Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hoping for universalism

Some who don't embrace universalism nevertheless at least hope it's true. If we can, and should, hope for the soul of each person individually, then should we not also hope for the soul of all persons collectively?

This links to a discussion by Keith DeRose on Prosblogion.

51 comments:

Bilbo said...

Where's the verse, "For it is God's will that all men be saved"?

Crude said...

I imagine plenty of the Christians who reject or are skeptical of universalism may say that there's something perverse about hoping that, say.. Bin Laden or Hitler or such are eventually saved.

That said, I'm personally inclined to believe that yeah, we should hope for all people to be saved. Even those guys I really dislike.

Anonymous said...

I'm a complete theological novice, but I was stunned by the amount of vitriol directed at Bell. Like Plantinga, I would think that Christians would at least hope that everyone is saved, and I don't understand why some Christians seem to find that hope deeply offensive.

The only motivation for this I've been able to ascertain is that some of them think that such a belief would undermine evangelism. But I don't understand why we need anymore motivation to evangelize other than Jesus told us to do it. If you need something more than that then there's already a problem in my opinion.

Gregory said...

I would like to think that "all" would be saved. And I am not inclined to put forward some eschatological ratio of saved vs. non-saved. I think this is a "wait-and-see" proposition.

But I would also like to point out that when we pray the part of the Lord's prayer where we ask "thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven", that we are, indeed, asking for something that has not obtained; namely, that God's will be done on "earth" even as it is done in "heaven". It is precisely because God's will is not done on "earth" that we even bother making this request.

And if some men/women refuse to oblige God, and so be "saved", then what more can God do? What more ought God do if He is faced with those whom refuse to reciprocate His love?

What is certain is that "God is love". And, by nature, He only loves. But God's love is two-edged....that is, that His love--though unchanging--can be experienced much differently depending on the type of recipient. That's the thrust of what I would argue. As to "who", or "how many", will receive that love, I don't pretend to know.

But I do think that "universalism" diminishes the urgency and need for daily, weekly, and yearly repentance as a necessary element in "salvation" since "all", ultimately, will be saved...no matter how recklessly they live their lives.

Caveat: some---even some who have been "churchy" their whole lives---may be like the "thief on the cross" and sincerely repent at the 11th hour of their life. Just look at the downfall, and repentance, of the "wise" and "foolish" King Solomon.

Lastly, I'm not sure that "universalism" provides a satisfactory hermeneutic for dealing with scriptures that suggest the reverse (i.e. the finality, and ultimate warning, suggested by the parable of the "wise" and "foolish" virgins in Matt. 25:1-13; see also Matt. 7:21-23).

I think it is wiser to believe that an unending punishment awaits those who reject God, even if "all" will be saved, because this belief can act as a deterrent to lawlessness.

Paul said...

If you received a news report from a very trusty source that a bomb went off in a city and there were *some* confirmed kills---and you believed this report was true---would you say, "I heard a bomb went off in Anywheresville, I hope *everyone* made it."? That seems irrational. It wouldn't be irrational for me to say, "I heard a bomb went off in Anywheresville, I hope *my brother Pete* made it."

1 Tim 2:4 only says what Victor says if Universalism is true. For if it isn't, it would be *irrational* for God to "will" or "desire" or "hope" that all men will be saved, assuming God has infallible foreknowledge of all libertarian actions, of course.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, Gregory. I don't really buy that the doctrine of Hell really decreases the amount of evil or lawlessness in the world. Christians aren't really motivated by a fear of Hell, and non-Christians don't believe in it. And I actually think the belief that perhaps the majority of people who ever lived will end up in Hell ends up undermining the very evangelism that it's supposed to motivate. Lots of people just find the idea that God created a world where the final destiny of most of the people in it would be eternal, unimaginable suffering to be a deal-breaker. So the idea that we have to keep Hell around to encourage us to evangelize people who find Hell to be a deal-breaker seems kind of insane to me.

This isn't really hypothetical for me. I can't really be as laissez-faire the ratio of saved to unsaved as you seem to be. I find the general idea that one finds in Christendom, that most people are going to be not just damned, but eternally damned, very troubling.

Again, I'm no theologian, but I've always felt that if your version of Christianity includes the belief that the final state of most human beings is unending torment, then your Christianity is extremely susceptible to the argument from evil. The idea that God had to allow the holocaust so that most people who ever lived could end up in an unending final state that is worse than the holocaust is very close to being a deal-breaker for ME.

