Keith DeRose Universalism Posts
June 12, 2006 — 14:06

Author: Jeremy Pierce  Category: Afterlife Christian Theology Divine Foreknowledge Links Problem of Evil  Comments: 60

Keith DeRose has three posts at Generous Orthodoxy Think Tank on universalism that might interest readers of this blog. "The Problem With Universalism"? deals with a worry some have raised about universalism, i.e. that it asks the wrong question. According to this objection, universalism relies on the assumption that salvation is about getting a lot of souls into heaven after they die. Keith responds that his universalism doesn't rely on that assumption at all. Hoping that Universalism Is/Will Be True examines various positions that might be described as "hoping that universalism is true". It gets into some interesting issues about holding to philosophical positions that you aren't comfortable saying you believe. He thinks we accept philosophical positions in a way that can involve the will, whereas belief is more involuntary. He follows this up with an extended discussion of how this might be affected on a view of future contingents according to which future contingents will be but are not now true. Underground Universalism? looks at the pressures on those whose livelihood depends on their theological convictions who might be pressured not to hold universalism and suggests that universalists recognize this and not push them too much, all the while seeking to alleviate those pressures by moving toward a removal of their causes.

Comments:
  • Thanks, Jeremy. –Keith

    June 14, 2006 — 8:54
  • Patrick Todd

    I think the most interesting thing about DeRose’s universalism is that he maintains it while also being an open theist. It does seem, at least initially, that an open theist would have a hard time endorsing a universalism on which all persons *will* be saved, which is what DeRose wants. Whatever reasons OTs give for thinking that God can’t know what we will freely do are reasons for thinking that the OT God would lack grounds for knowing that all persons will be saved (so long as we are supposing that we are free with respect to being saved). So how does DeRose do it? I’m not sure. Does anyone know?
    He does offer some tentative thoughts in his “Universalism and the Bible” essay. (See the section “Free Will and Universalism”.) Perhaps God picks a suitable time in the future, and if at that time any persons are still resisting God’s best efforts at wooing them into freely accepting his grace, then God will simply override their freedom and cause them to be saved. So all will either eventually freely accept his grace, or, failing this, be compelled into being saved. Thus, God knows that all will be saved because he knows what he himself will do with respect to the ‘holdout’ cases.
    But you might think that one’s free acceptance of God’s grace is essential to the experience of heaven. (Prof. Kvanvig, if you are reading, I’m almost positive that you say something just like this, but for the life of me I can’t find where.) Or you might be uncomfortable with God’s compelling people to become saved for other reasons. If so, and you are an open theist, is there any satisfactory way to be a universalist? I’ve got some ideas in mind, but maybe there is an account already out there.
    (DeRose also considers holding that the probability of any person forever rejecting God’s best efforts in saving them is vanishingly small, and thus that the probability that all will be saved is overwhelming. But, as he notes, it is still possible that some will not be saved, and thus hard to be comfortable with God saying that all will definitely be saved. God could turn out to be wrong.)
    Another point of interest, I think, is that if there isn’t a satisfactory way for the open theist to be universalist, then whatever scriptural evidence DeRose offers on behalf of universalism (and he thinks it to be strong) counts against open theism. That is, if Scripture teaches that all will be saved, and the OT can’t account for God’s knowing this, then OT is in trouble.

    June 14, 2006 — 12:12
  • Kevin Timpe

    I haven’t read DeRose’s essay (though I did read the 3 postings on GOTT). But, Patrick, is there something particularly problematic about Open Theism for Universalism that goes beyond the more general problem that libertarianism coupled with the denial of Molinism seems to pose for Universalism? Thomas Talbott is also a committed Universalsim and a libertarain. I’m not sure if he’s an Open Theist, but I don’t think he’s a Molinist. According to Talbott, at some point in the future God could simply override the free will of someone who continued to reject Him and determine that person to go to heaven. This seems similar to what it sounds like DeRose suggests. Short of this, I can’t see how a libertarian could be assure that universalism is true. He could be what I’ve called ‘a possible universalist’–it is logically possible that all are saved. But DeRose’s and Talbott’s versions of univeralism seem to be stronger than this: all will be saved. And I don’t see how one can get, on the assumption of libertarianism, apart from either Molinism or ‘over-riding’ free will.
    One may reject that God overrides our free will in this way, but I don’t see why anything about Open Theism per se would rule out such a strategy.

    June 14, 2006 — 13:24
  • Patrick Todd

    I forgot to link to DeRose’s “Universalism and the Bible” earlier — so here is the page:
    http://pantheon.yale.edu/~kd47/univ.htm#B

    June 14, 2006 — 14:06
  • jon kvanvig

    Keith’s view is that if any remain resistant, at some point God overrides their free will. My objection to that view is that the resulting experience of such coercion is not heaven. Such people may enjoy the afterlife immensely, but the fundamental reality is that there is no third option other than heaven and hell. So the question is what the nature of beatific vision is, and here Patrick remembers what I’ve said quite well. The free submission of one’s will and purposes to God, and the acquiescing to his supremacy over our own silly and vain attempts at self-glorification and self-importance, is at the heart of any adequate story of redemption from the effects of the Fall (though I don’t require any particular historical narrative for the doctrine, but stress instead the fallenness of the created order that is obvious to even casual inspection). Given such a picture, coerced happiness forever replaces the horrific picture of hell that is standard in Christian circles with a kinder, gentler picture of it.
    Keith doesn’t see things this way, of course, and progress could be made on settling the disagreement by laying out more carefully my claims about the relationship between sin, salvation, and the will. I think it is fairly clear that the condition of humankind to which God’s redemptive plan is aimed is intimately involved with our will. And if salvation is not also intimately involved with our will, with our acquiescing, at least, to the aims and purposes of God, and to love and enjoy him forever as a result, a new problem is created. What would be needed is a story as to why it is better to freely love God rather than to be forced to do so (including an explanation of why the concept of forced love is not itself impossible), even though no free response of any sort is necessary for the love and submission to his will that is at the heart of the experience of salvation. My own bets are on the claims that forced love is incoherent and that the solution to our fallenness requires a free abandonment of the focus on self the Fall engenders.

    June 14, 2006 — 15:05
  • “The free submission of one’s will and purposes to God, and the acquiescing to his supremacy over our own silly and vain attempts at self-glorification and self-importance, is at the heart of any adequate story of redemption from the effects of the Fall”
    The free submission of one’s will is something to which one may be persuaded (I would add, coerced) . It is something to which God could so persuade. First, Keith could say (though perhaps he does not say) that as a matter of contingent fact no instantiated essence is such that they could not, after strong persuasion, freely acquiese in the supremecy of God.
    He might add (and should) that coercion is not incompatible with free acquiesence. A bank teller with a gun to his head is free to say “no, I’m not turning over the money”. But maybe you want to say that the teller is not free. In that case consider the how the threat of eternal damnation coerces us into submitting our wills. Indeed the threat of eternal damnation *a fortiori* forces our acquiescence–since it is much worse than loss of life. Better to conclude that the free acquiesence in God’s will is compatible with such coercion. If some of us need a bit more, that could also be compatible with free submission.

    June 14, 2006 — 19:46
  • Patrick Todd

    Good point, Kevin. The overarching problem isn’t just a problem for OTs, but for any universalist committed to libertarianism.
    However, there do seem to be potential universalist views that would be off limits for the OT. Suppose you were what Kvanvig calls a contingent universalist. That is, you think that, as a matter of contingent fact, all will freely be saved. And you aren’t motivated to be a universalist to escape a moral problem of hell; you think it is entirely compatible with God’s character etc. for some persons to remain separated from him forever. Maybe you are happy so long as God eternally does as much as he can to win over those who continue to reject him, though some may eternally do so. But you just think that God has revealed that, as a matter of fact, all will turn out to be freely saved in the end. So you’re a universalist: all will be saved.
    This view does seem to be off limits for the open theist, but not for the proponent of simple foreknowledge, for instance. The SF proponent can of course say that God knows that all will be freely saved via simple foreknowledge, but even if things turn out such that all persons are in the end saved through their own free will, the OT God can’t have knowledge of this ahead of time.
    Anyway, this isn’t DeRose’s view, and I don’t know anyone who endorses it, so it isn’t really to the point here. I just wanted to note that there are ways of affirming universalism that would be distinctively problematic for the open theist.

