Universal Reconciliation, Final Annihilation, or Eternal Misery?

 

Two pages are being written, starting in 2014, by Craig Rusbult:  This page builds on the foundation of my main page — which begins with brief descriptions of the three views — by examining ideas in more depth.

 

These two pages — asking “what will happen to unbelievers during their afterlife?” — are being written for:

    • people who believe the Bible and use it to construct their worldview, their view of the world, used for living in the world.   {What is a worldview?}   {note: There has been a major change in my thinking about (and description of) who it's "being written for" so you should read the new version.}
    • unbelievers who are curious, wondering “in a Bible-based worldview, what will happen during life-after-death? what does the Bible teach about heaven and hell?”

For both groups we'll be asking a question:  Why have most people (both believers and unbelievers) been assuming & teaching, for the past 1500 years, a doctrine of “eternal life in hell” that the Bible doesn't seem to teach?

 


 

Table of Contents

Below, in Part 2 (to supplement the "Part 1" sections in my Introductory Overview) you'll find:

My Views

Immortality is Conditional  

Comparing the Views

Part 2 of five major sections in colored boxes: 

        Universal Reconciliation (reasons to be Hopeful and Optimistic),
        Relationships (with God & People),
        Justice (asking “what is fair?”),
        Evangelism (why should anyone want to be a Follower of Christ? – motivations),
        Educational Experiences (in Life & Afterlife).

• Later, each of these major sections has a Part 3 with more details, as shown in a later Table of Contents.

 

I.O.U. - Although most of this page is now well developed, many parts (especially late in the page) also have IOUs for “fixing loose ends” with editing, or for “more ideas-content.”

 


a disclaimer:  In this page you won't find much that is new, if you've read what others have written about these topics.  Mainly I'm just describing-and-summarizing ideas I have learned (and am learning) from other people in their websites and books and from studying the Bible.

 

The three views are summarized here.

 

My Views

For a long time, for 29 years beginning in 1987, I have carefully studied FA (final Annihilation) and EM (eternal Misery), and I wrote two papers about FA-versus-EM between 1995 and 2010.   I also studied UR (universal Reconciliation) but much less thoroughly.  Recently, beginning in late 2014, I've begun to learn more about UR.

What are my current views?

    theologically, I'm a Bible-believing fundamentalist,* a Protestant, a trinitarian evangelical Christian.     {sociologically, I think fundamentalist Christians should care about social justice and should work for it, because it's a major emphasis of God in the Bible.}
    biblically, using Bible-based logic, I think Universal Reconciliation and Final Annihilation are most strongly supported in the Bible, with Eternal Misery far behind.  EM is "far behind" partly because I'm confident that the Bible clearly teaches a Conditional Immortality that could occur with UR or FA, but not EM.  And also because...
    ethically, it seems to me – but with appropriate humility – that the moral character of God is worst with Eternal Misery, is much better with Final Annihilation, and is best with Universal Reconciliation.
    emotionally, I like Universal Reconciliation the most, and Eternal Misery the least.
    Overall, when all things are considered, what do I think will happen?  I'm not certain.  But I am biblically confident about Conditional Immortality, so I'm very confident (but not certain) that “what will happen” won't be Eternal Misery.   I think Final Annihilation is one possibility, and this would be emotionally satisfactory for me.   But in my deepest feelings, emotionally I hope for Universal Reconciliation;  biblically, I see logical reasons to think UR (or semi-UR) will happen, but also that it won't happen;  therefore, I'm a hopeful optimistic (but not confident) evangelical Universalist.     { I think all Christians should hope for UR.  After agreeing about this, we can examine Bible-based reasons for why we should or shouldn't be optimistic that everyone ultimately will be reconciled with God. }

 

My Views - in Two Stages

Stage 1:  First, I concluded (in the late-1980s) that Eternal Misery is very unlikely because it seems incompatible with the character of God when we ask “WWJD?” and it isn't compatible with the Conditional Immortality that is clearly taught in the Bible.  Conditional Immortality (CI) is impossible with Eternal Misery (EM), but would be possible with either Final Annihilation (FA) or Universal Reconciliation (UR).  Therefore, the logical definition of CI is either FA or UR instead of “only FA”.

Stage 2:  Second, in my evaluations of FA-versus-UR, the overall biblical support for FA and UR seems to be similar.

 

Combining these two stages by asking two questions — first "WHAT is the penalty for sin?" and then "WHO will receive this penalty" — produces a summary of my views:

    because, when asking WHAT, "the penalty for sin" is death, I'm confident that EM will not happen, but (re: the second question and its results) I'm not confident when asking “WHO will receive the death penalty? will it be some people with FA (or semi-UR) or nobody with UR?”   I'm a Conditionalist (Stage 1) who currently thinks there is not enough evidence to choose (in Stage 2) between FA and UR.
    regarding Universal Reconciliation, I'm Hopeful, and am Optimistic but not Confident:  I think everyone should be a Hopeful Universalist who hopes UR will happen;  and, based on what the Bible teaches, I'm Optimistic in thinking “UR might happen,” but Not Confident in claiming “UR will happen.”

 


 

This section supplements my introductory summary about Conditional Immortality and the closely related Death Penalty for Sin.

 

If we believe the Bible, why should we reject a doctrine of Eternal Misery?  Two strong Bible-based reasons are the character of God (re: love+justice when we ask WWJD) and because Eternal Misery would violate the Biblical principle of Conditional Immortality and the closely related Death Penalty for Sin:

 

Conditional Immortality

Briefly, here is our sad-and-happy story of DEATH-and-SALVATION, from Genesis-and-Revelation.

Initially, as described in Genesis, re: what is now happening in Life, DEATH began when we lost our potential immortality.  The rebellious sin of Adam (in Genesis 3:1-6), when he disobeyed God by eating from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," produced three results for Adam and Eve, in Genesis 3: 7-13 & 14-19 & 22-24, when...

    • their sinful disobedience immediately (in verses 7-13) caused an intrinsic decrease in the quality of their spiritual relationship with God, so they began living in a state of spiritual sinning, and then...
    two divine judicial decrees (in 14-19, and 22-24) caused:
    • a decrease in their quality of living, and
    • a loss of potential immortality when God declared (Genesis 3:22) that Adam — who already had immense reductions in quality of life, both spiritually (in 7-13) and physically (14-19) — also would have an immense reduction in length of life, because a sinner "must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."   Without the supernatural "tree of life," Adam (and Eve) had physical mortality, and their natural process-of-dying began in Life, ending in their physical death.
 

Eventually, as described in Revelation, re: what will happen in Afterlife, God can use SALVATION (that will include SANCTIFICATION to eliminate sinning) to solve our problems of spiritual sinning and physical mortality (death).  How & When, and Who?  These questions are examined below in A Problem-Solving Perspective on Sin and Death — Human Problems, Divine Solutions.

 

Or you can skip to other topics:

        Conditional Immortality is not Dependent Immortality ,
        4 Bible-Based Reasons to Reject a Doctrine of Eternal Misery ,
            but can Eternal Misery be defended by Re-Defining Life and Death? .

I.O.U. — In each section, some parts (those without IOU's) are well developed now, but other parts (with explanatory IOU's) need work.  I'll continue thinking-and-writing in late 2017, and the parts I'm working on will improve, but it will take awhile to develop-and-revise all parts.

 


 

A Problem Solving Perspective on Sin-and-Death  —  Human Problems and Divine Solutions

What is problem solving?  It can be useful, for education and in other ways, to define problem solving broadly as anything that “makes it better” in any area of life.  In the BIG area of sin-and-death, how is God “making it better” now, and later?  Below, I'll describe this three ways, in a brief summary, a table, and a detailed examination.  Briefly, in the Bible we see...

 

• a PROBLEM:  The first humans (Eve & Adam) disobeyed God by eating from "the tree of knowledge of good and evil" and their spiritual sinning decreased the quality of their close relationship with God.

 

• a SOLUTION:  To solve a person's problem of spiritual sinning, God can give them salvation-with-justification (to forgive their sins) and sanctification (to progressively reduce their sinning, until in Afterlife they will have no spiritual sinning).

• a SOLUTION:  To solve a person's problem of physical mortality that leads to physical death, God will give every saved-and-sanctified person (who is forgiven, and in Afterlife will have no spiritual sinning) a physical immortality in their Afterlife.

• a SEMI-SOLUTION:  To "make it better" compared with a worse situation, God is preventing the unacceptably bad situation (it's the worst possible, I think) of a person living forever in sinful misery, which would occur if they have physical immortality while they remain in a state of spiritual sinning.  To prevent this eternal spiritual sinning, God decided that sinners "must not... live forever," so during Life (when "all have sinned" and continue sinning) all humans have physical mortality and thus physical death.  This semi-solution (to produce a situation that is not the best, but is better than the worst) will continue in Afterlife because God has decided that all unsaved persons — if they continue, unjustified/unforgiven and unsanctified, in their spiritual sinning — also will have physical mortality (and physical death) in their Afterlife.

•• To solve our human problems involving physical mortality, God uses a conditional immortality with an iff-then condition — so a person will be immortal if saved, but mortal if unsaved — that would be violated by Eternal Misery.  This violation, which would cause the "unacceptable situation" of eternal spiritual sinning, is strong biblical evidence against Eternal Misery.

 

The main ideas above are organized in this table about Human Problems and Divine Solutions,

 
 
two unsolved problems:
two solved problems:
 SPIRITUAL states,  
 with sinning and
 without sinning:
• spiritual sinning (not best relationship);
 intrinsic result, described in Gen 3:7-13. 
  • salvation by life+death+resurrection of Jesus,  
with sanctification by spiritual transformation;
decided & produced by God's grace-and-power.
 PHYSICAL states,
 mortal
(death)  
 
and immortal:
 • physical mortality without Tree of Life; 
is judicial decree of death, in Gen 3:22-24,
  because sinners "must not... live forever,"  
  is semi-solution to avoid WORST combo.  
  • conditional immortality with (IFF) Tree of Life;  
  is judicial decree (Rev 2:7, 22:14) using IFF-then,  
so people (after resurrection in Afterlife) will be
mortal IF unsaved   or   immortal IF saved.
 states of saved
 if UR or FA or EM:  
• salvation with sanctification (→ no spiritual sinning in Afterlife)
• physical immortality (→ no death)

( matching is ok:  solved and solved ),
is BEST, is ideal because God solves both problems.
 states of unsaved  
 if CI (if UR or FA):  
• spiritual sinning (unsaved, therefore unsanctified)
• physical mortality (→ death)
( matching is ok:  unsolved and [for the unsaved] unsolved ),
would be SAD, would be the result of God's Death Penalty for Sin.
 states of unsaved
 if not-CI (if EM):
• spiritual sinning (unsaved, therefore unsanctified)
• physical immortality (→ no death) → eternal spiritual sinning
( mis-matching:  unsolved and de-solved [with semi-solvedunsolved] ),
would be WORST combination, unacceptable so (Gen 3:22) God prevents it.
 states of unsaved
 if EM, but redefine  
 LIFE-and-DEATH:
  even though Tree of Life not given to unsaved people, they still (how?) have  
eternal conscious existence (physical immortality), with spiritual sinning,
  so the two problems still are de-solved (for death) and unsolved (for sin), to 
  same unacceptable result:  WORST combination eternal spiritual sinning.  

 

Below is a Detailed Examination of ideas that are outlined above in a Summary and Table.  I will describe how God has been and is and will be — in the past and present and future — solving problems involving Sin and Death.

one part of God's Problem-Solutions for Life and Afterlife:  As described above, God decided (Genesis 3:22) that a sinner "must not... live forever," and because "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23) all will not live forever during Life;  instead all people will have physical mortality during Life.   Even though the result is physical death at the end of Life, this is a problem-solution (by "making it better" compared with a much worse situation) because God has decided that death is better than a situation that would be much worse, that would be unacceptable so God will not let it happen.  This "much worse" situation — that God will not allow — would happen IF God allowed a person to "live forever" (because they had continuing access to His supernatural "tree of life") in a state of eternal spiritual sinning.

another part of God's Problem-Solutions for Life and Afterlife:  In a continuation of this divine policy (with a Death Penalty for Sin, with spiritual sinning physical mortality and thus death) by extending the policy from Life into Afterlife, God states (Revelation 2:7 & 22:14) that He will re-give the "tree of life" (and thus physical immortality) in Afterlife, but only to saved people who "overcome," who "wash their robes."  After these saved-and-justified people have their sins forgiven by God,* and with sanctification God has transformed them from their state of spiritual sinning into a state with no spiritual sinning so they can live forever without sin.  How?   Because of the death of Jesus (to allow justification through substitutionary atonement by the grace of God) and the resurrection of Jesus (to produce victory over death by the power of God), a person can receive salvation (when God forgives their sins) and sanctification (when God spiritually transforms them so instead of continuing their slavery-to-sin, they can be liberated, partially during Life and totally during Afterlife);  in Afterlife they will become totally sanctified (with no spiritual sinning) so they will be suitable to receive physical immortality and thus Eternal Life with Joy.  In this way, for saved people during their Life-and-Afterlife, God eventually will solve BOTH problems, by healing their spiritual sinning (with sanctification) so He can replace their physical mortality (and death) with physical immortality (and life).

* If people "have their sins forgiven by God," He would be “justified” in giving them physical immortality.  But for a variety of biblical reasons — especially consistency with Genesis 3:22, which seems to require that they must be able to live forever without sinning — I think it's extremely probable (almost certain) that God also "has transformed them... [how might He do this?] into a state with no spiritual sinning."

 

an important result of God's Problem-Solutions for Life and Afterlife:  As explained above, God has promised that He will prevent the unacceptable situation of "causing a person to live forever in a state of eternal spiritual sinning."  This divine goal could not be achieved with a policy of Eternal Misery in which God would be causing an unsaved person to live forever in sinful misery, instead of preventing it.  Instead, based on what the Bible clearly teaches (in Genesis 3:22-24 plus Revelation 2:7 & 22:14), this divine causing of eternal spiritual sinning will not happen, so it's one of 4 strong Bible-based reasons (it's #2a) to reject a doctrine of Eternal Misery.      { God removed his supernatural immortality-enabling "tree of life" for two purposes:  to protect people by not causing sinners to exist forever;   to protect His creation, by not causing sinning to exist forever. }

Basically, God is adjusting mortality to make it appropriate for the sin-situation by using Conditional Immortality (which could occur with FA or UR, but not with EM) by causing non-sinners to live forever, and causing sinners to not live forever.  God's decree-and-actions, in Genesis 3:22-24, produce a temporary semi-solution that eventually becomes a permanent total solution.  How?  Currently, God is giving all people physical mortality during Life, so death remains a temporarily unsolved problem.  Later, Conditional Immortality will be used in Afterlife when, in a two-part total solution,

    God will prevent the worst combination of spiritual & physical states, which would occur if sinners are living forever in Eternal Misery, with eternal spiritual sinning, and
    God will produce the best combination of spiritual & physical states, because non-sinners will be living forever.

But if God causes Eternal Misery, He would be de-solving one part of this total solution — He would be changing a problem-situation that had been solved and was satisfactory, in a way that would make it unsatisfactory — by causing an Afterlife in which "sinners are living forever" instead of preventing this horrible combination.  Fortunately, He has wisely decided (as described in Genesis & Revelation) that He will not do this.  The divine solving-of-problems, by using Conditional Immortality, could occur with FA or UR, but not with EM.

 

A divine policy of Conditional Immortality, using an IFF (IF and only IF) Condition, allows the effective coordinating of problem-solutions.  With this policy — by deciding that physical immortality will be conditional, that it will be given to only a saved person who has been given salvation-with-sanctification, and only in their Afterlife — God has decided that He will solve BOTH problems (of Sin and Death) or He will solve NEITHER, that He will...

    solve neither:IF spiritual sinning (so an important problem remains unsolved), THEN physical mortality, as described in Genesis 3:22,  or...
    solve both:  IF no spiritual sinning (so this important problem has been solved), THEN no physical mortality, as described in Revelation 2:7 & 22:14.

* But although neither problem has been totally solved because God currently is not producing the BEST situation (of Everlasting Joy in Heaven), He is achieving a semi-solution by preventing the WORST situation (of Everlasting Misery in Hell).  The goal of His divine policy, stated in Genesis 3:22 and actualized in Genesis 3:23-24, is to prevent eternal spiritual sinning. Now, in the present, God is pursuing this goal during Life, beginning to achieve it.  Later, in the future, He will finish achieving this goal during Afterlife.

 

MORE — Are defenders of Eternal Misery being biblical-and-logical in their claims about spiritual death (instead of physical death) and eternal existence in misery (that it isn't living forever, isn't immortality) ?

 


 

Conditional Immortality is not Dependent Immortality

There is a very important difference between immortality that is Conditional and is Dependent.

 

All views should propose a biblical Dependent Existence with existence that depends on God — with humans (or human souls) existing, in Life or Afterlife, for awhile or forever, only if God enables their existence — instead of an intrinsic Independent Existence that occurs without God.  All of us should acknowledge that, now and in the future, our existence is dependent on (contingent on) God providing it.  Consistent with Conditional Immortality, God will choose to give an everlasting conscious existence to some people (with FA or semi-UR) or to all people (with UR), and this will be a Dependent Immortality.     { These two immortalities are distinct (i.e., The Dependence is not The Condition) but are causally related because Conditional Immortality is possible due to the Dependent Existence that lets God choose – on the basis of His Condition – who will and won't be given life, either "for awhile or [if He decides to give a particular person immortality that is dependent-and-conditional] forever." }

 

I.O.U. - Later, the paragraphs above and below will be combined, and I'll revise this section to eliminate duplication-of-ideas. 

The Condition is "IF (and only if) saved, THEN immortal" for Conditional Immortality.  Another biblical principle — distinct yet related,* and acceptable in all views (UR, FA, EM) — is Dependent Immortality because "humans (or human souls) exist, in Life or Afterlife, for awhile or forever, only if God enables their existence," as described in Part 1 {of Conditional Immortality}, re: Conscious Existence that is Dependent (biblical) or Independent (unbiblical).

* Distinct yet Related:  The Dependence is not The Condition, so these are distinct.  But they are related because Conditional Immortality is possible due to Dependent Immortality;  the living conscious existence of every creature is enabled by God, with their life created-and-sustained by God, so He must make choices (based on The Condition) about who will and won't live, now during Life and later in Afterlife, whether their living is "for awhile or forever."     { the importance of consciousness:  The foundational principle of Descartes — "I think, therefore I am" or “I am conscious, therefore I am alive” or or “I am conscious, therefore I exist” — is one reason why we should challenge a claim, made by defenders of EM, that an unsaved person's conscious existence in misery is not being alive in misery, is not life in misery, so it isn't immortality for the unsaved, so (they illogically try to claim) Eternal Misery does not violate Conditional Immortality. }

Universal Unconditional Immortality versus Dependent Existence:  Unfortunately, defenders of EM often assume a universal unconditional immortality of humans (or human souls) that God cannot revoke or (more commonly) will not revoke.  But this claim is never taught anywhere in the Bible.

Rev 22:2, Tree of Life has fruit every month, → saved people need continual/continuing enabling-by-God to have continuing living-in-Afterlife ?

 


 

Four Bible-Based Reasons to Reject a Doctrine of Eternal Misery

My introductory overview of Conditional Immortality and The Death Penalty ends by listing "four related reasons to reject Eternal Misery," because EM violates biblical principles about...

1 - conditional immortality ,

2a - a world without sin ,

2b - a world without death ,

3 - substitutionary atonement .

 

When you click one of these four italicized links you'll find details about that biblical reason to reject EM.     { In addition to these 4 reasons, there are other biblical reasons to reject EM. }

 


 

1 — In afterlife, will everyone (whether they're saved or unsaved) be immortal?

The overview-page briefly outlines "four related reasons to reject Eternal Misery."  In this subsection you'll find details about one of the reasons, to supplement its outline:

1 — EM would violate the Conditional Immortality clearly taught in the Bible, because even though the Bible states that a sinner "must not... live forever," with EM unsaved sinners would be forced to "live forever" in Misery.

 

The biblical evidence-and-logic for Conditional Immortality is clear and strong:

    in Genesis (3:22), God declares that sinners "must not... live forever" so — to prevent this — He removes our access to His "tree of life," and
    in Revelation (2:7, 22:14), God declares that He will give His "tree of life" to a person IF they are saved.

But if God will force unsaved sinners to "live forever" in Eternal Misery, it would contradict these statements in Genesis and Revelation.     {  Do you see why Conditional Immortality could happen with Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation but not with Eternal Misery? }

 

The biblical evidence-and-logic for Conditional Immortality is very strong.  Therefore, I'm surprised when Bible-believing Christians continue to defend Eternal Misery.  I'm confused, wondering “what don't they understand, and why?”

Three typical responses by defenders of Eternal Misery are...

    a non-solution:  They just ignore Genesis 3:22 (about The Death Penalty for Sin) and Revelation 2:7 & 22:14 (about Conditional Immortality), pretending these biblical statements don't exist.
    another non-solution:  They can claim that “hell verses” (like Matthew 25:46 where Jesus describes how people who ignore the poor-and-needy "will go away into eternal punishment") prove an Eternal Misery that requires Unconditional Immortality, so verses that seem to teach a Death Penalty and Conditional Immortality must be re-interpreted, or just ignored.     {why isolated "hell verses" do not provide strong support for Eternal Misery}
    an attempted solution:  In an attempt to defend Eternal Misery, they re-define death and life* so they can claim that a sinner who has eternal conscious existence in misery does not "live forever" — instead they “die forever” — so the sinner's eternal conscious existence does not violate God's declaration, in Genesis 3:22, that a sinner "must not... live forever."

 


 

A Rational Defense of Eternal Misery

I think this "attempted solution" — by re-defining death and life — is wrong, but is rational.  It might be the best way for them to defend a doctrine that probably is wrong, that seems wrong because it's unbiblical, because it doesn't seem consistent with what the Bible teaches.   I think it would be more rational for defenders Eternal Misery to humbly say “we're wrong.”  But if they want to continue claiming “we're correct,” then re-defining death is a rational way for them to defend their claim.

 

What are my goals for this section?

    • First, I want to describe the strongest possible argument-for-EM that I can imagine, to defend it against the strong biblical evidence for Conditional Immortality and The Death Penalty for Sin that is strong biblical evidence against Eternal Misery.
    • Second, I want to explain why this argument is not strong, why its apparent strength is only superficial, why it seems much weaker after we have carefully examined the biblical evidence-and-logic.
    •• Basically, I want to describe the strongest possible arguments-for-EM and arguments-against-EM.*     { Here, I'm focusing on Conditional Immortality and The Death Penalty.  Of course, EM also can be defended in other ways, mainly by claiming support from a few isolated hell verses. }
    * I want to avoid intellectual dishonesty, so I want to avoid pretending that weak distorted "strawman" arguments-for-EM are their strongest arguments. 

  Therefore, please tell me if you see:  other ways (that I haven't yet seen) to develop a stronger argument-for-EM in response to The Death Penalty and Conditional Immortality;   or any weakness, biblically or logically, in my counter-arguments.

 

During our process of evaluating these arguments, for and against EM, we can...

 

ask WHAT(+HOW), WHY, and WHO,  for Genesis and Revelation.

• To learn from Genesis 3:22-24, we should ask questions about WHAT and WHY:   during Life & Afterlife, WHAT does The Tree of Life do? and HOW?   and   WHY did God want to remove The Tree of Life?

• To learn from Revelation 2:7 and 22:14, we should ask a question about WHO:   during Life & Afterlife, WHO will receive The Tree of Life, as a gift from God?

 

Basically, I think

WHO -- all agree,

WHY -- EM satisfactory, but strange? [non obvious]

WHAT -- serious inconsistency problems

HOW -- all agree? (iou + i don'[t think it matters, except for intrinsic immortality out of god's control)

 

PART 2:

First we'll look at the questions about WHO and WHAT.

 

WHO will receive The Tree of Life?

Now, during Life, no person is allowed to eat from "the tree of life," as described in Genesis 3:22-24.

Later, during Afterlife, "the tree of life" will be given to people who are saved, who "wash their robes" (Revelation 22:14) to "overcome" (Revelation 2:7).

 

* How do defenders of EM re-define death and life?  If they choose “separation” to be the defining characteristic of death, a spiritual death can be separation from God, and eternal spiritual death (defined as eternal death, or "the second death" or simply death) can be separation from God in an eternal afterlife-hell.  Similarly, eternal life can be eternal communion with God (defined as spiritual life) in an eternal afterlife-heaven.     {an example of re-definitions}  {3 ways to define the second death}

For defenders of Eternal Misery, this definition of death is important because it allows a claim that if a person “exists forever” with Eternal Misery due to being separated from God, this person does not "live forever" (in a life that would violate Genesis 3:22), instead they “die forever”.  Why is this important? 

an attempted solution:  In an attempt to defend Eternal Misery, they re-define death and life* so they can claim that a sinner who has eternal conscious existence in misery does not "live forever" — instead they “die forever” — so the sinner's eternal conscious existence does not violate God's declaration, in Genesis 3:22, that a sinner "must not... live forever."

 

table? -- nec for Death (Phys + Spir)(col-col), during Life + After (row-row), for each view, for EM (+CI?)

 
if Conditional Immortality (CI),
if Unsaved People are
annihilated or reconciled,
if Eternal Misery (EM),
if Unsaved People are
tormented forever,
 WHAT:  is Tree
 needed to prevent
 Physical Death?
 during LIFE, CI says YES, and EM says YES,
because all (Saved & Unsaved) are without Tree,
so all have Physical Death.
during Afterlife, CI says YES,
because Unsaved are without Tree,
and have Physical Death.
 during Afterlife, CI says NO, because
Unsaved are without Tree,
but have no Physical Death;
this NO is a biblical problem.
 WHAT:  is Tree
 needed to prevent
 Spiritual Death?
not (all immortal)

 

 
 if Conditional Immortality, 
is Tree of Life necessary
 to prevent Physical Death? 
if Eternal Misery,
is Tree of Life necessary
 to prevent Physical Death? 
 in Life,
YES, because
all are without Tree,
all have Physical Death.
YES, because
all are without Tree,
all have Physical Death.
 in Afterlife,  
YES, because
Unsaved are without Tree,
 and have Physical Death. 
 (this is God's desired result) 
NO, because
Unsaved are without Tree,
 but have no Physical Death. 
This is a biblical problem.

 

 
Tree nec for
  NO Spiritual Death  
(with CI, not not)
Tree nec for
NO Physical Death
(with CI, NEC NEC)
 Life
not (born again)
  NEC (none immortal)  
 Afterlife
NEC (for Joy)
not (all immortal)

 

 
during LIFE,
God removes The Tree of Life,
as described in Genesis, so...
during AFTERLIFE,
God gives Tree of Life only to SAVED,
as described in Revelation (and implied in Genesis), so...
 
but IF Eternal Misery,  THEN
  IF Conditional Immortality, THEN 
IF Eternal Misery, THEN
 WITHOUT
 Tree of Life,... 
 no person has The Tree of Life, 
 and all people have Physical Death: 
if SAVED, Physical Death, and
if UNSAVED, Physical Death.
if SAVED (this won't happen);
if UNSAVED, Physical Death,
as in Life, fulfilling the divine
purpose of Genesis 3:22-24.
if SAVED (this won't happen);
if UNSAVED,
no Physical Death
 even though without Tree of Life, 
violating purpose of Gen 3:22-24.
 WITH
 Tree of Life,...
this doesn't happen, because
 God removes The Tree of Life. 
if SAVED, no Physical Death;
 if UNSAVED (this won't happen)
if SAVED, no Physical Death;
if UNSAVED (this won't happen).

 

Fall --> only SpirDth (Gen 2:17 but no death in 24-hour day),

 

in Life, Tree IS NEC for NO-PhysDeath, for Immort

in Aft, Tree not nec for NO-PhysDeath, for Immort

in Aft, Tree IS NEC for no-SpirDeath (for Joy-not-Misery), thus for BibLife with Immort+Joy, not Immort+Misery

sinner "must not... LIVE forever" with Eternal Life ---- but Eternal Existence-with-Misery

to explain change-of-function with EM (re: no-PhysDeath) between Life and Afterlife:

    EM-ok if all Life-bodies intrinsic mortal so Tree nec for no-PhysDeath,  all Afterlife-bodies intrinsic immortal so Tree not nec for no-PhysDeath.

 

WHY -- not too soon (• not before cross w SubstAtonemt,  • not in Life before Afterlife),  not for too many (• not for Unsaved @ Rev 2:7/22:14)

WHO -- all views can agree, if EM redefines "live forever" and Life/Death, so Eternal Misery (no PhysDeath, yes SpirDeath) isn't "live forever"

 

HOW -- note:  In this section, I often refer to "the tree of life" as The Tree of Life.  But this capitalizing doesn't imply that The Tree is divine.  Instead, the tree of life seems to be God's way of describing (in Genesis & Revelation) the divine supernatural power that He uses to prevent death and supply life.

WHY - basics in Part 1, then in Part 2 include motives of God - does he want to be non-cruel to sinners? (prevent cruelty of etrnal life in sin?) or just not reward sinners with good things of etrnal joy?

 

maybe... Tree is "package deal" (all or nothing) that includes preventing both Deaths (Spiritual/Physical), AND in Afterlife a person (both soul+body) is intrinsically immortal (existing forever) and God decides to not un-do this, because Matt 10:28 says God is able to kill body+soul, not that He will kill either, or both.

Because if God's "tree of life" cures only spiritual death (because it isn't needed to prevent physical death)* this lets defenders-of-EM avoid acknowledging that, in Genesis 3:22-24, the purpose of God

Because if God's "tree of life" isn't needed to produce continuing existence during Afterlife, this lets defenders-of-EM avoid acknowledging that, in Genesis 3:22-24, the purpose of God (when we ask "WHY did God remove His tree of life?") was to prevent the eternal existence-while-sinning that would occur with Eternal Misery.  Instead they can claim that God's purpose was to prevent Eternal Joy — that would have been produced by God's "tree of life" if He had not removed it — from happening too soon, and for too many people,  i.e. to prevent Eternal Joy from happening...

    "too soon," when we still owe the penalty for sin, instead of waiting until our sin-penalty has been paid, by God, with substitutionary atonement in the sacrificial death of Jesus;  and also from happening...
    "too soon," during Life,
instead of waiting until Afterlife;  and from happening, during Afterlife,...
    "for too many people," for every person, instead of the way God wanted — as decreed by God with the If-Then Condition of Conditional Immortality, “IF saved, THEN Eternal Joy” — for only persons who are saved by God.
 

We should ask two important questions:   WHAT does The Tree of Life do, and not do?   And in Genesis 3:22-24, after the sin of Adam, WHY did God remove The Tree of Life?

[[ the two "answers" below need to be fixed ---- soon, November 7-8, I'll study my detail-sections (below in Parts 2 & 3) where I compare effects of "the tree" during Life and Afterlife, then I'll come back here to briefly summarize the effects ]]

* WHAT — With these EM-definitions of life and death, God's "tree of life" does not prevent Physical Death, instead it only cures Spiritual Death:   the "tree of life" is not needed to cure physical death, because with EM everyone will live forever, whether or not God lets them eat from The Tree of Life.  With EM, the only benefit of having The Tree is being cured of Spiritual Death, so they can be eternally alive in joyful communion with God, instead of eternally alive in miserable separation from God.

WHY — With these EM-definitions of life and death, the divinely decreed penalty for sin is a divinely caused continuation of sin, caused by God keeping unsaved people alive — and also keeping them sinfully separated from Him — in the eternally lasting Hell that He maintains for them.

 

 

 
Tree nec for
  NO Spiritual Death  
(with CI, not not)
Tree nec for
NO Physical Death
(with CI, NEC NEC)
 Life
not (born again)
  NEC (none immortal)  
 Afterlife
NEC (for Joy)
not (all immortal)

 

[[ In my "rational defense of Eternal Misery", EM-defenders will agree with these two WHO-answers, instead our differences are in WHAT and WHY, below.]] "just the facts" it seems to me

 

WHAT does The Tree of Life do?

Genesis 3:22 — when God declared that a sinner "must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever" — shows that The Tree of Life prevents Physical Death, and lets a person live forever.  What are the results, now and later?

Now, during Life, when everyone is without The Tree of Life, all of us (both saved & unsaved) have Physical Death.

Later, during Afterlife, we should expect The Tree of Life to have similar effects.  This expectation, which is based on Genesis 3:22-24 plus what we observe during Life, does occur IF there is Conditional Immortality in Afterlife, because THEN God will give only people who are Saved (so they are WITH The Tree of Life) His gift of immortality, with eternal conscious existence.  By contrast, people who are Unsaved (so they are WITHOUT The Tree of Life ) will have Physical Death, so effects of The Tree are similar in Life and Afterlife.

But... if Eternal Misery will happen, a person who is Unsaved (so they are without The Tree of Life) lives forever, having no Physical Death.  When we compare Life with Afterlife, we see that a doctrine of Eternal Misery requires a change in what The Tree of Life does, because although The Tree of Life IS NECESSARY to prevent Physical Death and allow "live forever" during Life (but God says, in Genesis 3:22-24, that having the tree, and thus preventing death, will not happen), The Tree of Life IS NOT NECESSARY to prevent Physical Death and allow "live forever" during Afterlife, IF an unsaved person will consciously exist forever with Eternal Misery.  This change-of-function is a major biblical problem for Eternal Misery.

By contrast, there is no change-of-function with Conditional Immortality (based on God saying, in Revelation 2:7 & 22:14, that having the tree, and thus preventing death, will not happen) because The Tree of Life always IS NECESSARY to prevent Physical Death and allow "live forever" in both Life and Afterlife.

 

These two paragraphs, about Who and What, describe a major biblical problem with Eternal Misery.  The same ideas also are summarized in this table:

 
during LIFE,
God removes The Tree of Life,
as described in Genesis, so...
during AFTERLIFE,
God gives Tree of Life only to SAVED,
as described in Revelation (and implied in Genesis), so...
 
but IF Eternal Misery,  THEN
  IF Conditional Immortality, THEN 
IF Eternal Misery, THEN
 WITHOUT
 Tree of Life,... 
 no person has The Tree of Life, 
 and all people have Physical Death: 
if SAVED, Physical Death, and
if UNSAVED, Physical Death.
if SAVED (this won't happen);
if UNSAVED, Physical Death,
as in Life, fulfilling the divine
purpose of Genesis 3:22-24.
if SAVED (this won't happen);
if UNSAVED,
no Physical Death
 even though without Tree of Life, 
violating purpose of Gen 3:22-24.
 WITH
 Tree of Life,...
this doesn't happen, because
 God removes The Tree of Life. 
if SAVED, no Physical Death;
 if UNSAVED (this won't happen)
if SAVED, no Physical Death;
if UNSAVED (this won't happen).

 

PART 3:

[[ but... a defender of EM can protest that "you're not using our EM-definition of LIVE" because instead of "exist in joy with God" (our defn) you use "exist" (your defn) -- so I'll have to compare the WHY-answers of EM and FA/UR and see what happens

[[ instead of Death that could be defined as Physical Death and/or Spiritual Death, I'm focusing on Physical Death, to minimize the legitimacy of this claim

[[ throughout Bible, God's penalty for sin is Physical Death -- God never has penalty of "separation from Himself" -- zb, in Gen 3 this was idea of Adam/Eve who tried to hide from God (tried to get separation) but God searched/found them -- in Romans 6, the bad Death is caused by slavery to sin, is not caused by God as a penalty

[[ mere Life:  if mere Physical Life requires only Embodied Conscious Existence (with body + soul, combined), then EM's distinction of life-vs-death = withGod-vs-withoutGod = joy-vs-misery is not necessary, is irrelevant, but...

[[ they could reject this "if" by claiming that EM occurs due to tormenting/punishing of only Disembodied Soul ---- is this biblical? traditional?  most Christians typically assume soul-only for Intermediate State [although Glenn Peoples challenges biblical basis for this], but in Final State (after General Resurrection) traditional EM doesn't claim that God will cause continuing existence of soul-only;  with non-EM CI, instead (if there will be no Reconciliation, so a person gets The Death Penalty) God will destroy body-and-soul as in Matt 10:28, but... it states only that God CAN do this, but not that He WILL do it ---- for dualist, Death-in-Life is death of body but soul lives on, so with EM could Death-in-Afterlife be analogous?  but I think raditional EM is for body-and-soul, not just soul ]]

[[ Physical Death = kill body but soul alive, or kill body+soul so nothing alive, with total annihilation, with no existence of any kind

[[sometimes, although there are biblical reasons to question this claim, some Christians say "the tree of life" is the cross of Christ.  /  IF this claim is correct, then either Christians (who "have the cross of Christ") DO HAVE "the tree of life" during Life, or [as implied by Genesis when The Tree is removed from everyone, and its return to SAVED people in Revelation is the first time its return is mentioned] or Christians DON'T HAVE "the tree of life" during Life.  both possibilities, without Tree and with Tree, are shown in the table below, and each causes biblical/logical problems if we use a redefining of Death (done for the purpose of defending EM) in which The Tree cures Spiritual Death but is not necessary for preventing Physical Death:  in the table you can see the two problems, in each situation, because for SAVED people the two possible situations (••) are either...

    • IF WITHOUT Tree, but if SAVED people have no Spiritual Death during Life [because after their conversion they have been re-connected with God thru Holy Spirit], then HOW (i.e. WHY) can they have no Spiritual Death at a time when, like UNSAVED people, the SAVED people don't have The Tree?   Or...
    • IF WITH Tree, then HOW (i.e. WHY) do they have Physical Death at the end of their Life?   [oops -- this possibility would be eliminated by the second requirement for "not too soon" because The Tree could only be given back during Afterlife, not during Life ---- so... maybe an EM-defender could claim that everything (bodies + spiritual connections) are different during Life & Afterlife, so Spiritual Death can be cured during Life [but not Afterlife] by Holy Spirit [no?? - HSp can cure in Life or Aft, and Tree can cure during Aft??] ;  and physical bodies during Life are non-immortal naturally so Tree is needed to prevent Physical Death, but in Afterlife all resurrection bodies will be intrinsically immortal so The Tree isn't necessary -- but then The Tree does NOTHING in Afterlife, isn't necessary to cure either kind of Death -- ??
during LIFE,
 God removes The Tree of Life, 
 as described in Genesis, and... 
during AFTERLIFE,
 God gives Conditional Immortality, 
as described in Revelation, so...
 WITHOUT
 Tree of Life,... 
if UNSAVED, Spiritual Death
and Physical Death;

 
if SAVED (but IF WITHOUT Tree?), 
no Spiritual Death (HOW ?),
and Physical Death.

if SAVED (this won't happen);
but IF Eternal Misery,   THEN
if UNSAVED, no Physical Death,
but Spiritual Death.
 WITH
 Tree of Life,...
if SAVED (and IF WITH Tree
after their conversion?),
no Spiritual Death
 but Physical Death (HOW ?).
if SAVED, no Spiritual Death;
if UNSAVED (this won't happen).

 

I.O.U. -- by mid-November 2017, this "Rational Defense of EM" will be developed more fully.  {it will link to sections - including here and here - where serious problems-for-EM are examined}   Here are some ideas that will be in this section:

 

Spiritual Death and Physical Death:  Is the penalty for sin ONLY Spiritual Death?  (i.e. does The Tree of Life have nothing to do with Physical Death, with mortality, with The Death Penalty for Sin that is emphasized throughout the Bible?  if "yes, The Tree of Life has no effect on Physical Death" – which is the answer required for this defense of EM – this "yes" ignores the very strong whole-Bible emphasis on Physical Death being the Penalty for Sin chosen by God, throughout the Bible, in the Old Testament and New Testament, for OT punishments (e.g. The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah) and rescues (e.g. Isaac, The Passover) and for the OT Sacrificial System and NT Substitutionary Atonement) - and, of course, we should carefully examine what happened, in Genesis 3, after the first sin to find the cause-for-concern by God in Genesis 3:22.

 

YOUNG-EARTH views of Genesis 1-3,  re: Spiritual Death + Physical Death

• YEC's think Tree does affect Physical Death instead of "neutral" as required by re-definition of Death in EM-defense;

• YEC's focus is how Tree affects their YEc-claims, not EM claims, so maybe what helps YEc-defense will hurt EM-defense?

• YEC's think humans were created with immortality that was removed after human sin;

[[ young-earth interpretations of Genesis 1-3 claim that there was no death before the fall in Genesis 3, but their argument vanishes if Adam's sin only caused Spiritual Death, with no effect on Physical Death ---- with yec/oec, if no sin, Tree of Life --> continued "living forever" for humans (and all other creatures?) / yec might claim

[[ godandscience.org, Rich Deem, Was Adam Created as an Immortal Being? -- Young earth creationists admit that sin initiated both physical and spiritual death. ... old earth creationists believe Adam died spiritually immediately when he sinned, and died physically in that same "day" of Adam's life. So, clearly, the "day" of Adam was hundreds of years long or young earth creationists have to change basic Christian doctrine such that [by making the ye claim that] sin only brought spiritual death. [instead of spiritual + physical] Since the latter choice is obviously unacceptable, young earth creationists merely ignore the problem. / The second problem for young earth creationists is what to do with God being so worried about Adam eating from the tree of life6 that He posted the cherubim with the flaming sword to block the way to the tree of life.7 If Adam already had eternal life then God wouldn't have cared that he would eat of the tree of life. It only makes sense if God did not want Adam to physically live forever, since he had already died spiritually. Clearly, the tree of life, had its fruit been eaten, would have endowed Adam with physical immortality, something that he had previously lacked.

[[ Glenn Morton, Death Before Sin - Death Before the Fall: The Theology - The function of the Tree of Life was obviously to give eternal life. ... What is clear from this verse is that the tree’s fruit could give the eater immortality. If Adam and Eve already possessed immortality, why was the tree there?

[[ Greg Neyman, Genesis 2:17 - Death Before Sin -- the reason why young earth creationists attack this topic, is because of animal death before Adam's sin. It is clear from the fossil record that animals died throughout the last few hundred million years of earth's history. It is impossible to come up with a viable young earth scientific model explaining the fossils, so Mortenson and others attempt to use Scriptures to argue their point. / many old earth creationists claim that only spiritual death occurred, and you will see this claim many times on this website. However, we also recognize the significance of Adam being kicked out of the Garden, with the consequence that he would no longer have access to the Tree of Life. The point that old earth creationists are making is that although physical death occurred eventually, this is not what is important about Adam's sin. Spiritual death, which leads to separation from God, is the only thing that matters when we consider eternity. //// The grandmother [with simplistic literal reading of Gen 2:17] would have no choice but to conclude that Adam would die physically, and he would die the same day that he ate the fruit. However, Adam and Eve did not die that day...they died many years later. Did God lie? Of course not. There are only two solutions to this problem, and both favor an old earth interpretation. / First, there is the issue of spiritual death. This is what God meant. Adam and Eve clearly were spiritually dead when they ate the fruit. Such an interpretation eliminates the problem of Adam and Eve not physically dying the instant they ate the forbidden fruit. / The second option is that they did die physically in the same day that they ate the fruit. How can this be? The days of creation were many millions of years long, and God is now in His seventh day of rest. They died during this seventh day of rest, as have all of the people in the Bible, and all of us up until this very instant. Since it is clear from Hebrews 4 that we are still in this seventh day, this argument is solid.
Either way, you end up solving this issue by resorting to an old earth creationist interpretation of the Fall.

[[ yec, Paul Taylor - christiananswers.net - Is the age of the Earth a “trivial” doctrinal point? - Adam's Potential Lifespan: Apparently Adam would never have died if he had not disobeyed (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:22). God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden and guarded the tree of life so they would not use it to thwart death (Genesis 3:22-23).

[[ YEC -- "Or read Genesis 3, where God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden so that they would not eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. Physical death as well as spiritual death resulted from their sin." Ken Ham. The Lie: Evolution, Chapter 7: Death: A Curse and a Blessing. Answers in Genesis, July 1, 1987.

answersingenesis.org - Questions about the Tree of Life by Bodie Hodge (2010) - Did Adam and Eve Have to Eat from the Tree of Life to Keep from Dying?
This question assumes that the Man and Woman were already dying and required the Tree of Life to live. But there is no reason to assume they were, as death was the punishment for sin (Genesis 2:17) and they hadn’t sinned yet. / Adam and Eve probably could have eaten from the Tree of Life originally (Genesis 2:16), but God gives no decree that they had to eat of it to sustain their life at that point. However, the tree may have been one means by which God used to help support and maintain Adam and Eve — perhaps a type of sustenance. / the Bible gives no hints that they had to eat of this tree until after sin. / This [Gen 3:22] seems to imply that Adam and Eve could have eaten from the Tree of Life after they sinned to live forever. Had they been permitted to eat from the Tree of Life, then they would have been forced to live eternally in a sin-cursed world. But God had a better plan in place—one of redemption in Jesus Christ with a new heavens and new earth that would not be cursed.

answersingenesis.org -- The Tree of Life by W. Peter Gadsby, 1985 -- If Adam passed the test of obedience, it would be the means of God’s imparting eternal life to him, not by magic, but by the working of his Spirit ‘by, with and under’ the fruit of the Tree. // [Gen 3:22 -->] he, and us with him,4 would have been plunged into a condition of absolute lostness. He would have lived eternally cut off from God without hope of escape from the terrible consequences of sin. This would have been God’s just punishment for such a presumptuous sin, not merely a ‘magical’ effect of the Tree of Life. Mercifully, God did not permit this to happen.5 Adam was cast out of the Garden of Eden. No longer could he even contemplate eating from the Tree of Life. It was beyond his reach. Physical death now began to enter the human race. Adam began to die! The last Adam (Christ) later came to Earth to die so that through faith in Jesus, we may now inherit the eternal life Adam forfeited. Indeed, Jesus says to those who persevere in faith, ‘To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the Tree of Life which is in the Paradise of God.’6

 

[[ WHY -- does God want to CAUSE spiritual separation from Him?  NO, instead people choose the initial separation in Gen 3:7-11 (sin, eyes open, feel shame, hide from God, then God finds them and "the Lord God called to the man" wanting to re-establish communion, not force a separation between persons and Himself), so why would God want to cause (or even allow) a spiritual separation in Afterlife, lasting forever, to preserve sin forever?? ]]

death and life without "the tree of life" and with it -- in an interpretation of Gen 3 with normal definitions of death [as a person having their embodied conscious existence end] and life [with a continuing of the person's embodied conscious existence], God's "tree of life" is necessary for continuing life, and it allows continuing life, and it makes a difference because without this tree all humans die [i.e. their embodied conscious existence ends] during Life, and {logically} without this tree humans also die [i.e. their embodied conscious existence ends] during Afterlife,  but with this tree humans live forever [with embodied conscious existence] in Afterlife,  and with Conditional Immortality there is a difference between humans without the tree (i.e. unsaved humans) who will die, and humans with this tree (i.e. saved humans) who will live.   /   but... with "separation" definitions that defend EM, in Afterlife everyone will exist forever (will have eternal embodied conscious existence) in Afterlife, so there is universal Unconditional Immortality.

[[ WHAT -- was Physical Death already settled, before Gen 3:22-24? (to support EM-claim that Tree doesn't affect Physical Death) because in Gen Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.

[[ #ci is from pov of ci-correct, #ci1 is challenge by em-defenders and response by ci-defenders ]]

Does misery convert Immortality into Non-Immortality? -- Defenders of Eternal Misery can claim that Everlasting Conscious Existence in Misery (with EM) would not be Immortality even though everlasting conscious existence is the essential vocabulary-meaning of immortality.

If death and life mean "spiritual separation from God" and "spiritual communion with God", when Paul says that "for as in Adam all die [are spiritually separated from God], so also in Christ all will be made alive [in spiritual communion with God]," is this biblical support for a Universal Reconciliation in which "all will be made alive"?

 

Definitions of Life and Death:

As one example of definitions that are carefully designed to defend EM, AbideInChrist.com has a page about death that ignores Genesis 3:22, and skillfully defines death-and-life in a way that seems necessary for defending a doctrine of Eternal Misery (EM).  Their page — quoted here, with emphasis and [comments] added by me — begins:

    Death is separation, whether it is physical as in the separation of the person from his body, or spiritual separation of the person from a relationship with God.  Death is the opposite of life, but it never denotes non–existence, annihilation, extinction of being, or even being inactive.   [Even though God "is able to destroy both soul and body in hell," defenders of EM must deny the possibility that eventually death can be non-existence, because eternal conscious existence would be necessary IF God will cause Eternal Misery.  This denial also is supported by an unbiblical assumption of human immortality.]
    As spiritual life is "conscious existence in communion with God," so spiritual death is "conscious existence in separation from God" (W.E. Vine).  Figuratively, death is the loss of spiritual life (Romans 8:6), and the final state of the spiritual unregenerate is called "second death" (Revelation 20:14).  [What is the second death if it produces EM, FA, or UR?]
    Death in the Bible is the separation of the soul or spiritual element of a person from his material body resulting in it ceasing to function and turning to dust (John 11:13; Hebrews 2:15; 5:7; 7:23).  [In this dualistic view of human nature, psychosomatic life is the combining of a person's immaterial soul with their material body, and death (in a loss of psychosomatic life) is the separating of a person's immaterial soul from their material body, and.]
    It [death] also signifies a man's separation from God and His life because it is devoted to trespasses and sins.  In a spiritual sense Adam died on the day he was disobedient to God (Genesis 2:17).  [The page cites Gen 2:17 four times, but ignores Gen 3:22 because a defense of EM requires ignoring the death that occurs when God declares (in 3:22) that sinners "must not... live forever" and actualizes this decision (with His actions in 3:23-24) to achieve His goal of preventing the unacceptable situation of sinning that continues forever.]

Later in their page,

    eternal death is... eternal separation from God [with spiritual death] in an eternal hell" [so, by analogy, eternal life is eternal communion with God [with spiritual life] in an eternal heaven]. 

