Monday, August 19, 2013

A Common Sense Atheism post on whether Christians really believe what they say they do

Here. In particular he is talking about the belief in soteriological exclusivism, which says that only Christians go to heaven and everyone else is going to roast in hell.

If we really believe this, would we spend every waking moment trying to evangelize the lost, and worrying ourselves sick that some of the people we really care about won't make it?

Back when I was an undergrad, a couple of guys by the names of Bob Prokop and Joe Sheffer convinced me that soteriological exclusivism was false, and interestingly enough, they brought up some of the same points that this atheist does.

72 comments:

B. Prokop said...

The lunacy of soteriological exclusivism can be summed up in the following thought experiment (which I've used numerous times to convince fellow Christians of the doctrine's incoherence):

I generally first get the person to admit that he/she believes that life begins at conception (a position that I myself have my occasional doubts about, but the overwhelming majority of soteriological exclusivists hold to). I then get them to assert their belief that only those who "accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior" are "saved" - that is, not going to Hell. I then bring up miscarriages, which in their view is a fully human soul dying without having been "saved". This leads to the inevitable conclusion that millions (if not billions) of human beings have never known anything other than eternal damnation!

This nearly always causes people, who may have thoughtlessly held to said doctrine for much of their lives, to immediately reject it, never to return. Works like a charm.

Walter said...

Bob, many of the Christians that I know will counter your argument with a belief that a person is safe from God's wrath if they are too young or mentally retarded to understand the consequences of rejecting the good news of the gospel.

B. Prokop said...

Walter,

Exactly. And that is the slippery slope (a good thing, in this case) which leads ultimately to a rejection of this false doctrine. Once you start admitting "except for" cases, the whole thing eventually collapses of its own weight. After a while, you've included in your "except for" categories those who have never heard of Christ, those raised in other faiths, sincere atheists, etc., etc., and the whole idea of "Born Again Christians Only" is (mercifully) gone, gone, gone.

Crude said...

If we really believe this, would we spend every waking moment trying to evangelize the lost, and worrying ourselves sick that some of the people we really care about won't make it?

Why would we? That assumes that their fates are ultimately in our hands and our responsibility, or that our personal attachment is the ultimate standard here. Both seem very questionable.

I reject soteriological exclusivism, and never subscribed to it. But I have a problem with arguments that seem to ultimately boil down to emotional appeal.

Steve Lovell said...

I believe people have been excommunicated for endorsing "soteriological exclusivism". I hoping Bob can confirm the details for us.

I'm not sure I've ever believed it myself. The Bible is pretty clear that some of the Old Testament heroes of faith are saved, but I've no idea how such an exclusivist would account for that.

ingx24 said...

I personally (and I am not alone in this) believe that, if Hell (in the traditional sense of a place of eternal torture) is real, then God is infinitely evil and is therefore not God. No one, no matter what crime he or she has committed, deserves to be tormented horrendously for the rest of eternity with no hope of escape. Even someone like Hitler, I would say, deserves at most a finite amount of torment: only an infinite crime could possibly deserve infinite torment. Some may claim that sin, the rejection of God, heresy, etc. is an "infinite crime" and thus deserves eternal torment. But even if this is so (and I would argue that it is not), it would be unjust to "close the door" to repentence just because someone has already died. The Catholic/Thomistic idea that the will is "frozen" after death so that one cannot even desire to repent only makes things worse.

unkleE said...

It is worth noting that CS Lewis and Billy Graham, two of the most influential christians of the past century, both held inclusivist views.

B. Prokop said...

As does, apparently, Pope Francis.

BenYachov said...

> believe people have been excommunicated for endorsing "soteriological exclusivism". I hoping Bob can confirm the details for us.

I believe you are thinking of the Fr. Feeney case? Technically Feeney was excommunicated for disobedience in that he refused to cease preaching his heterodox retrictivist distortion of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. Thought the congregation for the doctrine of the faith did formally condemn his restrictivist views.

BenYachov said...

Hell is logical consequence. If I reject eating even when there is food right in front of me I deserve the privation of starvation. If I reject Infinite Goodness Itself (the choice to accept it only made possible by sufficient grace) then I deserve the privation of Infinite Goodness(otherwise known as damnation) for the rest of infinite time.

Said privation of infinite goodness, said goodness which is the soul's final cause otherwise known as the lose of the beatific vision or "damnation".

This anthropomorphic Theistic Personalist horse shit about literal "torture" is nonsense.
As if Hell is really like some silly Clive Barker movie?

To quote the guy from the horror movie EVENT HORIZON. "Hell is just word. The reality is worse".

Rather the unreality is worse. God is Ultimate Reality & the rejection of Him logically is the privation of reality and to condemn one's self to their own dysfunctional unreality of twisted self-love. Otherwise known as Hell. The greatest pain in Hell is the soul feeling the loss of the Beatific Vision. Any other pain you might be subject too is a slap on the wrist by comparison.

Indeed if we believe the Saints and Mystics it would be an infinitely better fate for a soul to feel every other pain of Hell turned up too 11 as long as it had the Beatific vision. Then too be granted every other pleasure in Heaven without the Vision of God.
Given God's Nature in the Classic Theistic sense I really don't see how any creature can make any demands or obligations on God? God is not obligated to forgive you in the first place when you are alive or even to create you in the first place. After all when the Angels fell that was that, none of them where given the grace to be restored.

