An Argument for Universalism
July 21, 2010 — 11:23

Author: Josh Rausmussen  Category: Afterlife Hell  Comments: 86

Suppose there is a perfect being (God)–a being maximal in power, knowledge, and goodness. Then this being will likely “save” (restore relationship with) everyone (all humans) eventually because:
1. God desires that everyone enjoy union with Himself.
2. If (1) is true, then God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself.
3. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union (through repentance, trusting in Jesus, whatever) doesn’t sacrifice a higher good.
4. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union is something God can do.
5. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union maximizes the chances of all his creatures eventually entering such a union.
6. Therefore, God will grant each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enjoy union with Himself.
7. If (6), then everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (argument for this to come).
8. Therefore, everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (be “saved”).
Here’s why to believe each of the premises.


1. God desires that everyone enjoy union with Himself.
This seems to fall out of God’s moral perfection. It’s good for creatures to enjoy union with a perfect being, so we’d expect a perfect being to desire this. I don’t expect this to be controversial: all the major monotheistic religions have sacred texts that suggest this.
2. If (1) is true, then God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself.
I don’t expect this to be controversial, either. God is a rational being. Therefore, if He wants something, we’d expect God to try to bring about x if He can do so without sacrificing a higher good (where “higher good” can include the prevention of certain bad things).
3. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union (through repentance, trusting in Jesus, whatever) doesn’t sacrifice a higher good.
I suppose someone could get off here. But then I’d like to know: what higher good might be sacrificed by granting someone the capacity–any number of times–to enjoy God? It seems that enjoying God–a perfect person–would be among the very highest categories of good (if not the highest). Thus, it doesn’t seem to me that granting someone the capacity to enjoy that good could possibly sacrifice an even higher good.
Displaying God’s justice by punishing people who are not in union is plainly (it seems to me) not an outweighing good; sorry Calvinists.
(This isn’t to say that there might not be important goods reaped in delaying a person’s capacity to enjoy God.)
4. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union is something God can do.
For example, God could grant each person the capacity to repent of their sins or to turn to God for salvation (or whatever). Both Calvinists and Arminians accept this much. If God could do it once for a person, I don’t see why God couldn’t do it again (and again…).
One might reply that a person can perform an action (or inaction) that, as a matter of ethical duty, God cannot ever forgive. But this would only seem plausible to me if, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, the guilty person couldn’t sincerely repent. For it makes no sense to me that a perfect being could be duty bound to never, ever forgive a certain sincerely repentant person. The problem is that it seems metaphysically possible for God to enable a person to repent from anything. So, I don’t see how a person could commit a sin which God would be duty bound to never forgive no matter what.
5. Granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union maximizes the chances of all his creatures eventually entering such a union.
Well, maybe there’s something more God could do. But the thought is that He’d at least do this much to improve the chances (as no higher good would seem to be sacrificed).
6. Therefore, God will grant each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enjoy union with Himself.
That follows from (1)-(5).
7. If (6), then everyone will eventually enjoy union with God.
Before you object, hear me out. Either the conditions for union with God must be entered into freely (in the libertarian sense) or not. If not, then God can achieve the end goal swiftly: cause everyone to meet the conditions for union. I am assuming that there can be no morally acceptable reason for God to not cause everyone to meet the conditions if He can. I will come back to this assumption in a moment.
Suppose, then, that people must enter the union with God freely. Now for another dilemma: either God knew prior to his decision of who to create which possible persons would freely unite with Him, or He didn’t know. Suppose God knew. In “Creating Worlds without Evil” I argued (persuasively :)) that although it’s logically possible that everyone is trans-world depraved, this is extraordinarily unlikely given an infinite number of possible persons. Indeed, it’s very likely that it was feasible for God to actualize any number of people who would all freely enter union with God. If that’s correct, then God needs a reason for actualizing persons whom God knew would freely always reject union. It can’t be for a person’s own good to be indefinitely (ultimately) separated from God. Thus, it would have to be for the good of others (either God or other creatures). But it’s morally wrong (isn’t it?) to create someone whose fate is ultimate relational separation from the perfect being solely for the sake of others. This is why I suggested earlier that there can be no morally acceptable reason for God to not cause everyone to meet the conditions of salvation if He can.
This leaves the option that God didn’t know before deciding who to create what possible people would freely do. The most salient instances of this option include open theism and simple foreknowledge. (Side remark: if you’re an open theist, then you can’t say that God knows that anyone will always freely refuse union. Therefore, you can’t say that God knows that universalism is false, assuming that God will indeed grant each person the capacity for union an indefinite number of times into eternity. Therefore, you can’t say that God revealed to us that universalism is false. At least not certainly false.)
Now each person gets an indefinite number of chances (from (1)-(6)). That is to say, God keeps giving someone a chance (perhaps spaced across intervals of time and certain events) for union until that person takes it (by repenting, turning to Love, whatever). Since each chance is genuine, the objective probability of making the right choice during any given chance is not zero. Plausibly, there are values near enough to zero that the probability never must fall below those values: that is to say, God could always make one’s opportunity for union not absurdly unlikely. What follows is that the objective probability of anyone never (even after eons into the afterlife) making the right choice approaches zero as the number of opportunities increases. Therefore, we should think it’s very unlikely that anyone isn’t ultimately restored to God.
8. Therefore, everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (be “saved”).

Comments:
  • Ed L

    But it’s morally wrong (isn’t it?) to create someone whose fate is ultimate relational separation from the perfect being solely for the sake of others.

    I think this premiss is problematic. Saying God is good can’t mean the same thing as saying that this man is good. Because for a man to be good means that he is acting in accordance with the end given him by God (or something similar), but for God to be good means that all things receive their goodness from him. Therefore, if God creates someone whose “fate is ultimate relational separation from the perfect being solely for the sake of others,” that action must be good in some way.
    Furthermore, the concept of “ultimate relational separation” must be clarified. Because, since God is the source of existence, all things which exist have some relation to God. (Thus, all things are good insofar as they exist)

    July 21, 2010 — 14:36
  • I think (4) is the weak premise. While I would agree that there isn’t any sin that in principle shouldn’t be forgiven, (4) does deny free will. If we are bound to eventually decide to be restored to union with God, then no decision I make matters, since no matter how hard I resist, I’ll be forced to accept God simply because He can last longer than my resistance.

    July 21, 2010 — 14:54
  • A.P. Taylor

    Joshua,
    very interesting argument. I tried to do something somewhat similiar on this thread last year: (http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2009/04/a-quick-liberta.html). But I think what you’ve got here is much more clearly thought out.
    I think the free-will theists will certainly not be persuaded to (4) as Bryce makes clear. They’ll argue that possessing free will entails the possibility that one could go on reiterating ones rejection of union with God indefinitely. If one is not free to do this, or if it is inevitable that one must eventually be “gotten to” then one is not genuinely free.
    I find this a rather weak claim. Suppose that you and your cohorts are holed up in a castle in Medieval England waiting out the siege of a Norman army. You wait for months on end, as your supplies dwindle, until eventually you face the choice of starvation, suicide, or surrender. You (wisely) choose surrender. Was your choice a free one? It seems to me that if I believed at all in freedom, I would have to say that was. You had options, you chose from among them, and sure…the Norman siege necessitated your choice, but it didn’t force you to choose option A over option B.
    Think of God as a limitlessly resourceful, infinitely patient, Norman army. Capable of a nearly eternal siege. The universalist’s intuition tells them that in the end, the siege will go God’s way. But when that happens, near as I can tell, it will happen because the person in question made a free choice (if we have freedom at all). God’s waiting them out, doesn’t make there choice of that option in that instance any less free than the choice you and your cohort make in the castle.

    July 21, 2010 — 15:25
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Ed,
    Interesting thoughts. Maybe there is something good about creating someone no matter the reason. But the general thought is that a perfect being would always prefer to create someone who would eventually repent, if He can. That’s not plausible?
    Bryce,
    One might take your objection as an objection to (3). The thought is that the good of being able to choose to be ultimately separated from God is the greater good–it’s the reason God doesn’t give someone an indefinite number of chances.
    But is that good really worth it? It certainly seems to me not worth it if the penalty is eternal suffering; but if the penalty is annihilation, then it’s less clear. I’m not sure God would offer such a choice: “love me, or die!” I’m not sure that’s right; it seems wrong. Better, I think, to offer this choice, “love me now, or now, or now, or now, or….” The assumption, of course, in both cases is that loving God is objectively good for a person.

    July 21, 2010 — 15:26
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    A.P.,
    Indeed your post was similar, thanks for it! I’ll have to take a look at the discussion that took place there.
    I agree with you that the choice to surrender would still be free. I suppose the objector might say that one choice you’d be missing out on is the choice to NEVER surrender. But then I want to know what’s so good about that choice. It seems to me to be much better for everyone to end up in a freely entered love relationship with God than for people to have the option of choosing to NEVER again be able to enter such a relationship. I don’t see that choice being worth all that much.

    July 21, 2010 — 15:39
  • Ed L

    Joshua,
    It may seem plausible to us that everyone would be saved by an all-good God, but Revelation is rather explicit on this point: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mt. 7:13-14). Given such passages, the best we can do may be to explain why it is not inconsistent with such a God.