 

[[ i.o.u. -- Recently, I began a more thorough developing of this traditional "Rational Defense of Eternal Misery" for myself.  {but I'm sure it's previously been thoroughly developed by others, so I'm just doing it independently from them}   Therefore, I will be evaluating it, to determine "in what ways is it justifiable?" and "in what ways is it non-justifiable?"  For awhile, I was worried that Gen 3 might not be strong evidence against EM, that it would be much weaker than I had been concluding, but I'm beginning to see the major weaknesses in this argument to defend EM.  But, of course, I think a major weakness would not be considered decisive by those who are determined to defend EM. ]]

 

i.o.u. – Here are some ideas that might (with revisions) be used later.  But I will first develop the major ideas briefly/simply in non-table form, and maybe put the details (shown in a table) into an "appendix" for readers who want more detail.

for saved people:  An EM-defending claim for divine action to "prevent Eternal Joy... from happening too soon" seems compatible with removing the tree {Gen 3:22-24} during Life, and also with returning the tree (Rev 2:7, 22:14) during Afterlife, to only saved people whose penalty-for-sin has been paid.

for unsaved people:  This claim also seems satisfactory for unsaved people, during Life.  But during Afterlife we see a major problem when asking "what is God's purpose for the tree of life?  what effects does it produce, and not produce, during Life and Afterlife?  if it's available or is not available, what difference(s) occur?"  The table below shows how the EM-defending redefinitions for Life-and-Death (involving The Tree of Life that God can give a person, if He wants) affect saved people and unsaved people, during Life and Afterlife.   [[maybe I'll say more about the table, here]

 

A third-row cell ("even though Tree of Life not given...") is copied from a table showing divine problem solving.

 
during Life  (for saved & unsaved)
during Afterlife  (for saved & unsaved)
 without
 The Tree of Life  
for saved:  mortality is penalty for sin {Gen};
 for unsaved:  mortality is penalty for sin {Gen}. 
  [for both, problem of death is semi-solved]  
for savedwill not happen {Rev};
for unsaved:  fate depends on view, because...
   if CI (FA or UR), mortality is penalty for sin {Gen+Rev} 
  but if not-CI (EM), immortality [how?] with sinning  
  [is WORST – problems are de-solved and unsolved].  
 with
 The Tree of Life
for savedwill not happen {Gen};
for unsavedwill not happen {Gen}.
  for saved:  if CI or not-CI, immortality with no sinning  
[is BEST – problems are solved and solved];
for unsavedwill not happen {Rev}.
 states of unsaved  
 if EM, but redefine  
 LIFE-and-DEATH:
  
  even though Tree of Life not given to unsaved people, they still (how?) have  
eternal conscious existence (physical immortality), with spiritual sinning,
  so the two problems still are de-solved (for death) and unsolved (for sin), to 
  same unacceptable result:  WORST combination eternal spiritual sinning. 

 

In this table, we see that

• "without The Tree of Life" all people, both saved & unsaved, are mortal during Life, so removing it (during Life) has the intended effect (stated in Gen 3:22-24) of removing physical immortality, for the purpose of allowing our physical death.   {{ God removes tree {Gen 3:22-24} during Life, and returns tree (Rev 2:7, 22:14) during Afterlife, to only saved people whose penalty-for-sin has been paid, who have been saved by God. }}

• Notice that immortality – with people having eternal conscious existence – appears twice, with The Tree of Life (for saved people) and also without The Tree of Life (for unsaved people).   So...  does a state of being "without The Tree of Life" allow physical death during Life, but not in Afterlife?  does God's removal of this Tree (so sinners will not "live forever") have no effect on "forever" during Afterlife, because The Tree has no effect on physical mortality, because The Tree's only effect is to heal spiritual sinning, to produce no spiritual sinning for people who are saved?

These conclusions are possible only if there is an immortality of soul-and-body that is universal, that happens for both saved and saved, with and without The Tree of Life.  When defenders of Eternal Misery make this connection, they either can reason that...

IF Eternal Misery occurs for the unsaved, this requires that the unsaved must be immortal  (here they begin with Eternal Misery, and universal unconditional immortality is a conclusion),  or that

IF all people are immortal, and IF some will remain unsaved forever, and IF the unsaved will be miserable, THEN the unsaved must be miserable forever, producing Eternal Misery  (here, universal unconditional immortality is an assumption that is necessary for a conclusion of Eternal Misery).

[[this needs an intro, connecting this logic with non-biblical influences (link to my sections in ci.htm) --> defenders of Eternal Misery...

    say the body that rises "dies not again" (John Gill, "A Body of Doctrinal Divinity: Or a System of Evangelical Truths", p 679, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 2001);  "the evil ones … shall be made immortal" (reformed.org/documents/BelgicConfession.html">The Belgic Confession, Article 37, emphasis added).*  Their language is unambiguous: "Every human being ever born lives forever," (John MacArthur, The Answer to Life’s Greatest Question, Part 1);  "everybody lives forever" (Greg Koukl, radio host of Stand to Reason, 2011, June 5, Christopher Morgan on Hell and Inclusivism 1:09:25);  the unsaved "will continue living in a state with a low quality of life" (Gary Habermas & J.P. Moreland, Immortality: The Other Side of Death, p 173; Thomas Nelson, 1992).     { These quotations were gathered by Chris Date for his article (2012), Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death, and The Fate of the Wicked, with the following *-quotation added by me. }     This part of Article 37 continues, "The evil ones… shall be made immortal – but only to be tormented in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

[[ is universal unconditional immortality (in Afterlife) based on, or supported by, the Bible when we carefully examine Genesis (3:22-24) and Revelation (2:7, 22:14)?  or is it maintained in spite of these key biblical passages about God's "tree of life" and His purposes for removing it from everyone during Life, and then returning it during Afterlife but only to saved people who satisfy His if-then condition? ]]

[[ here are ways to look at the table-results, that I may use: ]]

• "if CI (FA or UR)" this mortality continues in Afterlife for unsaved people who still do not have The Tree,

• but "if not-CI (EM)" the without-Tree mortality changes into immortality (why?) [as expected, with The Tree, saved people have immortality] does The Tree do nothing for immortality for unsaved? (without it they're mortal in Life, yet are immortal in Afterlife?  maybe due to resurrection-bodies that will be given to everyone?  but... nowhere in the Bible [claims Chris Date and others at RethinkingHell] is there a statement that unsaved people will live forever in Afterlife;  for example, 1 Cor 15 is only for believers, for saved people, consistent with The Tree of Life being given to only saved people, thus producing Conditional Immortality)

[[ 1 Cor 15:22, "

https://www.google.com/maps/place/1440+Euclid+St,+Anaheim,+CA+92802/

http://www.buenavistacarecenter.com/

 

[[ on June 21, my initial evaluation was:  An EM-defending claim for a divine preventing of "Eternal Joy too soon" seems compatible with removing the tree (Gen 3:22-24) and also with returning the tree (Rev 2:7, 22:14) but only giving it (thus producing Eternal Joy) to saved people whose penalty-for-sin has been paid.  After a more complete evaluation, have I found serious flaws in this claim, or have others found flaws in the past? ]]

[ here is a leftover-transition from an earlier version of this paragraph:  With this definition, to "live forever" is not the state of eternal spiritual sinning that God wanted to prevent (with a temporary semi-solution that will become a permanent total solution) in Gen 3:22-24 by insuring that a sinner "must not... live forever."  Let's look at their definition of "living forever" in the context of... ]

 

Physical Death in Genesis 3:22-24

In the NIV translation of 3:22, God declares that a sinner "must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."  Although the declaration "must not be allowed" is not in the original Hebrew language, so it isn't included in more-literal translations (NASB, ESV, NRSV), the NIV is an accurate translation-of-thought.  Why?  Because the actions of God, in verses 23-24, clearly show that "must not allow" was the purpose of His actions.  Here is Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV), with emphasis added:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever —” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In this key passage, the decisive actions of God are motivated — as indicated by "lest" (a word from Old English, meaning "for fear that... to prevent any possibility that" in Collins English Dictionary) and "therefore" — because God wants to prevent "live forever" from happening.  What does this mean?  Let's look at these verses (the declaration in 3:22 and the actualizing-actions in 3:23-34) with two possible definitions of "live forever."

With the most common meaning of live, to "live forever" is simply to “consciously exist forever.”  It's obvious why God would want to prevent this by deciding that sinners "must not... live forever."

But with an unusual definition of live (proposed as a defense for Eternal Misery), to "live forever" would be to “consciously exist forever in joyful communion with God in heaven.”  This would be a very good result, but it would only happen IF giving us "the tree of life" would solve that problem of spiritual sinning that already had occurred, in Genesis 3:7-13.  God would not want to prevent this Eternal Joy, but... He knew it would not happen because although the tree of life does give eternal existence, it does not solve spiritual sinning, it does not produce "joyful communion with God in heaven." [[ i.o.u. - This paragraph needs to be revised, after (June 21) discovering the seemingly strong argument about "preventing premature Eternal Joy" that is described above. ]]

 

I.O.U. - This section will include some of these rough ideas, leftover from an earlier version:

 

Spiritual Death  and  Physical Death

[[ intro:  a concept of "spiritual death" invented (in context of Genesis 3) by defenders of EM who want to deny the Conditional Immortality (if-then) that is clearly taught in Genesis 3  /  spiritual death is a part of Paul's theology, as in Romans 6 and its multiple meanings of death ]]

What kind of death cannot (and can) be prevented by The Tree of Life?  God knew that physical death (but not spiritual death) would not be healed by giving The Tree of Life to Adam.  By contrast, God knew that physical death would be prevented by The Tree of Life.  But He did not give this Tree of Life because He did not want sinners to "eat, and live forever", so He removed access to The Tree in Genesis 3:22-24, with "cherubim and a flaming sword... to guard the way to the tree of life."  If the problem of spiritual sinning could have been prevented by The Tree of Life, this would have solved the problem of sin, and God would not have needed to remove The Tree of Life.

Later in God's history of salvation, He produced a way — through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and empowering us through Holy Spirit — for believers to be “born again” in a way that does reduce the effects of our spiritual death, in a process outlined by Paul in Romans 6.  Later, in Afterlife, He will eliminate all effects of spiritual dysfunction for believers, for those He has saved in Life, and maybe (with UR or semi-UR) for those He will save in Afterlife.   {more about spiritual death}

God created humans to be biologically mortal, so the natural conclusion of biological life is biological death.

 

Theology:  My long paper about FA-versus-EM carefully examines (in three places, 1  2  3) the concept of “only spiritual death” that, when it's applied to Genesis 3:22, is an effort to avoid the clear teaching that a sinner "must not be allowed to... live forever."  But because Adam had disobediently eaten from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," spiritual death already had occurred in the first of three results of The Fall.  Then, in the third result, God decreed (in Genesis 3:22-24) that sinners "must not... live forever."  God's second tree (His "tree of life") does nothing to cure spiritual death, but eventually will be given only to people who have been "saved by God" so (during Afterlife) their spiritual death has been totally cured so they are not sinners, so He can prevent their physical death by giving them The Tree of Life.

after sin of Adam:
in Life, for all humans
in Afterlife, for the unsaved
in Afterlife, for the saved
if with Tree of Life, 
without solution for sin 
 sinning forever, permanent 
due to immortality-with-ToL
[but ToL removed, Gen 3:22]
 sinning forever, permanent  
due to immortality-with-ToL
[happens if Eternal Misery]
no-sinning forever, permanent
due to immortality-with-ToL
without Tree of Life,
without solution for sin
sinning for awhile, temporary
due to mortality-without-ToL
sinning for awhile, temporary
due to mortality-without-ToL
 [ won't occur, because Tree of Life 
promised in Rev 2:7 & 21:14 ]

 

I.O.U. - and it might include some of these extremely-rough ideas:

In fact, this Eternal Joy is His gracious gift for believers, as promised in Revelation 2:7 & 22:14.

In an effort to make life and death biblically-and-logically compatible with Eternal Misery, they propose these definitions:

But this doesn't diminish the strength of biblical arguments against Eternal Misery.  To see why, let's carefully examine...

 

some possibilities:

if "living forever" means, with a dualistic view of human nature, "existing forever in a state of combined soul-and-body,"

if "living forever" means "LIVING forever" as in eternal life, "existing forever in a state of spiritual life (in joyous communion with God)," is the ideal BEST State, is solution, is not to be feared-and-prevented. [this idea already has been developed above, as main EM-defense]

if "living forever" means, as in eternal death, "existing forever in a state of spiritual death (in miserable separation from God)," causes Eternal Misery.

The most obvious meaning of "live forever" is simply to "exist forever" and this is basis for arguments against EM.

 

mere existence [maybe joy with full connection/communion, maybe misery with sinful separation] (yes) vs LIFE [with existence + communion, as in Eternal Joy in Heaven] (no), --> live forever is not immortality if in misery separated from God -- ignore the word "immortal", focus on concept of existing forever -- reading far too much into word "live" in "live forever" -- no worry if exist forever with joyful communion, worry only if exist forever with sinful separation -- if tree of life would have led to LIVE forever, hallelujah! this is ideal situation (no sin, no mortality) so no fear, instead "do it"

 

defenders of EM can...

claim that Gen 3 is only about "spiritual death" (--> "spiritual death" is only death in Second Death, Lake of Fire)

claim that eternal conscious existence in misery is not immortality, instead it's "death" (separation from God) as in Second Death.

 

Why?  due to the powerful inertia of tradition and societal customs, most Christians simply assume that the Bible teaches Eternal Misery, so they should believe it. -- Or you can decide, like the noble Bereans,* that instead of ASSUMING you already know what the Bible teaches, you will carefully STUDY the Bible to learn what it really does teach.

 

[[ the 2 paragraphs below, following a description of The Problems (from Gen 3), could be an intro for this section, to put things into context -- or maybe just link to ur.htm#ci ]]

Salvation eventually will include Conditional Immortality:  Later, in Heaven, God will defeat Physical Death by giving back the Gift of Life, symbolized by "the tree of life," as stated in Revelation 2:7 and 22:14.  But this divine gift will be given to only those who are "victorious" (2:7) and "wash their robes" (22:14), who accept the Grace of God, offered through Christ — who earned Life for us by His Death on the cross, and physically showed us this life-in-Afterlife by His Resurrection — so accepters will meet the IF-THEN Conditions that have been decided by God:  IF you accept The Grace (offered by God), THEN you get The Life (supplied by God).  But IF you are a rejecter who thus remains a sinner (who is not saved by Grace), THEN you "must not be allowed to... live forever." 

 

(an unsaved person who is not asking for God's help in trying to overcome their problem of spiritual sinning)

One Partial Solution:  God decided that this would be unacceptable, so (Gen 3:22-24) He would not let it happen.

A Complete Solution: 

Avoiding Disaster by using Another Solution for Sin

CI ok if FA or UR, not EM (link to ur.htm - quote? or just summarize?) // An Unsatisfactory De-Solution / A Satisfactory Semi-Solution -- not making a bad situation (with spiritual sinning) worse (with eternal spir sinning

who has salvation and in Afterlife has (or will have) total sanctification so they will no longer be a sinner.

Salvation eventually will include Conditional Immortality:  Later, in Heaven, God will defeat Physical Death by giving back the Gift of Life, symbolized by "the tree of life," as stated in Revelation 2:7 and n22:14.  But this divine gift will be given to only those who are "victorious" (2:7) and "wash their robes" (22:14), who accept the Grace of God, offered through Christ — who earned Life for us by His Death on the cross, and physically showed us this life-in-Afterlife by His Resurrection — so accepters will meet the IF-THEN Conditions that have been decided by God:  IF you accept The Grace (offered by God), THEN you get The Life (supplied by God).  But IF you are a rejecter who thus remains a sinner (who is not saved by Grace), THEN you "must not be allowed to... live forever."

 

Spiritual Death and Physical Death  —  Is the penalty for sin ONLY Spritual Death?

[[ this will be a continuation of the previous section ]]

 

Does misery convert Immortality into Non-Immortality?

Defending EM:  How can any person logically evaluate this strong biblical evidence for Conditional Immortality, and still defend a doctrine of Eternal Misery?  One attempt to escape the evidence-and-logic is a claim that conscious existence in misery is not life as it's defined in the Bible, so this Eternal Existence (for The Unsaved, who have not met The Condition) is not the Eternal Life provided by God with The Tree of Life, so this Eternal Existence does not violate Conditional Immortality. ==[but... Gen 3:22 purpose, also to protect sinner]

Rejecting EM:  Although I think this response-by-EM is rational — well, at least it's a rational attempt to defend their position, and it seems to be their best response — it should not be accepted.  Instead it should be challenged and rejected.  Why?

The Usual Definition:  The central question is “how should immortality be defined?”  A standard definition of immortality (from Cambridge Dictionary) is "living or lasting forever."  For defining Conditional Immortality (CI) based on Genesis-and-Revelation a useful basic meaning of immortality is everlasting conscious existence with a person existing forever.  The existence must be conscious — as when Descartes proposed “I think, therefore I am” — to distinguish theologically meaningful conscious existence-in-Afterlife (of humans with CI or EM) from theologically trivial non-conscious existence (e.g. of a rock, or dust when "to dust [they] shall return" after death).

An If-Then Definition (if miserable, then not-immortal):  EM could be compatible with CI if we allow EM to re-define the I in CI, so their own restrictive definition of Immortality is not violated by EM.  How?  A defender of “EM is CI” can claim that everlasting conscious existence in Misery (with EM) would not be immortality.  Basically they are claiming that only good-immortality (everlasting conscious existence in joy, with God) is immortality, so bad-immortality (everlasting conscious existence in misery, separated from God) is not immortality.  As described by Terrance Tiessen, EM restricts immortality so it's only "the life of God and with God."

Quantity + Quality:  Sometimes defenders of EM describe the eternal non-Life of EM by defining Eternal Life in terms of Quantity + Quality, so Eternal Life requires large Quantity (if a person exists eternally) plus high Quality (if a person has the joy of being with God, not the misery of being without God).     { For example, during a debate Chris Date was asked if in John 17:3 ("This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.") Jesus is defining eternal life as knowing God, so eternal existence without God would not be eternal life.  Chris answered by looking at John 12:50 where Jesus says, of the Father, "His commandment is eternal life," and John 6:63 ("the words that I [Jesus] have spoken to you are spirit and are life") using the same Greek word for "is" or (for the plural) "are".  Chris explains that instead of defining eternal life as knowing God in 17:3, Jesus is explaining how we can get eternal life, by knowing God (17:3) and the Father's commandment (12:50) and Jesus's words (6:63).  He shows how – by studying uses of the word is – we can see that this EM-claim is not linguistically justifiable. }

Rejecting EM:  Instead of accepting this restrictive re-definition (that changes the essential meaning of immortality), we should challenge it and reject it.  Why?  We can examine this issue theologically and linguistically:

 

Linguistics:  There are similarities between two contexts — when we're thinking about the meanings of “truth” and “immortality” — where confusion can occur due to re-definitions, IF we let people change the main meaning of truth or immortality, so we allow ambiguity.  My page about Reality 101 explains why:

    To avoid confusion, I think the word "truth" should be reserved for a correspondence definition of truth.  We should not use the word truth in any other way, and when other people do use truth in another way, we should challenge them, gently and logically.  The non-correspondence definitions of truth — with defining by consensus (truth is a majority opinion), coherence (truth is a logically coherent system of beliefs), pragmatism (truth is a useful principle), or in other ways — are humanly constructed claims about what is true, so they should be called truth-claims (or theories, beliefs, principles,...) but not truth.
 

I strongly disagree with attempts to define truth in ways that are confusing, that cause uncertainty when we say "truth" and listeners are forced to wonder “what is the intended meaning?” because they previously have heard the word truth being used in so many different ways.  There would be less confusion if instead everyone said truth-claim when (with a claim-about-truth that is being defined by consensus, coherence, pragmatism, or in other ways) this is what they mean, and if everyone said truth only when they are claiming that “it's true because it corresponds to reality.”  When postmodern relativists define truth in these other ways, I think...

    they are intending to cause confusion, to weaken the tendency, in society, of thinking about truth as “correspondence with reality.”

In a similar way, defenders of Eternal Misery can define immortality in an unusually restrictive way, contradicting its usual meaning, by claiming that if everlasting conscious existence is miserable without God (instead of joyful with God), then it isn't immortality.  When they define immortality in this restrictive way, I think...

    they are intending to cause confusion, to weaken the tendency, in society, of thinking about immortality as "everlasting conscious existence" with "a person existing forever."
 

When immortality has its usual essential meaning of "everlasting conscious existence" — as it should — the logical meaning of Conditional Immortality is “either Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation, but not Eternal Misery.

 

Eventually, will EVERYONE be immortal?

I.O.U. - The rest of this section needs to be edited — maybe I'll do this in late September — because, as symbolized by the gray text, much of it duplicates what also is described in other parts of this page (ur2.htm) and the overview-page (ur.htm).

[[ Eventually, will EVERYONE be immortal?  YES, in all 3 views;  consistent with Conditional Immortality, everyone who God wants to kill (this will be some people if it's FA or semi-UR, or no people if it's UR) has been killed, so all people are now "saved" and are immortal because God is keeping them alive with The Tree of Life;  but with EM, in addition to saved people, unsaved sinners also are being kept alive, thus violating the if-then Condition of Conditional Immortality, giving us a STRONG biblical reason to reject EM. ]]

[[ Universal Immortality is not the same as Unconditional Immortality ---- ultimately, Universal Immortality (of all remaining humans) will occur with all views, as outlined in the "YES paragraph" above;  with UR the Universal Immortality is "universal" by including all humans who ever lived;  with FA or semi-UR it's selective by including some humans among all who ever lived. ]]

 

A belief in UR can be based on either a biblical principle of Conditional Immortality, or an unbiblical assumption of Unconditional Immortality for all humans.  Either way, the result of UR is consistent with Conditional Immortality (CI) because UR doesn't violate the if-then condition that is required by God.     { a question about terms:  Why is CI often defined as “only FA” even though CI is “either FA or UR when we use Bible-based logic? }

 

The Bible teaches us — with Genesis 3:22-24 plus Revelation 2:7 & 22:14, and in other ways — that humans are created for immortality (to be supernaturally supplied by God, but only IF...), but not with immortality (in ourselves).*  Humans can become immortal in their afterlife only by ACCEPTING God's gift-of-grace during their life {with FA, UR, EM} or in their afterlife {if God allows this for the purpose of achieving UR}, but not {as with EM} by REJECTING grace.   /   Many people assume universal human immortality, despite what the Bible teaches, partly due to Greek philosophy and other non-Biblical influences [==link to #-locations in c.htm and ci.htm, and later in this page] but mainly because they haven't carefully examined what the Bible teaches about immortality;  instead they believe the deception in Genesis 3:4 when the serpent promised that, after disobeying God, "you surely will not die!"

Defenders of EM typically claim that, re: the EM of unsaved sinners, their Eternal Existence with Misery (with EM, without God) is not the true Immortality (Eternal Life with Joy, with God) that originally was planned by God (as described in Genesis), and eventually will be given by God (as promised in Revelation).  But in making this claim they are playing intellectually dishonest "games with words" by trying to re-define immortality so it ceases to have its essential meaning of everlasting conscious existence.

EM violates the if-then condition for Conditional Immortality taught in the Bible, so EM is not consistent with the Bible.  You can see this in a table that shows — when we ask "will sinners live forever?" — the contrast between "no" (consistent with Conditional Immortality) and YES (because universal Unconditional Immortality is required by Eternal Misery).

 

[[ this is mostly duplication /   if-then Conditional Immortality:  God has clearly declared, in Revelation, an if-then Condition — IF you accept His Grace, THEN you get His Life — that is consistent with Final Annihilation (because with FA the unsaved sinners no longer exist) or ultimate Universal Reconciliation (because with UR eventually the previously-unsaved sinners have been saved by grace, so they now fulfill the if-then condition for immortality),*  but not with Eternal Misery because to produce EM-eternality God would have to change His decree from "must not... live forever" to “must live forever” so unsaved sinners can be forced to "live forever" in sinful misery.

[[ for Reason #2b -- Thus, with EM the sin of unsaved humans would be immortalized forever in The Final State of God's Creation.   But with FA or UR, God will eliminate sin in The Final State;  this glorious victory over sin, by eliminating it, is consistent with what the Bible teaches. ]]

 

[[ here is a summary, quoted from the overview-page:

Death and Immortality:  What is the relationship between The Death Penalty and Conditional Immortality?  Death is God's Penalty for Sinners.  Conditional Immortality is God's Gift for Sinners, and The Condition, decided by God, is being saved by God, who wants to save us from slavery to sin (now in Life) and (later in Afterlife) save us from everlasting Death.     /     a brief biblical summary:  God's penalty of Death was decreed in Genesis 3:22, and God's gift of Conditional Immortality is promised in Revelation 2:7 & 22:14.

 


 

2a — In the Afterlife, will God maintain SIN forever?

The overview-page briefly outlines "four related reasons to reject Eternal Misery."  In this subsection you'll find details about one of the reasons, to supplement its brief outline:

2a — EM would cause sinners-and-sinning to exist forever, and God's creation would never be freed from sin even though the Bible declares that being freed from sin will happen.  Eventually, God could "reconcile all things to Himself" with UR or FA, but not with EM.

I.O.U. - I'll begin writing this soon, probably in late-September 2017.  Here are some ideas that eventually will be in it:

[[ God has promised, in Genesis and Revelation and in-between, that He will not maintain sin forever;  this promise, and God's policy for achieving it, are key ideas in my detailed examination of conditional immortality (with a problem-solving perspective on Sin-and-Death, in past present future) to show how God has been and is and will be (in the past and present and future) solving problems;  it concludes by explaining that "The goal of His divine policy, stated in Genesis 3:22 and actualized in Genesis 3:23-24, is to prevent eternal spiritual sinning.  Now, in the present, God is pursuing this goal during Life, beginning to achieve it. Later, in the future, He will finish achieving this goal during Afterlife."  In this section, I will summarize these ideas about "solving" the related problems of Sin-and-Death. ]]

[[ with EM, a person's penalty/debt for sinning is never paid, so tormenting must continue forever -- does this make sense biblically or logically? ]]

[[ if a holy God wants to minimize (or eliminate) unholy sin, why would He Ccreate-and-Oversee/Govern/BeResponsibleFor/PresideOver a hell in which unholy sinning would occur forever, be preserved forever, because He is preserving sinners (and their sinning) who are being kept alive forever by Him, in situations where they will never improve (because they will experience no beneficial changes that will improve them, that will reduce their sinning or even eliminate it) and will never escape ]]

[[ EM-response that God isn't near sin/sinners bec He is separate from them, they're in quarantine away from Him -- but God is ENABLER of sin, CAUSES it to continue by causing sinners to continue living ]]

[[ God removed The Tree of Life for two purposes:  A) to protect sinners by preventing them from living forever in their sinful state;   B) to protect His creation as a whole, by preventing sin from existing forever. ]]

[[ the Bible declares (I'll cite verses, e.g. in Col 1, Phil 2, Eph, Rev 21-22,... + OT by prophets & others) that eventually there will be a total restoration of God's entire creation;  this apocatastasis (apokatastasis?) will include elimination of all sin, because the restoration/reconciliation would not be complete unless all sin is removed;  a completely-good creation without sin, to produce apocatastasis, could occur with UR or FA, but not with EM due to the permanent sinning-in-hell that would occur with EM. ]]

 


 

2b — In the Afterlife, will God maintain DEATH forever?

The overview-page briefly outlines "four related reasons to reject Eternal Misery."  In this subsection you'll find details about one of the reasons, to supplement its brief outline:

2b — EM would cause death to exist forever, because with EM The Second Death must be redefined to mean eternal existence in misery so The Second Death would continue forever, and God's creation would never be freed from death even though the Bible says "the last enemy that will be abolished is death."

I.O.U. - I'll begin writing this soon, maybe in late-September 2017.  Here are some of the ideas that eventually will be in it:

[[ eventually death will be abolished, when everyone who will be killed — with permanent Second Death (whether it kills some with FA, or none with UR) — has been killed — there will be no more death (Rev 21:4),  death will be the last enemy conquered (1 Cor 15),  death thrown into Lake (Rev 20) whatever this means,  plus the total reconciliations of "2a" above that would occur with either FA or UR but not with EM, because 2a and 2b are related, because 2b is one aspect of the total goodness that will occur with 2a ]]

[[ IOU - I'm not sure what I'll do with the ideas in this paragraph, because the range of possible meanings is wide -- Rev 20:13-14a, "the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them;  and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire."  notice the timing:  first everyone is judged, "then" (14a) "death and Hades" are destroyed, so (21:4) "there will no longer be any death" when it's no longer necessary because all who were killed by God (some with FA or semi-UR, none with UR) already have been killed.  But with EM, death (in the Second Death that is Eternal Misery] will continue forever. ]]

 


 

3 — Which views (EM, FA, UR) are compatible with Substitutionary Atonement?

The overview-page briefly outlines "four related reasons to reject Eternal Misery."  In this subsection you'll find details about one of the reasons, to supplement its outline:

3 — EM wouldn't produce a satisfactory substitution for substitutionary atonement.  EM claims “the penalty for sin is infinite suffering, without death” but... is this what Jesus, offering Himself as our substitute, experienced for us?  No.  He had finite suffering, with death.  The principle of penal substitutionary atonement — with our penalty paid by the death of Jesus — is the heart of The Gospel, and is clearly stated by Paul ("we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" when "Christ died for us") and by Jesus ("the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep") and Peter ("Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God").  With EM the substitution of substitutionary atonement doesn't make sense, because of two major differences, because Jesus had finite suffering (not the infinite suffering produced by EM) and death (not the without death required by EM).

 

Many theories of atonement — trying to explain HOW sinners are reconciled with God by the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ — claim to have theological support based on the Bible.  These theories include Penal Substitution, Christus Victor, and Moral Example.  I think penal (penalty-paying) Substitutionary Atonement is the most important part of the "how",* although not all of it because other views (e.g. Christus Victor, Moral Example) also are useful for understanding some aspects of the atonement.     { MORE about theories of atonement – from Leon Morris and Theopedia (atonement in the Bible - by Christ with penal substitution & Christus Victor and more through links that include audio by Bruce Ware) and Wikipedia (Satisfaction and Penal Substitution) and more. }     I don't understand why penal substitutionary atonement is criticized by some Christians (especially by those who propose Universal Reconciliation), as explained later.

* Therefore, in this section I'm assuming penal Substitutionary Atonement (because I think it's the most important part of atonement/reconciliation) and then I'm asking whether two views-of-hell are compatible with it.  The conclusions I've reached, based on reading the Bible and using logic, are NO (for Eternal Misery) and YES (for Final Annihilation).

question:  Why is a substitutionary atonement necessary? (i.e. What penalty do sinful people need a substitute for?)   /   answer:  After the sin of Adam, God decreed a DEATH Penalty for humans.  Later, God told Israel to use a system of worship that included the sacrifice of animals, and then Jesus DIED for us, to save some people (those He “saves”) from His penalty of death and from our slavery to sin.

 

The Death Penalty for Sin: 

God has decided that the most severe penalty for sin will be death (as in FA or UR), not long-term suffering (as in EM).  We can see this death penalty throughout the Bible, beginning with its foundation in the explicit statements of Genesis 3:22-24.  Later in the Old Testament, God prevented death (not long-term suffering) in Abraham's test-of-faith, and in The Passover;  in the Levitical Law, death (not long-term suffering) was the penalty for major action-sins;  and death (not long-term suffering) was the focus of the sacrificial system that was created by God for Israel.  In the New Testament, God created a better sacrificial system for the purpose of saving us from our slavery to sin and from the results of our sins — i.e., from death — by substitutionary atonement when Jesus died for us;  He did not suffer in eternal misery for us, with long-term suffering.     {MORE about The Death Penalty for Sin}

 

Substitutionary Atonement with Eternal Misery

Is there a satisfactory substitution with Eternal Misery? – NO

Below, I ask a similar question – "Is there a satisfactory substitution with Final Annihilation? – and answer YES.

EM claims that the penalty for sin is eternally lasting misery without physical death but... is this what Jesus, offering Himself as our substitute, experienced for us?  No.  If, as claimed by EM, the divinely chosen penalty for sin is Eternal Misery with No Physical Death, then both parts of this combination must occur to produce a satisfactory substitution for penal Substitutionary Atonement.  But both parts of this combination are absent in the experience of Jesus.  What happened instead?  In the events before and during His crucifixion, the suffering of Jesus was large but was finite (so His finite suffering was not the infinite suffering that would occur with Eternal Misery) and He died (so His physical death was not the "with No Physical Death" that would be required to produce Eternal Misery).  Let's look at each part of the combination.

 

Infinite Suffering:  Defenders of EM can claim that — due to the divinity of Jesus, who during His incarnation was fully human and fully divine — He could experience an infinite amount of suffering in a finite amount of time.  But this claim isn't in the Bible, and it isn't logically justifiable.   { I.O.U. - Eventually, in this paragraph I will explain why it's unbiblical & illogical. And soon I'll link to a web-article explaining why. }   For now I'll just link to another unjustifiable claim about infinity, which tries to "morally justify an eternity of tormenting by using logically unjustifiable arguments about sins committed against an infinite God."

Without Death:  But even if an infinity-argument was adequate (it isn't), EM still would have to explain why the "without physical death" experience during EM could be paid for by the "with physical death" substitutionary experience of Jesus, unless His death was an unnecessary part of His crucifixion experience.  If a defender of EM claims “the penalty (for unsaved sinners and thus for Jesus) was only suffering” and we ask “at the point when His suffering was enough to pay our penalty, why did His cross-experience have to continue until He died?” they might reply “to show us His victory over death, when He was resurrected.”  But this combination — suffering to pay the penalty for sin, and then (in two experiences that were not part of the penal substitution) death-and-resurrection to show His victory over death — is not consistent with the strong emphasis, throughout the Bible, that death is the penalty for sin and that "Christ died for us,... died for sins."  When we're asking “is the substitution satisfactory?”, EM's requirement of "no death" is not compatible with the Bible's strong emphasis on...

Atoning Death:  Did Jesus die for our sins?  Yes.  This is clearly stated by Paul:  "We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. ... If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Romans 5:10b, 5:8, Colossians 2:14, Galatians 2:21b, ESV)"   And it's clearly stated by Jesus & Peter:  "I [Jesus] am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. … Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. (John 10:11, 1 Peter 3:18, NASB)"   The atoning death of Jesus — strongly emphasized in the Bible, in these passages and elsewhere throughout the Bible — is not compatible with a penalty of Eternal Misery that requires "no death" so sinners can be immortal, so they can exist forever and be miserable forever.

Logically — by comparing what is clearly stated in the Bible with what would be required by EM — we should conclude that EM is not consistent with penal substitutionary atonement:  if penal substitutionary atonement, then not EM.     {more}

 

Substitutionary Atonement with Final Annihilation:

Is there a satisfactory substitution with Final Annihilation? – YES

Above, I ask a similar question – "Is there a satisfactory substitution with Eternal Misery? – and answer NO.

This subsection – about substitutionary atonement with FA – is a defense of both views (FA and UR) that would not violate Conditional Immortality.  In both views, for an unsaved human The Penalty for Sin is Death, which results in their Annihilation.  This penalty is proposed with FA (by definition) and also UR (if it's biblical, so its proposal for UR is consistent with the Conditional Immortality taught in the Bible) or semi-UR that is a hybrid of FA+UR.  FA and UR both say “the penalty is death,” with a result of permanent Final Annihilation.  But when we ask “who will receive this penalty?”, the differing answers are “some” with FA (or semi-UR) and “none” with UR.

 

A defender of EM can ask, to challenge FA, “did Jesus have a permanent death (with His existence ended forever, as in the Annihilation of FA) when He died on the cross?”  No.  But we can see a satisfactory substitution, for substitutionary atonement, when we carefully study the Bible and think logically.

Some careful studying-and-thinking has been done by Chris Date, who is the main blogger for Rethinking Hell, which is a website describing the strong Biblical evidence for Conditional Immortality generally, and specifically for Annihilation.  This section summarizes some ideas from his excellent article – Cross Purposes: Atonement, Death and the Fate of the Wicked (Part 2) – that examines these ideas, and others, with more detail.

Here are some important concepts used in the article:

    Two views of human nature (dualism, physicalism) differ when we ask “do humans have a non-material soul that survives our biological death?”, with a dualist saying YES, while a physicalist says NO.
    A view of holistic dualism claims that, in the Bible, a living person is a whole person who has two essential parts, combined to form a psychosomatic unity combining an immaterial soul (it's their psycho) with a material body (their soma).  When a person's psychosomatic unity is broken — by either the death of soul (so they have only soma)* or death of body (so they have only psycho), or death of both (so they have neither) — their psychosomatic LIFE is gone, so they have DEATH.     {* most dualists think this (a body without a soul, so it's "only soma") never happens in reality}
    A view of holistic physicalism is analogous, but with a person's psychosomatic unity including their mind (their psycho) whose functioning depends on their material body (their soma in psychosomatic).  When a person's psychosomatic unity is broken — by the death of their body (which causes the death of their mind) — their psychosomatic LIFE is gone, so they have DEATH.     { I.O.U. - Soon I will ask Chris to look at the ideas in this whole section, to ask “am I describing the concepts accurately?” and “if not, what should I change to make it more accurate?” }
    Jesus was (and is) a unique person:  according to historic Christian doctrines, during His incarnation Jesus — unlike any other person — was fully human, but also (in the tri-une God, with Father & Son & Holy Spirit) fully divine;  due to His special human/divine nature, He was similar to us in many ways, but not all.  Here are three differences.   /   If we're thinking about substitutionary atonement from the perspective of a physicalist, when an ordinary human dies their human mind stops functioning;  but when Jesus died at the end of His human incarnation, He still existed in the triune God, so although his human mind stopped functioning, He had a divine Mind that continued functioning.   /   Two other differences, for either a dualist or physicalist, are in timing and judging.  Re: timing, Jesus already has been resurrected, but all ordinary humans will be resurrected later.  Re: judging, ordinary humans will be judged, but Jesus will do the judging, so we will receive our penalty(s) and/or rewards from Jesus.
 

also:  When describing these views, some people (but not others) will agree when I say, in the table below, that human nature includes "soul + spirit + mind + body" for dualism, and "spirit + mind + body" for physicalism, because there are disagreements about how to split various aspects of human natures, what a "split" means, and also whether to split. 

my semi-views:  I'm not committed to any kind of "split" (even though I describe "splits" in the table) or to either dualism or physicalism.  I think an appropriate humility is justifiable, because the Bible provides some evidence for all of the main views, but not enough evidence to support any of them with a high degree of confidence.  And there is no necessary connection between any of these views and our views of The Final State:  Conditional Immortality (and thus both FA & UR) is compatible with either dualism or physicalism;  but unbiblical assumptions of soul-immortality often influence people to accept EM.

 

The table below shows — according to two views of human nature (dualist, physicalist) — the states of three people (Jesus, and an unsaved human, and a saved human) during four time periods (during their biological LIFE, and in an Intermediate State between their death & resurrection, and their early Afterlife after resurrection but before The Judgment, and their Final State of Afterlife)

Four table cells – those with colored text – are especially important because they show, for dualism & physicalism, the ending of psychosomatic LIFE (and thus the DEATH) that did occur for Jesus and will occur for an unsaved human, to show how Annihilation (due to a Death Penalty for Sin) is consistent with Substitutionary Atonement.

 
two perspectives on
the nature of humans: 
 biological LIFE 
 (birth to death) 
Intermediate State
(before resurrection)
early AfterLife
 (after resurrection) 
Final State of AfterLife
 (after Judgment-Results) 
dualist view of
Jesus (human+divine)
soul + mind
 + spirit + body 
soul alive + body dead,
not psychosomatic LIFE
 (it's His crucifixion-DEATH
Soul alive +
glorified alive Body
Soul alive +
glorified alive Body
dualist view of
unsaved humans
(they will pay penalty
of DEATH for sinning)
soul + mind
+ spirit + body
soul alive + body dead
not psychosomatic LIFE
soul alive +
 temporary alive body 
soul dead + body dead,
not psychosomatic LIFE ,
 so is DEATH , as with Jesus 
 after His crucifixion-DEATH 
physicalist view of 
Jesus (human+divine) 
mind
+ spirit + body
 Mind alive + body dead, 
 → not psychosomatic LIFE 
 (it's His crucifixion-DEATH
 Mind alive 
+ glorified alive Body
Soul alive +
glorified alive Body
physicalist view of
unsaved humans
(they will pay penalty
of DEATH for sinning)
mind
+ spirit + body
 mind dead + body dead, 
not psychosomatic LIFE
mind alive +
temporary alive body
mind dead + body dead,
not psychosomatic LIFE ,
 so is DEATH , as with Jesus 
 after His crucifixion-DEATH 
the cells below are gray to show they are not useful when we ask "is the substitution satisfactory?"
dualist view of
saved humans
soul + mind
+ spirit + body
soul alive + body dead,
not psychosomatic LIFE
soul alive +
temporary alive body
soul alive +
glorified alive body,
with psychosomatic LIFE
physicalist view of
saved humans
mind
+ spirit + body
mind dead + body dead,
not psychosomatic LIFE
mind alive +
temporary alive body
mind alive +
glorified alive body,
with psychosomatic LIFE

 

Satisfactory Substitution

Chris Date, in his article, explains why annihilation is consistent with substitutionary atonement (when Jesus "died for us") because DEATH (in a loss of psychosomatic LIFE) was experienced by Jesus, and eventually will be experienced by unsaved sinners.  Chris says:

    "Conditionalists see the death penalty — whether temporal or eternal — as the punitive privation of this psychosomatic life.  This is true even of physicalists like myself,* who understand the compound word "psychosomatic" to refer to the interaction of mind and body, rather than soul (as traditionally thought of) and body, as a dualist might be inclined to do.  Thus the punishment of death, as "the wages of sin" (Rom 6:32), consists in being deprived of life once enjoyed as a pyschosomatic unity, in whatever way that lack is experienced — if it is experienced at all.  A dualist conditionalist may affirm the disembodied conscious existence of Jesus after his death and will deny that the finally impenitent will persist consciously after their second death (Matt 10:28), but in either case the punishment has been (in the case of Jesus) and will be (in the case of the annihilated wicked) the same: the privation of life.  In a dualistic conditionalism, then, Jesus truly stood in the place of those for whom he died, giving up his (psychosomatic) life as a genuine substitute for theirs."
 

* In this article, Date's focus is on dualism.  He describes how a dualist-conditionalist can explain the substitution of substitutionary atonement, with DEATH (in a loss of psychosomatic LIFE after the death of either body or body-and-soul) leading to the Intermediate State of Jesus (after death of Body) and (after death of body-and-soul) the Final State of unsaved humans.  In a future article, he will describe a physicalist-conditionalist explanation.  But in his current article, I've colorized the text (above) where he shows how the same basic principle — with DEATH occurring when there is a loss of psychosomatic LIFE — can be used by a dualist or physicalist, whether the psychosomatic LIFE is soul-and-body (as viewed with dualism) or mind-and-body (with physicalism).     { This principle can be used by a conditionalist who is a dualist or physicalist, whether they propose FA, semi-UR, or UR. }

 

Imperfect Analogy

About halfway through his article, in a section about "Temporary Subsistence vs Eternal Nonexistence" he acknowledges two differences between the DEATH for Jesus and for unsaved sinners:

    the DEATH was Temporary for Jesus (during the Intermediate State for Him), but later will be Eternal for unsaved sinners (in the Final State of Afterlife for them).
    the experience was Subsistence for Jesus (because although His body was dead, His soul was alive), but later the result will be Nonexistence for unsaved sinners (with no life of any kind because, in addition to a dead body, their soul also will be dead).
 

Then he explains how, with a dualist view of Annihilation, these two differences — temporary vs eternal, and subsistence vs nonexistence — are theologically consistent with substitutionary atonement.  In the article as a whole, he describes why a logical evaluation of biblical evidence supports this claim — that the substitution is satisfactory for Annihilation — but does not support the analogous claim for Eternal Misery.  His final paragraph is a summary:

    "In the final analysis, dualist conditionalists can wholeheartedly affirm the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, summarized (as noted above) by traditionalist Robert Peterson as meaning that Jesus died in place of his people "and bore the punishment that they deserved."  That punishment was death, the privation of life once enjoyed as a psychosomatic unity of body and soul, the very punishment conditionalists argue awaits the finally lost.  And dualist conditionalists can explain why Jesus went on consciously to experience that privation in a disembodied subsistence and was raised three days later, even though the risen wicked will be completely and forever destroyed on the Last Day, in body and soul.  But because traditionalists posit that the resurrected lost will go on living immortal forever, they cannot affirm that Jesus truly bore the punishment in place of those who will believe in him."

 

The two sections above explain why — when we ask “is there a satisfactory substitution?” and carefully examine the details of penal Substitutionary Atonement — our Bible-based answer should be NO for Eternal Misery, but YES for Final Annihilation:

        NO, because the major problems for Eternal Misery cannot be solved.
        YES, because the minor questions for Annihilation can be answered.
 

We should say YES for Annihilation, even though the experiences — for Jesus and for unsaved sinners — are not perfectly analogous.  In fact, we should expect the analogy to be imperfect, for several related reasons:

• The unique nature of Jesus, who during His life on earth was fully divine (in the triune God) and fully human.  His divine/human nature let Him be our divine Savior, and also makes perfect analogy impossible.  But with FA we can get much closer to satisfactory substitution, compared with EM in which the Final State of an unsaved person is eternally without death even though the Bible strongly emphasizes that Jesus Christ can save us from God's death penalty because He "died for our sins."  But the death of Jesus Christ was not the end for Him or for us, because (due to His unique nature) He had a unique death, because...

• The death-and-resurrection of Jesus was a “package deal” that was pre-planned by the triune God, by Father/Son/HolySpirit.  This plan was a unanimous triune decision;*  it was not a 2-to-1 vote with Jesus pleading “please don't kill Me” but Father & HolySpirit saying “shut up, We have out-voted You.”  But... after the death of Jesus, the power of God brought Him back to bodily afterlife, and it will bring all humans back to bodily afterlife (John 5:28-29) to await Judgment.  Jesus accepted our death penalty for us, and then was raised to permanent afterlife with resurrection;  now, because Jesus paid our penalty, after our universal resurrection and God's judgment, a person also can be raised to permanent afterlife by God, who will give a person The Tree of Life if (and only if) He decides to save them.     {I'm disappointed by those claiming “substitutionary atonement is cosmic child abuse” because this ignores the fact that before and during His incarnation so He could be with us, Jesus (along with Father and HolySpirit) WANTED His life to end with His death.}

• There is a difference in timing between the death-experiences for Jesus and for unsaved people, because God's gift of (conditional) immortality is available only during Afterlife;  during Life all normal (non-divine) humans, both saved and unsaved, remain mortal due to the divine decree of Genesis 3:22-24;  during Afterlife for normal humans, the penalty for sin — received by people who don't meet God's condition of being saved by God during their Life (for FA, UR, semi-UR, or EM) or during their Afterlife (for UR or semi-UR) — will be a permanent loss of "soul and body" as described in Matthew 10:28.  This difference in timing is why the "table cells... with colored text" are time-shifted so they're in different columns, because the death-experience for Jesus was in the past (producing His Intermediate State) and the death-experience for unsaved sinners will be in the future (producing their Final State of AfterLife).

 


 

Understanding the Views

Christians should have Intellectual Integrity:  It's important for us to understand what Bible-based Christian Universal Reconciliation is — and what it isn't (it isn't postmodern religious pluralism) — and to remember this during all evaluations & discussions.  We should not use (ourselves) and should not allow (by others) any strawman-arguments that are intended to mislead, and therefore are intellectually dishonest.     {for example, 7 myths about UR}

 

Comparing the Views

Theologically, three views — Eternal Misery (EM), Final Annihilation (FA), Universal Reconciliation (UR) — are almost identical,* and each view can be compatible with all fundamentals of Bible-based Christian faith.   {The term "universalism" can have many different meanings, but this page describes evangelical Christian UR that is based on the Bible so it can affirm all fundamentals of Christian faith.}   The only view-differences are in the final state of UNSAVED humans, which are similar & different in the ways shown here:

 
EM
FA
UR
 will everyone live forever?
 will SINNERS live forever? (contrary to Gen 3:22)
yes
 YES 
NO
no
yes
no
 does God punish sin because it's evil and serious?
 does sin (and evil sinning) continue forever?
yes
 YES 
yes
no
yes
no
 does the view seem to be unfair? (causing injustice) 
YES
no
no
 will everyone (saved and unsaved) be resurrected? 
 will some people suffer?  (weeping & gnashing,...); 
 why this suffering? - because our actions matter? 
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
 is there everlasting punishment? (EM vs FA & UR?) 
yes
yes
NO
 salvation requires faith in Jesus, with repentance? 
 benefits (in Life+Afterlife) for living-by-faith now
 will God allow repentance-and-faith after death? 
yes
YES
no
yes
 Yes 
no
yes
yes
 YES 
 

Non-Useful Questions and Useful Questions:

An understanding of all views is necessary to recognize that some questions, but not others, are logically useful.  This table makes it easy to compare views — to see their similarities & differences — so we can know whether a particular biblical passage (and a question based on it) will be logically useful by helping us distinguish between views.  For example, the table shows...

 

one non-useful question:  Asking "will some people suffer [in hell]?" is not a useful question because this question cannot help us distinguish between views, because all views agree ("yes yes yes" in the table) that unsaved people will suffer in Hell — with suffering that is psychological, and maybe also physical — during judgment and in hell.  Therefore, a Bible-passage about suffering in hell (as in "weeping and gnashing of teeth") does not provide support for EM, or support against FA or UR.

one useful question:  But asking "will sinners live forever [in hell]?" is a useful question (it's a Crucial Question)* because it helps us distinguish between views;  the red-YES shows a serious flaw of EM, because it requires universal Unconditional Immortality, so it violates the Bible-based principle of Conditional ImmortalityThis violation is strong biblical evidence against EM.

    * Crucial Experiments & Questions, in Science & Theology:  For science, in a Crucial Experiment we observe nature as our source of information about natural reality.  For theology, in an effort to answer analogous Crucial Questions we observe The Bible (by reading it) as our source of information about natural-and-supernatural reality.  In both science and theology, in our process-of-thinking we use evidence (in our observations of nature or Scripture) plus logic.   {comparing science and theology}
 

another useful question:  It's also useful to ask "will God allow repentance-and-faith after death?" because UR (or semi-UR) says yes, but traditional FA & EM say no.  This question is important because a “yes” weakens (or eliminates) most Biblical objections to UR.