A soul that can't choose like that of a baby can be given the beatific vision. But even they aren't owed it which is why Limbo is possible.

A soul who dies after already having chosen to reject grace cannot make another choice & they cannot have their choice overridden without destroying them as persons on the fundamental level.

B. Prokop said...

"After all when the Angels fell that was that, none of them were given the grace to be restored."

Ben, I'm not sure that's the best way to express this. Rather, angelic beings do not exist within our space-time continuum, and therefore experience existence as a single timeless, everlasting moment. Their fall (for those that did so) constitutes the sum total of their being.

We, however, exist within time (thank God!), and therefore have the opportunity to repent.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"We, however, exist within time (thank God!), and therefore have the opportunity to repent."

The problem is not being in time; the gist is that to repent is to come to know that we have done wrong and to will the good. But there is no new epistemic condition that the soul can attain in which it can come to know the good and will it in some new way; it is not like after "thousand years" of Hell, it will suddenly dawn on it, "Oh wow, things are hot in here, better go someplace cooler".

And to dispel the usual slosh about Hell, see for example Eleonore Stump - Do Heaven and Hell Exist?.

mattghg said...

Once you start admitting "except for" cases, the whole thing eventually collapses of its own weight.

No it doesn't.

After a while, you've included in your "except for" categories those who have never heard of Christ, those raised in other faiths, sincere atheists, etc., etc.

Bob, the obvious rejoinder is that unborn babies haven't had actually sinned yet, whereas all those other people you mentioned have.

B. Prokop said...

"the obvious rejoinder"

Interesting that no one has ever responded such in person, since the rejoinder is supposed to be "obvious", and I've used this argument a number of times. Never got that objection to it until now. Maybe in a face-to-face, it's easy (or at least possible) to elucidate beyond a simple blog posting.

mattghg said...

Well, that's strange.

Walter said...

the obvious rejoinder is that unborn babies haven't had actually sinned yet, whereas all those other people you mentioned have.

Little off topic here but I am curious, what form will these unborn souls take in their resurrected state? Will they be resurrected as fully developed persons, i.e. with complete physical, intellectual and emotional maturity?

im-skeptical said...

" what form will these unborn souls take in their resurrected state?"

An intriguing question. And another related question to ask is, for adults who die and go to heaven, what is the form of their souls? If they have suffered dementia, does it go away? If they retain all their earthly experience, wouldn't that include everything up to the time of their death, when their mental faculties have declined? If they revert to their peak of health, what happens to all their later experience? Is it lost?

BenYachov said...

>Ben, I'm not sure that's the best way to express this. Rather, angelic beings do not exist within our space-time continuum, and therefore experience existence as a single timeless, everlasting moment. Their fall (for those that did so) constitutes the sum total of their being.

What is symbiotic about our relationship Bob is you correct me when I act like an asshole & I correct your innocent minor Theological mistakes.

Only God is timeless & eternal by definition and by nature. Angels & the blessed in Heaven dwell in what is called Sempiternity.

OTOH I would not exclude from our perspective it is more like a created equivalent of a giant NOW to us.

Angels processed a greater capacity for Free Will then we have & thus had the power to self-temp.

That is at least how I remember it.

For more info consult a professional Scholastic Theologian.

>Bob, the obvious rejoinder is that unborn babies haven't had actually sinned yet, whereas all those other people you mentioned have.

The counter rejoinder is "So does that mean Jesus didn't die for any Infants & children who die before the age of reason & they don't really have Christ as their savior & they obtain Heaven by their own merits?"

We don't believe in Pelagianism(salvation by human merit). The Bible, Saint Paul, Council of Trent Session Six, and even our Protestant Brothers condemn such mishegoss.

We are born in original sin which is we are born in a natural state without supernatural saving grace & as taught by the First Letter of Peter Baptism takes away sin.

Even infant children need to be purged of at least original sin.

The Church has taught it is possible for un-baptised children to receive extra-ordinary Grace extra-sacramentally. OTOH if they don't then they dwell in a state of perfect natural happyness we call Limbo.

I personally don't believe in Limbo but I don't discount it's existence & I won't risk allowing any child to die without baptism if I can intervene.

God can save whom he wants & if he wants to save non-Christian who for no fault of their own fail to believe and accept Christ & His Church who am I to argue?

As Jesus said to the Apostles "What is that to you? You Follow me!".

Matteo said...

One thing is for sure: No one will be forced into Heaven against his own will.

oozzielionel said...

There is a logical necessity for soteriological exclusivism. If everyone is saved, then no one is saved. If everyone is saved, there was never anything to be saved from.

Crude said...

There is a logical necessity for soteriological exclusivism. If everyone is saved, then no one is saved. If everyone is saved, there was never anything to be saved from.

Not at all. Even by those platitudes you just repeated, all that requires is exclusivism of some kind - not necessarily soteriological.

And those platitudes are just bonkers. So if a ship is sinking and everyone on board is saved, they weren't actually saved? Someone had to have died? The ship was never sinking?

toddes said...

ingx24,

Look at the last years of Jeffrey Dahmer? If he was sincere in his repentance, he will be among the saved. How does this fit with a cruel God?

God is 'infinite'. Sin is a 'crime' against God. How can this not be an infinite crime? Yet God provides a way to have this sin removed as though it never occurred. How is this cruel?

toddes said...

