Arminians and other free will theists typically suppose that, if we are genuinely free in relation to God, then the following rejection hypothesis (RH) is at least possibly true:
(RH) Some persons will, despite God’s best efforts to save them, freely and irrevocably reject God and thus separate themselves from him forever.
Of course, these same theists typically acknowledge the logical possibility of (RH) being false as well, which already opens up the possibility for a “hopeful universalism,” as it is sometimes called. But for a variety of complex reasons, I think that (RH) is necessarily false (i.e., logically impossible), and I know of no one who has produced anything remotely like a plausible argument for its possibility. Accordingly, I here propose to begin a discussion on the nature of human freedom and to begin with a two-fold question: First, just what is the relevant concept of freedom that Arminians and other free will theists typically have in mind? And second, why should anyone think it follows that, if we have such freedom, (RH) is at least possibly true?
Although I have no desire to put any restriction on the content of this discussion, I do intend, for my own part, to proceed very slowly, taking one tiny baby step at a time, and to keep my own posts narrowly focused. From time to time I shall also try to summarize our progress at a given point in an effort to keep the discussion properly focused. But there is no need for hurry even though at times some of us, including myself, may have to drop out of the discussion for a while on account of other responsibilities and interests.
One final point. Let’s all try to be as fair as we can to the free will theists and try to make as strong a case as we can for their position before jumping in to criticize it or to throw potshots at it. I have two reasons for urging this: First, I agree with Bob3 that we universalists need to work on how better to explain our position to our Arminian brothers and sisters, and second, it is surely a waste of time to attack a caricature or a position we do not yet fully understand. As I used to tell my students, “You must earn your right to criticize an opponent, and this requires that you first try to state your opponent’s position even better than he or she does.” To see why this is important, we need only consider, perhaps, some of the attacks on universalism that fail to meet even the most minimal standards of academic competence. Even some first-rate scholars within the Evangelical community, it seems, have no clear idea of how a Christian universalist might put theological ideas together; hence, their criticisms too often miss the mark entirely. So let’s not make the same mistake ourselves.
Here again, then, is my two-fold question: First, just what is the relevant concept of freedom that Arminians and other free will theists typically have in mind? And second, why should anyone think it follows that, if we have such freedom, (RH) is at least possibly true?
Thanks in advance to all who contribute to this discussion.