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5/04/2018 11:57 pm  #1


Trouble with Hell/Sin

Hello,

​For those of you who are Christians (especially Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox), I have a few questions to ask, 
1) Do you ever have disagreements about the concept of eternal damnation? Or about the concept of "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" if you are Catholic (by the way, is there anything comparable in Eastern Orthodoxy)?
​2) How do people argue for which "account" of sin is right? For example, how would one decide whether Augustine's view is correct vs. the Eastern Orthodox view on sin? I feel like many things hinge on this....
​3) Has anyone seen this video by David Bentley Hart? I'm just starting to delve into philosophy/theology so his confidence can come across as persuasive, but his argument could still be faulty. What do you make of it?



Thanks for your help,

Evander

 

5/05/2018 5:11 pm  #2


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

I haven't watched the video, but I'll just say some things about universalism.

I've had difficulties in the past, and I can understand why someone would find universalism attractive, even though I do not affirm it and, as a matter of fact, think it's very implausible. I think I find Balthasar's defense of a reasonable *hope* for universal salvation to be the best someone can do about it. But again, I find universalism to be very implausible, and that's entirely apart from theological controversy. I find it implausible for the very simple reason that some people really are downright evil and I could see them choosing to deny goodness, truth and beauty. When people defend universalism, I find that they usually do it out of a sense of empathy and care for really decent people whom we may fear could be damned. But what about the evil, remorseless murderers and sadistic rapists, and so on, that have plagued this world every now and then? I really just don't think it's plausible to say *ALL* people will be saved. And that's because "all" is, of course, a very inclusive word.

I don't have problems with extra ecclesiam because when correctly interpreted it doesn't mean that people who haven't been baptized as Catholics, etc. are all going to hell. Rather, it establishes that those who are saved are saved through the Church, to which they may be accepted by (for instance) a baptism of desire out of genuine desire or even ignorance, etc. I think it's fair to defend that a lot of people will be saved, including decent people who are not (for instance) outward Catholics, and different popes and theologians have allowed for such theological beliefs and discussions. But the possibility of eternal condemnation and the need for the sacraments remains in place, and is good for prudence and humility as well. However, there is surely reasonable hope that many, perhaps even most, will be saved, as I believe; and there certainly is hope for every individual that God may grant him mercy and grace even at the very last moments of life, so we must pray for all. But when it comes to universal salvation, even a version as careful and as modest as Balthasar's, I have to say I find it implausible because at least some people -- even if it's really just a few people -- truly seem like they'd rather go to hell than heaven. There is much evil in history: real, shocking evil for which is very hard, even if not impossible, to find redemption for.

Regardless of how many people are saved, universalism is a thesis that would require us to believe that, for instance, all serial killers would be ultimately saved. That Hitler, Stalin and Mao would all ultimately repent and be saved. Now, of course we shouldn't underestimate God's mercy and love, but I just find it implausible that all such men would repent. If someone is disturbed at the prospect of seemingly decent people going to hell, there are better and more orthodox ways to deal with that, I think.

 

5/06/2018 5:30 am  #3


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

It's a thing to say that someone would prefer going to hell when he'll die, it's an altogether another thing to say that he would prefer to stay eternally in hell.

I think that the majority of universalist doesn't deny the reality of hell: only its unlimited duration.

It seems to me that everyone got his limits, and ultimately, it seems very plausible to say that everyone will ultimately choose to stay with God.
Moreover, it's borderline unintelligible to say that someone may freely choose, on full knowledge, eternal misery and suffering. Given that free will is inherently teleological, and that agents choose on what they perceive as good, it seems illogical to say that someone wouldn't choose what is the source of goodness itself.

 

5/06/2018 7:40 am  #4


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

Ouros wrote:

It's a thing to say that someone would prefer going to hell when he'll die, it's an altogether another thing to say that he would prefer to stay eternally in hell.

I think that the majority of universalist doesn't deny the reality of hell: only its unlimited duration.

It seems to me that everyone got his limits, and ultimately, it seems very plausible to say that everyone will ultimately choose to stay with God.
Moreover, it's borderline unintelligible to say that someone may freely choose, on full knowledge, eternal misery and suffering. Given that free will is inherently teleological, and that agents choose on what they perceive as good, it seems illogical to say that someone wouldn't choose what is the source of goodness itself.

 
But they may still deserve eternal punishment nonetheless, on the basis of their choice for evil. An eternal hell can be a fitting punishment for horrible acts. Someone doesn't have to explicitly choose hell qua hell, but in choosing something truly abhorrent they can be deserving of an eternity of punishment, nothing less. And there are some such figures in history, to say the least.