Bob,

I see your questioning as loaded. If you change it to (just off the top of my head):

"Will those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior be damned?

Or

"Will those who continue unrepentantly in their sins against God be damned?"

then the 'except fors' fall away.

As for those who have not heard the gospel, thank God He will judging them and not us. However, as we are told, it is much better for those who have heard the gospel and accepted it.

im-skeptical said...

"God is 'infinite'. Sin is a 'crime' against God. How can this not be an infinite crime? Yet God provides a way to have this sin removed as though it never occurred. How is this cruel?"

My 'sin' is using the mind that I have. The gospel stories are simply not believable. That may be because my mind is defective or because the stories are bullshit. Either way, there is no willful rejection of god. Nobody, no matter how stupid or how evil they might be, would reject eternity in paradise in favor of hell.

B. Prokop said...

"I see your questioning as loaded."

You are correct in seeing it that way. It was loaded by intention, to get the target audience to see things from a new perspective. Your proposed questions invite no re-thinking, no second looks at one's preconceptions.

Speaking of conception, it was my own daughter's rather bizarre question about twins that upset my whole applecart as to when "human life" begins. She asked (in all innocence, really wanting to know) the following:

1. Twins begin in the womb as a single fertilized egg.

2. This egg than proceeds to divide and subdivide, as usual.

3. Then, (for still unknown reasons), the growing mass of cells will split apart into two separate masses, which in turn continue dividing and subdividing until eventually we have two fetuses, and not one.

So: Prior to the "great split" (and immediately after conception), did we have two human beings crammed into a single cell, which then each claimed its share of cells after splitting apart? Or did we have one human being, and a second one came into existence after the split? Or did the one initial human being itself split into two, along with the cell mass?

Excellent questions, to which I have never heard a satisfactory answer.

B. Prokop said...

"Nobody, no matter how stupid or how evil they might be, would reject eternity in paradise in favor of hell."

Really? Don't be so sure. I personally have heard people tell me, "If getting to Heaven requires [fill in the blank], then I'd rather be in Hell." Or "If Heaven is full of Christians, I want no part of it."

Walter said...

Really? Don't be so sure. I personally have heard people tell me, "If getting to Heaven requires [fill in the blank], then I'd rather be in Hell." Or "If Heaven is full of Christians, I want no part of it."

I would bet that the people who say those things don't actually believe in the existence of either place. If confronted with a real choice of eternal bliss or eternal torment, no sane person would choose torment. And let's be clear, even if there is no physical torture going on in Hell, the biblical depiction of Hell is one of extreme torment and anguish for those who populate it.

Crude said...

I would bet that the people who say those things don't actually believe in the existence of either place. If confronted with a real choice of eternal bliss or eternal torment, no sane person would choose torment.

Depends on the 'torment'. Depends on what 'sane' is.

Samwell Barnes said...

"Soteriological exclusivism" is obviously nonsense. Not only is it viscerally repulsive, but it does no justice to the complexity of the fallen world and makes Gnu Atheist arguments like those of Dick Dawkins suddenly seem penetrating and profound.

Jews in the Holocaust? A random island tribe wiped out in the Indian Ocean tsunami? Every last one of them burns in Hell, apparently. God got them all on petty technicalities.

Syllabus said...

I would bet that the people who say those things don't actually believe in the existence of either place. If confronted with a real choice of eternal bliss or eternal torment, no sane person would choose torment.

Well, that depends upon whether the bliss and torment are actual, concrete places or positions, or whether they are the product of certain types of mindsets or perspectives.

Walter said...


Well, that depends upon whether the bliss and torment are actual, concrete places or positions, or whether they are the product of certain types of mindsets or perspectives.


I would imagine that a wrathful and omnipotent deity can easily ensure that the experience of Hell remains a fairly unpleasant experience for each and every individual who is counted among the damned, regardless of their psychological disposition.

Syllabus said...

I would imagine that a wrathful and omnipotent deity can easily ensure that the experience of Hell remains a fairly unpleasant experience for each and every individual who is counted among the damned, regardless of their psychological disposition.

I suppose a certain type of deity might very well bring such a thing about. But that is not the point. Rather, the point is that certain kinds of mindsets will produce certain types of reactions - either pleasurable or unpleasurable - when placed in the exact same set of circumstances. These states will be conditioned by the psychology of the particular person.

B. Prokop said...

It is considered amongst certain of the great Doctors of the Church that Heaven and Hell are in fact the identical "place", and that it is the reaction of each individual soul to this state which makes of it either Paradise or Torment.

Thus, it is not a matter of a "wrathful and omnipotent deity" causing Hell to be a "fairly unpleasant experience" but of the person himself making a Hell of Heaven. (Read Lewis's treatment of the dwarves at the end of The Last Battle, where they obstinately refuse to accept any of the great and wonderful things they are presented with.)

Walter said...

Rather, the point is that certain kinds of mindsets will produce certain types of reactions - either pleasurable or unpleasurable - when placed in the exact same set of circumstances. These states will be conditioned by the psychology of the particular person.

Are you implying that based on the psychological state of the resurrected individual that the Christian Hell might actually be pleasant for some of the damned? Will Heaven turn out to be pretty unpleasant for some of the redeemed based on their own individual proclivities?

