The Instigator
popculturepooka
Pro (for)
Winning
19 Points
The Contender
KeytarHero
Con (against)
Losing
10 Points

The Problem of Hell Redux (2)

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Post Voting Period
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after 7 votes the winner is...
popculturepooka
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/30/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,600 times Debate No: 23297
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (54)
Votes (7)

 

popculturepooka

Pro

I thank KeytarHero for agreeing to debate this with me.

Introduction

I have already done two debates on this subject but I hope to tackle this issue yet again. [1][2]

To reiterate, my position is that the existence of hell - conceived of as eternal, conscious torment (e.g. the "traditional" doctrine of hell) - is, in all likelihood, incompatible with the existence of a God who is conceived of as perfectly good (e.g. just, merciful, loving, etc), powerful, and wise. I think this problem presents a uniquely diffcult issue for that kind of monotheism in general and Christanity in particular; the latter position is the one I will be arguing from.

Just to make clear the commitments of the traditional (eternal, conscious torment) doctrine of hell I'll use Jonathan Kvanvig's explication:

The Anti-Universalism Thesis: Some persons are consigned to hell;
The Existence Thesis: Hell is a place where people exist, if they are consigned there;
The No Escape Thesis: There is no possibility of leaving hell and nothing one can do, change, or become in order to get out of hell once consigned there;
The Retribution Thesis: The justification for hell is retributive in nature, hell being constituted to mete out punishment to those whose earthly lives and behavior warrant it. [3]

One's theological or religious persuasion - whether theist or non-theist - does not matter in accepting this debate. The only type of person I hope to debate is someone who is competent and can argue powerfully for the position that the existence of hell and God, within the context of Christianity, are, in all likelihood, compatible.

I accept the burden of proof inasmuch as all the opponent has to do to defeat me is show that my arguments fail to prove their conclusion. If they show my arguments do not prove their conclusion the argument points should go to my opponent. Thusly, my opponent has to show how and why my arguments fail.

Good luck to KeytarHero.

Rules

Round 1 is for acceptance and clarifications and/or statements of purpose. If there are any more issues that need to be worked out please post them in the comments.

Rounds 2-4 are for argumentation.

Sources

[1] http://www.debate.org...
[2] http://www.debate.org...
[3] "The Strong View of Hell" , in The Problem of Hell, ed. Jonathan L. Kvanvig, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p 25
KeytarHero

Con

I accept this debate, and the terms. I would just like to point one thing out, that I believe in the existence of free will. I don't believe people are predestined to go to Heaven or to Hell.

I look forward to the debate.
Debate Round No. 1
popculturepooka

Pro

Thanks to Con for accepting the debate.

I have two general objections to the traditional doctrine of hell.

The Proportionality Objection

Obviously, this view of hell is heavily based upon the retributive theory of punishment in moral philosophy. [1] Hell, after all, on this view, is not for redeeming the damned nor is it for deterring other bad actions. It's for retribution; it's because they deserve to be punished. In fact, this is where the doctrine gets most of it's legs or intuitional support from. The basic idea is that God is a just (among other attributes like holy, good, loving, and the like) God and therefore has to punish sinners in hell for their unethical actions here on earth in the after life.

Before even getting into proportionality objection there seems to a deep, fundamental problem - even incoherence - with saying (as many do) that a loving, merciful God 's sense of justice requires him to damn some eternally as philosophers Eric Reitan and John Kronnen have pointed out. [2] Christian theology has always maintained that every single of one us deserves hell because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Now, why isn't it the case that all of us will go to hell? Because it is said that God will take mercy and show grace to at least some of us and that is because Christ took on our punishments for sins and this was accomplished through the atonement. But, then, how is it supposed to be the case that God's justice requires him to damn some. Obviously it doesn't - so why would God's justice get in the way of showing mercy and love to all of his people and not sending them to a place to be eternally in torment? Obviously this would undermine the "anti-universalism thesis", giving us reason not to assent to that that thesis.

