Damned in the Actual World, Damned in All Possible Ones, Too

I’m starting to get some respect for William Lane Craig’s seemingly strange and offensive idea that if a person is damned in the actual world, then he is damned in all possible worlds, too; and for its corollary, “if a person is saved in one possible world, then God is duty-bound, lest He commits an injustice, to save him in the actual world.”

Craig’s interest lies in attempting to shore up the idea that non-Christians most likely go to hell. But an objection crops up: during the heavenly trial, can’t a non-Christian say that had he been preached the Gospels to, he would have believed and been saved? He is not at fault; his environment is. Craig says, no, this complaint cannot be sustained.

If Smith has any chance at all of being saved, i.e., if God predicts prior to creating that Smith would be saved in some possible world, then creating a possible world in which Smith is actually damned is “unfeasible” for God (for fear of “lawsuits”). God’s options as regards which world to create shrink to those worlds in which Smith is saved.

But this means that one is either necessarily (over all possible worlds) damned or necessarily (over all feasible worlds) saved. But then the situation is as if each person’s soul was essentially evil or essentially good from the day this person is born or conceived.

Why does this sound offensive? Because humanity then, according to Craig, is a species in regard to body only. With regard to the soul, it is actually a genus not a species at all which contains two subspecies: the subhumans who no matter what are damned and the supermen who no matter what are saved. The sheep are forever sheep, and goats have always been and cannot fail to be goats. This is “once a crook, always a crook” extended to infinity.

So, “my mama didn’t love me” or “I had bad luck in life” are not valid excuses for getting out of the hellish sentence, because in being condemned actually, one is revealed to be totally depraved and hell-bound in all sets of circumstances, as a matter of fact.

Humanity then is bifurcated in this manner into subhumans whom God hates with a purple passion and supermen whom God coddles by carefully surrounding them with a favorable possible world. A superman, too, can be broken and damned under various circumstances, but God ensures that he actually survives. Again, God is entirely powerless to save the subhumans whom he casually predestines for both sin and hell.

How about the argument that at best, if we could foreknow who was a subhuman, then we would be justified in wanting to abort them in the womb or kill them as children, so that they would not get an opportunity to make their ultimate evil choice as adults?

And at worst, killing them would at least cut the crap, drop the charade that there is any hope for them? What are these essentially evil goats doing in the world sullying it up in the first place, polluting it with their presence? “You are and have always been meant to go to hell, so just go there and leave the decent folks alone!”

If may be asked why a good God would create such monsters in the first place. Well, the saints need evil in order to fight it and in the process build their souls. Perhaps, the evil subhumans exist in this way solely for the sake of the supermen. Once their usefulness has been exhausted, they will be thrown out into the divine gas oven called hell. Their souls are sacrificed for the greater good. It’s harsh but inevitable and is justified as a necessary feature of the best possible world. If God had not created the subhumans, then much good would also have been forfeited. It’s the price of success.

Faith As Trust

Now things turn interesting. Each person, according to this understanding, is either a subhuman or superhuman, but he does not know which. Moreover, he cannot reason his way to the answer. Suppose, glory or glories, that God appears before him and tells him, “You are saved.” If the person is in fact damned, then there is no consideration due to him at all, including any imperative for God to tell him the truth. Perhaps, God is lying to him in order to use him for the welfare of the saints more effectively.

Moreover, being unsure of whether one is saved or damned is trouble, too. Again, hell is actually infinite evil, and heaven is only potentially infinite good. Any finite probability of the former skews life toward abject pessimism and despair. Is it worth to be born to be subjected even to a possibility of hell, no matter how small?

But despair is self-fulfilling prophesy. Thinking oneself hell-bound causes despair which causes sloth in regard to oneself, envy in regard to the “saved,” hatred of God for creating him like this (how can a Quasimodo of a creature love its Creator?), and thereby slouching further into one’s own personal hell. (There is no other.) This strengthens one’s conviction that he is, in fact, damned, and intensifies the despair. One starts wondering whether he should kill himself before he is confirmed in evil which is obviously cheating at life and itself punishable by hellfire. And down the drain one goes.

If reason alone is helpless here, then perhaps reason graced with faith is not. But what is faith? Here I consider the articles of faith, i.e., “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, …” to be only a constituent of something more important, namely, trust of God that “he has you” in all possible worlds and will assuredly guide you toward your last end regardless of the circumstances. A person might contemplate the idea that God the Son dies no less than three times for his sake: before creation to be uplifted in the intellect, upon being conceived for the sake of power, and upon crucifixion in the will to receive charity. The Father did not spare His Son; what else wouldn’t God do for your sake?