Gimli 4 the West said...

When you face true evil, the kind of evil that breaks your soul and leads you to unbelief, you cry out for some eternal justice. Then, when you go over your own life with a fine-tooth comb, you hope there is some cosmic mercy on all of us.

Like so much in Christianity, it is difficult for a simple believer to reconcile.

Anonymous said...

Paul perhaps a more relevant analogy would be an explosion purposefully planned by a perfectly knowledgeable explosives expert who was of impeccable character and desired above all things that his explosion not harm anyone. In that case I think it would be rational to believe that no one was harmed in the explosion.

Paul said...

Anonymous,

That wouldn't be a better analogy for the point I was trying to express. I'm giving a reason why it isn't obvious that Christians should hope all will be saved *no matter what* they believe the Bible teaches. Those who don't believe the Bible teaches that some will be in hell forever, are not irrational in hoping all will be in heaven (even less so for those who believe the Bible positively teaches all will be in heaven). But for those who believe the Bible and Christian tradition do teach and affirm that *some* will be in hell, it is irrational for them to hope that *all* will be in heaven, as my analogy shows. I'm simply rebutting the claim that some seem unable to comprehend how some Christians can fail to at least *hope* that universalism is true *no matter what* other beliefs those Christians hold. See what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Fair enough, Paul. But I would still say that simple human compassion ought to dictate that one would come to a belief that some will go to hell reluctantly, and that one would react to someone who thinks otherwise with the hope that that person might be correct.

But to enlighten me, what passages in the Bible suggest that at least some people will be damned? Personally, I don't think that the warning scriptures qualify. My warning my subordinates that if they do X they'll be rewarded and if they do Y they'll be punished does not imply that anyone will actually do Y. So for example I don't believe that the fact that Jesus gave us the parable of the sheep and the goats requires us to believe there will actually be goats. God gave similar warnings to people in the Old Testament, about rewards that would be given for obedience and punishments that would be given for disobedience. And in many cases the warnings were heeded and the punishment never came. The story of Jonah and Nineveh comes to mind.

Paul said...

Anonymous, I'm not interested in having that debate now (your last paragraph), as it's beyond the scope of my intention for my comment. As for your first paragraph, I'm not sure why compassion would cause me to be reluctant in accepting it, should I be reluctant in accepting the numbers of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan because I have human compassion? The news tonight reported a murder in my neighborhood, should I be reluctant to believe them because I have human compassion? I'm not following.

GREV said...

Someone since they refuse to provide a name says -- But to enlighten me, what passages in the Bible suggest that at least some people will be damned?

Where does one start?

Matthew 8:11 I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Longer passage Luke 16:19-31

Luke 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’

Matthew 25:14-30 and 31-46.

And the list could go on ..... but I will leave it there.

Would I hope that all might be saved? Yes. But Scripture does not allow for that.

A helpful summary of understanding I Tim 2:4 is found here -- http://www.the-highway.com/1Tim2.4.html

BenYachov said...

Hypothetical potential universalism is not bad. That is hoping all persons choose saving Grace. Hoping for the salvation of all or the maximal amount of people is good too.

Teaching Hell is temporary OTOH is evil. Misrepresenting statements the Fathers made about Purgatory as statements about a temporary Hell is wrong. Claiming a saved soul who beholds the Beatific Vision can have his/her Perfect Happiness diminished by anything(like knowledge one's loved ones cruelly spurned God free offer of salvation) is incoherent blasphemy.

Anonymous said...

It's incoherent that a person would be sad that their child is suffering eternal torment?

Jason Pratt said...

This reminds me that I haven't yet continued an earlier conversation with Ben and Gregory from Victor's thread back in April here on the Church Fathers. I picked up a week-long stomach flu, and needed to work on catching up on some other things afterward.

I might take the opportunity to pick it back up here, though. {g}

Until then, one of the things I was working on catching up on was reviewing and commenting on Rob's book. The first three parts of that commentary can be found here in this thread. I'm posting new parts every Thursday and Monday (with today's posted already. {g})

I'm going to be pretty harsh on Rob for some ethical reasons, even though I'm a universalist myself: I think he cheats sometimes, and is unfair to his opposition. (I have some good things to say, too, of course. {wry g})

JRP

NealF said...