    June 14, 2006 — 20:42
  • Christian

    To anyone;
    It’s suggested that Open Theism, the view that the future is undetermined, is inconsistent with the view that Universalism, all persons will be saved by God. Why?
    Silly worry, maybe? No person in the future will be a fatter than itself. Is this a counterexamle to open theism? No way right?
    Then why is the claim thnat no person will be annihilated or damned inconsistent with Open Theism?

    June 15, 2006 — 1:41
  • No, Christian, that view is off-limits. “No person would be fatter than themselves” is analytic. It’s a necessary truth. It’s contingent truths about the future that open theists can’t tolerate. Necessary truths are fine. So you can’t have contingent universalism without something in the present that guarantees that universalism will be true, and that’s what a libertarian can’t have without violating free will (and compatibilists aren’t likely to be motivated to be open theists to begin with).

    June 15, 2006 — 6:56
  • jon kvanvig

    Mike, you’re certainly right about the ordinary notion of coercion. In the context, though, I used the term to indicate Keith’s notion of divine intervention incompatible with human freedom. That’s what’s required to secure the strong version of universalism he defends.

    June 15, 2006 — 9:50
  • Christian

    Jeremy, I see your point that “No person would be fatter than themselves” is necessary. I agree. Let me change the example slightly to “No person will be fatter than themselves” so that the claim is about the future. I don’t think it is analytic, which we need if the form of the statement is supposed to provide a truth-maker for the claim about the future.
    The idea then is that Universalist might think her thesis is necessary, that If so and so exists, then so and so will go to heaven. But if Open theists are okay with necessary truths about the future, then they need to give us a reason to deny this particular necessary truth about the future.
    Perhaps this reason will have something to do with free will? But even so, it is hard to see why a conditional whose antecedent is contingently true requires the conditional to be contingently true, even if the antecedent is about freedom.

    June 15, 2006 — 9:58
  • I think that’s still analytic. There’s no way it could come out not true, so it’s at least going to be necessary, which is all that’s needed.
    What would make universalism a necessary truth that doesn’t also prevent libertarian free will?

    June 15, 2006 — 10:08
  • Christian

    “What would make universalism a necessary truth that doesn’t also prevent libertarian free will?”
    I was thinking God’s goodness. He freely zaps people into being believers (or wanting to be with him or whatever) after each person freely accepts or rejects him, with ample time for contemplation.
    So, people will not be free to eternally reject God and prevent their own salvation, but they are free to reject him for a long time and always free to accept him. That seems to me like a pretty siginificant kind of freedom.
    Why do you think that claim is analytic? It isn’t part of the concept, or our competence with the concept that a person is the kind of thing that can’t be fatter than herself.
    Maybe you think that “if x is fatter than y, then x is distinct from y” is analytic and that the above sentence entails this. Maybe this is right (maybe), but that still wouldn’t show the above sentence is analytic would it?

    June 15, 2006 — 11:38
  • An open theist might be able to hold that sort of view, but that’s not what we were talking about. We were talking about contingent universalism as inconsistent with open theism. Necessary universalism is a different position. That view isn’t inconsistent with open theism per se. It’s just not something most libertarians will want to say if they think it would be wrong for God to prevent people from resisting without ever willingly choosing God.

    June 15, 2006 — 11:59
  • Kevin Timpe

    Maybe some involved in this discussion are already aware of this (and it could be behind some of the disussion), but I just came across this today: Gordon Knight, “Universalism for open theists,” Religious Studies, Volume 42, Issue 02, June 2006, pp 213-223.

    June 15, 2006 — 13:55
  • Jon, thanks, you say,
    “In the context, though, I used the term to indicate Keith’s notion of divine intervention incompatible with human freedom. That’s what’s required to secure the strong version of universalism he defends”
    I wonder why it is *required* to secure strong universalism. Why would that be? Couldn’t it be true that as a matter of contingent fact no one needs that sort of coercion to reach heaven? Why assume that–again as a matter of contingent fact–that some people would??

    June 15, 2006 — 17:35
  • I think it would be required to secure universalism. It wouldn’t be required for universalism to happen to come out true, but it would be required to guarantee it. This is beginning to sound like Mackie’s claim that God could create a world in which everyone just did good and the libertarian response that God could do that but couldn’t ensure such an outcome without violating libertarian freedom.

    June 15, 2006 — 20:40
  • I’m not assuming that everyone does good. Let everyone do evil, for all it matters to my point. I’m claiming that it’s a contingent fact (if a fact at all) that anyone would need the kind of (very) strong coercion that Keith believes is necessary to secure universalism. Why believe that there are beings like that? Why make that assumption? Maybe there is a good reason to do so, but I don’t know what it could be.

    June 16, 2006 — 8:01
  • jon kvanvig

    Keith’s view is a version of necessary universalism, not contingent universalism.

    June 16, 2006 — 10:33
  • Since Keith is not a modal realist (I assume) I take it this means that *necessarily, every actual being that could go to heaven, does go to heaven*. Let S be the property of being the kind of being that could go to heaven and let H be the property of eventually being in heaven. So I take the view to be something like this,
    [](x)(Sx –> Hx)
    Now go to world w at which the set K of beings satisying the formula ‘(x)Sx’ are such that no member of K needs strong coercion to conform his will to God’s will. I take it that there is a world such as w. Here’s my question: as a matter of contingent fact we might be in w, so why assume that w is not actual? Is there some evidence we’re supposed to have that our world is not w?
    This is all consistent with the assumption that there could exist beings that would need such strong coercion. I’m not denying that. I’m suggesting that there is no (or no obvious) reason to assume that there are any actual beings that need such coercion.
    Finally, I think there is good reason for universalists to believe that there are no such beings. It seems plausible enough that if God is a universalist then, he would have good reason not to create beings that would need strong coercion to enter heaven. So, again prima facie, if it is possible for God to do so, then he would do so. Of course it might be that every creaturely essence he could create is transworld recalcitrant. So it is possible that he could not create any subset of heaven-bound essences in any world that would not need strong coercion to enter heaven. But barring such bizarre worlds, we should expect greater compliance with God’s will among those beings he chooses to create.

    June 16, 2006 — 13:15
  • jon kvanvig

    Mike I don’t uderstand your first sentence. Necessary universalism is the view that necessarily, all human beings go to heaven. I don’t understand how being a modal realist or not is related to substituting “being that could go to heaven” for “human being.”

    June 16, 2006 — 16:49
  • Jon,
    For modal realists all actual human beings and (to avoid invidious distinctions) all of their counterparts and all of their dupicates go to heaven as well. So you’re going to have a lot of real, concrete, non-actual beings going to heaven along with all of the actual ones. After all, lots of them are human too, or close enough. That’s what I had in mind.

    June 16, 2006 — 17:08
  • jon kvanvig

    Mike, well, all counterparts go to counterpart heaven, at least, on the view in question. Adopting counterpart theory would require putting in something like “human beings and their counterparts”, perhaps. But I still don’t see what you put in “beings who could” rather than “human beings”…

    June 16, 2006 — 17:23
  • “But I still don’t see what you put in “beings who could” rather than “human beings”…”
    Well, because I simply don’t want to beg any questions about who gets into heaven. Do sentient nonhumans or sentient nonhumans? I don’t know. So, if it is only actual human beings that could get into heaven, as you seem to be suggesting, then my description will pick out the the set of actual human beings. I have no quarrel with that.
    My point in mentioning counterparts and duplicates concerned Keith’s need for assumptions about strong coercion. Certainly some counterparts will require strong coercion (even if no actual humans do) to enter heaven. So there will be some real, concrete beings that require such a principle on the realist picture. But that need not be so on a non-realist picture.