One might think, “I am a world in myself. Why would God create one world (the universe which is finite and has an aspect of infinitude only to the extent that humans are infinite, anyway) only to destroy another, me or other humans?”

God’s solicitude is precisely the infinite cause that counters and prevents the infinitely evil effect of hell.

The trust toward God is not rational, based on any calculation of its reasonableness, but childlike, extended just because it’s the thing to do.

We have it then, that faith is a self-fulfilling prophesy, too. It generates and preserves the other two theological virtues of hope and charity, just as its lack destroys them. It brings rightly-understood confidence, not to be confused with presumption that one is saved regardless of his actions. It nurtures the love of other people, insofar as one’s unshakable belief that God is supremely good indeed, leads him to a stronger (i.e., more ambitious) conclusion that no “price” needs to be paid for “success”; and in fact, every human being is a sheep, essentially good. There are no monsters among the humankind to destroy.

One confirms himself in goodness starting his journey, causally, from the beginnings of faith. The fact that God is so in control that He saves everyone or at least you in any set of circumstances (the latter is sufficient) yields the phenomenon of faith which in any person grows upon itself and causes him actually to be saved. God saves a person by nurturing faith; that person saves himself by having the consequences of faith overtake his soul.

It is true at the same time that God’s providence is unique for every human being and would be unique for any human being in differing circumstances or worlds.

Salvation then is by “God alone” as the force that checks any positive feedback toward spiritual self-destruction in humans; by “faith alone” understood as God’s initial instrument of or means to doing just that; and by “man alone” as the ultimate master of oneself making his own choices and whose happiness is within.

Demonology Primer: Burning Hells

There is a seemingly potent objection to universal salvation of humans, namely that if demons, whose angelic nature is at least somewhat superior to the human nature, go to hell, then why not humans?

In fact, there are two different hells: the demonic hell, DH, and the human hell, HH, and they differ considerably. For example, some Christians say that hell-bound humans will suffer “eternal separation from God” and leave it at that. That is only partly true. For separation from God is what is called “pain of loss,” or the consciousness of failing to enjoy the pleasures of heaven. It does not entail any “pain of sense” or the torture by hellfire. DH is characterized by the former only; HH, by both.

For humans, pain of sense without pain of loss is purgatory.

This is because the natures of demons, good angels, and humans differ. For a demon who voluntarily chose to descend morally, DH is a natural end state. Lucifer knew perfectly well what fate he was sealing for himself. As a result, his nature would be preserved, and there cannot be any pain for a being in its natural state. But hell for a human is a different state entirely: since humans naturally ascend (such as from a single-celled organism to an inhabitant of heaven), should they reject this natural impulse and do evil instead, their nature will be destroyed, and they will endure the inconceivable pain of a corrupted soul in HH.

No creature whatsoever would willingly choose anything like the human hell. It defies reason. Hence, it is still possible to assert that no human will be damned.

Dark Sacraments

I refer to the death and life in prison sentences imposed by judges.

If there is universal salvation, then capital punishment for breaking human laws is illegitimate. For hell represents the destruction of the soul, and if God’s power is great enough to save everyone, no matter how evil, then capital punishment, which represents the destruction of the body and is, as such, a temporal equivalent of eternal damnation, should be abolished. In other words, there is a clear analogy between hell and a lethal injection. If no one is thrown away by God, then no one should be thrown away by man either. Even if we don’t know for sure whether or not everyone (eventually) goes to heaven, the possibility of that alone should make us wary of official killings.

Similarly, life imprisonments simpliciter should be eliminated. For a man does not stay in purgatory forever but is released when he is sufficiently purified. Neither then should a stay in a human prison be for the criminal’s entire life span, but should be limited in duration. Now it is true that one may not be reformed until death. Still, there should be no punishments, especially life terms, without possibility of parole.

Universal Salvation Is Inconclusive

There are some arguments that suggest that universal salvation is a thing.

For example, does it make sense for God to create a man who is essentially impervious to grace? The Holy Spirit searches his heart, again and again, predicts that the appropriate grace would be rejected, therefore abstains from futilely giving it in the first place, and so leaves him alone his entire life. So, the man never learns to love. Upon his death, God examines him, realizes that it’s not the case that if he were surrounded by more fortuitous circumstances, then he would in fact flourish (so he was just unlucky and still has a chance), as a result finds him completely useless, and throws him into hell.

What would be the point? To positively reprobate anyone like this? Who benefits from the creation of a man from the beginning inevitably predestined to hell?