I just read 1 Timothy, and I came away from it thinking, "Wow! I wish my theological system let me accept what appears to be happening here: Paul wants Timothy to hope for the salvation of all people on the basis that God hopes for the salvation of all people." Of course, I can't actually believe this because my traditional theology teaches me, based on specific interpretations of other Scriptures, that some people have no hope. What to do?

Jason Pratt said...

Gregory: {{And if some men/women refuse to oblige God, and so be "saved", then what more can God do? What more ought God do if He is faced with those whom refuse to reciprocate His love?}}

Keep on persisting, of course. That's how any of us were saved at all, despite refusing to oblige God! "Saul, Saul, how hard it is to kick against the goads!"

Saul's example also illustrates that God does ramp up doing more in order to get the job done.

Gregory: {{But I do think that "universalism" diminishes the urgency and need for daily, weekly, and yearly repentance as a necessary element in "salvation" since "all", ultimately, will be saved...no matter how recklessly they live their lives.}}

A critique that only applies to ultra-universalists, not to purgatorial ones (such as myself).

Gregory: {{I think it is wiser to believe that an unending punishment awaits those who reject God, even if "all" will be saved, because this belief can act as a deterrent to lawlessness.}}

Obviously also a point agreed to by purgatorial universalists, even though we don't consider the unending punishment hopeless.

From another direction, though, this concept was expressed in at least some of the Fathers directly (opening the question of how many others also used it but never said so in surviving material) by "the doctrine of reserve": the common people will misunderstand, and so it is better to outright lie to them that the coming punishment is hopelessly unending, than that they should misunderstand the truth and abuse it with bad behavior.

I'm not in favor of that myself, btw. It also doesn't make things easier for us after the fact in trying to assess how many of the Fathers thought what and why on the topic.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Paul: {{If you received a news report from a very trusty source that a bomb went off in a city and there were *some* confirmed kills---and you believed this report was true---would you say, "I heard a bomb went off in Anywheresville, I hope *everyone* made it."? That seems irrational.}}

I understand what you're saying, and why. But on the same basis: if I received a news report from a very trusty source that a bomb went off in a city and there were some confirmed kills, and the news report also mentioned that another trusty source promised that those who were killed would be eventually brought back to life and restored to their loved ones--and I believed this report was true (as mindboggling as that might be to try to believe to be true)--would you still consider it irrational if I said, "I heard a bomb went off in Anywheresville, and many people were killed, but I still hope *everyone* *will* make it"?

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Gimli's observation explains quite a few things from David in the Psalms, I think. {g}

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

For what it's worth, Paul, I also have no problem understanding that those who accept X must be true are rational to try to interpret Y in line with X, even if that seems rather difficult to do.

It should be noted, though, that unless a third principle is brought into play as arbiter, the same process could be turned around with equal parity of principle: those who accept Y must be true are rational to try to interpret X in line with Y, even if that seems rather difficult to do!

As I have often said, the issue comes down eventually to why we should interpret one set of data in light of the other set of data. To which of course there are various answers, not all of which are mutually compatible.

JRP

BenYachov said...

>It's incoherent that a person would be sad that their child is suffering eternal torment?

A person who is beholding the Beatific Vision(that qualification is critically important).

Rather it is incoherent that the Vision of God, the Immediate Knowledge of Him who is Perfection Itself, Beauty Itself could not in fact produce Perfect Happiness.
If that Happiness could be diminished by anything it wouldn't be perfect then that could only mean the object of that happiness (i.e.the Vision of God) was inadequate to produce it.

Thus God would not be Perfection Itself. Thus God would not be God.

How can the Immediate Knowledge of Perfection Itself & Beauty Itself not produce Perfect Happiness?

How could said happiness be perfect if it could be diminished by anything?

Classic Theism!

Theistic Personalism sucks out loud!

Dianelos Georgoudis said...

Gregory,

You write: “But I do think that "universalism" diminishes the urgency and need for daily, weekly, and yearly repentance as a necessary element in "salvation" since "all", ultimately, will be saved...no matter how recklessly they live their lives.

