In Chapter 11, Davis compares and contrasts two “systems of salvation”: Karma vs. Grace. In this post I want to consider his one objection to Grace called “Not enough time”:
But surely one lifetime is not enough to achieve salvation. This claim is substantiated by the simple observation that most people die in far less than an optimal or perfect spiritual state.
Obviously, for the vast majority of people, many more lives than one are needed to reach the spiritual end-state. A loving God will make this possible; a God who does not is a moral monster. (Christian Philosophical Theology, 201)
He replies to this objection as follows:
But since the core idea is that by God’s grace one has been forgiven and cleansed of sin, the problem is not fatal to the theory.
The point is not that we all achieve sainthood, but that we are graciously forgiven — in this, the one and only, life — for not achieving it. (208)
This is entirely unsatisfactory. Forgiveness means a stay of execution in hell. But the human “last end” is not avoiding hell but meriting heaven, in other words, achieving glory. Now “glory” can mean various goods of both heaven and paradise, like vision of God, impassibility of the body, security of happiness, and so on. But its simplest meaning is “being honored by God, including before other saints, for an exemplary life well lived.” And it is clear that there are many souls in the beyond who cannot reasonably be so honored. Thus, there may be people in next life who will not go to hell (or are forgiven through mercy) but who cannot go to heaven (through justice), because their holiness and spiritual sophistication are below some minimum. What is God to do with them?
The problem is not well-solved by positing purgatory. A saint who is 90% good and 10% bad can have the cancer of evil burned out of him in the purgatory fire (which St. Thomas teaches is the exact same fire with which the damned are tormented in hell) and remain reasonably human. A sinner, even if forgiven and spared hell, who has rather 10% good and 90% bad in him will, upon purification, lose his entire identity. At best, he’ll become a simple child running around underfoot, whom adult saints will treat will benign indifference. At worst, his intellect will be destroyed, and he’ll end up literally a plant, a flower growing somewhere in paradise. Given that the “vast majority” are sinners, God ends up ruling a kingdom of half-wits, pitiful hollow subhumans. And this is grotesque.
Having written this, I recalled a near-death experience account which suggested literally that:
My next question was, “How do you explain this intense happiness?”
Your thoughts are vibrations which are controlled by the Master-Vibration. It neutralizes all negative thoughts and lets you think only the good thoughts, such as love, freedom, and happiness.
“Then what becomes of the old grouches?”
If they are too bad, they go to a realm of lower vibrations where their kind of thoughts can live. If they came here, the Master-Vibration would annihilate them. After death people gravitate into homogeneous groups according to the rate of their soul’s vibrations. If the percent of discord in a person is small, it can be eliminated by the Master-Vibration; then the remaining good can live on here.
For example, if a person were 70% good and 30% bad, the bad could be eliminated by the Master-Vibration and the remaining good welcomed into heaven. However, if the percentage of bad were too high, this couldn’t be done, and the person would have to gravitate to a lower level and live with people of his own kind. In the hereafter each person lives in the kind of a heaven or hell that he prepared for himself while on Earth.
Reincarnation follows naturally.
Davis has another reply to this particular objection. “It is… an unanswerable question whether more people would accept God’s grace if human lives were longer than they are, or if human beings lived more than one life.” It’s true that reincarnation does not guarantee salvation, but it seems to guarantee at least the eventual rendering of a final choice between salvation and damnation. The people who “would not go to hell but cannot go to heaven,” like some Wandering Jew, will all in the end be forced to choose wholeheartedly and without any chance of turning back one or the other.
Reincarnation also solves nicely the problem of the fate of infants and children who suffer death, the seeming lack of hope (for glory, not forgiveness) for reformed criminals, and suchlike.
Finally, allowing for reincarnation does not seem to alter any other doctrine of the Church on any point of faith and morals. The introduction of the possibility of multiple incarnations leaves the rest of the body of the Church’s teaching completely intact.