And yet we do not know God’s purposes. Just as an example, maybe God foresees that this condemned man will beget a son who will be great in His sight and convert many people. The man is sacrificed for a greater good that could not be brought about at a smaller cost. Suppose further that the son will actually convert 100 men. Moreover, these men are almost as “transcircumstantially depraved,” in William Lane Craig’s phrase, as the man but not 100%, such that the only way in which they could be and in fact would be saved is through the actions of the son. Losing 1 is then a price of gaining 100. As long as this is even a possibility, universal salvation remains unproven. Moreover, with the amount of tragedies occurring daily in people’s lives, and the fact that the angels do weep for our sins, the problem becomes so much murkier. It is indisputable that we lose people. Children die horribly in wars. I don’t know what becomes of them.

I do not believe that universal salvation can be demonstrated by reason; nor moreover is it an article of faith. Nor, finally, is it a proper object of hope, because it may not be true, and it is blasphemy to hope that the omniscient God had created “better” than He did.

Each of us should seek to save as many people as he can, and rest with that.

Two Hells Are Evidence for Universal Salvation

The human hell is weeping (inconceivable pain) and gnashing of teeth (utter hatred) mixed into a package of eternal horror. It is impossible, let it be proposed, that a perfectly good God would let any of His creatures suffer like that, including even the demons.

This reasoning runs into two problems. (1) Why does Jesus warn us on many occasions of hell? (2) Aren’t demons already condemned to hell?

(1) I think, though cannot prove definitively, that the human hell exists not as an ultimate place or state of punishment but as an ultimate incentive against moral evil. It is meant to be avoided by all, just as it is best that a human law threatening punishment for stealing is never violated. In other words, if any man, no matter how brutal or sinful or selfish or wild, were to feel hellfire, then he would become so afraid that he’d immediately embark upon a long path of self-reformation. It is still possible go to hell; but in fact the human hell is actually empty, as no one fails to heed its horror if exposed to it.

Of course, hellfire is God’s final tool when everything else has failed. Very few people are given this grace.

(2) Demons are condemned, but they go to their own demonic hell which is different from human hell. It does not feature pain by hellfire. Instead, the demons will experience in their hell

  1. separation from God and impossibility to interact with Him naturally,
  2. privation of any grace and knowledge of divine secrets in the state of glory,
  3. environment less pleasant than either their heavenly home from which they fell or this universe into which they were banished and where they now reside,
  4. sorrow from inability to satisfy their desire of harming humans,
  5. sorrow from being completely defeated by creatures they used to despise — us.

If the wicked angels believed they would, upon defeat, go to anything like the human hell, they would never have rebelled. Satisfaction of pride, no matter how burning, in refusing to serve humans, is a limited finite end; eternal torture is an infinite evil. Surely, every angel was smart enough to weigh the probabilities and agree to receive the Holy Spirit’s grace, if the alternative was a chance of being utterly destroyed and tormented forever.

Thus, the problem of infinite horror is neatly solved. The human hell is absolute evil but is supposed to and does stay empty (though avoiding it is each person’s task; there is no limit to how much one can sin and suffer before he comes to his senses), functioning merely as a perfect deterrent; the demonic hell will be full of filth, but the prisoners there will simply be isolated and forgotten and miserable from pain of loss or privation of the goods proper to angels both in nature and glory, but they will not suffer hellfire.

Note that even if these two objections to universal salvation are solved correctly, this is merely evidence in favor of the conclusion, not a proof. That it does not befit God to torture creatures for all eternity is merely my own intuition. Perhaps my heart is unbecomingly soft. Nevertheless, these ruminations may be of interest.

Arguments for Reincarnation

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.

Mystery of Salvation Statistics

I have discussed the problem of whether everyone will in the end be saved and found the evidence inconclusive as regards both reason and Christian faith. No near-death experience I am aware of resolves the matter, either. Nor any private revelation to any saint. Nor, again, does reincarnation, if it be real, guarantee it.

I have argued that the created universe was a gift from God the Father to the Son. It was the Son who chose both the possible world to be actualized by Father and along with that, the providential path through it by the Holy Spirit at the Son’s greatest pleasure. Predestination of humans toward either hell or different degrees of glory occurred as an aspect of this choice: the world on the whole is best possible one, and its human potential as a one thing is best realized — as judged by the Son but perhaps also “objectively,” but perhaps some individuals through their sin destroy themselves, as per God’s permission.

Thus, God the Father created nature which the Holy Spirit then may have labored on through intelligent design = grace, but God does not create individual humans; nature does. And nature is a mad scientist. Can we make an analogy that perhaps just as nature eliminates the physically unfit by killing their bodies, so perhaps God or even “spiritual” natural laws eliminate the spiritually unfit by throwing them into hell?