Repentance, or “metanoia” in the original, literally means “change of mind”. That is indeed a necessary element in salvation. Clearly that personal transformation comports with Christ’s commands, the primary of which is to love God. But believing in hell, i.e. believing that God would create fallible people and then punish them with never-ending torment when they fail, strikes one as a very mean-spirited vengeful god (as Anonymous says above, hell is a deal-breaker). How is one to love such an ugly god with all one’s heart, and soul, and mind? We are simply not created in a way to do so. Therefore, belief in hell produces very bad fruit, namely makes it impossible to follow Christ’s primary command, and in many cases moves people away from believing in God altogether.

But suppose that one who believes in hell is scared away from living recklessly or lawlessly. Where is the profit in that? Did that person follow Christ’s command to love God over all else and to love others like herself? No. Rather she avoided sinning out of fear, and in the process perhaps became a very good hypocrite. If one believes in hell one will do anything to avoid such a destiny.

I think the consequences of believing in hell are the opposite of what you surmise. Such belief is a killer of the spirit. It hides from us the beauty of God, and it makes it impossible for us to truly follow Christ.

Anonymous said...

One consequence of believing Christianity entails belief in Hell is many people not becoming Christians. Moral insanity, to be blunt, is not aive selling point.

Another consequence is moral perversion of the some believers. The torture of heretics is easy to defend if the alternative is everlasting fire for those corrupted by the false teaching.


Gimli of the West: Amen.

Paul said...

Jason,

I don't think those who believe there Scriptural warrant for universalism, or that the Scriptural witness is vague, ambiguous, or underdetermining regarding the nature of hell or the duration of anyone's stay there, are irrational in hoping for universalism.

My point with my analogy was to undermine what seems to me is an unchecked meme running around in the universalism debate. DeRose presents it this way: "As I know from recent facebook discussions, some Christians (as well as interested non-Christians) are dumbfounded that any Christians would reject even hope on this matter."

So it seems to me that some seem to approach the matter this way: Well, obviously everyone should at least hope that universalism is true. I mean, you are a cruel monster if you don't at least hope it were true. Now, of course some might believe that it is in fact not true, but they, as moral people, at least hope all will be saved."

I suggest this has things backwards. As my story shows, it would be irrational given the news report (and just that news report) that some people died, to hope that all the citizens of the city lived. Now, if you only heard a report of a bomb going off, it would not be irrational to hope that there were no casualties. Or, if you heard conflicting reports from trustworthy sources to the effect that (a) some died and (b) no one died, it could also be rational to hope that (b) were true. But this hoping depends on the news report (and your assenting to the report). Similarly, I find discussion of hopeful universalism to be an unhelpful divergent since it depends on one's assessment of the reports regarding the state of all men.

I suggest that those Christians who believe B = that the Bible teaches that some will be in hell for an endless duration (call this set of Christian, {H}) and also hope all men will (eventually) be in heaven, are internally irrational (in Plantinga's sense). But it seems to me that many universalists (and some non-universalists) claim that this set of believers should at least be hopeful universalists; or, in any case, there would be nothing untoward with them so hoping. But this recommends irrationality. This isn't epistemically virtuous for members of {H}. And so the universalist (or others) should not prescribe this as a valid move for members of {H}---at least, of course, if members of {H} wish to retain B. I also suggest that my argument shows how it can be perfectly legitimate and moral for members of {H} to refrain from hoping that universalism is true.

Now, Pruss has said these members can say Scripture and tradition strongly seems to suggest that some will be in hell forever but may nevertheless hope that this is wrong. This is ambiguous. Hope that Scripture and tradition is wrong? Or hope that you've read them wrong? The first seems odd. Why would one hope the Bible turns out wrong? The second seems troublesome, since if I've misunderstood them on this, what else am I wrong on? For it seems pretty clear to me that both teach an endless hell that will in fact be populated. Now, sure, it's possible I may be wrong. The traditionalist case doesn't yield epistemic certainty, but there's many beliefs that are possibly true in this sense that I don't think it's rational to hope them to be true.

That's kindof all I'm saying :-)

Chris W said...

Interestingly, the proclamation of Jonah was not "repent, or Nineveh will be overthrown" but simply "Ninevah shall be overthrown" (3:4). Thus the king's reaction: "Who knows? God may relent and change his mind" (3:9). That is, from his perspective, then prophecy was not conditional. Salvation was not offered on the basis of repentance. Yet, he hopes God "may" relent. And that's what happens (3:10).