As a Christian I was taught that Hell is an active punishment administered by an angry God, and not just a poor outcome that results from a person who makes the wrong choice when God asks him or her where they want to spend eternity. So if Hell is an active punishment, then it seems reasonable that the punishment will be such that none of the damned will find it the least bit agreeable.

B. Prokop said...

"As a Christian I was taught that Hell is an active punishment administered by an angry God"

If so, you were sadly misinformed, and it is small wonder that you no longer consider yourself a Christian. If I were taught such bilgewater, I'd probably have jumped ship myself.

Heaven and Hell are choices. Again, to cite Lewis (this is, after all, a website about Lewis), no one enters Hell except under his own steam (probably misquoted) from The Dark Tower, and the gates of Hell are locked from the inside (numerous places).

Syllabus said...

Are you implying that based on the psychological state of the resurrected individual that the Christian Hell might actually be pleasant for some of the damned? Will Heaven turn out to be pretty unpleasant for some of the redeemed based on their own individual proclivities?

No. What I think is related to what Bob said. There is only one eschatological 'location': the renewed and restored cosmos. The experience of that location will be different for, to use the crude terminology, the 'saved' and the 'damned', based on the different type of character each person in those 'categories' has cultivated.

As a Christian I was taught that Hell is an active punishment administered by an angry God, and not just a poor outcome that results from a person who makes the wrong choice when God asks him or her where they want to spend eternity.

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that you were taught that by evangelical Protestants or Baptists. My position on the subject is more reminiscent of that taught by the Eastern Orthodox.

And it's not just 'a' wrong choice. It's the result of a series of wrong choices. Think of it as similar to what Aristotle talks about in the Ethics: creating the sort of character which will be 'saved' or 'damned' is a matter of habituation, and of repeated action.

So if Hell is an active punishment, then it seems reasonable that the punishment will be such that none of the damned will find it the least bit agreeable.

They won't find what they experience pleasurable in the least, but I don't think that the external reality of what the saved and the damned are experiencing is different; the difference lies in the particular person doing the experiencing.

My point is that to think of the final state as 'Heaven' or 'Hell' is a crude bifurcation. It is my position that we call Heaven and Hell are different experiences of the presence of God, based upon the subject who is doing the experiencing. It's similar to saying that one person will enjoy very much a recital of Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 (or a U2 concert, or the circus, or whatever), while another will find it dull and unbearable. There is only one 'event' or 'place', but two different ways to experience that event.

BenYachov said...

>"Soteriological exclusivism" is obviously nonsense.

Every heresy or error is usually a truth exaggerated to an extreme or diminished to a defect.

Soteriological exclusivism is truth in so far as it teaches only Jesus is the way to Heaven & it refutes the error of religious indifferentism which teaches God doesn't really care what religion we believe as long as we are "good people".

But it is in error in that it assumes God has no means to save those who fail to believe threw no real moral fault of their own. It also fails in automatically judging that all who where not formal visible Christians in life must have been damned at death.

But to be fair not too many exclusivists often fail to distinguish between inclusivists who are orthodox vs indifferentists who are not.


BenYachov said...

Ah the classic Eastern Church's view of Hell.

Good stuff!

I read the late bishop Timothy Ware on the subject.

What fuels Hell is the love of a God you now cannot help but hate & that love is like a knife in your soul.

In my darker moments in life I've had people I can't stand be really nice to me and it was like a knife in my pride.

Like trying to show affection toward a naughty child.

The child hates it worst than a spanking.

As for pleasure in Hell I might agree with Mister Eckart that even the damned take some joy in being.

Since having being is the one unconditional good they have left having lost every other & not being able to repent.

BenYachov said...

BTW that video with Prof Stump in it was priceless.
Very classic theism! The true God of Abraham & Aquinas being witnessed!


As she said "Hell is not God's torture chamber".

The paradox of Hell is it is simultaneously not that bad & at the same time much worst!

Appart from the pain of loss in regards to the Beatific Vision the second most horrible pain is the knowledge you didn't have to wind up there and your present fate is 100% your fault and there is no way to blame God for it.

I think I'd prefer the Clive Barker version to that level of honest clarity.

ingx24 said...

Ben:

That's part of the problem: Once you've died, you're no longer able to repent even if you want to. If God was truly loving He wouldn't condemn people to eternal separation from Him and either ignore their pleas for forgiveness or freeze their will so that they are unable to repent. That's just cruelty. At the very least God should at least put them out of their misery by annihilating them so they don't have to live for eternity hating themselves for blowing their chances.

im-skeptical said...

"What fuels Hell is the love of a God you now cannot help but hate & that love is like a knife in your soul."

I'm trying to understand this.

During our time on earth, he makes no effort to show us his wonderful love, or let us know for sure what he wants for us.

So we exercise the little gray cells (to the extent that we can), and decide there's no good evidence he exists.

Now we step through the gates of eternity, and there he is, all full of love. So at last he shows his loves for us but at the same time, knows that love will be experienced as torment, so his love is really nothing more than a cruel mockery ... because he's such a wonderful guy.

I'm trying to understand this, but it's difficult.

B. Prokop said...

"I'm trying to understand this."

If you truly were, Skep, you'd drop your science (trademark) texts for a month or two and confine your reading to some really good poetry. Start with T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, take in Walt Whitman's Passage to India, move along to Melville's Moby Dick (not poetry, but reads like it), and top it off with Charles Williams's Arthurian poetry.

mattghg said...