That worry aside, the very theory of punishment the doctrine draws upon actually gives us strong reason to reject the existence of hell when placed alongside the Christian God.

One can easily see how wholly disproportionate this whole scenario is. On retributivism the punishment is supposed the match the nature of the crime. If the punishment is too harsh it is unethical. Likewise, if the punishment is too lenient it is also unethical. Now, how could a finite person ever do something to warrant an infinite punishment? This seems to be a case of being far, far, far too harsh. The math does not not add up. Finite person + finite crime = infinite punishment? Even using paradigm cases of the worst that humanity has ever had to offer - say, Hitler - what he did can't ever merit an infinite, eternal punishment. Even if he gets tortured 4 quadrillion years for every person his genocidial policies affected how does that merit an infinite punishment? At some point this just punishment turns into cruelty and torture and something akin to a twisted sense of sadism. Punishing for no reason is not just. Thus, this argument seems to show that very foundation that the doctrine of hell is built upon is very shaky indeed; it even seems to refute it. So this undermines the "retribution thesis".

The Bliss of the Saved Objection

On any remotely orthodox Christian understanding of heaven it is said to be a place of unimaginable bliss and joy and happiness. This process is viewed as the pinnacle of sanctification - in other words - since our goal in this life (and maybe some more in the next) is to be Jesus-like or God-like. In heaven, people are sin-less, and thus more like God. Now, one of THE defining elements of God is love in Christianity. [3] One could easily surmise that in heaven the saved would have a God-like all abiding love for everyone as God seems to have. If that is the case, the presence of people being in a state of eternal torment seems fundamentally incompatible with the redeemed in heaven being in a state of unimaginable bliss. If we look at the concept of love we can see how just by it's very nature it is an inter-dependent thing. When one loves another that means, among other things, that one cares about what is in the others' best interests or their overall well-being. With that in mind what loving person can truly be happy while their loved ones are suffering much less suffering forever in unimaginable pain and anguish?

In fact, Paul himself seems to lend credence to this argument. [4] If Paul was that anguished over just considering the fate of his people, how much more would the saved and redeemed and sanctified be anguishing over actually knowing that all of their loved ones are burning in hell? It's often noted then when two people love each other anything that happens to one automatically effects the other. If one is suffering the other suffers too because they hate to see their loved one suffering. Or vice versa. Consider the old adage, "It makes me happy just to see you happy". Jesus and Paul illustrate this principle well. [5][6] If that is just earthly love, it should be infinitely greater in heaven. With this in mind seems that one has to give way. The saved could not be in the ultimate state of blissfulness and happiness all the while knowing that those loved ones are suffering eternally. This presents another strong reason to reject the traditional doctrine of hell that is conceived of as eternal, conscious torment. If hell as conceived exists, then heaven as conceived does not. Or, conversely, if heaven as conceived exists, then hell as conceived does not exist. I think the latter proposition has stronger warrant.

Sources

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[2] http://www.public.asu.edu...
[3] 1 John 4:8: " Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."
[4] Rom 9:2-3: "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people."
[5] Matt 25: 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ....
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
[6] Phil 2:27: "He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy upon him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another
KeytarHero

Con

I would like to thank Pro for instituting this debate. I will make an opening argument, then I will respond to his objections.

I think if we examine the Scriptures, then we will see that Hell is, indeed, an actual place where the condemned go when they die.

Jesus taught that Hell was a real place.

Jesus, Himself, taught that Hell was a real place. In fact, Jesus had more to say about Hell than He did about Heaven. Jesus warned, "Don't be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28). He also said those who reject him would be pulled up and burned in the fire at the end of the age (Matt. 13:40).

In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus said that at the final judgement God will say to "those on his left" to depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41). Of the seriousness of Hell, Jesus warned it would be better to cut off an extremity than to allow it to cause you to sin (Mark 9:43). In Luke 16, Jesus also tells a story of Lazarus and the rich man. In it, the rich man dies and is in Hell, a place of torment.

There is no doubt Jesus considered Hell a real place of torment.

The Bible teaches that Hell is a real place.