But some will say this story has no bearing on the proclamation of Jesus, which does say we must repent before our deaths or be thrown into hell. But this misses the point. The revelation given to Nineveh was "Nineveh shall be overthrown." But this did not happen. God changed his mind. Jesus says (or has been interpreted to say) something like "God will send unrepentant sinners to hell forever." Now, what's to prevent him from "changing his mind" (or whatever you classical theism theologians call it) about this? In Jonah, God says X will happen. And it did not. In the NT, Jesus says Y will happen. If we read NT passages about hell (like in Matt. 25:46) in a fixed, conservative way, Y is "sinners will go to hell unless they repent and there will be unrepentant sinners in hell forever." So, is there any reason we can't hope, as Nineveh did, that God would change his mind about this?

Something like this seems appropriate: "God says unrepentant sinners will stay in hell forever, but who knows? Perhaps if we pray ('the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective' - James 5:16; 'whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours' - Mark 11:24) for the souls of the lost, God will have mercy on them at the Last Judgement, or after some purgatorial timein hell." Seems like a thoroughly Biblical hope to me.

I suspect thinking like this lead Karl Barth (not a wishy-washly liberal, mind you) and Al Plantinga (see Victor's link in the OP) to hope all might be saved.

Anonymous said...

Ben Yachov,

What is the scriptural basis for this thing called the Beatific Vision, and what is the scriptural evidence for that vision causing perfect happiness?

I can't think of a beneficial state I could be in that could cause me not to care that my child is enduring the worst torment possible with no hope of that torment ever ending. And I also think that the notion of "perfect happiness" might be like Galindo's (sp?) perfect island. I don't know that happiness has a maximum. How could a mother enjoying this Beatific Vision not be happier if she was enjoying it with her child than she would be if she was enjoying it while her child was enduring unimaginable suffering?

I've seen you denigrate theistic personalism over classic theism before, but I think theistic personalism does have some advantages, such as its being coherent and comprehensible. I'm not trying to be a jerk when I say this. I mean literally that when you apply words like "goodness" to your concept of God, I have no idea what the term means. The way you apply it makes me think you're using it in a way that makes it more equivalent to what I would call amoral (not in the sense of being evil, but in the sense of lacking in moral properties, obligations and responsibilities).

BenYachov said...

>What is the scriptural basis for this thing called the Beatific Vision, and what is the scriptural evidence for that vision causing perfect happiness?

Beatific Vision means -the blessed vision of God. Any verse in the Bible that talks about us seeing God is by definition a reference. Like 1 Cor 13:12, 1 John 3:2 2 or Chron 16:9 etc...

>I can't think of a beneficial state I could be in that could cause me not to care that my child is enduring the worst torment possible with no hope of that torment ever ending.

Two things 1)you are conflating caring about your hypothetical fallen Child with being perfectly happy. If I am perfectly happy I fail to see how that translates into "I no longer care about my fallen child who has unjustly rejected God's free offer of Salvation".

2)Can you comprehend God? I think not. Thus just because in our present state we don't know what it is like to see God face to face doesn't exclude the possibility.

BenYachov said...

>How could a mother enjoying this Beatific Vision not be happier if she was enjoying it with her child than she would be if she was enjoying it while her child was enduring unimaginable suffering?

Neither you nor I have yet seen God face to face(if you ever had by some extra-ordinary Grace you would not ask the above question). Your question relies on your present ignorance of what it will be like in the World To Come.

But logically if the knowledge of your child's damnation can diminish your happiness then logically that happiness could not really be perfect. Thus God would not be perfect.

Do you believe in an imperfect "god"? Because that is the only logical way your scenario could be true.

If your soul could see God. Experience immediate knowledge of God you could endure every other pain in Hell itself(sans lose of the Beatific Vision) and it would mean nothing to you. Indeed Heaven without the BV is Hell compared to such a state.

BenYachov said...

>I've seen you denigrate theistic personalism over classic theism before, but I think theistic personalism does have some advantages, such as its being coherent and comprehensible.

Which is one of the many reasons I must reject it. To paraphrase St Augustine if I can comprehend it then it is not God. God must be incomprehensible and known only via analogy not unequivocally nor wholly equivocally.

>I'm not trying to be a jerk when I say this.

No worries guy.

CONTINUE...

Anonymous said...

Ben Yachov,

I don't think those verses, or any verses I'm aware of in the Bible, justify the concept of Beatific Vision the way you're using it. It might work if you already believe in this concept, but what I'm asking for is some compelling reason to believe in it.