    June 16, 2006 — 19:18
  • Christian

    Mike,
    I don’t know if this is the point you had in mind, but I’m inclined to think a Christian could say actual humans are essentially moderately-rational. None of us could eternally refuse heaven once we are informed of the relevant options (isolation versus perfect love). So, Universalism could be necessary and not even because God must zap people (because of his perfect love) into wanting heaven, but because people would just zap themselves once aprised of the options.
    In short: people are just not that stupid!
    Another question: what do Christian’s say about the Biblical texts that suggests some people spend eternioty in hell? How do they on the one hand justify belief in an afterlife in heaven, but on the other hand deny the passages which suggest Universalism is false. What is the principle for selecting the Biblical passages that are to be trusted on this matter?

    June 16, 2006 — 20:47
  • jon kvanvig

    Mike, that’s a good point about nonhumans, but there are two things worth noting. Necessary universalism as I formulated it doesn’t say anything about nonhumans, so it is open to various universalists to include whatever additional claims they might wish to make about nonhumans. Second, your formulation isn’t universalism at all, since it is compatible with lots of individuals, human or not, ending up in hell. Theological determinists hold that everyone capable of going to heaven goes there, and they also think that hell will not be empty. And universalists haven’t been difficult to pin down on what their position is: they tell us straightforwardly that they hold that at some point all will be saved (and some add the claim that this is true of necessity). So if there is a problem with the argument against necessary universalism arising from the claim that one can’t freely choose heaven (assuming libertarianism) and yet be theologically determined to do so, it won’t be revealed by replacing necessary universalism in the discussion with some other position.

    June 17, 2006 — 6:52
  • “Second, your formulation isn’t universalism at all, since it is compatible with lots of individuals, human or not, ending up in hell”
    It is? I provided this simple formulation.
    1. [](x)(Sx –> Hx)
    which states in English this,
    1′. Necessarily, everything that can (i.e., logically can) go to heaven, does (eventually) go to heaven.
    The only way this is compatible with someone (or something) not going to heaven is if there are some beings that, as a matter of *logical necessity* go to hell (or at least do not go to heaven). Is there a theological view according to which some beings are going to hell as a matter of logical necessity? Is this a view that anyone believes?
    In any case, this is somewhat beside the point I was hoping to get some discussion on. It seems to me that my view does not have the implication suggested and (even if it did) that problem would be eminently reparable. But let’s see whether the problem is solved.

    June 17, 2006 — 16:11
  • jon kvanvig

    Mike, hyper-calvinists believe something very close to that, though I’m not sure they have quite thought of things in terms of metaphysical necessity.
    But I don’t see the issue since I see no motivation for substituting your construal for the obvious one. And on the obvious one (i.e, the one that takes universalists at their word when they say that, as a matter of necessity, all humans will at some point be saved), there’s an apparent conflict with libertarian freedom.

    June 17, 2006 — 20:53
  • “But I don’t see the issue since I see no motivation for substituting your construal for the obvious one. And on the obvious one (i.e, the one that takes universalists at their word when they say that, as a matter of necessity, all humans will at some point be saved), there’s an apparent conflict with libertarian freedom”
    The current issue was to show that my expession of the position did not entail that anyone goes to hell. The slightly earlier issue was not to beg any any questions about who was the heaven-bound (hence the slight reformulation) and the contingency of the need for strong coercion.
    But true the interesting issue is the alleged conflict with liberatian freedom and (at least Keith’s) version of universalism. I don’t think it is any obvious conflict. As I said above,
    Suppose we formulate the claim that everything that can (broadly) go to heaven, does (eventually) go to heaven,
    [](x)(Sx –> Hx)
    Now go to world w at which the set K of beings satisying the formula ‘(x)Sx’ are such that no member of K needs strong coercion to conform his will to God’s will. I take it that there is a world such as w. Is there some evidence we’re supposed to have that our world is not w? I don’t know what evidence is.
    On the contrary, I think there is good reason for universalists to believe that there are no such beings. It seems plausible enough that if God is a universalist then, he would have good reason not to create beings that would need strong coercion to enter heaven. So, again prima facie, if it is possible for God to do so, then he would do so. Of course it might be that every creaturely essence he could create is transworld recalcitrant. So it is possible that he could not create any subset of heaven-bound essences in any world that would not need strong coercion to enter heaven. But barring such bizarre worlds, we should expect greater compliance with God’s will among those beings he chooses to create. And so there will be no conflict with liberatian freedom.

    June 18, 2006 — 6:31
  • jon kvanvig

    Mike, I’ll try one more time here. You’re right: the question is about the conflict between keith’s universalism and libertarian freedom. Everything you argue for here restricts the class of worlds from all of them that contain humans to some subset. Your first paragraph argues that there is a world, and our world might epistemically be that world, where everyone goes to heaven without coercion. True but irrelevant. Your last paragraph would, in order to be relevant, have to imply that if God has a good reason to create w, then anything incompatible with w isn’t possible. Conflict in the logical sense relevant here doesn’t require that some actual being is coerced into heaven: it only requires the possibility of such because a libertarianly free individual might resist forever.

    June 18, 2006 — 7:09
  • Patrick Todd

    Here are some thoughts about how DeRose could maintain both necessary universalism and open theism without holding that God overrides the freedom of the holdouts at some point in time. I’m not super confident that anyone will think this is an attractive view, but perhaps it is worth exploring. (This got long, but maybe there are interested parties.)
    It seems to me that certain facts about my nature causally necessitate that I do certain things in certain situations. For instance, one might think that, simply given my nature as a normally functioning human being, it is causally necessary that I pull my hand away from a hot stove if I accidentally place my hand on it. Of course, I don’t have libertarian freedom with respect to any of those actions I perform which my nature causally necessitates, and thus, to my mind, I’m not morally responsible for those actions. But it seems clear to me that some of my actions are necessary in this way.
    So here is what I’ve got in mind. DeRose could say that God’s essential goodness requires at least two things: 1) that he only create beings with natures such that it is causally necessary that they accept his grace given a finite amount of time and God’s best efforts in persuading them and 2) that God gives His best effort in persuading all persons to accept his grace. On this account, it could be the case that some freely accept his grace, though eventually all must. That is, some could do so even though such acceptance was (as yet) not causally necessary. However, at some point, it would become causally necessary for any being with this sort of nature to accept God’s grace, and those for whom it does become causally necessary would not freely accept God’s grace.
    But nor would their wills be forcibly overridden, as is the case in DeRose’s present account (and Talbot’s, by the way). And this does seem to be an important distinction. If this account could work, then the question becomes whether a being whose nature, together with God’s activity, causally necessitated that the being accept God’s grace could satisfy the conditions of having the experience of heaven. I don’t know, but I think this account has a better chance at it than a view on which God overrides the freedom of persons who are actively rejecting him.
    After all, a person whose nature (together with God’s activity) causally necessitated him to accept God’s grace would be free with respect to being saved as compatibilists conceive freedom. The person will be doing as he truly desires, without being compelled from the outside, free from external constraints, etc. Becoming saved in this way, even though one could not have done otherwise, does seem to be (at least initially) less problematic than thinking that God would simply force the agent’s will to love him and want to be with him.
    To me, the view that God’s efforts would causally necessitate that a human being accept his grace doesn’t seem too implausible, actually. I don’t know – it just seems to me that if a God of infinite love and power and glory revealed himself to a finite human being in all the ways available to such a God, that human being might be *compelled* into ‘giving up’. Maybe a human being just isn’t the sort of thing (doesn’t have the sort of nature) that could withstand the efforts of an infinite God at bringing her around. At any rate, it seems possible to me that God could have made us this way. God could have made us such that we can freely reject his grace the first 1000 times he showers his love on us (or does whatever it is that he’d do), but by the 1001st time, we’d have broken down so much so that it is causally determined that we relent and accept his grace.
    There is, however, a potential worry that, if God is creating beings with natures that (with his activity) necessitate that they accept his grace, while he is at it he ought to give them natures that necessitate that they, say, do the right thing in certain circumstances. Here, though, I think the universalist should say that God gives us natures that allow for the greatest range of possible free choices compatible with it being causally necessary that all such beings eventually accept his grace; God sees that giving beings natures that allow for a wide range of free choices is a great good, but this good would be outweighed if any being used that freedom to reject God forever, though *not* outweighed if beings used that freedom to do bring about any amount of evil short of this.