 

To avoid a common misunderstanding, a confusion that occurs because universalism is a term with many meanings, everyone should understand — and should emphasize — the fact that Christian Universalism is not Religious Pluralism.  To clarify this, we can ask...

another useful question:  All views agree (yes yes yes) when we ask whether "salvation requires faith in Jesus, with repentance?"  All views agree, so why is this question useful?  Because it eliminates a strawman-distortion by helping us distinguish between a Christian Universalism saying "yes" and a non-Christian Pluralism (not shown in the table) saying "no".  Due to this major difference, most theological arguments against non-Christian religious pluralism — made by using evidence (from our observations of the Bible) and logic — are not arguments against Christian Universalism.     { Do all roads lead to God?  UR says "no".  Instead, UR claims that God will be able to find each person — eventually, in Life or in Afterlife — no matter what road they are on.  And that this finding is illustrated by divine searches for a lost sheep, coin, and son in Luke 15. }   {universalism and exclusivism}

 

Our non-useful questions ask about resurrection & judgment, and suffering in hell, and whether salvation depends on faith-and-repentance.  Because all views agree (all say "yes") these questions don't help us distinguish between the views.

Our useful questions about Afterlife-in-Hell, for unsaved people, are when we ask “what will happen in hell?” and “what is the final result of their process-in-hell?”  These questions are useful because the views disagree about the quality & quantity of their experiences (the suffering-intensity & time-duration) and their final fate, which depend on God's purposes for them.  Will the purpose of God be to punish and/or to educate-and-heal?  Will the duration of their hell-experience be eternal (with EM) or temporary (with FA or UR)?  Will their final fate be permanent misery (EM) or permanent non-existence (FA) or permanent reconciliation (UR)?

 

In the next-to-last row of the table, we see a question about "benefits (in Life + Afterlife) for living-by-faith now":  For a believer, the currently-imagined "benefits in... Afterlife" are largest with EM because the largest penalty would be avoided, thus "YES Yes yes".  But, as explained in Motivations for Continually Living by Faith, maybe UR offers the best "benefits in Life" if believing UR makes it easier for a person to love God fully with their whole heart and mind.

 

note:  Each of the 3 views (or 4 views, with semi-UR) also is known by other namesand some of these are more common than the names I'm using.

 

Semi-Universal Reconciliation...

is described briefly in the overview-page and more fully later in this page in a section that includes this table, which shows that semi-UR is most similar to FA, only differing from FA when we ask "is after-death repentance possible?" and (if some are saved in their afterlife) in the number of people who will be saved by God.  As indicated by the two names, "the number of people who will be saved by God," when we ask "will everyone live forever?", is the difference between Reconciliation that is semi-Universal (with semi-UR) and is fully Universal (with UR).

 
EM
FA
semi-UR
UR
 will everyone live forever?  
no
no
yes
 will SINNERS live forever? (contrary to Gen 3:22
YES
no
no
no
 is there injustice? (does it seem to be unfair?)
YES
no
no
no
 will people suffer? (with weeping & gnashing,...); 
 why suffering?  because our actions do matter? 
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
 is after-death repentance possible? 
no
no
YES
YES

 


 

Universal Reconciliation — why am I Hopeful and Optimistic?

Below, the two "yellow boxes" explain my...

Reasons to be Hopeful — why all Christians should hope that UR will happen.

Reasons to be Optimistic — why Bible-believing Christians have logical reasons to think UR will happen and also to think UR won't happen, so I cannot believe (with a high level of confidence that is biblically justifiable) in either UR or not-UR.

 

 

 

Universal Reconciliation  —  Reasons to Hope 

My summary of FA-versus-EM, written in 2010, describes UR as "emotionally appealing" so "I would join most people in voting YES for this if God asked us to decide."  Now in 2015, I've begun claiming that "most people" becomes “ALL people” if instead of would vote, we ask how people SHOULD vote.

I think all people should want to “vote YES” for UR, so all people should be hopeful universalists.  Each of us knows many people (family & friends, neighbors & colleagues, or even strangers) who, during their lives on earth, seem to have rejected* the grace of God that is offered through Jesus Christ.  Because we love these people, or at least have empathy for them, we should not want them – and many others – to permanently die with Final Annihilation or, much worse, to be forever alive with Eternal Misery.  We should sincerely hope the rejecters will have another opportunity to believe-and-repent during their Afterlife, when they will have more information and a different perspective (with a freed will), so they can say YES to God and finally become reconciled with God.

God agrees with our hope, because in many places the Bible clearly states that God desires (and also intends?) for all people to be reconciled with him.

 

* We can say only "seem to have rejected" because we don't know what happens in each person's heart-and-mind privately, just between them and God.

 

a personal perspective:  my sister  and  a gift that won't be necessary

 

But... God has not "asked us to decide," so does a hopeful universalist have logical Bible-based reasons to be an optimistic universalist, or even a confident universalist, to think that UR actually will happen?     { Or should they be a pessimistic universalist (non-optimistic universalist) or even a confident non-universalist, based on their studies of the Bible? }     { What are reasons for a Christian to not hope that everyone will be reconciled with God and with each other? }

 
 
 
 

Universal Reconciliation  —  Reasons for Optimism 

In this section I'm not trying to prove that ultimate UR is taught with certainty in the Bible.  Instead, I just want to show that — in addition to hoping UR will happen — we also can have logical Bible-based reasons for optimism, for thinking UR might happen.   Why?

 

a review:  Earlier, I explained why — because of what the Bible clearly teaches about conditional immortality (and the death penalty for sin) and the character of God (when we ask WWJD) — we should think Eternal Misery will not happen, so after Judgment the afterlife (for unsaved people) will be either Annihilation or Reconciliation.  I also described what the 3 views are.

This section continues explaining why I'm "optimistically hopeful" that, instead of FA, God will do UR.     { But either FA or UR would be much better than the typical assumption of EM. }

 

Here are the sub-sections:

    Understanding Previous Theologies  -  Combining Current Theologies  -
    Accurate Understanding of UR  -  Practical Effects on Living  -
    When (after death)  and  How (with educational experiences)  -
    Biblical Support for UR and against UR  -  Why is the Bible ambiguous?

 


 

Understanding Previous Theologies   ( History of Universalism in the Early Church )

This section supplements an introductory summary of Church History.

In the earliest days of the church — in the decades following the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus — the apostles who personally knew Him never mentioned an eternally lasting hell in sermons (at least not in those summarized in Acts of the Apostles) or letters (of Paul, John, and Peter).  The concept of Eternal Misery was not part of The Gospel they preached, and they did not use fear of hell as a motivation for conversion.  This absence-of-EM would be surprising IF they were believers of EM, because they would have wanted to warn unbelievers about this terrible fate.  But the absence-of-EM, in their speaking and writing, would make sense IF the early apostles did not believe EM.

Historical extra-biblical writings (like writings of early “church fathers”) show that in the first few centuries of the church, Christian Universalism was a common view.  UR was widely acepted as a respectable option,* along with the other two views, FA and EM.  Those who believed UR included many prominent church leaders.  One advocate for UR was Gregory of Nyssa, who was a primary author of the final Nicene Creed (in 381) that, along with the earlier Apostles Creed, said nothing about UR (or FA or EM), either for it or against it.    {* In fact, some respected historians think UR was the majority view in most locations at most times. }     {more - the early CREEDS and modern FUNDAMENTALS}

Later, EM became the dominant view.  Why?  Five related reasons were:  philosophically, some Christians were influenced by un-biblical Greek philosophy claiming that humans have an immortal soul, and thus universal Unconditional Immortalitylinguistically, translation of the Bible from Greek into Latin has been biased to favor EM;*  there were strong influences theologically by Augustine, and politically by Justinian (and many other leaders) because fears about EM-Hell allowed a church/government alliance to exert control over its citizens;  plus the powerful inertia of tradition.

* This biasing occurred when non-Greek theologians, whose native language was not Greek, interpreted (misinterpreted?) the Greek language of the New Testament.  Questionable translations (biased to support EM) still mislead readers who cannot read Greek — who therefore must depend on translations into their own language — to believe EM-concepts about eternal & punishment & torment.  How?  The translators first assume EM, and then choose (among the different translation-words they could have chosen) the words that will support EM.

You can read more about histories, by me and in pages 141-147 (re: absence of EM in Old Testament & by Apostles; plus views in Early Church) of Hope Beyond Hell.

 

It's useful to understand history so we can learn from history.  What can we learn?

In the distant past, in the early days of Christianity, all 3 views (UR, FA, EM) were common, and all were considered worthy of respectful theological discussion.  In the present, we should have a "respectful theological discussion" of all 3 views, with open-minded logical evaluation based on what we discover in a careful study of the whole Bible.

 

Combining Current Theologies  (by accepting some ideas from Arminius, and some from Calvin)

The systems of theology constructed by Arminius and Calvin — with their differing descriptions of “who does what” during a process of salvation — both claim strong Biblical support.  Currently the majority of Christians are Arminians, but Calvinists are a significant minority.  Both views are considered worthy of respectful theological discussion.

A Logical Combining:  IF we accept two claims about God's fatherly love and sovereign power — that because God loves, He wants to save everyone (this is accepted by Arminians, but rejected by Calvinists), and God uses His power to sovereignly “get what He wants” (accepted by Calvinists, rejected by Arminians) — THEN our logical conclusion will be Universal Salvation.   /   a summary of the logic:  if love and power, then Universal Reconciliation.     {This logic, especially regarding what Arminians accept & reject, is examined in detail later.}

 


 

What is UR?  —  Accurate Understanding is Essential

I've been observing the actions of fellow Christians, and I'm disappointed that often Bible-based evangelical Universal Reconciliation is evaluated based on what it ISN'T, instead of what it actually IS.  This is wrong because, of course, it's better for everyone to understand what UR is, and to acknowledge this during all of our discussions.  We should not use (ourselves) and should not allow (by others) any strawman-arguments that are intended to mislead, and therefore are intellectually dishonest.   {a table comparing the 3 views}

Robin Parry explains — in 7 Myths about Christian Universalism — that, by contrast with inaccurate misunderstandings of UR,* Bible-believing evangelical Universalists do believe in hell, do believe the Bible, do think sin is very bad, do believe in God's holiness-based justice & wrath (but in action these are always combined with His love), don't think all roads lead to God (universalism isn't postmodern pluralistic inclusivism), and don't think Universalism undermines evangelism or holy living.

* UR can be defined in many ways.  In this page the meaning of Universal Reconciliation (aka Evangelical Universalism or Christian Universalism) is the way it's defined by Robin Parry and other Bible-believing evangelical Christian Universalists.

 

Much of the skepticism about UR is neutralized if we recognize that the main differences between UR and FA are questions about timings (can people be saved only during life, or also in their afterlife?) and time (whether aionios should be translated to mean "eternal").

 

 

Practical Effects-for-Living

Above, the final two myths (with over-simplistic generalizing about "evangelism and holy living") are important questions.  We are affected by what we believe, so we should ask:

    generally - What are the practical effects on living, for Christians and non-Christians, of thinking that UR might be true, or is true?
    specifically - If everyone will be saved, with Universal Reconciliation, why should anyone “say YES to God” now?

When we think about these questions we find no simple answers about how people WILL respond to claims for UR (or to claims for FA, or EM) because each person will be affected differently, in complex ways, and the effects — the influences on their thinking, deciding, and doing, in a wide variety of situations in all areas of life — will vary from one person to another.  For most people, believing a view (whether it's UR, FA, or EM) will produce some good effects and some bad effects.

But there is a simple conclusion about how a rational person SHOULD respond:

    When describing Bible-based Universal Reconciliation, all Christians (whether or not we think UR is likely to be true) can agree about the way people should respond to UR, so all of us can emphasize that if UR is true, a person's overall experience will be MUCH better if they say YES to God now, ASAP.
    Why?   Think about two possibilities for the afterlife-reality of an unsaved person:  maybe UR is correct (so it will happen), or maybe UR is wrong (so it won't happen).
        • If UR is correct, saying YES will let a person enjoy life-with-God now.  And later they will avoid the unbeliever's Misery-in-Hell that, although it won't be eternal, will be unpleasant.
        • But maybe UR is wrong and it won't happen.  Therefore, another reason to say YES now is to avoid an unpleasant surprise later IF the afterlife-reality will be Eternal Death (with FA) or Eternal Misery (with EM).
 

a summary:  A belief in any view (UR, FA, or EM) will affect our thoughts-and-actions, producing significant consequences for us and for others, now (in Life) and later (in Afterlife).

 

[[ I.O.U. - an idea about "practical effects" that later will be developed more fully is...   Fear of Death:  Our natural fear of death can be elevated immensely by threats of EM, or (although much less) even by FA.  This high level of death-fear typically produces a variety of bad effects, for those who fear and for others in their lives and more widely in society. ]]

 


 

When and How ?

If a person “says NO to God” during life, and if UR is true — so despite saying NO temporarily, eventually they still can be saved by God — then... When and How might they be saved?

 

WHEN — After-Death Repentance and Salvation?

An essential foundation of evangelical Universal Reconciliation is a claim that God wants all humans to be reconciled with Him (i.e. to be “saved”) and, to make this possible, He will allow unsaved people (and in fact will encourage them) to repent after death.  Will this happen?

Maybe.

Steve Gregg, who knows the Bible well, concludes (in his book) that "While there is no verse of Scripture affirming, in clear terms, the specific possibility of persons in hell receiving further opportunities for repentance, neither is there any passage denying this possibility."  I agree, so when we ask "will this happen?" I think we cannot confidently answer “yes, it will” or “no, it will not.”

All views agree that "it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27), but they disagree (in a Useful Question) about what will happen after judgment. }

And yes, the Bible urges people to believe-and-repent now.  But why?  The best reason — whether or not there will be opportunities to repent in Afterlife — is because a rational person should say Yes now, ASAP, so they can "be saved from the power of sin, and enjoy life-with-God now," so they are able to live in a way that "will bring glory to God, and will please Him."

Keith DeRose explains (in Parts 5-6 of Universalism and the Bible: The Really Good News) why he thinks after-death salvation with God offering "further chances" is logically implied in the Bible, even though the Bible does not explicitly teach it.   Why?  Because he thinks the Bible teaches both universalism and strong exclusivism — claiming not only (in exclusivism) that Jesus, through his incarnation and substitutionary death, is the only source of salvation, but also (in strong exclusivism) that salvation requires explicit belief in Jesus, with repentance) — and this combination (universalism + strong exclusivism) seems to require after-death salvation,  because it seems that many people do not have "explicit belief in Jesus, with repentance" before their death.   /   DeRose says:

    exclusivism is "the doctrine that it’s only (exclusively) through the saving work of Christ that any can be saved. ... Christ’s saving work is necessary for the salvation of any person, so that were it not for Christ, none could be saved."
    strong exclusivism "adds to exclusivism the further claim that, in order to be a recipient of the salvation Christ makes possible, one must in some way explicitly accept Christ and/or the salvation he offers.  (Different versions of strong exclusivism with differ as to the exact nature of this requirement of explicit acceptance.)"
 

If the possibility of salvation-in-afterlife is accepted — at least hypothetically (by treating it as an “if” so we can do if-then evaluation) — then most Biblical objections to UR are weakened or eliminated.

Claiming an Argument-from-Silence:  Does this biblical ambiguity (by not explicitly "affirming" or "denying" afterlife-salvation) provide support for UR, or against it, or neither?  In all arguments from silence, each view claims “the burden of proof” should be placed only on the opposing views.  But I think the biblical ambiguity favors UR, because it's very important to avoid giving false hope so — if there will be no opportunities for after-death repentance — we would expect a "no opportunities" afterlife-reality (if that's what it will be) to be clearly described and strongly emphasized in the Bible, because a weakness in divine persuasion would be especially harmful (for those who aren't persuaded in Life) with FA or (MUCH more so) with EM, but...  There is not a clear description or strong emphasis.  Therefore, failing "the burden of proof" is a reason to think that UR (achieved by God graciously allowing opportunities for after-death repentance) is true, and EM is false, that UR will occur and EM won't occur.     { For this question and others, why is the Bible ambiguous? }

Another kind of argument from silence is the absence of strong divine persuasion for most people during Life, with the Bible stating that God "hides evidence" from some people. }

 

The question "will this happen?" is also examined later by asking:  if all-day workers and late-arriving workers are given the same wages, does this support UR?  do those who deny after-life opportunity have an attitude like that of the prodigal son's elder brother?  in other parables, what will be lost by late-arrivers?

 

The Faithfulness of God

If you believe in Eternal Misery, is the claim of the classic hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness — about compassions that "fail not" — limited by time, because gracious forgiving by God occurs only during Life, and then His attitude-and-actions change?  do the compassions of God vanish for “them” (although not for “us”) in Afterlife?  if the majority of people reject the Grace of God during their life, does a temporary forgiving of them (by God) change into eternal unforgiving (by God) at the moment of their death?

If “yes” this would be an extremely strong reason to FEAR death.

Here is an example of “yes” – what changed between page 70 ("God's love is permanent and unchanging... nothing can separate us from God's love") and page 200 ("hell is a place of unspeakable suffering... endless suffering... and the knowledge that you'll suffer alone with no relief coming, ever.") ?

 

 

HOW — After-Death Educational Experiences?

What might happen in the afterlife?  Maybe... after the Resurrection and Judgement (John 5:16-30), unsaved people will have educational experiences in Hell that can lead to their repentance and reconciliation.  My speculations (only claiming "maybe...") about some possibilities for education in the afterlife begin by asking questions:

    with any view (UR, FA, EM), "in Heaven, how will saved-humans be radically changed so we are not sinful?" and
    with UR, if the goal of God for people (and thus His purpose for their experiences in Hell) is reconciliation, then "in Hell, how will unsaved-humans be radically changed so they are not sinful?"   [[this education produces a change-of-thinking so the previously free will is now a freeD will (it's been liberated from the sinful irrationality that previously caused it to say NO to God) so the person is now able to say YES -- this could be one part of what Paul means, in 1 Cor 13:12, when he longs for the time when our experiences will no longer be limited so we can only "see in a mirror dimly." ]]
    and "compared with the process for saved-people, in what ways might the process for unsaved-people be similar, and different?"
 

 

 

Universal Reconciliation  —  Reasons for Optimism-without-Certainty 

So far, this section has described Reasons for Optimism, for thinking UR will happen.  But we also have Reasons for Pessimism, for thinking UR won't happen.  Therefore I'm optimistic, but not certain (or even highly confident), in my hopes that UR will happen.

I think both UR and FA are plausible possibilities.  In this page, my intention is not to argue that UR is taught with certainty in the Bible.  Instead, I'm just describing reasons to be optimistic, to think the Possibility-of-UR might become a Reality-of-UR.

The page-intro says, "I think Final Annihilation [FA] and Universal Reconciliation [UR] are most strongly supported in the Bible, with Eternal Misery [EM] far behind."  Why?   My "two possibilities" thinking is the result of a two-step process of evaluation — by first comparing FA and EM, then comparing FA and UR — with a confident conclusion in Step 1, but no conclusion in Step 2.

 

Step 1  —  Annihilation versus Misery  (with a definite winner)

During careful studies of the Bible, helped by those who have studied more thoroughly than me, I've compared FA-versus-EM and have concluded that the Bible supports FA much more strongly than EM, as explained (regarding Matthew 25:46 and other passages) in my 1-page summary (web-page  PDF) and longer paper (web-page  PDF).  Two main reasons are the Bible's clear teachings about the results of our sin (penalty of death) and God's response to our sin (salvation from death).  We see these principles in the Conditional Immortality produced by the penalty of death that was defined in Genesis 3, and was followed by the temporary salvations from death of Isaac (when Abraham was willing to give God the son that God had given him) and of other sons (in The Passover), plus a temporary system of sin-forgiving by substitutionary atonement (with the death of animals) in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, we see a permanent system of sin-forgiving by substitutionary atonement (with the death of Jesus).*   Notice that Jesus died for us, instead of suffering eternal misery for us.   These clearly taught principles cannot be overcome by isolated “proof texts for EM” that fail to prove.

* The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus died for us — with substitutionary atonement (to fulfill our Death Penalty for sin), and with victory over death (in His resurrection) — but it doesn't clearly distinguish between two possibilities:  was Jesus a substitute for all people, or only for some people?  This is the key question in...

 

Step 2  —  Annihilation versus Reconciliation  (with no clear winner)

In the first step, I've decided that FA is much more strongly supported than EM, so I think EM has been eliminated from serious consideration.   /   Or we can define Step 1 as a filter whose purpose is to let us eliminate all views that violate Conditional Immortality and the closely related Death Penalty for Sin we see throughout the Bible.  This filter eliminates EM, but not FA and UR.  As explained in my overview, both FA and biblical UR agree that the penalty for sin is permanent death, but FA and UR disagree when we ask “who will be saved?”

 

Therefore, in Step 2 my goal is deciding between FA and UR.

For this, my inability to reach a definite conclusion — so I'm just claiming that both FA and UR are "strongly supported in the Bible" compared with EM — has occurred because...

 

By contrast with the relative simplicity of Step 1 — evaluating FA-versus-EM, which we can do by carefully examining specific passages, and thinking about general principles (re: conditional immortality and the related death penalty for sin) that are clearly taught — it's more difficult to evaluate FA-versus-UR in Step 2.  Why?  We can try to answer this in two ways, by responding to these two why-questions:

    A.  WHY is the process of evaluation-and-conclusion difficult?  (examined below)
    B.  WHY hasn't God made “the answer” clear in His Bible, so the process would be easy?  (examined later)

 

A.  WHY is the process of evaluation-and-conclusion difficult?

For me, Step 2 is difficult because:

    • Most objections to UR (versus FA or EM) are weakened or eliminated if God will allow repentance-and-conversion after death.  But will this happen?  We cannot know for certain, because our question — will God graciously provide opportunities for after-death repentance? — is not answered in the Bible with a clear “yes” or “no”.
    • Also, many objections are eliminated if UR is honestly evaluated for what it is instead of what it isn't.  For example, UR does propose suffering in hell – not an absence of hell – so verses about "weeping and gnashing" or "outer darkness" do not help us distinguish between UR and FA;  these verses don't provide support against UR, or for it.   {What questions CAN help us distinguish between views?}
    • Some parts of the Bible seem (at least superficially) to provide stronger support for either FA or UR.   {The Gospels and Paul's letters}
    • We must use a whole-Bible perspective to understand the character of God, re: His divine love/justice and His plans for humans, when we ask “What Will Jesus Do? when He judges us, and afterward.”
    • When we carefully examine individual passages, in the context of our whole-Bible understanding of divine justice/love, some passages seem to support UR, but others seem to support FA.  Here are a few examples of each.
 

Biblical Support for Universal Reconciliation:  Many passages in the Bible seem to claim — but other interpretations (of "all") are possible — that eventually God will cause all people to be reconciled with Himself.  For example,

    "just as one trespass [by Adam] resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [by Jesus Christ] resulted in justification and life for all people." (Romans 5:18)
    "God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." (Romans 11:32)
    "Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)
    "We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially [not exclusively] of believers." (1 Timothy 4:10     "I [an angel of the Lord] bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people." (Luke 2:10)
    "I [Jesus], if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself ... for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:32,47)
    Jesus Christ "is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 John 2:2)
    Jesus Christ will "reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross." (Philippians 2:11)
    "at the name of Jesus every knee will bow... [and] every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Colossians 2:15-20)
    ... and more.
 

Biblical Support for Final Annihilation:  Many passages in the Bible seem to claim — but other interpretations (of eternal, punish, perish, second death, fire) are possible — that eventually God will cause the permanent end-of-existence for some people.  For example,

    "Then ['when the Son of Man comes in his glory'] they [who did not help 'the least of these'] will go away to eternal punishment [not punishing], but the righteous [who did help] to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
    "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
    "The lake of fire is the second death.  Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:14b-15)
    "The deeds of the flesh are evident... those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21)
    "All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire. ... Not a root or a branch will be left to them," says The Lord Almighty (Malachi 4:1b-2).   John the Baptist says (Matthew 3:10,12), "Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ... he [Jesus] will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."   Jesus says (Matthew 13:40), "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age," and (John 15:6) "If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned."   And there is (Hebrews 10:27) "a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God."
    ... and more.
 

rational reasons for ambiguity:

Above we see Biblical Support for Universal Reconciliation and Biblical Support for Final Annihilation but both "supports" are not "proofs" because...

There are differing interpretations of what will happen in the lake of fire and of key words, of all (re: apparent support for UR) and (re: apparent support for FA) of eternal, punish, perish, second death, fire and whether some translations are biased.  For example, with UR the "all" of Paul means all, and with FA it doesn't.  Why not?  FA claims that "all" means only “all without distinction” instead of UR's claim that it's “all without distinction AND all without exception.”  

UR and EM propose different interpretations (that don't involve a fatal outcome) of pro-FA arguments based on biblical statements about God "burning up" unbelievers:  Jesus seemed to say that unsaved people will be burned up (katachio) in their afterlife;  but... maybe this could be semi-UR (with God allowing after-death repentance, but still some unsaved who are burned up, agreeing with the basic FA-interpretation, but extending the "deadline" for being saved, but... this semi-UR would have to agree with FA-interpretations of "all");  or all who are eventually-unsaved will be burned-up and suffer death, but the number of ultimately-unsaved will be zero, due to after-death repentance for many;  or, as in a UR-interrpretation of Lake of Fire, divine fire burns up the sin in a person, it burns up the evil in them but does not burn-up the person, does not kill them permanently.   I.O.U. – I want to study, much more deeply, the "burning up" arguments for FA, by studying the bible-passages — by Jesus in The Gospels, and in the OT [especially Malachi] — and by reading what defenders of FA and UR (and EM) say about these arguments.  {the beginning of a deeper study}

 

Let's imagine splitting The Whole Bible into three parts:  The Gospels, and Paul's letters, and everything else.

In my opinion, ...

    if we had "everything else" plus The Gospels (overall tending to support FA, when all things are considered) but did not have Paul's letters, then FA would seem to be more strongly supported.  But UR-interpretations of The Gospels (of those parts that seem to support FA) are possible, to make The Gospels consistent with UR;  but
    if we had "everything else" plus Paul's letters (overall tending to support UR, when all things are considered) but did not have The Gospels, then UR would seem to be more strongly supported.  But FA-interpretations of Paul's letters (of those parts that seem to support UR) are possible, to make Paul's letters consistent with FA.
    Also, regarding Eternal Misery versus either UR or FA, the total absence of “warnings about eternal misery” in Acts of the Apostles and in letters by apostolic authors (Paul, John, Peter, James) provides very strong support against EM, but it's possible (for those who want to retain their belief in EM) to interpret this absence in a way that is consistent with EM.
 

 

B.  WHY hasn't God made the answer clear in His Bible?  (what are the reasons for biblical ambiguity?)

I don't know.  And I'm frustrated by the lack of clarity.  I wonder why the Bible isn't more clear, "so the process [of evaluating the biblical support for Annihilation-versus-Reconciliation] would be easy" regarding the final state for unbelievers, so we could know whether their final state will be UR (or semi-UR) or FA, or even EM.

Here are some possibilities:

 

Maybe... one reason for the biblical ambiguity is to help us learn from life.  When I'm wondering "Why isn't God more obvious? Why doesn't God provide stronger evidence for His existence & activities?" (and His plans for afterlives),* I speculate that God may "prefer a balance of evidence" so we'll have "enough reasons to believe if we want to believe, but not enough to intellectually force belief against our will" so during our education with life we can develop the living-by-faith character that He thinks is valuable, so we can improve our "trust in God that is manifested in all thoughts and actions of daily living."  (but when comparing EM with FA or UR, an ambiguous "balance of evidence" seems much less fair-and-moral with EM than with FA or UR, as explained in my long paper for FA-vs-EM, Section 4.5)

* Maybe... during our learning-from-life some ambiguity is useful to let us show what's in our hearts.  Probably one aspect of what God is looking for when He said, by the Holy Spirit speaking through Simeon (in Luke 2:35), that with our responses to Jesus and what He commands us to do, "the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."  Maybe our uncertainty about what will happen in Hell — will it be UR? or FA? or EM? — is one part of our educational experiences in life (and also in afterlife?) when God lets each of us reveal how we think (about God, and our self, and other people) and what we decide to do with our life, with the opportunities given to us by God.  The biblical ambiguity produces ambiguous theology for us, and we can decide how we want to "fill the blanks" in theology, influenced by our feelings about God & people, and what we want to do with the abilities & life-opportunities that God has given us.

 

Maybe... one purpose of the ambiguity, if UR (or FA) is true, is to reduce "running wild" responses.  This would occur if God has intentionally veiled universalism in the Bible, by making the evidence un-clear, due to legitimate concerns that because all people are sinful, some of us will "run wild" to varying degrees, if we think (with UR-belief) “things eventually will be OK even if I now say NO” or (with FA-belief) “death wouldn't be so bad.”  This concern definitely was a major factor for some leaders in the early church, who held UR as their own personal belief, which they shared with mature believers but not more generally with immature believers or non-believers.  Should a “veiling of UR” be an evangelistic strategy for us now?  We can think about ideal responses for what everyone rationally SHOULD do (they should say YES now, asap) and actual responses of what many WILL do, and some will decide to "run wild" by saying NO, choosing to live independently from God instead of “putting Christ on the throne of their life” to make Him their King so they can participate in The Kingdom of God.

 

Maybe... God wants to reward people with a good surprise.  Maybe... God wants to “surprise” unbelievers during their afterlife, maybe by letting them think for awhile — as part of a "weeping and gnashing" experience in hell — that they will be getting annihilation or endless torment, and then, for the good surprise, let them go through a transformative process of believing-and-repenting that leads to being “saved” and joining God and His Church in their joyful Kingdom of God.  Maybe.

 

 

 

Hell-Verses in the Bible

Important whole-Bible principles (about The Character of God and Conditional Immortality & The Death Penalty for Sin) provide very strong support against a doctrine of Eternal Misery.  By contrast, defenders of EM typically point to isolated Bible verses and say “look at these.”  But when we do look at their verses carefully, we see that...

    a verse about suffering in hell (as in "weeping and gnashing" or "outer darkness" or "fire") is not useful for evaluating views because all views – EM, FA, UR – agree that unsaved people will suffer in hell.  But the views disagree about duration (will suffering continue forever with EM, or be temporary with FA or UR)* and final result (will it be misery, non-existence, or reconciliation);  the differences are about time (re: duration) and timing (whether God allows belief-and-repentance only during a person's Life, or also during their Afterlife).
    sometimes a Greek word has several possible meanings, so a choice is necessary when this word is translated into another language;  the result-of-translation can be biased when, in a translated Bible, the word we read was chosen so it would provide support for the EM that was assumed by the translaters who, because they assumed EM, thought they should teach EM.   For example, disagreements about the time-duration of hell (*) occur because the meaning of aionios (and thus how it's translated into non-Greek) is very important, and is uncertain.}
    each verse can be interpreted (especially when we consider different translations of key words) in ways that seem to support EM, or FA, or UR.
 

Later you can see translation choices and differing interpretations, for Matthew 25:46 (sheep & goats) and Revelation 20:11-15 (lake of fire, second death), which are examined more thoroughly in Biblical Hell-Texts.

Much of the skepticism about UR is neutralized if we recognize that the main differences between UR and FA are questions about timings (whether people can be saved only during Life, or also in their Afterlife?) and time (whether the Greek word aionios should be translated to mean "eternal").

 

 

Effects on Relationships

How have these three views (EM, FA, UR) affected my thinking, attitudes, and actions?  and those of other people?

Big Effects:  The introductory description of the three views explains that even though the views are almost identical in all other ways, their differences (in the final state of unsaved humans) do "make a BIG difference in the ways that I (and many others) think about God and people, and in my relationships with them."

 
 

My Relationships with Unbelievers

The possibility of Eternal Misery hinders my evangelism, because I'm less eager to share The Good News (of the very good things God wants to do for us and through us) if I must argue against a non-believer's assumptions about The Bad News (of the very bad things they think God will do to most people, by keeping them alive in Eternal Misery).   {more about evangelism and the tensions of conflicting responsibilities}

And with UR it's easier for Christians to develop an “us and us” feeling (with both Christians and non-Christians being “us”) in everyday life.  This contrasts with the “us and them” that is promoted by EM or FA.  Why?  Because if UR happens, eventually we will be in a fellowship-of-believers that includes current non-Christians — and maybe... we will watch each other's Life Videos to produce empathy and forgiving — even though currently we can have an authentically spiritual fellowship-of-belief only with fellow Christians.  What?  An attitude of us-and-us will help us love unbelievers as we love ourselves, and build better relationships.     {evangelism - sharing The Whole News and the tensions of conflicting responsibilities

 
 

My Relationships with Believers

First, what are my attitudes toward defenders of EM?

Since biblical support for Eternal Misery is weakest, I wonder why believers want “the most horrible view” to be “the traditional view” that usually is assumed to be true, by Christians and non-Christians.  I am...

        • disappointed by Christians in the past and present, because:  earlier in the history of Christianity, powerful churches (with secular motivations to use fear-producing EM as a powerful political tool to “control people” in their society) decided to make EM their unquestionable dogma;  currently, most fellow Christians – usually without careful thinking – still support this choice.
        • sad because when fellow Christians say “God will do EM” I think they are saying bad things about the character of God.
        •• Due to my disappointment and sadness, it's more difficult for me to feel a deep fellowship with other Christians.   (yes, this attitude is a sinful flaw in me, but the disappointment/sadness is very real in my heart and mind)
 

Second, what are their attitudes toward Christians who question EM?

This is more complex, due to their variety (of attitudes & actions) and my uncertainty (in predicting what they will think & feel & do).

professional institutional pressures:  Generally, for other people there can be powerful pressures on people in ministries (of a church, organization, or school)* because most statements of “What We Believe” include Eternal Misery, instead of a humbly neutral statement (as in the Apostle's Creed or Nicene Creed) that is compatible with EM or FA or UR.  For example, the Doctrinal Statement of Biola College declares that an unsaved person will "throughout eternity exist in the state of conscious, unutterable, endless torment of anguish."  Wow.   I feel uncomfortable when EM is formally established as an official doctrine of an organization (a church, school,...) that, in other ways, I like.     {professional pressures occur if ministry-people assume, or are told, that “you must agree with our entire statement, including EM, or you cannot keep your position, and you will not receive a paycheck to feed your family.”  Or they may fear a loss of respect from colleagues, in a professional-level social pressure, real or assumed, to conform by accepting "the traditional view" of their organization specifically, or the broader Christian community generally. }

personal social pressures:  On a personal level, there can be social pressures to conform, to accept "the traditional view (of Eternal Misery)" that is assumed by most Christians.  These pressures have occurred for other people, and probably will occur for me.  But not yet.  In the past my personal experiences have been limited, but good, with gracious responses the few times when I've shared my views about FA.  But in the future this could change when I explain my new views about the possibility of FA-or-UR.  More generally — based on my own observations, and reports from advocates for FA or UR — the response (in sermons, conversations, forums, web-pages, books) sometimes is moderately hostile when FA is proposed, and often is very hostile when UR is proposed.  For example, the many hostile responses to Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" in 2011.

counter-pressures:  In society as a whole, there also are pressures to reject EM (or FA), to accept and preach the “kinder and gentler” God of UR who will reconcile people who are unsaved-in-life, instead of tormenting them or killing them.

 

my experiences:  Since 2015 when my views changed from FA to FA-or-UR, I have rarely told others what I think about Conditional Immortality and thus FA-or-UR.   This is partly due to my mixed feelings of “wondering what to do” with the evangelistic responsibility to avoid giving false hope that in afterlife might cause a bad surprise for other people.  Also, I don't want to stimulate controversy & dis-unity within a church, or cause trouble for a pastor or other church leader.  And the possibility of personal trouble for myself.  But it's also due to the harsh attitudes of some fellow Christians, which requires me “counting the cost” because of what some people in the Christian community do (at least in the experiences of others, in the stories I've read) with their un-loving words & actions, to anyone who questions EM.

 

The Way We Should Be:  The inertia of tradition and psychology of conformity make it easy to think like the majority, and difficult to think in other ways.  But try to imagine how much better our lives would be if the tradition was different and better.  Therefore..., imagine that nobody currently believes in Eternal Misery, and you have just read a description of Eternal Misery (as the answer for What Will Jesus Do?) plus a summary of Bible-based arguments for it and against it.  After you have studied all arguments very carefully, would you reject the commonly accepted belief that WJWD is merciful (with Annihilation) or is wonderful (with Reconciliation), and explain why instead it will be horrible (with Tormenting) because God will never forgive but instead will do keep unsaved humans alive forever so they can endure an endless eternity of tormented misery in hell?  I wish the usual assumption – the "commonly accepted belief" – was not Eternal Misery, so proponents of Eternal Misery would be forced to explain why God will torment many people forever, instead of God doing the Reconciliation or Annihilation that would be assumed "if the tradition was different and better."

 

I.O.U. – Eventually this section will supplement "our attitudes toward other Christians and God — Principles for Discussing Doctrines Respectfully, with Christian Love" in the main page;  it begins,

Jesus commanded us (in John 13:34) to "love one another."  To help us love each other more effectively (as individuals and as a whole body of believers), useful principles are "in essentials unity, in non-essentials diversity, and in all things charity."   {who said this and why?}

How can we decide if a doctrine is essential?*  We can look at its importance AND certainty by asking, "is it theologically important, AND is it taught with certainty in the Bible?"  In my opinion:  our doctrinal response when we ask “what is the ultimate fate of unsaved people?” is very important (because it affects our thinking-and-actions) but is not important enough to be considered an essential of Christian faith;  AND the doctrine that is correct (because it matches the reality of what actually will happen in afterlife) is not taught with certainty, so it cannot be known with certainty.   /   When answering these questions (about importance and certainty) to decide if a doctrine is essential or non-essential, we should have appropriate humility — not too much (by declaring that no doctrine is important-and-certain) and not too little (by declaring that every doctrine is important-and-certain) — so we can avoid the rigid arrogances of extreme relativism or extreme dogmatism.

[[ and to define dogmatism, here are definitions from The Free Dictionary:  "Arrogant, stubborn assertion of opinion or belief. (Houghton Mifflin);  dogmatic assertion in matters of opinion. (Webster’s College);  a statement of a point of view as if it were an established fact. (Gale Group);  unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs. (Princeton)."  --  probably I will quote one or two of these, and will summarize-paraphrase other ideas of theirs-and-mine. ]] and maybe I'll revise the paragraph to be "...extreme mushy relativism or extreme unjustifiable rigidity."

 
 

My Relationship with God

Here are my responses to what I think (perhaps mistakenly) is the moral character of God with each view:

• if I try to imagine, contrary to what I believe,* that God will do EM (so the overall change from before life to final-afterlife is that most people are big losers), it's difficult for me to imagine fully loving God, but...

• when I imagine FA and its nothing-to-nothing overall result for unsaved people (so there are no losers) it's much easier to love God more fully.  In afterlife The Kingdom of God belongs to God who, because He is The King, has the right to decide who will be included in HIS Kingdom-Community;  if He decides “these people won't be included” it seems fair, although when imagining this I feel sad because I'm hoping everyone will be included, so...

• with UR (if eventually everyone wins by joining The Kingdom), fully loving God is much easier than with FA.  When I imagine UR it's easier to to form a faith-foundation for letting God supply me with the love-and-wisdom I need to more fully love other people. 

 

* I think the Bible clearly teaches that EM won't happen, but I'm frustrated by the biblical ambiguity (re: FA vs UR, plus the hell-verses that lead many to defend Eternal Misery) and I find myself asking “why don't You make it more clear?”

 
 

Relationships of Other People (Believers & Unbelievers) with Each Other and with God

I don't know how other Christians respond, how their attitudes & relationships are affected when they imagine that God will do UR or FA or EM.  Soon I'll begin asking some of them, to discover if they also share my responses, or if they find it equally easy to fully love God (with their entire heart & mind) and to fully love other people (both those who seem to be saved and unsaved), when they imagine each of the views.  And I'll ask unbelievers "what do you think?"

 

 

 

 

DIVINE JUSTICE — Part 2

 

For all sections below, I recommend that you first read the overviews in Divine Justice - Part 1.

 

Appropriate Humility

This section supplements an introductory condensed summary of appropriate humility and this semi-condensed version:

 

Appropriate Humility:  When we're making claims about what God will do and why,” we should have appropriate humility (appropriate confidence) that is not too little, and not too much:

    each of us has reasons for humility because we have very limited experience compared with God, and far less wisdom;  and there is some biblical ambiguity about the afterlife;  therefore, when we describe what we think God will do and why, we should only say “this is how it seems to me.”
    each of us also has reasons for confidence because God has given us moral consciences, plus general guiding (with ethical principles in the Bible) and personal guiding (when Holy Spirit supplies us with love & wisdom).  We can use these ethical principles when making daily decisions (about how to think & what to do) and also when asking What Will God Do?    {more}

 

And here is the original section, before the condensings:

 

Our humility should be appropriate — not too little, not too much — when we're thinking about, and talking about, doctrines of Christian faith.  It's especially important — and it's logically justifiable due to biblical ambiguity — to think and speak with appropriate humility when we're describing what we think God will do and won't do in the afterlife.   /   terms: Or we can think about appropriate humility (that is not too little, and not too much) as appropriate confidence (that is not too much, and not too little).

    Appropriate Humility that is not too little:  In this page, especially when discussing justice — and describing what I think God won't do and will do, or should do, and why — I'll speak with humility by saying “this is how it seems to me.”  My humility is justifiable because I'm only a fallible human, having very limited perspective & experience compared with God, and far less wisdom, with my evaluations based on the human moral values & ethical principles that I've learned from life and from the Bible.
    Appropriate Humility that is not too much:  Each of us has reasons for humility (because we are "fallible humans, having very limited perspective...") but we also have reasons for confidence.  God has given us moral consciences,* and He wants us to make ethical decisions (about how to think & what to do) based on what we have "learned from life and from the Bible."     {To improve our consciences, God wants to supply us with love & wisdom to transform our thinking and guide us, through Holy Spirit, in a process that is more effective when we cooperate.}

In 3 kinds of error we can be wrong, or overconfidently arrogant (with too little humility) or underconfidently timid (with too much humility).*  Aiming for an appropriate humility (aka appropriate confidence) can help us avoid 2 of these 3 errors.   /   And we see an arrogant “false humility” in the demands for extreme relativism that are made by radical postmodernists, as I explain in Reality 101 for Postmodernists.

 

For more about The Moral Witness, pages 147-152 of Hope Beyond Hell.

 

Forming Opinions about The Character of God

Is it arrogant (and sinful) to “judge” The Character of God by forming opinions, and having feelings, based on imagining “how would I feel if God will cause Eternal Misery for most of the people He created?”  I don't think so.  Why?  Because I'm using IF-THEN thinking.  I've already decided, based on a logical evaluation of biblical evidence, that the IF won't happen, that God won't cause Eternal Misery for people who were unsaved at the end of their life.  Therefore, I am thinking "IF God would cause Eternal Misery — but He won't — THEN I wouldn't like this causing of infinite misery, and I would evaluate His character as being less-good than if He decided to end their conscious existence (with Annihilation) or save them (for Reconciliation).

Or, for a human-level analogy, imagine that someone in our small group (a fellowship group of your church) is spreading rumors about the leader of your group, saying “John is torturing his children.”  I would do two things.  First, I would logically evalate the evidence.  Maybe, based on what I know about John (he seems to be kind, with admirable character) and his children (they seem to be happy, and to love John) and the lack of evidence provided by the rumor-spreader, I would conclude that “no, John is not torturing his children.”  But I also could take a second step by thinking “IF he is doing this — but I don't think he is — I would not like it, I would have much less respect for him.”

Also, many people conclude that God will cause Eternal Misery [#effects - yesno?]] ==== IF-evaluation --> either yes, no, maybe

QUALITY OF LIFE -- MERCY KILLING versus -----

Here are two comparisons — of FA vs EM, and FA vs UR — re: divine Actions (with FA, EM, or UR) and divine Character (with FA, EM, or UR).  [i.o.u. - soon, this paragraph will be re-thought and re-written;  here it is now, before the revisions -- In my opinion (how it seems to me), divine FA-Character seems better than EM-Character, because if divine FA-Action terminates the existence of a person who otherwise would have (due to divine EM-action) Eternal Misery, this FA is a gracious mercy killing that differs from the capital punishment which terminates a life that would not be lived in continual tormented misery, that could be worth living.  To compare FA-Character with UR-Character, we look at the use of divine FA-Action to terminate a life that (due to divine UR-Action) would be Eternal Joy and thus worth living.  Notice the contrast:  divine FA-Action terminates a life with Eternal Joy (if God's actions cause UR) that would be worth living, or the FA-Action divine FA-action terminates a life with Eternal Joy (if God's actions cause UR) that would be worth living.

 


 

This section supplements my summary of the ideas.

 

The Character of God  —  WWJD, What Will Jesus Do?

This section supplements an introductory summary (asking WWJD?) about The Character of God.

 

When we ask “What Will Jesus Do after He judges us?” (John 5:19-29),* we should use a whole-Bible perspective because we want to understand the character of God that He has revealed to us throughout the Bible, especially in Jesus, in what He did and said during His life on earth, and in what the whole Bible says about Him.  But the triune God, Jesus/Father/HolySpirit always agree, so asking WWJD is also WWFD and WWHD, and with WWJD we're actually asking WWGD, WhatWillGodDo?     {in John 5:28b-29, Jesus tells us that "an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice ["the voice of the Son of God"] and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." (ESV)}

Yes, this WWJD is different than the typical use of WWJD to describe how we can try to imagine “What Would Jesus Do?” as a guide for our own actions.  But the essence of each WWJD is the same, because each is a question about the thinking-and-actions of Jesus, based on His character as it's revealed to us in God's Bible.  My version of WWJD is a minor modification, a time-shift, a change from "WWouldJD now?" to "WWillJD later?"  In my pages, WWJD means WhatWillJesusDo?

 

So... WWJD?  An adequate response would require an in-depth examination of the whole Bible.  I won't be able to do that here.  Instead I'll just describe two basic principles, and (eventually) will link to web-resources where you can learn more:

First, the importance of forgiving is strongly emphasized by Jesus.  He explains — in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26 & 5:38-48 & 6:14-15) and in Luke 23:33-34 when He says (about those who already had hurt Him and were now killing Him) "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing," and elsewhere — that we should forgive because God forgives.  In a wide range of situations, in all areas of our lives, forgiving is the loving thing do, producing benefits for others and for us.  So... will God forgive?  Is WWJD (=WWFD=WWHD = WWGD) the gracious forgiving of UR, or no forgiving with EM, or in-between with FA?

Second, the importance of justice is strongly emphasized by Jesus.  He explains — in the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere — that God has high standards for what we think-and-do, and He will hold us accountable.     { For both forgiving and justice, the principles taught by Jesus reinforce what earlier was taught in the Old Testament, and later will be taught by His disciples. }

 

So will God be mostly (but not totally) just, or mostly (but not totally) loving, or...

Totally Just and Totally Loving:  In the Bible we see a God who wants to love us (with merciful forgiving and in other ways) and wants to achieve justice.  Sometimes during discussions of UR-FA-EM these two essential character traits are contrasted, so we're thinking about the love OR justice of God.  With this contrast, we can imagine God doing justice (but in ways that are tempered by love so it isn't total justice) and doing love (but in ways that are tempered by justice so it isn't total love).  Instead we can think about ways for God to do love AND justice, to achieve total justice in a way that also is totally loving, that is always just-and-loving at the same time, in the same divine actions.   {maybe... God will be loving-and-just with education in UR-Hell}

Always Loving, Always Just:  Is it useful to think of God's actions as being always loving (so there are no divine actions without love) AND always just (so there are no divine actions without justice)?  For example, if God loves a person too much to take a “hands off, do nothing” approach and just let their sin remain, He could remove their sin (with UR) or kill them (with FA) or torment them forever (with EM).   Which of these problem-solutions seems to be the most loving?  most just?  most consistent with everything the Bible teaches?

Tough Love:  We have reasons to believe that WhatJesusWillDo will be Just-AND-Loving.  He won't do some actions to achieve justice without love, and other actions to achieve love without justice.  With UR, in hell the experiences of "weeping and gnashing of teeth" will achieve justice in ways that are beneficial for people, that will help them become better, help them become reconciled with people (that they didn't treat well during life) and with God.

 

WDSD versus WWJD:  A song – Roads to Moscow – stimulated me to think more intensely about comparisons of Temporary Punishing (by Stalin) with Permanent Punishing (by Jesus?) and its alternatives.

 

Basic Justice  (in the three views)

For a "saved" person, all views are the same for overall change, when the person goes from nothing (before conception) to eternal joy (in their afterlife);  this is a wonderful change.

But for an "unsaved" person, there are big differences in overall changes, as proposed in the 3 views:

    with UR it's from nothing to everlasting joy (eventually) so being born is a blessing;  this is wonderful;
    with FA the change is neutral, from nothing (before life) to nothing (after everlasting permanent death);  this seems fair, although it's sad;
    with EM it's from nothing to endless misery, so being born is definitely not a blessing;  this seems unfair, so it would seem justifiable for this person to ask God, “Why did you give me life (that includes this afterlife)?” or – if Calvinistic predestination to hell – “Why did you make me like this, by planning a life for me in which I have no chance to escape my fate of EM?”   {more about The Overall Result}

 

[[ inside all [[double-brackets]]'s are rough ideas that will be developed later:  with FA there is much less reason, compared with EM, to ask "why...?" ---- because FA has a fair "nothing to nothing" overall result, and also:  The Kingdom of God (in heaven) is The Kingdom of God, and because it's God's Kingdom it belongs to Him, so The King has the right to decide who will be included in HIS Kingdom-Community, and if He decides "these people won't be part of it" this does seem fair. (although sad) ]]

 

is LIFE fair? (no)  —  but could LIFE-plus-AFTERLIFE be fair? (yes)

In a wide variety of ways, life isn't fair.