Also, would it really be borderline unintelligible? Because it's also borderline unintelligible to me that someone may freely choose, on full knowledge, to sadistically rape, torture and murder an innocent human crying and begging for mercy. Yet some people have done that. True evil is radically unintelligible, and men are in fact capable of it. They do it on a horrifyingly warped perception of what is good for them, and the same could be the case for those choosing hell. It's not implausible to me, quite the contrary.

When you reallt look at human evil - truly grotesque human evil - I think it's very hard to deny eternal punishment.

Last edited by Miguel (5/06/2018 7:46 am)

 

5/06/2018 8:02 am  #5


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

Two points then:

* I don't think that someone deserve eternal punishment given a finite time on earth, even if he did something trully evil, like torturing innocent people. Obviously, he should be punished, and suffered how he made other suffered, but not more.
Yes, Himmler and other should rotten in hell for a very long time, probably billions of years. But! That shouldn't be unlimited in duration.

* I don't think either that what you call "true evil" really exist. I don't think that anyone did an evil for the sake of evil: the malicious take pleasure in an evil action, and pleasure is a good in itself.

In fact, I think that saying that "true evil" exist can be pretty dangerous for classical theism, because it seems to imply that evil is a concrete reality, which would mean that God is beyond good and evil, given that he's the source of everything.

 

5/06/2018 9:07 am  #6


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

Miguel wrote:

When you reallt look at human evil - truly grotesque human evil - I think it's very hard to deny eternal punishment.

By that same tokej i have grave reservations about the notion of punishment in general, that is Retroductive Justice.

If one accepts such an account of justice, and most people do, one is still faced with the problem that eternal punishment violates the principle of proportionality. This is one of those areas where Catholics tend to appeal to Original Sin (even if one has done nothing wrong warranting a proportional punishment one is still destined to Hell as communion with God is an additional gratuitous gift). Of course the experience of Hell might not be as bad for the blameless as it is for the guilty.

One might argue on these lines that punishment in Hell is in fact equivalent to that suffered in Purgatory (thus finite) with the addition that even when the specific punishment ceases the damned still experience universal sorrow over their separation from God. Thus the specific punishment aspect of Hell is finite where as the overall negative aspect is infinite.

Last edited by DanielCC (5/06/2018 12:43 pm)

 

5/06/2018 12:19 pm  #7


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

Ouros wrote:

Two points then:

* I don't think that someone deserve eternal punishment given a finite time on earth, even if he did something trully evil, like torturing innocent people. Obviously, he should be punished, and suffered how he made other suffered, but not more.
Yes, Himmler and other should rotten in hell for a very long time, probably billions of years. But! That shouldn't be unlimited in duration.

* I don't think either that what you call "true evil" really exist. I don't think that anyone did an evil for the sake of evil: the malicious take pleasure in an evil action, and pleasure is a good in itself.

In fact, I think that saying that "true evil" exist can be pretty dangerous for classical theism, because it seems to imply that evil is a concrete reality, which would mean that God is beyond good and evil, given that he's the source of everything.

 
On the first point, I don't think eternal punishment would be disproportionate to truly evil crimes. I understand the reasoning and motivation, but I don't buy it. I think it's plausible that a sadistic torturer, for instance, commits something that even if finite in length against his victim, is still evil in such a scale that it can deserve nothing less than eternal punishment. There are many dimensions to evil. We must also remember that these acts not only wrong the innocent, but first and foremost wrong God in the most frontal manner; they are crimes against infinite goodness itself. So I do think it's plausible that there have been crimes in history which deserve eternal punishment, contra universalism.

On the second point, I'm not saying that evil has a distinct metaphysical existence. It is obviously not on par with good. But nevertheless it is a reality; when someone sadistically tortures, rapes, and murders a innocent, defenseless person, for instance -- that's true evil, grotesque evil. And I also accept that someone would do such an action on the basis of a perceived good, such as pleasure. My point is that if someone's conception of the good is so monstrously warped to the point where they find it good to do such a despicable act, it's not implausible that their conception of the good would also be so monstrously warped to the point where they would willingly and pridefully insist on hateful separation from God, true goodness and beauty. And so they choose pain, darkness and hate over love and mercy; they eternally condemn themselves, eternally hate themselves and everything in existence. It would be one way to defend eternal punishment.