    July 21, 2010 — 16:10
  • Justin Capes

    Josh,
    Interesting argument. Is the conclusion equivalent to
    (8′) It is inevitable that everyone will be saved?
    If it is, then it seems God has to sacrifice the good of free will. For I take it that repentance is a necessary condition for salvation. Then, if (8*) is true, I cannot avoid repenting. If I cannot avoid repenting, whether I repent or not isn’t up to me. And if it isn’t up to me whether I repent, then my repentance isn’t free. So given libertarianism, which you and I both accept (right?) one of the premises of your argument is false.
    (You might object that this reply relies on some version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities (PAP) and that this principle has been refuted by Frankfurt-style examples. I agree that the argument relies on something akin to PAP, but I disagree that Frankfurt-cases refute all versions of the principle.)
    Also, doesn’t the argument ignore the possibility of character malformation? Suppose Jones repeatedly refuses to repent (embrace Jesus or whatever) and deliberately continues in sin, etc. There is a long tradition according to which repeated rebellion of this sort results in a vicious character that is no longer capable of repenting. If this sort of character (mal)formation occurs, then not everyone will be saved (unless God intervenes and causes them to repent, in which case he sacrifices freedom).

    July 21, 2010 — 16:45
  • But it’s morally wrong (isn’t it?) to create someone whose fate is ultimate relational separation from the perfect being solely for the sake of others.
    Not so sure. The person’s horrible fate is the result of his own free decision to refuse to repent, and so the eternal separation isn’t unjust. God offered him mercy, but foresaw that he wouldn’t accept it. So God respects (yet regrets) this reprobate’s choice and its consequences for him, while rejoicing in how He can bring a greater good for others from this person’s freely chosen evil. Is that wrong?

    July 21, 2010 — 17:44
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Ed,
    The “Revelation” you quote doesn’t, as far as I can tell, suggest that the destruction is ultimate or that few ever find life. Indeed, the language of the Greek text is present tensed: “few are the ones finding [it]”
    This interpretation makes better sense of the whole of the biblical texts, in my view. (Although I used to think that the Bible teaches eternal punishment [because that’s what I was taught], I’ve been persuaded, slowly over time and study, to think otherwise.)

    July 21, 2010 — 18:28
  • Mike Almeida

    Josh, you write,
    6. Therefore, God will grant each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enjoy union with Himself.
    7. If (6), then everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (argument for this to come).

    I’ll play devil’s advocate (unsettling how comfortable I find that role). Suppose for every person P who enjoys union with God at granted time t, there is another person P+ who will not enjoy union until t+1. So no matter how many souls get saved, there is some soul that does not get saved. This seems compatible with your premises. Every soul gets an indefinite number of times to enjoy the union. Indeed, it would be odd if there were some specific number of times t such that all souls were saved by t, since it would entail a finite number of times is all that’s necessary. Who knows if that number is finite? Suppose then that there is no such finite time. It follows that, no matter what the time, some soul is not saved.
    You could make the argument apply in the case of an infinite number of times. But then it would be true (at best) that for each individual P there is some time at which P is saved. Maybe that’s good enough. Call that quasi-universalism. But that does not entail that there is any time at which every individual is saved.

    July 21, 2010 — 19:36
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Mike,
    That’s a very nice point. (I first heard something like this expressed by Al Plantinga.) If it is true that for every person P who enjoys union with God at granted time t, there is another person P+ who will not enjoy union until t+1, then that means that there will be no end to the number of people. If there are to be an infinite number of people, then perhaps quasi-universalism is the way to go.

    July 21, 2010 — 19:57
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Justin,
    Good thoughts. You are right that there would be a choice people wouldn’t have–the choice to never repent. (Or if they had that choice, it would be very unlikely for anyone to take it because to do so would be to refuse repentance an infinite number of times…) But I have a hard time seeing what’s so valuable about that choice. (I’m not even sure it’s metaphysically possible for a person to be given such a choice…) I can see how it might be good for a person to freely repent when she does; but why would it be good for a person to have a choice over whether she ever repents?
    If my son rebelled from me, I would never stop giving him chances to return. If this meant that his freely returning on some occasion was inevitable, why should that be a bad thing? What have I lost?
    As for character malformation, I see no reason why this should ever prevent God from being able to grant a person the capacity to repent.

    July 21, 2010 — 21:28
  • Justin Capes

    Josh,
    A quick reply. You once had a paper (which I really liked) replying to Wes Morriston in which you argued (if I remember correctly) that love cannot be compelled and that the value of uncompelled love would justify giving us free will, including the freedom to reject God’s offer of salvation. Perhaps I’m misremembering your thesis, but in any event, I find it hard to see how God could ensure both that I repent and come to love him and that I do so freely. But if God forces me to repent and love him, he has forfeited the great good of the uncompelled love of His creatures.
    About the character stuff, if the agent has become so corrupt through his own misconduct that he is no longer able to repent, then God may still offer salvation, and the offer may be endless, but that is a moot point if the agent can no longer accept the offer.

    July 21, 2010 — 21:50
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Tim,
    It’s not merely that God foreknows it; it’s that God could have created someone else instead who would have eventually repented. Indeed, if my probabilistic argument is correct, only a small portion of the class of possible people would freely refuse repentance an infinite number of times (if there are such counterfactuals). So, if God selects one of them to create, it seems that God should have a special reason for doing so. But I can’t think of any justified reason to do that; it seems there wouldn’t be a justified reason.
    Of course, this assumes molinism. Without molinism, the situation is worse: then God doesn’t even have the option of selecting those rare possible persons whom He knows would freely refuse to repent an infinite number of times.

    July 21, 2010 — 22:10
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Justin,
    Yes… 🙂 I argued that a situation in which beings love God without God causally determining that they do so is better than one in which the love is causally determined by the recipient. Two reply points: First, indefinitely granting people the opportunity to repent doesn’t causally determine repentance; indeed, it’s still possible that repentance never happens (though unlikely). Second, it’s not clear to me if the value of being able to choose to refuse to ever repent (if there is a value and if such a choice is possible) would be worth it. If we’re talking eternal torment as the price, it seems not.

    July 21, 2010 — 22:30
  • Aaron Bartolome

    But it’s morally wrong (isn’t it?) to create someone whose fate is ultimate relational separation from the perfect being solely for the sake of others.

    Perhaps a less problematic way of phrasing this question would be as follows: Assuming that God has middle knowledge, doesn’t God’s being perfectly loving preclude the possibility of him actualizing a world that contains a person whose free choices (e.g. continually refusing to repent) will result in that person’s having an overall bad existence, even if the salvation of others requires that person’s existence?
    I’m inclined to say, “Yes, God’s being perfectly loving precludes that possibility, because by actualizing a person whom God knows will freely choose an overall bad existence, God demonstrates himself to be unloving to that person,” and if God is unloving to one person, then he is not perfectly loving. (But then there’s the problem of whether it’s coherent to love a possible person..)
    On the other hand, Bill Craig says, “No.” In his article, “How Can Christ Be The Only Way To God?” (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5347) he writes, “The happiness and blessedness of those who would freely embrace His love should not be precluded by those who would freely spurn Him. Persons who would freely reject God and His love should not be allowed, in effect, to hold a sort of veto power over which worlds God is free to create. In His mercy God has providentially ordered the world to achieve an optimal balance between saved and lost by maximizing the number of those who freely accept Him and minimizing the number of those who would not.”
    What do you guys think?

    July 22, 2010 — 0:15
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Aaron,
    Bill Craig is assuming that to maximize the number of those who freely accept him God may need to create some people whom He knows will not accept Him. But I argued against that assumption here in here Thus, even that reason seems to be off limits.

    July 22, 2010 — 0:40
  • Dan Speak

    Great stuff, Josh! I’m on-board with the argument, I think. And this in spite of the fact that I’m one of those free will theists. What I suppose this means is that I have to take your conclusion with the “likely” you suggest in your opening. God can’t be sure that a free being will eventually accept the offer of union. But the chances are very good… and we can hope that this quasi-universalism washes out as universalism simpliciter.
    Let it be so, Lord.
    Justin,
    I really like the point you are pushing about the corrupted non-repenter. Here’s what I’m thinking. God must be maximally fair. But this person’s corrupted will presumably results from a series of bad actions that he never recognizes will have the eternal consequences they end up having. That is, this person will fail to meet the knowledge condition on being responsible for the consequences of his bad will (including his being unresponsiveness to God’s free offer of union). If God continues to make the offer to this man’s corrupted will, then God will be holding the man responsible for the consequences of his actions unfairly. So God will have to make his offer to the man after the man’s will has been “given a fair chance” at choosing for the good.

