Hypothetical versus actual realities…


#1

I shall try to explain the problem as best I can… And then ask for your help in answering/explaining it…

We might start with a statement like this; gleaned from a bible study I read recently which tried to explain freedom and love and the nature of evil and why some are lost.

That seems true enough: love does have it’s opposite. And it might be helpful to imagine love as gathering it’s meaning and clarity from the existence of hate. (Perhaps kinda problematic however to ponder that love necessitates hate for it’s own validity??)

Do we need to have actual haters around and active in order for this dynamic to be real? Or is it enough for the condition of hating to be hypothetical?

This may seem to be a trivial and inconsequential concern. However, it seems to me that this very thing presents a huge barrier to belief in Universalism for a great many of our fellow Christians. Thus hell, to be a viable and valid idea, must have actual people in it. It’s as if for them, an empty hell is a hell that cannot exist!

I can’t seem to get this analogy out of my mind and I think it’s relevant to this question…
… A professor is leading his class on a hike in the mountains and they pass close by a steep cliff – a fall over which would certainly kill them. And he challenges the class to demonstrate that they are truly “free” by choosing to jump off that cliff. Then he claims that we’re not really free unless someone volunteers to actually jump off; that will validate the supposed freedom of each individual!

Wouldn’t the entire class easily see the flaw in this professors assertion and hold that the mere hypothetical and readily imaginable consequence of jumping off the cliff is just as real as if someone actually jumped?
Surely they would!

Then why is is so hard for folks to do the same thing with love/hate, with heaven/hell??

This puzzles me…

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#2

No buddy, I appreciate this observation and there is much truth in what you’re saying. While it’s an interesting exercise trying to determine what opposites actually are (read a book once called faith or fear; it was the authors idea that faiths opposite was not doubt, but fear…) but the point is that in the mind of the author of the quote I used, love and hate are opposites.

So of course the dynamic I am talking about can work just as well if loves opposite is apathy. That is, “do we really need apathetic people around in order for love to be real??” ie does apathy need to be actual and realized in order for love to be real as well…

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#3

Hi Bob,

I love this subject and never tire of it. I think so much about our view of God and the world gets revealed and worked out in how we answer questions like this. It’s about the metaphysics of love. What REALLY is love and how’s it unfold in terms of divine vs created being.

Open theists (and I’m one of them) really drive a stake in the ground here and argue something like your quote, that in order to love one has to be able to do its opposite, hate. Or in Boyd’s terms: (1) Love requires freedom, and (2) Freedom implies risk, and he moves on in his theodicy from there. But those are the first two point. Boyd got a lot of flack early on about this because a very obvious counterexample of the rule is God. God loves, but (traditionally) is not believed capable of sin. So the rule breaks down. But Greg’s been careful to argue that by (1) above he only means ‘created being’ or beings who by virtue of being created must achieve their character. The rule applies to us, not God. So we might restate it as:

In order to ‘become’ a loving being or grow into loving personhood, one must be do so freely (or, in terms of those who make the argument, libertarianly).

Once we limit the rule to created beings who have to grow into loving personhood (as opposed to God who exists necessarily and doesn’t need to acquire his character over time through trial and error) we can easily see why there doesn’t have to be any ‘actual’ hatred or sin in order for us to acquire our characters. All that needs to obtain is the ‘possibility’ (and thus the ‘risk’) of our choosing against love.

In the eschaton we will, I think become unfailingly good and loving, like God, though we shall have ‘become’ or ‘achieved’ such characters where God simply ‘is’ love. So the rule will one day no longer apply to even us, once our characters are settled and fixed.

Tom


#4

Thanks Tom – that’s a great start for me…

I have previously thought that sin as a hypothetical possibility exists even for God! It’s just that given God’s perfect knowledge of where that leads, and given His perfect character, such a choice would be impossible. Impossible not because He can’t, but because He won’t. Maybe I need to rethink this!

But what has me perplexed is why more people don’t embrace Universalism given that it seems so universally intuitive (like the students in the example I gave of the students rejecting their professor’s demand that they “prove” they were free by jumping off the cliff) that critically important consequences really can be known and accepted and acted upon without actually experiencing those negatives.