    June 20, 2006 — 13:27
  • “Keith’s view is a version of necessary universalism, not contingent universalism.”
    I’m not sure those are the most helpful terms for thinking about the matter. But in any case, I don’t hold that universalism is necessarily true (true in all metaphysically possible worlds). For all I accept, there are worlds in which God allows some persons to cease to exist. In fact, for all I know or accept, there are possible worlds in which God allows *us* to cease to exist.
    More helpful perhaps would be certain vs. likely universalism. In the Appendix on free will & universalism to my web page “Universalism and the Bible,” I lay out a couple of possible views, expressing preference for the second one, which is a form of certain universalism. So I lean that way. It’s not “certain” in the sense that I claim to be certain that universalism is true: As I admit in the middle post Jeremy links to above (“Hoping that Universalism Is / Will Be True”), that’s very far from the case. But, according to this position that I uncertainly accept, *it* is certain that all will be saved, and God knows for certain that all will be saved. This may be a contingent truth — depending on such potentially contingent factors as how God has decided to deal with us. But it is now certain.
    It wouldn’t be fair to say that on this view that I favor, God will compel acceptance, for on my view, it is *overwhelmingly* likely that all will freely accept. But there is a Vanishingly small, but still existent, chance that God will compel acceptance of some. So this view does involve a denial of what in the web page I call “fervent exclusivism” — the position that to be saved, one must *freely* accept. But I see little support for that, anyway. As I write, the position I prefer does accept exclusivism (it’s only through Christ that any can be saved) and strong exclusivism (to be saved, one must meet some kind of acceptance condition), and recognizes the importance & desirability of the acceptance being free, but doesn’t go all the way to fervent exclusivism. The other position I sketch — the one I lean against — holds on to fervent exclusivism by giving up on certain universalism, and settling for a form of likely universalism.

    June 20, 2006 — 16:42
  • jon kvanvig

    My mistake, Keith, I thought for sure that you took your universalism to be a solution to the problem of hell… Given what you say here, your position and mine are really a whole lot closer than I had thought. The only difference I see anymore is, to put it in a way you may not agree with, the slight remnant of Calvinism left in your views about salvation. 🙂 (That’s my description of your claim that you don’t see much support for the view that free response is necessary for salvation.) As you may remember, I defended the view that God puts all of us in circumstances maximally conducive to salvation, and we agree completely that this leaves a vanishingly small chance for each individual that they would rebel forever. There is still the issue of how to get this tiny probability to transfer to the claim that all will be saved, but if we let that go, the only difference us is about the remnant of Calvinism you accept. Unless I’ve misunderstood your view in some other way as well…

    June 20, 2006 — 19:06
  • I’m a little resistant to the suggestion that Calvinists don’t require a free response for salvation. Calvinists are generally compatibilists, not hard determinists, which means they think free responses can also be divinely determined. So Calvinists can accept that salvation requires a free response. (It just wouldn’t be the kind of response that libertarians would call free.) Those who hold to a hard determinist view of freedom tend to be called hyper-Calvinists.

    June 20, 2006 — 21:42
  • your position and mine are really a whole lot closer than I had thought
    Yes, our biggest difference may concern what God would do if he faced a situation that I think he will almost certainly never face.

    June 21, 2006 — 1:03
  • Christian

    Dear Keith,
    “For all I accept, there are worlds in which God allows some persons to cease to exist. In fact, for all I know or accept, there are possible worlds in which God allows *us* to cease to exist.”
    Could you expand a bit on why you think God could, for all we know, allow someone to freely reject him forever or that God could allow someone to cease to exist and never come back into existence? I would have thought that what motivates Universalism, e.g. parent analogies and arguments from what a perfect being would do, would make this impossible implying Universalism’s truth.
    I’m also unsure why you couch things in epistemic terms. Is the idea that you think it is very likely given what we have to fgo on tht all individuals go to heaven, but that it may turn out that some do not? Is it consistent with your view that nobody goes to heaven, although it is likely that everyone does?
    “So this view does involve a denial of what in the web page I call “fervent exclusivism” — the position that to be saved, one must *freely* accept. But I see little support for that, anyway.”
    Maybe (I don’t know) the reason people object to the idea that God could zap people into accepting him is that if such a situation is consistent with God’s perfection, then we seem to have an undercutter for the free will defense of the existence of evil, or at least some kind of tension. That is, why couldn’t God zap people into changing their motives hwnever they are about to do something naughty. Response: That undermines their freedom. But then how can a Universalist accept that God could zap people into accepting him, there are good reasons for zapping in both cases.

    June 21, 2006 — 17:17
  • Tom

    Patrick: Another point of interest, I think, is that if there isn’t a satisfactory way for the open theist to be universalist, then whatever scriptural evidence DeRose offers on behalf of universalism (and he thinks it to be strong) counts against open theism. That is, if Scripture teaches that all will be saved, and the OT can’t account for God’s knowing this, then OT is in trouble.
    Tom: Remember, open theism is just the claim that SOME of the future is epistemically open for God. No open theist claims ALL the future is indeterminate. So if some aspect of the future can be shown (scientifically, philosophically, biblically, etc.) to be epistemically closed for God, this only shows that THAT aspect of the future is closed. This can’t undermine open theism since open theism claims the future is partly open and partly closed. And open theist who is a universalist would simply place the eventual salvation of all into that category of future events that is epistemically closed for God.
    But the future can be closed in some ways and open in others in an important way. For example, it might be the case (assuming universalism, OK?) that all will eventually choose Christ but also the case that precisely when this or that individual will choose Christ is relatively open (i.e., any time between t1 and t100. t100 would provide some limit, yes, but the future could still be open up to that point. Insurance companies know that, say, 20% of teenage drivers “will” be in car accidents even though which teens and when is somewhat open. But they know that by the year’s end, 20% will have been in accidents. This is a bit different because it’s based on past experience, whereas the eventual salvation of all isn’t based on any past experience but on God’s own determination to intervene (at a time of his choosing) to determine agents in hell. But event that may be somewhat open. God may decide to intervene when character solidification reaches a certain point, which it must do but which it does under a timetable set by the agent herself. You can cover a finite distance at 1 mph or 100 mph. WHEN you cover it is up to you (and so open), but THAT you’ll eventually cover the distance is not up to you (and so closed).
    I’m just trying to show that if one were able to prove outright that strong universalism were true, it wouldn’t destroy open theism as a cosmology. It would only mean that THIS aspect of the future was not open. Of course, open theists ground the openness of future ‘moral’ choice at least in its necessarily being indeterminate, and so open. And most open theists argue that the choice for Christ, to relate lovingly to God, is such a choice. So for an open theist to be a strong universalist she’d have to a) abandon the belief that such choice is incompatible with determinism (which would leave us all wondering why not just embrace compatibilism and be done with it), or b) argue that God has decided not to determine our choice of him during our life-span on earth but to eventually determine it if he has to. And THAT is a tall order. I can only speculate. Perhaps libertarian choice yields something in relational terms that’s sacrificed by those whose choice for God is determined compatibilistically by God in the afterlife; that is, perhaps libertarian choice and compatibilistic choice are both compatible with moral accountability at the very minimum but don’t both yield the same possibilities in relational terms and so can’t both produce as glorious and beautiful a creation. That is, libertarian choice is more beautiful than compatibilistic choice when it comes to loving relationality—which is what God is after on the open theist’s view. Perhaps God and we get more out of our libertarianly choosing him that God and we can possibly get out of God’s compatibilistically determining that we choose him, though the latter yield some benefit for us and glory and enjoyment for God). And since God’s intentions are a maximally beautiful God-creation relationship, we are left free libertarianly to determine whether or not we reflect more or less beauty for God. But in the afterlife this opportunity is over and God eventually determines our choice and enjoys a lesser degree of reflected beauty. I’m just thinking out loud.
    But you’re right. Open theists who want to ground their strong universalism in the eventual absence of libertarian free will are going to have to come up with really good reasons for believing we presently exercise libertarian free will at all.
    If your interested, there was an interesting discussion on these issue here (it’s 29 pages of a public discussing board, but has some interesting stuff):
    http://www.opentheismboard.org/default.aspx?f=10&p=001&m=60393
    Kevin: Thomas Talbott is also a committed Universalsim and a libertarain… According to Talbott, at some point in the future God could simply override the free will of someone who continued to reject Him and determine that person to go to heaven.
    Tom: If Talbott believes God could eventually override libertarian free will then how ‘committed’ a libertarian is he? And he never offers reasons for why God would leave us libertarianly free in this life if overriding our freedom is consistent with his purposes for us and our experiencing heaven. Thus Talbott’s universalism doesn’t help much with the problem of evil.
    I’m undecided in universalism. But I wil register my inability to get with eternal conscious tormet. What I’d like to say at this point is: God will lovingly pursue us in the afterlife so long as we’re redeemable. And should any person solidify irrevocably in evil, God would annihilate that person. So, God will save whatever can be saved and annihilate whatever can’t be saved. That’s not universalism. But it’s a lot better than eternal conscious torment, no?
    Tom

