It is surely true that God never intends to lead anyone to ruin. But suppose God the utilitarian has a choice to steer the world into one of two possible directions. The first way will create circumstances to which Smith will respond well and earn glory, but in which Jones and Robinson will be condemned. The second way will produce the opposite result: Smith will perish, but Jones and Robinson will be saved and live.

Isn’t God essentially forced by arithmetic to pick way #2? God is absolved from any wrongdoing by the principle of double effect: Smith’s perdition is foreseen but not intended; it’s an unfortunate side effect of imparting into the world the greatest good for the greatest number. Christ may be the good shepherd (Lk 15), but even He must bow down before the iron necessity of cold utility calculus.

Here we bump against William Lane Craig’s idea about “transcircumstantial depravity” (TD) of the damned. Craig’s intention is to deny a sinner the following line of defense during the afterlife trial or judgment or “life review”: if he had heard the Gospel, then he would have believed; or in our case, if God had steered the world into way #1, then he would have been saved. He is a victim of divine providence, and God stands accused.

Craig would have it that for the sinner, there was never a way to be saved, no matter what God did. God was 100% powerless to save Smith. Smith would have revealed himself to be utterly depraved in any and all sets of possible circumstances. Thus, God never really had a choice to save Smith. Smith was done for from day one. It would be better for him if he had not been born; unfortunately, if Smith had not been born, then Jones and Robinson again would perish, and thus Smith turns into a tool used for their salvation which, once it is no longer useful, is thrown into the gas oven of hell.

Craig maintains that God “does no injustice towards the unevangelized who reject the light of general revelation and are lost because He knows that they wouldn’t have responded to the Gospel anyway, even if they had heard it.” He then tackles the accusation that this view entails “cultural chauvinism,” because his correspondent writes that “swathes of humanity are written off.” This is a mild way of putting it. Whole nations, billions of people sharing the same race or nationality are spiritually destroyed without so much as a hope for eternal life even in some possible world! But surely this result cannot be accidental; their race must be the cause; they must be some sort of subhumans! I seem to remember a medieval justification of the slaughter of the American natives to the effect that, why, living in the New World, they couldn’t have descended from Adam and Eve, and therefore they were probably devil’s spawn. Craig’s theory of salvation is quite a bit more implausible, because it does far more than merely call for bodily death to unbelievers; its wrath is not even satisfied with condemning their souls to hell, as though Craig were the all-holy Judge Himself, and they were irredeemable hateful monsters like demons; it consigns these folks to absolute depravity in every possible world!

And according to what mechanism, I ask Craig, have the billions of Asians and Africans turned from being transcircumstantially depraved into willing members of the Church? Ah, he will say, this is because “human persons are individuated by their souls, [and] my soul could have been placed in a different body so that I should have been a person of a different race or ethnicity born at a different time and place in history. On such an understanding of human personhood, bodily characteristics are of much less significance than on a materialistic view.” What he is trying to say is that God used to place evil, i.e., totally depraved, souls in the bodies of the miserable Chinese, and now that some of these Chinese have a chance of becoming Christians, God places good souls into their bodies. It is true that, while human persons are multiplied by their bodies, they are individuated by their souls or perhaps “spirits.” What Craig wants to convey is that humans are individualized by their personalities, and those are immaterial, and therefore the significance of the body is lessened. But surely, one’s bodily make-up affects one’s personality. Body and soul are enmeshed into one another, creating a psychosomatic unity. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that souls, being created or implanted into a fetus or developing naturally in it as it gestates can be divided into good and evil. It is well accepted that all children are born innocent and capable of becoming either good or evil.

In any case, however, Craig’s artifice of TD may be superfluous. For does not transcircumstantial depravity entail transcircumstantial glory? Here’s the argument: If a man is condemned actually, Craig proposes, then he is condemned in all possible worlds. By contraposition, if he is saved even in one possible world, then he must be saved in the actual one. But Jones and Robinson are saved in possible world #2; therefore, if God chooses to actualize world #1, then they must also by necessity be saved there.

Thus, Jones and Robinson never actually needed the sacrifice of Smith. They would have been saved even if Smith had never existed. They have — and always did have, supposedly — the “good” spirits in them. God stands in no need of Smith’s shameful “services.”

Craig might object that since God wants to protect His ass from lawsuits, He will not create any world, including but not limited to #1, in which Jones is damned. World #1, though “possible,” is not “feasible”: God can create it but for His own reasons definitely will not. At the same time, God created and predestined Smith for damnation to make possible world #2 in addition feasible. Perhaps; the reasoning is convoluted.

(Another argument against transcircumstantial glory is that, let’s face it, every man has his limits. Suppose God subjected Jones to agonizing though non-hellish torture for 10,000 years. It is quite possible that regardless of his initial resilience and holiness, Jones would end up cursing and hating God and be punished for that sin with everlasting hellfire.)

A more subtle objection is that perhaps Jones / Robinson obtained more glory with the help of Smith’s sacrifice than they would have obtained without it. But hell is such unspeakable horror that Smith’s eternal suffering would far outweigh in terms of utility any finite increase in Jones’ glory, even multiplied by all the days of Jones’ everlasting life.


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