I’m saying that given the prevalence of what I find to be very natural and intuitive thinking (see above example) there should be far more Universalists than there are!

Why do you think that is???
Why do these reasonable intuitions let people down at a time like this??? (ie UR time!)

TV
Bobx3


#5

I can agree with this and see no problem for universalism.
We cannot truly appreciate the light without shades of darkness. Without darkness we are truly blind.

However, universalism only says that God loves all PEOPLE. What is that verse in proverbs that says God loathes 6 things …a lying tongue, …etc?
We can love people and hate ideas, love people and hate sin. Have I missed the problem?


#6

Pilgrim: We cannot truly appreciate the light without shades of darkness. Without darkness we are truly blind.… Have I missed the problem?

Tom: This ‘rule’ (that without darkness we’re blind) would undermine the idea that all actual evil will ultimately be vanquished and God will truly be all in all. If all actual evil were vanquished and all creation truly in right relationship to its creator, then we’d be blind (if I’m understanding you), for there would be no actual evil to serve as a backdrop for the light. We’d be lost in the light. But if God is supremely loving and happy without evil, then it can’t be true that darkness is needed if there is to be any appreciation of the light. God doesn’t need darkness to appreciate light, and indeed there was light (God) before there was any evil.

If we press the “love requires a bit of evil” idea without qualification then we end up with an absolute metaphysical dualism of good and evil where both good and evil (light and darkness) exist eternally and necessarily beside each other in mutual co-dependence, needing each other to exist at all. The most real thing about reality per se would be this dualism.

This is intolerable for a Christian worldview I think. But it’s especially fatal to universalism. If evil must exist for good to exist, then you can never universally purge reality of evil.

So what we need is a metaphysical rule that presently grounds ‘creaturely’ freedom with respect to evil (which accounts for evil) but which creatures can and will eventually leave as they mature into the freedom of their truest form in relation to God, and that is (I think) being unfailingly loving and full of light, free from all actual and possible evil. But to GET created beings to such fulfillment, they must participate freely in shaping their own characters and selves with respect to good and love, and THAT is where the possibility of evil resides. But it isn’t a metaphysical rule of all existing things per se.

Tom


#7

What I think really helps here, Bob, is the Eastern Orthdox (Patristic) understanding of evil is pure ‘privation’ … of the good, of true existence, etc. In other words, to the extent that one is evil, one fails to be, fails to exist. But as David Hart argues really well, this view of evil also means evil cannot manufacture a positive moment in the explication of goodness and love. Love does not require any actual evil for its own fulfillment and enjoyment, for evil is the privation of loving existence. True, God can bring goodness out of evil, can triumph over evil. But don’t read this backwards and suppose that good requires the evil it triumphs over to even exist. Evil is parasitic. It has no independent existence; is literally ‘no-thing’, whereas love is, if I can say it, ‘every-thing’.

Tom


#8

Tom:

While I very much appreciate the necessity to this question/dilemma of mine of the truths that our freedoms and moral comprehensions do grow within a contextual environment and that evil can only be legitimately expressed in terms of privation of good, I was worried about something else…

I’m troubled, specifically, by what seems to me to be a fairly self evident fact; that important truths (facts about reality; how things actually “work”) are really far more accessible via reason and common sense than we might imagine. One can easily conceptualize consequences from actions and thus have access to important truths/facts/realities via the imaginations entertainment of conceptual possibilities. Or hypothetical possibilities.

So, using my example of the students on their hike, they need not actually witness, or experience for themselves, that jumping off the cliff leads to really bad outcomes. They can see this in their minds eye; the hypothetical reality as an experiment of the mind suffices. Thus they can say, with confidence, that a jump from that cliff would result in death. So they do not jump and thereby are spared the consequences of such a poor choice.

And the clear rationality of the act of not jumping should correlate very well to the act of rejecting those things which lead (in common Christian thought at least) to ECT. — Yet the belief in hell/ECT persists and predominates…

Why do you think that is???