Ben (and Bob),

The counter rejoinder is "So does that mean Jesus didn't die for any Infants & children who die before the age of reason & they don't really have Christ as their savior

No. I'm simply pointing out that there is a clear and motivated distinction between those who have actually personally sinned and those who haven't; so, Bob's 'slippery slope' between the unborn and the other categories he mentions is about as slippery as a piece of sandpaper coated in superglue.

& they obtain Heaven by their own merits?"

We don't believe in Pelagianism(salvation by human merit). The Bible, Saint Paul, Council of Trent Session Six, and even our Protestant Brothers condemn such mishegoss.


Calm down. No-one is advocating Pelagianism. (It's also amusing that you say 'even' Protestants reject Pelagianism, when the standard Protestant critique of RC Theology is that it's semi-Pelagian).

God can save whom he wants & if he wants to save non-Christian who for no fault of their own fail to believe and accept Christ & His Church who am I to argue?

I do not suggest that anyone argues with God about anything. But in the case of 'those who have never heard of Christ, those raised in other faiths, sincere atheists, etc., etc.', the Biblical evidence is frankly against this happening.

Walter said...

If I understood what Eleanor Stump was saying in her video, she believes that we receive full epistemic clarity in our resurrected state, so that when we stand before the Judge we can make a fully informed decision as to whether we choose "the Good" or not. What she is saying doesn't seem to be based in any Christian scripture that I am aware of, but the idea of a post-mortem offer of salvation to individuals who are in full possession of the facts sounds a lot fairer than a deity who determines our ultimate fate based on propositional beliefs that we held while seeing through a glass darkly.

im-skeptical said...

"drop your science (trademark) texts for a month or two and confine your reading to some really good poetry"

Great literature aside, it's still hard to understand the logic of hell, at least for someone who wants to make sense it.

toddes said...

Bob,

Ben has already touched on this so I will only add this minutia. The problem isn't with soteriological exclusivism (salvation by grace through Christ alone) but with our limited understanding of how this works.

Ultimately, Christ will claim His own.

BenYachov said...

@ingx24

>That's part of the problem: Once you've died, you're no longer able to repent even if you want to.

That is logically absurd. You can no longer want repentance so you are not being cruelly denied something you truly want & you can't really want it? So there is no problem. A baby can't will to receive Grace but he can't will to reject it either. With the damned OTOH. You are talking beings who have willed to reject Grace & you are proposing forcing something on them against their will thus whipping out their selves on a fundamental level. You might as well just un-make them it's the same thing. I don't see how that is "kind"?

>If God was truly loving He wouldn't condemn people to eternal separation from Him and either ignore their pleas for forgiveness or freeze their will so that they are unable to repent.

Your extreme voluntarist view of Free Will is just wrong(God is the cause of Free Will. It's a mystery). As is your false Theistic Personalist "god" who is somehow conceived to have obligations to His creation. An anthropomorphic "god" who negates "myself" and forces my love after I have chosen otherwise is nothing more than a cosmic spiritual rapist.

>That's just cruelty. At the very least God should at least put them out of their misery by annihilating them so they don't have to live for eternity hating themselves for blowing their chances.

No what you are suggesting is real cruelty. The only things the damned have left are their being and selves. They have chosen disordered love of self over God and you would take all they have left away from them? How is that kind again? I firmly believe the damned given the choice would not give away all they have left.

Never the less this is all irrelevant. Your anthropomorphic "god" doesn't exist and it is not the God of the ancient Rabbis, Christians, Church Fathers and Mystics. Same with your anthropomorphic Clive Barker view of "hell" as God's cosmic torture chamber.

You are just not on the same page with me & the God & Hell you don't believe in I simply don't believes in either.

I would bet Bob mostly agrees with me here.

BenYachov said...

>>"What fuels Hell is the love of a God you now cannot help but hate & that love is like a knife in your soul."

>I'm trying to understand this.

I should know better to respond since IM tasks even Bob's great patience & I have an order of magnitude less patience than Bob.

Dude it's not hard. You have never been shown kindness or affection from a person you couldn't stand? When that happens you never felt like that affection feels like daggers in your back? If you don't understand that they you must be a Pollyanna who likes everybody.

I have no such experience so this makes perfect sense to me. Take the above idea and apply it to God. Being loved by a God you can't help but hate really sucks.

BenYachov said...

>No. I'm simply pointing out that there is a clear and motivated distinction between those who have actually personally sinned and those who haven't; so, Bob's 'slippery slope' between the unborn and the other categories he mentions is about as slippery as a piece of sandpaper coated in superglue.

Then you are not really giving a rejoinder to Bob. Since what you originally said still implies sinless infants don't really need a savior since they haven't sinned Which is absurd everyone needs a savior event the Blessed Mary Ever Virgin if I believe Pius IX and of course I do.

>Calm down. No-one is advocating Pelagianism. (It's also amusing that you say 'even' Protestants reject Pelagianism, when the standard Protestant critique of RC Theology is that it's semi-Pelagian).

Tongue in cheek. Actually when you cite actual Church dogmatic statements on the Theology of Salvation & Justification Protestants will even retreat from the semi-Pelagian charge since it makes about as much sense as accusing the Church of denying the Trinity. They will then regroup with a novel term they made up called "semi-semit-Pelagianism" because they don't want to just admit the Catholic Church doesn't really teach "works salvation" but condemns it as She does clearly in the Council of Trent Session Six Canon One.