But with UR, life-plus-afterlife could be more fair, and it seems to me that God could achieve much better justice-with-love.

 

I.O.U. - The rest of this section is rough-and-incomplete.  It will be "more" about the basic idea summarized above, with Stories & Principles, as you can see in this rough outine:

 

STORIES - relevant scenarios, to illustrate, could be fictional or history-based:

    maybe quote/paraphrase Brad Jersak (re: 14-year old girl who hears about Jesus at summer camp and says to herself "I'm almost ready to say YES but not today, I'll think about it and maybe will decide tomorrow" but is killed on her way home;  in an extra twist, much later the man who raped/murdered her sincerely repents on his deathbed and is welcomed into heaven);  is this fair? (for her, and for him?)  if not, how could it be "made fair" in afterlife?
    or a Jewish girl killed in Nazi concentration camp, so her last memories of Life are gas coming in (with shared terror/dread among all victims who were with her), then her first memories in Afterlife are "welcome to hell for the rest of eternity" or (with Final Annihilation) "this time it's God, not Nazis, who will kill you."
    and other stories? (e.g. about Spiritual Terrorism, from books or websites)
    and Roads to Moscow by Comparing Ethics (of Stalin & Jesus) and Comparing Responses (by me), comparing my responses to EM before 1987 when I still naively assumed EM without carefully examining the Bible (but I didn't seem to really believe EM, in my internal answer to WWJD) and my responses to the "Roads..." song (because I actually believed what Stalin did, when answering WDSD), and then in late 2014 being motivated to again compare, as I had earlier but more thoroughly in 2014, the ethics of EM, FA, and UR ]]  [[ what is a worse fate-to-inflict, the temporary misery done by Hitler/Nazis (as to the Jewish girl) or Stalin (in true history fictionalized in "Roads..." by the Russian soldier), versus Eternal Misery done by God? ]]
 

PRINCIPLES, based on biblical teachings:

[[ Overall Existence, with Experiences-plus-Changes:  We should hope for an eventual result that leads every person to say "this was fair" in life-plus-afterlife, and "thank you for creating me, and for all of my experiences." ]]

[[ Moral Luck:  if God uses a purgatory Afterlife-Hell, I think He will consider the Moral Luck of individuals in Life (re: their abilities, life-situations, and life-opportunities) so He can customize their experiences;  this seems consistent with biblical descriptions, by Jesus, of servants who knew a lot (and therefore are beaten with many stripes) and those who didn't know much;  during education in hell God could give special consideration to those with bad moral luck, to "even it out" and as part of the "differing degrees of sorrow" during a painful purging;  I'm speculatively imagining, in this way, how God could "give grace" to those who were unlucky in their life-situations and in their probability of saying YES to God in Life]]  [[iou - I will connect this with binary special situations re: moral luck and other kinds of luck]]   [[ here, I will describe Rawls "veil of ignorance" and empathy-plus-compassion, when we're making decisions about policies for society ]]

[[ consider the double-predestinating (to salvation and non-salvation) of Calvinism:  I think the L of Calvinism's TULIP seems very unfair if we consider only life, but with life-plus-afterlife there is potential fairness (with UR if TULIP becomes TUUIP (with L changed to U, to replace the Limited Atonement of TULIP [L claims thta the substitutionary atonement-death of Jesus was only intended to save a Limited number of people, selected by God before people were born] into the Unlimited Atonement of Universal Reconciliation), so our sovereign God isn't the "moral monster" of Calvinistic TULIP double-predestination to heaven & hell.)  /  (with UR, the "election" of Calvinism could be election-for-function, with "jobs to do" during Life, to play a functional role in God's Educational Drama in Life, to be a servant of God-and-people.  if some are selected by God to be "elect" for salvation plus Service-In-Life [with functional "service" as the main difference between the currently elect & non-elect, because the elect are doing special tasks [chosen for them by God, with pre-ordained roles/actions for each elect-person] so the overall result is that instead of "only the elect being saved during Life" [as with FA or EM] with UR all of the non-elect are saved during Afterlife, or with semi-UR some of the non-elect are saved during Afterlife.)  (or even if Calvinism's TULIP is followed by FA-Afterlife with the non-elect being killed, it's much better than the EM-Afterlife of classic Calvinism, and Calvinism-with-FA or Calvinism-with-UR are possible because there is no logical connection between TULIP and EM [it's just a historical accident, with Calvin rejecting some traditional teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, but keeping other teachings including EM, and infant baptism, and...] so instead of TULIP-Life plus EM-Afterlife, Calvinists could propose TULIP-Life plus FA-Afterlife or [more logically consistent if God sovereignly converts free will into freed will with afterlife experiences so there is IP for everyone, either in Life or in Afterlife] a proposal of TULIP-Life plus UR-Afterlife ]]  [[a UR-modified TULIP could have U for Unlimited, making it TUUIP;  Limited Atonement in Life, Unlimited Atonement in Life-plus-Afterlife;  saving only the elect during Life, then everyone else (all of the non-elect) during Afterlife;  or it could be Later, for a UR-modified TULIP, with Atonement for everyone (including the non-elect) during Afterlife, Later ]]

[[ also, consider questions about some actions of God in the Old Testament:  justice in life-plus-afterlife could help explain "why" for many questions, by many people, about the Bible -- e.g. the mass killings commanded by God in OT -- many people, in their ethics-based human responses, don't think some of God's actions seem morally justifiable, and are not consistent with the character of a loving God, IF we consider only Life;  but with Life-plus-Afterlife, with a General Resurrection (described in John 5:28-29 & elsewhere) of everyone who ever lived, THEN the OT killings were temporary, to be un-done with the General Resurrection of All, when our questions about WWJD (=WWFD=WWHD = WWGD) becomes "then what? will their ultimate fate be everlasting misery (MUCH worse than just killing them during Life, makes questions about "morally justifiable" MUCH more difficult), or everlasting non-existence (neutral overall change from nothing in initial BeforeLife to nothing in final AfterLife), or everlasting joy? (with a good answer for God's actions being "morally justifiable". ]]

first-draft link for "more" in ur.htm#lpa -- Stories (re: decisions, Holocaust, policies of Stalin & God) and Principles (re: basic justice, moral luck, Calvinistic double-predestinating election in Life & Afterlife, election as service-in-Life, killings in Old Testament) 

 

Why isn't God more obvious?

I.O.U. - This is another rough/incomplete section.

[[ Here is the basic idea:   My long paper about FA-versus-EM, in Section 4.5 (asking "Does God use Maximum Persuasion?") describes how "a balance between certainty and doubt" is good for building, in believers, an ability to live by faith.  But it hurts those who choose to not believe, who (if EM is true) will suffer eternal misery, but who might have believed if the balance of evidence had been shifted so it was more persuasive.  –  Life as Educational Drama ]   /   balance of evidence -- as in my MAIN PAGE about these ideas -- with unsaved people being hurt very badly (in non-UR view, in FA or EM) if "balance of evidence" is set so low that a person doesn't say YES, so they get permanently killed (with FA) or permanently tortured (with EM). ]]

[[ here are some related rough-draft ideas, about God "hiding truth" from some people:  By contrast with the generous giving and diligent seeking in the parables of Luke 15, several places in the OT and NT state that God "hides the truth" from some people, so (during their Life) they will not repent and they will not be saved.  This "hiding truth from people" is not consistent with the character of the diligently-searching God implied in the parables of Luke 15, IF the searching will end at death.  But everything (what Jesus tells us about "divine searching" in Luke 15, and about "divine hiding") is consistent — and so are divine actions like the OT genocidal killings ordered by God, or the election by God that's emphasized in Calvinism — IF God will continue searching-and-forgiving in their Afterlife, in His efforts to achieve fairness/justice in life-plus-afterlife. - more ]]

[[ some examples of hiding truth from people are in Matthew 11:25 + Matthew 13:10-15 (re: Isaiah 6:9-10)* & Mark 4:10-12 // plus Calvinistic election, with "drawing" (literally dragging) by God (John 6:44) and more // why did Jesus teach in parables? (gci) ]]   {* Jesus told His disciples that He taught in parables "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of the heavens. But it has not been given to those ones. ..... For this reason I am speaking to them in parables — because while seeing, they are not seeing; and while hearing, they are not hearing, nor understanding. (Matthew 13:11b,13 - DLNT)"  So evidently His goal was to make things un-clear and not-understandable for some people (who may therefore end up in Hell, enduring Eternal Misery?  or hopefully they will be Reconciled or Annihilated, with divine actions that seem much more consistent with the biblically revealed character of God) instead of trying to be “more persuasive for more people” so they will not end up in Hell, especially if their ultimate fate will be Eternal Misery. } ]]

 

Binary Justice — Can it be fair?  (for a Wide Variety of Life-Situations)

With EM there is an immense difference between the fates of saved and unsaved people, who are given (by God) either totally good Eternal Joy or totally bad Eternal Misery, with everlasting ecstasy or agony.   {Similar questions would occur for FA, with its fates of Everlasting Joy or Everlasting Death, but its differences are less extreme than for EM, and it has a neutral overall result of nothing-to-nothing for the unsaved.}

Yes, I do realize that God will judge, and He has super-knowledge (omniscience) that lets Him judge in ways we don't understand.  But still, with EM the "immense difference" makes it difficult for me to imagine how it's possible that any binary justice — with God deciding either “Joy” or “Misery” — could be fair, for people in a wide variety of common life-situations.  How could God judge, in a fair way, the MANY people...

• who die when they're young, or are feeble-minded?   {is abortion The Perfect Strategy for effective evangelism?}

• who have been (if Calvinists are correct) predestined for Hell?  or (if Calvinists are wrong) who were free to choose, but they were dealt a bad hand in life because they...

    had life-experiences (including relationships with Christians & others) that made it difficult for them to say YES to God?
    never heard The Gospel explained (or illustrated by the living of Christians) in a clear, loving way?
    are devout followers of a non-Christian religion (Judaism,* Islam, Hinduism,...) that is dominant in their family & culture?  (There is a very strong correlation between “saying YES to the Gospel” and familial context, or cultural context, or geographical location, or all together.)     {Throughout history, most Jewish people have decided that Yeshua was not their Messiah.  What will God do with the majority of His chosen people?  if He sends them to Hell, what will He then do with them?  will He torment them forever, or kill them, or eventually reconcile them with Himself? }

• who are lukewarm followers of Christianity?  or who were devout followers for awhile, but then faded away?  or who think they are followers of Christ, but later He judges them to be failures?   /   What is the “dividing line” between saved and unsaved, regarding the required degrees of quality for an authentic Christian's thinking & feeling, decisions & actions?  how much of what — in faith, and living by faith, loving God & loving people, in prayer & service, evangelism, doing good works, avoiding sins of ommission & commission & impure motivations, plus believing totally-correct theology — is required to be among "the few" who will be allowed to "enter through the narrow gate"?  When we ask “what is the standard for faith and/or works?” there seems to be no way for Christians to have the certainty of knowing.  For me, and maybe others, this uncertainty is a cause of confusion, and concern for myself and others.   {more about "the few"}

 

For any of these situations the non-UR views, both EM and FA (despite its "less extreme" differences in binary results, compared with EM) produce results that are permanently bad, and with EM are infinitely bad.By contrast, UR — with personally customizable degrees of suffering for sins in a person's past, designed for afterlife-education that will produce beneficial changes in their future) — provides more flexibility for God to achieve Divine Justice during the overall experiences of each person, in their life-plus-afterlife.  For allowing degrees of suffering (as described in these Bible verses), UR is best – especially because with UR people get to “keep” what God gives them when they repent-and-change in their Afterlife.

* Even when we consider two variables — the quality (intensity) of suffering, and quantity (duration) of suffering — the result of binary justice is infinite for all unsaved people with EM because the suffering would be infinite for all, because everyone suffers for infinite time-duration.  It also would be an infinite loss for all unsaved people with FA, because everyone would lose infinitely valuable Eternal Joy.   /   But... with EM "the quality (intensity) of suffering" could produce different degrees, despite the strange mathematics of infinity where two multiplications — (a suffering of 4 on a scale of 1-10)x(infinite time) = infinity, and (a suffering of 9 on a scale of 1-10)x(infinite time) = infinity — both give the same math-result of "infinity", but the Level-3 Hell would be less “infinitely horrible” compared with Level-9 Hell.  But when we think about The Experience each Afterlife (in 3-Hell or 9-Hell) would be "an unimaginably unpleasant experience."

 

Degrees of Suffering

There is a wide variation with “luck in life,” with abilities and opportunities that include "life-experiences that made it more difficult [or easier] to say YES to God," to be saved by God.  These differences will be considered by God in His expectations — when He asks each of us “what did you do with your abilities and opportunities, with the life I gave you?” — and in His justice, when people have different rewards and different degrees of suffering.  As explained by Jesus, "from everyone who has been given much, much will be required," so a person who was given much but didn't do much will receive punishment that is more severe.   {bible verses about Degrees of Punishment}

"Degrees" with Justice that is BINARY (if EM, FA) or FLEXIBLE (if UR):  It seems difficult to produce different degrees of suffering for different unsaved people with the binary results of EM (infinite suffering for all) or FA (total death for all).  UR seems best for getting " with its flexible process,* with personally customizable afterlife-education producing beneficial changes that a person can “keep” when they believe-and-repent.  By contrast, with EM there are no beneficial changes for the person (who has been abandoned by God), and with FA whatever a person “learns in hell” is lost when they die.

* If one aspect of UR-Hell, and of suffering, will be educational super-videos, then maybe... for each person "the sorrows they receive in Afterlife will depend on the sorrows they caused in Life" and this intrinsic cause-effect relationship will help produce degrees of suffering because “if more sinning,* then more suffering.”  The sorrows caused by their sinning will include their actions (what they did) and their non-actions because if a person was given much, with many abilities and life-opportunities, but didn't do much, they will receive more intrinsic suffering due to their sorrows over their sins of omission, when they didn't use their "opportunities for doing good, for being a blessing to others."  And because these videos would be only one aspect of a person's overall experiences in Hell, the suffering also could be adjusted in other ways.   /   A person can have "more sinning" and thus "more suffering" if their sins are more numerous (so more time is required to review their sins) and/or are more harmful (so they feel more sorrow for their sins).

Maybe... another aspect of UR-Hell is the drama of uncertainty leading to anxiety and psychological suffering, if for awhile God gives people reasons to think their hell-experience might end (with Final Annihilation) or might not end (so it continues forever with Eternal Misery), even though it will end with Ultimate Reconciliation.   {more about uncertainty and suffering}

 

A Purpose for Suffering – to achieve Justice with Love:  When we think about suffering it's important to remember that with UR the suffering would occur for a purpose, for the benefit of a person.  The suffering would be personally productive because it would help a person improve, purifying them from sin so they can be reconciled with God.

 

Binary Justice and Binary Grading:  A common challenge for teachers is assigning Course Grades for students by deciding how to “draw a line” between a binary Pass and Fail (or even between a B and C) when total course-points vary continuously along a smooth curve;  and usually the class-situation is complex, because the "total points" come from combining many kinds of performing-skill (with each varying along a continuum when different students are compared) in many areas of the class.   This seems analogous to wondering how God will “draw a line” to assign Life Grades, to give the binary Pass-or-Fail results of either Extreme Joy or Extreme Misery.   {more about binary grading}

 

Evangelism by Abortion

For effective evangelism, is abortion (or infanticide, or frontal lobotomy) The Perfect Strategy?  I am NOT suggesting that we do this.  I'm just asking a tough question, calling attention to a logical dilemma for Christians who propose Eternal Misery and oppose abortion.  Why?  Because if human life (with a "soul") begins at conception, and IF there is a binary EM-afterlife so each aborted human will have either Misery or Joy, and IF a defender of EM thinks Eternal Misery for them would be unfair so they claim “the fate for unborn babies (or for people who die young, or lack the mental capacity for spiritual accountability) must be Joy”, THEN 100% of aborted babies will get Eternal Joy.

more - Questions about The Perfect Strategy are made more strange by the high percentage of “people” without Life-experience in Afterlife, because they were conceived but not born.  If they get a "free pass into Heaven" or are "sent to Hell forever" this seems strange, and unfair.  So is Annihilation (with FA, instead of UR, and certainly not EM) the only rational fate for them, for a fate that is not super-strange and not unfair?

 


 

What is necessary to achieve Divine Justice?

In the ethical principles-and-evaluations of most people, it would not be “justice” IF humans are caused to suffer horribly for an infinite time, as in Eternal Misery, if God decides to do infinite sin-punishing for the finite sin-committing that a person did in the finite time during their life on earth.

EM-believers defend its morality by claiming — because they believe God will do EM, and God is just — that evidently an eternally-lasting punishing (with EM) is necessary for justice.*  But could a finite amount of punishing, for a finite time, be sufficient for justice?

    If you use your imagination creatively, re: torment and time, are you able to imagine a very high torment-intensity and very long time-duration of temporary punishing (which in UR or FA could be very harsh and could last for a long time, it just won't be forever) that you think could be sufficient for justice?  or if the temporary punishing ended with an eternally-lasting punishment of permanent death (in FA), could this combination of punishing-plus-annihilation be sufficient?
    Or, if you want to defend EM would you respond that whatever the punishment is, no matter what is the intensity and duration, it's “not enough” unless it lasts forever and thus is infinite, and unless it has no redeeming purpose (as would occur with UR or semi-UR), because it could never be enough unless it's done “TO the person” (with no hope of productive change in the person) instead of being done “FOR the person,” for their benefit, to make them a better person, to help them become reconciled with God?   {more{restorative justice in hell?}

When we're thinking about these questions and using our imaginations, our humility should be appropriate - not too little, and not too much.  Yes, our evaluations are "based on human [not divine] moral values & ethical principles," so humility is justified.  But we should not ignore what our hearts and minds are telling us about justice, because our morals & ethics are "learned from life and [for Christians] from the Bible." [[==expand]]

* To distinguish between Human Justice and Divine Justice, defenders of EM sometimes use logically unjustifiable arguments about sins committed against an infinite God.  Or they can appeal to Isaiah 55:7 (with God declaring that "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways") without 55:8 ("as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [re: justice] my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts").

 

Jesus described differing amounts of punishment in hell, as in Luke 12:47-48 and Matthew 11:24.  But with EM the punishment will be infinite for all unsaved humans.  With FA or UR, two variables-of-suffering (its intensity and duration) can be adjusted, but with EM the only variable is intensity, if the eternal duration is identical for every unsaved human.

But with FA, permanent death is the main penalty, so for unsaved people the ultimate result is identical for all.  Therefore, UR is the only afterlife-experience that could produce truly customized variable punishment, especially if (unlike FA) we place a high value on results that continue to have significance for those who have been punished.

 

 

Thinking about a Song — Roads to Moscow

The Ethics of Afterlife:  In late 2014, listening to one of my favorite songs (Roads to Moscow, by Al Stewart) encouraged me to think more deeply about the ethics of Eternal Misery, compared with Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation, when we ask What Will Jesus Do?   I was thinking about WWJD versus WDSD, by comparing temporary punishing (by Stalin) with permanent punishing (by Jesus if He will cause Eternal Misery) and with the alternatives to permanent Eternal Misery.     {probably you already have figured it out, WDSD vs WWJD = What Did Stalin Do vs What Will Jesus Do}

The Character of God:  The Ethics of God and The Character of God are closely related, as explained in "Comparing Ethics" below.  But first you can listen to the song if you want, listening carefully so you can understand what's happening in the story.

 

spoiler alert for the paragraphs below — If you want to want to EXPERIENCE the song before reading what's below, listen to it one time (or more), maybe the first time without looking at the youtube-graphics so you can more vividly imagine what is happening and what the person is feeling.   {and you can buy the mp3, as I have}

The Story:  Roads to Moscow tells the story of a soldier during and after World War 2.  Late in the song, from 5:00 to the end at 8:03, finally the war is being won;  then the loyal soldier is on a train heading homeward, feeling relief (that his country won and he is alive) with joy (because he is going home, and soon it will be springtime), thinking about feeling safe, finding a wife, having a family, earning a living, being happy.  In the music & lyrics, we can feel his relief and joy.  But... at the border of his own country he is questioned about a minor event during the war, and because of it he is put on another train going to a different destination:

        It’s cold and damp in the transit camp, and the air is still and sullen,

        And the pale sun of October whispers the snow will soon be coming,

        And I wonder when I’ll be home again and the morning answers “Never”

        And the evening sighs, and the steely Russian skies go on forever.

 

Comparing Ethics – WDSD versus WWJD

comparing ethics:  I've listened to this song many times.  The history is accurate, and most of us think Stalin (who decided, by the policy he chose, what would happen to the soldier) was a moral monster because he wanted some of his people to live part of their finite life-time in Siberia with moderately miserable conditions.  But will God, with the policies He chooses, treat most of the people He created in a much worse way?  Imagine the feelings of a person who, if Eternal Misery is a reality,* discovers they have been sentenced to a never-ending infinite afterlife-time in Hell with extremely miserable conditions.  Does that make you want to cry?  When I compare these two situations, and think about analogy, it's difficult to avoid wondering if God (who will decide what happens in Hell) will be a Moral Monster who doesn't have sufficient love and justice, will do things that are much worse than WhatStalinDid, IF...     Or can we praise God for what He will do to unbelievers in The Lake of Fire?

Comparing Fates:  Stalin sentenced this soldier to a few decades in Siberia with moderate misery.  IF God will cause Eternal Misery (but I don't think He will, I think this "if" will not happen), He would sentence billions of unsaved people to zillions of years in Hell with extreme misery, followed by many more centuries of misery, followed by... much more misery, with eternal conscious torment that will never end.

* But I'm confident that the Bible does not teach a doctrine of Eternal Misery.  Instead we see a different fate for unsaved people — who ultimately will have relief (FA) or even joy (UR) — that is decided by a God who has abundant love and justice.     {the importance of thinking IF-Then, BECAUSE}

 

Comparing Responses:  I've had very different responses when thinking about WhatDidStalinDo and WhatWillJesusDo.

• The first time I heard Roads to Moscow, I cried.  What was done by Stalin was very sad, and profoundly unfair.  In the song, in a story based on history, the young soldier — loyal to his country, giving it four of his best years, with much good luck (letting him survive the war) and a little bit of bad luck (when he was captured for one day before rejoining the army of his own country) — would be sent to Siberia for the rest of his life.

• But I never cried earlier in life, when I thought about the much worse fate of Eternal Misery.  Before 1987 (when I began studying EM-vs-FA more carefully), apparently I was not really “believing” Jesus would inflict Eternal Misery on most of the people He created.  Why?  Although I had not been thinking carefully about this important question, I was assuming the truth of EM, but... did I really believe EM?  I truly believed that Stalin had done the horrible things in Roads, and I had empathy for the soldier, with deep sorrow.  But before 1987, I don't think I truly believed (in the deepest parts of my heart & mind) that God (who is not "safe" but is good) would do the horrible things claimed by defenders of Eternal Misery.  It was something I “just didn't think about” in my mind, or “just didn't feel” in my heart.

 

Or consider Hitler, the typical example of a person who (according to critics of UR) was so evil that God would refuse to save him. (by contrast with we who are just a little bit sinful and evil, so he should not be saved but we are worthy of being saved?)   In a brief summary, the two worst things done by Hitler were:  he plunged part of the world into a huge war that killed 80 million people;  and in the Holocaust, his Nazis made millions of people miserable for awhile (a few days or years) and then killed them.  But the finite sufferings of millions during a temporary war are small, compared with the infinite sufferings of billions that would occur IF God causes Eternal Misery for everyone who is not walking the narrow road.  The miseries of Holocaust for millions (caused by Hitler) are mild compared with Eternal Misery for billions (caused by God), IF God will cause Eternal Misery.  But there are two main kinds of strong Bible-based reasons to think this will not happen.  And according to traditional Christian theology, the same people who were hated most by Hitler — the Jewish persons who were abused and killed by him, plus many millions of other devout followers of Judaism throughout the ages — are destined for Eternal Misery, because they have rejected Jesus as their Savior.

 

 

All-Day Workers and Elder Brothers and Diligent Searching

This section examines parables, told by Jesus, about a generous owner and (in Luke 15) a forgiving father & two diligent searchers.

 

How would you feel if God was extremely generous?

An important parable of Jesus (Matthew 20:1-16) describes wage-payments for workers in a vineyard.  The people who worked for a brief time beginning near day's end are paid the same wages as those who worked a much longer day beginning in early morning.  The all-day workers thought it was unfair for late-arrivers to get the same pay, but the owner/wagepayer defended the justice of his decision by saying “you received what you were promised” and "are you envious because I am generous?"

Is it fair?  What is the meaning of this parable?  Imagine that the owner is God, and the day of work is analogous to a human lifetime of 80 years.  Some people begin “working” early, at 5 years old, and for the rest of their lives they are diligent all-day workers who are trying to love-and-serve God & people (thus obeying the first & second Great Commandments), so they serve God & people for most of their lives.  Others make the choice to love-and-serve at 20 years old, others at 40 years, or 60 years, and some on the day they die, after 79 years and 364 days of living their lives without truly believing, without loving and obeying God.  Each person receives rewards that are basically similar (but probably not the same?) from God.  Is this fair?  Although most non-Christians would say “no”, most evangelical Christians will say “yes, this is OK”, it's The Grace of God in The Gospel.  The forgiving by God (analogous to the all-day salary) is given by God as an unwarranted gift of grace;  it is not earned by the person through their merit, by their actions or attitudes.

Would this also be fair?  But will Christians still feel satisfied,* and say “this also is OK”, if God will give opportunities to love-and-serve AFTER death, if repentance occurs at 80 years and 1 day, after a brief period of education in hell?  or at 90 years or 1080 years, after 10 years or 1000 years in hell?  The possibility of post-death repentance & conversion is important for Universal Reconciliation, because biblically-supported UR is possible if “yes” but impossible if “no”.

 

How would you feel if your father forgave your brother?

A similar question — asking “what is fair?” — is featured in The Prodigal Son (with A Forgiving Father) by the response of the prodigal's older brother, who throughout his life had faithfully served his father.  When the father saw his wayward son returning home, he threw a big party, with a good reason to celebrate because "this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."  But "the older brother became angry and refused to go in" because he didn't feel the forgiving was fair, he thought the younger brother was being treated better than he deserved.

 

Do these parables — about a Generous Owner and Forgiving Father, and (earlier in Luke 15) diligent searching for a lost sheep and a lost coin — provide support for Universal Reconciliation?  Yes.  But it's not proof, because non-UR interpretations also are possible.

 

* When asking “would after-death repentance (by a person) and forgiving (by God) be OK”, Christians are influenced by the expectations for discipleship, because being a dedicated long-term "worker" isn't easy;  as Jesus says, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it." (Mark 8:34-35)   /   If we take this big decision seriously, we must "estimate the cost" before saying YES, as Jesus explains in Luke 14:25-35.

[[ But whatever you have “lost" for the sake of following Jesus, you "will receive a hundred times as much [now] and [later] will inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19:27-30, with similar promises in Mark 10:28-30 and Luke 18:28-30.  As explained by Jim Elliott, "He is no fool, who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose."   [[also - if you find valuable treasure, if you're wise you will sell all you have, so you can buy the treasure and keep it - use this before Jim Elliott  /  and maybe 1 Cor 3, re: works that do or don't survive fire-testing/burning ]]

 

Mixed Motivations when Thinking about Reconciliation

All people who have healthy emotions and compassion — especially Christians who are commanded to “love our neighbors as we love ourselves” — should hope for Universal Reconciliation so all of our neighbors will be reconciled with God and with other people.  But... each of us can have psychological reasons for not wanting everyone to be reconciled eventually, for instead wanting some people to be damned forever.

It's important to distinguish between two different decisions that are made by each Christian:

    • How sincerely and strongly do you HOPE for the eventual salvation-and-reconciliation of all people, including those who were unsaved at the time of their death?
    • How OPTIMISTIC are you, based on your evaluations of biblical evidence, that this hope will occur in the afterlife-reality of all people?
 

In principle, these two decisions — your hoping and your optimism, for biblical reasons and for psychological-sociological reasons — can be independent.  In reality, each can affect the other, because every person wants to reduce their cognitive dissonance.

    For example, IF for any reasons (those described below, or others) your hope for Reconciliation-in-Afterlife is decreased, this will tend to influence your evaluations in ways that decrease your optimism for Reconciliation-in-Afterlife.
    On the other hand, you might have a very strong desire for everyone to be saved by God, but... when you carefully examine the biblical evidence (like the noble Bereans), you conclude that this will not happen.  If you have this combination, you would be thinking “if the Bible teaches it, I will believe it” and although you are hopeful that everyone will be saved-and-reconciled, you are not optimistic that this will happen.

Both of these interactions between hope and optimism, and other interactions, do occur for all people but are stronger for some than for others.  Below you will see motivations that — for some people, but not others* — can decrease the strength-and-sincerity of hoping for Universal Reconciliation.

* For each potential reason, ask yourself “how does this affect ‘what I want’ for people who die as unsaved sinners?” and “how does this affect my evaluations of the biblical evidence for Universal Reconciliation, and against it?”

 

Possible Reasons to (probably sub-consciously) want Damnation instead of Reconciliation:

Here are some reasons that you see below now, and (i.o.u.) will be developed more fully later, probably in April/May 2018.

• Feeling "this isn't fair" as with All-Day Workers or Faithful Older Brother. (especially considering Big Costs of Discipleship) (but also Big Rewards, in Life & Afterlife)

• Wanting relief of cognitive dissonance that occurs if Your BIG Decision (with BIG Costs) will save you from The BIG Penalty of Eternal Misery. (as in Pascal's Wager)

• Influences at Different Levels - Individual (psychology) + Group (sociology of "tribes" with group pressures, rewards & punishments for contributing to group).

• Wanting Revenge, for outsiders ("them") to "get what they deserve". (as individuals, and as group-tribes)

• wanting Control (a major factor in social/political motives-for-EM after Christianity became combined with political/economic power, → mixed motives, good + bad)

 

Divine Generosity

The beginning of this section asks "How would you feel if God was extremely generous?", as illustrated by parables of Jesus.  How should faithful all-day workers feel about late-arriving workers?  And how should a faithful elder brother feel about his prodigal younger brother?

In each parable, the faithful feel that “it isn't fair” when the person in charge (the owner or father) decides to be extremely generous.  For similar psychological reasons, a faithful Christian can feel “it isn't fair” so they want some of their neighbors (those who die as non-Christians) to be damned instead of reconciled.  In these parables, the ungracious response (by a faithful worker or faithful brother) is conscious and is openly expressed to others, externally;  but for a faithful Christian the response could be conscious or sub-conscious, and could be hidden internally, thought-and-felt in silence without other people knowing, and (if it's unconscious) maybe without the person knowing.

 

Hopeful Universalism – All Christians should hope, but do they?

If you think you'll be "saved" by God, do you want others to join you in your joyful life with God, even if before death they continue saying NO to God? (this could happen with UR) / But if their fate will be FA or EM, with great loss, how strong/sincere/deep is your empathetic sorrow for them? {empathy and kindness}

 

FORGIVING

FAIR ? -- [[ re: feelings of resentment, as by the all-day workers and elder brothers in these parables,  many people are irritated by forgiving.  Why? (in website of Robert Enright, barriers to forgiving -- and elsewhere Enright describes, more clearly, examples of resistance-to-forgiving, and reasons for it) / being resentful if we anticipate short-term workers getting the same rewards as us, even though we have been longer-term workers;*

FORGIVE or GET REVENGE ? -- many people have a desire for revenge, so “they” will “get what they deserve.” -- as in some psalms? (we "turn other cheek" and "love our enemies" but want God to hate our enemies and smite them)

 

[[ I think the Biblical support for EM is much weaker than for FA.  Therefore, I wonder “why should the idea of Eternal Misery (when it’s happening to others) be so appealing?”  And why has EM become “the traditional view” that is in the statement of What We Believe for most Bible-believing churches? ]]

 

[[ Maybe the situations in which we ask “is it fair?” (and the answers we propose, and our motives, attitudes, actions) are one part of what God is looking for when the thoughts of many hearts are being revealed. ]]

 

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive Dissonance:  As individuals and as groups, we want our ideas (and actions) to be logically consistent, so we adjust our ideas (and actions) in an effort to achieve consistency. This leads to mutual influences, at the levels of individuals and groups, between worldviews and science.

SMUG SATISFACTION because "I made a good decision" -- Is dramatic “turn or burn” evangelism motivated by this smugness, or by a genuine empathetic concern to help others by warning them so they can repent and be saved?

DISSONANCE -- [[ this also connects with a common psychological motive, because each of us wants to reduce cognitive dissonance by being consistent in our thinking (by reaching what we assume are correct conclusions) and in our thinking-and-actions.

 

PERSONAL BIG DECISION - In a common mixed motive, all of us want to reduce cognitive dissonance by increasing confidence that our big decision (of saying YES or NO to God),** which we must make based on insufficient evidence, is a wise decision because we are avoiding the infinitely horrible suffering of Eternal Misery.

Or is your attitude a satisfaction / do you feel satisfaction about what you are avoiding (and if this fate is extremely bad, as with EM, your gain-by-avoiding is increased) because you already have “made a good/wise decision” to follow Jesus? [as in Pascal's Wager, avoiding infinitely bad result]

COST -- [[ Christians who believe in EM will will want to be confident that our big decision (of saying YES to God),* which we must make based on insufficient evidence, is a wise decision because we are avoiding the infinitely horrible suffering of Eternal Misery.

COST -- * Being a dedicated long-term "worker" isn't easy;  as Jesus says (Mark 8:34-35), "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it."  /  ** If we take this big decision seriously, we must "estimate the cost" before saying YES, as Jesus explains in Luke 14:25-35.

 

Two Levels — Individual (psychology) and Group (sociology)

most (maybe all?) factors at individual level also operate at group level,

all influencing-factors regarding group pride can produce group pressures to conform, because if we're wrong (and we don't like those who question us, as in "shoot the messenger" response to those who bring "bad news" that you-all might be wrong)

GROUP PRESSURES -- #relb - @groupthink - social/peer pressure - expectations -

GROUP PRIDE -- when wonder, with worry-and-displeasure, how could so many (holding the "traditional" view) have been so wrong for so long about such an important doctrine? - could all of us be wrong? could I be wrong? if motivated by pride, respond "no, this cannot be, it's an insult to us," and we don't like you for bringing it to our attention. (shoot the messenger)

[[ re: Christians having self-defensive pride for the intellectual reputation of our church as a whole, some people ask "how is it possible that so many of us (holding the "traditional" view of EM) could have been so wrong for so long, about such an important doctrine?  (a self-defensive attitude thinks "no, this cannot be, it's an insult to us, to the community of Christians")   This would mean that as a community our decision-making, when we reached conclusions based on Bible-evidence plus logical evaluation, was in error.

 

DOCTRINE

concern that salvation (of self + others) depends on the "works" of believing correct theology, so will FIGHT over doctrines, and PUNISH -- in an extreme form, this was a motivation for the inquisition (link) especially if believe God will cause eternal torment, then it's ok for us to follow His lead and cause temporary torment now

I think all discussing can be beneficial, and some judging is beneficial / not postmodern relativism about doctrines based on Bible

DOCTRINAL CORRECTNESS/PURITY AND UNITY -- questions about church unity in fellowship & beliefs? - unity, diversity, charity / In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and, in all things, charity. / "unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things" or more literally as "in necessary things unity; in uncertain things freedom; in everything compassion"

 

wanting to maintain FEAR-motives -- #history threats to gain POLITICAL CONTROL of population - what WE can do to you now, + GOD can do much worse (infinitely worse) later

related concerns about effects of not EM (with FA or UR) or of not FA (if UR)

 

Practical Effects of Fear

is it useful (for individuals and for society) when people believe that God will cause Eternal Misery?

fear-motives, effects on evangelism -- some even claim "I wouldn't be a Christian if not for fear of EM-Hell,"

JOY-motives -- Richard Beck, The Urgency of Joy: On Evangelism and Mission says,

    "If you ever hear a person raise these questions about mission [why do evangelism if eventually everyone will be saved], evangelism or calling people out of a life of sin you are dealing with a person who doesn't really believe in the good news. Because hellfire appears to be the only motive for evangelism these people can imagine. They can't compute a proclamation of joy. Hellfire also appears to be the only motive for calling people out of a life of sin. No hell, no reason to give up sin. Sin, in this view, is the best! Sin is the party, not the Kingdom."

and he concludes,

    "If hell is the only motive for coming to God, if sinners are the one's having the most fun, well, of course these "turn or burn" Christians are unhappy. They've been called out of a fun and joyous life into the Kingdom of God where all is proper, boring, structured, grey and lame. But hey, at least they aren't going to hell! So there they sit in their churches, jealous and grumpy that the world is throwing a party that they can't attend because they had to dress up and go to church on Sunday. No wonder these sorts of Christians want the world to go to hell. They are jealous.
    For my part, I'm not jealous. I believe in the good news. I believe in the abundant life. Any missional or evangelistic fervor I have is the urgency of joy. I believe that, as the title of Tony Campolo's book says, the Kingdom of God is a party." [end of quoting Richard Beck]

 

[[ questions - will a belief in FA or (especially) UR decrease motivations to convert or to evangelize? (link to paragraph with these questions) // if no EM, if no FA, with UR --> no decisions (live it up with sinful pleasures, selfish, no god) AND no evangelism/mission

These Motives for Conversion (influenced by thinking about EM, FA, and UR) affect Motives for Evangelism.

motives for evangelism [by saved] and motives for conversion [by unsaved]

[[ Motivations when we Estimate Probabilities and Choose Actions

 

A Variety of Complex Idea-Influencing Factors

Each of us has a worldview — our view of the world, used for living in the world — that includes our views of nature and science, and much more.  Some groups of people tend to have a "collective worldview."

Complexity:  Our thoughts-and-actions are influenced by worldviews and related factors, operating in a variety of ways (psychological, sociological, pragmatic,...) that include personal desires (for self-esteem, respect from others, security, adventure, money, power,...), group pressures, opinions of authorities (who are acknowledged due to expertise, personality, and/or power) and cultural thinking habits, metaphysical worldviews (about the nature of reality and purpose of life), and ideological principles (about "the way things should be" in society). These factors interact with each other, and operate in a complex social context involving individuals and groups, the scientific community, and society as a whole. {Worldviews are influenced by science, which is a "cultural authority" in the modern world, mainly because it has been so useful for understanding nature and developing technology. Due to this authority, science influences many people's views of "the way the world is, and why."} - quoted from my Origins-FAQ, Part 1

 


 

Does the Grace of God vanish when we die?

Consider the claim in this hymn:

    Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
    there is no shadow of turning with Thee;
    Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
    as Thou has been, Thou forever will be.
 

If you believe in Eternal Misery, then...  is it possible for you to believe that the compassions of God will "fail not" because what God has been and is now, He forever will be?   or, if EM is true, are most people (all except "the few") loved by God, with the possibility of gracious forgiving, only during Life – and then God changes His attitude?  does the love of God vanish in Afterlife?  for those who reject the Grace of God during life, does temporary forgiving (by God) change into eternal unforgiving (by God) at the moment of their death?   {if "yes" this would be an extremely strong reason to FEAR death! }

 

What changed between pages 70 and 200?  Consider the character-and-actions of God in these two descriptions by the same author:

    Page 70:  "Each of us is loved by God, and loved in a way that is different – and better – than the way of human love. ..... God's love is different. God's love is permanent and unchanging. ... While others may love you today and abandon you tomorrow, God's love never changes. ... nothing can separate us from God's love. ... Why would God love you? Because that's who God is: he's love."  (pages 69-71 of The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist by Craig Groeschel)
    Page 200:  Later in the same book, on pages 199-201, "God has created a universe with a heaven – and a hell. ... Hell is a place of unspeakable suffering. ... In hell, there will be complete separation from God and people. ... Imagine the physical pain of endless suffering, the emotional void of hurting without anyone to comfort you, and the knowledge that you'll suffer alone with no relief coming – ever."

Evidently the author, with a major change from what he says on page 70, thinks that "nothing [except death] can separate us from God's love."

 

But on pages 70-71, he summarizes "three moving stories [told by Jesus, recorded in Luke 15] that illustrate God's love," with "a shepherd who had a hundred sheep that he cared for" and "a widow who had ten valuable coins" and "a father who had two sons."  How do these stories illustrate God's love?  The author says, "When one [sheep] wandered away, the shepherd left the ninety-nine to find the missing one" and "when she lost one [coin], she looked everywhere, tearing her house apart until she found it" and "when one son left home, the father waited daily for him to return home."  But will the searching (and forgiving) end at a person's death, when God decides that they must be eternally separated from His love?

 

Don't Wait until Too Late

Maybe... God will graciously provide opportunities for repentance after death, by continuing to persistently search for us in the same way we would search for a valuable sheep, coin, or son that was lost.   {does lost = destroyed?}

But... maybe not.  Either way, we should listen to – and respond to – the warnings of Jesus.  In the context of Matthew 24-25, Jesus commands us to "be ready" like a faithful servant (24:45-51) and wise virgins (25:1-13).  He describes a good attitude for a guest ("all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted") or host (who should invite the poor, crippled, lame, blind) for a wedding feast (Luke 14:7-14) so "you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."  And if you "make excuses" you will regret missing the great banquet (Luke 14:15-24) where (Mathew 22:1-14) you must have suitable "wedding clothes."   /   What is the great banquet-feast?  Maybe... it's for extra rewards instead of basic salvation.     {more about extra rewards and "judgments" for Christians}

 

Will everyone be Purified by Fire?

And maybe... in the afterlife, educational judging-and-punishing will occur for everyone, for both “unsaved” and “saved” people.  Jesus says, in Mark 9:49 after 4 warnings about hell (Gehenna)*, that "everyone will be salted with fire."  Paul says to believers in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, "each one should build with care" because "their work will be shown for what it is, ...revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. ... If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames."   [[* although Jesus is merciful and forgiving, He will judge sin harshly (WWJD), and He warns us (in Mark 9 and Matthew 5-7) that it's better to lose a hand/eye/foot than to sin]]

Maybe this "fire" will be part of the personally customized educational experiences (in life-plus-afterlife) that God prepares for every person, both saved and unsaved.  The fire-experience will be much more difficult for unbelievers, for those who “say NO to God” during life.  But hopefully the eventual result — the sanctification of each person — will be similar, and everyone will be reconciled with God.

[[ why did Jesus talk about hell? it seems that His emphasis was motivating all of His listeners, both current believers & unbelievers, to love-and-obey in their thinking/actions, in everything they were thinking/doing; His emphasis was on the importance of holy living ]] [[ The 2 Great Commandments, with #1 (loving God) forming foundation for #2, as in prayer.htm ]]

[[ eternal security? Once Saved, Always Saved? in Matthew 7 when Jesus will say "I never knew you" to "many who will say [didn't we...]" -- this is a difficult possibility to consider for Christians who claim FA or EM, who may think "the warnings might also be for me, not just for those other people" -- there is narrow path (basics & with details) that only "a few" find and travel on ]]

pages:  Judgment of ChristiansThe Future Judgment of the Believer & The Doctrine of Rewards: The Judgment Seat (Bema) of Christwhen God will judge us & What is the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema Seat of Christ? & judgment begins at the house of God

video (51:53) by Laura Robinson, Hell Is For Christians? Eternal Judgment as a Unique Emphasis in Matthew - from 2nd Conference (2015) of Rethinking Hell.

more

 

 

 

Evangelism — Motivations for Believing, for Becoming (and Remaining) a Follower of Christ

 

The Whole News  ( is it Good News + Bad News ? )

Let's compare three evangelistic descriptions of The Gospel (The Good News), using three views (EM, FA, UR) of the afterlife for unsaved humans.  All views propose the same afterlife end-state for believers (it's Eternal Joy in Heaven), but disagree about the end-state for unbelievers.

    • If our assumption is Eternal Misery (EM) we can tell current non-believers The Whole News, which includes The Good News (that "God loves you, and offers a Wonderful Plan for Your Life" that includes an Afterlife with Eternal Joy in Heaven) and The Bad News (that if you die without repenting/believing, then God hates you and has a Terrible Plan for The Rest Of Your Life, for Your Zillions Of Years In Hell).     {and The Bad News is not just for you, but also for some of your family & friends, and most strangers, if only "a few" will be saved}   {in the song "Amazing Grace" we see The Good News in God's promise, for saved people, that "When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise, Than when we've first begun."  The corresponding Bad News, for unsaved people, is that "When you've been there ten zillion years, You've no less days to endure torment, Than when it first began."}
    • By contrast, with Final Annihilation (FA) we can explain The Good News that God offers a very good life now, and a better life later, but (with Semi-Bad News) you must “say YES” during this life or you lose both opportunities.
    • With Universal Reconciliation (UR) The Good News remains the same, but for an unbeliever The Bad News becomes Semi-Good News because, after temporary relationship troubles with God (now in life, and later in afterlife)* ultimately everyone will have a wonderful relationship with God.   /   * We should emphasize that with UR a person's overall experience will be much better if they say YES now, ASAP, because this decision lets them enjoy Life-with-God now, and later they avoid the Misery-in-Hell that, although it won't be eternal if UR is eventually the final result, will be very unpleasant.
    Also, a semi-UR hybrid view proposes that God graciously provides additional opportunities for unsaved people to repent during their afterlife in Hell, but any people who continue saying “no” are mercifully given non-immortal FA with Death, not immortal EM in Hell.

 

Motivations (for Believing/Converting, Evangelizing) - Part 1

Now let's look at possible motives (of love, joy, fear) for converting, for truly believing God and continuing to live by faith, for continually saying YES to God.  In the following sections (through Motivations with Threats, and Pascal's Wager)

When a person (either Christian* or non-Christian) thinks about The Whole News — re: The Wonderful Plan offered by God, and the pros & cons of saying YES or NO — what are their main motivations?   /   After a person says YES to God (in a big decision), many times during each day they must choose (in small decisions) whether to say yes or no.   (non-Christians also make yes-or-no decisions, because God is communicating with all of us, generally through the Bible and individually through Holy Spirit}

 

In all areas of life, Total Motivation is a combination of many motivations.  When we're thinking about The Gospel, it can be useful to think about our main motivations for “saying YES to God” in two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic:

    intrinsic life-process:  In this life, you want to “do the right things” by loving/serving other people and loving/serving God, by asking God to help you overcome the slavery of sin (e.g. Romans 6-8) so you can more effectively love-and-serve people & God, and get more true joy during life.*
    extrinsic afterlife-results:  In the afterlife, you want to get Joy in Heaven and avoid Misery in Hell.  You hope for Heaven, and fear Hell.

Although I'm calling these motivations intrinsic (doing life-process) and extrinsic (receiving afterlife-results), all motives are internal because all contribute to how a person thinks about their strategies-and-actions aimed at “getting what they want” in their whole life as a whole person.

* These are "main motivations" but all people also have other motivations for doing intrinsic life-process in ways that are beneficial by loving-and-serving people and pursuing joy.

 

We also can view these motivations (and others) as positive or negative

    positive incentives (to get Joy in Afterlife, to love-and-serve and get more true joy in Life),
    negative incentive (to avoid Misery in Afterlife) due to fear.

 

How are these motivations, for saying YES instead of NO, affected by differing views of the afterlife?     { In the following comparisons, I'll use mathematical abbreviations:  approximately equal (≈);  greater than (>), or much greater than (>>). }

 

• The extrinsic fear-based negative incentive for afterlife-results — by fearing endless Misery (with EM), or final Death (with FA) — is greatest with EM, by a large amount, and is least with UR:  EM >> FA >> UR.*   When we move from EM through FA to UR, we see a decreasing of fear-motives and probably (as explained below) an increasing of love-motives, and both of these seem good.   {some kinds of “fearing God” are spiritually beneficial for our thinking-and-actions, but other kinds are not; for example, probably each of us (both unsaved and saved) will be "salted with fire" in our Afterlife}   /   My statement that fear-motive "is greatest with EM" is based on my own feelings;  although I would fear being dead forever, being in misery forever would be much worse.  I think most people, but maybe not all, will share these feelings.

• The extrinsic positive incentive for afterlife-results — of hoping for Heaven — is similar in all views:  EM ≈ FA ≈ UR .

 

• Is the intrinsic positive incentive for life-process — for wanting to "do the right thing(s)" by loving/serving others & God — also similar for all views?  Or could there be a difference, for some people?

    Each view offers the same Wonderful Plan for the remainder of life on Earth, as explained in my page about prayer, so the incentive to love-and-serve God might be EM ≈ FA ≈ UR.
    But when non-Christians imagine whether they can fully love God — so they can trust Him and live obediently by faith, so He can supply them with the love & wisdom they need for fully loving other people — I think most non-Christians* will find it easier to imagine fully loving God with UR (or FA), and much more difficult with EM.     { In fact, many people say NO because they decide that “if God will cause Eternal Misery for some people – perhaps most peoplethen I could not sincerely trust Him and love Him.” }   
    In Principle versus In Practice:  The positive process-incentive (wanting to fully love God and follow his Wonderful Plan) can be similar for all views, in principle.  But in practice for some people, living God's Wonderful Plan will be easier and more effective with UR (or FA), compared with EM. (i.e., UR ≈ FA ≈ EM for some, but for others UR ≈ FA > EM, or UR > FA > EM)   But UR has the least fear-incentive to persevere, so if you believe UR maybe it would be easiest to “abandon the faith” when living-by-faith gets tough?

* Using empathy, "I think most non-Christians will find it easier to imagine fully loving God with UR (or FA)."  But using self-empathy, I know — because I can self-observe my own thinking — that it's much easier for me to fully love God when I ask WWJD and I respond by expecting this to be UR (or even FA) instead of EM.  And I think most other Christians will have feelings similar to mine, whether or not they want to acknowledge their own feelings about EM.

 

Fear-Based Motivating with Threats

Love-Based Motives:  It will be much easier for a person to become a devoted follower of Christ if their main motives are intrinsic-and-positive, if their heart's desire is to improve their life-process now by more effectively loving/serving other people and loving/serving God.