In Revelation 20:11-15, John offers a very graphic affirmation of the existence of Hell: "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

The Apostle Paul spoke of everlasting separation from God (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

I will now respond to Pro's objections.

Proportionality

Pro actually lays out a great case for why some are damned to Hell for eternity. It is our sin which condemns us. God is eternally holy, and cannot tolerate the presence of sin. He can't even look upon sin (Hab. 1:13). This is why as long as God lasts, Hell lasts. God can't even be in the presence of sin, so if there are those who do not repent of their sins and allow God to forgive their sins, then they are condemned to Hell. Pro says that "obviously God's justice doesn't require him to damn some," but Pro is simply begging the question. First, he is assigned the human concept of judgement and punishment to God. Second, how can he know that God's justice "obviously" doesn't require him to damn some?

If God exists, it is entirely possible that His concept of justice and punishment is different from ours. But even so, I don't believe it is altogether different. For example, if the crime is heinous enough, we lock people away for the rest of their lives. If no God existed, this would essentially be like Hell -- they would be locked up, their freedom taken away, essentially forever. Of course they wouldn't be punished the entire time they were in there, but it is at least analogous to one aspect of Hell -- separation from God (in this case, society) for eternity.

For the record, I don't believe in universalism. I believe there are those who go to Hell. I also believe that we have free will. I have known people who freely choose Hell over having the submit themselves to God, and there are those who freely sin, usually knowing that what they do is wrong. If you don't have a God to answer to, then there's really no reason to do good unless you're afraid of retribution from human authorities.

Saying that the reality of Hell doesn't match the crime is really to misunderstand, or at least severely underestimate, the heinousness of sin. First, there is no such thing as a truly good person. As Jonathan Edwards has pointed out, even one sin deserves hell, since the eternal, holy God cannot tolerate any sin. Each person commits a multitude of sins in thought, word, and deed. This is all compounded by the fact that we reject God's immense mercy. And add to this man's readiness to find fault with God's justice and mercy, and we have abundant evidence of the need for hell. If we had a true spiritual aweareness, we would not be amazed at hell's severity but at our own depravity. [1]

Justice demands Hell, and God is just (Romans 2). In fact, the very reason that the wicked prosper in this life shows that not all justice is accomplished in this life (Psalm 73:3). Surely, there would be no real justice were there no place of punishment for the demented souls of Stalin and Hitler, who initiated the merciless slaughter of multimillions. God's justice demands that there is a hell. Does Pro believe that Hitler or Stalin deserve to be in Heaven, even with a merely finite punishment? There are only two places one can go. God has offered us salvation. But if you love sin more than you love God, then there is only one place you will end up.

In one of his works of fiction, C.S. Lewis describes a busload of people from Hell on the outskirts of Heaven. There they are urged to leave behind the sins that have trapped them in hell, but they refuse. Lewis' descriptions are striking because we recognize in them the self-delusion and self-absorption that are "writ small" in our own delusions. [2]

C. S. Lewis has also made the following observation: "There are only two kinds of people -- those who say "Thy will be done" to God or those to whom in the end God says, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn't be Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will miss it." [3]

The Bliss of the Saved

I find it interesting that Pro mentions the concept of love means that we care about what is in the others' best interests or overall well-being. Could we really allow Hitler into Heaven, knowing that he hated Jews so much that he killed millions of them in the Holocaust? It seems to me that allowing souls to remain in Hell for eternity would be in the best interest of certain people who are living forever in Heaven.

One thing to remember is that, as we see in the verse Pro quoted, God is love. God is perfectly happy in Heaven, knowing that creatures that He created and loved enough to die for them while they hated Him will be in Hell for eternity. It is not a stretch to suppose that we will be able to live in bliss in Heaven despite the fact that people we knew here are in Hell. Certainly it's nothing to rejoice in or find comfort in.