    June 21, 2006 — 18:42
  • Patrick Todd

    Tom,
    Thanks for the comments here.
    I agree that the OT God can know all sorts of things about the future, namely, to whatever extent the future is causally or logically necessitated. So, in principle, I recognize that strong universalism (all *will* be saved) could easily be compatible with open theism if the eventual salvation of all was causally or logically necessary.
    The problem for OT and universalism is the following.
    Suppose DeRose is right about the Bible. The Bible teaches that all will be saved and will be in heaven.
    Suppose Kvanvig is right about salvation: one’s libertarianly free choice to accept God’s grace is essential to being in heaven.
    These two positions, if true, would wreck open theism. God can’t know, on open theism, what we will lib. freely do in the future, and thus can’t know that everyone will lib. freely accept his grace. So if Scripture does teach that we all will accept God’s grace and thus be in heaven, and we must be lib. free with respect to such acceptance as Kvanvig argues, then open theism is false. God would know what we will lib. freely do.
    The OT universalist thus must deny Kvanvig’s point that lib. free acceptance is essential to being in heaven, as DeRose does. (The OT universalist isn’t alone here; any non-Molinist universalist seems to have to deny Kvanvig’s point.)
    So if Kvanvig is right, there is no satisfactory way (I think) to be an open theist and a strong universalist.
    Next, in your option (b) you seem to suggest that God could in the afterlife ‘determine compatibilistically’ that we accept him. I think what you are getting at here (what you take to be a ‘tall order’) is that God might simply determine that we accept him even if we are rejecting him, which would amount to God forcing us to accept him. Hence, he wouldn’t be determining that we compatibilistically accept him, since compatibilists think that freedom is incompatible with being forced from the outside. It doesn’t seem like what you’ve got in mind in (b) is a choice arising from the nature of agent and her own desires, but one that God simply forces her to make. In short, if God ends up facing the situation that DeRose thinks is incredibly unlikely, then those he forces to accept him won’t be free even as compatibilists think of it. (Though, given what I said earlier, I’d be quite interested to hear thoughts on whether or not meeting the conditions for freedom as compatibilists conceive it is sufficient for having the essential experience of heaven.)

    June 22, 2006 — 0:00
  • jon kvanvig

    Patrick, that’s a superb explanation of the problem for open theism regarding the joint affirmation of libertarianism, universalism, and the place of freedom in the story of salvation.
    There’s one minor complication, however. Ordinary knowledge doesn’t require as high a probability as you seem to require here for God’s knowledge. We can have perceptual knowledge, for example, even though the likelihood of error is still present. So knowledge, even omniscience, doesn’t require as high a standard as you impose here on God.
    But you are right about God’s knowledge nonetheless, for God is not merely omniscient but essentially omniscient. To be essentially omniscient is to be incapable of error about anything one believes. So with respect to God’s knowledge, there’s a problem, but only because of essential omniscience, not simple omniscience itself.

    June 22, 2006 — 6:42
  • jon kvanvig

    Tom and Patrick, no libertarian about freedom ought to allow language about “determining acceptance compatibilistically” to do any work whatsoever in this debate. The bottom line is that either you are free or not, and if libertarianism is correct, then compatibilistic determining is no different than any other kind of determining when the issue of freedom is in focus.
    If compatibilism is true, we should all become Thomists/Edwardsians, and I’d tack on universalism to avoid having to view some as vessels fitted for unredeemable destruction. But if compatibilism is false, as libertarians all hold, we shouldn’t pretend that there is some weaker notion of freedom identifiable by replacing theory with adverb.

    June 22, 2006 — 6:52
  • Corey

    As an open theist and a strong universalist, here’s how I’ve been dealing with the questions discussed here.
    I believe that God will unilaterally impose the judgment of the second death. You SHALL reach rock bottom; you shall learn that all else is vanity, you shall “die to self”. But neither does this make one “alive to Christ”. A person is able to libertarian decide whether or not make the leap of faith from the point of rock bottom. The point is, now that all the baggage in their life has been burned away, it becomes inevitable that they will eventually make this free choice. This shares some intuitions which what Christian posted above, “None of us could eternally refuse heaven once we are informed of the relevant options (isolation versus perfect love).”

    June 22, 2006 — 8:10
  • Tom

    Thanks Patrick and Jon.
    I see your points and don’t disagree right now. I wasn’t aware, Patrick, that you were figuring in the essentially libertarian nature of belief. So I’m with ya. If it’s true that the probability that all will believe is 1 (“will”) and if it’s true that belief must be a libertarian choice, then it would seem open theism is done for. But as Keith argues I think the OV is compatible with the probability of all believing being very high indeed.
    So if an open theist was convinced that the probability of universal salvation was, strictly speaking, 1, then she’d have to adjust something on her view of the necessity of libertarianism with regard to heaven. And my previous post floated out a suggestion of how this might be done. Suppose it’s the case that freely believing (that is, libertarianly believing) is more beautiful and beneficial to God and us than being determined by God to believe (though the latter yields ‘some’ genuine personal relationality). Suppose God is after all the beauty he can get from creation, in which case he leaves us free in this life to determine how much beauty we reflect for God but decides to determine the faith of those who enter the afterlife without having believed and grown to love God. I’m not entirely sure I even go for this. I’m just suggesting a way an open theist might tweak Jon’s insistence upon libertarianism with respect to entering heaven at all. Personally, I’m inclined to agree with Jon and say “love requires freedom” is a metaphysical rule that not even God can get around in securing the belief and love of us finite creatures.
    Let me toss out one last analogy. It’s Reitan’s analogy, and it’s designed to show that one can maintain all “will” eventually “freely” believe. The grounds of this aren’t in God’s determining choice, but in the combination of the circumstances hell provides God to pursue persons and the length of time (eternity) God has to pursue them.
    Here’s Reitan’s analogy. Consider a shoe box full of 50 pennies. ‘Heads’ represents a choice for God. ‘Tails’ represents a choice to reject God. Suppose that God continues to pursue the wicked in hell, granting them eternity to consider their plight. God does this by ‘shaking’ the box. Suppose that should they freely make a choice for God their sufferings end and they take the elevator to glory. To represent this in the analogy, suppose the ‘heads’ side of the coin has superglue on it so that once it lands ‘heads’ down (for God), that’s it. But if the penny should land ‘tails’ down it’s not permanently heads down. It’ll be flipped up when the box is shaken and be brought to a point of choice again and again. So, each penny has a 50% chance of landing ‘heads’ down and ‘securing’ itself for God or of landing ‘tails’ down and continuing on. That is, each agent in hell is free at each point of decision brought about by the shaking of the box to choose or reject God. It’s landing ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ down on any shaking of the box would be indeterminate. So what Jon insists upon (libertarianism essential to heaven) is always there.
    But if you have all eternity to shake a box of 50 pennies so construed, what’s the probability that all the pennies will not eventually land (permanently) ‘heads’ down? I’m not a mathematician, but multiplied out over eternity, I suppose there might be some incalculably low probability that some (even one) of the pennies will continue for all eternity to land ‘tails’ down. I suppose there’s a number to express this improbability. I imagine the probability of some pennies never landing ‘heads’ down would be infinitely smaller than the probability of tossing a barrel of alphabet blocks from the Eiffel Tower and having them land on the ground below so that they spell out Psalm 23. I don’t doubt that there is mathematical ‘chance’ this could happen. But would anyone every bet on it? How meaningful is it to even consider it, to figure such a probability into our expectations of the future of the toss from the Tower? Practically speaking, it’s non-existent. We would think something wrong with the person who gave such a probability any consideration at all. All of us would say of a barrel of alphabet blocks tossed from the Eiffel Tower that they “will not” land so as to spell out Psalm 23. Is so, then so we should with equal confidence say of all those in hell that they “will not” refuse God forever.
    If it’s appropriate, Reitan’s analogy makes it possible for an open theist to agree with Jon on the necessity of libertarian choice for salvation and still justifiably say “will” with respect to eventual universal salvation, even if that “will” is not strictly speaking a mathematically defined “will.” (Sorry I’m less than philosophically rugged in my langauge, but I trust you get my overall point.)
    What of Reitan’s analogy?
    Tom

