scriptural usage itself, plus also in the historical cultural contexts (both Jewish and Hellenistic), for why we should always try testing first if "eonian" can be interpreted as meaning something along the line of "Godly" or "God's own"--something occurring because of Who and What God essentially is, from the heart of God.


This is hardly a problem for Matt 25. As I keep pointing out, all theologians everywhere understand "zoe eonian" to mean this, and not merely to mean life that keeps on going temporally. Those who do good are resurrected to God's own life, life uniquely from God. Those who do evil, are resurrected to punishment ({ahem}brisk-cleaning{g}) uniquely from God, something from God's own intrinsic essence.

JRP

J said...

An interpretation that doesn't take these complexities into account, can't be very much said to be a systematic theology, at least.

Yes, and the typical protestant's view of Heaven or Hell does not take the complexities into account: one complexity being degrees of punishment--and the possibility of purgatory-- and that was orthodoxy until Calvin & Co appeared.

Jason Pratt said...

Incidentally--or not, perhaps {g}--but I was recently reminded by Keener in his commentary on GosJohn, that the term 'zoe eonian' typically occurs with special present-tense verbs; the emphasis being that we can have this 'eternal life' right now through our loyal trust in God (Father and Son and Spirit, all three Persons).

Yet nevertheless we die. One would hardly deny (whichever Christology is true, but even moreso if ortho-trin is true) that Christ has zoe eonian!--since He claims to be able to give it already in His earthly ministry as the very source of it--and yet, there He dies on the cross.

Jesus Himself is the first and chiefest evidence that 'eonian' does not primarily mean only a quantitatively endless continuing of something. It means something much more important than that, concerning the various nouns it describes, whether that noun is "life" or "brisk-cleaning" (or "fire" or "whole-ruination" or even "God", for that matter. {wry g})

JRP