Last edited by Miguel (5/06/2018 12:24 pm)

 

5/06/2018 2:43 pm  #8


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

Miguel wrote:

On the first point, I don't think eternal punishment would be disproportionate to truly evil crimes. I understand the reasoning and motivation, but I don't buy it. I think it's plausible that a sadistic torturer, for instance, commits something that even if finite in length against his victim, is still evil in such a scale that it can deserve nothing less than eternal punishment. There are many dimensions to evil. We must also remember that these acts not only wrong the innocent, but first and foremost wrong God in the most frontal manner; they are crimes against infinite goodness itself.

A lot of the problems people have with an eternal Hell quickly go away if one does not have a view of Hell as an eternal torture chamber. Rather, the punishment of Hell is nothing more than shame for the sins one has commited.

Obviously, some would have more to be ashamed of than others, but the same principle applies to all since, if sin and evil are a reality, then shame would naturally follow as a consequence if such evil were to be punished. Heck, one doesn't even need to be directly punished in order to experience the consequences of one's sins, since all it takes for shame to occur is realising what one has actually done, especially if that happens before certain persons (i.e. God).


In this view, Hell exists in degrees, and those degrees are dependent on the sins one has commited throughout life, and any shame and suffering one has already experienced in this life may serve to lessen one's shame in eternity. Some Catholic theologians in the 19th century even speculated that the punishment of Hell gets lessened with time, never ending fully but being lessened, thus providing an even more merciful view of Hell.

Perhaps we could even make an  a priori  argument in favour of Hell on the basis of it being simply the consequences of one's sins, i.e. shame. Maybe this could even explain the justice of Hell and make it easily acceptable to modern people, without having to wait for, say, the Beatific Vision in order to see how it all makes sense.


So if we combine the view of Hell as being simply shame for the sins one has commited (such shame not even being that bad for some people) along with the view of the punishment of Hell decreasing over time, though never completely stopping, we could end up with a view of Hell that is much more easily acceptable and understandable for people, and thus defangs a lot of the concerns and objections universalists have with it.

 

5/07/2018 11:19 am  #9


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

I would add to my post the following consideration: what if it is better to exist in hell than to not exist at all? As strange as it might sound to someone unaware of theological literature, this is a classical view going back to Augustine.

http://alexanderpruss.blogspot.com.br/2011/03/common-mistake-about-hell.html

As bad as hell can be, it is still better for the damned to exist than for them to not exist. That's something else to keep in mind when discussing universalism.

 

5/10/2018 9:51 am  #10


Re: Trouble with Hell/Sin

Here is a summary of the video given by a commenter:

“This is brilliant, but the language is a little opaque. I suppose I'd summarise the key idea as follows: God's choice to create was a free choice - we do not worship a Pantheistic God who is part of Nature, or a god who is one among many -  we worship a God 'ontologically distinct' from creation, to use Hart's language. And we also worship a wholly good God. In this context, we must ask: is the eternal suffering of one creature, or even the 'risk' of the eternal suffering of one creature (for when the dice is thrown, that which is hazarded has already been surrendered) a wholly good choice of a wholly free being? Hart asks if the saved shouldn't see this creature as the scape-goat they could have been, their Christ? The doctrines of creation ex nihilio, of the goodness of God, and of the eternal damnation of any soul, are inconsistent, for how can creation be a good, free choice, if it is the choice to damn some (or to risk the damnation of some - again, this doesn't change the situation at all.) Hart stresses that this in some sense the 'infinite' evil of eternal damnation poses a far greater problem than the evil we see around us today: that while it may be possible that the future hope of the kingdom of God can somehow 'justify' temporary suffering, the same argument cannot be used to justify eternal suffering. He also insists that his universalism is linked to creation ex nihilio: if God's choice to create were not free, then perhaps he could reasonably settle for second best. But precisely because it was a free choice, God is morally responsible for every part of His creation. Finally, Hart insists his goal is not to judge God - he is merely questioning the validity of calling something 'good' which is clearly anything but good. When we talk of God, it is always in analogy, and words often only have limited meaning: but their meaning with regard to God should never be transparently opposite the meaning we would normally understand.”

If this is a proper summary, then what seems to be the problem with Hart’s view? I’m not sure about his exact views regarding one’s post mortem experience, however I believe that he would fall under the general category of a “purgatorial universalist”.

Also, wouldn’t the damnation of demons pose a problem for Hart? What’s the difference between them and humans who would be damned?

Last edited by Evander (5/10/2018 9:51 am)

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