A Christian theologian notes: "What is more, if we could not be happy in Heaven knowing anyone was in Hell, then our happiness is not in our hands but someone else's. But Hell cannot veto Heaven. We can be happy in heaven the same way we can be happy eating knowing others are starving, if we have tried to feed them but they have refused the food. Just as we can have healing of bad memories here on earth, even so God will 'wipe away all tears' in Heaven (Rev. 21:4)." [4]

Considering the evidence presented here, I believe it far more reasonable to believe a place like Hell exists than doesn't.

[1] Edwards, Jonathan, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 1.109.
[2] Keller, Timothy, The Reason for God, p. 81, referencing The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis.
[3] Lewis, Clive Staples, The Problem of Pain, p. 69.
[4] Geisler, Norman L., The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 314.
Debate Round No. 2
popculturepooka

Pro

I thank Con for his response. However, I find it to be deeply problematic.

Unfortunately, I don't have the space to show some of the main problems with Con's exegesis of scripture. I will just say that none of the quoted verses Con brings forth do not do much to support the traditional understanding of hell. They are entirely compatible with annihilationist and universalist readings of the texts (both of which affirm the existence of post-mortem punishment - they just don't hold that it is eternal).

I will attempt to lay out some of Con's main contentions (I don't mean to present these as simplistic strawmen, but space is limited):

1) "God cannot stand sin, ergo hell."

This answer creates more problems than the problem it allegedly is supposed to answer. Following Eric Reitan we'll call this the "Problem of Damned Sinners". [1] Con has it that sin is intolerable to God. So far so good. Here's where it goes off the rails, though: as Con knows, central to Christianity is the claim that sinners can only be redeemed from their sins through God's grace. Con also has it that hell is a state wherein sinners are separated from God and His grace. So, in essence, Con has it that God basically ensures that "intolerable" sin will be tolerated by God forever. That's about as logically contradictory and paradoxical as one can get. As Reitan quips: "What you’re doing is so inconceivably unacceptable that I am going to make absolutely sure that there is no way for you to ever stop doing it!" [2]This ushers in such a deep incoherence into Con's theology that one seems to be left with no choice but to reject it as even a pseudo-answer to the problem of hell.

2) "God is Justice, ergo hell."

i) Con contends that I begged the question with respect to God's justice not requiring him to damn some. But I really didn't. I provided some considerations such as to why God's just would require him to damn some to eternal perdition, such as the central Christian claim of the atonement wherein Jesus settled the score, so to speak, and made it so that all of us may be forgiven. If that's the case - that God's nature as justice itself was satisfied with Jesus' sacrifice on the cross - then it's clear that God would not be "obligated" by his nature as justice itself to damn some to torment for all eternity.

ii) Con contends that I misunderstand/underestimate the heinousness of sin. I don't think that is the case but I do think it is is the case that Con has overlooked the implications of his own position. Con's doctrine of hell is based on retributivism wherein the main motivation for that theory is that the punishment fit the crime and the offender get what they deserve. Con's doctrine has it to where every sin receives the same type of punishment (torment in hell forever). Following Con's implications if I steal a pencil that sin is just as deserving of hell as serial raping and murdering young girls is. The entire point of retributivism is that punishment is proportioned to the crime, but Con's doctrine undermines that very notion. Not promising.

Now we come the much propounded free will defense for hell which is probably the most common answer to the problem of hell. I will show why it's no good.

3) "Free will, ergo hell."

There are numerous problems (and I really do mean numerous) with the free will defense but I will highlight just 2. Thomas Talbott highlights these problems beautifully. [3]