    June 22, 2006 — 10:01
  • Maybe (I don’t know) the reason people object to the idea that God could zap people into accepting him is that if such a situation is consistent with God’s perfection, then we seem to have an undercutter for the free will defense of the existence of evil, or at least some kind of tension. (Christian, from several comments above)
    That God could — has the power to — determine people to accept him should be relatively unproblematic, I think. And the FWD better not depend on that being false. The question here — and probably the question you mean to be raising — concerns not God’s power to do so, but the *value* of such coerced acceptance: could God do that consistent with his being perfectly good. Being a fairly robust libertarian, I’m not inclined to judge such necessitated acceptance of any intrinsic value. It can have instrumental value, however, in that it can lead to a very valuable state — one that may include good free actions in the future. But the value needn’t be that great, anyway, if the competition here is annihilation.
    But I suspect the real value in play here is *assurance*. In my view, the chances that God will face the coerce/annihilate choice at the future time picked for the “end of chances” are VANISHINGLY small. If God were to face the choice, I do judge coercion to be the better one. But the more pressing question would be why there would be such a time at which chances end. I don’t believe there would be a point at which it’s certain that the right choice will never be made. Indeed, at any point, no matter how set the person seems to make the wrong choice, it’s OVERWHELMINGLY probable that God will be able to bring them around to the good. So *hang in there* would always seem, to me at least, better than *annihilate*. So, why not always choose *hang in there* over *coerce*? (This is coming down to the choice between the first & the second option I consider in the Appendix on free will & universalism.) Here’s where the value of assurance can come in. God decides now to render it certain that all will be saved in order to be able to assure us that in Christ all will be made alive. That assurance is of very significant value. And what does God give up? He commits himself to choosing *coerce* over *hang in there* at some point in the future. But by picking a time far enough off in the future, God can make the chances that He will ever have to coerce as close to 0 as He wants. So this is exceedingly close to a cost-free commitment. The value of assurance easily beats it. But, of course, people want to ask about the situation in which the nearly-impossible happens. Well, then, keeping the commitment explains the choosing of *coerce*.

    June 22, 2006 — 10:04
  • Tom

    This mistake bothers me. I said:
    “But if the penny should land ‘tails’ down it’s not permanently heads down.”
    Of course that should read, “…it’s not permanent TAILS down.”
    OK, I’m anal.
    Tom

    June 22, 2006 — 10:07
  • Tom

    Keith: That God could — has the power to — determine people to accept him should be relatively unproblematic, I think.
    Tom: Hi Keith. Really enjoyed your stuff on universalism.
    That God has the *muscle* (ability) to determine that a person say or believe this or that seems unproblematic. That God has the muscle or ability it determine that another person ‘love’ God is debatable. And if salvation and heavenly existence amount to loving relationality, then the question becomes not whether God’s determining a person’s *belief state or *acknowledgment of Christ is consistent with his being perfectly good but whether or not such determination can in fact result is a person’s participating at all in what heaven by defintion is. It seems to me that if heaven is loving relationality and if one of the metaphysical requirments of our participating in such relationality is our freely choosing to be in such a relationship, then our loving God is simply not something God has the ability to determine for us. In this case, wouldn’t annihilation be the most loving thing to do with people who irrevocably reject God (assuming such rejection is possible)?
    Tom

    June 22, 2006 — 12:26
  • Patrick Todd

    Tom,
    Concerning Reitan’s analogy, I think any such analogies aren’t going to be sufficient, since they leave open some probability (however small) that not all will be saved. Thus, if God has said that all will be saved, and there is some probability that not all will be saved, then there is some possible world in which God turns out to be wrong. But since God is essentially omniscient as Jon points out, there is no possible world in which God turns out to be wrong.
    Jon,
    You say: “Tom and Patrick, no libertarian about freedom ought to allow language about “determining acceptance compatibilistically” to do any work whatsoever in this debate. The bottom line is that either you are free or not, and if libertarianism is correct, then compatibilistic determining is no different than any other kind of determining when the issue of freedom is in focus.”
    I agree that either you are free or not, and that libertarianism is true, and thus that if God (as I earlier suggested) gives us natures that make it eventually necessary that we accept him, we wouldn’t be free with regard to that acceptance. However, much of the resistance to Keith’s suggestion that (should God face the incredibly unlikely) God would simply compel acceptance seems to be that such *forced* acceptance (or forced love) is incoherent or otherwise unacceptable. So perhaps some of the resistance to Keith’s position could be offset if one could give an account in which such acceptance is necessary but *not* forced.
    Again, it is true that if the only thing in focus is freedom, then compatibilistic determining is no different than the of course non-libertarian *and* non-compatibilistic determining in Keith’s present account. (And by ‘compatibilistic determining’ I don’t mean to suggest that there are two sorts of freedom or something, but just as a way of talking about actions that meet the conditions that compatibilists posit for freedom; I *do* remember our past discussions about versions of freedom �?� )
    But maybe one shouldn’t think that one’s free acceptance of God’s grace is *essential* to being in heaven, but simply that one’s *forced* acceptance of God’s grace is incompatible with being in heaven (for the reasons you give against forced love).
    Anyway, for the reasons you give against forced love, I’m inclined to think that the OT universalist shouldn’t think that God can compel our being saved and being in heaven and loving him. Unfortunately, though, and as Keith has pointed out, I don’t see overwhelming Scriptural support for thinking that free acceptance of God’s grace is essential to being in heaven. In fact, I’ve always been powerfully troubled by the Scriptural support my Calvinist-minded friends summon on behalf of the precise opposite view. So I’m conflicted, since what you say concerning our freely submitted wills as a requisite for heaven seems totally right to me; hence I don’t like the view I’m suggesting as an option. My main point is that *if* you think that free acceptance isn’t essential to heaven, and that forced love is incoherent, then as a universalist you may have a way to affirm both.

    June 22, 2006 — 12:29
  • Christian

    Responding to Keith: “Being a fairly robust libertarian, I’m not inclined to judge such necessitated acceptance of any intrinsic value. It can have instrumental value, however, in that it can lead to a very valuable state — one that may include good free actions in the future.”
    I can see this. The suggestion is that the the coerced acceptance is not intrinsically valuable, perhaps because it would then not be free. But, the acceptance, coerced or not, puts one in a position to freely be with God, enjoy heaven, etc., all things which are valuable in themselves.
    That seems okay to me, but then that raises the question: why doesn’t God coerce people, on occasions in which they are about to perform some immoral act (rape a child, for instance) not to do the things they are about to do? FWD defenders could say that this would violate freedom and the value of freedom is too significant such that God would be making the world worse by coercing would-be rapists. But, then the FWD and Universalist will have the (perhaps unhappy) project of explaining why enjoying God in heaven justifies one kind of coercion, but a child’s being raped and murdered does not justify the other kind of coercion. I submit that “I” don’t see what the relevant difference is so that one who accepts that God could, even if unlikely, coerce acceptance of him, then God could also coerce people to cease to desire to rape children just before doing so.
    At the very least, I think Universalism, of your stripe, does highlight a special problem for FWD.
    I’m unclear about the role of assurance on your view. I agree that coercion is better than annihilation, definitely. I also think it plausible that all individuals will freely accept God given that God reveals the relevant options to them. So, the likelihood of coercion is very small. Next, perhaps God adopts a Universalist policy such that he never allows eternal rejection of him hence assuring that all will be saved. Is the idea that adopting this policy has value that outweighs the disvalue of the coercion (multiplied by the likelihood that coercion will be required)?
    II guess I’m not seeing it yet. The assurance doesn’t strike me as adding value to a situation that isn’t already there. More modestly, it isn’t clear to me how one would justify the claim that having a Universalist policy adds value to the world that outweighs instances of coercion that does assume that post-coercion benefits outweigh the loss of freedom. But then the appeal to assurance would be idle.
    By the way, I don’t happen to think coercion is problematic at all. I don’t think violation of freedom very significant either and so I have no problem whatsoever with your Universalist view. I would find a Christian world-view that denied it very implausible. However, the reasons it seems fine to me also partly explain why the argument from evil seems to me decisive.