It is as if most typical Christians reason that for love to exist, it’s opposite (hate/indifference/rejection of love; ie hell) must be a viable option. But for hell to be a real place with real people in it, that option seems to them to be inaccessible unless hell has actual inhabitants!
And I’m puzzled why that should be?

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#9

I think I see what you’re getting at. And I think God’s created us in such a way that a number of intuitive assumptions are undeniable, even automatic, because our survival depends upon them. So aversion to pain, attraction to pleasure, and other basic drives pretty much run on auto pilot. To use your example, if we had to think through why jumping off a cliff is a bad idea, or see the effects that a hard fall have on the human body, every time we approached a cliff to justify not jumping, we would not have survived as a race. So our ‘instinct’ for survival warns us. We don’t have to see someone jump off a cliff and land on the rocks below in order to know that it’s not in our best interests. And that instinct is, among other things, just the aversion to pain, attraction to pleasure, and other ‘animalistic’ drives that keep us from harm.

I’m not sure things work the same way when it comes our spiritual health, UR, the afterlife, etc. And maybe that’s by design too. If our maturing toward union and partnership with God requires us to freely determine ourselves with respect to good/evil, then the conclusions we draw and choices we make about ‘ultimate’ questions CAN’T be reduced to being a function of basic instincts, for then they would be automatic, a function of our natures, and not freely chosen, right? There’s got to be some ‘epistemic distance’ (cognitive wiggle room) for us to self-dispose when that sort of disposition is necessary to our maturing as God designed us. That’s why we never see rational people drawn to jumping into flames to find out if fire is good for them, but we do see people rationally drawn to behaviors and beliefs that aren’t in their best interests. It’s because the latter isn’t really as obvious as the former.

I suppose tradition has a huge influence upon people too. We’re creatures of habit after all. Perhaps we perceive a certain safety in protecting the beliefs that we think are essential to defining the communities we want (and need!) to ‘belong’ to. That sense of belonging is pretty strong (and instinctual!). And of course wherever you have ‘groups’ that people identify with you have ‘control’ issues; leaders entrusted with maintaining the beliefs that define the group’s identity. Let’s face it, being in a place of power to tell people what’s ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to believe (especially if you convince people that their destiny depends upon their conforming to what you’re telling them is necessary) can be intoxicating.

Not sure that helps.

Tom


#10

Well it certainly does help in that it nudges the dilemma forward for me… (and thinking out loud here…)

It seems that the decision not to jump off the cliff, while rational, can also be said to be self-serving and merely in that person’s best interest.
However, salvation as envisioned by scripture is far more comprehensive than that! For God’s salvation envisions our free and willed worship! And further envisions that this worship brings us (and those around us) great joy!

Getting us to endorse life as mere self preservation seems a fairly rudimentary task; getting us to endorse life as an act of real worship (exuberant expression of the “worth” of God!) seems the harder task by far. Yet that seems the very one to which God has set Himself.

Just how that wisdom and insight and maturity is taught/arrived at is perhaps then at the root of my perplexity here Tom…

I don’t ***like ***to think that the cauldron of sin is the only environment in which God can be fully known nor do I like to imagine that Eve’s decision at the tree brought into play a potentially deeper comprehension of God’s immensity than would have been possible without them…
And while the truths about God were no less true in the beginning (ie He was Creator, Sustainer, Holy etc) the context of our decisions after sin are certainly more vast and expansive.