    July 22, 2010 — 1:26
  • Aaron Bartolome

    At a recent conference (http://www.nd.edu/~cprelig/conferences/video/my_ways/stump7.htm), Eleonore Stump said, “There are some things you can know about a person without having middle knowledge and without invoking any kind of circularity of foreknowledge. So for example…If you offer me a nickel to cut up my daughter into one inch square cubes of flesh, would I accept that offer? …I don’t think you need middle knowledge for that.”
    Let’s assume that Eleonore and her daughter will remain the same age forever (and other assumptions required to make the following situation coherent): Even if Eleonore was continually given the opportunity to cut up her daughter (in the ways described above), and even if the objective probability of her doing so is not zero (since we’re assuming that she is free with respect to those choices), God knows (on the basis of some relevant information about her personality/history/psychology/character, even without middle knowledge) that she would never do so. But if your argument is correct, then if Eleonore was given an indefinite number of opportunities to cut up her daughter (continual opportunities, until she finally chooses to cut up her daughter), then we should think it very unlikely that she will NEVER cut up her daughter. Right? (And then a similar point can be made about God knowing [on the basis of information about psychology/character/etc.] that some people will never repent.)
    Perhaps the problem is moving from objective probability to epistemic probability (“Therefore, we should think it’s very unlikely that anyone isn’t ultimately restored to God.”). Thoughts?

    July 22, 2010 — 4:24
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Aaron, very interesting. My inclination is to think that Eleanore doesn’t have the genuine capacity to cut up her kid given her psychological make-up. So, refusing to do so when offered isn’t a free choice… But others may have a different intuition.

    July 22, 2010 — 8:46
  • Justin Capes

    Josh,
    Perhaps eternal torment isn’t the price. Perhaps the price is something more like the picture Lewis paints in the Great Divorce, or perhaps it is simply annihilation. You seem not to have considered these possibilities in this thread.
    Dan,
    That’s a fair point.

    July 22, 2010 — 9:31
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Justin,
    It’s a pleasure connecting with you (btw). Annihilation or the Great Divorce hell are certainly smaller prices and remain live options to me. However, both result in the forfeit of an infinite good–enjoying God (and others) forever. Is there a good that comes from being able to choose God over never repenting that’s infinitely better than the good that comes from being able to choose God over not repenting at any given opportunity? It seems to me unlikely. Not to you?
    I’m curious: are you a molinist? If so, then even if it is a great good to grant people the choice of never repenting, there’s still the problem of why God would choose to create people whom He knew would choose to never repent, assuming I’m right that it’s extraordinarily likely that there are worlds within our galaxy (feasible worlds) in which everyone repents. I used to think that perhaps there were certain everlasting goods reaped in the saved that depend upon there being eternally lost (or annhiliated) people, and perhaps that’s why God chose to create some who’d be lost. But after some long talks with my wife about this, I came to think that God’s creating someone whose fate is ultimate separation for the sake of others isn’t something a perfect being would do. I also have trouble seeing what that good for others might be (the display of God’s justice?).
    These thoughts are admittedly not perfectly precise or worked out. But I trust get the gist of what I’m saying.

    July 22, 2010 — 10:36
  • Josh:
    I am dubious of 3, 7 and the Molinism. But actually I don’t think your argument needs Molinism: you can just make it a probabilistic argument.
    First, about 3. Suppose I know that I will be offered some salvation an indefinite number of times, and that there is a lower bound for the probability that I will accept salvation, so that I know that I have probability 1 of eventually accepting salvation. If that E has probability 1, then I am in a position to know E will occur. (Anybody who thinks–as everybody ought to think–that one knows one will lose in the lottery should agree. But even some of those who think that we don’t know that we will lose in the lottery may agree when the probability is 1.) So, if I am being reasonable, I will know that whether or not I accept salvation now, I will eventually accept salvation. And I know this “for sure”, in the ordinary sense (which does not imply apodeictic certainty–it’s like I know for sure that it’s not pleasant to cut my ear off with a butter knife).
    But if I know for sure that I will get eventual salvation whatever I do now, then I am not really choosing between eventual salvation and lack of eventual salvation. Maybe you could say that there are degrees of knowing for sure, and I can choose to increase the chance of eventual salvation. But if that chance starts off as one, that doesn’t work. And if that chance is one minus an infinitesimal, the choice just may not have enough significance to it.
    So, now, a great good is lost by my being offered salvation an indefinite number of times: the good of my knowledgeably and significantly choosing to be eventually with God. For either I know that I will get the offer an infinite number of times as described, in which case I either don’t have a choice at all or don’t have a significant choice (I can just affect the chances in an infinitesimal way), or I don’t know, in which case my choice may be significant but is ignorant of an important relevant fact. And in both cases a value is lost.
    Now about 7. This depends on how exactly the chances of repentance are offered. For instance, suppose that earlier choices make it possible for one to change one’s character. Then it could be that one’s character changes through choices in such a way that the probability of one’s repenting asymptotically approaches zero rapidly enough that there is a non-zero probability that one will never repent. For instance, suppose that God infinitely often offers me the choice repent or harden the heart, and each time I choose to harden my heart, the probability that next time I am offered this choice I repent goes down by a half. Then I have a non-zero probability of never repenting.
    Now, of course, you could boost the antecedent of 7 by saying that each time God offers the choice, he cleans up the person’s character in such a way that the probability of non-repentance does not go asymptotically to zero or does not do so very fast. This would require a strengthened version of 3. But on this hypothesis, a significant good of control over one’s character is lost, and the strengthened version of 3 would be less plausible.
    “I came to think that God’s creating someone whose fate is ultimate separation for the sake of others isn’t something a perfect being would do.”
    The metaphor of “fate” requires Molinism or Calvinism, I think.
    “I also have trouble seeing what that good for others might be (the display of God’s justice?).”
    Well, justice is a good for the person to whom the justice is wrought. So there is an intrinsic good for the individual being punished.
    Consider also the Augustinian move: existence is always good. Suppose God is choosing, in a Molinist way, between creating A who would be ultimately saved and B who would be ultimately damned. Suppose he goes for B. Whom is God being less than perfectly loving towards? Not A, since A doesn’t exist. Not B, since B is better off than not existing.
    Now, you may still ask: What reason can God have for creating B, who would be damned, instead of A, who would be saved? But perhaps this question not much more compelling than this question: What reason can God have for creating A, who would be saved, instead of A*, who is almost exactly like A and who would also be saved? Either we should say that no such contrastive reasons are needed, and we can explain why God creates A (if he does) by the value of A’s life, and why God creates B (if he does) by the value of B’s life, or else we bring in incommensurability, and say that the lives of different persons are of incommensurable value, so that God’s reason for creating B (say) is the incommensurable value of B’s life. And that works even if B is such that B would be damned.

    July 22, 2010 — 11:17
  • Justin Capes

    Josh,
    It’s nice chatting with you, too.
    I agree with much of Alexander’s post, so if he doesn’t mind, I’ll just co-opt it.
    And no, I’m no longer a Molinist, though I’m routing for Molinism from the sidelines, so to speak.

    July 22, 2010 — 11:37
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alex, those are excellent thoughts (well-articulated), thanks.
    You mentioned the good of “my knowledgeably and significantly choosing to be eventually with God.” It’s unclear to me how great a good that is compared to the good of choosing to be with God sooner than later. Is it greater enough to be worth there being people who are ultimately separated? I’m not sure (at best), but I will like to reflect on this some more, as a number of people have been pressing this same general idea…
    As for 7, I was thinking that “each time God offers the choice, he cleans up the person’s character in such a way that the probability of non-repentance does not go asymptotically to zero or does not do so very fast.” You’re right that this would require strengthening 3. But I’m not sure it would be a cost (or much of a cost) if one couldn’t control one’s character to the degree required for the chances to go to zero fast enough. One could still control one’s character: e.g., perhaps the chances divide by N each time, where N itself grows smaller to approach 1 from 2. If there’s a value in giving us enough control over our character so as to allow us to be ultimately separated, I would think that value would have to consist in the good our our choosing to eventually be with God, and as I said, I’m not sure how great a good that is (though I’ll reflect more on it).
    The Augustinian move is one I hadn’t ruled out. Indeed, before writing the post, I had contemplated leaving my conclusion a disjuntion: either everyone likely gets saved, or a person is better off in hell than not existing. This would undercut one scriptural reason for eternal hell: Jesus told Judas it would have been better had he not been born. But the expression was an idiom of the time and perhaps need not be taken literally.

    July 22, 2010 — 13:36
  • “It’s unclear to me how great a good that is compared to the good of choosing to be with God sooner than later. Is it greater enough to be worth there being people who are ultimately separated?”
    Consider two worlds.
    w1: 10 billion people, all of whom are ultimately with God, but who have no choice about whether to be ultimately with God.
    w2: 15 billion people, 10 billion of whom are ultimately with God and who had a choice about that, and 5 billion of whom are not ultimately with God, and who had a choice about that.
    Assuming even a life not ultimately with God is worth having, it seems that w2 is better than w1. Now, it is true that w1 also instantiates the good of everyone ultimately being with God, while w2 does not. So in that way, w1 is better. But I am not sure the good of everyone ultimately being with God is really all that great. After all, that good is had in any empty world. The good of ten billion people ultimately being with God is a great good, but that exists in both w1 and w2.
    And w2 has the good of five billion additional lives, and the good of more significant freedom. If one thinks that the ultimate destination is what matters most, then in fact in w2 people have a choice about that which matters most. And that seems significant.
    Here’s an off-beat worry: Wouldn’t one eventually just give in to the chances to repent simply because one was tired of having to make the choice?