i) The very notion of choosing to "freely reject" God is nonsense and lapses into incoherency. Talbott asks us to imagine a normal boy who, inexplicably and randomly, thrusts his hand into a fire while screaming in pain. Nonetheless, he does it even though he has strong motive not to do it and the absence of any motive to do it. Could we coherently say this boy had made a free choice to stick his hand into the fire or that he could be held morally responsible for his actions? It doesn't seem so. So, as we can see a minimal degree of rationality is required for an agent to make a free choice. But, then, we have to ask ourselves what kind of rational person would choose to be separated from God and suffer eternal torment? Remember, on Christianity, God is the source of all goodness and happiness and fundamentally wants what's in our best interests and he wants what we would want for ourselves and others if we were thinking clearly. What rational person would "freely choose" and actively subvert against their best interests? This raises a dilemma. Perhaps, one can allude, like Con, to C.S. Lewis when he writes about those in hell trapped in self-delusion (and/or ignorance/misunderstandings); perhaps that sort of person would "freely choose" to reject God. But then they wouldn't really be rejecting the real and true God, now would they? They'd be rejecting a God of their own construction and delusions - an infantile caricature of the true God. Perhaps they are like some vehement anti-theists today and believe God is morally bankrupt (see: Dawkins). One could hardly say they are "freely choosing" to reject God on that horn. But, on the other hand, if the person is removed of all delusions, ignorance, and misunderstandings about God they'd immediately recognize that it'd be positively absurd to "freely choose" to reject God. On either hand, the notion of "freely choosing" to reject God is simply incoherent.

ii) Why if free will supposedly so sacrosanct wherein it is elevated to something so absolutely inviolable by God? Why could God not simply just override a persons' choices at least some of the time...? Remember, hell is an irreparable harm and anyone who had an adequate conception of hell would not want to go there. So the only the way they could choose to go there is only through irrationally choosing to go there (and so it wouldn't be a free choice; more like a random event). If I were to irrationally (maybe due to a mental illness) choose to jump off the empire state building without a parachute for no particular reason I would hope someone I know would stop me and my 'free will' be damned. I would not want them to sit back and say, "Oh, well, you know, that's his choice and I'm going to respect that. Even though in a sane and rational state of mind he would never choose to do that and he has no reason to do it now, I'm going to just sit back and watch it play out." A good friend wouldn't do that. A good God wouldn't just sit back and watch as his creatures freely choose to do irreparable harms to themselves. Why is the value of free will so elevated in the face of unrelenting torment?

4) The Bliss of the Saved

i) One of Con's objections can be dismissing summarily: Con says that since God is perfectly happy in heaven while there are those suffering for all eternity, mutatis mudandis, the saved in heaven can be perfectly happy in heaven knowing that some of their former relatives, perhaps, are suffering for all eternity. But, of course, the entire debate is about whether or not such a hell exists in the first place. In fact, I'd say, contra Con, that God wouldn't be perfectly happy with some suffering for all eternity. [4]

ii) Con here appeals to a quote for a Christian theologian but it doesn't seem to help. Because it seems that the saved can still regret the bad choices of loved ones (even if they deserve the consequences) and that would undermine the bliss of the saved.

Sources

[1] http://thepietythatliesbetween.blogspot.com...
[2] ibid
[3] Talbott, Thomas. The Inescapable Love of God. 1st ed. Universal Publishers, 1999. 181-195. Print.
[4] Ezekiel 18:23: "Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? "
KeytarHero

Con

I would, once again, like to thank PopCulturePooka for issuing this challenge.

I find it ironic that he claims my arguments are rife with problems when, in fact, it is Pro's arguments that are fatally flawed. I will, of course, point those out momentarily.

However, Pro's claim that my exegesis has problems is just a baseless assertion, as he did not make his case (due to space constraints). I can say my exegesis is spot on which wouldn't prove that it is, but is no less valid than Pro's assertion to the contrary. But let me point to an example of a verse I quoted last round.

In Matthew 25:41 Jesus says to those on his left to depart into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Eternal fire. I'm sure Con would claim that the fire is eternal and not the punishment, but what's the point of having an eternal fire that never goes out if punishment is only temporal? Why leave an eternal fire to burn long after the last punished souls are annihilated? I understand that space is limited, but I laid out a case for why Hell is eternal. A rebuttal of "your interpretation is wrong" doesn't work unless you can show why my interpretation is wrong. As such, I exted my arguments into the next round.

God Cannot Stand Sin

My objection here has not "gone off the rails." In fact, Con presents a false dilemma. Since God cannot stand sin, he has only two options: Allow it to continue forever, or annihilate all sinners. But there is a third option: Allow them to survive in a state that is completely separated from you so you don't have to be around it.