    June 22, 2006 — 12:36
  • Tom

    Patrick: Concerning Reitan’s analogy, I think any such analogies aren’t going to be sufficient, since they leave open some probability (however small) that not all will be saved. Thus, if God has said that all will be saved, and there is some probability that not all will be saved, then there is some possible world in which God turns out to be wrong. But since God is essentially omniscient as Jon points out, there is no possible world in which God turns out to be wrong.
    Tom: I wouldn’t understand even an essentially omniscient being’s admitting into his expectations regarding the future of a barrel of lettered blocks tossed from the Eiffel Tower the probability that they fall so as to spell out one of Shakespear’s sonnets. The question, I suppose, has to do with the contextual constraints of God’s communicating to us who are not essentially omniscient. So when God tells us (assuming he does in Scripture) “all will be redeemed” I don’t assume God intends us to submit his words to the highest possible standards of mathematical accuracy. I assume he’s communicating accurately so as to ground our hope that all creation will be won. Nobody would fault me for saying “the blocks tossed to the ground from the Tower ‘will not’ form a sonnet on the ground.” One COULD submit this claim to a highest possible standard of accuracy, in which case my claim would be wrong (assuming the probabilities we’re discussing). But we don’t HAVE to submit all Scriptural claims to such standards of measurement. We don’t do it with each other. I suppose it has to do with the mode of communicating. Are we having a conversation in popular terms and so measuring truthfulness according to those terms (which I admit isn’t always easy to do)? Or are we in a labratory submitting every divine communication to the highest imaginable mathematicaly scrutiny possible? Placing myself in God’s position (which might disqualify me right away!), if I have designed creation in such a way as to secure an incalculably (for humans) small probability that not all will eventually freely love me, I would not bother to introduce such mathematical probabilities into the Scriptural discourse.
    But if we think the truthfulness of all God’s discourse to us in Scripture is to be measured by the highest and most philosophically and mathematically rigorous standards, then I suppose you’re right. But none of us normally measures the truthfulness of our communications with others on such terms. I’m just not sure why we have to assume God’s communications to us have to be held to such standards. Yes, he’s essentially omniscient, but he’s seeking to ground the hope of persons not essentially omniscient. So I suspect he communicates to us in much the same way we talk to one another.
    So, Patrick, you’ve got 50 pennies so constued and you’re tossing them into the air. And you have eternity to keep tossing them. Once a penny falls heads down it’s locked in. Are we really to question the expectation that each penny will eventually fall heads down? There’s no room here?
    Tom

    June 22, 2006 — 13:10
  • then that raises the question: why doesn’t God coerce people, on occasions in which they are about to perform some immoral act (rape a child, for instance) not to do the things they are about to do? FWD defenders could say that this would violate freedom
    They can say that, but not with any plausibility at all, at least to my thinking. Whatever the explanation for God allowing such evils is, I’d have to think it isn’t entirely — at least not in all cases — b/c the precious freedom of the perpetrator would be slightly impinged. That’s perhaps the main problem that shows the FWD can’t do the whole job of dealing with the concrete form of the problem of evil.
    If one is pushing the FWD in claiming that the value of libertarian freedom plays a big role in explaining why God allows evil to exist, then I’m definitely on board. If one is saying that the FWD by itself solves the problem, then count me out.

    June 22, 2006 — 13:25
  • I should be clear about the situations I’m talking about. It’s when the harm to others is great — & esp. when it’s also extremely probable the bad act will be done — that it becomes impossible for me to believe that a suff. reason for allowing the evil act is to avoid impinging on the precious freedom of the perpetrator.
    Perhaps in other situations (not as much harm done, probably not going to do it anyway), the good of not impinging on the potential perp’s freedom is suff.
    Non-coerced good actions (or refrainings) are valuable, but that value can’t explain everything…

    June 22, 2006 — 13:40
  • Christian

    Hi Keith,
    Your reply seems just fine to me. I would get off any boat that tried to justify moral evil by appealing to the value of human freedom. Human freedom should be part of the answer, but certainly not the whole truth.
    I take it that some people will resist Universalism because it entails the possibility of coerced acts and they think the value of free uncoerced acts is so significant. I wonder whether these same people will think the FWD is sufficent to refute the argument from evil on its own. There may even be an explanation here for the resistance (by some) to Universalism: they may think their response to the A from E requires them to value the free acceptance of God more than those goods the acceptance would bring about.
    Anyway, a point occurred to me. Consider those occasions in which if someone were to reject God any longer, then God would coerce them into accepting him. These will be one’s last moments of free rejection of God, say. Now, I assume that God’s zapping one into accepting him is a free act of God’s. For any given situation then, coercing people into accepting God does not diminish the net value brought about by free acts. Human rejection just provides an occasion for God’s exercising his freedom (this would also apply to the A from E).
    So, those who deny Universalism because it implies some sort of deprivation of freedom need to explain why it does since the net total is the same. Also, those who think Universalism is implausible because they think coercion is so bad need to think very hard about whether human freedom outweighs other sorts of moral evils.

    June 22, 2006 — 18:01
  • jon kvanvig

    It’s tempting to lose track of the defeasible character of appeals to freedom here. The value of freedom and autonomy creates a presumption in favor of non-interference, and the question is when this presumption is overridden by other factors. So it shouldn’t be thought that appeals to freedom explain away any and all divine allowances of evil actions, but without appeals to freedom, the explanations have to make up the difference in some other way.
    I’ll repeat one idea I brought up before, because I think this discussion phrased in terms of acceptance of God can mislead here. The resolution of this issue turns on the details of an account of sin, the fall, the nature of salvation, and the story of redemption. Patrick is definitely right that the Calvinist story here is immensely attractive, and doesn’t need any notion of libertarian freedom. My own perspective, however, goes in a different direction, in favor of an account on which the fundamental issues concern whether we will continue down the path of the egocentric pattern which is fundamentally one of wanting to be Godlike ourselves, or whether we will acquiesce to the divine invitation to the fulfillment and blessedness of love and worship of the one true God. In my view, this story will be infected with appeals to libertarian freedom from first to last.

    June 23, 2006 — 7:09
  • jon kvanvig

    Keith, on the idea that determination of behavior at one point in time can lead to possibilities in the future for free actions, I’m not quite sure how this will work. I see how it would work for additional physical parts: if I were given eyes in the back of my head, I could freely attend to aspects of my environment that I now can’t attend to (without turning around, that is!). And if given a better musculo-skeletal frame, I could choose to dunk from the free throw line like MJ (and like I do in my dreams…).
    But regarding capacities like these, I know how to tell the story. The laws of nature, etc., remain the same and the initial conditions relevant to my choices are changed so that options that weren’t possible without different physical conditions are now possible because of the change in physical conditions.
    We might try to say the same about psychological laws–is that the idea? I have some collection of phobias, character traits, etc., that restrict the range of possibilities, and just like adding eyes in the back of my head, God could add or subtract from this collection, making possible what wasn’t before.
    Is this how you are thinking?
    I’ll assume the answer is “yes”, knowing what happens when I assume… Anyway, here’s what I don’t like about this picture. Believing in deterministic laws of this sort is a very useful heuristic, but it appears to be false (even though it remains a useful heuristic even in the face of this recognition). Agoraphobia, for example, doesn’t make it impossible for people to go out in public; just incredibly hard. So getting rid of it won’t make anything possible that wasn’t already possible in the relevant sense; it just alters likelihoods. And of course altering probabilities doesn’t require interfering with freedom at all.

