Saturday, February 07, 2015

Hell is bad...except when it's good

I generally agree with his critique of universalism. However, his position is ironic inasmuch as Parsons contributed a chapter to a book in which he attacked the Christian God for damning people to hell:

Keith Parsons  
Universalism sounds appealing at first, but then you have to take a deep breath and consider what it really means. Does it really mean that Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, and a motley crew of nondescript slave traders, pedophiles, sadists, drug cartel bosses, serial killers, terrorists, fanatics, etc. will all (eventually) make it to heaven? Hmmmm. I wonder what a Holocaust victim would think rubbing shoulders with Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Heydrich, Eichmann, and that whole crew. Will parents embrace the fiend that kidnapped, tortured, mutilated, raped, and murdered their child? 
I imagine that the Talbott-esque universalist will answer: "Yes, the infinite love of God will someday bring about universal reconciliation. The tortured will embrace the torturer and the murdered will rejoice with their murderers. All evil and suffering will be redeemed by the bottomless, inexhaustible love of God." 
My first response would be a subjective one: To me such an answer seems shallow, facile, and (I cannot help but suspect), at bottom insincere. To me, it simply fails to take seriously the depth and seriousness of evil and suffering. 
Further, I have to ask the question posed by the pathetic Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire: "Is everything forgivable? Is intentional cruelty forgivable?" Is it? Why should it be? Why is it a good thing to forgive the worst, most deliberate and despicable evils? On the contrary, should not some moral principles be so basic and so important that their blatant disregard is not considered pardonable? Why not recognize some stains as permanent? 
Finally, it is not clear what universalists propose to do with those who refuse to be reconciled. What if someone refuses, ever, to forgive, say, the murderer of her child? Will God not allow her into heaven until she does? In that case, salvation will not be universal. Will the universalist say that eventually, she will give in to God's love and forgive the murderer? But if she has free will, it has to be at least in principle possible that she will never forgive. God, of course, could just override her free will, but is salvation a good thing if it is forced?

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