>I do not suggest that anyone argues with God about anything. But in the case of 'those who have never heard of Christ, those raised in other faiths, sincere atheists, etc., etc.', the Biblical evidence is frankly against this happening.

Rather your clearly fallible interpretation of the Bible verses my Church's allegedly fallible interpretation is against this happening(besides there are Protestant Inclusivists who agree with us). In which case there is no motivation for me to pick your opinion on what the Bible really means over the Pope's.

OTOH if the Pope is the successor to Peter and the Catholic Church is the True Church it would be spiritual suicide for me to accept you interpretation. Just like it would be if I accept the interpretation of Arius, Nestorius, or Martin Luther. contra the Church.

BenYachov said...

@Walter

>If I understood what Eleanor Stump was saying in her video, she believes that we receive full epistemic clarity in our resurrected state,

I thought she was talking about at the moment between life and death?

>so that when we stand before the Judge we can make a fully informed decision as to whether we choose "the Good" or not. What she is saying doesn't seem to be based in any Christian scripture that I am aware of, but the idea of a post-mortem offer of salvation to individuals who are in full possession of the facts sounds a lot fairer than a deity who determines our ultimate fate based on propositional beliefs that we held while seeing through a glass darkly.

You killing me Walter. Stump is a Catholic like Bob and moi. We don't believe in Sola Scriptura or Perspicuity or the rest of the that Reformation stuff.

She is making a valid theological inference from Scripture and Tradition.

That having been said the rest of your analysis I agree with. God is infinitely fair after all. One of the problems with some forms of restrictionism is it seems to condemn persons for things that logically can't be their fault.

Still Pius the IX said it best. The fact there might be non-believers by negation who are saved by extraordinary grace should not be used as an excuse not to preach the gospel.

Syllabus said...

Actually when you cite actual Church dogmatic statements on the Theology of Salvation & Justification Protestants will even retreat from the semi-Pelagian charge since it makes about as much sense as accusing the Church of denying the Trinity. They will then regroup with a novel term they made up called "semi-semit-Pelagianism" because they don't want to just admit the Catholic Church doesn't really teach "works salvation" but condemns it as She does clearly in the Council of Trent Session Six Canon One.

Additionally, even if one were to accept the position that the RCC teaches a variant of semi-Pelagianism, one might then - because of the Joint Declaration of 1999 - have to conclude that the Lutherans also teach semi-Pelagianism. Which I doubt is something any orthodox Protestant would be willing to do.

B. Prokop said...

Well, the Church has always held that each individual will face two judgments after death: the Particular Judgment at the instant of death, and the General Judgment at the End of Time. I would imagine that Ms. Stump was speaking of the Particular Judgment.

ingx24 said...

Ben,

Perhaps I am misunderstanding. I have heard you say that the will is "frozen" after death so that those in separation from God cannot change their minds or even want to change their minds. Why is this?

BenYachov said...

>I have heard you say that the will is "frozen" after death so that those in separation from God cannot change their minds or even want to change their minds. Why is this?

Was this a past thread because I didn't right that here?

Well it doesn't matter.

Read this it should answer your questions. Note that the will is a faculty of the soul.

http://www.thesumma.info/reality/reality45.php

im-skeptical said...

Ben,

" Being loved by a God you can't help but hate really sucks."

Yes, I get it. It's painful. What I don't get is the big picture. Why the need for all that pain? Here's an idea: our loving creator lets us live for a while on earth (I guess because we need that experience so we can spend all of eternity doing nothing but basking in his glory), and if we somehow fail to make the grade, he gives us a nudge, or he teaches us the right way to live until we finally pass. Then we can move on and everybody is happy.

Please tell me how my plan would not be as good as the one that has a lot of people suffering in hell.

Walter said...

Well, the Church has always held that each individual will face two judgments after death: the Particular Judgment at the instant of death, and the General Judgment at the End of Time. I would imagine that Ms. Stump was speaking of the Particular Judgment.

Two separate judgments was not a tenet of my former evangelical faith, so I guess I misunderstood her here. What good is epistemic clarity at the moment of death when it arrives too late to make a difference and has no bearing whatsoever on the outcome of God's particular judgment?

Walter said...

"As a Christian I was taught that Hell is an active punishment administered by an angry God"

Bob Prokop: If so, you were sadly misinformed, and it is small wonder that you no longer consider yourself a Christian. If I were taught such bilgewater, I'd probably have jumped ship myself.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

There is a hell, i.e. all those who die in personal mortal sin, as enemies of God, and unworthy of eternal life, will be severely punished by God after death.

Where is hell? Some were of opinion that hell is everywhere, that the damned are at liberty to roam about in the entire universe, but that they carry their punishment with them. The adherents of this doctrine were called Ubiquists, or Ubiquitarians; among them were, e.g., Johann Brenz, a Swabian, a Protestant theologian of the sixteenth century. However, that opinion is universally and deservedly rejected; for it is more in keeping with their state of punishment that the damned be limited in their movements and confined to a definite place.

Doesn't sound like Heaven and Hell are the same place.

The pain of Hell: The poena sensus, or pain of sense, consists in the torment of fire so frequently mentioned in the Holy Bible. According to the greater number of theologians the term fire denotes a material fire, and so a real fire. We hold to this teaching as absolutely true and correct.

All of this sounds awfully close to the bilgewater that would cause even Bob to jump ship.

