Thursday, March 24, 2011

Evil as misfortune

James Anderson recently did a fine post on a popular objection to hell. In the combox, the conversation quickly digressed to a different, equally popular objection to hell. And, predictably enough, Anderson soon came to an impasse with critics of hell.

These debates always stalemate because, at rock bottom, critics of hell see evil as misfortune rather than culpability. And so, at rock bottom, they see punishment as misfortune rather than just desserts. Not just desserts, but ill-desserts. As such, misfortune demands restoration, not restitution. 

At their moral center they are morally dead. Hollow. They have no capacity to see evil in essentially ethical terms. It should only evoke pity.

As a result, we’re treated to their morally indiscriminate compassion for everyone regardless of guilt, innocence, or degrees thereof. Their empathy is universal because their empathy is amoral. 

For all their outward compassion they are, at heart, moral monsters.


  1. I'm finding it difficult to get a comment post accepted here this afternoon.

  2. Maybe it was too I'll break it up:


    To the degree that any argument for universalism disallows just recompense for sins committed, such an argument is unworthy of God.

    However, it is quite possible to believe that every thought, word, and deed of a human being will be properly judged by God and still believe that everyone is going to heaven.

    For example, I for one believe that the judgment and wrath of God is fully upon the earth. It is as much, if not more, of a reality for us as it was in the days of the prophets who warned Israel about why they should turn from their sins. Does this mean that the people of Japan are greater sinners than we who live in America? No. In fact, we will likewise perish if we do not repent and turn from our selfish ways - especially we who know the good news of Jesus Christ, for our judgment shall be stricter.

  3. And here's the rest:

    In addition to this judgment, there will be a final judgment when we die where every act - whether good or evil - that was not fully rewarded in the earth will be rewarded (or recompensed) in heaven. Oh, how I look forward to, and yet fear, that day. God is holy and there will be no glib utterances from us in that moment.

    Yet, the glory of God will shine so brightly. And we shall see His wisdom at work. We shall that He is not a crude and dull-headed monster who can only create a winners-take-all and losers-lose-all scenario. The wheels of God's justice will grind exceedingly fine.

    That all will be in heaven will be to the praise of His glory. Yet it will not be an egalitarian state for many who are first here will be last there, and many who were last here will be first there.

    That you are deeply concerned with morality, righteousness, and justice is to your credit. But you shouldn't think that someone has to abandon those values to believe that everyone is going to heaven. On the contrary, those values can be pursued with even greater energy with that belief. And so they should be!

  4. BFLJCE: My understanding of the universalist position is that, were people to remain unconverted, they'd be worthy of punishment but that God eventually does convert everyone.

    Is that about correct?

  5. James, there are a lot of different points of view that can be characterized as universalism. I'm in no position to speak for any of them, much less all of them.

    I can tell you what I believe. Everyone deserves punishment for sins committed. Being "converted" gives you no break from that - unless by "converted" you mean really living day by day trusting and obeying the Lord. There are many people who consider themselves converted because they prayed the sinner's prayer once and they are not living any more morally than they would be otherwise.

    As for your broader question, if someone has not awoken by the time they die they certain wake up them. For once we leave this world the veil of sin is taken away and we see the truth without distraction.

  6. Mike,

    Universalism is not concerned with ultimate justice at all. It repudiates retributive punishment as intrinsically good. It only cares about remedial punishment.

    "We shall that He is not a crude and dull-headed monster who can only create a winners-take-all and losers-lose-all scenario."

    That perfectly exemplifies the blasphemous character of universalism. Thanks for slitting your own throat in public view.

  7. In addition, you continue to treat sin or moral evil as if it were some tragic accident or hard luck which deserves divine mercy rather than wrath and punishment.

  8. Steve,

    As I've said, there are indeed forms of universalism which deny the justice of God and the seriousness of sin. However, that is not true of what I am saying. You simply don't understand that which are you are railing against.

  9. Look, you ignoramus, I'm deeply read in the universalist literature.

    In addition, you're too dense to engage the specifics of my argument. You don't interact with what your theological opponents say. Your only motive is to deflect what they say. You try to parry what they say with your generic universalist platitudes. These fail to address the specifics of my argument.

    If you refuse to argue in good faith, you'll be shown the door.

  10. Steve,

    That you are "deeply read in the universalist literature" won't help where my arguments are concerned because, as I've said, I didn't get them from universalist literature.

    I'm not trying to defend universalist literature. I'm sure you know it better than I do. I here to defend the Scriptures.

    I have engaged you in good faith in each comment I have made.

    What to you is the most obvious example of a specific argument you have made to which I have been unresponsive? That is to say, if I've misunderstood you, give me a chance to make it right.


    "What to you is the most obvious example of a specific argument you have made to which I have been unresponsive?"


  12. Steve, you condemn yourself.


    "Steve, you condemn yourself."

    That's unintentionally comical coming from a universalist.

  14. blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents said...

    "That you are 'deeply read in the universalist literature' won't help where my arguments are concerned because, as I've said, I didn't get them from universalist literature."

    You accused me of not understanding universalist. However, to understand universalism requires a knowledge of the standard universalist literature.