Heaven and Hell

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Mousse Publishing also releases online contents, printed ephemera, and artist editions. Simon Starling — Woven World Keren Cytter: A Drivel. Matt Mullican: Details from He Alejandro Cesarco: Peep-Hole S Christodoulos Panayiotou: Peep Gabriel Sierra: Peep-Hole Shee Matt Mullican: Details from Heaven and Hell. Share on Facebook. But to understand this argument, one must first come to appreciate two very different ways in which God might interfere with human freedom.

Suppose that a man is standing atop the Empire State Building with the intent of committing suicide by jumping off and plunging to his death below. So one is not free to accomplish some action or to achieve some end, unless God permits one to experience the chosen end, however confusedly one may have chosen it; and neither is one free to separate oneself from God, or from the ultimate source of human happiness as Christians understand it, unless God permits one to experience the very life one has chosen and the full measure of misery that it entails.

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Given the almost universal Christian assumption that separation from God in the outer darkness, for example would be an objective horror, it looks as if even God himself would face a dilemma with respect to human freedom: Either he could permit sinners to follow their chosen path, or he could prevent them from following it and from opting for what he knows but they may not yet know is an objective horror.

If he should perpetually prevent them from following their chosen path, then they would have no real freedom to do so; and if he should permit them to follow it—to continue opting for what he knows will be an objective horror—then their own experience, provided they are rational enough to qualify as free moral agents, would eventually shatter their illusions and remove their libertarian freedom in this matter. So in neither case would sinners be able to retain forever their libertarian freedom to continue separating themselves from the ultimate source of human happiness.

For an expanded statement of this argument, see Talbott b, —, and Talbott , — If this argument should be sound, it would seem to follow that, no matter how tenaciously some sinners might pursue a life apart from God and resist his loving purpose for their lives, God would have, as a sort of last resort, a sure-fire way to shatter the illusions that make their rebellion possible in the first place.

To do so, he need only honor their own free choices and permit them to experience the very life they have confusedly chosen for themselves. If, as a last resort, God should allow a sinner to live for a while without even an implicit experience of the divine nature, [ 11 ] the resulting horror, they believe, will at last shatter any illusion that some good is achievable apart from him; and such a discovery will in the end elicit a cry for help of a kind that, however faint, is just what God needs in order to begin and eventually to complete the process of reconciliation.

Because the Arminians and the universalists agree that God could never love an elect mother even as he, at the same time, rejects her beloved baby, they both agree that the first alternative is utterly impossible. But because the issues surrounding the idea of free will are so complex and remain the source of so much philosophical controversy, perhaps they can also agree that a free—will theodicy of hell is the best philosophical account currently available for a doctrine of everlasting separation from God.

Rarely are theists very specific about what heaven will supposedly be like, and there are no doubt good reasons for that. For most theists, even those who believe in revelation, would deny that we have much information on this matter. But two issues have typically arisen in the relevant philosophical literature: first, whether the misery of loved ones in hell would undermine the blessedness of those in heaven, and second, whether immortality of any kind would ultimately lead to tedium, boredom, and an insipid life.

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When a reporter asked the mother of Ted Bundy, a serial murderer of young women, whether she could still support a son who had become a monster, her answer provided a poignant illustration of the problem. I love him. I have to support him. But still, one wonders how this suffering woman—a committed Christian, by the way—could ever achieve supreme happiness knowing that the son she continued to love was destined to be lost forever without any future hope of redemption.

Such considerations have led some, including the 19 th Century theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, to argue that the misery of those in hell would undermine altogether the blessedness of the redeemed in heaven see Schleiermacher , —; Kronen and Reitan , 80—89; and Talbott b, — But others have argued that God could always shield forever the redeemed in heaven from painful memories of the lost in hell.

Another concerns how God, as an infinitely loving being, might expunge the infinitely more painful memories from his own mind. But the main issue to be resolved here is whether blissful ignorance qualifies as a worthwhile form of happiness at all. As a matter of historical fact, in any case, some of the most influential theologians in the Western tradition, including some who are widely admired as heroes of faith, have not only made an eternal torture chamber an important part of their teaching about hell; they seem also to have gloried in the idea that the torments of those writhing in hell forever will increase the joy of those in heaven.

II [ available online ]. Remarkably, Edwards was also a theological determinist who held that God determined from the beginning to bring a huge number of people to a horrific end and did so for the precise purpose of increasing the joy of the elect in heaven. If justice were to require that one suffer eternally for sins that God himself causally determined, then such suffering would have to be a source of satisfaction, if not outright bliss, on the part of any fair-minded person witnessing it. Schleiermacher and many others therefore find it hard to understand how those who receive special favor in this regard could be so deliriously happy in the knowledge that some of their own loved ones do not receive a similar special favor.

A second issue concerning heaven that sometimes arises is whether everlasting bliss is even a possible state of affairs. Such a statement is reminiscent of a quotation often attributed to Charles H. Duell, who became commissioner of the U. According to legend, Duell declared that everything that can be invented has already been invented; and even though this wonderful story is probably apocryphal, it nonetheless illustrates in a humorous way the possible consequences of an impoverished imagination.