For example, if my niece is bugging me so much that I can't tolerate her attitude, I can send her into another room or, better yet, I can leave the house altogether (provided there is another adult there to watch her). Saying that God is tolerating sin by sending people to Hell is simply untrue. Hell is complete separation from God. Sinners are punished and allowed to die in their sins, but God doesn't have to tolerate it because those sinners exist in a state completely separated from God. There is nothing incoherent about this.

God Is Justice

i) Even though Jesus died on the cross so that all may be forgiven, Jesus does not force himself on anyone. If somene wants to be saved, they must accept God's salvation. After all, God allowed His only Son to die a horrible death on the cross. Why would God save anyone why would God save anyone who wouldn't take Jesus' death seriously?

ii) Actually, I never said that all sin was deserving of the same punishment (although Hell is eternal for all sinners). There are verses that indicate there are different degrees of punishment in Hell (Matthew 10:15, 11:22). So Hitler will be punished a lot more than someone who didn't commit mass murder but still died in their sins. In fact, Con has overlooked a crucial point in my argument. While even one sin is deserving of Hell (for example, Con brought up stealing a pencil), Hell is so heinous because we are all guilty of a lifetime, a multitude of sins in thought, word, and deed.

Free Will

There are no problems with the free will defense, as I will show.

i) The boy who thrusts his hand into the fire despite having strong inclination not to did, in fact, make the free choice to do it. In fact, Talbott's argument actually proves too much. If we didn't have free will, then the boy would not stick his hand into the fire because he had strong inclination not to. The fact that we can act contrary to what we know is right, or how we were raised, is strong indication that we do, in fact, have free will.

I have known people who know what Hell is and yet still reject God. It happens. It may not be in their best interests, but they may, in fact, believe they are acting in their best interests. Some have deluded themselves into thinking that Hell is one big party. Even though one can make the case they are not accept the true reality of Hell, if you try to explain to them what Hell is really like, they may not believe you. And often times when someone rejects a reality, it is because they can't face that reality. In that case, they are freely accepting Hell, but they are also freely accepting a skewed version of Hell as a way to cope with their decision.

We also see people freely rejecting Christ in the Scriptures. Jesus even weeped over Jerusalem whom Jesus wanted to bring them under His wing but didn't, because they were not willing (Matthew 23:37). Even someone like Dawkins can be said to be "freely rejecting" God. He may claim that God is morally bankrupt, but this is because he doesn't understand God's actions. He sees the same things we do in the Bible and considers them evil. He is rejecting God because he doesn't understand God's nature. He still sees the same God we do.

ii) Free will is sacrosanct because if God were to controvert free actions, then we would not actually be free. Additionally, we could not be held accountable for our actions if we were not free to do them. If I have no choice but to do good, then rewarding me is useless. If I have no choice but to do evil, then punishing me is cruel. The very reality of Hell attests to the fact of our free will.

Now, there have been times in which God has superceded free will. This is because God had a grander plan that couldn't be interrupted or changed (for example, no one could have changed the fact of Jesus dying on the cross because this was an event that was necessary for God to redeem mankind, and He has predestined this event to happen before humankind was even created because by God's foreknowledge, He knew that we would sin and need a Savior.

But these events are the exception, not the rule. We cannot truly be free if we have no choice but to do good or evil, and we would not be responsible for our actions. The problem with the analogies of irrationality is that an irrational person is not responsible for his actions. He doesn't know what he is doing. Sinners know what they're doing when they sin. Even if someone refuses to see the truth, they are still accountable for rejecting the truth. Rejecting the truth doesn't just mean saying "no thanks" and walking away. It can also mean believing an alternate worldview as a convenient way not to have to accept the truth.