Fear-Based Motives:  By contrast, being motivated by the threat of Eternal Misery is extrinsic (wanting to receive afterlife-results later) and negative (wanting to avoid Misery).

Bribes and Threats:  We can think about analogies between motivations due to an extrinsic bribe (as when impoverished “rice Christians” tell a missionary that they have decided to follow Christ, but their main motivation is to gain material rewards) and an extrinsic threat (when people tell themselves that they have decided to follow Christ mainly due to sincere repentance because they want to change their sinful ways-of-living so they can more fully love/serve God & people, but a major motivation is their desire to avoid Eternal Misery in Hell).  Or maybe a major motivation is the extrinsic bribe of getting Eternal Joy in Heaven.  Each of these conversions is significantly motivated by bribes or threats, so we can ask “is it legitimate?” and wonder if it's a good foundation for authentic discipleship, for building a Christ-Centered Life in the Kingdom of God at the levels of individuals and communities.

 

The Purpose of Salvation:  What is a person “saved from”?  Are you saved from eternal misery in hell (and thus saved from God who would make you eternally miserable)* or are you saved from the slavery of sin (as explained in Romans 6) and saved from the penalty of death?

* With salvation, does God save us from God?  Matthew Slick, of Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, says:  "Jesus saves.  But what does He save us from?  Does Jesus save us from ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, our temperament, or even our sins.  No.  He saves us from the wrathful judgment of God upon us, due to us because of our sinfulness. ...  Does universalism lead us to urgency?  Does it lead us to fear the wrath to come?  No.  It doesn't.  It removes the urgency.  It removes the fear of God."     {motivations from love & fear - practical effects for living}

 

This section, about motivations, is important when we ask how human motives-and-decisions-and-actions are affected by each of the 3 views.  While reading the responses below, it's important to distinguish between how a rational person should respond (they should say YES to God” now) and how actual sinful people will respond ("in complex ways" that "vary from one person to another").  Both of these — the "should" and "will" — are important, although being true to

Advocates for Eternal Misery are worried that:

    non-Christians won't seriously consider The Gospel, or won't choose to say YES, without the fear-based threat of EM-Hell.  Instead they will just think (with UR) “even if I say NO to God now, I will be fine eventually” or (with FA) “death wouldn't be so bad.”
    Christians won't be motivated to do evangelism if they are thinking that non-Christians “will be fine” (with UR) or (with FA) “will just die.”     { two responses:  Compared with the fear-threats of EM, there are much better reasons to tell people about the love of God.  And I would be much more motivated to share the Good News if I didn't have to “explain away” the common assumption of EM, to explain why The Good News is not Extremely Bad News for the majority of people who are not among the "few" who travel the narrow path and "enter through the narrow gate... that leads [immediately] to life [beginning now]." }
    everyone will be tempted to say “we can do whatever we want, and we will” if their sinful desires are not restrained by their fear of Eternal Misery.     { A deterrent is more effective when it's unpleasant AND is perceived to be plausible, if most people think it's likely to happen.  A bad punishment that we think “probably will occur” is a more effective deterrent than a punishment that we think “probably won't occur.”  Thus, if we think the very unpleasant hell-experience of UR seems like “the kind of treatment that a God who is just-and-loving would do,” UR-Hell could be more effective as a deterrent, compared with the punishment of EM-Hell that seems so unimaginably horrible, so ridiculously unfair, that we think “God probably won't do this.” }   { Jesus tells us that "everyone will be salted with fire", to increase our confidence in the probability of punishing-by-fire that might be a way to purify saved people, eliminating their sinful nature, making them suitable for Joyous Life in the Heavenly Kingdom of God, and might also be a corrective experience for unsaved people. }
 

I.O.U. - Regarding each of these concerns, later I'll say a little more here, and more in Motivations, Part 2, plus linking to pages that say a lot more.  Here is a brief outline of some ideas that will be developed more fully, later:

Is fear-based evangelism necessary?  The author of a book urging us to not be a "Christian Atheist" (who unfortunately is living as if God doesn't exist) is worried by research showing that "less than half believe in hell" due to "the ramifications" because "if hell didn't exist, unbelievers would easily reject Christ with no fear of God whatsoever, and believers would be unmotivated to share their faith in Christ with unbelievers." (page 199)     {this author also describes The Love of God - before Death (yes) and after Death (no?)}

Paul, after he explained God's gracious Gospel-generosity in Romans 3-5, anticipated that a reader might be asking "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" and he responds "By no means!  We are those who have died to sin;  how can we live in it any longer?"  Should the gracious Gospel-generosity of God, with UR, lead to similar asking and responding?

 

[[ what is The Good News?  is it mainly a love-based promise, because God is providing an opportunity to be reconciled with Him, so He can supply us with what we need for better living now, and later give us Eternal Joy?  or is it mainly a fear-based promise, because God is providing an opportunity to escape from the Eternal Misery that He wants to inflict on everyone who isn't "saved" during Life?  or is it both? ]]

 

Praising God for Hell

It's difficult to praise God for judgment-and-hell if we believe the final results will be permanently unproductive with either FA (permanent death) or EM (permanent misery).

By contrast, with UR it's easier to enthusiastically ("with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind") praise God, and proudly proclaim that the results will be permanently productive for everyone, because God can achieve justice and rehabilitation.  With UR the judgment and the punishment (during unpleasant education in Hell) can be just and also loving;  it can be beneficial for everyone by producing justice for sinners (who get retribution) and justice for their victims (who get restoration), plus rehabilitation for sinners (who get liberated from their slavery to sin, so they can get reconciliation with people and with God).     {the concept of authoritative parenting may be helpful in understanding UR-punishment}

 

Pascal's Wager

IF the difference in results, for saying YES or NO, are extremely large — IF in your afterlife you'll get either a huge positive (Eternal Joy in Heaven) or huge negative (Eternal Misery in Hell, or Eternal Death) — then YES is “a good way to bet” even if you think the claims about Heaven or Hell have a low probability of being true.

The "huge positive" occurs with any of the views: EM, FA, UR.  But a "huge negative" occurs only with FA or (especially) EM, so does this — to avoid a bad surprise — give us a reason to proclaim that The Good News includes The Bad News of FA or EM?

One major difficulty with Pascal's Wager is that an all-knowing God knows your motives so you cannot “fool God” by pretending to love Him if your actual motives are mainly due to bribery (getting Joy) or threats (avoiding Death or Misery).

 

SUMMARY

Here is a summary of my conclusions about motivations for saying YES to God:  an extrinsic fear-incentive (to avoid Misery or Death in an afterlife) is most with EM and least with UR, but an intrinsic love-incentive (to love God during life) often, but not always, is most with UR and least with EM.     { For both kinds of incentive, FA is “in the middle” while EM and UR are at the extremes. }

There are two ways for a view-of-hell to cause a response of NO:   1) if a person thinks the character of God is very bad with EM (or FA) so they cannot, or will not, believe in Him or love Him;   2) if they think “hell wouldn't be so bad” with UR (or FA).

 


  

Some Evangelistic Responsibilities

 

• a responsibility - Christians should accurately describe what the Bible teaches:  We should carefully examine the Bible as a whole, and ask “what is the Biblical evidence for and against each view?”so with appropriate humility (not too little and not too much) we can estimate the probability that each view is true.     { It seems wise to be appropriately humble if we cannot be certain about what the Bible teaches?   Why do we not have certainty? }

 

• a responsibility - Christians should share The Good News, because Jesus commanded His followers (Matt 28:18-20 - Mark 16:15,19-20 - Luke 24:47 - John 20:21 - Acts 1:8 ...) to "go and make disciples of [people in] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

 

• a responsibility - Christians should explain The Whole News, the combination of definite Good News and possible Bad News, in an attempt to...

    avoid giving False Hope:  In some if-then stories a response begins with "oops, if I had not believed UR [or FA]..." to acknowledge this person's huge mistake (IF the afterlife-reality is EM) of not letting the fear-incentive (in EM) persuade them to say YES and thus avoid EM.  Therefore, we have a responsibility to avoid giving a false hope that could lead to the bad surprise that would occur if:  a person lives their Life expecting UR, but in Afterlife they realize their fate will be FA or EM;  or they might expect FA, but get EM.
    avoid causing False Fear:  When a Christian says "EM [or FA] will happen" or even "...might happen" they are promoting thoughts (about EM or FA) that can produce deep anxieties, and they are encouraging fear-based motives that, compared with love-based motives, are less likely to be "a solid foundation for faith-based living."

These two conflicting responsibilities are a tough dilemma for Christians.  Due to biblical ambiguity about the afterlife, I'm confused because no matter what we do, it seems impossible to be certain that we're not "giving false hope" or "causing false fear."  What should we do?  I'm not sure.  Maybe... we can respond with appropriate humility (not too little, not too much) by explaining what does and doesn't seem clear in the Bible, and why?   {reasons for biblical ambiguity: why and why?}

 

• a responsibility - Christians should accurately describe the Character of God:  When we ask What Will Jesus Do (and WWJD=WWFD=WWHD = WWGD) our answer is an important statement about the character of God.  I think most people will agree with my feeling that the character of God seems best with UR, and worst with EM in which His gracious forgiving changes (at the moment of a person's death) into vengeful unforgiving.     {more about responsibly describing the character of God}

 

 

Some Evangelistic Responsibilities  (an earlier version, with more details for two of the parts)

• a responsibility - Christians should explain The Whole News (the definite Good News, and possible Bad News) to avoid giving False Hope:  In the if-then scenarios later, two responses begin with "oops, if I had not believed UR [or FA]..." to acknowledge this person's huge mistake (if EM is true) of not letting the fear-incentive (in EM) persuade them to say YES and thus avoid EM.*  This mistake could happen to a person, and the people they have influenced.  Therefore, when Christians influence others we have a responsibility to avoid giving false hope, which might occur (or it might not) if we encourage a person to believe a view for which it's possible to have “worse results than are expected” so a BAD Surprise is possible.  This responsibility is a motivation to claim that the worst-case possibility of EM is probably taught in the Bible, and thus (for Christians who believe that what the Bible teaches is true) it's probably true.    { This logic-of-responsibility is similar to Pascal's Wager, which is a strategy for deciding “the best way to bet” when your outcome might be an infinite positive (Eternal Joy) or infinite negative (Eternal Misery or Eternal Death). }

* You could say NO for a variety of reasons, not just due to a lack of belief in the threat of EM (or FA).  For example, you might think EM is the most probable of the Christian views, but...

    you think EM isn't highly probable compared with atheism or another view, so you decide to gamble despite the huge risk;
    or you may not be able to trust-and-love God if you think He will do EM, so you won't say YES;
    or maybe you just want to “live the way YOU want,” without God.

 

• a responsibility - Christians should accurately describe the Character of God:  If you think you know with certainty (mistakenly, in my opinion) that EM is true, then you should say “this is what God will do” and explain why EM is justifiable, even though most people think it does not achieve justice, and is not merciful or loving.  You may want to join some people who claim (although I strongly disagree with their assumptions, logic, and conclusion) that EM is a necessary part of God's character if He is loving and just.   /   But what should you say if your careful study of the whole Bible leads, as I think it should, to a humble conclusion that EM may not be true?  Or, if you conclude that EM probably is not true, you will feel sadness when you hear a claim for EM which declares that God has decided to cause Eternal Misery for most humans, for the "many" who are not allowed to enter through "the narrow gate".  Like me, you will react with sadness (and maybe with frustration about un-clarity in the Bible)* because declarations that “God will do EM” do not accurately describe the character of God.   Instead, claims for EM cause people to think God is less loving (less merciful, gracious, forgiving) and less just than He actually is.

Typically, proponents of FA think the character of God is "not accurately described" by claims for EM, while proponents of UR think this inaccuracy happens for both EM and (to a lesser extent) FA.  Because we think God will do FA or UR, not EM, we are sad when people "say NO to God" because — when He is described in EM, if at the moment of a person's death, His gracious forgiving changes to vengeful unforgiving — they are not favorably impressed by the character of God.

* Unfortunately, EM is the “traditional” view that currently is assumed (usually without careful thinking) by most Christians and non-Christians;  therefore, we must divert attention away from The Good News because it's necessary to explain why, based on a careful study of the Bible, we think EM probably isn't true.  This assumption often is ineffective for evangelism, because an unbeliever can rationally think “wow, even if I could cause Eternal Misery I wouldn't want to do it, so if God has the power to cause Eternal Misery and will decide ‘yes, I want to do it’, then I cannot sincerely trust God and love Him.”

 

Should we be humble in what we claim?

Earlier I describe a responsibility of Christians — we should "accurately describe what the Bible teaches" — and ask a question:  "Is appropriate humility wise if we cannot be certain about what the Bible teaches?"

Although I don't think the following suggestions for humility are a "responsibility" for Christians, they are ideas worth considering.

 

I.O.U. - Later, the ideas in this section will be developed more fully.  One part of the changes will be to add a summary of the following ideas from Steve & Brad.

 

In the conclusion of his book about views of hell, Steve Gregg says:

    I remain genuinely undecided, at the time of this writing, as to which view [EM, FA, or UR] best represents the complete synthesis of the biblical information. .....  Those [readers] who find themselves suddenly undecided upon an issue they thought they had understood previously may be wanting to ask, "How, then, am I to answer when unbelievers, or even other Chritians, ask about hell?  To this I can only recommend that one be very truthful.  My own approach is to truthfully say, "The Bible is not as clear as I once believed concerning the details of God's final judgment, and various theories exist among Christians.  However, the Bible is clear on the one thing we need to know, namely, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that God calls all men to repent and submit to His authority.  Those who do so genuinely will be reconciled to God, and need not worry about the precise nature of the fate that they have escaped."

Similarly in his Reflections on Universalism: Hermeneutics and Proclamation, Brad East says:

    The essential logic is that, with regard to a question so ambiguous, contested, and ultimately unknowable, Christians should have the humility to halt their proclamation either way at the point of saying definitively whether all will be saved or some will be damned.  The humility of faith demands it, for just as we should not claim to know without a doubt who is “out,” so also should we refuse the temptation to speak with absolute confidence on behalf of God concerning who is “in.”  On what grounds would we make such claims, and for what reasons would we state them as public truth?
    The negative rule of proclamation is, therefore, to preach the gospel in such a way that one never claims that any human beings will not be saved, nor that all human beings will eventually be saved.  The positive rule is, vice versa, to preach the gospel in such a way, on the one hand, that all persons hear that they are rightly the recipients of the message of God's free and gratuitous good news, and, on the other hand, that one's response to this message is of decisive and eternal import. .....
    That does not mean we ought not to hope – or better, to pray – for the salvation of all, believing as we do that God desires all to be saved;  only that it is neither our mission nor our prerogative to proclaim it to the world.

 

MORE about Evangelism and Motives

 

 

 

Educational Experiences — in Life and Afterlife

This long section, which supplements a "Part 1" that is shorter, is in two parts:  a semi-condensed version (Part 2) below, then the original long version (Part 3).

 

Educational Experiences — Part 2

 

WHEN and HOW ?

If a person “says NO to God” during their Life, and if UR is true, then... When and How will they be saved?

 

WHEN — Salvation in Afterlife?

If the answer to WWJD is that God wants to be reconciled with all humans, He could allow unsaved people to believe-and-repent after death.  Will this happen?  Steve Gregg, a Bible expert, concludes that "there is no verse of Scripture affirming... [or] denying this possibility."

If God will allow – and even encourage! – salvation during Afterlife, most Biblical objections to UR are weakened or eliminated.  But...

Does the Grace of God vanish when we die?  Or, will God allow after-death repentance?

 

HOW — Education in Afterlife?

Maybe... after unsaved people are resurrected and judged, God will give them educational experiences in hell that lead them to believe-and-repent so they can be reconciled with Him.  How?

 

• We'll begin with questions about Beneficial Changes in Afterlife:

    with any view (UR, FA, EM), “how will saved-humans be radically changed so we are not still sinful, so we are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven?  will God change us instantly, or in a time-process? will we passively receive our changes, or be active participants?” and
    if UR occurs, then “in Hell, how will unsaved-humans be radically changed so they are not still sinful, so they are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven?” and “compared with the process for saved-people, in what ways might the process for unsaved-people be similar, and different?”
 

• And we'll continue with speculations about Educational Drama in Life and Educational Drama in Afterlife-Hell for an unsaved person:

Super-Videos and More?  One possibility for Afterlife Education is a “life review” video that lets a person re-experience, in a very intense way, their own thoughts-and-actions during Life.  If this does happen (and it's only a "maybe...") it would be only one aspect of a person's much wider overall experiences in Hell.

Super-Videos of Self:  Maybe... one aspect of hell will be a process of life-review that lets a person observe their sins, and the effects of their sins.  Do we have reasons to think this might happen?  Yes.  Although the Bible doesn't say much about process-in-Afterlife, Jesus does tell us "there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed."  So if UR will happen, then maybe... (and this is only my speculation) God will provide super-videos as an essential part of each person's Educational Experiences in Afterlife.  God could make a person's life-videos be "super" by giving them:*  multiple super-senses (not just sight & sound) for a hyper-realistic intensely powerful re-experiencing of what happened in their life;  super-understanding of God and of his interactions with them throughout their life;  super-understanding of self & others (with self-empathy and empathy);  feelings of super-joy (with deep satisfaction) for their own actions when they loved & served other people, and feelings of super-responsibility (leading to deep sorrow & true repentance) for their sins of commission (re: the damage-to-others they caused) and sins of omission (re: the benefits-to-others they could have provided but didn't);  and super-knowledge of situations, including “what happened” from the perspectives of other people — both internally (by knowing their thoughts & feelings) and externally (knowing their life-situations) — so you'll know the total cause-and-effect results, in the short term & long term, of how each other person was affected by your actions;  and, most important, powerful super-interactions with God that help each person learn more from their experiences in Hell,* to "convict [them of their] sin, and of God’s righteousness, and... guide [them] into all truth. (John 16:8,13)"  During a person's Life and Afterlife, Holy Spirit can "convict them" by helping them recognize the many ways they have failed to do the first & second Great Commandments by failing to fully love God & people.   { Maybe... in UR-Hell "the lake of fire" is the fire of God's divine power that – in "the second death" – kills the sinful nature of an unsaved sinner so, as in Romans 6, they can be born again to "walk in newness of life," to be joyfully reconciled with God. }   {* Maybe... God's designing of Education in UR-Hell is analogous to, but much better than, our Designing of Goal-Directed Education when we design activities to give students experience with our educational goals for them, and we help them learn more from their experiences in ways that are analogous to God "helping each person learn more from their experiences in Hell." }

Here is more about The Holy Spirit in The Lake of Fire:  Maybe... God will, through the divine actions of Holy Spirit, give super-powers to a person (for understanding God & self & others, feeling responsibility, knowing cause-and-effect results) AND spiritually interact with them to help them learn more from their experiences, to (John 16:8,13) "convict [them of their] sin, and of God’s righteousness, and... guide [them] into all truth."  Holy Spirit could "convict them" by helping them recognize the many ways they failed to do the first & second Great Commandments by failing to fully love God & people.   /   What is the purpose of Hell-Fire?  IF the purpose of UR-Hell is purify the hearts-and-minds of unsaved people so they can be reconciled with God (for UR or semi-UR) and participate in the afterlife Kingdom of God, THEN probably the most important part of experiences in hell will be a baptism with fire in which God “burns up” the sinful nature of a person, as described below.

 

Super-Videos and Time Traveling:  These super-videos would require some kind of “time travel” produced by a divine memory-knowledge of all events that occured in time during each Life, plus a divine controlling of time that will allow mental or mental/physical re-running of the events in Afterlife.  And so on.  Judeo-Christian theologians typically propose that God can do these things.  Although time places severe limitations on humans — because time always “runs forward” for us, so we cannot know the future, and our actions occur in the second-by-second sequentiality of forward cause-effect events — these limitations don't hinder the time-knowledge & time-powers of God.   /   For example, Jesus described afterlife disclosure experiences that seem similar to my speculations about super-videos:  He said "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." (Luke 12:2-3)

 

Super-Videos of Others:  Maybe... you will be able to super-experience the life-videos of other people.  And maybe... they will super-SeeHearFeel your videos, including all of your thoughts and actions (earlier in Life, and now in Afterlife), especially your current shame-and-sorrow for your sins.  If this empathy is part of the educational process for you and for the victims of your sins, their experiencing of your repentance could be an important part of biblical restorative justice in which God doesn't merely get justice, instead He does justice.*  And you will experience their repentance, to help heal you.  With this process of mutual empathies, finally... everyone can forgive everyone, and be emotionally healed.     {Empathy in Relationships - for a Wonderful Life with Kindness and Golden Rule}

 

A Purpose for Super-Videos:  Maybe... the educational function of super-videos will be to help each person experience, intensely in a personally meaningful way, the total positive results of their beneficial thinking-and-actions* (with feelings of joy) and the total negative results of their sinful thinking-and-actions (with feelings of sadness).  And, re: the suffering of a person, the sorrows they receive in Afterlife will depend on the sorrows they caused in Life.  This intrinsic retributive justice, with a cause-effect relationship between causing sorrows (in Life) and receiving sorrows (in Afterlife) will help produce different amounts of suffering for people who did different amounts of sinning.     {re: opportunities for doing good, for being a blessing to others, God will ask “what beneficial results did you help produce? what did you do with your abilities and opportunities, with the life I gave you?” and what you do with your life is your gift for God.   /   Maybe... in UR-Hell another cause of suffering will be uncertainty about the outcome if for awhile a person thinks it might end (with FA) or never end (so it's EM).

A Purpose of Justice-AND-Love:  Maybe... this kind of educational experience-in-hell, or something like it, will achieve Justice (because "the sorrows they receive... will depend on the sorrows they caused") with Love, because the ultimate result will be loving, will cause the person to "be radically changed so they are not still sinful, so they are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven," so they can be reconciled with God.  With EM or FA, hell-experiences are done TO a person, are bad for the person.  By contrast, with UR the unpleasant hell-experiences are done FOR a person, are good for the person, are done for their benefit, and maybe... this is the way God will be just-AND-loving.

 

Afterlife-Experiences (to educate and heal) of Saved People

I.O.U. - Currently, this section is very rough-and-incomplete.  It will be developed more fully in the future.  It's linked-to in my section about Justice for Victims and Sinners by Using Life Videos which includes these two paragraphs,

Victims and Sinners:  Every person, whether saved or unsaved, is a victim and a sinner, because each of us has been hurt when we were sinned against, and each of us has hurt others when we sinned.  All of us need to repent and be forgiven by people & by God.  Many relationships are involved, both "horizontal" (between people), and "vertical" (between people and God).

Saved and Unsaved:  Maybe... some activities in the afterlife-process (for purposes of retribution, rehabilitation, restoration, and more) will be for only unsaved people, or only saved people, or both.   {more}

The "more" links to this section, which has speculations about experiences in Afterlife for people who, when they die, are saved & are unsaved.

I don't yet have it "figured out" and I won't, during Life.  But some speculative ideas (Maybe...) are here, responding to my questions in the introduction for Education in Hell — where I ask, "compared with the process for saved people, in what ways might the process for unsaved people be similar, and different? ... in what ways will the process be better for saved people?"

Saved and Unsaved:  On the "horizontal level" of people interacting with people, a person could get total restorative justice — for themselves and others — only if everyone (both saved & unsaved) participates in Life Videos to Produce Empathy.  Why?  Because this person (as a victim) has been hurt by the sinning of those who are saved & unsaved, and has hurt (by their own sinning) both saved people & unsaved people.

In mainstream Protestant theology, there is a clear distinction between salvation and sanctification.  This can be useful in speculating about "what might happen in Afterlife," especially in a UR-Afterlife where several kinds of justice (restorative, retributive,...) are possible, plus the rehabilitation of unsaved people.

 

  Restorative Justice:
horizontal - a person with people
Retribution and Rehabilitation:
vertical - a person with God
with FA with EM
unsaved person as victim, needs to forgive people;
as sinner, needs forgiving by people
.
as sinner, needs forgiving by God,
gets retribution, (just)
gets saving-rehabilitation (loving),
gets sanctifying rehabilitation.
justice done TO them,
harms them by death,
is just but not loving
for them.
justice done TO them,
harms them by torment,
is just but not loving
for them.
saved person as victim, needs to forgive people;
as sinner, needs forgiving by people
.
as sinner, has been forgiven by God,
so doesn't get retribution,
doesn't need salvific rehabilitation,
gets sanctifying rehabilitation.
benefit - we get pure Kingdom
when God excludes those who
are unfit (He eliminates them)
benefit - we get pure Kingdom
when God excludes those who
are unfit (He separates them)
  so both go thru same basic process? process is different, is better for saved    
  fellow victims (were hurt as group),
fellow sinners (did hurting as group),
two kinds of rehabilitation:
saving + sanctifying (by transformtn)
   

 

Restoration (for victims) plus Rehabilitation (for sinners):  Maybe... God will achieve justice that is beneficial for every person in both ways, because all of us are victims and sinners. 

 

Justice-AND-Love

Maybe... in UR-Hell the educational experiences will achieve Justice (both restorative and retributive) with LoveHow?  The ultimate result will be loving if the hell-process causes a person to "be radically changed so they are not still sinful, so they are suitable for Afterlife in Heaven," so they can be reconciled with God.  With UR, a person's suffering performs a useful function, producing beneficial changes that the person can keep when they believe-and-repent.  With UR the unpleasant hell-experiences are done FOR a person, for their benefit.  By contrast, with FA or EM the hell-experiences are done TO a person, to harm them.     {FA-Hell would serve a useful function, by eliminating sinners and their sin.  But it's difficult to see any useful function for EM-Hell.}

{more about Education in Afterlife?}

 

The suffering in UR-Hell would have beneficial functions, to get restorative justice and to rehabilitate sinners.  FA-Hell would serve a useful function, by eliminating sinners and their sin.  But it's difficult to see any useful function for EM-Hell.  It is easiest for a Christian to enthusiastically (with total heart/soul/mind) praise God and proudly proclaim “what He will do to sinners” with UR, and is most difficult with EM. both FA and EM allow selection

 
 
 

Free Will and Universalism (or semi-Universalism)

Universalists claim not just that unsaved people CAN repent in hell, but that all of them WILL repent.  Those who place a high value on the free will of humans (but some Christians don't) can ask, “how can you know that all will repent, that none will resist?  How can you know that none will continue, in their Afterlife, the ways of thinking (of rejecting God) they developed in their Life?”  Here are two responses by defenders of UR, and (if some do continue resisting) a semi-UR possibility:

    • Maybe... in the Bible, God has told us that He will save all people, that ultimately "all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22) with "life for all people" (Romans 5:18) because "God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all," (Romans 11:32) so the life-actions of Jesus "will cause great joy for all the people" (Luke 2:10) because He came "to save the world" (John 12:47) by becoming "the atoning sacrifice... for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).   {more about "all" and responses-by-FA}
    • Maybe... because God wants all to repent, He will design persuasive hell-experiences so skillfully (like a chess game with a master and novice) that each unsaved person will freely decide to believe-and-repent in their Afterlife.  He might persuade in the ways described above and in other ways.  God could give each unsaved person more information, and a different perspective, so they will have a freeD will, so their will is freed from the slavery to sin (Romans 6) that hindered their hearts-and-minds from being able to fully love God and people.   /   a summary:  Maybe... God will skillfully design afterlife-experiences so every person will have a freed will, with freedom from the limitations of a sin-hindered will, so they can make a wise decision and they do “say YES to God.”
 

Semi-Universal Reconciliation:  Maybe... God will allow belief-and-repentance after death, and will encourage this in ways that He hopes will be persuasive for ALL, but maybe... only SOME will repent, while others refuse to repent, and eventually their temporary afterlives — allowed for awhile by God so they could have educational experiences that might have led them to repent, but didn't — will end when God finally accepts their “no” and lets them perish permanently, by not giving them access to His supernatural Tree of Life.  These deaths would occur because some people, with their free will, continue saying NO to God, instead of the YES that He wants.  Or maybe God will not accept the repentance of some people, for reasons explained in more about semi-UR.

semi-Universal Reconciliation (semi-UR) is a “hybrid view” that combines UR and FA.  Compared with total-UR, semi-UR agrees (when asking “will God allow after-death repentance?”) and disagrees (when we ask “will everyone be saved?”).   Or in another comparison, with FA every person who is unsaved during Life will be annihilated, while with semi-UR every person who is unsaved during Afterlife will be annihilated.     {another hybrid view}

 

 

I.O.U. - The speculations above are mainly about educational afterlife-experiences for people who were not “saved” during their life.  But maybe... well, probably... some of these experiences also will happen for “saved” people.  But for them the experience will be very different in important ways, and it will be much better.  Later, here I'll say a few things, responding to a question from earlier in this section: "Compared with the process for saved-people, in what ways might the process for unsaved-people be similar, and different?"   {more}

 

 

 

Educational Experiences in Life and Afterlife — Part 3

 

We'll begin with

Two Sets of Questions, about...

 

• afterlife-changing of Saved Humans:

With any view (EM, FA, UR), in Heaven how will "saved" humans be radically changed so we are not sinful?  will God change us instantly? (like eating a “no-more-sinning pill” given to us by God)   or will our changes occur during a longer process, extended in time?    HOW?  what will the process be like, and how long will it last?  will we have to participate actively, or will it be “done to us” ?

One answer for “why does God allow evil?” is the free will that God gives to humans, which allows the sinful thinking/choices/actions of humans, both saved and unsaved, that we often choose.  How will our freedom change in heaven?  by removing free will?  or by changing saved-humans so all of us always WILL WANT TO make good free choices, and WILL BE ABLE TO think-and-do without sinning.

Why doesn't God change us in these ways, more radically, now during life?     { In our daily living now, God does supply what we need to radically transform us – although not into the state of sinless perfection we expect in Heaven – but sometimes we now have a “bad attitude” so we don't want to cooperate.  How will God's process of supplying, and our attitudes, change in the afterlife? }

 

• afterlife-changing of Unsaved Humans:

IF the purpose of Hell is Reconciliation (for all unsaved people, or at least some),*

THEN... in Hell how will "unsaved" humans be radically changed so they are not sinful?

Compared with the process for saved-people, in what ways (if UR occurs) might the process for unsaved-people be similar, and different?  In what ways will the Afterlife process-of-changing be MUCH BETTER for saved-people, so every person should "say yes to God" now, ASAP, during their Life?

 

* Will this "IF" occur?  We can ask, regarding the afterlife of an unsaved person, “is beneficial change possible?” and “will God allow (and produce) beneficial change?”  {after-death repentance?}

The Essence of Education:  For these 3 questions, I like the answers — yes and yes/yes — with UR.  Part of my preference for UR is due to my enthusiasm for education.  Why? what is the connection?  The essential goal of education is to help people improve, to help them more fully develop their whole-person potential.  Anyone with the heart-and-mind of an educator will want to see this goal achieved for everyone, and (like me) they will appreciate the value of education that is beneficial for a person, that helps them improve their self and their life.  For an unsaved person, with UR the afterlife is an educational experience that produces beneficial changeFor this reason, and others (involving empathy + kindness) I think every person should be a hopeful universalistBut with FA or EM the purpose of hell is only punitive, with no useful educating because the afterlife-experience produces no enduring benefits for an unsaved person.   [[in addition to education, we also can think about hell as a hospital for healing, or a prison for rehabilitation, or...]]

 


 

Part of Each Process — Full Disclosure and Salting with Fire

For saved people, the Bible says very little about how God will cause a process of changing (quickly and/or slowly) after the Death and Judgment of a person, with the goal of eliminating sin in our hearts-and-minds & decisions-and-actions.  And it says even less about a possible process-of-change for unsaved people.

But there is some information.  Here are two passages about divine judgment:

    Jesus said, to His disciples and a large “mixed crowd” that included people who did and didn't believe in Him, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." (Luke 12:2-3)
    Paul said, in his letter to believers in Corinth, "Each one should build with care.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.  It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.  If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.  If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved – even though only as one escaping through the flames. .....  My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time;  wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.  At that time each will receive their praise from God." (1 Corinthians 3:10b-15, 4:4-5)   {NASB, "...each man’s work will become evident;  for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss;  but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."}

[[ also Matthew 5:27-30 ("it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell [Gehenna]" and in Mark 9:42-50 "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell ... For everyone will be salted with fire." ]]

But what about the details of HOW?  The rest of this section about Educational Experiences will describe my speculative ideas that cannot be proved from Scripture, but seem consistent with Scripture.  Some paragraphs will begin with "Maybe..." as a reminder that they're just my speculations about an educational process (in life, and maybe in afterlife) for changing the hearts-minds-decisions-actions of people, .

==[also add what Jesus said, re: Gehenna/etc by "salting with fire" for all [not just unsaved] in Matt 5-7 + Mark 8, other including 1 Cor 3 when each believer's works will be tested by fire}

more


 

Educational Drama — in Life and Afterlife

1. We'll begin by looking at the process of LIFE, for everyone.

2A. Then, while speculating about an AFTERLIFE I'll describe aspects of a possible afterlife-process that could cause beneficial changes for unsaved people.  The process-of-changing might be...

2B. ...similar (in some ways) yet different (in other ways) for saved people.

 

1.  The Purpose of Life — is it Educational Drama?

Maybe ...

    It can be useful to think of “life as drama” with humans as the audience, actors, and co-authors, with the script written by God and humans.  Here are tentative comments about two questions:
    How does life produce drama?  A key element of drama is uncertainty, when we cannot predict the differences in “what will happen” if we decide to do one action instead of another;  and some suffering (along with the many joys of life) can be useful to produce drama, to make our decisions important (because there are significant consequences for suffering, joys, relationships, and other things affecting quality of life) and difficult (due to uncertainties).
    Why would God create life with drama?  Maybe — and yes, I know this is speculation, because none of us fully understands the “why” of God, in His purpose for our life — the drama performs an essential educational function, helping us learn how to live by faith and giving us opportunities to “practice” so we can improve this valuable skill through our dramatic experiences with faith-based living.
    [this is quoted from the "Life as Drama" part of my page asking "Is there proof for the existence and activities of God? and if not, Why isn't God more obvious?"]
 

Viewing life as "educational drama" should not diminish the importance of what you think and do, because your actions sometimes produce "significant consequences... affecting quality of life" for yourself and others. {==and God cares/commands, @Jesus re: gehenna/etc}

In classrooms, educators plan inquiry activities and guide students so they can learn more from their experiences.  Maybe in life, God educates us by providing opportunities for inquiry-experience and helping us so we can learn more from our experiences.

What is inquiry?  Opportunities for inquiry occur whenever a gap in knowledge — in conceptual knowledge (so we don't understand) or procedural knowledge (so we don't know what to do, or how) — stimulates mental-and-physical actions, which let us think and do and learn.  With science-inquiry, we ask questions (for example, “does God exist? and if yes, what does God do?”) and we seek answers.  With design-inquiry, we define problems (they're opportunities to "make it better" during our experiences in life) and we seek solutions.

 


 

2A.  The Purpose of Hell — is it Educational Drama?

CERTAINLY, according to Jesus "there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed," and Paul tells believers that their work "will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work" when God "will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart."  {more about these passages}

PROBABLY these things also will happen for believers;{==link]  in fact, Jesus was speaking to a “mixed” crowd.

note: Whether or not you consider yourself to be saved, while you read the following description please imagine that "you" are an unsaved person who is facing Judgment and Hell.

MAYBE — but this is only my speculation — some (or all) of what is "disclosed" will be part of an educational experience-for-learning, personally customized for you by God. [==link to this in "supervideos seen by others"]   [[ maybe... causes of suffering could be psychological (as in educayional supervideos described below) + dramatic tension (if they are uncertain whether their experiences are the beginning of their fate of EM or FA or UR) + physical (maybe or maybe not) ]]

MAYBE... — IF God will graciously give unsaved people opportunities for after-death repentance in a new situation when they have a different perspective with more knowledge, and super-abilities to help them understand-and-experience more fully — THEN one aspect of Hell MIGHT BE when God asks,

 

Super-Videos — asking "How wonderful was your life?"

Near the end of my favorite movie — It's a Wonderful Life — we see what could have happened (many bad things) if the central character was never born, instead of what actually happened (many good things) because he was born.  Now imagine a different way to see “what if...”, with God making a personally customized Super-Video that shows you (and maybe others) what actually did happen, and also what could have happened if you had fully lived God's Wonderful Plan for Your Life, if you had fully loved God & people by letting God (through Holy Spirit, who connects you with Son and Father) continuously-and-completely guide your feeling, thinking, and actions.*  Compared with the Wonderful Life movie, in this case the "wonderful" is reversed because in your alternative More-Wonderful Life (if you had been perfectly led by Holy Spirit)* the results of what you could have done are much better, for both you and for others, compared with the results of what you actually did in your life.   /   Except for Jesus, no person living on earth is able to "completely" and "perfectly" follow the leading of God, so the best you can do is try to follow the leading of God.   /   speculations and NDEs

 

Super-Abilities and a Super-Video:  This educational experience, IF it happens, would be more educationally effective...

    IF in the afterlife you have Super-Abilities, far beyond what you have now, including a super-understanding of yourself and (with cognitive super-empathy)* of other people;  and you have super-emotions so you more intensely “feel” the joys & sorrows of yourself and (with emotional super-empathy)* of others, and all of this produces a super-compassion for other people, so you feel a super-responsibility for your life-effects, for the ways your actions affected the life-experiences of other people, and you feel a super-regret for the negative effects you caused.  Your most important life-effects were the ways you affected the relationships of other people, especially their relationship with God.    { Christians have an evangelistic responsibility – including what we say about EM, FA, and UR to improve the relationship of non-believers with God, to help them say YES to God's wonderful plan. }
    and IF your personally customized Super-Video is impressively “super” because, for each of your actions, you see/hear/feel — in a hyper-realistic experiencing with multiple super-senses (not just sight & sound) — the total cause-and-effect results, in the short term & long term, for everyone who was affected by your actions.   /   MAYBE to provide super-empathy (cognitive & emotional) your experience will include an ability to see/hear/feel/think from the perspectives of others, so you can have multiple “experiences” (first-hand for you, plus second-hand for others) with multiple points-of-view.
    MAYBE... These super-abilities (and others?) will be part of what Paul describes, with longing, in 1 Corinthians 13:12 {NASB}: "For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face!  Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. {Amplified Bible, with [ ]-comments included in their translation}"

 

Here is another description of Super-Videos, in a later version, before the latest version. (I'm continuing to revise-and-condense)

Super-Videos of Self, to Produce Repentance:  Maybe... one aspect of afterlife Education-in-Hell will be Super-Videos that "disclose" to let an unsaved person re-experience, in a very intense way, their thoughts-and-actions during life, so they can observe their sins and the effects of their sins.  This is only a speculation ("Maybe...") but it's consistent with Jesus telling us "there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed."   A video could be "super" and "intense" if God gives a person:  multiple super-senses, for a powerful re-experiencing;  extremely clear super-understandings of God (and His interactions with them during Life) and of others & self (with empathy & self-empathy);  feelings of super-joy with deep satisfaction (for their loving actions) and super-responsibility with sorrowful repentance (for their sinful actions, for their sins of commission and omission, re: what they did and didn't do);  super-knowledge of situations during Life, including “what happened” from the perspectives of other people (both internally by knowing their thoughts & feelings, and externally by knowing their Life-situations) so a person knows the total cause-and-effect results of how each other person was affected by their own actions;  and, most important, powerful super-interactions with God that help each person learn more from their experiences in Hell,* to "convict [them of their] sin, and of God’s righteousness, and... guide [them] into all truth. (John 16:8,13)"  During a person's Life and Afterlife, Holy Spirit can "convict them" by helping them recognize the many ways they have failed to do the first & second Great Commandments by failing to fully love God & people.   { Maybe... in "the lake of fire" the fire is God's divine power that – in "the second death" – kills the sinful nature of an unsaved sinner so, as in Romans 6, they can be born again to "walk in newness of life," to be joyfully reconciled with God. }   {* Maybe... God's designing of Education in UR-Hell is analogous to, but much better than, our Designing of Goal-Directed Education when we design activities to give students experience with our educational goals for them, and we help them learn more from their experiences in ways that are analogous to God "helping each person learn more from their experiences in Hell." }

 

Empathy and Sorrow, Repentance and Justice:  MAYBE... in addition to "what if..." Super-Videos featuring your own actions, you also will see/feel Super-Videos featuring the actions of other people.  {== later, I'll develop this idea, of you watching videos of others who are grieving over their actions that hurt you, but who now are truly repentant, which will achieve some Justice for you;*  for example, imagine applying this to Hitler/Nazis, with Holocaust Jews watching the Nazis being sorrowfully repentant in the deepest way in their hearts-and-minds, because in their Afterlife they're experiencing an empathy they never had during Life, so their Jewish victims achieve more justice in life-plus-afterlife, much more than they had in the end of their life in the WW2 concentration camps.} / [[* describe how one aspect of restorative justice is knowing that the pain-inflicters have a change of mind, they repent about their actions toward you.]]

also -- MAYBE... there also will be "feel good" videos with the many good things you did, and joyful memories.

 

Your “Total Sorrow” Score:  MAYBE... in one aspect of Judgment, God will compare the total sorrow-results (in life-and-afterlife of other people) of “what you actually did” with the total sorrow-results of “what you should have done” — if you had obeyed the commands of God, both generally (in the Bible) and personally (in His communications with you through the Holy Spirit) — and He will subtract them to determine a score for the sorrow you caused:

    your Sorrow-Causing = (sorrow in your "actually did" results) – (sorrow in your "should have done" results).*

Degrees of Suffering:  MAYBE... in Hell you will receive suffering that is proportional to the sorrow you caused, so the sorrow you take is equal to the sorrow you make.    {This is a variation of the Beatles lyric proposing that "in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," which for a Saved Person might be a good description of rewards in Heaven.}

* Although my equation for "Total Sorrow-Causing" is in mathematical form, this doesn't imply mathematical precision because (as explained earlier in my speculations about A Wonderful Life) it's difficult to know exactly how you can let God "continuously-and-completely guide your feeling, thinking, and actions."  Usually you CANNOT KNOW (for certain) exactly what God wants you to do, and then decide whether to obey or disobey this specific directive.  But you CAN generally want to (and try to) follow the leading of God.   {I.O.U. - Yes, this entire concept, of God leading and us following, needs to be developed more thoroughly and clearly.}

 

How can God “do justice” for victims of sin?

This section supplements my speculations about UR-Education in Hell, which concludes with thoughts about a purpose (for self & others) of super-videos that could help produce Restorative Justice with Divine Justice-AND-Love:

    Justice that is Retributive-and-Restorative:  Maybe... if all people are able to experience the life-videos of others, those (you & others) who are victims of sin will be able to feel the shame-and-sorrow of those (others & you) who sinned against them during Life, but who are now repenting in Afterlife.  These mutual empathy-experiences could be part of a process in which, finally, everyone can forgive everyone, and all will be emotionally healed.  In this way, God could get Retributive Justice (by punishing sinners for the sorrows they caused) and also do Restorative Justice (for the victims of sin).     {definitions:  retribution - retributive justice - restorative justice - rehabilitation}
    Rehabilitation that produces Reconciliation:  The retributive punishing could be rehabilitative for an unsaved sinner, and therefore loving for them, if the punishing causes them to be radically changed so they are no longer sinful, so they become saved by God and reconciled with God, so they can joyfully participate in the heavenly Kingdom of God.  With EM or FA, hell-experiences are done TO a person, are bad for the person.  By contrast, with UR (or semi-UR) the unpleasant hell-experiences are done FOR a person, are good for the person, are done for their benefit, and maybe... this is the way God will be just-AND-loving.
    Restoration (for victims) plus Rehabilitation (for sinners):  Maybe... God will achieve justice that is beneficial for everyone, in two ways, for those who were sinned against (when in afterlife human forgiving produces emotional healing for Restorative Justice) and for those who sinned (when in afterlife a divine forgiving of their sins and purging of their sinful natures produces Personal Rehabilitation so they can be Reconciled with God).  Both of these ways occur for every person, because each of us has been hurt when we were sinned against, and we have hurt others when we sinned.

 

{== I.O.U. - so far, what's above is all about the 2nd Great Commandment, to love others in heart (attitudes) and mind (thoughts) and actions;  later, I will write a similar set of experiences regarding love for God, in the 1st Great Commandment}

To supplement your super-understanding of "the way things are (now in your afterlife) and were (during your life)," you also may have a super-remembering/understanding of the abundant “evidence for God's existence and activity” that God provided for you during life.  The many evidences came from external information (from what you heard, read, saw) and in your life-experiences, as in divinely-arranged “coincidences” and in other ways.  You will remember, with intense regret, the many times you had an opportunity to understand more fully, but you chose to ignore the evidence or misinterpret it.

 

What about your relationship with God? (in the Greatest Commandment, to fully love God)

MAYBE... during these Super-Videos your feeling of super-responsibility (with super-compassion due to empathy + kindness) will produce intense regrets about the neg ative effects (for other people) of your unloving actions during life.  These regrets, along with shame (if other people also are watching, plus the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and maybe angels), would cause psychological suffering that might be (probably will be?) supplemented by other suffering, both mental and physical.

God will ask is “how did you respond to Jesus?” (to his love, his life & sacrificial death & glorious resurrection, His offer of grace, His challenges to live obediently)   Jesus came into our world so (Luke 2:35) "the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."

 

Uncertainty and Drama:  MAYBE... if the reality is UR,* another source of suffering could be an uncertainty about its duration & outcome, if for awhile you are thinking “this feels horrible and it will continue forever” because you have not been told otherwise;  and because you remember EM-warnings during life, about Eternal Misery in Hell, or perhaps in Hell you are hearing – in a thundering divine voice or in soft whispers – the hell verses that are used to teach Eternal Misery.  You also may remember FA-warnings, and wonder if annihilation will permanently end your existence.  Your fearful anticipation of Eternal Misery (or Permanent Death) would be psychologically terrifying, and these thoughts might also cause physical suffering.   /   Or if the reality is FA, imagining that “this will continue forever” would be psychologically terrifying.

 

The Final Results of Suffering in Hell:  In reality, maybe (if the truth of afterlife-reality is EM) your suffering will continue forever.  Or maybe (if the truth is FA) eventually, after temporary suffering, you will die.  Or maybe (if the truth is UR) eventually, after temporary suffering, God will give you an opportunity to repent, and to be reconciled with God.

I think each of these results is a possibility, because we don't know (with certainty) whether — for those who now reject the grace offered by God — the afterlife-reality will be EM, FA, or UR.  For each possibility, we can view Hell as Educational Drama.  My own feelings are that the educational experience would be horrifying (if EM) or extremely sad (if FA);  or eventually it would be extremely joyful (if UR) when after much suffering an unsaved person realizes, with a huge sigh of relief, that instead of Eternal Misery or Death, by the grace of God they are being given another opportunity to repent so they can be reconciled with God.

 

FEEL-GOOD MOVIE ? -- Above, I describe super-videos of "how your life wasn't so wonderful" but MAYBE (even during the "hell" part of an afterlife-education, before the "heaven" part) there also will be videos of the many wonderful things you did, with your good actions.  And good memories, joyful and satisfying.

 

Educational Experiences and Near-Death Experiences

Recently, in early 2016, I web-searched for "life review" and discovered that my speculative description of possibilities (based mainly on imagination plus ideas about education) are similar to one aspect of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) but with major differences:

    mine are labeled as speculations about experiences that might be produced by God, using post-Resurrection bodies;  by contrast, NDEs are claimed to be observations made using current biological bodies;  but these are NearDeath Experiences not Death Experiences, and I think they probably are caused by hallucinations produced by the physiological-neurological-psychological traumas of near-death conditions [iou - later I'll find links to pages describing this explanation of NDEs];
    some aspects of many NDEs are incompatible with Bible-based theology;  I don't think NDEs should be used, especially by Christians, to construct theology;  instead we should use the Bible.

 


 

Two Strategies for Education  —  Part 1

In education, a commonly used strategy for teaching-and-testing is to give an exam once, assign a score for each student, and then the whole class moves on to the next topic/activity.  In another strategy – Mastery Learning – each student continues taking an exam (with instructional support)* until they achieve a passing score, then they move on to the next topic/activity.     {A wide variety of "support" is possible, provided by a teacher, computer, textbook,... done by providing information, practice-activities, guiding & formative feedback,...}  {in human education, Mastery Learning offers advantages, but also disadvantages that would not occur in divine education}

 

These two educational strategies, using one exam or multiple exams, are analogous to strategies (re: WWJD in Afterlife) for how God will use a Life-Exam Judgment in which a person's Life-Grade is based on their Faith-and-Actions during Life, ending at their Biological Death.

    With EM or FA, a person's Life-Exam (occurring at The Judgment) is their only exam.  But with UR or semi-UR, if a person fails their Life-Exam they can take Afterlife-Exams that are opportunities to repent in Afterlife.
   
If God will use only one Exam (as in EM or FA), Life is for Education, and Afterlife is for Judgment and Results.  With multiple Exams (in UR or semi-UR), Life is for Education, and Afterlife is for Judgment plus more Education (if necessary) and Results.
 

What happens IF you pass your Life-Exam?  In all views, IF God gives you a passing grade, THEN He will give you Eternal Joy in Heaven.

What happens IF you fail your Life-Exam?

    With EM or FA, your fate is fixed, and God will give you either Everlasting Misery or Everlasting Death.
    With UR, IF you fail your Life-Exam you can take another Exam (it's an Afterlife-Exam in Hell, different than your Life-Exam but serving a similar educational function) that is personally customized according to your Experiences-in-Life;  IF you pass this Exam, THEN God gives you Eternal Joy;  but IF you fail, God will give you another Exam, and if you pass... but if you fail...;  and God continues giving you Exams – and continues, as He did in Life, providing spiritual support – until eventually you pass, so He can give you Eternal Joy.
    With semi-UR the process is similar to UR, but with semi-UR some people eventually will pass an Exam, while other people will continue failing and at some point God will “give up on them” and will annihilate them.  This semi-UR combines aspects of UR (re: opportunities to take additional Exams, to believe-and-repent) and UR (re: results for passing) and FA (re: results for failing).
 

Below, Part 2 has MORE about Two Strategies, with grading based on a Life Score for Faith-and-Actions.