It would hardly take even 30 years, depending upon the circumstances, for a given life to become dull and insipid. But the idea that a healthy person could exhaust all the possibilities for adventure and meaningful experience in a mere years will strike many as simply preposterous. A mere years is virtually nothing, it is true, when compared to a life without end.

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Might not an unending life even increase the possibilities for such a desirable mix? A favorite symphony not heard for a hundred years or so might be experienced as utterly fresh and exciting. And even if we set aside anything that might raise a controversy about personal identity, the mere discovery of an unexpected means of traversing our extravagant universe, with its billions of galaxies and billions of star systems within each of them, might open up—for adventurous spirits anyway—incredible possibilities for new and exciting experiences.

Nor should we ignore the further possibility of experiencing infinitely many other realms and universes that are not spatially contiguous with our own. In caring for her baby, for example, a mother typically performs many mundane tasks that might seem utterly tedious were it not for the joy of interacting with her baby and of watching it grow and flourish. Similarly, St. Paul found even the tedium of prison to be tolerable, so he claimed, because he saw it as part of a larger story that he believed to be both true and glorious. So why allow, many religious people would ask, an impoverished imagination to exclude the very possibility of an over-arching story arc perpetually giving fresh meaning to our individual lives?

And if that be true, then the task of rendering someone fit for eternal joy may be far more complicated, even for an omnipotent being, than one might have imagined. As many religions including Christianity teach, we must first learn to love properly before we can experience enduring happiness, and this requires that we also be purged of all selfish tendencies, all lust for power over others, every temptation to benefit ourselves at the expense of others, and anything else that might separate one person from another.

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Right here, of course, is where Williams would question whether a suitably transformed person would be the same individual as the unperfected person that existed previously. But none of our moral imperfections, a religious person might retort, can coherently be numbered among our essential properties—as if we could never progress morally and never learn to become more loving persons.

So here, perhaps, is the sum of the matter from a religious perspective: the more self-absorbed we become, the more tedious and dreary our lives inevitably become over time. But the more outwardly focused we become in loving relationships, the more joyful and meaningful our lives also become over time. For the same considerations that lead some to wonder whether immortality would eventually become dreadfully boring may also lead some of the religious to consider favorably the following hypothesis.

Although the problem of evil is the subject of another entry see the entry on The Problem of Evil , the relevant point for the topic of heaven is just this: one need not think of heaven or the coming age, as the Gospel writers sometimes refer to it as a static ethereal realm in which there is nothing to do. One might instead suppose that God will never stop creating additional persons to love and additional realms for us to experience and that we will always have important roles to play, as Paul hinted in Ephesians , in this ongoing process of creation and revelation.

Three Primary Eschatological Views 1. The Augustinian Understanding of Hell 2. Free—will Theodicies of Hell 3. The Universalist Rejection of Everlasting Separation 4. Heaven: Two Critical Issues 5. Three Primary Eschatological Views Let theism in general be the belief that a supremely powerful, supremely wise, and supremely good loving, just, merciful personal being exists as the Creator of the universe.

Almighty God will triumph in the end and successfully reconcile to himself each person whose reconciliation he sincerely wills or desires. Some humans will never be reconciled to God and will therefore remain separated from him forever. The Augustinian Understanding of Hell Behind the Augustinian understanding of hell lies a commitment to a retributive theory of punishment, according to which the primary purpose of punishment is to satisfy the demands of justice or, as some might say, to balance the scales of justice. In the relevant literature over the past several decades, advocates of a free—will theodicy of hell have offered at least three quite different answers to this question: Perhaps the most commonly expressed answer concerns the possibility of an irrevocable decision to reject God forever.

Jerry Walls thus describes the damned as those who have made a decisive choice of evil see Walls , Ch. Another proposed answer rejects altogether the traditional idea that those in hell are lost without any further hope of restoration. It also includes a perfect knowledge of what a person would have done freely in circumstances that do not even obtain.

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So with respect to his decision whether or not to create a given person and to place that person in a given set of circumstances, God can base this decision in part on his knowledge of what the person would do freely if created and placed in these precise circumstances—or if, for that matter, the person were placed in any other possible set of circumstances as well. From this Molinist perspective, William Lane Craig has defended the possibility that some free persons are utterly irredeemable in this sense: nothing God can do—that is, no revelation he might impart, no punishment he might administer, and no conditions he might create—would ever induce them to repent freely or successfully reconcile them to him Craig Craig himself calls this dreadful property of being irredeemable transworld damnation Craig himself has put it this way: It is possible that the terrible price of filling heaven is also filling hell and that in any other possible world which was feasible for God the balance between saved and lost was worse.

It is possible that had God actualized a world in which there are less persons in hell, there would also have been less persons in heaven. It is possible that in order to achieve this much blessedness, God was forced to accept this much loss , The Universalist Rejection of Everlasting Separation Theists who accept the traditional idea of everlasting punishment, or even the idea of an everlasting separation from God, must either reject the idea that God wills or desires to save all humans and thus desires to reconcile them all to himself see proposition 1 in section 1 above or reject the idea that God will successfully accomplish his will and satisfy his own desire in this matter proposition 2.

Heaven: Two Critical Issues Rarely are theists very specific about what heaven will supposedly be like, and there are no doubt good reasons for that. Stump ed. Almeida, M. Hopkins and H.

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Himma K. Jordan, J. Kierkegaard, S.