The Bliss of the Saved

i) Again, this is another exegesis issue. My claim should not be dismissed because Con is misrepresenting this verse. God doesn't take pleasure in the death of the wicked. I said last round that it's not something to rejoice in or find comfort in. But God is still eternally happy in Heaven despite the fact that sinners are going to Hell. Con has not actually refuted my argument here. He has merely tried to sidestep it.

ii) Con's reason for dismissing Norman Geisler's words are unfounded. He gave a valid reason for why we can be in happy in Heaven, by showing that we can be happy eating despite knowing there are starving people in the world. This does not undermine the bliss of the saved.

I look forward to our next and final round.
Debate Round No. 3
popculturepooka

Pro

Con's elaboration of the "biblical case" for a traditional conception of hell (by citing Matt. 25:41) relies on a dubious use of the word "eternal". In Greek the word translated as eternal is aionios.

"Aion, transliterated aeon, is a period of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself. Aristotle (peri ouravou, i. 9, 15) said, “The period which includes the whole time of one’s life is called the aeon of each one.” Hence, it often means the life of a man, as in Homer, where one’s life (aion) is said to leave him or to consume away (Il v.685; Od v.160). It is not, however, limited to human life. It signifies any period in the course of the millennium, the mythological period before the beginnings of history. The word has not “a stationary and mechanical value” (De Quincey). It does not mean a period of a fixed length for all cases. There are as many aeons as entities, the respective durations of which are fixed by the normal conditions of the several entities. There is one aeon of a human life, another of the life of a nation, another of a crow’s life, another of an oak’s life. The length of the aeon depends on the subject to which it is attached.…The adjective aionious in like manner carries the idea of time. Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting. They may acquire that sense by their connotation….Aionios means “enduring through” or “pertaining to a period of time.” Both the noun and the adjective are applied to limited periods….Out of the 150 instances in LXX, [Greek Old Testament] four-fifths imply limited duration. For a few instances, see Gen. xlviii. 4; Num. x. 8; xv. 15; Prov. xxii. 28; Jonah ii.6; Hab. iii. 6; Isa lxi. 17.4" [1]


God Cannot Stand Sin

Con says I present a false dilemma and says that his third option solves it. Hell is complete separation from God. Not only is this very awkward to say in light of traditional Christian claims about God - isn't God supposed to be omnipresent? - this is very awkward to say in light of the bible. Presuming Con's hermeneutic we have this text: "A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand,10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury,which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb." (Rev 14:9-10) One could make a good case for it involving a lot of metaphor and symbolism - it is Jewish apocalyptic literature after all - but one thing is clear: God is an active presence and facilitator here in the "torment". I don't see any "separation" here.

Con says that God shows that He doesn't tolerate sin by sending them to hell ("complete separation from God") but what Con's claim have him committed to is by the act of sending them to hell God guaranteeing that the sinners will sin in perpetuity because God is the only one who could break that cycle of sin. If person A sets up a situation wherein they punish person B for continuing to do something bad C(because it's intolerable to them) even though A has rigged the game to where B literally has no other option than to C it makes no sense to say that A finds C intolerable. They can't really find C that intolerable if they don't let B have an option to do something other than C. And therein lies the problem. Con has it that God tolerates the intolerable. Or that God stands the thing that can't be standed.

God Is Justice

i) Con's response here is largely irrelevant to this debate and largely has to do with other issues in Christian theology.

ii) Con never SAID that all sin was deserving of the same punishment but that's what his arguments imply. Con quotes Jonathan Edwards who also argues elsewhere that every sin is worth "infinite demerit". This is what the whole argument presupposes. But if that is the case; If EVERY sin is deserving of eternal or infinite punishment ("infinite demerit") then there's seems to be no coherent way to dole out "degrees" of punishment. It doesn't get any worse than infinite demerit, which all sins supposedly equally deserve. If that is the case there is no principled way to distinguish lesser from greater crimes (following the logic of the argument).