You seem to be saying that a person could care that their child is suffering torment but at the same time be perfectly happy. I just don't understand that. It seems obvious that if they do care, then they aren't perfectly happy. It also seems to me that if their child wasn't in torment, they'd be happier, so whatever happiness they were having couldn't possibly have been "perfect." I just don't understand the concept of a happiness that is completely unaffected by the extreme suffering of my loved ones.

And while I grant that there are things about God that I can't comprehend, that doesn't mean that a theological position's incoherence isn't a problem for that position. It seems to me that this concept your speaking of needs something to recommend it to Christians. Incomprehensibility may be an unavoidable reality but it isn't exactly a selling point. You're right that I can't discount the possibility but there are infinitely many possibilities that I can't discount. What separates your concept of the Beatific Vision from the rest of them?

BenYachov said...

>I don't think those verses, or any verses I'm aware of in the Bible, justify the concept of Beatific Vision the way you're using it. It might work if you already believe in this concept, but what I'm asking for is some compelling reason to believe in it.

Well I'm Catholic so I reject Sola Scriptura, the perspicuity of Scripture and I accept tradition. I also accept Thomistic philosophy which is endorsed by the One True Church. So we are coming from very dissimilar approaches.

Anonymous said...

I just don't see how admitting that there isn't a highest possible level of happiness entails that God isn't perfect, anymore than admitting there isn't a highest possible number entails that God isn't perfect. That might be the case if we're committed to the idea that "perfect happiness" is a property of God, but I've never heard of such a thing.

It seems to me that happiness is always related to the state of affairs one finds oneself in. The better the state of affairs, the happier a person will be. It's thus very easy for me to conceive of a higher state of happiness than my beholding the Beatific Vision, and that's a state of affairs in which that vision is shared by one person in addition to myself. And it seems like you could just keep adding one more person forever, and I'd always be a little happier than I was before. So, maybe there's no such thing as perfect happiness, just like there's no such thing as a highest number. Why would that mean that God wasn't perfect?

To be frank, I don't understand what God's being "perfect" means in the abstract anyway. Perfect in what sense? I understand what it means to say that God is perfectly knowledgeable and perfectly powerful, but the idea that he's just perfect per se? It doesn't make any sense to me. I don't know what that property refers to.

BenYachov said...

>I mean literally that when you apply words like "goodness" to your concept of God, I have no idea what the term means.

I mean it in the basic Thomistic/Aristotelian being that which everything desires.

>The way you apply it makes me think you're using it in a way that makes it more equivalent to what I would call amoral (not in the sense of being evil, but in the sense of lacking in moral properties, obligations and responsibilities).

Well along with Brian Davies and Herbert McCabe I reject the idea that God is a moral agent. I believe because of His Nature it is incoherent to call God "moral" the way a human is moral.

BenYachov said...

>I just don't see how admitting that there isn't a highest possible level of happiness entails that God isn't perfect,

Happiness is in proportion to the Good one experiences. Perfect Good logically equals Perfect Happiness.

>anymore than admitting there isn't a highest possible number entails that God isn't perfect.

Infinity isn't really the Highest possible number in the unequivocal sense. A highest possible number would entail a number which is at the end of all counting that you can't count higher than.

>That might be the case if we're committed to the idea that "perfect happiness" is a property of God, but I've never heard of such a thing.

Rather God is Perfection Itself to have immediate knowledge of that would produce Perfect Happiness.

BenYachov said...

>To be frank, I don't understand what God's being "perfect" means in the abstract anyway. Perfect in what sense? I understand what it means to say that God is perfectly knowledgeable and perfectly powerful, but the idea that he's just perfect per se? It doesn't make any sense to me. I don't know what that property refers to.

I am proud of you. Because the beginning of mere natural wisdom is the words "I don't know"(supernatural wisdom comes from Fear of God but I digress).

I will mull and try to think of a way to explain it to you or refer you to sources that can explain it.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Ben Yachov,

Okay, well, I am not a Catholic. I have a high level of respect for Catholicism, coming as a I do from a very anti-intellectual church, I really do respect the theological rigor I've seen from a lot of Catholics I've met. So, I don't necessarily agree with you, but I certainly have a great amount of respect for the tradition you speak from. (I read this blog a lot, I don't understand how I could have missed that you are a Catholic!)