 

 

Two Strategies for Education  —  Part 2

Because this is Part 2, first you should read Part 1.  It describes...

    the two strategies, using one exam and multiple exams, that are analogous to EM or FA (using one Life-Exam Judgment with extremely high stakes)* and UR or semi-UR (using one Life-Exam Judgment with high stakes, plus (if necessary) additional Afterlife-Exams in Hell, offering opportunities for repentance-in-Afterlife).
    in all views, Life is for Education (and more!);  if God will use one exam (as in EM or FA), Afterlife is for Judgment and Results;  if God will use multiple exams for some people (in UR or semi-UR), Afterlife is for Judgment plus supplementary Education (if necessary) and Results.
    during life, God provides spiritual support for everyone, although “how He does it” and “how much He does” differ from one person to another;  for those who fail their Life-Exam, during Afterlife there is no spiritual support with EM or FA, but with UR or semi-UR there is continuing spiritual support.
    * Although educators debate the pros & cons of school-exams they call “high stakes”, these exams are actually “low stakes” compared with the truly "high stakes" of a Life-Exam.

 

As promised at the end of Part 1, here is MORE, beginning with "grading based on a Life Score for Faith-and-Actions."

 

Faith-and-Actions:  The Bible teaches that God will judge each person based on the quality of their Faith and Actions.

A Life Score:  We can imagine God giving each person a total Life Score based on their Faith (ranging from 0-10, from “always saying NO to God” to “saying YES in all ways”) and Actions (ranging from 0-10, from very bad to very good), as shown on this graph.

graph of faith-and-actions score

Complexity and Over-Simplicity:   Of course, this graph is oversimplified because actual Faith-in-Life is complex & multi-dimensional, and so are Actions-in-Life;  one point on a single axis cannot show the complexity of either Faith or Actions, or (with a •) their combining into a “total” Life Score.   Also, with its “totaling” the graph seems to imply an equal weighting of Faith and Actions, which would be theologically oversimplistic and incorrect.

What is a "passing" Life-Score?  The graph shows, with •, a Life-Score for 7 people, for Jesus (with Perfect 10s) and an imaginary Saint (scoring high, but not perfect) and Sinner (with low scores), plus 3 people with medium-high scores for Faith and/or Actions, and 1 who is low for Faith but high for Actions.  If we assume “some will fail and some will pass” we can predict, but cannot know, that the Saint (high, high) will pass, and the Sinner (low, low) will fail.  But it's more difficult to predict — as shown by the "?"s — the pass/fail grade for people who have medium-high scores for Faith and/or Actions.  (and how should we feel about the low+high of a good non-Christian? the Bible seems to indicate that they will fail Their Life-Exam Judgment, but can we be optimistic that God will give them another chance in Their Afterlife?)

 

This table shows similarities & differences between divine Afterlife-Policies (re: Education and Results) for the 3 main views plus semi-UR.

 
 
Eternal Misery
( EM )
 Final Annihilation 
( FA )
 semi-Universal Reconciliation 
( semi-UR )
 Universal Reconciliation 
( UR )
 is binary pass-fail grading used?
yes
yes
yes
yes
 what is the number of exams?
one
one
multiple
multiple
 do all pass Their Life-Exam Judgment?
 will some pass an Afterlife-Exam?
 will all pass an Afterlife-Exam? 
no
 {no} 
{no}
no
{no}
{no}
no
YES
no
no
YES
YES
 what is reward if pass Their Final Exam
eternal Joy
eternal Joy
eternal Joy
eternal Joy
 what is result if fail Their Final Exam
 everlasting Misery 
 everlasting Death 
everlasting Death
[ everlasting Death ]
 is Final Exam a tough Condition-Exam? 
 is there Conditional Immortality? 
yes
NO
yes
YES
yes
YES
yes
YES
 is this a biblical/evangelical view? 
yes?
yes
yes
yes
 

Here are some comments about colors:

If multiple exams will be used by God, it's easier for us to imagine how problems of justice (of how justice-for-all can be achieved with binary pass-fail grading) can be solved by God.

If each person will have only one exam (Their Life-Exam Judgment), it's Their Final Exam because – as indicated by {no} for EM & UR – they will have no Afterlife-Exams.  But if God will give multiple exams, if a person fails their Life-Exam then Their Final Exam will be the Afterlife-Exam when God finally says “hooray! you passed” (this will happen for all with UR, and some with semi-UR) or when God finally “gives up” and stops trying to persuade them to believe-and-repent (this will happen for some with semi-UR).

All of these Final Exams are "tough Condition-Exams" — with tough defined as “requiring authentic belief-and-repentance” — because if God gives a person a “passing grade” on Their Final Exam — either a Life Exam (in any view) or an Afterlife Exam (in semi-UR or UR) — this person has satisfied The Condition of Conditional Immortality.

Eternal Misery has serious theological difficulties because it violates the biblical principle of Conditional Immortality.

This question is controversial.  Among defenders of EM, some will challenge my "yes" for one or more of the three non-EM views;*  and all will challenge my claim that a "yes" for EM can be questioned (so it's "yes?") if we define evangelical as “believing what the Bible teaches” and if we conclude that EM violates Biblically-taught Conditional Immortality.  I say "yes" for each view because I think all should be included within evangelicalism.  I don't think any view should be excluded, and neither does the Apostle's Creed or Nicene Creed;  but if any view is excluded, maybe ("?") it should be EM.

* An earlier version of this table included a Pluralistic Universalism that for "do all pass their Life-Exam?" says "yes" so there is not a "tough Condition-Exam."  This loosey-goosey pluralism is not evangelical Christian Universalism, and I think “no, Pluralistic Universalism is not a biblical/evangelical view.”

 


 

2B.  Educational Drama in Heaven?  (what is the afterlife-experience for people who were saved-during-life?)

I.O.U. - Later this section will be expanded by examining the possibility that maybe... unsaved people will get salvation-and-sanctification in hell, but saved people will get only sanctification (because they already have been saved, during their life) in a purgatorial experience (that is not the traditional "purgatory" of Catholicism).

 

Imagine that, by the grace of God, during life you said YES to God, and He mercifully saved you.  Now your afterlife has begun, you're in Heaven, and...

MAYBE... you also will have educational experiences with multiple Super-Videos.  But, in contrast with an unsaved person who (maybe...) feels an absence of God, you feel the presence of God.  [[maybe... all will feel presence of God, symbolized by fire]]  You know that God is with you.  Your educational experiences will happen in Heaven, where God will be providing strong emotional support, assuring you — even though during life you sometimes sinned by not letting God guide you, by not obediently following the leading of Holy Spirit, and your disobediences caused you to commit sins of commission (the bad actions you did) and sins of omission (the good actions you didn't do) — ...assuring you that God loves you and forgives you.  Even though you will feel intense regrets about your sins and the sorrows you caused for other people, with deep feelings of super-compassion and super-responsibility, you will be strengthened and comforted by the constant presence of God.  But...

In heaven your main emotion will be super-Joy.  And probably there will be...

Salvation plus Rewards:  The Bible teaches that, in addition to basic salvation, you also will receive some “extra rewards” based on what you did with your life, with the abilities and opporunities that were given to you by God.   [[ I.O.U. - This section will be continued, maybe in October 2017. ]]   It will include links to Different Degrees of Reward in Heaven by J. Warner Wallace (author of Cold Case Christianity) and other pages.     {more about extra rewards and "judgment" for everyone, including Christians}

 


 

 

Semi-Universal Reconciliation (a fourth view) — Part 2

This section supplements the overview-summary in Semi-UR - Part 1.

 

In UR, the U (in Universal Reconciliation) is a claim that, when unsaved people are offered a chance to repent after death, eventually ALL will accept the grace offered by God.

In semi-UR, the semi-U (in semi-Universal Reconciliation) proposes that maybe SOME will repent and receive eternal life with God, while some others will refuse to repent and eventually their temporary afterlives — allowed for awhile by God so they could have educational experiences that might have led them to repent-and-convert, but they didn't take advantage of this gracious opportunity — will end when God finally lets them perish permanently, by not giving them access to His supernatural Tree of Life.  Each of these final deaths would happen because the person, with their free will, continues saying NO to God, instead of the YES that He wants.

Or maybe God will reject their apparent repentance because He knows it isn't authentic, or because during life their attitudes-and-actions were exceptionally evil so (to achieve better Divine Justice) they will be annihilated to exclude them from the afterlife Kingdom of God.

 

In a total-UR, not semi-UR, how could God guarantee that everyone will say YES?  In his book about UR, Thomas Talbott describes how God could save every person even though He allows each person free will, by skillfully designing their afterlife-experiences.  This divine skill would be analogous to a chess master who, in a game of chess with a novice, can always win due to his superior knowledge-and-skill, even though the novice is making free choices, even though the master doesn't control the novice's mental decisions or physical movements of chess pieces.  In a similar way, God knows each person extremely well, so He knows how to design their afterlife-experience so they will freely decide to “say YES” and will become reconciled with God.  In this way, God wins because He wants reconciliation.  And the person wins!   :<)

[[ I.O.U. - Later, here I'll more fully describe the idea of a “freeD will” (summarized in Semi-UR - Part 1) that will be freed from the slavery-to-sin that hindered its freedom during Life. ]]

 

A table comparing 3 views is expanded to 4 views in this table, by adding an extra column for semi-UR (combining UR-and-FA) to show how semi-UR differs from UR (in two rows, with answers of "no yes" and "yes NO") and differs from FA (in one row, "no YES"):

 
EM
FA
semi-UR
UR
 will everyone live forever?
 will SINNERS live forever? (contrary to Gen 3:22
yes
YES
no
no
no
no
yes
no
 is there injustice? (does it seem to be unfair?)
YES
no
no
no
 will people suffer? (with weeping & gnashing,...); 
 why suffering?  because our actions do matter? 
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
yes
 is there everlasting punishment? (≠ punishing)
yes
yes
yes
NO
 is after-death repentance possible? 
no
no
YES
YES
 

another hybrid view:  The view I'm calling semi-UR is formed by combining UR+FA.  Another view would combine UR+EM, with some people saying YES while others continue saying NO (or God continues saying NO) forever.  But in this view, when we ask "will sinners live forever [in Eternal Misery]" the answer is YES which is "contrary to Gen 3:22" and thus violates the biblical principle of Conditional Immortality.  Therefore UR+EM seems highly implausible, so whenever I say semi-UR I mean the more plausible UR+FA.

 

two more views:  In addition to these two hybrid views (UR+FA, UR+EM) we can imagine two other hybrids, underlined here:

    3 non-hybrid views:  all get UR,  or all get FA,  or all get EM.
    3 two-view hybrids:  UR+FA (some get UR and some get FA),  or UR+EM (some get post-death salvation UR and some EM),  or FA+EM (some get FA and some EM).
    1 three-view hybrid:  UR+FA+EM (some get UR and some get FA and some get EM).

These 7 possibilities (including 3 that I think are plausible) can be described as "UR and/or FA and/or EM".

 


 

Other Terms for the Views

For a variety of reasons, each view has several commonly used names, plus other names that describe a view more accurately.  Unfortunately, two common names are used illogically:  usually Conditional Immortality means “only Annihilation” even though “either Annihilation or Reconciliation” is a more logical meaning, as explained below;  and usually a Hopeful Universalist is what I call an Optimistic Universalist (who is hopeful, and is optimistic but not confident), because everyone should be a Hopeful Universalist.

 

Universal Reconciliation (UR) is also called Ultimate Reconciliation or Ultimate Restoration or Universal Salvation or Universal Redemption, or Universalism, or (at least in my definition, for the ideas I'm defending) Evangelical Universalism or Christian Universalism, or the Blessed Hope, or (in a name from early church history) Apokatastasis.  Earlier, in my pages about FA-versus-EM, I called it Second Chance Salvation.

Final Annihilation (FA) is usually called Annihilation (or Annihilationism) or Ultimate Annihilation, or — with terms we should not use because they are biblically/logically incorrect* Conditional Immortality or Conditionalism.     {Until early 2015, I called this view Conditional Immortality (CI), but then I recognized — for reasons explained briefly (re: possibilities + what/who) and also below in Conditional Immortality, Part 3) — that this term should mean CI is either FA or URbecause both FA & UR are consistent with God's principle (in Genesis) that unsaved sinners "must not... live forever" and (in Revelation) God's Condition for giving immortality, so with either view (FA or UR) the immortality is conditional.  Therefore, FA should never be called Conditional Immortality, thus claiming “CI is only FA, because this claim is logically false. }

 

Eternal Misery (EM) is usually called Eternal Torment or Eternal Conscious Torment (ECT), or logically it could be Eternal Conscious Punishment or Eternal Punishing, and a very common name is The Traditional View, or Traditionalism.

But I don't use Traditionalism because this term is inaccurate when it's applied to early church history and (unlike other terms for EM, FA, UR) it doesn't answer the question of “what happens to people in hell?”

And instead of Torment (with implications of God actively “doing things to people” in hell), I use Misery (merely describing the condition of people, not how it's happening).  But in the future I probably will change my term to Eternal Torment because God is actively involved by causing Misery in the main "hell verses" (e.g. Matthew 25:46, Revelation 14:9-11 & 20:10) that are used to claim support for EM.  And because ET would allow better one-word names for all views, with conditionalist (for UR-or-FA), universalist (for UR) or reconciliationist (for UR), annihilationist (for FA), and tormentist (for EM), with the three italicized terms describing "what happens" in the end state for humans who were unsaved at the end of their Life:  it's reconciliation, or annihilation, or torment.

With EM, is the misery actively caused or passively allowed?  Eternal Torment can be used to describe both the state of EM (they are feeling tormented, they are miserable) and the cause of EM (because God is tormenting them).  The term Eternal Torment is similar to Eternal Torture, a term that is rarely used for EM, probably because "Torture" would place more emphasis on the actions of Who is causing the misery, on The Torture-er, and the implications would be more negative for the character of God.  Defenders of EM can try to avoid this implication by claiming “separation from God” is the cause, but if God actively keeps sinners alive, then He is actively causing their torment/misery by keeping them alive, by refusing to either annihilate them or reconcile them.     { To help Christians love each other while disagreeing, one useful idea is to understand how IF-THEN thinking (that is BECAUSE thinking) can allow God-respecting motivations in those who defend a doctrine of EM, and those who criticize this doctrine. }

 


 

Conditional Immortality  —  Part 3

Unfortunately, the term "Conditional Immortality" often is used in a way that is logically incorrect.  To show this,...

First, I'll describe The Condition of Conditional Immortality.

Second, an examination of Possible Afterlife-Realities will show, logically, that Conditional Immortality could occur with either Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation, not just with Final Annihilation.  Therefore, logically we should define Conditional Immortality as either Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation.

It is not logically justifiable for a defender of Annihilationism to say “sometimes I call my view Annihilationism, and sometimes I call it Conditionalism” because whenever they claim “my view IS Conditionalism” this is a false claim, because they are declaring that Conditional Immortality is “only Final Annihilation” so “Conditional Immortality would not occur with Universal Reconciliation.”  But this is incorrect because it puts artificial restrictions on the Possible Afterlife-Realities that would be consistent with The Condition defined by God.

 

Hopefully you are now thinking “yes, we should be logical, so we should define Conditional Immortality as either Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation.”  If this is what you're thinking, you don't need to read the next two sections, about The Condition and Possible Afterlife-Realities.  But whether you're thinking "yes, we should be logical" or you want to continue using a less-logical definition, you may find the logic — described verbally and verbally/visually — to be interesting, and worth reading.

 

 

The Condition

In the afterlife, Conditional Immortality (CI) will be divinely limited by The Condition that is clearly taught in the Bible and is consistent with The Death Penalty for Sin that we see throughout the Bible.  Immortality will be given by God, but only to people who meet The Condition (defined by God and clearly stated in Genesis and Revelation*) that can be summarized in three logically equivalent ways,

        • in a Positive Statement (about what will happen) combined with a Negative Statement (about what will not happen):  “IF a person is a saved sinner, THEN they will receive everlasting life” {Positive},  but {Negative} “IF a person is an unsaved sinner, THEN they will not receive everlasting life.”  Or, in short forms, the Positive Statement is “IF saved, THEN immortal”, and the Negative Statement is “IF un-saved, THEN un-immortal”.  When these two Statements are combined, they define The Condition.

        • or in a single Positive-and-Negative Statement (about what will happen and won't happen):  “IFF (IF and ONLY IF) a person is a saved sinner, THEN they will receive everlasting life.”  Or, in a short form, “IFF saved, THEN immortal”, which is logically equivalent to   • a combination of the corresponding IF-THEN statement (made by changing the IFF to IF) plus its reversed IF-THEN statement (i.e. the combination of “IF saved, THEN Immortal” plus “IF Immortal, THEN saved”) when both if-then statements are true.

        All of these 3 formulations — Negative IF-Then Statement plus Positive IF-Then Statement;  and IFF Statement;  and IF-Then Statement plus reversed IF-Then Statement — are logically equivalent, because if any of these formulations is true, so are the other two;  and if any formulation is false, so are the other two.

 

* Human Immortality supplied by God, symbolized by The Tree of Life, was taken away by God (because sinners "must not be allowed to... live forever," as described in Genesis 3:22) and it will be given back by God (as promised in Revelation 2:7 and 22:14) but only to those who are "victorious," who "wash their robes" so they meet The IFF-Condition defined by God.

The divine gift of Conditional Immortality — given by God IFF a person is a saved sinner could occur in the two ways described by two views, either UR or FA.

 

With each of these views, what is the process of afterlife?

    With FA an unsaved person is given bodily existence for awhile, then is killed, and the termination of their life is compatible with The IFF-Then Condition of Conditional Immortality.
    With UR an unsaved person is given bodily existence for awhile,* then is saved, and the continuation of their life is compatible with The IFF-Then Condition of Conditional Immortality.
    It's easiest to see the compatibility of FA-termination in a Negative Statement of The Condition (IF not saved, THEN not immortal), and of UR-continuation in a Positive Statement of The Condition (IF saved, THEN immortal).  But in each Statement (Negative & Positive) and in each end-result (Annihilation of all unsaved with FA, or Reconciliation of all saved with UR), no unsaved sinners are given everlasting life, and all saved ex-sinners are given everlasting life, so each end-result (FA, or UR) is consistent with The Condition of Conditional Immortality.
 
    * With UR, how long would the temporary existence last? and in what kind of temporary bodily state?  We don't know.  Some people claim that the duration of educational healing in hell — with some time-duration required for the experiences that convert an unsaved sinner into a saved ex-sinner — would have to be extremely long, maybe even almost-infinite.  But probably the time would be much shorter, and it would vary from one person to another.  Of course, when we're thinking about these questions ("how long..." and "what kind...") humility is appropriate because all of our ideas (about the "temporary existence" and "temporary bodily state") are speculations, so "we don't know."

 

The Condition-Exam:  A person will satisfy The Condition IFF they pass Their Final Exam that is Their Final Condition-Exam.  This educational perspective on The Condition is outlined in the conclusion of Part 2 of "Two Teaching-and-Testing Strategies [using either One Exam or Multiple Exams] for Education" which builds on Part 1.  In both FA and UR, every person's Final Exam is a tough Condition-Exam because passing Their Final Exam requires an authentic belief-and-repentance that is The Condition (for Salvation & Immortality), as explained near the end of Part 2:

    If each person will have only one exam (Their Life-Exam Judgment), it's Their Final Exam because... [with EM or FA] they will have no Afterlife-Exams.  But if God will give multiple exams, if a person fails their Life-Exam then Their Final Exam will be the Afterlife-Exam when God finally says “hooray! you passed” {this will happen for all with UR, and some with semi-UR} or when God finally “gives up” and stops trying to persuade them to believe-and-repent {this will happen for some with semi-UR}.
    All of these Final Exams are "tough Condition-Exams" (with tough defined as “requiring authentic belief-and-repentance”) because if God gives a person a “passing grade” on Their Final Exam — either a Life Exam (in any view) or an Afterlife Exam (in semi-UR or UR) — this person has satisfied The Condition of Conditional Immortality.

 

Comparing FA with UR – A Similarity (when asking “What?”) and A Difference (when asking “Who?”):   In a similarity, FA and UR agree that Death is The Penalty for Sin.   But there is a difference when we ask “Is the divine payment of our death penalty, by Jesus, given to all people (producing UR) or (with FA) only some people?

To compare UR with FA, we must ask two questions, quoted from Part 1 {of Conditional Immortality and The Death Penalty for Sin}:

    WHAT is the penalty for sin?  —  it's permanent total death, in both views;
    WHO receives this penalty?  —  no person (if UR), or some people (if FA).
 

Death and Immortality:  What is the relationship between The Death Penalty and Conditional Immortality?  Death is God's Penalty for the Sinning of Sinners.  Conditional Immortality is God's Gift for Sinners, and The Condition, decided by God, is being saved by God, who wants to save us from slavery to sin (now in Life) and (later in Afterlife) save us from everlasting death.

 

an important difference:  If we want to be biblical-and-logical, we must distinguish between immortality that is Conditional and is Dependent.

 

THEORIES and REALITIES

The next two subsections are about Afterlife-Realities and Afterlife-Theories.  Of course, distinguishing between theory and reality is important, because...

Theories are not Realities:  Our Afterlife-Theories do not determine whether the basic Afterlife-Reality will be EM or FA or UR or semi-UR or something else.  This distinction between Theory and Reality is important. (e.g. a Theory-about-UR can propose either biblical Conditional Immortality or unbiblical Unconditional Immortality)   Yes, what we believe-and-say in our humanly constructed Afterlife-Theories does affect how we live now — in our relationships and decisions — but...  no, a humanly constructed Afterlife-Theory cannot determine what the basic Afterlife-Reality will be;  instead the Afterlife-Reality will be divinely decided (WWJD) and divinely created/actualized.

Two Kinds of Realities:  My page about Reality 101 compares Human-Independent Realities (e.g., our Solar System) and Humanly-Constructed Realities (e.g. our theories about the Solar System, about the sun & earth & other planets),  and asks a Solar System Question:  "Between 1500 (when almost everyone believed that the sun and planets revolved around the earth) and 1700 (when almost every educated person believed that the earth and planets revolved around the sun), what changed and what did not change?"     answers:  The human-independent Solar System Reality did not change, and the Truth about it didn't change, but our humanly-constructed Truth-Claims about it did change.     { Our humanly-constructed Truth Claims do not affect the Truth of human-independent Realities, whether the Reality is a Solar System or an Afterlife.  When a Reality is human-independent, there is (by the definition of independent) no cause-effect relationship because Our Theory and The Reality.  Of course, a person's Theories-about-Afterlife will affect their thoughts-and-actions during their Life, and this will affect their own Life & Afterlife, and also – through the effects of their words and actions – the Lives & Afterlives of other people. }

 

 

Possible Afterlife-Realities

This section supplements the basic logic, which is summarized here:

    My overview of Conditional Immortality (CI) defines The Condition (“IF saved, THEN immortal” but “IF un-saved, THEN un-immortal”) and explains why CI is not possible with Eternal Misery (EM), and how CI is possible with either Final Annihilation (FA) or Universal Reconciliation (UR), soCI is either FA or UR”.*   Each of these two possibilities-for-CI is biblically/logically consistent with The Condition of Conditional Immortality because every existing person would be saved-and-immortal in The Final State of Afterlife with FA (because all people who were unsaved-in-Life have been annihilated so they no longer exist) or with UR (because all people who were unsaved-in-Life have been saved-in-Afterlife so they meet The Condition).     {* or FA+UR in semi-UR}
 

a logical change:  For two decades, my papers about FA-versus-EM used CI to mean only the view I'm now calling FA.  For me, previously CI was FA (so CI was not-UR), but now CI is FA-or-UR.  Why did I change?  The logical reasons are summarized in the paragraph above, and are examined more deeply in the section below.

 

Possible Afterlife-Realities:  Building on the section above – which logically describes The Condition of Conditional Immortality – this table shows 4 ultimate results in Afterlife (for sinners who were unsaved during Life) that are possible IF God will adopt a policy of Conditional Immortality or Unconditional Immortality, and IF God will adopt a policy in which unsaved-in-Life people will be either annihilated, or preserved-and-reconciled, or preserved-and-tormented.

 
 and IF unsaved-in-Life sinners 
 will never be saved or preserved, 
 but instead will be annihilated,
 
 and IF unsaved-in-Life sinners
will be preserved and saved
so they can be reconciled,
and IF unsaved-in-Life sinners
 will be preserved but not saved, 
instead they will be tormented,
 IF Conditional Immortality
then Final Annihilation, FA,
with Immortality that is
Conditional and non-Universal.

 then Universal Reconciliation, UR, 
with Immortality that is
Conditional and Universal.
 this combination is impossible, 
because EM cannot occur
with Conditional Immortality.

 IF Unconditional Immortality  
 IF (Universal-and-irrevocable) 
this combination is impossible,
because FA cannot occur
 with Unconditional Immortality.
 
then Universal Reconciliation, UR,
proposing UR-Immortality that is
Unconditional and Universal.
then Eternal Misery, EM,
with EM-Immortality that is
Unconditional and Universal.
 

This table shows important facts:

• The two gray table-cells show Afterlife-Theories that are unbiblical because they propose an Unconditional Immortality that is not taught in the Bible.  But there is an important difference between the two gray cells because Theories are not Realities.  Only the Afterlife-Reality "with EM-Immortality" would violate Conditional Immortality because unsaved current-sinners would become immortal.  By contrast, even if a person is "proposing UR-Immortality that is Unconditional" in their Afterlife-Theory, an ultimate Afterlife-Reality with UR-Immortality would not violate The Condition of Conditional Immortality because with evangelical Christian UR only saved former-sinners would become immortal.

 

• FA could occur only with Conditional Immortality;

• EM could occur only with Unconditional Immortality.

 

• UR could occur with either Conditional Immortality or Unconditional Immortality, and each Afterlife-Reality would be compatible with The IFF-Then Condition of Conditional Immortality.  How is this possible?  Because, of course, An Afterlife-Theory is not The Afterlife-Reality so An Afterlife-Theory proposing Unconditional Immortality cannot cause The Afterlife-Reality to become Unconditional Immortality.

• CI could occur in two ways, either Conditional AND non-Universal (with FA) or Conditional AND Universal (with UR) so CI should meaneither FA or UR”.   Therefore, a claim that CI is only FA (as with an implication that “IF Conditional Immortality, THEN not Universal Immortality” and thus not Universal Reconciliation)* is logically unjustifiable, is false, as shown by the possible existence of the yellow cell (in the table above) and yellow area (in the diagram below).     {* Basically, this claim is that Conditional-and-Universal is impossible, so Conditional Immortality AND Universal Reconciliation is impossible.  One reason for confusion is because even though it's true that “if Unconditional, then Universal”, the reversed form (“if Universal, then Unconditional”) is false, so “if Universal, then Unconditional” cannot be the basis of a claim that “Universal Reconciliation (which requires Universal Immortality) is Unconditional Immortality instead of Conditional Immortality”.  In other words, although Unconditional (i.e. not-Conditional) is sufficient to guarantee Universal, it is not necessary, because Universal could occur with either Conditional (UR) or Unconditional (UR or EM).   If defenders of CI is only FA think Conditionalism is incompatible with the Universal Immortality of UR, could semi-Universalism be accepted as Conditionalism if only 20% are saved and then (because they now satisfy The Condition) are immortalized, and the other 80% are annihilated?  or if those saved are 51, 80, 98, or 99.99999%?  or does The Condition become A Non-Condition only if 100% satisfy The Condition?  i.e., Where do advocates of “UR is not-CI” want to “draw the line”? }   {MORE - with a simplified table}

 

The section about "Possible Afterlife-Realities" continues below, in this gray box that shows it's less important than what is above.  (but even though it's non-essential you still may find it useful & interesting)

 

The table above shows "4 ultimate results... that are possible."  Another way to look at these 4 possibilities — produced by imagining various combinations of Immortalities (Conditional & Unconditional, non-Universal & Universal) — is this diagram:

 
Relationships between Conditional and Universal
 

In this diagram,...

the gray shading shows that Unconditional Immortality (and thus EM & one kind of theory about UR) violates a principle – Conditional Immortality – that is clearly taught in Genesis & Revelation.

the purple solid lines ( ) show results that could occur in only one way:   FA requires Conditional Immortality;   EM requires Unconditional Immortality.

the purple dotted lines ( ..... ) show results that could occur in either of two ways:   Universal Immortality could occur with either UR or EM;   UR could occur in two ways, and one way combines Conditional Immortality with the Universal Immortality that would occur if God lets everyone satisfy The Condition so He can achieve Universal Reconciliation.  This possibility — shown in the diagram (yellow area) and in the table (yellow cell) — "is extremely important for logically analyzing the meaning of Conditional Immortality," for understanding why Conditional Immortality should mean "either FA or UR" instead of the logically unjustifiable "only FA".

 

 

Possibilities for Semi-Universal Reconciliation:  When we consider the possibility that people who were unsaved-in-Life will be given (by the generous grace of God) a Second Chance to be saved in Afterlife, but some people won't be saved, a 2-possibility table (if we ignore the gray cells) becomes the 3-possibility table below, which shows (using the same color coding for gray & blue & yellow, plus green) the ultimate results-in-Afterlife that are possible:  IF there is Conditional Immortality or Unconditional Immortality and IF there is no Second Chance for repentance in After-Life (as with FA or EM), or there is a Second Chance and some will repent (to produce semi-Universal Reconciliation) or all will repent (producing Universal Reconciliation).   {two kinds of semi-UR}

 
 
 and IF no Second Chance, 
 and IF Second Chance → semi-UR, 
 and IF Second Chance → UR, 
 IF Conditional Immortality,
 
 
 
 
then if not Saved in Life,
will be Annihilated,
→( Final Annihilation, FA ).
 
 
then if not Saved in Life,
can repent in Afterlife;
some will repent & be saved,
others will be Annihilated,
→( semi-UR, combining UR+FA ).
then if not Saved in Life,
can repent in Afterlife;
ALL will repent & be saved,
 →( Universal Reconciliation, UR ). 
 
 IF Unconditional Immortality  
 IF (Universal-and-irrevocable)
 IF is proposed in a Theory, 
 
 
   
 then if not Saved in Life, 
 have Eternal Misery, 
→( Eternal Misery, EM ),
but this Afterlife-Reality
 would not be compatible with CI. 
 
 
then if not Saved in Life,
can repent in Afterlife,
some will repent & be saved;
 others have Eternal Torment, 
 →( semi-UR, combining UR+EM ),
but this Afterlife-Reality
 would not be compatible with CI. 
then if not Saved in Life,
can repent in Afterlife;
 ALL will repent & be saved, 
→( Universal Reconciliation, UR ),
 and this Afterlife-Reality
 would be compatible with CI. 
 

 

Verbal/Visual Representations of Logical Relationships:  I like to “see” logical relationships (similarities & differences, overlapping areas, inclusions & exclusions, etc) like those in the many ways to combine Conditional & Unconditional, Non-Universal & Universal.  You can read (verbal) and see (visual) important logical relationships above, in the table & diagram.

 

 

 

Our Afterlife-Theories  (Our Theories about Afterlife-Realities)

What are the relationships between views of Hell (is it EM, or FA, or UR) and views of Immortality (is it Conditional, or Unconditional)?

In addition to the table and diagram above, below are 3 equivalent ways — with Statements, in a Table, and with Questions — to describe each combination-of-views that IS logically possible, and ISN'T.     {some views are unbiblical but not unlogical:  For example, I think Unconditional Immortality is unbiblical, so views proposing it are unbiblical and thus are not biblically logical, although these view-combinations are included as “logical possibilities” below.}

 

with 3 Statements:

EM requires universal Unconditional Immortality, because EM is impossible with Conditional Immortality.

FA requires Conditional Immortality, because Annihilation would be impossible with automatic universal-and-irrevocable Unconditional Immortality.

UR does not require either kind of Immortality, because it's compatible with both.     /     But even if a UR-believer has assumed (in their Theory-about-Afterlife) universal Unconditional Immortality,* it still is true that an eventual result of UR in The Reality-of-Afterlife — with only "saved ex-sinners" receiving the gift of immortality from God — would not violate the if-then Condition of Conditional Immortality because with Christian UR only saved ex-sinners would become immortal.     {* Theories are not Realities}     In the column for UR, why is every possibility a "maybe"?  Because belief in UR can be based on either a biblical principle of Conditional Immortality, or an unbiblical assumption of Unconditional Immortality for all humans.  Either way, the result of UR is consistent with Conditional Immortality (CI) because UR doesn't violate the if-then condition that is required by God.

 

in a 6-Statement Table:

These 3 Statements (describing possibilities for a logical Theory-about-Reality) are summarized in this table, with if-then statements that are true when you read only the purple (if..., then...) or you read only the green (if..., then...) because the “mixed color” statements (if..., then... or if..., then...) are meaningless.

 
 if EM is proposed, 
if FA is proposed,
 if UR is proposed, 
 if Conditional Immortality
 is proposed,
then not CI.
then not EM.
 then CI.  
 then maybe FA.  
then maybe CI.
 
then maybe UR. 
 if Unconditional Immortality 
 is proposed,
 
then UI.
  then maybe EM.  
then not UI.
then not FA.
then maybe UI.
then maybe UR.

 

with 5 Questions:

The same logic can be described in the two ways you see above (with 3 Statements, in a 6-Statement Table) and, below, with answers  —  between the —'s, or between the { }'s  —  for these 5 questions about the logic of Hell-and-Immortality:

    If you believe biblical Conditional Immortality, then which view(s) of Hell — UR, FA, EM — can you logically believe? *   {UR or FA}
    If you believe unbiblical Unconditional Immortality, then which view(s) of Hell — UR, FA, EM — can you logically believe?   {UR or EM}
    If you believe EM, then which view(s) of Immortality — Conditional (CI) or Unconditional (UI) — can you logically believe?   {only UI}
    If you believe FA, then which view(s) of Immortality — Conditional (CI) or Unconditional (UI) — can you logically believe?   {only CI}
    If you believe UR, then which view(s) of Immortality — Conditional (CI) or Unconditional (UI) — can you logically believe?  {CI or UI}
 

 

I.O.U. — Below here, many parts are well developed (they're close to what I'll want them to be eventually) but some parts are not – they're rough, they need developing-and-revising.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS  (for Part 3)

Educational Resources

Bible-Passages about Hell — interpretations of Matthew 25:46 and Revelation 20, with
    questions about translations, and meanings (of eternal, punishment, death, fire, torment)

What is Universal Reconciliation? & 7 Myths about Christian Universalism

Repentance After Death?

Universalism in Church History & Calvinist plus Arminian = Universalist? & Calvinism's TULIP

Conditional Immortality - Part 3

 

Educational Resources

I.O.U. – During 2018, I will continue searching for educational web-resources about my own views — Bible-based Universal Reconciliation (UR) and Final Annihilation (FA) — and Eternal Misery (EM).  Some web-pages and websites describe their view of UR or FA, along with arguments for it, while others have counter-arguments against it.*  For awhile, the links in this section will be tentative and incomplete, until I find more resources (so I can evaluate, and decide which links to retain) and make more decisions.     {Currently there isn't much here that is pro-EM.  Later there will be more, although my focus will remain on explaining-and-defending FA and (especially) UR. }

Here is a beginning:

 

WEBSITES

God's Love Wins wants to "provide a safe venue for the Body of Christ to explore the hope, desire, and inkling that the redemptive love of God in Christ may be bigger and more powerful than we've been allowed to believe." (about us - what we believe (and the real reason) - many excellent articles including tough questions for EM and Annihilation versus Reconciliation)  (sitemap-index of articles)

Purgatorial Hell FAQ by Stan Rock, explains Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation (PUR);  after reading his FAQ, I've begun using his term, so my view of UR is now aka PUR,

Christless Universalism -- Intro to Christian Universalism - What Universalism is NOT -

http://www.christianuniversalism.com/articles/evangelical-views-of-hell/

http://www.christianuniversalism.com/articles/what-universalism-is-not/

Experimental Theology has articles, by Richard Beck, about universalism (search the homepage for "recon") including A Summary Defense and FAQ and Why I am a Universalist.

Evangelical Universalist is a forum with discussions (live & in archives) and many resources.

 

Rethinking Hell is the best website for Annihilationism,* with plenty of valuable high-quality resources (text - audio - video) to explore when you click links.

{* But they call their view Conditional Immortality (or evangelical Conditionalism) even though this name is logically incorrect. }

also:  HELL - Eternal Torment or Complete Annihilation? (web-page and audio) by Jeremy K. Moritz - his article is especially useful for examining the character of God if He would cause Eternal Torment, but (like me) Jeremy doesn't think He will do this.

 

BOOKS

for free — Two books I often link to for "more info" are:

    Hope Beyond Hell - a website by Gerry Beauchemin offers his book for free in the 256-page long version (audio or pdf or kindle) or 48-page short version (pdf) or cheap printed-book (from website or Amazon) with internet-updates and other resources.
    Raising Hell - a website by Julie Ferwerda offers her book as a free pdf and (thru Amazon) inexpensive kindle or paperback.
    Links to HBH and RH:  In many sections, I link to specific parts of Gerry's book, Hope Beyond Hell (HBH).  For each link the URL takes you to a specific page if your PDF-reader is working properly;  if not, Adobe's PDF Reader will do this.   For example, pages 21-31 should take you to page 21 of the book.  Similarly, for the book by Julie – Raising Hell (RH) – my link to "pages 145-155 of RH" should send you to page 145;  if not, you can get there quickly by using "go to".
 

Two pro-UR books for sale (in-print or Kindle) are:

    The Inescapable Love of God (by Thomas Talbott) and
    The Evangelical Universalist (by Robin Parry, aka Gregory MacDonald).

and two multi-view books — that might be the best place to begin — are:

    Four Views of Hell - [[ written by 4 authors, including Robin Parry who has a good summary of UR, re: what it is, and evidence for it ]]  [[plus, from Rethinking Hell, interviews of all 4 authors & the editor, and a written review of the chapter by Robin Parry]]
    All You Want to Know about Hell: Three Christian Views of God's Final Solution to the Problem of Sin (by Steve Gregg) is an excellent summary (comprehensive, yet easily readable) of pros-and-cons for the 3 views.  You can read reviews, and buy the book, at ChristianBooks & Amazon.   {note: The title claiming "All You Want to Know" was chosen by the publisher, not Steve.}   /   Regarding an extremely important question — will God give opportunities to repent after death? — Steve describes, on page 260, the absence of clear biblical support either "affirming" or "denying" this possibility.

 

AUDIO and VIDEO

You can hear (online or after download) two talks by Steve Gregg about Three Views of Hell - beginning with an overview (in Part 1 until 33:31), followed by details about Eternal Misery, and ending (in Part 2 from 24:12 onward) with descriptions of Final Annihilation and Universal Reconciliation.   Steve also discusses these ideas with other Christians in one of his forums.

[[ i.o.u. - later, other audio/video resources will be here ]]

 

BIBLICAL JUSTICE

For all essential doctrines, our concepts should be biblical concepts.  Below are some insights, from other authors, about the concept of biblical justice.

I.O.U. – This entire section will be developed more fully soon, in April 2018.  During this process, I will summarize some of the main ideas that are not already in my sections about biblical Divine Justice, beginning with introductory overview-summaries of justice and of possible experiences (with suffering + rehabilitative transformation) in hell.  One essential idea, emphasized by me and by other authors, is that Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation does propose that unsaved people will suffer in hell, even though this fact is often ignored by its critics who instead criticize a misleading inaccurate strawman-version of "universalism" with no hell, with no suffering of any kind.

Defining Justice:  Richard Beck compares two kinds of biblical justice – if God will cause Eternal Torment or Purgatorial Universal Reconciliation.

Justice and Righteousness:  In the Bible, the same Greek word (dikaios) is used for justice and for a righteousness that is right-useness, that restores things (people, relationships, thinking,...) to the way they should be, the way God wants them to be.  The concept of biblical justice — in a process of loving justice — is explored in excellent pages from GodsLoveWins.com (& christianuniversalism.com) — A  B  C  D  E — and by other authors — Daniel Hill & Fred Clark & Evangelical Universalist (forum) & Oxford Biblical Studies & others — that {iou} I will search for, and will link to, as part of my wider study of these claims about connections between biblical justice-and-righteousness.  More generally, I will find useful ideas about the ways it seems that God would (or would not) achieve biblical justice with each of the main views of What Will Happen in Hell, if God will Reconcile and/or Annihilate or will Eternally Torment.

more from Richard Beck:  Justice with Eternal Torment and Universalism & about George Macdonald and Beck's Universalism (in a Summary & FAQ & links and in other parts of his website)

Justice and Penal Substitutionary Atonement:  i.o.u. - I will begin writing this soon, during April, using some of these ideas - [[ for example, Beck strongly writes against PSA (but why?) in an otherwise-good article;  the basics are in God's Death Penalty for Sin (@ur#death [Gen 3, OT System, Jesus] is clearly biblical, and  it isn't "child abuse" [because Jesus was/is part of triune-God (FatherSonSpirit) who planned/approved the crucifixion of Son] as claimed by some critics of PSA, and  PSA is strong argument against EM ]]

 

 

Hell Passages in the Bible

When we study the passages that typically are claimed as support for Eternal Misery in Hell, or Final Annihilation during Hell, instead of Universal Reconciliation after Hell, an important principle is whether a question is useful.  For example, asking “will people suffer in hell?” is not a useful question because it cannot help us distinguish between views, because all three views agree that suffering will occur.  Therefore, a Bible-passage about suffering in hell (as in "weeping and gnashing of teeth") does not provide support against UR.

 

This section will examine two “hell passages” — Matthew 25:46 ("eternal punishment") and Revelation 20:11-15 ("the second death, the lake of fire") — and word-translations that are biased by EM-beliefs.

More generally, four main passages that have been claimed as support for EM-Hell are examined in my papers about FA-versus-EM, briefly in a 1-page summary, and with detail in the longer paper, Sections 3.2 & 6.1-6.4d & 7.1c & 7.3 & 7.6. [[also add #s for 2Thess, Daniel12,...]]

 


 

Matthew 25:46 — it's compatible with EM or FA or UR

I'm surprised whenever someone thinks Matthew 25:46 — declaring that some will "go away to eternal punishment" — provides strong support for Eternal Misery, and is a decisive reason to believe EM.

Why?  I'll explain in two parts, first by comparing FA versus EM, and then UR versus FA-or-EM.

 

EM versus FA  —  Matthew 25:46

The weakness of this argument-for-EM is examined briefly and more deeply,

• briefly in my summary of FA-versus-EM which says:

    In Matthew 25:46 the Greek word ‘kolasin’ is a noun, so it's translated as "punishment" (in "eternal punishment") instead of the verb “punishing”.  An eternally lasting punishment-result (eternally lasting non-existence [because life has been terminated by God]) does not require an eternally lasting punishing-process;  the meanings are “parallel” with FA, as with EM, because with FA the unsaved will be dead forever, and the saved will be alive forever.

• and with more depth in my long paper, in Sections 3.2 & 7.32a/7.32b on pages 3-4 & 15-17.

Why is this passage compatible with either FA or EM?  Because eternal punishment (it would occur with either FA or EM) is the noun-word actually used in the original text of Matthew 25:46, but eternal punishing (that would occur only with EM) is a verb-word that is not used.

Therefore, this verse does not provide support for EM.  Instead we should be persuaded by the overwhelming support for FA (or UR) due to the clearly taught Bible-based principles of Conditional Immortality and The Death Penalty for Sin.   {plus The Character of God when we ask "What Will Jesus Do?"}

 

UR versus FA (or EM)  —  Matthew 25:46

During translation into English, the original Greek words "kolasin aionion" typically become "punishment eternal" and then (by reversing the word-order, as you can see in a translation showing English-and-Greek) "eternal punishment", but there are debates about the meaning of each word.  When we're thinking about UR (versus FA or EM) the intended meanings of these two words (especially aionian) are very important because the traditional translations provide support for EM or FA, but there are logical linguistic reasons to question these translations — that have been made by advocates of EM, to support EM — and therefore to question a conclusion of EM.     { But even if these translations are accepted without question, FA has much stronger biblical support than EM.  I'm very confident about FA-versus-EM, so for me the translation-questions mainly affect FA-versus-UR. }

 

AIONIOS  (= eternal?  = occuring in a future age?)

The root word, aion, means “age”.  Its adjective form, aionion (or aionios), is used with several meanings in the Bible:

    If the intended meaning is a common literal meaning — “occurring in an age to come” (“occurring in a future age” or “occurring in the future age [that occurs after The Return of Jesus, The General Resurrection, and The Final Judgment]”) — instead of “lasting for eternity” (translated as "eternal" or "everlasting"), then the time-durations of punishment & life are not specified here,* and Matthew 25:46 would be compatible with UR, not just with FA or EM.  For example, in Young's Literal Translation the adjective aionios is "age-during" based on the literal meaning of aion.     {But the everlasting duration of Heavenly Life is clarified elsewhere in the Bible.}
    There also is no time-duration with another possible meaning of aionios, “associated with God”, perhaps by “coming from God, being produced by God, occurring by the power of God.”  Or meanings can be combined, as with the how-and-when of an aionios experience that is "produced by God" in "a future age".
    Another possible meaning — “enduring for an age” — does involve time duration.  But a time-argument based on the literary parallel (between "aionios punishment" and "aionios life")* is much weaker than is usually claimed by proponents of FA or EM, because the length of an "age" usually is not eternal in the Bible.  The length of an "aion" depends on its context, which could differ for punishment and for life.  Gerry Beauchemin (on pages 25-26) cites many biblical examples showing that "the duration of aionios is determined by the subject to which it refers. [and the duration usually is not eternal] ... Thus, the word cannot have a set value.  It is a relative term and its duration depends upon that with which it is associated."  In Matthew 25:46, the aion could have temporary duration for punishment in Hell, and everlasting duration for life in Heaven.     {* Proponents of EM (or FA) typically emphasize the parallel in Matthew 25:46, and ignore the clear parallel structure, strongly supporting UR, in Romans 5:18. }
 

With any of these non-eternal meanings, aionios punishment could occur "in a future age" or "produced by God" or "enduring for an age" with the hell-experience described by any of the views, by UR or FA or EM.

You can learn more about aionios — about its meanings throughout the Bible, and the assumptions-of-EM that have influenced translators — by reading my Section 7.32b and pages 21-31 of HBH and pages 145-155 of RH, and Tentmaker.

 

 

Parallels:

Defenders of EM usually point to the wording-parallel between "everlasting punishment" and "everlasting life," claiming “if the punishment isn't eternal, neither is the life.”  Here are three responses:

 

• If aionios is translated as eternal, the parallel works equally well with either EM or FA.

But if God intended aionios to mean — with its most literal meaning — “occurring in a future age” or (as Robin Parry says) “occuring in a way that God decides is appropriate for the future age,” the parallel also works well with UR because it proposes that both experiences (punishment & life) will “occur in a future age, and will be appropriate (by fulfilling the purpose of God) for that age.”

 

• If you are impressed with the logic of structural parallels, you should consider the much stronger biblical parallels between Adam and Jesus — "as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22) because (Romans 5:18) "as through one transgression [by Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [by Jesus] there resulted justification of life to all men" and (Romans 11:32) "God has shut up all in disobedience [due to the sin of Adam] so that [because of what Christ did for us, with His substitutionary atonement] He may show mercy to all." — that seem to teach Universal Reconciliation.

 

• Does this argument imply that Christians don't truly love other people in the ways we love ourselves?

The "parallels" argument, based on Matthew 25:46, claims that if “punishment in a future age” isn't everlasting punishing that is eternal torment, then “life in a future age” isn't everlasting life.  Is this an emotional appeal to greedy self-interest, assuming Christians should love ourselves more than we love others?  Does it assume that we should want Eternal Life (if it's joyful with God) so much that that we would “fight to the death” to keep it, even if this means Eternal Life (that is miserable without God) for most other people.  Is this assumption true for you?

If you truly "love your neighbor as you love yourself," would you (if in afterlife you will be saved) be willing to exchange your everlasting joy to prevent the everlasting misery of an unsaved person?  I would.  Here, I'm thinking about my sister.*   IF she was unsaved at death, and IF she would have to endure the horror of Eternal Misery in Hell, and IF God will give me eternal life in heaven, then I will gladly “make a deal with God” so I can say to her “this is my farewell gift for you,” then she says “thank you, brother,” we say farewell, cry, hug, and die together.

Fortunately, I'm very confident that this choice won't be necessary because:  Jesus already died for both of us, to pay the penalty of death (not misery that never ends, without death) for both of us, and His sacrifice is sufficient;  and there are strong Biblical reasons to believe that EM won't happen — I'm confident that after some suffering in Hell (but not an infinite amount of suffering), God either will save the unsaved, or will end their existence — so nobody will have to endure the horror of Eternal Misery.

In fact, I think there are biblical reasons to be optimistic, to believe that God will reconcile my sister with Him, and us with each other, so eventually she and I can say hello, cry, hug, and live together.  This is the way it should be, and the way I hope it will be.

 

* If it was necessary, and possible, would you (or I) truly have enough love for any person — whether it's family, friend, or even a stranger — that you would “make this deal” to forfeit your Eternal Joy and end their Eternal Misery?  certainly? probably? maybe? no?   Would you choose to end your own Eternal Joy if this would end the Eternal Misery of one other person?  of a person you love? a stranger?   What if your death would rescue a thousand people from Eternal Misery? or a billion?  Or what if ALL saved people died to rescue ALL of the unsaved from Eternal Misery?  Or... did Jesus already do this?

When wondering if you truly love others "as you love yourself," you can apply the Golden Rule and ask “what would I want others to do for me, if our situations were reversed?”  Would your answer change if — due to the Veil of Ignorance that John Rawls encourages us to imagine — you don't have any idea about whether you will be one of the few on the narrow road to salvation, or one of many on the broad road to damnation?

Does thinking about these questions motivate you to more strongly hope for Universal Reconciliation?

 

 

KOLASIN  (= non-corrective punishment?  = corrective punishment?)