    June 23, 2006 — 7:23
  • Patrick Todd

    Hi Tom,
    Unless I’m mistaken, Keith’s view (that he uncertainly holds) is one on which God believes that the objective probability that anyone is not saved is 0. So it is *this* statement, i.e. this philosophical/theological position, that ought to be subjected to the high standards appropriate for such positions. It just happens to be a position that is partially based on Scripture. And it is plainly inconsistent with thinking that there is a non-0 objective probability that anyone is not saved, which Reitan’s analogy allows. It just simply doesn’t matter how small the probability is; the position (which is inspired by Scripture) holds that an essentially omniscient being believes that the objective probability that any won’t be saved is 0. Reitan’s analogy denies this. But we agree that if we are applying the high standards, Reitan’s analogy won’t work.
    In short, I agree that Scripture shouldn’t always and everywhere be subjected to the highest standards of accuracy, but it is a philosophical position that is here in question. But I can see how I could have been more clear, since in characterizing Keith’s view I simply said “Thus, if God has said that all will be saved, and there is some probability that not all will be saved, then there is some possible world in which God turns out to be wrong.” I meant it to be understood that if God has really said (in Scripture) that all will be saved, which is the view that DeRose seems to endorse, then God himself has the belief that all will be saved, which necessarily can’t be false (which would disallow analogies like Reitan’s).
    There is an interesting issue, however, which your comments raise concerning the conditions on which an essentially omniscient being could *reveal* to us in Scripture that all will be saved, and perhaps there being a probability 0 that not all will be saved isn’t one of those conditions. That seems right to me, actually. Maybe an essentially omniscient God could still reveal to us that all will be saved so long as the probability in question is sufficiently low, as you indicate. But this isn’t the view that is in question, though of course Keith or any other universalist is free to hold (a view that Keith has in fact considered on his website) that while it may be the case that all will be saved, it isn’t certain, but so nearly so that one can still be called a universalist despite thinking that its not strictly certain that all will be saved, and that God could still responsibly assure us in Scripture that all will be saved.

    June 23, 2006 — 11:32
  • Michael Kamps

    Hey, Keith, Jeremy, Patrick, Kevin, Jon, Mike, Christian, Tom, and Corey (and if I left out anyone, it was purely oversight as I scanned the names on the postings – my apologies) –
    I have no grounding in philosophy, and no experience with blogs – so if I lack proper etiquette, again, my apologies.
    Finally, if this is a closed discussion group, please let me know and I will butt out – again, with my apologies.
    I have been reading with interest the discussion, and my head is swirling, as one might expect would be the experience of a fifty (almost, anyway) year old mortgage broker reading a discussion of this sort. I have nothing to add at this point regarding the central discussion which seems to be an attempt to reconcile the concepts of universalism, free will, etc. – and how that relates to salvation.
    My remarks relate to the tangential discussion of God allowing evil, especially when the evil visits significant harm upon another, not a willing participant in the evil act. While I would hold that God does, indeed, place a high premium on non-interference with one’s will – I would simultaneously hold that He does not place such a premium on non-interference with the resulting actions. In fact, I would argue that, ultimately, the perp’s actions never achieve their intended results, at least with regard to those who are (or will be) children of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
    Scripture is replete with examples of God’s direct intervention to confound the actions of those intent upon visiting evil upon another. Pharaoh’s army at the bottom of the Red Sea in Exodus, the four lepers who put to flight the army of the Arameans in 2Kings, or Peter being freed from prison in Acts. In all of these examples (as well as countless anectdotal accounts through the centuries) God did not interfere with the evil will of men – but certainly did interfere with the intended harmful results.
    But what if He appears to allow the result intended by the perp? Ultimately, God is omniscient and omnipotent, and He causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose – in other words, those who are His (or will be His). How many of us know someone who has seen tremendous good (even the greatest good – salvation) rise from the destruction wrought by another’s evil act? For that matter, what could be more evil than knowingly inflicting a scourging and crucifiction upon an inocent – to solidify the perps’ own power and influence? Yet, God ordained this act from the foundation of the world in order that His own might be reconciled to Himself, and be perfectly conformed to the image of Christ. But what of those who are not, and will not ever be, His own (assuming that possibility exists)? He is under no obligation to thwart the result, or work the result to the good of those who are in hostility toward Him, is He?
    Finally, there is the problem of what, exactly, is harmful. We are finite. We know in part. We are not God – but He is! There are things which seem to be harmful – but which actually necessary for our development. I don’t know how many participants are parents, but I am. While my daughter, now 19, was growing up, there were countless times she thought I was heartless and cruel. I would make her do things she didn’t want to in order to strengthen her. I would keep her from doing what she wanted in order to protect her. No amount of explanation could console her, or convince her that she was not abolutely oppressed – but I could see what she couldn’t – and so it is with an omniscient God. I, at 48, have a great appreciation for what my father and mother, now 88 and 83, did to develop, strengthen and protect me – but at 15 I was angry about the very things I am now thankful for.
    So, if we are His (or will be His), we can be confident that He will either (1) thwart the evil intended to be visited upon us, (2) work the evil which actually is visited upon us to our ultimate good, or (3) we will find out that what we initially thought was an evil was actually a blessing visited upon us. If we will never be His (again, assuming such a possibility exists), we have no standing to expect His intervention. What, then, is the problem if God allows evil to exist?

    June 24, 2006 — 1:21
  • Jon

    Jon-
    Your book The Problem of Hell is on my list of books to buy. It’s a bit pricey, ouch! But I’m looking forward to reading it.
    Tell me, how similar is your view to Jerry Walls (The Logic of Hell)? I take it you argue (like him) that God will provide each person adequate grace and knowledge so that she can make a responsible choice for or against God, correct? And what of hell? Do you take an adequately informed choice against God to include the possibility of a person’s irrevocably choosing eternal conscious torment? Or would that be a choice to be annihilated? Walls argues that irrevocably choosing eternal conscious torment can be a meaningful and libertarian choice, and he doesn’t engage annihilationism much that I recall.
    Tom

    June 24, 2006 — 8:50
  • jon kvanvig

    Tom, the view I defend makes annihilation the ultimate end state apart from God, but doesn’t rule out eternal existence, since there are constraints on what a free choice must be like in order to require it to be honored. I argue that there are such requirements, and that a proper understanding of the value of autonomy requires honoring choices in certain circumstances. Like Jerry’s view, it is a version of the choice model of hell rather than a punishment model (though, of course, that doesn’t rule out the occurrence of punishment for those in hell–it’s just that the punishment, if there is such (and I don’t say anything about that), isn’t the point).

    June 24, 2006 — 9:12
  • jon kvanvig

    Tom, one more thing in the context of the open theism discussions here. It turns out that for annihilation to occur, Molinism would have to be true. So if there aren’t true counterfactuals of freedom, the conditions I outline for the requirement that a free choice be honored cannot be met, and so no requirement obtains. So an open theist couldn’t use my arguments to adopt annihilationism, even the limited version of the view that I defend.

    June 24, 2006 — 9:15
  • Jon, you write,
    “Everything you argue for here restricts the class of worlds from all of them that contain humans to some subset. Your first paragraph argues that there is a world, and our world might epistemically be that world, where everyone goes to heaven without coercion. True but irrelevant.”
    I guess I don’t see how you arrive at the irrelevance claim. So I will try one more time too. There is one proposition that I was trying to establish. I will try to do it in a simple argument. Tell me when I say something irrelevant here.
    1. There is no need for Keith’s strong coercion claim unless there are people who need to be strongly coerced.
    2. Whether there are people who need to be strongly coerced is a contingent matter.
    3. There is a decent argument that, as a matter of contingent fact, there are no people who need to be strongly coerced.
    _________________________
    :. There is no need for Keith’s strong coercion claim.
    Now why bother? Bother because rejecting the strong coercion claim *helps* to reconcile libertarianism with universalism.
    How am I doing?

    June 24, 2006 — 12:23
  • Tom

    Thank you Jon. Looking forward to reading it.
    Tom

    June 24, 2006 — 20:45