    July 22, 2010 — 14:14
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alex,
    I’m sympathetic with what you say assuming even a life not ultimately with God is worth having.
    But I also have some doubts about it, which I’d like to think through more carefully…

    July 22, 2010 — 15:50
  • Aaron Bartolome

    My inclination is to think that Eleanore doesn’t have the genuine capacity to cut up her kid given her psychological make-up. So, refusing to do so when offered isn’t a free choice…
    I think you might hold the following principle: God’s being perfectly loving and just is compatible with him allowing a person to make choices that will result in a psychological make-up that removes that person’s capacity to choose some wrong choice; but God’s being perfectly loving and just requires that he not allow a person to make choices that will result in a psychological make-up that removes that person’s capacity to choose to repent (or whatever is required of that person to inherit an overall good existence). -Does this seem correct to you?
    Well, justice is a good for the person to whom the justice is wrought. So there is an intrinsic good for the individual being punished. (Pruss)
    Consider a person who merits bad consequences and justly receives those consequences. My intuition is that it is good THAT this happens, but that it is not good FOR that person. Even if receiving justice (in the form of eternal separation from God) and mere existence were goods for a person, the problem is a person having an overall bad existence (a life and afterlife that is on the whole bad for that person). That is, receiving justice and merely existing are not good enough to render a person’s life+afterlife worth living.
    This would undercut one scriptural reason for eternal hell: Jesus told Judas it would have been better had he not been born.
    What Jesus said, taken literally, seems right to me. I don’t have a copy of the book with me, but if I’m not mistaken, Charles Seymour argues against the view that mere existence is good enough to “justify” God’s permission of people having overall bad existences (in A Theodicy of Hell).
    Another issue: What theory of value are we presupposing? If we take a divine-preference theory of value (à la Thomas Carson), for example, then those who have lives+afterlives apart from God have bad existences, existences that are not worth having/choosing (assuming that God prefers union with individuals).

    July 22, 2010 — 16:48
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Ok, let me make a distinction between the content of a choice and the consequences of a choice. I don’t see a value in being given a choice whose consequence is ultimate separation from God but whose content is not. But I think I can see a value in making a choice whose content is to be ultimately separated from God. The value would consist in one’s choosing God over ultimate separation. But I have serious doubts about whether it’s possible for any of us to make a choice whose content is ultimate separation. To do so would be to make a choice with an infinite content, and I’m not sure any finite mind could do that…
    Aaron, good thoughts, and what you asked me seems correct.

    July 22, 2010 — 18:30
  • Aaron Bartolome

    Josh,
    The content/consequence distinction is very helpful. What if the content and the consequence of a choice is continued separation from God? This seems to avoid the problem of whether it’s possible to “make a choice with an infinite content.”

    July 22, 2010 — 21:28
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Aaron,
    By “continued separation” do you mean continued forever? If not, then have I really chosen ultimate separation? If so, then isn’t the content infinite? Consider this. There have been times when I thought “I’ll never do that again” only to do it again a week later. Did I really decide to never do it again? I think what I decided was to try to never do it again. I’m not sure I have the capacity to actually decide to never do something because I can’t have a full enough grasp of never. (I’m still thinking about this.)

    July 23, 2010 — 7:39
  • Aaron Bartolome

    By “continued separation” do you mean continued forever? If not, then have I really chosen ultimate separation?
    No, I don’t mean “forever.” When a person is given the opportunity to repent (and to turn to God) and refuses to do so, that person chooses something like saying, “I still don’t want to repent. I want to continue being separated from you, God.” So, the content and the consequence of a choice like this would not be ultimate separation, but continued separation. And this seems to avoid the problem of “infinite content.” Right?
    In order for someone to be separated from God forever, that person would have to either: refuse to repent at every opportunity forever (and the number of opportunities is infinite), or refuse to repent in a way that results in a psychological make-up that removes that person’s capacity to repent (perhaps by continually refusing God for a very long time in the afterlife).
    God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself.
    You very reasonably assume that the highest good for a person is for that person to freely choose union with God. But consider the following: God can allow a person’s memories to be erased. If God allows the memories of a person who continually refuses to repent to be erased (and God gives them a new life), this would increase the chances of that person freely choosing union with God (perhaps this process could be similar to a version of reincarnation). Of course, it would be better if a person repented and chose union with God with her memories intact, but for those who remain obstinate in their refusal to repent, according to the logic of your argument God’s being perfectly loving/just requires that he allow these people’s memories to be erased.
    I suspect that I find both this reincarnation scenario and the claim that God must not allow a person to choose in such a way that results in a psychological make-up incapable of repenting “fishy” (for lack of a better word) for similar reasons.
    Perhaps the assumption that “the highest good for a person is for that person to freely choose union with God” needs to be qualified..?

    July 23, 2010 — 9:15
  • Josh:
    ‘There have been times when I thought “I’ll never do that again” only to do it again a week later. Did I really decide to never do it again?’
    Yeah, you did. And you didn’t keep to the decision. 🙁
    I don’t see why there should be a conceptual problem about a decision with infinite content. After all, a decision for Christ is a decision to be faithful to him forever.
    I don’t see any compelling reason to insert a “try” in the decision that wouldn’t apply to a decision to do something over the next day. (There, too, one might change one’s mind.) Or hour. Or second. But we don’t want to insert “try” in the content of every decision, because then we’re off to a regress of tries.
    We certainly have thoughts with infinite content. If not, then much of what you and I and others have said in this thread is contentless. 🙂 So why not decisions? Suppose Sam tells me: “I am thinking of an interval of future times. I can make you blissful over that interval, if you give me a penny.” Surely, we can give Sam a penny, and the content of the choice is give Sam a penny in order to be in bliss over the interval of future times that Sam is thinking of. But suppose I learn the interval is infinite. How does that make the choice impossible?

    July 23, 2010 — 9:54
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alex,
    The notion of “infinite content” is murky. Let’s try this. Suppose you are right that (i) I can make a choice with infinite content and (ii) that I can change my mind with respect to such a choice. Then it seems that God could give each person an indefinite number of opportunities to chose to ultimately be with God. Right?
    You might say that any such choice is incompatible with one’s knowing that one will eventually choose to ultimately be with God. But why couldn’t God ensure that a person lacks that knowledge on the desire occasions? Do you see a steep cost in that?
    What I had in mind was that for one’s choice to merit ultimate separation one would have to have a sufficiently good grasp of ultimate separation, and I have doubts (tentative doubts) about whether anyone attains such a grasp.
    Aaron,
    Right. If the content is just to continue to be separated, then there isn’t an “infinite content” problem. Of course, Alex and others have suggested that if God keeps giving someone a chance to repent, then God effectively eliminates a very important choice: to be ultimately separated. I question whether such a choice is possible, but if it is possible, then I suspect that it would be the sort of choice one could change one’s mind about, in which case why not keep offering that choice indefinitely?
    (I agree that “the highest good for a person is for that person to freely choose union with God” needs to be qualified.)

    July 23, 2010 — 12:55
  • “But why couldn’t God ensure that a person lacks that knowledge on the desire occasions? Do you see a steep cost in that?”
    Well, the choice is less valuable if it is less knowledgeable, no?

    July 23, 2010 — 22:31
  • Aaron Bartolome

    …if God keeps giving someone a chance to repent, then God effectively eliminates a very important choice: to be ultimately separated.
    So what if God eliminates the possibility of choosing, and thereby meriting, ultimate separation? I think that God’s being perfectly loving and just requires that he continually offer a person the opportunity to repent and be forgiven as long as there’s divine hope (on the basis of information about that person’s character/personality/history/etc.) for that person’s redemption. But I don’t think that God’s being perfectly loving/just requires that he NOT eliminate the possibility of choosing and thereby meriting ultimate separation. So what’s the problem exactly?

    July 23, 2010 — 23:29
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alex (Aaron, too),
    Consider two worlds.
    w1: 10 billion people, all of whom are ultimately with God and who had a choice about that, but who, at the requisite times, lacked knowledge of the fact that they’d be ultimately with God.
    w2: 15 billion people, 10 billion of whom are ultimately with God and who had a choice about that, and 5 billion of whom are not ultimately with God, and who had a choice about that.
    Even assuming that a life not ultimately with God is worth having, it seems that w1 is better than w2, does it not?
    Of course, God isn’t obligated to always chose the better of two worlds, which perhaps leads to Aaron’s point. But if w1 is indeed better than w2 and we see this, it might be evidence to us that God has actualized a world more like w1 than w2.

    July 24, 2010 — 7:06
  • Mike Almeida

    Question about premise (1). I’m not sure if this is in the comments, but (1) seems ambiguous between (1′) God wants everyone he does create to be in union with him and (1”) God wants everyone he could create to be in union. There seems empirical evidence against (1”), since obviously not every one who could exist does. I might have had a sister, for instance, but don’t, and that is not merely a matter of the free choices of my parents: zygotes can be caused to split, etc. So we seem left with (1′). But then if God creates no one, then (1′) is satisfied and God is content.
    One other small worry. As far as I can tell, the argument will succeed only if there is no world in which your premises are true and the union of all souls is unachieved. But if there were not such a world, then it would be necessarily true that all souls unify (since of course God would do what you describe him as doing in every world). But if it is necessarily true that all souls unify with God, then they do not freely choose to unify, contrary to the assumptions.
    But then assume it is not necessarily true that all souls unify with God. In that case either (i) there is some world in which all of the premises of the argument are true, and the conclusion is false or (ii) one or more of the premises is false (i.e. they do not necessarily describe what God would do to secure union with souls).