B. Prokop said...

Walter,

The online Catholic Encyclopedia was written prior to the First World War, and often expresses things in ways that no one in their right mind would do today.

(Be nice to me for saying this, Ben!)

Crude said...

To add in a comment about the Catholic Encylopedia - not everything in it is dogma, nor is it even expressed as dogma. Hence you have reference to the opinions of theologians, etc.

Not that I think this impacts anyone's arguments here in either direction. Just a point of clarification.

Rasmus Møller said...

>Read this it should answer your questions. Note that the will is a faculty of the soul.

>http://www.thesumma.info/reality/reality45.php

thanks for the link, but a new confusion arises in me:

We believe in the resurrection of the body/flesh - according to the link you gave, the possibility of repentance / change of will is linked to the soul being unified with the body. Why don't we then get the possibilty of repentance back when we are resurrected?

BenYachov said...

>Please tell me how my plan would not be as good as the one that has a lot of people suffering in hell.

How do you it might be many/some of these people will refuse to change in spite of all the nudging and keep resist said nudging forever?

What do you do with those people? You must have a place or state for the eternally obstinate?

It seems to me what you are proposing we already have.

We do have truly sufficient grace in this lifetime for Heaven. But we also have the power to be obstinate forever.



BenYachov said...

>The online Catholic Encyclopedia was written prior to the First World War, and often expresses things in ways that no one in their right mind would do today.

I actually agree with you. The CE's is bias toward specific schools within the Church but it doesn't constitute the last word.

OTOH reading your modern concepts into it's old school language is a mistake modern ex-Evangelicals(who by definition knew little of Catholicism when they believed their limited Christian religion).

im-skeptical said...

"It seems to me what you are proposing we already have."

I don't think so. The Hindu concept is that people keep trying until they finally reach a state of transcendence. If it takes forever, so be it. It seems far more reasonable than the Christian concept. Not only is there no need for hell, but in the long run, everybody gets the opportunity to grow in spirit until they achieve success, and everybody should eventually get there.

BenYachov said...

@Walter

>There is a hell, i.e. all those who die in personal mortal sin, as enemies of God, and unworthy of eternal life, will beseverely punished by God after death.

This is not incompatible with what Bob said. Hell is a consequence of your evil actions. If I refuse to eat the banquet in front of me then I am an enemy of the Chief, I show I am unworthy of being full & I will severely starve.

God is the formal cause of out punishment because our nature is created to love and know him & we are setting our wills against nature and suffering the consequences. God gave us a nature to eat it is only just we starve if we refuse to eat. God formally causes our starvation in that he gave us a nature to eat.

>Doesn't sound like Heaven and Hell are the same place.

QUOTE"The Church has decided nothing on this subject;" You missed that part there Walter. The idea Hell is everywhere/omnipresent is justly condemned but not the idea a damned soul carries Hell with him everywhere or rather carries his lack of the Beatific Vision.

>The pain of Hell: The poena sensus, or pain of sense, consists in the torment of fire so frequently mentioned in the Holy Bible. According to the greater number of theologians the term fire denotes a material fire, and so a real fire. We hold to this teaching as absolutely true and correct.

>All of this sounds awfully close to the bilgewater that would cause even Bob to jump ship.

Walter you misquote & prooftext Catholic documents like the typical Chick Tracts reading fundie. I am disappointed in you.

QUOTE"The poena damni, or pain of loss, consists in the loss of the beatific vision and in so complete a separation of all the powers of the soul from God that it cannot find in Him even the least peace and rest."END QUOTE

Note in terms of the poena sensus it gives the views of Theologians not the judgement of the Church. I've never denied there is pain of sensation in Hell but that is clearly not the worst pain. Loss of the Vision of God is the worst.
If anything the poena sensus are a mercy in that they might distract you from the poena damni which is much worst.

As I said before a fate where you experience the Poena sensus(i.e. feeling every other agony in Hell) but had the beatific vision would be preferred rather then if you had every other joy of Heaven without the Beatific vision.

BenYachov said...

>I don't think so. The Hindu concept is that people keep trying until they finally reach a state of transcendence.

Works salvation/Pelagian doctrine. I though we where discussing Ancient Christian teaching? You don't earn Heaven by your own works. St Paul & the Council of Trent Session Six Canon One are very clear.

So your objection is not Hell but the doctrine of Grace & you are equivocating.

> If it takes forever, so be it. It seems far more reasonable than the Christian concept. Not only is there no need for hell, but in the long run, everybody gets the opportunity to grow in spirit until they achieve success, and everybody should eventually get there.

Logically it seems there is a possibility of those who may never obtain it because they consistently choose to reject the good.

If we believe in the Molinist Concept of divine Middle Knowledge we identify those people right away & send them on their way.

im-skeptical said...

If we believe in the Molinist Concept of divine Middle Knowledge (basically omniscience) we might as well not create the bad ones in the first place. In fact why even bother with this world at all? Just create good souls and place then directly in heaven so they can adore you.

Walter said...

Walter you misquote & prooftext Catholic documents like the typical Chick Tracts reading fundie. I am disappointed in you.

I am sorry that I disappointed you. I did not quote the entire entry on Hell, but I certainly did not misquote anything. I pointed out that what Bob considers to be a bullshit evangelical teaching on Hell is not that far removed from what a large contingent of Catholic theologians apparently believed at the time the C.E. was originally penned.