The term kolasin, usually translated as "punishment", comes from the horticultural term kolazo, which means to prune a plant's branches, to remove some branches for the purpose of promoting proper growth.  With this meaning, which was the main meaning in classical Greek,* in hell a person's kolasin will be a corrective educational experience that is beneficial for the person, provided by God for the purpose of improving the person.  With this meaning, God would give each unsaved person a painful-yet-beneficial experience in hell, to function as a corrective chastening-punishment that removes sin ("for the purpose of promoting proper growth") and thus makes them a better person, with less of the sinful thinking that was harming them.  This change would be necessary to make them suitable for reconciliation with God, so they can join the Kingdom of God.   

* But the meaning may have changed during the time before Matthew 25:46 was written, so there is uncertainty.   {For more about kolasin, see pages 27-28 & 127 of HBH and page 250 of RH, and Thomas Talbott (quotes from TT);  and, arguing against corrective implications, A & Regina Hunter, for Bible Study Tips.

A related term — BASANOS (= torment?) — is discussed later.

 

personal comments:  I think both arguments — about mis-translations of aionios and kolasin, leading to justifiable uncertainties about the meaning of each term — seem strong, providing reasons to question a biblical teaching of FA or EM, versus UR.  But I'm more impressed with the questions about aionios.

 

Social Justice in Matthew 25 and Luke 16

Advocates of EM typically use Matthew 25:46 mainly to claim support for EM, even though its main message is that Jesus places high value on helping the poor, and we will be judged on the basis of how our actions (both personal and political)* affected the poor-and-needy.  This parable emphasizes the importance of actualizing our faith in actions, in what we do to help improve quality-of-life for individuals who are "the least" of His brothers.  As explained by James, "faith without works is dead."   {Basically, the punishment in 25:46 will be for people who did sins of omission (with their lack of "works") by not helping people who needed help, who were (as listed in 25:44) hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, or in prison.  Jesus says (25:45) that if you ignored the needy, you were ignoring Him.  We can improve quality-of-life for poor people with our own personal actions or lack of action, and with the political policies/actions we support or oppose. }  

Also notice the similar emphasis on social justice in Luke 16.  Jesus says, "Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day.  And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table. ... remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things;  but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony."  But this usually the parable's main theme is ignored.  Instead, defenders of EM want to make it all about EM, even though the scene cannot literally refer to either the end-state of Afterlife (because the brothers are still alive) or an Intermediate State (because the characters have bodies before The Resurrection).   {more about Luke 16, briefly and with detail}

 


 

Important Words in Other Hell-Passages

I.O.U. — This large section (below to the end of yellow box) will be developed more thoroughly soon, in early late September.  Below you'll see many of the ideas that will be in it.  Some ideas are developed well, but some — those inside [[ ]]'s — are still in rough/incomplete form.

 

In addition to the two words examined aboveAIONIOS (= occurring in a future age, instead of eternal?) and KOLASIN (= corrective punishment, instead of non-corrective punishment?) — we can look at other important words, and ask if their translations have been influenced by a prior belief that “what will happen in Hell” will be Eternal Misery.  This kind of influence can occur when we are...

 

Integrating Levels-of-Analysis:  While interpreting every bible verse, including hell-verses, we should think carefully about all levels of meaning.  We should try to integrate our understandings of Bible-parts and the whole Bible:

      a process of exegesis, when we try to understand a Bible-part, should include efforts to understand the meaning of each word (that's the focus of this section) in the situational context of its phrase, sentence, paragraph, chapter, book, and in a whole-Bible context.     {two ways to interpret a Bible-part:  exegesis is "critical interpretation [analysis, explanation]" of a text, of a word or passage, based on what it is;  by contrast, eisegesis is "the interpretation of a word or passage by reading into it one's own ideas"}
      in a system of theology we should try to construct our whole-Bible understandings based on our careful exegesis of Bible-parts.

Interactions between Parts and Whole:  We should try to do both kinds of analysis well, with high-quality thinking at the levels of exegesis and systematic theology.  And we should try to integrate them well, being aware of the ways in which mutual interactions between levels-of-analysis can affect the way we do our analysis at each level, by:  trying to do exegesis and avoid eisegesis;  trying to include our understandings of all Bible-parts when we construct our whole-Bible understandings.   We move back and forth between the levels of parts and whole, to build our whole-understanding (in theology) based on our parts-understanding (with exegesis), while humbly realizing that our exegesis can be influenced by our theology, and vice versa.

 

Below are condensed summaries — from a later version of this section — of translation choices, and differing interpretations of Matthew 25:46 (sheep & goats) and Revelation 20:11-15 (lake of fire, second death).

 

Translation Choices can seem to provide apparent support for EM, or FA, or UR, as explained above, but...

We have linguistic reasons to question some translations — made by advocates of EM who choose words that support EM — for important Greek words in hell-verses, because...

aionios can mean "eternal" (which could occur with EM or FA, but not UR) or, more literally, “occuring in a future age” (with EM or FA or UR) or just “associated with a future age” or “age-related” or “age-ish” because aion means age;*  when translators choose "eternal" it seems to provide support for EM or FA, but this apparent support would vanish if they chose to translate aionios as "occuring in a future age."     {therefore when aionion is an adjective, aionion punishment could be age-related punishment}  {more about aionios}

apollumi clearly means fatal “death” (as with FA) in some biblical contexts, and clearly is a non-fatal “loss” (as with EM or UR) in other contexts;  but in hell-texts the meaning is unclear.

thanatos can mean a fatal death (as in FA) or a spiritually symbolic death as in the Death-with-Christ of Romans 6 and maybe in the Second Death of Revelation 20, as explained below.

kolasin can mean "punishment" (in EM, FA, or UR) or “corrective pruning” (in UR).

basanos is often translated "torment" but its literal meaning is “to test”;  either meaning is compatible with EM or FA or UR, although there may be implications of EM (with “tormenting”) or UR (with “testing”).

{more about words}

 

As an example of why translation-choices are important — and how our evaluations can be influenced if we simply assume the correctness of Greek-into-English translations — the "eternal punishment" of Matthew 25:46 (after separation of sheep & goats, based on treatment of poor people)...

    must describe EM or FA if aionios means eternal/everlasting;  but with a more literal meaning of “occuring in a future age,” each view (EM, FA, UR) is possible.
    And even if aionios means eternal, this would occur with either EM or FA;  EM is necessary only if kolasin means punishing (a verb, which it isn't) instead of punishment (a noun-result, which it is);  everlasting punishment (with the everlasting Death of FA, or everlasting Misery of EM) does not require everlasting punishing (with EM).
    Also, kolasin can mean "punishment" that is retributive (in EM, FA, UR) and maybe (in UR) also is corrective;  or kolasin can mean “corrective pruning” (as it does in Classical Greek, and maybe here in New Testament Greek), providing support for UR.
 

For more about our interpretations of Matthew 25:46 and other hell-verses, read Biblical Hell-Texts and its resource-links.

 

DEATH and DESTRUCTION with FIRE

For these important ideas, what kinds of words and symbolisms are used in the Bible?  and what are the intended meaning(s)?

We'll look at three possibilities for what might occur during The Second Death in The Lake of Fire, following this introductory overview of death, destruction, and fire:

 

death versus immortality:  Due to our Conditional Immortality the penalty for sin is Physical Death throughout the Old Testament, in Genesis 3 (re: Adam) plus Isaac, Passover, and the system of sacrificial substitutionary atonement provided by God;  then, throughout the New Testament, a main theme is the new-and-better sacrificial substitutionary atonement when Jesus died for us (He did not endure eternal suffering for us) to pay our Death Penalty, and then (with Resurrection) He won victory over Death.  These principles (conditional immortality & divine payment for death penalty) are consistent with both UR and FA, but will God apply His payment for all of us (UR) or only some of us (FA)?

 

death — THANATOS (is it a fatal Death? or a symbolic spiritual Death?)

A common Greek word for "death" is thanatos.  Below, we'll look at analogy between thanatos in Romans and Revelation, as one explanation for "what might occur during The Second Death."

 

destruction — APOLLUMI (is it fatal Destruction? or non-fatal Destruction?)

A common word for "destruction" is apollumi, which has a wide variety of meanings in the Bible.  In some situations (as in examples from pages 252-254 of Raising Hell) appolumi clearly refers to a fatal result (as in FA), while other results are clearly non-fatal (as in UR or EM) because what occurs is a loss instead of a death.  But in verses about hell, the meaning is not clear.   [[here are some examples:  fatal with murder of children (by Herod), and killing of Jesus;  Mark8/Matthew (must lose your life), Luke 15 (lost sheep, coin, son), wineskins (spoiled);  John 3:16 (perish?), and more]]

Defenders of EM claim to explain how, in these hell-verses, apollumi does not mean literal death, as in the annihilation of FA.  Most of these explanations also can be used to defend UR versus FA.  But UR and EM differ in what is lost, in what is destroyed during apollumi, as in their differing interpretations of Second Death.

 

from — does "destruction from" mean away from or coming from, or just from?

2 Thessalonians 1:9 describes the fate of unbelievers "who shall suffer justice — destruction age-during — from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of his strength."  This is Young's Literal Translation, and the meaning of "from" [the Greek word "apo"] is not clear.  Or, in the Disciples Literal New Testament, "9 who will pay the penalty: eternal destruction from[a] the presence of the Lord and from the glory of [b] His strength," with the two footnotes explaining that "from" (their literal translation of apo) has two possible meanings:  (a) That is, away from. Or, proceeding from.   (b) That is, originating in.

But in many translations from Greek into English, we see a bias that forces the verse to provide apparent support for EM.  Evidently the process of thinking that produces EM-biased translations is something like this:  we know that EM will happen;  this verse (2 Thess 1:9) is a valuable "hell verse" that often is used by defenders of EM;  but in Greek the meaning of "apo" is ambiguous, and so is the support for EM;  we must defend EM;  therefore, we must persuade a reader to conclude what we want them to conclude, by adding words to the original Greek, to make our intended meaning (that "EM will happen") persuasive.  Here is one example:

We see two possible meanings when the English Standard Version (ESV) adds other words to "apo" in its main text ("they will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might") and its footnote ("Or destruction that comes from").  The main text favors EM, but the footnote — which most readers will not bother to look at — acknowledges that this verse is ambiguous because the destruction could occur with EM ("away from") or, more likely, FA ("comes from").

So... why does ESV not just say "from the presence" in its main text, as in the more-literal translations, and put its two interpretations (with extra words added) into its footnote?  Much worse, the NASB translation is "away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power," similar to the main text of ESV, but without a footnote to clarify the ambiguity.  Both of these translations claim to aim for literal accuracy, but both (especially NASB) are not literal.  Instead, both are biased to favor a doctrine of EM, although ESV does call attention to another interpretation in its footnote, which is useful for those who read footnotes (this excludes most people) and who, without the footnote, will assume the only possible meaning is "away from";  or even if they read the footnote, they will assume that "away from" is the better meaning because it's in the main text, while "comes from" appears only in the less-authoritative footnote.

As with any other single verse, Biblegateway.com lets you see "2 Thessalonians 1:9 in all English translations" here.  Many of these translations are literal (so apo is just "from") and neutral.  But the majority, a little more than half, are EM-biased.  In the Classic Amplified Bible, for example, "from the presence of the Lord" is amplified into "eternal exclusion and banishment from the presence of the Lord."  The popular NIV says "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might."  And in The Living Bible (and its update in the New Living Translation) unbelievers will be "forever separated from the Lord."

An article in godslovewins.com describes the translation bias:

    Dr. [Tim] Keller here quotes 2 Thess 1:9 to further his point about being separated and excluded from the presence of the Lord in an eternal hell.  However if you look in a Greek interlinear the word "away from" or "excluded" are not in the original language but added because of an assumed meaning.  The text actually says that "aionios" destruction shall come from the face of the Lord.  (It is the exact grammatical construct as "Grace and peace from our Lord Jesus Christ…")   This ["shall come from the face of the Lord"] gives it an entirely different meaning [compared with "away from"].  To tell your children that you are going to deal with their sin directly face to face is one thing.  To tell them you will turn your face away and abandon them forever to suffer alone depicts an entirely opposite intention and purpose.  (To the credit of the ESV their footnote [but not their main text] gives us the correct Greek translation: "destruction from the face of the Lord.")   [added comments:  I don't know enough about Greek to know if the ESV's footnote is "the correct Greek translation" or if both translations – "away from" and "comes from" – are possible so the "correct translation" (i.e. the intended meaning, the correct description of afterlife) could be either, so the verse is ambiguous.  Also, the meaning of "destruction" is not clear, whether it's death (as proposed by FA) or is something else (as proposed by EM or UR), so the verse is compatible with FA, and with EM or UR.]

also:  As described above, in this verse aionios is almost always translated as "eternal" or "everlasting", even though more literally it should be “occuring in a future age” or (as in Young's LT) "age-during" or “pertaining to a future age” or something similar.  A translation into "eternal" or "everlasting" is biased to favor EM (or FA) against UR.

{ btw, fyi, for this verse in Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament (MOUNCE) the English & Greek words:  from [apo],  eternal [aionios],  punishment [dike],  destruction [olethros],  from punishment [dikes] }

 

fire — PUR (is it literal physical fire? or symbolic divine power?)

A common Greek word for "fire" is pur.  Throughout the Bible, fire usually symbolizes the divine presence-and-power of God.  A few examples are [[I.O.U. - Later, there will be more here, better organized, with verses & quotes:  divine fire appears in the burning bush, and Elijah's contest, Ezekiel 1:4-14, Daniel (furnace, river), in Malachi the fires that refine and burn, Jesus baptizes with fire (said by John the Baptist, and Jesus), all will be "salted with fire" (Mark 9:49), Holy Spirit at Pentecost, I Cor 3 (believers have their works tested by fire, they "escape" but some of their works are burned up) ]] [[ for these, I will link to sections of two graciously-free books, Hope Beyond Hell and Raising Hell ]] [[ web-resources:  in HBH, pages 209-217 of HBH, plus chapter about Purpose-Driven Judgment, 63-68; and in Trilogy, 245-246 // Malachi [2:00 of "primary" JasonP] -- HSp reveals [@ John 14-16] results-effects of sin to people --> sorrow/suffering // my summaries + links to HBH & RH]  RH 63-70, HBH ]] -- to symbolize God and His use of His power. ]]

Functions of Fire:  In the Bible, God uses fire to consume (as in FA) and purify (in UR), but probably not torment (in EM).  Divine fire also will be useful for believers, as described in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, "each man’s work will become evident;  for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward.  If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss;  but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."   {Here, Paul is writing to believers, so he is saying that saved people "will be saved, yet so as through fire," perhaps by being "salted with fire"?}

 

Literal Fire:  [[ many popular concepts of hell are due to non-Biblical cultural influences that strongly influenced our interpretations of the meanings of fire in the Bible --- important influencers have come from non-Biblical literature, like Milton's Paradise Lost, and Dante's Inferno. ]] [teu 4 purposes, locn 5953] ---- divine use of fire (pur) and brimstone (it's sulfur) to torment (basanizo, to test & purify)?? ----  fire (pur) used to purify? (brimstone-word is theion, related to root-word theo that is translated "God" or (in 1 Cor 3, Heb 12) "purify"]] / does basanizo mean torment? maybe not ]]

 

Fire that Consumes:  These passages – about flammable material that God puts into fire – seem to support FA instead of UR (or EM) so... how could the passages-about-burning be interpreted so they don't eliminate UR from serious consideration?  Or should we be persuaded, so we conclude “this must be Annihilation, not Reconciliation or Misery”?   [[ I've seen claims that two words are used in these passages [achio = burned, katachio = burned up, "up-burned", sp?]   "burning up" whole people (permanently in FA), or parts of people (temporarily in UR).    [[ in the near future, in March 2018, I will make a separate page to carefully examine these verses, and how defenders-of-UR try to explain what these verses about "burning up" could mean if UR is true, if UR will happen. ]]

 

What will happen during The Second Death in The Lake of Fire?

For a person who is an unbeliever at the end of their Life, in Afterlife what will be done to them (i.e. WWJD?) in The Lake of Fire that (Revelation 20:14-15) is The Second Death?  In each view, what is the Second Death?

    with FA it's the usual meaning of death, but unlike the earlier First Death at the end of human biological Life (which was followed by universal Resurrection to temporary Afterlife) this is a “total death” that will be permanent, that is the person's Final Annihilation.
    with UR it's a “death with Christ” that has a good purpose (it's needed so God can kill our old sinful nature, and then give us new life), as in the death of Romans 6:1-14.*
   
with EM it's a “living death” with people being forced to continue living in sin forever (contrary to Genesis 3:22), as in the death of Romans 6:16.

Or we can ask “in the Second Death, what is destroyed?”

    with FA it's the sinner's existence,
   
with UR it's the sinner's sinful nature,
   
with EM it's the sinner's quality of life.
   
Basically, FA & UR & EM propose the elimination of sinner & sin & joy.
 

* Maybe, to produce UR (or semi-UR) The Second Death will be analogous to our Death-with-Christ in Romans 6, where Paul describes the two-step process of becoming a born-again Christian:  first the person's old sin-nature must die, as in the crucifixion of Christ;  then, as in the resurrection of Christ, God can make them a new-creation person.  In the words of Paul, with my highlighting of the first step and second step,

    How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;  for he who has died is freed from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  (Romans 6:2b-11, NASB)

In this process, our "death" is necessary because only after we have "died with Christ" can we "walk in newness of life,... alive to God in Christ Jesus."  Maybe in a similar way the Second Death is necessary for a process of reconciliation when God graciously gives "newness of life" to a previously-unsaved person during their afterlife.  In the life of Paul, this born-again process was symbolized by a change of name, when Saul (old person) became Paul (new person) after the "death" of his old person.

Different Timings:  At some time a Christian must be born again into Life-in-Christ, either during their Life by Death-with-Christ (symbolized by water baptism, as in Romans 6) or — if it's necessary, and is allowed by God with after-death repentance — in their Afterlife by Second Death (a Death-with-Christ that is actualized with fire baptism).   /   With UR, God will reconcile all people through Death-with-Christ, but there are two different timings.  For a person who in Life is saved, Death-with-Christ (during Life) is followed by Biological Death (at the end of Life).  For a person who at the end of Life is unsaved, Biological Death (at the end of Life) is followed by Death-with-Christ (during Afterlife with Second Death in the Lake of Fire).

 

In both chapters (Romans 6, Revelation 20) the word for death is thanatos, not apollumi, as you can see in Greek+English translations of Romans 6 & Revelation 20.

Death (thanatos) and Destruction/Loss (apollumi):  Paul describes the death (thanatos) of a person's old sinful self in Romans 6.  And in Mark 8:34-35 (Greek+English), Jesus says "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save their life will lose [apollumi] it, but whoever loses [apollumi] their life for me and for the gospel will save it."   When a person "loses their life," what do they lose/apollumi?  Could it be...

    a loss of self-life when they say “yes” to God's wonderful plan by telling Jesus to "take control of the throne of my life, make me the kind of person You want me to be" so "Christ is in the life and on the throne" and their life becomes His life,
    or the loss when "[their] body of sin [is] done away with, so that [they will] no longer be slaves to sin" in the death [thanatos] of Romans 6,
   
or both, with similar meanings for apollumi-destruction/loss and thanatos-death?

 

[[ in Romans 6, another meaning of "death" is pro-FA/EM, with death being the bad result of sinning -- so in Rom 6 we see two meanings for death, one productive (death-with-Christ, with baptism, crucifying our sin nature) and another destructive (as the result of sin) as in "choice of life or death" with Moses and Israelites, in Deut 30:15,19b, "Today I am giving you a choice.  You can choose life and success or death and disaster. ... Will you choose for the Lord to make you prosperous and give you a long life? Or will he put you under a curse and kill you? Choose life!" CEV ]]

CEV - Romans 6:15-23, "15 What does all this mean? Does it mean we are free to sin, because we are ruled by God’s wonderful kindness and not by the Law? Certainly not! 16 Don’t you know that you are slaves of anyone you obey? You can be slaves of sin and die, or you can be obedient slaves of God and be acceptable to him. 17 You used to be slaves of sin. But I thank God that with all your heart you obeyed the teaching you received from me. 18 Now you are set free from sin and are slaves who please God."

19 I am using these everyday examples, because in some ways you are still weak. You used to let the different parts of your body be slaves of your evil thoughts. But now you must make every part of your body serve God, so that you will belong completely to him.

20 When you were slaves of sin, you didn’t have to please God. 21 But what good did you receive from the things you did? All you have to show for them is your shame, and they lead to death. 22 Now you have been set free from sin, and you are God’s slaves. This will make you holy and will lead you to eternal life. 23 Sin pays off with death. But God’s gift is eternal life given by Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

[[ some rough/incomplete ideas that could be used here, are at the end of this section ]]

 

BASANOS  (= torment?  = purifying?)

basanos - basanizo

kolasin (= purely-retributive non-corrective punishment - described earlier) may mean corrective punishment, intended to change-and-improve a person in hell;  and "torment" is a common English translation for a Greek word literally meaning "a touchstone" that is used to test (and purify?) precious metals.   [[ iou - later, I'll describe this better, with links to places it's described ]]  /  For example, in Rev 14 some people will be "tormented [tested] with burning sulfur [purifying holy brimstone] in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb" and this makes more sense with the [bracketed]-meanings. ]]

 

Hell Passages (a summary)

I.O.U. - This concluding section will be written later.

 


 

I.O.U. - Below are idea-scraps that might be used earlier in this "yellow box" about hell-verses.

 

BURNING UP -- [[ with UR, gehenna-hell destroys the sinful parts of us that (as in Mark 9, Matt 5-7) must die -- but

for UR the destroying would have to be a process that is partial (by totally destroying only the sinful parts of person) by analogy between Death-with-Christ & Second Death?) and is temporary, as a prelude to re-birth as new creature;

but with EM destroys/ruins all parts (at least partially) that cause quality-of-life and essence-of-being for a whole person;  this is eternally ongoing (to continually & permanently destroy the good parts of a person, that cause joy, but never annihilate the person;

due to these fundamental differences, most arguments-for-EM would be different and would have to be adapted for use by UR, and might not be as strong for UR;  or is there a way they could be stronger?

death is an experience-of-lack, as in Romans 5-8-etc, with EM and also UR, where Second Death is a Process-of-Death [of different kinds] ]]

 

resources for apollumi -- [[ in pages 21-31 of HBH and pages 145-155 of RH. -- pages 212-214 of HBH -- and my examination of ci.htm#a5 [[ and page 250 of RHhbh 212-214 / teu, footnote 44 of Ch 6, locn 4550 / 1 Cor 5:5, teu-4391/4406 oletheron for destrn of sin nature // OLETHERON ? -- from --> away from (for EM) or coming from (better, for UR or FA) in 2 Thess

 

Rev 22 -- Are the gates of New Jerusalem open to those whose "robes were washed" in the Lake of Fire?  [[ i.o.u. -- later, i'll say more about this question -- the main sub-question about this is whether or not the section is preterist?  i.e. is it describing the readers of Rev 22, or those living in Rev 20-22? ]]

 

UR Interpretations of FA-Supporting Bible Passages

Matthew 13:37-42,  Then he left the crowds and went into the house.  And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable [in 24-30] of the weeds [tares, darnel] of the field.” 37  He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38  The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom.  The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40  Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  He who has ears, let him hear.   [comments] by me

 

ideas by me and for me, to be developed later:

this is [one of] the strongest Bible passages for Annihilation;

        here are rough abbreviated outlines of some possible UR responses:

two major parables in Matthew 13 -- 1 (soils), 2 (tares & wheat) -- are they connected?

1 SEED = Word (+ –), 2 SEED = sons? (+ –), so redefine 2 SEED so it's = Word/CharQuals?

tares are causes-of-sin (bad CharQs within 1 person) AND evil sons (indiv persons),

    so does fire burn-up only causes, only sons, or BOTH?   (zb, Lake of Fire, Rom 6 w UR)?

let darnel grow, so life-challenges (part due to sins-in-self) --> growth of wheat (+ charQs).

definition of timings in "Then...",

    if FA, "then" is after death of tare-sons, so only wheat-sons shine,

    if UR, "then" is after death-of-sin (tares) making tares become wheat, so all people shine.

KataKaio (burn up/down) not just kaio (burn), --> burn whole person, not just sin-parts;

    Exodus 3, bush was burning but not burned up, was kaio but not katakaio.

analogy with partial similarity/equality? -- as tares burned up --> so people burned up ?

DiCarlo debating -- anti-UR offense (attack w hell-verses), not defense (explain UR-verses),

    ask questions, don't give answers.  [defenders of all views usually do this]

OK -- throw into furnace of fire (= Lake of Fire?), weeping and gnashing of teeth [suffering]

Matt 13, words:  all causes-of-falling - all stumbling blocks - everything that causes sin

    + all [persons] who do evil - those [persons]

 

 

Universal Reconciliation (what it IS and ISN'T) — Part 3

As with any view, it's important to evaluate UR based on what it IS (not what it ISN'T) so I want to explain what Christian UR is and isn't

All three Bible-based evangelical Christian positions (summarized in the intro and in a table) are similar theologically,* differing only in their views on the final state of unsaved people.  If we ignore the final state, evangelical Universal Reconciliation is compatible with everything in the positions of evangelical Final Annihilation and evangelical Eternal Misery.  Specifically, we should carefully examine UR-criticizing claims about...

Salvation in UR:  In contrast with Universalist claims that are generic (as in postmodern relativistic pluralism) or New Age or Unitarian, with Christian Universalism (i.e. Trinitarian Universalism) our salvation comes only through the tri-une God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) who created everything, and our salvation is possible (under conditions determined by the triune God) due to the actions of the Son, Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, died on the cross to redeem us from our sins, and then showed us that He had conquered death by rising from the grave.

Hell in UR (and FA):  Proponents of EM sometimes criticize a weak strawman distortion of UR (or FA) by wrongly claiming that it “eliminates Hell” by ignoring the Bible passages (about "weeping" and "outer darkness" and more) that describe very unpleasant experiences for unsaved humans in their Afterlife.  An intellectually honest evaluation of UR (or FA) should acknowledge that evangelical Bible-based descriptions of UR (and FA) do include these passages.  UR and FA do not question the existence of Hell, or the suffering of unsaved humans in Hell.  UR and FA challenge only EM's claim that the suffering will continue forever.   [[ maybe link to sub-section about UR/FA having punishment that is too weak if it isn't eternal ]]== [[strawman dishonesty - active dishonesty by using inaccurate definitions of UR, and passive dishonesty by allowing a strawman]]

* Although all views are "similar theologically," the difference is very important in how we view the character of God.  For me, this makes big differences emotionally and for relationships.

 

7 Myths about Christian Universalism – by Robin Parry

As with any view, all of us should evaluate Universal Reconciliation based on accurate knowledge of what it IS, not what it ISN'T.  The importance of understanding — not misunderstanding, due to oversimplistic stereotypes — is explained by Robin Parry in 7 Myths about Christian Universalism:

    [In his introduction, Parry describes internet responses to Rob Bell's book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, when]
    Overnight, universalism went from being a marginal issue that most evangelicals felt that they could ignore to being the next big debate.  Feelings are running high at the moment [a few weeks after the disputes began] and a lot of strong language is being used.  I think that if the church is to have a fruitful discussion on this matter (rather than a bad tempered battle-to-the-death) then it is essential that we have a clear understanding of what Christian universalists actually believe.
    [so he describes what Christian universal reconciliation IS, with...]
    a quick definition of Christian universalism:  Christian universalists are (mostly) orthodox, Trinitarian, Christ-centred, gospel-focused, Bible-affirming, missional Christians.  What makes them universalists is that they believe that God loves all people, wants to save all people, sent Christ to redeem all people, and will achieve that goal. ... It is the view that, in the end, God will redeem all people through Christ.  Christian universalists believe that the destiny of humanity is 'written' in the body of the risen Jesus and, as such, the story of humanity will not end with a tomb.

    [and he continues with what it ISN'T, by describing – more fully, without the omissions (shown by "..." in my summaries below – 7 Myths, and explaining why they are not accurate.]
    Myth - Universalists don't believe in hell:  ... The Christian debate does not concern whether hell will be a reality (all agree that it will) but, rather, what the nature of that reality will be. ... Most universalists believe that hell is not simply retributive punishment but a painful yet corrective/educative state from which people will eventually exit. ... So it is not hell that universalists deny so much as certain views about hell.
    Myth - Universalists don't believe the Bible:  ... Historically, Christian universalists have been Bible-affirming believers and that remains the case for many, perhaps the majority, today.  The question is not "Which group [proponents of universalism or its opponents] believes the Bible?" but, "How do we interpret the Bible?" ... [Current disagreements are,] to a large extent, a debate between two sets of Bible-believing Christians on how best to understand scripture.
    Myth - Universalists don't think sin is very bad:  ... Propose a view on the seriousness of sin as strong as you wish, and you'll find universalists who would affirm it.  Does sin affect every aspect of human life?  Is it an utter horror that degrades our humanity and warrants divine wrath?  Does it deserve eternal punishment?  Universalists could affirm all of these things so long as they believed that God's love, power, grace, and mercy are bigger and stronger than sin.  Universalists do not have a low view of sin, they have a high view of grace: "Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more."
    Myth - Universalists believe in God's love but forget his justice and wrath:  ... Christian universalists have a lot to say about God's holiness, justice, and even his wrath.  Typically they think that God's divine nature cannot be divided up into conflicting parts in such a way that some of God's actions are loving (eg, saving sinners) while others are just and full of anger (eg, hell).  They see all of God's actions as motivated by 'holy love'.  Everything God does is holy, completely just, and completely loving.  So whatever hell is about it must be compatible not simply with divine justice but also with divine love.  Which means that it must, in some way, have the good of those in hell as part of its rationale.  Universalists feel that one potential danger in traditional theologies of hell is that while they make much of God justice and anger they appear to be incompatible with his love and, as a result, they divide up the unity of God's nature.
    Myth - Universalists think that all roads lead to God:  ... our Internet conversation partners have confused universalism (the view that God will one day save all people through Christ) with pluralism (the view that there are many paths to God and that Jesus is simply one of them).  But Christian universalists deny pluralism.  They insist that salvation is found only through the atoning work of Christ.  Without Jesus nobody would be redeemed! ...
    Myth - Universalism undermines evangelism:  ... Why, after all, would anyone bother to go through all the effort and struggle of evangelism if God is going to save everyone in the end anyway?  So must universalism undermine evangelism?  Not at all.  There are many reasons to engage in mission and evangelism, not least that Christ commands it.  And it is a huge privilege to join with God in his mission of reconciling the world to himself.  The gospel message is God's 'foolish' way of setting the world right so, of course, universalists will want to proclaim it.  Fear of hell is not the only motivation for mission.  And, what is more, the majority of universalists do fear hell.  Whilst they may not view it as 'the end of the road', they still consider it to be a dreadful state to be avoided.  And historically, universalists have not run from mission. ...
    Myth - Universalism undermines holy living:  ... During 17th, 18th and 19th centuries many Christians were especially worried that if the fear of hell was reduced people would have little to constrain their sinful behaviour.  Thus universalism, they feared, would fuel sin.  But the fear of punishment is not the only motive for avoiding sin and, even if it were, universalism does, as has already been mentioned, have space for some such fear.  But far more important for holy living - indeed the only motive for heartfelt holy living - is the positive motivation inspired by love for God. ...
   Clearly there is an important debate to be had, but if we desire more light and less heat we need to start by getting a clearer understanding of the view under discussion.

 

more - similar ideas from GodsLoveWins.com:  a series ( 1  2  3 ) and Do you DESIRE for all to be redeemed?

 

Practical Effects of UR — Part 2 (part 3?)

Do our decisions-in-life matter?  Yes.  When describing Bible-based Universal Reconciliation, everyone (whether they propose or oppose UR) should emphasize that with UR a person's overall experience will be MUCH better if they “say YES to God” now, ASAP.  Why?  Because this decision will let them enjoy Life-with-God now, and later they will avoid the Misery-in-Hell that, although it won't be eternal if UR (or FA) is true, will be very unpleasant.

 

 

Universalism in Church History

I.O.U. - Eventually, I will develop-and-revise this section.  And I'll link to pages that describe it, in brief summaries and in more detail.  Some ideas that will be included are:

 

CREEDS -- UR is consistent with all primary doctrines of Christian faith, including the Nicene Creed (final creed accepted by all major churches) that has no mention of hell.  Gregory of Nyssa, who was a major writer for the final version of the Nicene Creed in 381, openly held a view of “confident UR” not just (as with me) optimistic UR.   [[ IOU - soon, I'll link to Apostle's Creed & Nicene Creed, and info-pages about each, will quote relevant parts about Final Judgment that are neutral for UR-vs-FA-vs-EM, are compatible with all 3 views, taking no stand, showing that this question was not considered a major doctrine-issue, or maybe that there was significant support for all views, and all were considered OK. ]]

 

FUNDAMENTALS -- Here is a list of recent (from early 1900s) basic "fundamentals" of Christian faith:

    1. The inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.
    2. The deity of Jesus Christ.
    3. The virgin birth of Christ.
    4. The substitutionary, atoning work of Christ on the cross.
    5. The physical resurrection and the personal bodily return of Christ to the earth.
 

HISTORY -- [[ early disciples (in Acts, letters,...) did not use "turn or burn" preaching;  early "church fathers" were divided among all 3 views;  Origen (very highly respected during his life, and after, but eventually some of his views (and/or those of later followers?) were labeled heretical, although not his basic universalism;  Gregory of Nyssa was highly respected, was a final editor for Nicene Creed, was openly a confident universalist;  and others;  The Nicene Creed (last statement accepted by all major branches of worldwide church) did not take any view on final destiny for unsaved humans;  some early church leaders did "doctrine of reserve" by preaching universalism to deep-thinkers within church, but not to unlearned masses, due to concerns about "control";  later, with desires for "control" a major factor (according to many historians) the major organized churches - especially the Catholic Church - decreed that Eternal Misery would be their official dogma, and the other views (FA and especially UR) would be labeled heretical;  works of fiction, like "Dante's Inferno", exerted powerful influence on the thinking of most people in Europe;  during the early Reformation period, John Calvin exerted a very powerful influence that established Eternal Misery as the official view of Reformed Churches, and of most other churches so it became "the traditional view" that has retained its cultural stranglehold until the present.

    Some thoughts about the choice made by “tradition” — and how it exerts a strong influence on our evaluations of EM versus FA (and UR) — are examined in the final 3 paragraphs of my 1-page summary of FA-vs-EM:
    The inertia of tradition, and psychology of conformity, make it easy to think like the majority, and difficult to think in other ways.  But try to imagine that nobody believes in Eternal Misery, and you have just read a description of EM plus a summary of Bible-based arguments for and against it.  Would you reject the accepted belief, FA, and replace it with a doctrine of EM proposing that God will keep unsaved humans alive forever so they can endure an endless eternity of misery in hell? ..... [The second paragraph criticizes logically unjustifiable "links" between EM and other aspects of theology, and the page concludes by affirming that] Christians should believe what the Bible teaches, so I encourage you to examine the Bible carefully before you reach a conclusion.

also, more rough-ideas are in History 4

RESOURCES -- George Sarris, "Can an Evangelical be a Universalist?" 

[[ IOU - probably there will be a brief summary-paragraph about UR being considered OK in early church history. ]]

 


 

A Logical Analysis of 3 Views — Calvinist, Arminian, Universalist

Thomas Talbott, a Universalist, asks us to think about 3 statements that cannot all be true:

    1. It is God's redemptive purpose for the world (and therefore his will) to reconcile all sinners to himself;
    2. It is within God's power to achieve his redemptive purpose for the world;
    3. Some sinners will never be reconciled to God, and God will therefore either consign them to a place of eternal punishment, from which there will be no hope of escape, or put them out of existence altogether.
 

Each view accepts only 2 of these 3 logically-irreconcilable premises:  Calvinists reject #1,  Arminians reject #2,  Universalists reject #3.

   Calvinist   Arminian   Universalist 
 1. God wants to save all people. 
NO
yes
yes
 2. God can get what God wants.
yes
NO
yes
 3. Some people will never be saved. 
YES
YES
NO

The first two views (Calvinist, Arminian) are generally accepted as “ok” in mainstream evangelical theology, even by those who strongly disagree with one or the other.  Although each of these popular views claims strong Biblical support for one of the first two premises, their Bible-based claim is rejected by the other view.  Universalists accept the strong biblical support for both 1 and 2, so they logically reject 3.

This logical analysis — by asking whether the biblical support for both #1 (with strong support claimed by Arminians) and #2 (with strong support claimed by Calvinists) is stronger than the support for #3 — is discussed by others:  by Thomas Talbott and in Calvinism and Arminianism - Two Sides to God’s Glory by godslovewins.com plus comments and a challenge and is UR heresy?

 

NO and NO and NO:

As explained below in "Calvinism and Justice," I cannot understand how (in the logic-table above) the NO of Calvinists — “NO, God does not want to save all people” — is consistent with a God who wants justice or loves people.

The NO by Arminians will occur if God "wants to save all people" but He also wants (even more than wanting "to save all") human free will, so God "gets what God wants" by forever (in the past, present, future) allowing our free-will decisions to accept or reject the grace He offers;*  and some humans decide to reject Him.

The NO by Universalists is possible if the grace of God will be extended in time, if He will allow after-death repentance.

 

* An Arminian Response  (by modifying #1)

IF, as Arminians claim, God's top priority is human free will — because God wants to save each person, but He also (and with a higher priority in His system of values) wants to let each person decide for themself — THEN this might be an effective argument against claiming that Arminians accept the first premise, that "God wants to save all humans" because instead they could claim "God wants to save each person if (and only if) that person chooses to be saved".  And the persuasiveness of this argument (by claiming it's Calvinist + Arminian) would be weakened, because the pro-UR argument would be using one claim of Arminians (about God wanting to save all) but ignoring the higher-priority claim, about God wanting to let humans have free will in deciding whether to believe-and-repent, or not.

With this "if", probably the description of this argument should change so it more accurately describes Arminian views.  Maybe it should describe the two Arminian claims about "what God wants" — 1a. God wants to save all humans [this is "1" above], AND  1b. God wants to allow free will for all humans [this explains their NO in "2" above];  and because Arminians claim that 1a (used in Talbott's argument) is a lower priority than 1b, here is...

The Arminian Argument:  God wants free will for all humans (#1b), and God can get what He wants (#2) with either UR (or semi-UR) or FA or EM.

A table that includes this argument, and describes 3 versions of Calvinism and 3 versions of Arminianism, is below.

 

• Here is another description of the logic in #3, based on my simplified/incomplete paraphrasing of #1 (not the Arminian 1a+1b) and #2:

    #1. God is all-loving.  (is omni-loving, and His love includes wanting “the best” for every human He has created)
    #2. God is all-powerful.  (is omni-potent, AND He decides to use His power in ways that let Him be sovereign in deciding the ultimate fate of each human)

IF some are not saved, as in #3, we can ask whether this is caused by God's decision to self-restrict the wideness of His love (so the reality is not-1) or to self-restrict the use of His power (so the reality is not-2).

 

• And another version (maybe it's from the first edition of his book), written by Thomas Talbott, of his 3 statements:

    1. God’s redemptive love extends to all human sinners equally in the sense that he sincerely wills or desires the redemption of each one of them.
    2. Because no one can finally defeat God’s redemptive love or resist it forever, God will triumph in the end and successfully accomplish the redemption of everyone whose redemption he sincerely wills or desires.
    3. Some human sinners will never be redeemed but will instead be separated from God forever.
 

• And here is Talbott's latest version, from the Second Edition (2014) of his book, The Inescapable Love of God, page 37:

    1. All human sinners are equal objects of God’s redemptive love in the sense that God, being no respecter of persons, sincerely wills or desires to reconcile each one of them to himself and thus to prepare each one of them for the bliss of union with him.
    2. Almighty God will triumph in the end and successfully reconcile to himself each person whose reconciliation he sincerely wills or desires.
    3. Some human sinners will never be reconciled to God and will therefore remain separated from him forever.

 


 

My Own Analysis of “Calvinism + Arminianism → Universalism”

This section...

...shows, in the table below, 3 versions (non-Universalist, semi-Universalist, and full-Universalist, abbreviated as non-UR, semi-UR, and full-UR) of each theological system (from Calvin and Arminius).

...is a continuation of a paragraph where I describe the Arminian claim that "God's top priority is human free will, because although God wants to save each person, He also (and with a higher priority in His system of values) wants to let each person decide for themself."  This claim is shown in the last 3 columns, with "yes" (for God wants to save all humans) being less important than "YES" (for God wants choice for all, gets it).

...uses the summarizing of Calvinism with TULIPTotal Inability, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistable Grace, Persistence of Saints.

...has color coding:  According to each of the 6 views, the top priority of God is in RED,  the “deciding vote” (for salvation) is aqua,  and the final result (for a person who is unsaved-in-Life) is GOLD.

...has my opinions about the character of God with each view.

 
 TULIP-Calvin 
(non-UR)
 TULIP-Calvin 
(semi-UR)
 TULIP-Calvin 
(full UR)
 Arminius 
(non-UR
)
 Arminius 
 (semi-UR) 
 Arminius 
 (full UR) 
 1. God wants to save all humans. 
NO
NO
YES
yes
yes
yes
 2. God saves all He wants to save. 
 2. God wants choice for all, gets it,
 
 2. and all choose to love God.
 
yes
no
-
yes
no
 - 
yes
no
-
? (no)
YES
 no 
? (no)
YES
no
 ? (yes) 
YES
yes
 3. all humans will be saved. 
NO
NO
YES
NO
NO
YES
             
 In my opinion, this view is...
 OK if FA,
 WORST if EM 
better
than OK
BEST
OK if FA,
 BAD if EM 
better
 than OK 
BEST
 

In each view, who decides whether a person will be saved or unsaved?

Calvinist non-Universalist:  God casts the deciding vote (yes) and He says “NO, I don't want to save all” so “NO, not all will be saved in Life.”   {and “none will be saved in Afterlife”)

Calvinist semi-Universalist:  God casts the deciding vote (yes) and He says “NO, I don't want to save all” so “NO, not all will be saved in Life.”   {and “more (the Elect-in-Afterlife) will be saved in Afterlife, but not all”}

Calvinist full-Universalist:  God casts the deciding vote (yes) and He says “YES, I want to save all” so “YES, all will be saved, some (those Elected-for-Life) in Life, and the rest (those Elected-for-Afterlife) in Afterlife.”

Arminian non-Universalist:  each person casts the deciding vote for their own salvation, and some people say “no” so they are unsaved-in-Life.   {and God decides “no people will be saved in Afterlife.”)

Arminian semi-Universalist:  each person casts the deciding vote for their own salvation, and some people say “no” so they are unsaved-in-Life, and some of these (the unsaved-in-Life) also say “no” in their Afterlife.

Arminian full-Universalist:  each person casts the deciding vote for their own salvation, and some people say “no” so they are unsaved-in-Life, but all of these (the unsaved-in-Life) say “yes” in their Afterlife.

 

Who is responsible for a person being damned forever?   (this happens to some people with Eternal Misery or, in a different way, with Final Annihilation or semi-Universalism)     {plus my comments, as in the table-row for "In my opinion..."}

Is the deciding vote cast by God (as claimed by Calvin) or by the person (with Arminius)?

maybe... God is responsible:  According to Calvin, every person's final result has been decided by God, who predestinates each person to either heaven or hell.  A person who has been predestined for eternal damnation has no choice and cannot avoid their fate, yet (with Eternal Misery) their punishing continues forever, even though they never asked to be born.  This seems extremely unfair.     {why isn't God more obvious? and why does this matter most for EM?}

maybe... the person is responsible:  According to Arminius, each person decides whether they will be saved or damned.  God initiates a process of salvation, but eventually each person must respond with a YES or NO.  This seems more fair, because the person who is responsible for choosing will “reap what they sowed” when they get the results of their salvation or damnation.     /     Basically, the “blame” for damnation goes to an unsaved person, because they made unwise decisions during life, because they lacked belief & repentance, and they didn't live by faith in God.  In a similar way, the “credit” for salvation goes to a saved person, because they made wise decisions during life, because they achieved belief & repentance, and they did live by faith in God.  But... this seems to be “salvation by works” where the "works" occur when the person makes a good decision, and then maintains the perseverance required to continue living by faith.  Although an Arminian may protest that these are not "works" as defined in the Bible, the combination of thinking-plus-actions (in deciding and persevering/living) is similar to the "works" of everything else we do in life.

Basically, I think — as explained in Justice of Overall Changes (from Before Life to Afterlife) — that the net result of Life-plus-Afterlife (especially when we're considering the number of people who apparently are saved & unsaved in Life)*...  is extremely bad with EM, and even worse if it's combined with Calvinistic predestinations;  is OK, although sad, with FA;  is BEST with UR.     {* How would you evaluate the net result of “one person with Eternal Joy, and one person with Eternal Misery”?  I think this would be an overall negative. }

 


 

Do we “earn” what we get?

IF God will do Binary Justice, do unsaved people EARN their Eternal Misery?

Grace and Merit  —  Faith and Works  —  Salvation and Sanctification

I.O.U. - This section will be written later, maybe in May 2018, to examine these ideas more thoroughly, using the ideas in this gray box:

Do people earn – by the quality of their thinking & actions – whatever God gives them in Afterlife, whether it will be good or bad, and whether the "bad" will be temporary suffering or eternal misery?  Most evangelical Christians typically say “no, people don't earn what God will give them,” I think it's impossible for anyone (Calvinist or non-Calvinist,...)* to defend Eternal Misery in a satisfactory way when all things — especially what the Bible says about salvation and justice — are carefully considered.   {This claim of salvation-without-merit makes it even more impossible to defend EM, because it means that defenders-of-EM are not allowed to claimevery unsaved person deserves Eternal Misery in Afterlife because they earned it by their evil thinking-and-actions during their brief Life.”}

for the binary justice of EM (or FA), the "dividing line" is salvation, with saved → Eternal Joy, but unsaved → Eternal Misery, with the crucial difference being salvation-by-God... so – if (apparent) fairness is to be achieved – is salvation (and thus joy instead of misery) earned by a person?

I.O.U. – [[ Currently, all of this section is incomplete, with loose ends, so it needs to be developed-and-revised.  Eventually it will begin with questions (in a paragraph like the one above, but expanded & improved) about the logical-and-theological difficulties of claiming that God could achieve satisfactory justice with Eternal Misery, in a way that is consistent with common claims about The Gospel.  And it will continue by critically examining the common claims that...

[[ regarding salvation, most Bible-believing theologians claim that God does not “reward” some and “punish” others based on merit — God does not reward people who are good (or smart, wise) with salvation, and punish people who are bad (or stupid, foolish) with non-salvation — because salvation is not earned by personal merit that's actualized in personal works, instead salvation is a free gift-of-grace from God. 

but for sanctification — the process in which a person is becoming more righteous by cooperating with God — a person's progress-toward-sanctification seems to be a "personal work" that does depend on the person's merit, on how effectively they are cooperating with God in His process of sanctifying them by transforming their minds (Romans 12:2).

and by contrast with binary yes-or-no salvation, sanctification seems to be “a matter of degrees” along many dimensions, with each person becoming more-sanctified more-quickly in some areas of their life than in other areas.  As described in the next section (about Binary Justice), it's difficult to rationally defend Eternal Misery IF salvation will be binary (if a person will be either totally-saved or totally-unsaved, if God's judgment-verdict is either Yes or No) so the results of His verdict will be either totally good Eternal Joy (if Yes) or (if No) totally bad Eternal Misery.

[[ * non-Calvinism and Calvinisim:  It seems to me that...

    • a defender of EM who is non-Calvinist (Arminian) must claim that, for EM to be fair, a person's EM is merited by their lack of goodness and/or wisdom during Life — because eac person earns their salvation by their own merit, by their goodness and/or wisdom — so if they had made better decisions in Life (like people who decided to "say yes to God" and therefore were saved by God), they would not be having EM in Afterlife, so their they earned their EM and they deserve it.
    • a defender of EM who is Calvinist — who believes the U of TULIP, proposing that "God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual,... without any consideration of merit within the individual" — must claim that a person's EM occurs for a reason (a sovereign decision by God, made before the person was born) that cannot be influenced by the person, who could not have "made better decisions in Life" to avoid EM, so... why is God causing EM for them?  The EM they are feeling was not merited by their lack of goodness and/or wisdom during Life, so...  well, I'm confused by this, I'm not able to understand how it's possible for this predestination-plus-EM to be defended as a Divine Justice that is fair.   {but I think a basic logical Calvinism – with TULIP, but without EM – seems fair}

 

Calvinism  —  the Justice (and Love) of Predestinations

The Morality of Calvinism:  My summary-section about Justice in Overall Changes (from Before Life to Afterlife) ends with a question:  "if basic logical Calvinism (emphasizing divine total-sovereignty) is expanded to include Eternal Misery, is The Calvinistic God (i.e. IF God will do what is proposed by Calvinists) an immoral monster?"   This section criticizes the morality of the divinely enforced double predestination — with God deciding that some people cannot escape Eternal Joy in Heaven, and other people cannot escape Eternal Misery in Hell — that is proposed in classical Calvinism, based on the writings of John Calvin.  According to Calvinism — which currently is rejected by the majority of Christians, but is accepted by a significant minority — here is what happens to most people:

A person never asked to be born, but was forced into existence by God;  during their Life they never had any chance for salvation, because a sovereign God decided they would not be saved;  then after their death at the end of Life, God forces them back into existence in an Afterlife where He will cause them to live forever in Eternal Misery.  How should this person feel about the gift of Life (plus Afterlife) from God, and about the character of God?

 

I think that...

historical Calvinism — based on the beliefs of John Calvin, who emphasized the sovereignty of God in all things (including the salvation or non-salvation of every person) and ALSO claimed that God will cause Eternal Misery for all people who are unsaved at the end of their Life — says untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God.  I think The Calvinistic God (who I don't think is The Actual God) is an immoral monster.  But...

logical Calvinism — claiming the sovereignty of God in all things — should not include a claim that “what will happen in Hell” is Eternal Misery.  The main claims of Calvin (about the sovereignty of God, in salvation) are independent from any claim about Eternal Misery.  But...