    July 24, 2010 — 10:34
  • Josh:
    I don’t have the intuition that world 1 is better than world 2. If anything, my intuition is that world 2 is better, because it has more valuable people. Granted, it lacks the value of everyone eventually being with God, but I am not sure that good is all that important, given that it is exemplified in the empty world, too.
    Alex

    July 24, 2010 — 12:52
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Mike,
    Good observations. Answers: by ‘everyone’ I meant to plurally designate all the actual humans (I was unclear); the argument is probabilistic, so isn’t supposed to show that it is necessarily true that all souls unify with God.
    Alex,
    I do see what you mean. I need to think more about how much work is being done by the thought that a life not ultimately with God is worth having. It’s only recently that I’ve come to consider that thought.

    July 24, 2010 — 13:13
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alex,
    Consider these worlds, then:
    w3: 10 billion people, all of whom are ultimately with God and who had a choice about that over having a life not worth having, but who, at the requisite times, lacked knowledge of the fact that they’d be ultimately with God.
    w4: 15 billion people, 10 billion of whom are ultimately with God and who had a choice about that, and 5 billion of whom are not ultimately with God, and who had a choice about that, and whose lives are worth having.
    Do you think w4 is better than w3?
    World w4 may be the best sort of non-universalist scenario. If that’s so, then I think it would be significant of w3 were a better scenario.

    July 24, 2010 — 14:12
  • Mike Almeida

    Josh, thanks. Let me see whether I can raise a probabilistic version of the problem. It’s a little gimmicky, admittedly. There is a possible world with just 5 instantiated essences. If it is true in every world that probably, every soul will be in union, and if that means that more will freely choose to be in union than not, then the conclusion seems false. Here’s why. The world with 5 instantiated essences is such that 3 or more will be in union. It is possible that all three together instead freely choose not to be in union. Go to the closest world in which that is true, and you have less than half the souls freely choosing to be in union. In that world it is not more probable than not that a soul is in union (unless of course you deny that frequency has at least something to do with probability).

    July 24, 2010 — 14:20
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    In reply to myself:
    Here’s what may be a better non-universalist scenario:
    w5: 15 billion people, 10 billion of whom are ultimately with God and who had a choice about that over having a life not worth having, but who, at the requisite times, lacked knowledge of the fact that they’d actually have a life worth having, and 5 billion of whom are not ultimately with God, and who had a choice about that, and whose lives are worth having.
    Ok, here my intuitions are sufficiently murky. I think I can admit that if a life ultimately not with God can still be worth having (which seems right on annihilation and on some moderate views of hell), then perhaps my argument for universalism is undercut. I probably should have gone with the disjunctive conclusion: either a life not ultimately with God will still be worth having or universalism is likely.

    July 24, 2010 — 14:23
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Mike, I wasn’t thinking of probability in terms of frequency… But you make an interesting observation. Still, I’m not trying to argue that it’s likely for every possible world; just ours. 🙂

    July 24, 2010 — 14:28
  • Mike Almeida

    Still, I’m not trying to argue that it’s likely for every possible world; just ours. 🙂
    Got it. You have in mind chance or objective probability. Still, that’s tied to frequency in interesting ways. That aside, I don’t think you want to claim merely that your conclusion is actually likely. Your premises do not include any merely contingent facts, do they? Your defense of these premises is apriori, so I think you could run the same argument no matter which world we happen to be in (assuming of course that God necessarily exists and has the relevant properties essentially).

    July 24, 2010 — 15:51
  • Aaron Bartolome

    disjunctive conclusion: either a life not ultimately with God will still be worth having or universalism is likely
    What makes an existence (life+afterlife) worth having? What we take to be correct answers to this question depends upon what meta-ethical theories of value we presuppose. If we hold to a hedonistic theory of value, for example, then we will consider an existence ultimately apart from God worth having only if such an existence is more pleasurable than not. If we hold to a rational desire-satisfaction theory of value, then we will consider an existence ultimately apart from God worth having for a person only if that person would prefer such an existence while fully rational.
    One reason for rejecting the claim that an existence ultimately apart from God is worth having: Meta-ethical theories of value that allow us to consider a life ultimately apart from God to be worth having are implausible (implausible on other grounds; this would require some investigation of course). Another issue is this: some meta-ethical theories of value are off-limits to theists (see http://orion.it.luc.edu/~tcarson/evil-ppr-phpr.pdf).

    July 24, 2010 — 17:05
  • So what it really comes down to is whether a life not ultimately with God is a life worth living.
    Why think that?
    1. Evil is always only a privation of a good, and hence anything that still exists must overall have some good in it.
    2. Divine sustenance is a creatio continua. Just as everything that God creates is intrinsically good, so too everything that God sustains is intrinsically good. But God sustains some persons at times at which they are not with God. Thus, the existence of those persons at those times is intrinsically good. Hence, existence not with God can have intrinsic value. But if the value is intrinsic, it should be prolongable forever.
    3. The kinds of goods that a brute animal can have are worth having, and the life of a brute animal is a life worth living. But the life of a human being not with God is no less a life worth having. For the human being who is not with God can still have the goods of an animal life, plus she additionally has the good of having a higher telos. She does not have the further good of achieving that higher telos, but her life is still no less worth living than that of the brutes. (The first three arguments are basically Augustine’s.)
    4. Let t be any time in the first couple of months of my infancy, prior to my baptism. Clearly: my life up to t had intrinsic value. And had the life permanently terminated right after t, it would still have had intrinsic value at each moment–even though I would never have been with God. Therefore, at least, it is possible for a life not ultimately with God to be intrinsically worth living.

    July 24, 2010 — 21:05
  • By the way, I do think everybody–whether universalist or not–should agree with your disjunctive conclusion.

    July 24, 2010 — 21:06
  • Aaron Bartolome

    The good of mere existence, by itself, is not good enough to make a life worth living. A life that contains no happiness and only undeserved horrendous suffering, for example, is not worth living.
    So, what makes a life worth living? One plausible answer is this: a life is worth living only if it includes an adequate amount of intrinsically good activities. Some examples of intrinsically good activities might include “falling in love, engaging in intellectually stimulating activity, being creative in various ways, experiencing pleasure of various kinds, and teaching” (Wielenberg, 2005, p.34).
    On this view, if we want to say that a person–who has an afterlife ultimately apart from God–has an existence worth having, then we’d also have to say that this person’s afterlife includes a fair amount of intrinsically good activities.

    July 24, 2010 — 22:27
  • Surely, the lives of plants are valuable, even though they don’t do any of the things Wielenberg lists.
    Respiration, nutrition and circulation are also intrinsically good activities.

    July 25, 2010 — 10:42
  • Mike Almeida

    But if I know for sure that I will get eventual salvation whatever I do now, then I am not really choosing between eventual salvation and lack of eventual salvation.
    The argument is designed in such a way that, by stipulation, I am significantly free on each occasion of choice. The chances that I am significantly free and say no an infinite number of times is 0. But surely that does not mean that on any occasion of choice I lack significant freedom (esp. on the occasion on which I accept union).
    Let Smith be among the most recalcitrant refusniks. His chances of refusing union on any occasion of choice is .9. Give this refusenik an infinite number of chances to accept and the chances are 1 that he accepts some time or other. But of course, on every occasion of choice, his chances of refusing the offer are by hypothesis, .9. So, he knows he will accept at some time or other, but he is certainly free to refuse ot accept on each occasion. Indeed, he’s likely to refuse on each occasion. Indeed-ier, he’s likely to refuse on the occasion when, finally, he does not refuse. So, no doubt, he is really choosing when he does choose union with God.

    July 25, 2010 — 14:55
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    I was thinking again about the 5 billion souls whose lives are ultimately separated but worth living (in w5, say). It seems per my original argument that God would have to have some good reason for not continuing to offer the choice of ultimately being with Him (with their lacking knowledge during the requisite times that they would ultimately be with Him). It’s hard for me to see what reason that might be. The cost of the lack of knowledge? (They don’t miss out on the choice to ultimately be with God, because they get that.) But alas, my intuitions here are still murky.
    Alex, it does seem to me at least possible that a life ultimately not with God is worth having. My whole argument was actually inspired by my thinking of ultimate separation consisting in a kind of torment in endless hell that would make lives there not worth having. But that may well not be the right way of thinking of it.
    Incidentally, NDEs of hell and biblical descriptions of it seem to me to paint a picture of the degree of torment in hell being sufficiently great that if it were endless, then a life there wouldn’t be worth having… So, that’s admittedly a background factor in my thinking about these things.

    July 25, 2010 — 21:00
  • Keith Elmore

    Josh,
    This argument is a great start! I will read it carefully and offer comments later.
    PS Is this paper fruit from our discussion?

    July 26, 2010 — 17:56
  • Gordon Knight

    I am in sympathy with the spirit of this argument, but as an open theist I hold that one can only say that its extremely likely, given God’s resources and all the time that God can allow (why make a time limit?) that all will be saved.
    I think this conclusion is practically identical to universalism. I argued for it in “Universalism for Open Theists” and I still believe it to be a morally respectable view that respects both human (and other) free will as well as the goodness of God.
    Can a person hold out forever against God’s goodness, against God’s infinite love? I must say yes.. it COULD happen, (if I can hold out for 40 years, then I can hold out for another 40 and so on…) But from this it does nto follow that its a real possiblity
    after all, its logically possible the cubs will win all their games next year. I judge the liklihood of universal salvation to be greater than that.