That said, even though I am a Protestant, I am also not a Sola Scriptura guy. Obviously, not being a Catholic, I need something more to get me to believe in something than just the fact that Catholic tradition teaches a position to accept that position. We'll probably just have to agree to disagree on your concept of the Beatific Vision.

BenYachov said...

>It's thus very easy for me to conceive of a higher state of happiness than my beholding the Beatific Vision, and that's a state of affairs in which that vision is shared by one person in addition to myself.

The problem with that is God plus Creation does not equal two things.

It is incoherent to have Infinity plus one. If you could truly add one to infinity then you would make it bigger. But how can the infinite be any bigger?

You may imagine an object along side other objects you label "Beatific Vision" & then add it to other objects you label souls. But that is not the same as concieving of something greater than infinity.

By definition you can't add or subtract from infinity.

More later.

BenYachov said...

I don't know if I feel like re-posting my arguments(i.e. rant).....it's the weekend and I just want to go to Church, eat, watch cartoons, play my Xbox & Vegg in that order.

Oh and spend time with the family. That's important too.;-)

Mike Darus said...

I guess I can hope universalism is true in the sense that I value and care about other human beings. I hope the best for others. I can hope that people who have lived ugly, vicious lives have a good spot in their soul that outshines the way they lived their lives. I can hope that rebellion against God is not a big deal, especially if you grade on a curve. I can hope that God is fine with being cursed. He could understand that I am just honestly venting my emotions. I could hope that the biblical mindset was just not far reaching enough. Beyond the statements of judgment could be this bliss of total reconciliation. I could hope that Rob Bell is right that Christ's death is only an example and wasn't necessary for justification. I could also hope that all the biblical pleas to believe in Christ were nonsense.

Anonymous said...

Should we hope that Hitler is saved? How about Satan?

Matt said...

This reminds me of the saying:

"And people in hell want ice water."

I guess you can say that I care about people and want what's best for them, but there seems to be something futile about hoping for something I have no control over. I'm not so confident about exclusivism and if I were a god who created a universe I doubt that's the way I'd do it but I also know that I have no control over the matter (other than, I suppose, showing people this website with the hope that they become Christians).

Jason Pratt said...

I like James' plan! Though I'm stuck here at work a little longer (we had to catch up on Saturday. I can't complain since I'm at a comfy chair in a/c, though. {g})

Our poor controversies will always be with us (till the Day of the Lord to come anyway); sometimes it's better to feast for a while and put them aside until next week.

I however will be playing the PS3. {G!}


Until next week, then, I'll only repost this link to where I comment on Rob Bell's Love Wins (Monday's and next Thursday's coming comments with be rather more severe!), and thank Victor for re-posting the thread.

(Thanks Vic!)

JRP

Victor Reppert said...

It just popped backup.

http://evangelicaluniversalist.blogspot.com/2008/05/universalism-and-salvation-of-satan.html

Anonymous said...

So I'll ask again: Where's the verse about God's desire if for all men to be saved? -- Bilbo, in anonymous mode.

Anonymous said...

Mike: "I could hope that Rob Bell is right that Christ's death is only an example and wasn't necessary for justification."

Did Rob Bell actually write that? -- Bilbo, in anonymous mode.

Victor Reppert said...

I Tim 2:4.

Anonymous said...

I Timothy 2:1-6:

"1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time."

--Bilbo, in anonymous mode.

Anonymous said...

Lauren Winner quoting from Rob Bell's book: “Jesus is the way,” he writes, but “the all-embracing, saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum. . . . What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.”

Compare with Mike's description:

I could hope that Rob Bell is right that Christ's death is only an example and wasn't necessary for justification.

I think the burden of proof is on Mike to show that Bell said what Mike says he said.

-- Bilbo in anonymous mode.

Mike Darus said...

Biblo:
I was too broad and indirect in my characterization of Bell's position. It comes more from my exposure to Nooma than Love Wins. Bell would agree that Christ's death was necessary but he seems agnostic about why. By this he avoids substitutionary atonement. This explains things better than I ever could: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/article_print.html?id=91223

It seems like Bell avoids saying what he really means. This way he retains breadth in his audience that he doesn't deserve.

Bilbo said...

Hi Mike,

I read the relevant part of the article. I agree. Bell's views are troubling. Thanks for the link.

Victor Reppert said...

Hey! All the old comments are back!