• If the main principles of this mere Calvinism (a logical Calvinism as in TULIP) are combined with FA or UR instead of with EM, the character of God would be:  MUCH better (so God is just & loving, is not a "monster") with FA;  and if the logical 5-point TULIP becomes 4-point TU_IP, God's character would be wonderful with UR.  All three of these possibilities — by combining logical Calvinism plus EM, or FA, or UR — are compatible with the principles of logical Calvinism:  with Calvinism-plus-EM an unsaved person cannot avoid going from nothing (before Life) to Eternal Misery, and this overall change would be horrible;   with Calvinism-plus-FA an unsaved person goes from nothing (before Life) to nothing, for an overall change that is neutral, and with some life-experiences (a mixture of pleasant & unpleasant, and for most people the balance is shifted toward more pleasant than unpleasant) during their Life and Afterlife;  or with Calvinism-plus-UR, in addition to their life-experiences the overall change is wonderful, from nothing to Eternal Joy, so God's gift of Life-plus-Afterlife is wonderful.  The character of God seems fine with a combination of Calvinism plus either FA (because God gives life to all, and takes life from some) or UR (because God gives life, and eventually makes everything good for everyone).  But...

• yes, "The Calvinistic God is an immoral monster" but IFF (if and only if) logical Calvinism is combined with a claim that God will cause people who are non-elect (in their Life, and also in Afterlife) to exist forever with Eternal Misery.     { I'm not confident that logical Calvinism is taught in the Bible, or that non-Calvinism is taught, because the biblical evidence seems ambiguous, because I've seen strong Bible-based arguments for Calvinism and for non-Calvinism.  What I'm more confident about is the absence of biblical evidence-and-logic for Eternal Misery, and there is no biblical reason for a linking of Calvinism with Eternal Misery.  I don't see any biblical/logical reason for Calvinism to include Eternal Misery, and (in my opinion) this combination is morally indefensible for Calvinists and also for God.  But my claim about the character of a Calvinistic-God is for a very specific situation, it's claimed only IF Eternal Misery is “what will happen” but I'm confident that EM will not happen, so the "IF" is wrong (because in Reality this "very specific situation" will not occur) and a God who would do Calvinism-plus-EM does not exist in Reality, so I'm NOT claiming that God (the "I am" who actually exists in Reality) is an immoral monster.  I do not think God is an immoral monster.  But I do think the hybrid theory (Calvinism plus Eternal Misery) describes God in a way that turns Him into an immoral monster, so I think this theory says untrue-and-harmful things about the character of God.

• I'm not alone in thinking these things, because I'm confident that most people — if they understand Calvinism (but I didn't understand it during my first 3 decades as a born-again evangelical Christian) — will think that a Calvinistic predestination of any person to Eternal Misery would be extremely unfair, because an non-elected person would be forced to go from nothing to Eternal Misery* and would have no chance to escape their infinitely miserable fate.  By contrast, each person's Life-plus-Afterlife could be fair with logical Calvinism plus either FA or UR.  In these two combinations, a person who was non-elected during Life (who was not elected for purposes of “doing things during Life” as part of God's Educational Drama of Life) would have an Afterlife in which either they would be annihilated (for a nothing-to-nothing overall change) or they would be elected-by-God to be saved during Afterlife with a combining of Calvinism plus Universal Reconciliation.

 

What is Calvinism?  —  TULIP

As explained above, Christians with a Calvinist theology (aka Reformed theology) emphasize the total sovereignty of God, saying “yes” when we ask “does God always get what God wants?”  Their views are summarized in the 5 points of TULIP

    T — Total Depravity [aka Total Inability, which I think is a better name] ("Sin has affected all parts of man. … We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin. … The Calvinist asks the question, ‘In light of the scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?’  The answer is, ‘He cannot. [*] Therefore God must predestine.’ … Because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will. …"),  [* so he has Total Inability]  {italics not in website, are added by me}
    U — Unconditional Election ("God does not base His election on anything He sees in the individual.  He chooses the elect according to the kind intention of His will without any consideration of merit within the individual.  Nor does God look into the future to see who would pick Him.  Also, as some are elected into salvation, others are not."),
    L — Limited Atonement ("Jesus died only for the elect.  Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all.  Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. ..."),
    I — Irresistable Grace ("When God calls his elect into salvation, they cannot resist. …"),
    P — Perseverance of Saints ("You cannot lose your salvation.  [Those who have been elected] are eternally secure in Christ. …").
{another description of TULIP Calvinism}
 

What do you think about the italicized claims in T and U?

 

Here is what I think:

For people who are “elected by God, for salvation by God,” TULIP produces a wonderful result because of IP.*

For a non-elected person, I think that...

    IF their final result is Reconciliation — because even though they were not elected-in-Life, they will be elected-in-Afterlife — this is a wonderful result.  And the net overall result is very good, with Eternal Joy for everyone, for both the Elect-in-Life and the Elect-in-Afterlife.  With Calvinistic Universalism, eventually everyone wins;  God's election-in-Life is just one aspect of His educational drama of life because He also can use afterlife to make the overall combination (of life + afterlife) have justice for everyone, instead of only for "the few" who have been elected for salvation during this life.
    IF their final result is Annihilation, this seems fair for a non-elect person, who goes from nothing (before birth) to nothing (after annihilation).  When this is combined with the "wonderful results" for people who were elected to salvation, the net overall result – when all people are considered – is good.
    IF their final result is Eternal Misery, this is horrible:  the person never asked to be born,  never had a chance for salvation (due to T-without-IP),  never will find any relief from their continual misery,  and (U) are not to blame for their non-salvation.   It's difficult to believe that God would do this, or (if He does, and I don't think He does) to understand why.     { But in saying this, I'm not criticizing God because I'm using IF-Then reasoning that is BECAUSE-Then reasoning – and so are those who try to defend the divine morality of Eternal Misery occurring due to predestination-by-TULIP. }     { The difference between being elect and non-elect depends only on luck (if U, Unconditional Election) rather than merit, so being eternally punished (if Eternal Misery is true) for a sinful “lack of merit in living” doesn't seem fair, because the person's main sin was not being "elected" by God, and this (if U) was through no fault of their own.   (the problem of Moral Luck with EM) }
 

* With Calvinism plus FA or EM, a TULIP-World would be good for only "the elect".  And it's people who assume they “have been elected” who are claiming TULIP is true.  {is there a “conflict of interest” in this claim-about-themselves?}

* Calvinists typically defend the divine morality of double predestination (to heaven and to hell) by making a distinction between divine sovereignty that is achieved by divine activity (for the elect) and divine passive inactivity (for the non-elect).  But this seems analogous to a staged “reality show” where non-swimmers (with a Total Inability to swim) are dumped into the middle of an ocean, with some being actively rescued while others are passively allowed to drown.  And it seems that Calvinism requires an illogical affirming of “both A and not-A” to explain how personal responsibility (which would be required for justice that is morally defensible when using human standards of ethics) is possible for a person who is predestined-into-EM.     { Any theology that is based on the Bible will have some “tension” between God's sovereignty and human responsibility, but with Calvinism these tensions are exaggerated, especially with Calvinism-plus-EM.  It seems that Calvinists must claim illogical “mysteries” (that humans cannot understand) when they try to explain some features of their view. }

[[ typical Arminian (non-Calvinist) View:  Salvation is by Grace (from God) thru Faith (by a person);  Grace with Faith = Salvation,  Grace without Faith = Damnation;  Grace is always available for everyone, by God;  Faith (yes or no) is chosen by each person. ]]

 

Some of my thinking about this is in a 1-page summary of EM-versus-FA (starting at bottom of left column, "FA also seems more compatible with the character of God") and longer version (in Section 4, "Divine Justice and Mercy"):

    Probably most people (Christian and not) don’t think it is “justice” if humans are caused to suffer for an infinite time, as in EM, to punish them for sins committed during a finite time during their life on earth. {arguments about infinities}   With both FA and EM, the overall change for a saved person is from nothing (before birth) to eternal joy.   But for the unsaved there is a big difference:  with FA the overall change is from nothing [before life] to nothing (after everlasting death) which seems fair;  but with EM the change is from nothing to everlasting misery, and it would seem justifiable for them to ask (as in Romans 9:20), "Why did you make me like this?" or even “Why did you make me at all, if you knew [with TULIP] this would be my fate?”   [this is quoted from the 1-page summary;  and from the longer paper,...]
    A justifiable question, asked by an unsaved person experiencing eternal misery in hell, would be "Why did you make me like this? (Romans 9:20)"  A traditional view of EM-hell becomes even more difficult to justify, in terms of a human sense of justice, with a mix (which is the doctrine of some major denominations) that combines EM with the [Calvinistic TULIP] double-predestination [to both heaven & hell] implied by passages such as Romans 8:28-30 and 9:10-23.  .....  Doesn't it seem reasonable — for a person who never asked to be born and is now enduring eternal misery in hell, who never had a chance to choose whether to be born, and then (if the predestination implied in Romans 9 is true) never had a chance for salvation — to ask the God who is keeping him or her alive in pain, "Why did you make me like this?"  But with a FA-hell and its "nothing to nothing" change, this why-question is less justified, even with predestination.  .....
    Both FA & EM [& UR] are logically consistent with any view of free will, from full predestination to total freedom, or anything in-between.    note: Christians who base their views on the Bible have a wide range of views about predestination, from extreme Calvinism (with double predestination of both saved and unsaved) through single predestination (with some "elected" for sure salvation, while others can freely choose how they want to live) [as in these pages from Rich Deem; I agree with most of what he says, much more than with TULIP] to no predestination so every person is free to choose.
 

[[ elsewhere, I describe 4-point "calvinism" of UR, without L, so TU_IP occurs with "elect" saved in life, and others saved in afterlife, for an overall result, in life-plus-afterlife, that seems fair, or at least doesn't seem monstrously unfair, which most people perceive in the "God as Moral Monster" of TULIP-plus-EM ]] == or with LL, TULLIP, with atonement limited-in-scope to only the elect IF we look only at the limited-in-time period of bio-life, followed by unlimited atonement (after edu-hell) in afterlife, to achieve overall justice]]

[[ questions about Calvinism:  why should there be a connection between TULIP and EM? (especially because EM seems less biblically supported than FA) - maybe due to practical political reasons (for Calvin in Geneva, to control citizens with fear-motivations?) but what would be the Bible-based theological reasons?  //  What do Calvs do with Romans 11 (especially 11:32) that's the conclusion of Romans 9-11?  and with other places where Paul seems to teach UR? (as in Rom 5, I Cor 15, etc, consistent with Rom 11:32) ]]

 

As explained above, I think a judgment of Final Annihilation (FA) seems morally justified — although Universal Reconciliation (UR) would be more merciful, and more appealing to me — but Eternal Misery (EM) seems extremely unjust, ESPECIALLY with the double-predestination of Calvinism.   John Calvin made two major contributions to Protestant theology:  1) his views about divine sovereignty, summarized in TULIP and leading to a troubling conclusion of double predestination;  2) his powerful advocacy for EM.   Regarding the EM-view of Calvin, my long paper introduces a quotation from Edward Fudge, a prominent advocate of FA:

During the early days of the Reformation, a theological shift from tradition to sola scriptura (only scripture) should have led to a rejection of EM, but instead... "immortality of the soul [imported into Christian theology from Greek philosophy, contrary to the Bible in Genesis 3:22 and elsewhere] undergirded the structure of ecclesiastical thought. ... The Platonic frame of mind it represented had been officially unquestioned and popularly hallowed most of that time.  On this point, Calvin bridged the gap between the tradition of Rome and the fresh planting of the Reformation.  Tyndale and Luther were not of his mind, but for personal and historical reasons their influence was not determinative.  Calvin, more than any one man, put the Protestant stamp of approval on the traditional understanding of souls [being immortal] and hell [as Eternal Misery].  The power of his [unfortunate] influence may be seen in the history of theology since."

Personally, I think Calvin's advocacy for EM (especially when combined with his views on predestination-into-EM) has not been an edifying influence (in fact, it has been a horrible influence!) in our views about the character of God.     { Although this is how I feel, I do recognize that some humility is appropriate, partly because I know many Calvinists who have a high degree of knowledge & intelligence, character & compassion.  But this interpersonal respect doesn't make the principles of Calvinism-plus-EM seem any less illogical or unloving, in contrast with the potential for justice with Calvinism-plus-UR when life and afterlife are combined. }

http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/partuniv.html -- comparing C A UR

http://www.christianuniversalism.com/about-us/ -- together, church has UR [also check godlovewins.com]

 

 

 

JUSTICE — Part 3

I.O.U. - This section will begin with an introduction that connects it with Justice, Part 2.

 


 

Think About The Experience:  For an hour, try to intensely feel the reality proposed by Eternal Misery.  Imagine yourself being tortured, with incredible pain, for 5 minutes.Then imagine enduring this torment for an hour, a week, or a year.  Or for 10 thousand years, when (as in the song Amazing Grace) you've no less days to suffer in pain, than when you first began.  At this point, you have experienced less than 1% of your Eternal Misery.  If you continue suffering pain for 13 billion years (the age of our universe), you're still at less than 1%.  If you experience Misery for a billion universe-ages (a billion x 13 billion years) you're still at less than 1%.  Is this behavior (a causing of infinite misery) consistent with the character of God, as He is revealed in the Bible?  is this What Jesus Will Do?     {Or, with compassionate empathy, imagine this Eternal Misery happening to someone you love who dies unsaved, or even to an unsaved stranger, and remember that Jesus tells you to "love your neighbor in the way you love yourself." }     { Many modern defenders of Eternal Misery claim it isn't "TORMENT" (even though "torment" is what God does in the typical EM-defending translation a favorite EM-defending verses, Rev 20:10) but it's only "SEPARATION from God", but if it's Misery and it's Eternal, it still is Eternal Misery that is psychologically horrible forever, for MUCH longer than 13 billion years. }   —   I.O.U. - Currently this is almost like the corresponding section in the main page, except for citing Rev 20:10 here, but eventually I'll expand it and will add more ideas here.

 

Is an infinite amount of punishing required?

To achieve divine justice, is Eternal Misery necessary?  Proponents of EM usually defend its morality by claiming that eternally-lasting punishing (to produce EM) is necessary in a proper response to sin and sinners, that temporary punishing (which in UR or FA could be very harsh and could last for a long time, it just won't be forever) is not sufficient, and an eternally-lasting punishment of permanent death (in FA) also is not sufficient.  These claims by EM are examined in my short summary (starting at bottom of left column) and longer version (in Section 4).

 

For example, the need for EM is defended by Tim Challies, a double-predestinating Calvinist who claims that "if you want a God who is good - truly good - and if you want a God who is just and holy, then you must have this God, this God who condemns people to suffer the eternal torments of hell."

Challies tries to morally justify an eternity of tormenting by using logically unjustifiable arguments about sins committed against an infinite God.  These infinity-arguments — along with related arguments against judging the seriousness of sin by its duration (e.g., deciding that a quick murder-by-gunshot must be less sinful than a corporate embezzlement lasting decades) — are examined in Sections D6 & D7 (pages 31-32) of my long paper.    { In addition, consider the analogy in these questions:  Is it more damaging for a 150-pound high school football player to tackle a strong 300-pound NFL player who knows you will tackle him (so he is not surprised), or a weak-and-vulnerable 50-pound child? (if the 150-pounder tackles the 50-pound child, he might get arrested for assault, but he would get laughed at for tackling the 300-pounder)   And is it more damaging for a person to sin against an infinitely strong God, or a weak-and-vulnerable fellow human?  It's much easier for the strong NFL player or strong God to “cope with it” and minimize the damage, compared with a weak/vulnerable child or a weak/vulnerable human. }

[[ these arguments about "infinities" are not in the Bible;  instead the Bible tells us that God is purely holy, 100% holy, but it says nothing about "infinitely holy" ]]

[[ articles that examine-and-criticize this "infinities" argument more fully are What Are We To Make of Finite Sins Against an Infinite God? by Joseph Dear, and Answering Answers in Genesis: An Infinitely Bad Argument (I suggest searching for "alone" and begin reading at "Challies’s main argument...") by Glenn Peoples ]]

To show a flaw (re: infinite loving) in this argument, Jeremy Moritz says:

When people use these arguments, I'm sure their intentions are good.  But by employing all of this jargon about the infiniteness of our creator, what they are doing is clouding up simple God-given logic.  Sin is sin.  A crime is a crime.  It doesn't matter how nice and loving the victim is.  Most people have no trouble understanding this because they already know it in their hearts to be true.  Let's suppose for a moment that a kind, holy, loving man had his wallet stolen.  After a day, they found the criminal and allowed the victim to choose his offender's sentence.  Imagine if the kind, loving man used the argument "Because I am kind and loving, your sin against me was much worse than stealing from someone else.  Therefore, the only punishment fitting for you is to spend 40 years in my torture chamber."  Wouldn't that raise some doubts as to the loving nature that this man claims to have?  How much more so, if the man could make the sentence 40,000,000,000,000,000 years or more?
 

If you are impressed by “infinity arguments” like those above, so you think infinite punishing (with EM) will be NECESSARY for divine justice, I ask you to...

    imagine that God has appointed you to be responsible for afterlife-punishing in hell, and His only restriction is that your punishing cannot last forever, that it must end with either annihilation or healing-and-reconciliation.*  Can you imagine any amount of punishing — with no limit on its intensity-and-duration, except it cannot last forever — that would be sufficient to achieve divine justice?
    * If God wants the final result to be healing-and-reconciliation for a particular person, we might think that He also will require that your punishment cannot cause permanent irreversible harm that he cannot heal.  But this restriction would not actually be needed, because God can un-do any harm (caused by your temporary process-of-punishing) with His divine healing.

 

Yes, God's Thoughts are higher than Our Thoughts  —  but How?

One defense-of-EM is based on humility due to human ignorance, basically saying “even though we think causing Eternal Misery is a horrible thing to do, and we would never do it, whatever God does is justifiable, so we have no right to have an opinion about anything God does.”  This humility-about-God — which will, if EM won't happen, actually be a slandering-of-God by falsely claiming He will do things that most people think are horrible — often is defended by quoting verses 8 and/or 9 of Isaiah 55, while ignoring verse 7's explanation of HOW the thoughts of God are "higher" than ours, because He "will have compassion" and "will abundantly pardon," which is "higher" than the frequent thinking-and-actions of most humans because we often lack compassion and do not pardon, when we are dealing with other humans.  Here, God is explaining that he is MORE compassionate than humans, and not (as in a claim that God will be "higher" than us by causing very un-compassionate Eternal Misery) that He is LESS compassionate than humans.  Here is Isaiah 55:6-9, NASB:

    6. Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
    7. Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
    8. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
    9. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.

btw, An important question — does the time "while He may be found" end at death? — is not explicitly answered in the Bible.

 

Also, Paul praises "the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God" because (Romans 11:32) "God has shut up all in disobedience [due to the sin of Adam] so that [due to the sacrifice of Christ] He may show mercy to all," and His loving "mercy to all" inspires (in 11:33-36) our worship: "Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! ... To Him be the glory forever. Amen" to conclude Romans 9-11, and lead into his exhortation in Romans 12:1, "Therefore I urge you... to offer... your true and proper worship." (Romans 11:25-36 and 12:1-2)

 

 

Justice for Special Situations?

Binary Justice:  With EM there is an immense difference between the fates of saved and unsaved people, due to the horror of Eternal Misery in Hell.  EM, with its binary justice, proposes only two basic final results (plus rewards?) — a person gets either Eternal Joy or Eternal Misery — and it allows only one variable for punishing:

    For unsaved people, with EM-punishing the intensity of suffering can be varied but the time-duration is infinite for everyone, so the total suffering is infinite for everyone.
    By contrast, FA-punishing and UR-punishing have two variables, intensity (as with EM) and also duration (not a variable with EM) so God can use a wider variety of personally customized adjusting.  And for everyone the total suffering is finite.
 

With EM these binary results — only Eternal Joy, or Eternal Misery with infinite suffering — makes it more difficult to imagine how EM's binary justice (so God will decide only “Joy” or “Misery”) could be fair, for a variety of special situations.   /   Similar difficulties, although less extreme, occur for the binary justice of FA if the final state will be either Eternal Joy or Permanent Death.

But before asking tough questions, I'll begin with justifiable humility.  We cannot know (in Romans 2) what "will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ."  Jesus did say that "no one comes to the Father except through me," but we don’t know all of God’s criteria for judging people.  And we don’t know what is happening in the hearts-and-minds of people who outwardly seem to have rejected the salvation offered by Christ, or who seem to have accepted it.  And we don't know God's answer for when is it too late?

 

Despite these reasons for humility, many people find it difficult to imagine how — with the Joy-or-Misery binary Justice of EM — God could fairly judge the many people...

• who die when they're young, or are feeble-minded?  (I don't think an “age of accountability” or “IQ for accountability” is ever mentioned in the Bible.)

• who have been (according to Calvinists) predestined for Hell?  or, in a non-Calvinistic worldview, are free to choose but they were “dealt a bad hand” of Moral Luck because they...

    • had life-experiences (including their relationships with Christians & others) that made it difficult for them to say YES to The Gospel?
    • were not “well discipled” by other Christians, so it was difficult for them to become devout disciples who can (as discussed below) enter through "the narrow gate"?
    • haven't even heard The Gospel? (or never heard it explained clearly, so they knew it only as a weak/distorted strawman);
    • are devout followers of a non-Christian religion (Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism,...) that is popular in their culture? (they want to love & serve God, and their culture's dominant religion is the main way they know);
 

For any of these situations, or those below, UR (or semi-UR) provides more flexibility for God to achieve justice during the overall experiences of each person, in their life-plus-afterlife.   {And with FA the difference between the wonderful & horrible, in binary rewards/punishment, is much less than with EM.}

• who are lukewarm followers of Christianity?

• who were devout followers of Christianity for awhile, but then faded away?  (in a Calvinistic view, were they “trying” but their own efforts were futile because they were not one of "the elect" who had been chosen by God?  or, in an Arminian view, were they “trying” for awhile but then they failed by changing their decision from YES to NO?)   The Parable of the Soils (Luke 8:4-15) describes those who "fall away" or "do not mature."  Jesus explains,

    "This is the meaning of the parable:  The seed is the word of God.   Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.  Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.  The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.  But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

• who think they are followers of Christ, but later He judges them to be failures?  For example, Jesus (in Matthew 7:13-27) describes people who seem to be — as perceived by themselves, and others — devout followers of Christ, but they fail because "not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" so they are among the "many" who will fail.  But what could be a reason for failure?  Why might Jesus say "I never knew you"? (Matthew 7:22)   What is the “dividing line” between saved and unsaved, regarding the required degrees of quality for an authentic Christian's thinking & feeling, decisions & actions?  How much of what — in faith, and living by faith, loving God & loving people, in prayer & service, evangelism, doing good works, avoiding sins of ommission & commission & impure motivations, plus believing totally-correct theology — is required to be among "the few" who will be allowed to "enter through the narrow gate" because they adequately "do the will of my Father who is in heaven" consistently throughout their life?     { how much faith is enough?   how much loving God "with all your heart" and your neighbor "as you love yourself"?   how much “relationship” in heart-and-mind attitude and in prayer?   how much praying, in special prayer-times and during daily activities?   what degree of obedience in living?   what quality of beliefs (i.e. what kinds of incorrect theology will be tolerated?)*   how many times thinking “I can do this sin because God will forgive me”?   and for what kinds of sins? (i.e., to be allowed through "the narrow gate" how many times can a person commit sins of thought, like those in Matthew 5:21-30? or sins of motivation, as in Matthew 6:5-18? or sins of omission, like sometimes not serving "the least of these" in Matthew 25:31-46?) }

When we ask “what is the standard?” and wonder "how much (of what) is required?", there seems to be no way for us to have the certainty of knowing.  For me, and maybe others, this uncertainty is a cause for confusion and concern.

If you consider yourself to be a Christian (by the tough standards of Jesus?), how many times have you done any of the things we are commanded to avoid in Matthew 5-7?  or how many times have you not done what we are commanded to do?  For example, how many times have you not actively helped "the least of these" so, by your sins of omission, you should "go away to eternal punishment" that, according to a (probably mistaken) EM-interpretation of Matthew 25:46, is Eternal Misery?

What is required for salvation?  —  There are hot debates:  is it lordship salvation? & (wikipedia & wikipedia) & controversy & it's heresy & two views & ( A - B - C - D - E ) and search-pages (about John MacArthur - Charles Stanley & perceived heresies) filled with strong/confident views on all sides.

* Controversial theological questions are debated among intelligent Bible-believing Christians.  The issues range from minor (e.g. infant baptism, with most church-denominations adopting a doctrine that seems unbiblical) to major (e.g. the sovereignty of God and “who does what” during our lives, with churches proposing two very different theologies (of Calvin & Arminius) and important claims of each are combined in Universal Reconciliation but it's impossible for all 3 views to be correct).  You can see another major controversy — re: about “how much of what is required?” (and thus “who is saved?”) — is Lordship Salvation versus Free Grace (that can become “easy believism”?) with some Christians on both sides saying nasty things about the other side — by web-searching for [lordship salvation heresy] or [easy believism false] or [once saved always saved wrong false] or [eternal security biblical] or similar word-strings.

 

Justice-and-Mercy on The Narrow Road:  If WhatJesusWillDo is cause Eternal Misery for unsaved people, it's difficult for me to "imagine how any binary EM-Justice can be fair, especially if only a few people will be saved."  My estimate of "only a few" is based on Jesus saying (Matthew 7:13-14) "wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  And He was saying this to Jewish people who were trying to follow the biblical God with the Bible-based religion of Judaism.  If we consider the overwhelming majority of people, now and in the past, living in cultures where most people don't even try to follow the biblical God — which could occur for a variety of reasons (e.g. because they haven't heard The Gospel, or they are devoted to another religion, or their society doesn't place a high value on religion of any kind,...) — the "few" on the narrow road "that leads to life" would seem to be an extremely small number, an extremely small fraction of all people created by God.  Will all of these people be forced to experience an eternity of misery, with infinite suffering, if WhatJesusWillDo is the commonly accepted doctrine of Eternal Misery?

I.O.U. - Later, I'll say more about this, re: confidence in numerical estimates, plus theological implications and more.

 

 

Would you choose to play The Game of Life?   (if UR, FA, EM)

my answers: yes, yes, no.   {iou - Soon, maybe in August 2018, I'll explain why. But I assume you would make the same choices, for the same obvious reasons.}

 

 


 

In the Afterlife, will most people be pseudo-people who were "not accountable" in Life?

(I'm calling them "pseudo" because they never had any experiences in Life.)

[[ the situation:  a large number of human conceptions don't produce births;  statistics for failure – for conception of fertilized egg, followed by no birth – is up to 75% failure (summaries)(with more depth especially in the section about "Detecting Early Pregnancy Loss");  or maybe the percent is lower (usually a range-estimate given, with humility about "what can be known");  what would the statistics be, for inclusion of all non-accountables (this 75%, plus young-death infants, plus low-IQ) for all of history, in all areas of world?   the stats could produce a strange afterlife-situation IF a "human soul" begins at conception – and it would be even more strange if (contrary to biblical Conditional Immortality) it's an immortal soul – because there would be many souls of humans (or are they just pseudo-humans who are "potential humans"?) that never had any experiences in Life, so...

if EM will happen, are these "potential people" eternally living in Hell-Misery or Heaven-Joy?  if they automatically will have Joy, then abortion is extremely effective evangelism, with 100% success, and natural loss (maybe up to 75% ?) is the largest contributor to populating Heaven, but none of these souls have ever been born into Life;  what will happen to these persons (that I'm calling pseudo-people due to their absence of Life-experience) in their Afterlife?

• if they get Eternal Misery, then the majority of "people" in Hell are pseudo-people who did nothing to deserve it;

• if they get Eternal Joy, then the majority of "people" in Heaven are pseudo-people who "got a free pass" and therefore were "lucky" compared with others, and this seems unfair;  most "people" in Heaven have never lived, they never had any life-experiences, and this would seem strange;  but perhaps being "without experience" could be a benefit that makes it just "different" but not impossible, for them to enjoy heaven? (for example, they could have second-hand experiences-of-life by observing others, with less pain than for those who actually go through the experiences "for real" first-hand) (but if God gives them super-empathy in heaven, their experiences would be more realistic)

• if they get UR, it's a similar problem because the majority of "people" in Heaven are pseudo-people;  {but pseudo-people (with no experiences in Life) could become authentic people (with experiences of "super-empathy" during Afterlife).}

• if they get FA, this seems most rational, least weird when we think about it, because only those who actually have life-experience (at least to the point of being born, or at least becoming a viable fetus) would be judged, and "going into nothingness" is an option;  in this way, FA would eliminate the difficult-to-understand possibilities described above, with pseudo-people overpopulating Hell (with EM if they are declared "unsaved") or overpopulating Heaven (with EM if they are declared "saved", or with UR);

• or, semi-UR also could be "rational, least weird" if pseudo-people are annihilated, but "accountable" people are saved-and-reconciled, so only people with actual Life-experiences will be in Heaven;

• or maybe God has "middle knowledge" about "what would have happened" if a particular pseudo-person had been born, and His "thought experiments about what would have happened in their Life" provide the basis for His judgment of them and for their Afterlife experiences? ]]

 

Luck in Life:  Many unsaved people have life experiences — different than my own, so “but for the grace of God” I also could be, like them, saying NO to God — that seem to give them rational reasons for saying NO.  Or maybe God has predestined them to say NO instead of YES.

A doctrine of Eternal Misery proposes a biblically unjustifiable universal Unconditional Immortality so everyone lives eternally, in an afterlife that is either totally good with Joy or totally bad with Misery.  With only this binary choice, with only two basic results for an eternal afterlife, it seems "difficult to imagine how the binary justice of EM... could be fair." 

 

GRADING (analogy)

binary results (especially EM, but also FA, seems to because difficulties occur when judgment is binary, but we're judged by multiple criterion [or by just one that God knows?],* and the quality of people will vary along a multi-dimensional continuum, as with a bell-shaped curve (although maybe not symmetrical) -- and maybe there will be many criteria, so each of us has a continuum -- and a Judge must somehow decide on a "dividing line" so a person who is "just under the line" goes to Hell, and a person "just above the line" goes to Heaven, even though their total score is almost exactly the same.  I cannot imagine how this would not be a problem for God when He is our Judge, although this might be due to my lack of imagination.  As a human, when I'm faced with this situation -- as when forced to grade on a scale of 4-3-2-1-0 (for A-B-C-D-F) -- I didn't like it, and didn't feel confident that I had judged in a fair way when someone with 78.5% of the overall course-points was given a B, but someone with 78.4% got a C.  To assign grades, I much preferred a more continuous scale, like 4.0-3.9-3.8... so I could feel good about giving these students a 2.6 (B minus) and 2.5 (C plus). ]]  more detail is in a Faith and Philosophy paper by Theodore Sider, Hell and Vagueness   /   * In a prominent "proof text" for EM, it seems that the only factor in determining our fate will be how we treated the poor, which is one aspect of "loving our neighbor as ourselves";  but I'm sure other factors also will be considered, because other factors are described elsewhere in the Bible. A prominent --- implies --- main? only?

questions about "afterlife grading" for a binary pass/fail result seem analogous to the challenges of

   

 

RELATIONSHIPS

 

[[ here is the LONG version (for "more"), to be used after editing ]]

Second, what are their attitudes toward Christians who question EM?

    This is more complex, due to the wide variety (of their attitudes) and my uncertainty (in knowing what they will be thinking & feeling & doing).  In the past, my personal experiences have been positive, when I have shared my views about FA;  but this could change if, in the future, I also explain how I now feel about UR.
    My personal experiences have been positive;  on the rare occasions when I have discussed FA with other Christians (that I know and trust), their responses have been rational and loving.  But this might change because my views have changed from what they were (only a believing conditionalist) to also being a hopeful universalist.  It's more difficult to explain why hoping for UR seems reasonable, because logical/Biblical comparison of FA-vs-EM is easier than FA-vs-UR, and because the evangelistic effects of UR [==link to life-effects of UR, for 1+2+etc] would be more significant than with FA.  In online forums, Christian Universalists describe what happens when they share their views with Christians in their local church, and usually the results have not been beneficial for their relationships.
    More generally, in books & sermons & web-pages the response to questioning EM is sometimes hostile when FA is proposed, and is usually hostile when UR is proposed.  Often there are implications that UR should be immediately rejected (and maybe treated as a heresy [and the proposer as a heretic]) instead of being accurately understood and carefully evaluated.  Due to the attitudes of many fellow Christians, I've been “counting the cost” of sharing what I'm thinking about FA and (especially) UR, because I've seen what some people in the Christian community do (with their un-loving words & actions) to anyone who questions EM.  But a more important reason to hesitate about "sharing" is because I feel a heavy responsibility to accurately describe the Whole News even if some aspects of it seem like Bad News, because we should avoid giving false hope that might lead to a "bad suprise" for other people.
    In most Bible-believing churches, Eternal Misery is included in their declaration of What We Believe.  Instead of a neutral statement that is compatible with EM or FA (or even UR) — like the "eternal punishment" (as in Matthew 25:46) that would occur with either EM or FA — they specifically require the Eternal Conscious Punishing of EM.  I feel uncomfortable when EM is established as an official doctrine of a church that, in other ways, I like.

 

re: Rob Bell - reviews (in Amazon) & interview (by Martin Bashir) by Thomas Talbott.

== [[ social ostracism [like Edward Fudge, as in movie "Hell and Mr. Fudge" - relationships with respected scholars/writers/preachers, can lose jobs in Christian schools & organizations when official doctrine for What We Believe (that you must agree with, to be hired and retained) includes "conscious eternal torment" (zb, me in BHC-Madison) ]]

== [[ for example, Bashir badgering Bell -- saying [twice], your book is un-historical and un-scriptural - "that's true, isn't it?" // also, you are watering down Gospel to please modern-society sinners - "that's what you've done, isn't it?" ]]

[+ working out own childhood experience]

 


 

My Personal History with EM and FA, then UR

For the past 27 years I have studied EM and FA a lot, and UR a little.  It began when someone described Final Annihilation, and I tried to explain why FA is not taught in the Bible, but was unable to do this.  In fact, the more carefully I studied the Bible, the more it seemed clear that the Bible taught FA, not EM.  In late 2014, I began learning more about UR, and became [optimistically hopeful ] 1995-2001-2010; Lt2014, M 2015

A home-page links to papers I wrote in 2010, a 1-page summary and a longer version, that compare Eternal Misery (EM) with Final Annihilation (FA) and explain why I think FA is much more strongly supported in the Bible.  These papers also explain why, logically and morally and emotionally, I prefer FA.  The summary says, regarding Universal Reconciliation:

    The concept of universal salvation — with God giving all unsaved people a second chance [after death] for salvation, and all [or at least some] eventually being saved — is emotionally appealing (I would join most people in voting YES for this if God asked us to decide) but the Bible tells us what God has decided, and it doesn’t seem to be universalism.  Verses usually cited as support for universalism refer to “all”;  with FA all living humans [in the final state] will love and obey God, with no sad feelings about the misery of former friends and family suffering in hell, because those who rejected God are no longer living;  but with EM there would never be a time when “all” will love and obey God, because the rejecting rebels would continue living forever.

an update:  Recently, since late 2014, my thinking has changed in one way.  Previously I concluded that what is taught in the Bible "doesn’t seem to be universalism."  Now that I've learned more about UR, I'm less confident about this because both Final Annihilation and Universal Reconciliation seem possible, with Logical/Biblical Evaluation supporting each view in different ways.


and here is a little more personal history:

In a personal example, my younger sister was a wonderful person (why did so many people love and respect her?) who died too soon, in 2010.  During her life, she seems to have rejected the grace offered by God.   { I can only say "seems" because we don't know what happened in her heart and mind privately, just between her and God. }    Due to her life experiences — different than my own, so “but for the grace of God” I also could be saying NO to God — she had rational reasons for saying NO.  But I think her heart & mind were basically good (with less, compared with most other people, of our typical self-centered human sinfulness) so, with appropriate educational experiences after death, she would say YES to God.  I sincerely hope that she (and many others) will have an opportunity to reconsider, in her afterlife at a time when more evidence will be available than in her biological life, and she will have a different perspective.  I want her to be reconciled with God, and with me and the rest of our family and her many friends, in the eternal heaven-kingdom of God.

note:  This was the initial paragraph-conclusion for Universal Reconciliation — Reasons to Hope that I wrote, in February 2015, before changing it from specific to generic, about any person we know and love.   {a request for feedback: Do you think the personalized ideas above should be included or excluded in the main page?}

 

 

Motivations (for Believing, Converting, Evangelizing) - Part 3

I.O.U. - While writing this subsection, I'm feeling humbled by the big difference between what I think should be said and what I'm saying now.  Later (but I don't know when) I want to think about these ideas more thoroughly, and write more clearly.  Until then, hopefully “what it is now” will be useful for you, will help stimulate your own thinking in beneficial ways.   /   Recently I changed the titles of Part 1 & Part 2, so some of what you'll see below – beginning with the first sentence! – needs to be revised.

 

Part 1 describes Motives for Conversion, for saying YES to God because of motivating incentives that are intrinsic (to do life-process better) and extrinsic (to receive afterlife-results we want), positive and negative.  These motives (and how they are influenced by what we think about EM, FA, and UR) will affect our Motives for Evangelism, and our actions (mental & physical) in all areas of life.

 
positive
negative
 intrinsic Life-Process
 (love/serve God & people) 
 by actions, build Optimal Life (with more good, less bad) for self, and 
 by actions, help build Optimal Life (with more good, less bad) for others 
 extrinsic Afterlife-Results 
 get Joy in Heaven for self, and 
 help get Joy in Heaven for others 
 avoid Misery in Hell for self, and 
 help avoid Misery in Hell for others 

comments about words in the table:  God's Two Great Commandments, to love God (with your whole heart & mind) and love other people (as you love yourself), are to "love/serve God & people", and you can fulfill these commandments "by [mental and physical] actions" to "build Optimal Life (with more good [positives], less bad [negatives])".   Your actions (to "build Optimal Life") and desires (to "get Joy" and "avoid Misery") can be "for self" and (equally important because God wants you to love others as you love yourself) also "for others".

 

more - Mixed Motives when Hoping for Universal Reconciliation

 


 

Earlier, I described the evangelistic responsibility to avoid giving false hope.*  This section explains how a "bad surprise" mistake could happen to a person, or the people they have influenced.

* When Christians influence others we have a responsibility to avoid giving false hope, which might occur (or it might not) if we encourage a person to believe a view for which it's possible to have “worse results than are expected” so a BAD Surprise is possible.  This responsibility is a motivation to claim that the worst-case possibility of EM is probably taught in the Bible, and thus (for Christians who believe that what the Bible teaches is true) it's probably true.    { This logic-of-responsibility is similar to Pascal's Wager, which is a strategy for deciding “the best way to bet” when your outcome might be an infinite positive (Eternal Joy) or infinite negative (Eternal Misery or Eternal Death). }

 

But... a person could “say NO to God” for a variety of reasons, not just a failure to be “scared into conversion” by threats of EM (or FA).  For example, you might think EM is the most probable of the Christian views, but...

    you think EM isn't highly probable compared with atheism or another view, so you decide to gamble despite the huge risk;
    or, as explained above, you may not be able to trust-and-love God if you think He will do EM, so you won't say YES;
    or maybe you just want to “live the way YOU want,” without God, and you're not thinking about possible consequences later in Afterlife.

 

Avoiding A Bad Surprise

Based on logical evaluations of what we read in the Bible, I have concluded — with very high probability, but not certainty — that EM is false, and either FA or UR is true.  These conclusions are justifiably humble (claiming only "probability") so when I describe The Good News, making it The Whole News requires including a humble disclaimer that “I'm not certain” and, re: the low probability of EM being true, “I could be wrong.”

Therefore, you should ask “What if Craig is wrong?” and, more important, “What if my own conclusions are wrong?

For each view, you should ask “What would be the practical results (for me and for people I influence) if I claim      and I'm wrong?”  You'll see this in the second table.  But first, this table shows six possibilities in The Afterlife, for people who (because of what they did in their Bio-Life) are either Saved or Unsaved, if UR (or FA or EM) is true:

2.  then LATER in their Afterlife,  
 
2 - if UR,
then:
2 - if FA,
then:
 2 - if EM
then:
 1.  NOW in their Bio-Life,
 
             
 if (1-yes) they respond to God with YES, so they are Saved
 
because during Bio-Life they become reconciled with God, 
 
Eternal
JOY.
 
Eternal
JOY.
 
Eternal
JOY.
             
 if (1-no) they respond to God with NO, so they are Unsaved 
 
because during Bio-Life they are not reconciled with God, 
 
temporary
MISERY
in Hell,
 
temporary
MISERY
in Hell,
 
Eternal
MISERY
in Hell.
 
followed by
Eternal
JOY.
 
followed by
Death and
NOTHING.
 
 

The first row, for 1-yes, shows that if they say YES (so "... they are saved"), and if any of these Christian views is true, they will get Eternal JOY in their afterlife.

The second row, for 1-no, shows that if they say NO (so "... they are unsaved"), and if any of these Christian views is true their Afterlife will begin with temporary MISERY.  But the Afterlife Final States differ, ranging from Eternal JOY to NOTHING to Eternal MISERY.

Comparing the rows shows an important non-Afterlife difference;  during their Bio-Life a person can become reconciled with God (so God can help them live more effectively), or be not reconciled with God.

 

This table shows the “surprise” for an Unsaved Person in their Afterlife Final State (AFS), by comparing what they Expected (was it UR, FA, or EM?) and what they discover in Reality (is it UR, FA, or EM?):

If a person says NO, so 
they are Unsaved, and 
and if the AFS
Reality is UR,
and if the AFS
Reality is FA,
and if the AFS
Reality is EM,
if they Expected UR,
(no surprise)
BAD surprise
BAD surprise
if they Expected FA,
GOOD surprise
(no surprise)
BAD surprise
if they Expected EM GOOD surprise
GOOD surprise
(no surprise)

note:  If the Reality is what's claimed in another view – in Judaism, or Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism,... – then in an afterlife they might be surprised in a way that isn't shown in the table.

 

If there is a BAD surprise — which can occur by expecting UR or FA, but not EM — it would be extremely sad.  In each case, maybe (or maybe not) their life-response would have been YES if they had expected a worse Final State.

For example, imagine that you say NO to God, and you have been expecting UR with a chance for after-death repentance & salvation.  You will get a very unpleasant surprise if you discover that your end-result in the Final State will be the NOTHING of FA, and by saying NO you've lost your opportunity for eternal JOY.  It will be much worse if EM is true, with a horrible surprise when you begin experiencing Eternal MISERY in Hell, and you realize (too late to avoid it) that your misery will never end.  In either non-UR scenario, during your afterlife you might think “oops, if I had not believed UR (which led me to expect that things would be OK eventually even if I said NO during life), but if instead I had been persuaded to say YES by adding a fear-of-death incentive (in FA) or fear-of-misery incentive (in EM), I would now be living in eternal JOY.”

A similar Bad Surprise would occur — so you might be saying "oops,..." — if your response was NO, and if you expected the afterlife to be FA, but discover it's actually EM.   Or you might expect FA, but discover a Good Surprise of UR.

 

Does a strategy of "avoiding a bad surprise" — which is related to Pascal's Wager — give us a reason to believe EM, and to proclaim this Bad News as an essential part of the Good News?  Or should we consider other evangelistic responsibilities to be more important?

 

 

 

note:  This was the more-complete table – from my section about The Death Penalty and Substitutionary Atonement – before it was condensed by eliminating two columns.
 before 
 biological LIFE 
intermediate state
early AfterLife
Judgment
late AfterLife (final result)
DUALIST view of
Jesus (as substitute)
 exists 
soul + spirit
 + mind + body 
soul alive + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
soul alive +
glorified body
Jesus will be
The Judge
soul alive +
glorified alive body
DUALIST view of
unsaved humans
(all if no substitute)
not
soul + spirit
+ mind + body
soul alive + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
mind alive +
temporary body
Second Death
in
Lake of Fire
soul dead + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
 (is ps death, as with Jesus) 
PHYSICALIST view of 
Jesus (as substitute) 
exists
spirit
+ mind + body
 mind alive (as God) + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
 mind alive (as God) 
+ glorified body
Jesus will be
The Judge
soul alive +
glorified alive body
physicalist view of
unsaved humans
(all if no substitute) 
not
spirit
+ mind + body
mind dead + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
mind alive +
temporary body
Second Death
in
Lake of Fire
mind dead + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
(is ps death, as with Jesus)
DUALIST view of
saved humans
not
soul + spirit
+ mind + body
soul alive + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
soul alive +
temporary body
soul alive +
glorified alive body
PHYSICALIST view of
saved humans
not
spirit
+ mind + body
mind dead + body dead
--> psychosomatic death
mind alive +
temporary body
Mark 9:49 ?
 1 Cor 3:10-15 ?
mind alive +
glorified alive body

 

I.O.U. -- These paragraphs mostly duplicate what is elsewhere, and later I'll edit them.

If there was no Resurrection by the power of God, Jesus would have been dead forever (as we are, in our natural state, after Genesis 3), with permanent death as in Final Annihilation.But the power of God brought Jesus back to bodily Life, and (as described in Revelation 2) the power of God can bring us back to bodily Life.  Therefore, Jesus did accept our Death Penalty for us, and then was raised to Life (with Resurrection);  now, because Jesus paid their penalty, a person also can be raised to Life by God, who will give them The Tree of Life if (and only if) He decides to save them.

// also, Jesus unique human, during Incarnation was fully human + fully divine, not like ordinary humans [for ordinary human, cross --> permanent death; but for Jesus (quote from Nicene Creed, re: fully human + fully divine) the Resurn followed] The Penalty for Sin is Death;  after all persons are resurrected by God, IF (and only IF) a person is saved by God, then they will be sustaining by God (using The Tree of Life) with a glorious indestructible Resurrection Body;  but IF a person is not saved by God, then (after their resurrection and temporary life in a non-indestructible resurrection body) the ultimate result of their Death will be Permanent Non-Existence as a conscious person, it will be Annihilation.

• the timing of His incarnation and death is special.  Jesus died for us, because we needed it, in the time between Genesis and Revelation, as described by Paul in his parallel contrasting of what was caused by Adam and by Jesus: "as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" and "as through one transgression [by Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [by Jesus] there resulted justification of life to all men."  Due to The Sin of Adam, The Tree of Life was removed by God (in Genesis 3:22-24);  later, due to The Death of Jesus, in a substitutionary atonement that satisfied the Death Penalty for Sin, our access to The Tree of Life will be restored by God (in Revelation 2:7 and 22:14), IF a person is saved by God.  This change — from Genesis to Revelation, from after-Adam to after-Jesus, from without The Tree to with The Tree — is symbolized by The Resurrection. 

from Chris Date:  "Yet the question remains: Why did Jesus consciously experience privation of life in a disembodied subsistence for three days if the finally impenitent will be annihilated, never again existing to experience anything at all? The disparity does not challenge the doctrine of substitutionary atonement, but it is nevertheless a curious disparity. Still, I suggest that a dualist conditionalist can explain it."

 

 

 

First, I want to describe the strongest possible argument-for-EM that I can imagine.This is the Rational Defense of Eternal Misery outlined above, based on changing the usual definition of death.  This argument includes possible answers for the two important questions, about WHAT (what does The Tree do? it does cure spiritual death, but it does not cure physical death because this isn't necessary, because with EM everyone lives forever with or without The Tree) and WHY (why did God remove the tree? to prevent Eternal Joy "from happening too soon, and for too many people.").

 

This table contains the same ideas as the table showing Possible Afterlife-Realities but it's simplified so you can focus on what is most important for understanding why a claim that "Conditional Immortality is only Final Annihilation, because Conditional Immortality cannot be Universal Immortality" is not logically justified:

 
 and IF Final Annihilation,
 and IF Universal Reconciliation, 
and IF Eternal Misery,
 IF Conditional Immortality
then (with FA),
Conditional Immortality,
 not-Universal Immortality 
then (with UR),
Conditional Immortality,
Universal Immortality
impossible
 IF Unconditional Immortality  
 IF (Universal-and-irrevocable) 
impossible
then (with UR),
Unconditional Immortality,
Universal Immortality
then (with EM),
 Unconditional Immortality, 
Universal Immortality

 

After making this table, I began writing if-then combinations, trying to find the essential one(s) for showing the logic.  For example,...

    if Conditional, then not-Universal -- this is a logically-false claim (i.e., it's not always correct for all possibilities;  it's only sometimes correct, is incorrect for yellow);
    if not-Universal, then Conditional -- this is a logically-true claim (i.e., it's always correct for all possibilities, occurs only for blue);
    if Universal, then not-Conditional -- this is a logically-false claim (i.e., it's not always correct, is incorrect for yellow, correct for gray).

But then I thought “there are 4 combinations, so I'll put them in a table.”  But when making the table, I discovered that because each of the 4 combos can have its if-then order reversed, there are 8 combinations.  I think the ones in aqua are most important.

 
not-Universal
Universal
 Conditional
if Conditional, then not-Universal
( sometimes correct: blue, yellow )
if not-Universal, then Conditional
( always true: "if" occurs in blue )
if Conditional, then Universal
( sometimes: blue yellow )
if Universal, then Conditional
  ( sometimes: yellow gray gray )  
 Unconditional 
 if Unconditional, then not-Universal 
  ( always false, occurs in gray gray )  
if not-Universal, then Unconditional
( always false, occurs in blue )
if Unconditional, then Universal
( always true ) but "so what?"
if Universal, then Unconditional
( sometimes: yellow gray gray )

I.O.U. - Eventually, I may “do more” with analyzing this logic.  But I have a feeling that disagreements (about defining Conditional Immortality) won't be resolved by logic, because logically there should be no disagreement.  Therefore, I may not do much more with "analyzing this logic."  Instead, as I say near the beginning of my logic-based sections about Defining Conditional Immortality,

    Hopefully you are now thinking “yes, we should be logical, so we should define Conditional Immortality as either Final Annihilation or Universal Reconciliation.”  If this is what you're thinking, you don't need to read the next two sections, about The Condition and Possible Afterlife-Realities.