    July 26, 2010 — 18:11
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Gordon: that sounds right to me.
    Keith: yes our discussion played a role. 🙂

    July 27, 2010 — 16:35
  • Keith Elmore

    After reading your argument several questions remain:
    1. Many Christians believe Satan and his angels had a choice as to whether they would rebel or not. If this is true, isn’t it highly probable that agents who haven’t experienced such bliss would forever reject God?
    2. Wouldn’t God have to do more than simply offer the opportunity for unity in order to get agents to freely choose Him? I’m wondering why anyone’s response would change after the 2,000,000th offer as opposed to the 50th; am I simply giving up because he won’t go away? If you mean something different in “granting each person an indefinite number of times the capacity to enter such a union,” what could that be? Isn’t God doing all he can to unite us to Himself now? If not, why is He holding back? If He is holding back doesn’t that call into question His moral perfection?
    3. I don’t see why one would want a choice in the matter given 1. What you lose (union with God) and 2. Where you might be if you fail to choose correctly (Hell). Imagine a loved who is about to commit suicide, will you call the cops and intervene in spite of their freewill choice to kill themselves? Given the consequences of the choice it’s hard to see what’s wrong with simply “rescuing” rebellious humans from their potentially disastrous choice.

    July 27, 2010 — 18:04
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Elmo,
    Lots of good questions; each deserves a lot of thought. I’ll start with a few.
    1. I suppose the thought is that if someone who fully experiences the benefits of intimacy with God were to rebel, then we should all the more expect someone who hasn’t experienced such benefits to rebel. Perhaps so. But a few thoughts: First, there is a flip side. Someone secure with benefits could become prideful, whereas someone in sorrows could find a deep reason to yearn for God and so to draw near to his heart. Second, even if it’s a trillion times easier to rebel without the benefits of heavenly “bliss”, I believe my probabilisitic argument would still have the same result given enough time.
    2.a. Matt 25:31-46 suggests that there will be people at the judgment who loved God by their love for people, seemingly without realizing it (as they ask “when did we see you hungry and feed you? [etc.]”) My sense is that God woos people to enter his “kingdom” of love and life. It’s not like He shows up and says “love me now?” “how about now?” “now?” “now?” “how about now?”… I think of it more in terms of human relationships. If my son is apart from me, I’d create opportunities for him to be restored to me, but they wouldn’t be pestering in nature. I realize I’m not quite addressing your question, but these are background factors. Why think that someone who makes the wrong choice 50 times will make the right one after 2 million times? Well, maybe it’s not exactly the same choice type each time. History, memories, side events can all play a role into giving a different feel to the choice. Also, as a matter of probability, so long as the chance of doing the right thing each time isn’t too low, the chance one will do the right thing after 2 million times is going to be pretty high, even if it happened not to be entirely high by 50 times. But again, the choice isn’t to do something arbitrary or bad; it’s to enter Love. It’s to do the thing that is objectively good and satisfying (though perhaps initially costly).
    2.b. I could see God holding back for a finite stage of time to reap certain other values, such as to enrich some people’s understanding of and compassion for non-theists, to humble prideful religious people, to inspire truth-seeking that goes deeper than wishful thinking, to free some people to love others as ends (rather than as means to reward from God), and so on.
    3. If you are right about (1), then I might agree with you about (3) (but only assuming that a life not ultimately with God isn’t worth having, which Alex and others would deny). But I don’t see the stakes as being that way. I view hell as being what it’s like to repeatedly stray from the good. Physical torment there would be designed to actually minimize the moral corruption or to shock people to their moral senses. But ultimately, it’s a device to draw people back to the good by allowing people to experience some of the full consequences of their choices. Interestingly, this view of hell seems to be the picture that emerges from NDEs (see http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research14.html)

    July 27, 2010 — 21:42
  • Keith Elmore

    Josh,
    Josh,
    Good Response. Your view of hell is more reasonable than others I’ve encountered, so my response is more potent against alternate views on hell. I guess I am struggling with the harm of disunion. Disunion from God seems to deprive one of the highest possible goods.
    It’s not clear to me that I want to have a choice about whether to unite with God. The loss is so great for everyone who fails to be in union with God that I can’t see why anyone would want to have a choice in the matter. Further, if we can have the end without the tormenting means (the physical torment you mentioned in your response), shouldn’t we prefer union minus torment?
    An additional benefit would be unbroken union with God, a good lost with the choice option. In fact, there seems to be a host of goods we don’t enjoy on your view:
    • Never losing our moral senses
    • Always being compassionate to non-theists
    • Always being a humble theist
    In spite of the benefits from regaining some of my moral senses, becoming compassionate or gaining humility I would rather experience the aforementioned goods. It seems the only way we can enjoy these goods is if we didn’t have a choice regarding union with God.
    On the other hand, there are goods we could reap if we chose to engage in certain acts that we probably don’t want like:
    • Being forgiven for murdering someone
    • Being morally restored after molesting someone
    • Experiencing freedom from harboring terroristic thoughts against the people of Iran
    In spite of the goods I might derive from these experiences I don’t ever want to experience any of these goods if I can avoid engaging in these acts in the first place, because the acts are so horrendous. It’s the same for disunion with God; the lost is so great I want to avoid it at all (or close to all) cost. Why should I want to have this choice in the first place; it’s too great a loss to be left to choice? I could enjoy the good of being reconciled with God but unbroken union with God seems like an even greater good.

    July 28, 2010 — 5:37
  • Josh:
    “I was thinking again about the 5 billion souls whose lives are ultimately separated but worth living (in w5, say). It seems per my original argument that God would have to have some good reason for not continuing to offer the choice of ultimately being with Him (with their lacking knowledge during the requisite times that they would ultimately be with Him). It’s hard for me to see what reason that might be.”
    I think that’s not quite the right way to think about it. The scenario that traditional Christianity (and Islam) claims to obtain is one where God has announced that no further chance is being offered after this life. Now, if God has announced this, then he does have a reason not to offer the choice–namely, that he said he wouldn’t. (Or, maybe, he had to decide on this before he could assert he wouldn’t. It’s a bit complicated, because it’s not clear whether the announcement should count as an assertion or a promise.)
    So the question is whether there is a value in God’s announcing that judgment is based on this life only. And I think there is: it makes life more momentous and it gives us a choice we might not have otherwise had.
    “Incidentally, NDEs of hell and biblical descriptions of it seem to me to paint a picture of the degree of torment in hell being sufficiently great that if it were endless, then a life there wouldn’t be worth having…”
    I am inclined to deny the intuition here, for Augustinian reasons.
    I also think the souls in hell receive a great good: they are atoning for their sins (they refused to have Christ atone for them instead). This atonement will never be complete, but nonetheless progress is being made. In the limit as time goes to infinity, they will have atoned. It is objectively bad to be guilty of a sin. To the extent that the sin has been atoned for, the objective guilt is the less, and hence the better off one is.
    There are two ways of taking the above paragraph. One way supposes that the total suffering in hell is infinite (i.e., the integral of the disvalue of the suffering over time is infinite). That has some technical difficulties in respect of the “progress”. The other way supposes that the total suffering in hell is finite (which means that asymptotically the suffering decreases in such a way that the integral of the disvalue converges to a finite number).

    July 28, 2010 — 12:24
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Elmo,
    Thanks for the further considerations. I think what you say is actually compatible with my overall thesis because if a perfect being would indeed prefer to cause us to be united without a choice, then we’d expect such a being to “save” everyone. I think your points center more on questioning whether there could be such a being given the evil in our world. I hope to address some of them later, perhaps “off air”.
    Alex,
    Thanks for pressing me on this, Alex.
    The scenario that traditional Christianity (and Islam) claims to obtain is one where God has announced that no further chance is being offered after this life.
    I’m not aware of such an announcement. Are you?
    It seems to me that a life’s greater momentousness would be offset by its lack of union with God. Not to you? Would God really prefer that Sue’s life be more momentous than that Sue ultimately be united with Himself? If not, then why not keep granting the choice to ultimately be with Him (even if life apart from God would still be worth having, which I’m granting you)?

    July 28, 2010 — 16:43
  • “I’m not aware of such an announcement.”
    I think the Christian tradition has held that salvation depends on what happens in this life. I suspect that that is how the Fathers read Hebrews 9:27 and the story of Lazarus and the rich man.
    “It seems to me that a life’s greater momentousness would be offset by its lack of union with God. Not to you? Would God really prefer that Sue’s life be more momentous than that Sue ultimately be united with Himself?”
    It could be that Sue, who rejected God, would be better off if God didn’t set such a deadline. But Sarah, who did freely decide ultimately to be with God, might be the better off for the announcement, as it made it possible for her to freely and knowledgeably decide to be ultimately with God rather than not.
    I think the Tradition has also held that the demons got an irrevocable choice.