God then chose the world as a whole, but He did not directly decree that any particular Smith would be born or live; Smith’s existence is foreseen but not thereby intended by any person of the Trinity. An analogy would be direct vs. representative democracy: in the former one votes for individual laws or policies; in the latter, one votes in a package deal for a congressman who will then according to his own counsel vote for many policies. God intended Smith directly only in the sense that He was influenced by the foresight that Smith would contribute his minuscule amount of goodness to the goodness of the world. Again it is also possible that Smith is good only indirectly and even if hell-bound, if his existence still is useful on utilitarian grounds as regards the welfare of the entire world.

Thus, perhaps God, in foreseeing Smith, his randomly generated self, and his future adventures, loved Smith and chose the world in a (very) small part because of him; then again, perhaps He hated Smith’s guts and chose the world despite Smith’s lamentable depravity but such that the world is still the best possible one on the whole.

Hence, Jesus’ analogy with the divine judgment as applying to an almost randomly grown harvest which contains some good and some bad plants:

When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” His slaves said to him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” He replied, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'” (Mt 13:26-30)

The parable asserts that an “enemy” sowed evil men, but we have to be careful here. Perhaps the enemy can corrupt the seeds morally as they develop and live, but all the seeds themselves must needs be metaphysically good, lest God be the direct author of evil or even a fetus could be judged evil by its very nature and burned even prior to committing any actual sins or wicked deeds. NABRE comments that “weeds” refer to “darnel, a poisonous weed that in its first stage of growth resembles wheat.” So, at first, the weeds and wheat are indistinguishable but separate later in life which is a defensible idea. In short, as God did not create any individual, neither did the devil.

In this case, as already asserted, life of the soul is “survival of the saintliest.” God takes each soul, evaluates its beauty, and unceremoniously consigns it to either heaven or hell. Just how exactly beautiful must my soul be in order to get to heaven? Where’s the cutoff point? I don’t know, but something like this would be true in an unredeemed world.

It follows that positive reprobation is false, since God directly predestines no one by virtue of not creating anyone. In addition, of course, it is generally unattractive. If God had created Smith evil and predestined him for the life of sin and self-destruction, perhaps in order to sacrifice him in some utilitarian fashion for the sake of those predestined for salvation, then we could take exception to such an objectionably callous divine decision. Whether anyone is saved would depend on one’s luck, in particular on not being born Smith-like. Nor will it help to argue that “Smith drove himself into hell freely,” because such a “choice” implies that Smith is enjoying hell which cannot be. Hell is by its nature always an explicit punishment and the worst one possible at that. It would then be much harder than it is now to insist on the absolute essential goodness of God.

But negative reprobation where Smith’s sins are foreseen (though again not intended but permitted for the sake of some general welfare) and punishment is accorded on their account cannot be disposed of so easily. The world remains best possible and potential one, but God lacks the power to save everyone, though He makes the best out of a bad situation. (We may still wonder though why Smith would bother with attributing goodness to the Father and the Holy Spirit when the Son executes his soul.)

I am not making these questions up as though no one had asked them before; e.g., the Catholic Encyclopedia considers it a “hidden mystery,” asking, “Why is it that this child is baptized, but not the child of the neighbor? Why is it that Peter the Apostle rose again after his fall and persevered till his death, while Judas Iscariot, his fellow-Apostle, hanged himself and thus frustrated his salvation?” These considerations once again suggest that the answer to the question “Who will be saved?” is a carefully guarded mystery.

Reincarnation As Natural Happiness

Physical death is separation of the body from the soul. Spiritual death in hell is further forced separation of the will which is absorbed into God and the intellect which alone remains to suffer horribly and eternally. As a result, hell is a deliberate murder of the soul, i.e., destruction of the soul’s nature by God as punishment for sins.

Now the Catholic doctrine insists that only glory or shame, heaven and hell are permissible human destinies, and “a middle state, a merely natural happiness, does not exist.” And yet it seems entirely possible that a man, Smith, can live and die though not in the state of grace, still in the state of natural righteousness. Perhaps he scrupulously obeyed the natural law, yet for whatever reason was deprived of grace. His nature even after death as regards the union between will and intellect exhibits great integrity. If God nevertheless withholds glory from Smith, must He still by that very fact guillotine Smith’s soul in half, suck out the will, and throw the mind to the devils?

The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions that the “eternal election to glory alone, that is, without regard to the preceding merits through grace, must be designated as (inadequate) predestination. Though the possibility of the latter is at once clear to the reflecting mind, yet its actuality is strongly contested by the majority of theologians…”

If that cannot be a solution to this problem, then, given that (a) there is no “natural happiness” in the next life but that (b) natural happiness (or pursuit for it) is the very essence and condition of this one, we are led to conclude that a soul that merits neither heaven nor hell (e.g., of a pious Jew?) must needs be reincarnated. Without this device, even the Church would seem to exist mainly in order to populate hell. QED?