Be that as it may, I am fairly certain that, one day, the reality of God’s Goodness and the sensibleness of freely choosing Him will become just as obvious as the foolishness of jumping off the cliff is to those hiking students. Which to my mind leads directly to the sensibleness of Universal Restoration/Reconciliation…

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#11

Bob: Just how that wisdom and insight and maturity is taught/arrived at is perhaps then at the root of my perplexity here Tom… I don’t like to think that the cauldron of sin is the only environment in which God can be fully known nor do I like to imagine that Eve’s decision at the tree brought into play a potentially deeper comprehension of God’s immensity than would have been possible without them…

Tom: For my part, I haven’t been saying that sin is the only environment in which God can be fully known, or that Eve’s decision brought into play a potentially deeper comprehension of God. I don’t think that’s true anyhow. Consider Jesus as an example of a human being who didn’t sin and whose comprehension of God was not consequently shallower than it might have been. We’re just reading the necessity of our sin back into things if we assume that good which we know and experience would not have been possible apart from sin. It’s unthinkable to me that the existence of goodness should metaphysically require the existence of evil. That’s like saying two married people cannot REALLY appreciate marriage or love unless one of them has an affair and they get divorced and later remarried. People who fall in love and STAY in love for 50 years and do things right don’t know or appreciate as much about love and marriage as Elizabeth Taylor did with her seven or eight divorces and remarriages.

If God is supremely good and happy and loving, and if his existing as such does not REQUIRE the existence of evil to serve as a metaphysical backdrop so he has something to compare himself too which enables him to experience happiness for what it is, then it’s not the case that goodness requires evil. It shouldn’t have to be so for us. It would then be difficult to condemn evil for what it is if part of what it is is its necessary role to play in making goodness and love possible.

Tom


#12

Thinking about what Buddyb4 said…

Perhaps “Apathy” is the worst form of hate there is. I know this sort of hate myself…Sometimes the most hateful thing on earth is to not care at all for someone who loves you dearly. To the person who loves the one who is apathetic - that apathy feels like dull frozen knives being drawn slowly across the soul. “Hate” at least, is paying attention to you.

A certain…person…once got on his knees, bowing gratefully thanking God when his ex girlfriend argued with him saying very cruel things, because at least she talked to him that day, and at least he knew she was alive, and for a little moment paid attention to him. It was only when she became silent towards him that he felt genuinely hated by her. It was that hate-apathy that made him feel worthless and unloved.


#13

Hi Tom

I don’t hear you as saying this… but I do see the temptation to veer off in this direction.

But really Tom I think this observation of yours brings us back to my original question which wonders if actual hate is a precondition for love. Or if actual bondage is the necessary condition for freedom. Or if an actual jump off the cliff is necessary for freedom not to jump to be genuine.

So…

If we humans, due to our experience and reasoning capacity see that a free choice not to jump over the cliff is readily accessible (ie unstrained and unambiguous) so also we can find it readily accessible that knowing love, we should be able to comprehend where hate takes us without actually seeing that. It’s a journey we should be able to take anytime we want. This ability we have should also prepare us (well, not us but those who now reject Universalism) to be able to accept the likelihood of Universal Salvation. That is, the consequences of leaving God should be so apparent to us that this need not be actually experienced.

But the reality is that they HAVE been experienced! Which means UR should be even MORE likely!

Thus the only difference between us and Eve would be context. (obviously a debatable point!) We may say that Eve was born into an environment of uncertainty and ambiguity and immaturity and thus not judge her too harshly. But such is no longer the case! Those things can no longer be claimed. Especially since the Cross!

I’m saying then that the very fact that we are able (this far down the line since the fall) to reasonably comprehend hypothetical hatreds by knowing love, so also it should be easily imagined that hell is entirely empty; it’s purpose long since having been filled. (or at least being able to imagine that happening in the future…)

Which might mean we are much closer to a mass embrace of UR than we now imagine!!!

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#14

Bob: ….back to my original question which wonders if actual hate is a precondition for love. Or if actual bondage is the necessary condition for freedom. Or if an actual jump off the cliff is necessary for freedom not to jump to be genuine.

Tom: I think it’s pretty clear that the only way to answer these in the affirmative is to posit an absolute metaphysical dualism, an irreducible contrast between God and Evil, light and darkness, love and hate, etc., right down the line; i…e, manichaeism. But I don’t see that such a metaphysic is compatible with a Christian worldview.

Bob: If we humans, due to our experience and reasoning capacity see that a free choice not to jump over the cliff is readily accessible (ie unstrained and unambiguous) so also we can find it readily accessible that knowing love, we should be able to comprehend where hate takes us without actually seeing that.

