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Hell: The Logic Of Damnation Paperback – August 31, 1992
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He explained in the Introduction of this 1992 book, “I will look in more detail at the issues raised by the various views of hell, especially the traditional ones. My purpose, broadly speaking, is to show that some recognizably traditional views of hell are compatible with both the divine nature and human nature… we must also delve into a number of matters concerning human beings which relate to the idea of damnation, such as the nature of human freedom, the process of character formation, and so on.” (Pg. 14-15)
He notes, “In recent times… the assumption that God has absolute foreknowledge has been extensively challenged. In particular, it has been questioned whether God has foreknowledge of future free choices. The claim that God has such foreknowledge has been challenged in two different ways. In the first place, doubts have been raised as to whether there is an intelligible ground of such knowledge. In other words, it is entirely unclear HOW God could know future free choices. And second, there has been a vigorous renewal of the age-old debate over whether absolute foreknowledge is compatible with libertarian freedom, the sort of freedom we have if our actions are undetermined, and it is ‘up to us’ what choices to make.” (Pg. 34)
He observes, “God’s foreknowledge that Mary will resist grace and be damned is due to the fact that God has chosen to create Mary in circumstances in which he knows she will resist grace. Consequently, questions about God’s goodness remain. For instance, why should God create Mary in circumstances in which he knows she would resist grace if God does not intend for her to be damned? … the connection between foreknowledge and intention cannot simply be assumed. Nevertheless the question naturally arises whether it would be better to create Mary in a different situation, or maybe not even create her at all?... Molinism does not seem to be as bad off as Calvinism in this regard, but neither does it provide an immediate solution to the problem of evil.” (Pg 40-41)
He points out, “one’s views on hell cannot be isolated from one’s views on foreknowledge…. one’s account of foreknowledge imposes certain limits on the ways one can consistently conceive of hell, just as one’s conception of hell may entail certain claims about divine foreknowledge.” (Pg. 55)
He asserts, “When libertarian freedom is consistently maintained, it will be recognized that God’s ability to bring about certain states of affairs is contingent upon the choices of free creatures. In view of this, perhaps God cannot create a world in which everyone is saved, as the universalist supposes. Nor is it the case if some are lost, it follows that God is unwilling to save them. For God could be willing to save everyone, but unable to do so, while remaining properly omnipotent. It could be that he loves everyone and enables all of them to receive grace and be saved. If so, everyone would have a genuine opportunity to be saved. However, some might choose to continue in evil and be forever separated from God’s love. It is of the essence of the doctrine of hell that this possibility is actually realized in our world.” (Pg. 41)
He summarizes, “the doctrine of eternal hell is compatible with God’s perfect goodness. This task might be relatively easy if one assumed that God’s goodness is fundamentally different from our ordinary conception of goodness. I have, however, assumed a strong account of divine goodness which I believe accords with our own deepest moral intuitions. In particular, I have affirmed… that God’s goodness entails that he loves all creatures, impartially desires that all of them be happy, and is willing to do whatever he can, short of overriding freedom, to give happiness to all. If my argument is sound, and at least some traditional accounts of hell are compatible with God’s goodness as construed in this chapter, then the moral problems we have noted are not beyond resolution.” (Pg. 110-111)
He argues, “There is, then, no single type of damned character… The only common feature of the damned… is the consistency of their evil. If such consistency does not altogether rule out the possibility of returning to good, it does make intelligible why some persons may never do so. Such persons have closed off every apparent avenue by which good may enter. At every point at which grace could have been accepted, evil was preferred. Where such consistency is achieved, evil gains sufficient potency that the possibility of repentance is all but foreclosed. The person for whom this is true may be accurately described as thoroughly immune to the grace of God.” (Pg. 123-124)
He suggests, “I want to agree that those who choose evil, and ultimately hell, are indeed deceived. I want to insist, however, that the deception is self-inflicted. Those who prefer hell to heaven have convinced themselves that it is better. In their desire to justify their choice of evil, they have persuaded themselves that whatever satisfaction they experience from evil is superior to the joy which God offers. At the very least, they see some advantage to be gained in the choice of evil.” (Pg. 129)
He further explains, “even when the choice is thus narrowed, some may elect eternal hell… [However] the claim that such a choice is possible strains credibility. I have addressed this perplexity by trying to show that an intelligible account can be given not only of what it means to choose evil decisively, but also of the motivation involved. My case hinged crucially upon the notion that a person can co deceive himself into believing evil is good, or at least holds sufficient advantage to be gained, that he comes to the point where he consistently and thoroughly prefers evil to good. I will be satisfied if the case I have argued has made even partially comprehensible the remarkable claim that some may likewise come to prefer hell over heaven.” (Pg. 138)
This is an interesting take upon the doctrine of Hell---from a “philosophy of religion” standpoint. Those looking for biblical exegesis of terms such as “Sheol,” “Hades,” Gehenna,” etc., will need to look elsewhere. But for those interested in defense of traditional Christian doctrines in “philosophical” terms (e.g., Alvin Plantinga), this book will be of great interest.