My opinion is that many Christians today are just uncomfortable with the old-school belief in a God who takes an active role in sending souls to a place of eternal torment. The picture of God as a stern judge has been replaced with a more sensitive one where God is just a sad observer who reluctantly and passively allows people to end up in Hell. My former church was quasi-Calvinistic, so our perspective on God and Hell aligned more closely with Jonathan Edwards than with C.S. Lewis.

Anyway, this is an intramural debate between Christians, so I should probably stay the hell out of it.


BenYachov said...

>If we believe in the Molinist Concept of divine Middle Knowledge (basically omniscience) we might as well not create the bad ones in the first place.

Why not? As long as they have being they are good and by virtual of the fact they have being they participate in goodness. Evil is after all privation. So technically God never creates "bad" souls & there is no soul so good God is obligated to create it & none so bad that as long as it participates in Goodness that He must refrain from creating it.

Essentially the idea God must or will only create the "best of all possible worlds" is Paley bullshit.
Same goes for souls.

> In fact why even bother with this world at all? Just create good souls and place then directly in heaven so they can adore you.

You are such a fundie. As if God needs to create? He doesn't. As I mentioned even creating souls who will freely & exclusively choose evil(thought they have sufficient grace to do otherwise) give them the good of mere being which they could not give themselves.

BenYachov said...

>I am sorry that I disappointed you. I did not quote the entire entry on Hell, but I certainly did not misquote anything.

Then you are guilty of careless omission wither intentionally or unintentionally.

> I pointed out that what Bob considers to be a bullshit evangelical teaching on Hell is not that far removed from what a large contingent of Catholic theologians apparently believed at the time the C.E. was originally penned.

Sorry but even those theologians would say the ultimate surfing in Hell has little to do with the pain of sense but the pain of damnation(loss of the vision of God). Many Evangelicals(not all, Mystics excluded) have a sensious view of the afterlife that downplays the spiritual. That I think is Bob's point. He is a Catholic after all and in my experience spends most of his time trying to think like one. Hell is not God's torture chamber. Get over it. the spiritual pain is the true horror of Hell the pain of sense is a party by comparison.

Beside Evangelicals just have the consensus of Theologians or the opinion of a specific pastor as their authority. We Catholics have the Church and Tradition. It's richer than that poverty. The options of Theologicans don't carry the weight of the Church.


>My opinion is that many Christians today are just uncomfortable with the old-school belief in a God who takes an activerole in sending souls to a place of eternal torment.

Presupposing the whole of Catholic doctrine NOTHING you quoted shows a"belief in a God who takes an activerole in sending souls to a place of eternal torment." according to some Calvinist model you have in the the back of your head. God infallibly knows who qualifies for Hell & acts accordingly when faced with final impotence.

> The picture of God as a stern judge has been replaced with a more sensitive one where God is just a sad observer who reluctantly and passively allows people to end up in Hell.

Clearly you haven't read a single Eastern Father or mystic in your life.

> My former church was quasi-Calvinistic, so our perspective on God and Hell aligned more closely with Jonathan Edwards than with C.S. Lewis.

Of course and thus you read the CE citations threw the interpretive lens of Calvinism not Catholicism! So reading Catholic documents using a Calvinist hermeneutic is convincing how?

I have news for you Walter. Catholics, Lutherans, Evangelicals, & Calvinists all use the term Justification. But we all don't mean the same thing by it.

>Anyway, this is an intramural debate between Christians, so I should probably stay the hell out of it.

That is wise. Walter I may have told you this before but I will tell you again. Stop reading Protestantism into our Catholic Faith.

It is so gauche.

Walter said...

Yachov,

You missed an opportunity to censure me about the evils of Theistic Personalism while you were on your Pro-catholic soapbox. You are slipping, my friend.

BenYachov said...

>You missed an opportunity to censure me about the evils of Theistic Personalism while you were on your Pro-catholic soapbox. You are slipping, my friend.

Then I must be getting old.

Twilight is upon me & night must fall!

Or I can just watch Twilight with a Rifttrax.

Jason Pratt said...

Running a few days late, and won't actually comment on the thread; but Victor knows there aren't many bigger fans of Lewis than I am, and for the past 13 or 14 years I've thought he was way off the mark on trying to position hell as something God has no active part in. I largely agree with his reasons for thinking he had to go that way -- but it required him to flatly contradict other portions of his theology (even from one chapter to another in TPoP), and requires at least a radical (and for Lewis largely tacit) re-interpretation of Biblical testimony to mean something fundamentally different than they seem to mean about God's active enforcement and participation in post-mortem punishment.

Put shortly, it's weird that Lewis would think he had to call what he thought was the clear teaching of Jesus over-against what Lewis thought was the equally clear face value teaching of Paul (in favor of Christian universalism! -- Lewis was on record a couple of places saying that if we only had Paul's epistles Christianity would be universalistic), and yet Lewis kept having to avoid the equally apparently clear teaching of Jesus that God (including Jesus personally) was actively involved in final punishment.

Anyway, I wrote a couple of essays on the topic (a longer one in spring 2011, and a shorter sequel followup this spring 2013), which Victor as a fellow Lewis scholar might be interested in. I even happened to be collecting them together in one thread this morning for future convenience! (And then checked in on DangIdea afterward which I hadn't done in a while. Yay providentiality?)

JRP