    July 29, 2010 — 14:54
  • Aaron Bartolome

    If union with God requires the union of two wills, then God cannot unite with a person without that person’s freely choosing union. Choosing union with God might require things like repentance, entrusting one’s life to God, and being willing to undergo what God wants: the gradual transformation of one’s heart towards unselfish love for others.
    The problem is this: In general, people tend to want to live for themselves, and they do not want to submit to the authority of a perfectly loving God. Some people harden their hearts to the point where they basically say, “I’ll never worship God, and I absolutely hate being around people who love God.” Obviously, people often say, “I’ll never…” and then change their minds later on. But sometimes a person can say “I’ll never…” and, given enough knowledge about that person’s character and about what kinds of situations she will find herself in the future, we can also know that she is telling the truth; she will never do that, even if given a trillion opportunities to do so (see my comment about Eleonore Stump cutting up her daughter into one inch square cubes above).
    I think the problem with the argument [for universalism given above] is this: It doesn’t take into account people’s characters, their hearts. It’s not like we’re considering the chances of a tree spontaneously exploding and then changing into a Boeing 747 (let’s assume for now that the probability of that happening is not zero), and then concluding that given an infinite amount of time, it is likely that it will happen. Or to take another example, it’s not like we’re considering the chances of someone winning the lottery, and then concluding that given many many tickets that person will eventually win.
    We’re talking about a person choosing to repent, to enter into a love relationship with God, and to obey his perfectly loving will. So, considering the possibility that a person might “give in” because she is “tired” of God constantly “bugging” her misses the point.
    Surely God will do everything he can to get people to choose union with himself, but it will take more than merely giving the opportunity to do so many many times. (I think Paul Moser is currently writing a book about God “subjecting creation to futility” in order to bring about God’s goals.) So, perhaps universalism is true, but the “argument from an indefinite number of chances” isn’t convincing enough (and shouldn’t be, I’ve argued) to conclude that universalism is very likely.

    July 29, 2010 — 23:25
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    I think the Christian tradition has held that salvation depends on what happens in this life. I suspect that that is how the Fathers read Hebrews 9:27 and the story of Lazarus and the rich man.
    Perhaps salvation from judgment, but from what I’ve read, the early church wasn’t completely unanimous about the duration of hell after judgment (though I’d have to look into the details).

    Sarah, who did freely decide ultimately to be with God, might be the better off for the announcement, as it made it possible for her to freely and knowledgeably decide to be ultimately with God rather than not.

    I suppose my question should have been whether granting people a momentous choice (in terms of what’s at stake) would be worth the high chance that some would ultimately not be united. I’m not sure I see much value in high stakes…but I suspect that people’s intuitions here will vary (and mine is murky).

    July 29, 2010 — 23:30
  • “I suppose my question should have been whether granting people a momentous choice (in terms of what’s at stake) would be worth the high chance that some would ultimately not be united.”
    But then we again have worlds to compare… Suppose it’s OK for God to create a world where 15 billion are all saved through multiple chances. And suppose (a) a momentous choice is at least somewhat better than a non-momentous choice, and (b) the life of the damned is worth living. Then imagine another world were 15 billion are all saved through a momentous choice, and there are also five billion who are damned. It seems that the second world is better than the first, given (a) and (b). Of course, you could respond that a world where 20 billion are all saved through multiple chances are even better. But then I say will, given (a) and (b), that a world where 20 billion are saved by a momentous choice and 8 billion are damned is even better.
    Conclusion: God can create a world like the one you describe, and God can create a world like the one I describe.

    July 29, 2010 — 23:53
  • Mike Almeida

    But then we again have worlds to compare… Suppose it’s OK for God to create a world where 15 billion are all saved through multiple chances. And suppose (a) a momentous choice is at least somewhat better than a non-momentous choice, and (b) the life of the damned is worth living
    That’s trying to have it both ways. If the life of the damned is still worth living, then the choice is not so momentous. The worse the life of the damned, the more momentous the choice. If, on the other hand, the momentousness of the choice is due to the comparative goodness of unity with God (and not the badness of being damned), then Josh can make a very similar argument. Each decision you make not to unite with God costs you an immense and irretrievable good, which is that much more time in the presence of God. So each of those decision is momentous in this way.

    July 30, 2010 — 9:11
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Mike,
    I thought of those very things, but I think Alex can reply that although there are scenarios more momentous than the one he suggests, his scenario is still more momentous than the one I suggest (in which the decision not to unite costs time in the presence of God). However, you just gave me an idea (which perhaps is what you were actually getting at). I can give a scenario in which (i) hell is very bad–so bad that a life there forever would not be worth living, but that (ii) it’s unlikely that anyone is there forever. In this way, I can pump up the degree of momentousness of the choices on my universalist scenario. Indeed, the momentousness of my scenario could perhaps be equal to the momentousness of Alex’s: compare a choice to be ultimately separated where such a life is worth having versus a choice to be separated for a long age, where the torment of that age is very bad–so bad that no life there forever would be worth having. If that’s so–if the momentousness of the two scenarios is equal, then we’re back to wondering why God would stop giving a person chances to repent (if not for the sake of momentousness).

    July 30, 2010 — 10:08
  • Mike Almeida

    I can pump up the degree of momentousness of the choices on my universalist scenario. Indeed, the momentousness of my scenario could perhaps be equal to the momentousness of Alex’s: compare a choice to be ultimately separated where such a life is worth having versus a choice to be separated for a long age, where the torment of that age is very bad–so bad that no life there forever would be worth having.
    This is definitely one way to go. One thing that makes choices on your account comparatively less momentous is the implicit assumption that each person will presume that he’ll be given another opportunity to get into heaven. But the sin of presumption (especially here) is a pretty serious one. Your universalism might be formulated in a way where (i) God never makes another offer to those who simply presume that they’ll recieve one and (ii) it is always possible for each person not to make that presumption. Over time, it is likely that each person will learn not to presume that God will be so generous. But if a person does not presume that he’ll be made another offer, then his choice will be momentous.

    July 30, 2010 — 14:15
  • I have two major contentions with this argument. First of all, (2) seems to be strongly debatable. Just because God desires something does not necessarily mean that He will do “everything in his power” short of sacrificing a higher good to bring about such an occurrence. While there may be an argument in support of (2), it certainly does not follow solely from (1). There are many things that I desire which I would not be willing to put forth much effort to achieve. There is no logical reason why God, similarly could not desire things that He won’t put forth much effort to achieve.
    Additionally, your argument in (7) seems specious. You write: “What follows is that the objective probability of anyone never (even after eons into the afterlife) making the right choice approaches zero as the number of opportunities increases. Therefore, we should think it’s very unlikely that anyone isn’t ultimately restored to God.”
    Yet, the fallacy here lies in the fact that humans are not merely probabilistic creatures. While rolling a die will, with mathematical certainty, result in rolling the number 2 at least once, offering someone the same choice multiple times does not bring with it any mathematical guarantee. If you asked me to choose a number between 1 and 6, X number of times, the odds of my choosing the number 2 are, strictly speaking, no more likely if X is a large number than if it is a small one. If 3 were my favorite number, I might be perfectly content to choose 3 at every given opportunity, whether it was the 1st time I was given a choice or the 50 trillionth. With non-probabilistic creatures, such as human beings, there is no mathematical guarantee that a given choice will ever be made, even with an infinite number of opportunities.

    July 30, 2010 — 21:12
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Silas,
    Those are good concerns; thanks for drawing attention to them.
    Regarding (2), you might be right that a perfect being could desire something but not do everything within his power short of sacrificing a higher good to achieve it. Actually, I think I should revise (2) to be something a bit more modest: (2*) if (1) is true, then God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher or equally valuable good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself. The argument then proceeds pretty much the same. When you consider the really high value of union with God, doesn’t (2*) seem plausible?
    Regarding (7), I am assuming that a genuine choice to do X means that one has a non-zero chance of doing X. If that’s correct, then we can indeed run probabilistic calculations. Are you questioning the non-zero chance assumption?
    If I choose 3 because 3 is my favorite number, this “because” either determines my choice, or it does not. If not, then the non-zero chance premise applies and so I very likely won’t always choose 3. If it is deterministic, then my choice isn’t free. (And if we are allowing non-free choices, then God can get everyone saved by determining their desires to determine a non-free choice of repenting.)

    July 30, 2010 — 22:12
  • Keith Elmore

    Josh,
    I am not opposed to your position; I’m only trying to understand different aspects of it. I think I agree with your response and the only objection I can see would be scriptural. Alexander Pruss mentioned Hebrews 9 :27 but I don’t think it’s the most potent. In Matthew 26 Jesus is talking to Judas and he says:
    23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” 25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”
    It seems as if Jesus is saying it would have been better for Judas that he was never born! This single act of betrayal is going bring about consequences that make it better that Judas not be born.
    The second scripture is from Mark 3:
    28″Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– 30because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
    It seems to me that the group referred to as “they” have already committed this sin which excludes them from ever being forgiven.