Tom: Now you seem to be arguing something different. Here you’re saying that in order for us to be free (in the libertarian sense, I’m guessing) with respect to X, the choice for ~X has to be “readily accessible.” And I agree. But this just means the “possibility” of ~X has to be real. But two paragraphs up you’re arguing that your original question wonders whether “actual” ~X is a precondition for actual X.

I agree that to be libertarianly free with respect to some choice, that the choice and the denial of said choice both have to be ‘possible’ (instantiable given all the relevant factors) states of affairs. But why should there have to be actual evil in order for there to be actual love? We’re not manichaeists after all, right?

Bob: It’s a journey we should be able to take anytime we want. This ability we have should also prepare us (well, not us but those who now reject Universalism) to be able to accept the likelihood of Universal Salvation. That is, the consequences of leaving God should be so apparent to us that this need not be actually experienced. But the reality is that they HAVE been experienced! Which means UR should be even MORE likely!

Tom: Gosh I want to understand your point! Arhghgh! ;o) But it keeps passing me by. What am I missing?

Bob: I’m saying then that the very fact that we are able (this far down the line since the fall) to reasonably comprehend hypothetical hatreds by knowing love, so also it should be easily imagined that hell is entirely empty; it’s purpose long since having been filled. (or at least being able to imagine that happening in the future…)

Tom: OK, I think I’m following ya. I’m not sure where the teeth are in the argument. Or rather, I’m not sure exactly what problem you’re trying to address. Let me see if I’m following ya:

First, you want to speak to the inability on the part of the majority to conceive of or imagine a universally redeemed and restored creation, where evil is utterly and absolutely vanquished. You think part of the reason why folks aren’t universalists is that they have such a limited capacity (theologically) to imagine ‘the possible’.

I agree this is a big part of the problem. We’re so conditioned by evil’s presence, and by tradition, and so many other things, that we find it hard to escape the gravitational pull of our own fallenness. We keep orbiting the same stunted, limited, dwarfed perceptions of what really is possible with God. And perhaps tradition and other things reinforce this so that we feel threatened when we come close to thinking about wandering beyond the limits of this orbit.

Second, you think that since we’re able to abstract out from ‘actual’ love and good and happiness to ‘possible’ hatred and evil that the same people who reject UR really ought to clearly see the advantage and beauty of imagining its truth because they so clearly conceive of its opposite. Is that it?

Tom


#15

Yes Tom! I guess that pretty much IS it!
Not particularly a grand insight – just frustration.
I am trying to address what I find to be an astonishing inability of devout followers of Christ to grasp – readily and easily! – that Universalism necessarily follows from who He is! We know Him, and by implication we can know His opposite – an opposite which should appall and repel us!
I’m finding myself very frustrated in this. Because it seems as if the entire pantheon of tools to see this are already in place for these people!

– God’s goodness, and power, and depth of love, and sovereignty. Very accessible and real…
– That we have access to hypothetical realities (Given that we know X, Y happens so we know Z will result…) We know much about how cause and effect work… I don’t need to see pain to know the reality and truth of comfort… I don’t need to see conflict to know the reality of peace… I don’t need to see lostness, to know what it is to be found, and to be home…

Given all this, it seems as if Universalism should be an easy sell!
But it’s not. And that bothers me.
And I’m deeply concerned to know what those who cling to ECT or annihilation find so necessary and inevitable in those beliefs!

Odd I suppose because I’m trying to enter the mind of who I once was; and find myself unable to do it! … If that makes sense. :blush: :blush:

TotalVictory
Bobx3


#16

Yep, totally frustrating, I know.

But I used to be there, so I guess I can understand! Ha.

It’s amazing how established views we hold in turn constrain the possible lines of interpretation for so many passages. Romans 5.11-14 comes to mind. Johns sees “every” being (in heaven,on earth, below the earth, etc.) worshipping God. But somehow WE can’t see this, imagine it.

I think we ought to WANT UR to be true and only believe otherwise kicking and screaming because there are no other possible options.

Tom