    July 31, 2010 — 1:54
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Keith,
    I think the English translations are a bit mis-leading.
    Matt. 26:
    The saying “better to never have been born” was an idiom of the time used to convey the badness of a present state. I don’t think it should be taken to mean that Judas’ life will forever be such that it is “better had he not been born.” See http://books.google.com/books?id=AC0-AAAAYAAJ&pg=PA653#v=onepage&q&f=false.
    Mark 3:
    A more literal translation of the Greek seems to be this: one who is blaspheming the Spirit does not have forgiveness for a time (or age) but is in danger of an age of destruction. See http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/mar3.pdf. This seems to fit better with the statement just given that all sins shall be forgiven. It also seems to fit better with the whole of scripture, which says that everyone will confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil 2:9-11) and that everyone who does that will be saved (Rom 10:9). (See also Richard H. Bell’s “Rom 5.18-19 and Universal Salvation,” New Testament Studies, Vol. 48 (2002), pp. 417-432.)

    July 31, 2010 — 6:46
  • Keith:
    “It seems as if Jesus is saying it would have been better for Judas that he was never born!”
    Right. But notice that taken literally this does not mean that it would have been better for Judas that he never existed. Perhaps Judas is better off existing, but it would have been better for him had he been miscarried (or died in infancy or the like).
    Josh:
    I guess I don’t just want any momentousness in my scenario. I want it to be the case that those who are with God freely chose to be ultimately with him (or to spend an infinite amount of time with him or the like), and that this choice not be made possible by ignorance.
    God’s purpose for humans is that they be ultimately with him, but it is important that this purpose of his for them be achieved through humans’ informed consent.
    Here’s an odd thing. Suppose the choice requires ignorance of universalism. Then God would have to make sure that people aren’t convinced by your argument when they are making the choice. But there is something not so good about the idea that God would have to blind people to a good argument in order that his central purpose for them be fulfilled.
    “I can give a scenario in which (i) hell is very bad–so bad that a life there forever would not be worth living, but that (ii) it’s unlikely that anyone is there forever.”
    I deny that it is possible to have a life that isn’t worth living. One reason for the denial is the Augustinian metaphysics of value. But another reason is just that God wouldn’t allow such a life. But if something is impossible, it’s not merely unlikely that it happens.

    July 31, 2010 — 23:40
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Alex,
    I understand what you are saying. This exchange has given me many things to think about. We could continue, but I’m content to end here for now. 🙂

    August 2, 2010 — 11:53
  • Actually, I think I should revise (2) to be something a bit more modest: (2*) if (1) is true, then God will do everything he can, without sacrificing a higher or equally valuable good, to maximize the chances of everyone enjoying union with Himself. The argument then proceeds pretty much the same. When you consider the really high value of union with God, doesn’t (2*) seem plausible?
    It’s certainly plausible. But, it’s also a plausible hypothesis that unicorns live in underground caverns on Mars. Apart from some evidence in support of (2*) it’s nothing more than mere conjecture. There needs to be some argument in favor of why (2*) is more likely than non-(2*).
    Regarding (7), I am assuming that a genuine choice to do X means that one has a non-zero chance of doing X. If that’s correct, then we can indeed run probabilistic calculations. Are you questioning the non-zero chance assumption?
    You have established a false dichotomy based on an apparent equivocation. If by chance one means “opportunity,” then it is true that “a genuine choice to do X means that one has a non-zero chance (opportunity to do X).” But, if by chance one means “odds of occurring,” then it is not true “a genuine choice to do X means that one has a non-zero chance (odds of doing X).” While the first statement for non-probabilistic entities is true, the second statement is not.
    If we assume the existence of freewill, then each choice of a non-probabilistic entity is self-determined. Though there may be reasons behind why a specific choice is or is not made, there is no chance (randomness) involved. Therefore, since there is no chance (randomness) involved in the decisions of non-probabilistic entities, there is also no non-zero chance.

    August 2, 2010 — 17:17
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Silas,
    Thanks for those further thoughts.
    I personally wouldn’t say that unicorns living in underground caverns on Mars is plausible. But perhaps I could be clearer by saying that I find (2*) more plausible than not even without evidence. But perhaps for you, evidence is needed. I’d have to think more about what kind of evidence might be given (in terms of rationality, perhaps).
    I take it as an obvious (to me) axiom that a genuine choice to do X means that one has non-zero odds of doing X (where odds might be analyzed in terms of a ratio of “space” of possible worlds). So, I’m not sure I have more to say here, except to say why I’m not persuaded by your counterargument. Your counterargument contained the implicit premise that “chance” (in the sense of non-zero odds) implies randomness. I see no reason to believe that.

    August 3, 2010 — 12:17
  • Joshua,
    Your argument for (7) seems to be such: Given that everyone will have a near-infinite number of opportunities to do X (choose restored union with God), eventually they will choose to do X.
    For the sake of argument, let us replace X (choosing restored union with God) with Y (choosing to lacerate oneself with a knife). Now, let us consider the following argument: Given that everyone will have a near-infinite number of opportunities to do Y (choose to lacerate themselves with a knife), eventually they will choose to do Y.
    Would you argue that such a premise is sound? Substitute for X or Y any other action that you wish. Are you really saying that a person, given an infinite quantity of opportunities, would really do anything, eventually?

    August 3, 2010 — 17:09
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Silas,
    If the opportunities were genuine, I think so. I suspect, however, that unless something changes, I’d never lacerate myself with a knife because my psychological states don’t actually permit me a genuine choice to do so. (See similar remarks above on Eleonore Stump’s suggestion of cutting up her daughter into one inch square cubes.)

    August 3, 2010 — 20:48
  • Joshua,
    In that case, based on your reasonsing I would suggest that (7) is invalid because the psychological states of certain people (committed fools, avowed atheists) don’t permit them a genuine choice to choose to be restored to God. Their chance, (following this line of reasoning) is not non-zero.
    Of course, personally, I would argue against the idea that psychological states are taxonometrically separate from a person and (externally, so to speak) determine their choices or lack-thereof. But, even if we follow your reasoning on this matter, I fail to see that a non-zero chance of choosing to be restored to God is a given for all persons.

    August 4, 2010 — 14:43
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Silas,
    It’s not part of the argument that everyone always have a genuine opportunity.

    August 4, 2010 — 15:19
  • Then, do you repudiate the conclusion of your argument? Namely:
    8. Therefore, everyone will eventually enjoy union with God (be “saved”).
    If at some point in a person’s life they no longer possess the genuine opportunity to choose salvation, it must logically follow that for those people who have past that point, they will not eventually enjoy union with God. Thus, if there exist such people, then it cannot be argued that everyone will eventually be saved.

    August 4, 2010 — 18:05
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Silas,
    By “always” I meant “not at every time” (so some people could at present lack an opportunity). I did not mean that there would be a time after which a person would never again be granted a genuine opportunity. I hope I’m clearer now. 🙂

    August 4, 2010 — 20:01
  • I beg your pardon if this seems circuitous, but returning to the previous inquiry, would you then say that though presently you do not have a genuine choice to lacerate yourself, that eventually in the future you will have a genuine choice to do so?
    Would you also say that given an indefinite number of genuine opportunities to lacerate yourself (which might take quite a while, if the genuine choice only offers itself occasionally), eventually you would choose to do so?
    If there is a non-zero chance that some people who have not been restored to God might not be again given a genuine choice to do so, then it would logically follow that given enough people, eventually someone wouldn’t be ultimately reconciled to God.
    Alternately, if the genuine choice to be reconciled to God necessarily will be offered again an indefinite number of times, such that every person would eventually make such a choice, then it also logically follows that person P would eventually do action X given enough genuine opportunities, for all P’s and X’s. In English, it seems that if your proof is true, then you are saying that anyone would do anything, given enough chances to do so.

    August 5, 2010 — 18:25
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    Silas,
    Thanks for the further questions. Here are my answers:
    would you then say that though presently you do not have a genuine choice to lacerate yourself, that eventually in the future you will have a genuine choice to do so?
    I’m not sure. I don’t see any reason to think I would ever have such a choice.

    Would you also say that given an indefinite number of genuine opportunities to lacerate yourself (which might take quite a while, if the genuine choice only offers itself occasionally), eventually you would choose to do so?

    Yep. 🙂

    If there is a non-zero chance that some people who have not been restored to God might not be again given a genuine choice to do so, then it would logically follow that given enough people, eventually someone wouldn’t be ultimately reconciled to God.

    This is a very clever question! I would say not because here the probabilities are not independent in the right way. For I doubt that God makes an independent choice for each person whether or not to grant indefinitely many opportunities. Rather, I suspect his choice would be soul-wide. Of course, I don’t think that my choices are completely independent either, but I don’t see why God couldn’t make them sufficiently independent (e.g., by repairing a person’s heart to some degree) to maximize the chances of each person being eventually saved while still remaining free.
    In English, it seems that if your proof is true, then you are saying that anyone would do anything, given enough chances to do so.
    If the chances are genuine, then that right. 🙂
    BTW, I’m not personally committed to universalism (though I’m sympathetic with the view). I’m just exploring one possible argument in favor of it (especially since I’ve come to find the arguments against it, such as those from Scriptures, surprisingly weak.)

    August 6, 2010 — 0:40
  • By the way, if supertasks are possible, then maybe God can give us an infinite number of chances before death. I am sceptical of the antecedent, though.

    August 6, 2010 — 9:03
  • Joshua Rasmussen

    That’s a clever idea, Alex. Your grim-reaper argument honestly did convince me that the antecedent is false.

    August 6, 2010 — 13:58
  • The grim-reaper argument is also why I don’t believe the antecedent. 🙂

    August 6, 2010 — 14:27