Free Will

i) Con misses the point of the analogy when directly responding to it but in another part seems to "get it" which is curious. Here we have a normal boy - meaning he has normal pain receptors and a normal aversion to pain and every thing else - who has every reason not to stick his hand in the fire and no reason to put his hand in the fire (he literally has no motive) who, nonetheless, put his his hand in the fire. Can even be coherently said that this boy "freely chose" to stick his hand in the fire? No, because that level of irrationality is incompatible with freely chosen acts as Con implicitly sees when he says, "The problem with the analogies of irrationality is that an irrational person is not responsible for his actions. He doesn't know what he is doing." Exactly! That's the entire point I was driving at. Unrepentant sinners couldn't possibly know what exactly they are doing because they have no idea what they are choosing in the long run. It's hard to see how any human can truly grasp that. It'd be like leaving it up to a two-year old to decide to whether or not doctors should operate on a life threatening brain tumor they are developing. They clearly can't grasp the magnitude of the decision nor the complexities.

This segues directly into the dilemma I posed for Con which he failed to address adequately. A human being would be like that boy in which if they knew the actual nature of hell they'd have the strongest inclinations possible not to choose it and no inclinations to choose it. If they chose it regardless of this it'd be in such an irrational state that itself it would be be a "free choice" (if its is one at all) they couldn't held morally responsible for. That's one horn.

The other horn: Con himself says he knows people that have "deluded" themselves into thinking choosing hell is in their best interests. The key word is "delusion". And again with Dawkins when says something like, "The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction..." (everybody knows the rest) it's clear we aren't even talking about the same God anymore. He's no more freely rejecting the true God than he is rejecting a morally odious caricature of the true God (rightly, I might add).


ii) Again Con fails to adequately address the point. Nowhere did I argue that free will isn't valuable. It is. I'm asking why is it that it is supposedly so sacrosanct when we come the choice of choosing eternal destinies? The choice the unrepentant sinner would be making would be to harm themselves in the worst way possible over the longest period of time possible. Why, per my analogy given earlier, wouldn't a good God step in and override their decision if they were about to make (literally) the biggest mistake they ever could make, ever?

The Bliss of the Saved

i) I'm not seeing how my previous objection still doesn't apply. The exact issue is whether such a doctrine of hell is compatible with other claims Christians make. To just say that he is eternally happy doesn't do much.

ii) Geisler's claims fail for multiple reasons but the biggest one is this: ) His claim that ..."if we have tried to feed them but they have refused the food..." presumes a free choice in rejecting God and/or choosing hell which I have strenuously argued against and Con has failed to negate. Con's objection to this argument rests in large part on his objection to my other argument about free will. If he can't defeat that one (and I've shown why he can't) then he can't defeat this one.


Sources

[1] http://www.hopebeyondhell.net...



KeytarHero

Con

I would like to thank Pro once again for issuing this debate. As this is our last round, I will not present any new arguments. I will simply respond to the arguments Pro has made.

The problem with Pro's usage of the word "aion" to mean a limited period of time proves too much in this instance. The Greek word used to describe Hell, aionion, in the context of the passage is used in the same context to describe Heaven. So either Pro must believe that Heaven is also around for a limited time only, or that Hell is eternal, which is more likely given the context of the passage. [1] In fact, Pro's usage of "aion," the root of the word which means "age" (or a period with an end) to mean that of the entire Greek word does nothing short of committing the fallacy of composition. The word "aionion" means an eternity.

As Matt Slick affirms, "It is true that the root 'aion' means age. But just because a root means age does not mean that every word derived from that root means a limited duration of time." [2]

God Cannot Stand Sin

God is, indeed, omnipresent -- everywhere that He can be. God cannot be around sin, so He doesn't reside in Hell. But He can exist anywhere in the universe He wishes, though He does not necessarily have to. God's omnipresence is not to be confused with pantheism. Just like God can't do absolutely anything (He can't sin and He can't do what is logically impossible, like creating a square triangle) yet He is still omnipotent, God can be omnipresent without existing someplace He absolutely cannot be, a place full of sin.

Pro's resorting to Revelation 14 is unconvincing. God will judge sinners; that does not mean He must be around them for all eternity, or even for a short time. Hell is outer darkness, completely cut off from God. I'm sure Pro would say that even if Hell had a limited duration, it is still a place God wouldn't be (at least we can't make a case that God would ever be there).

I have never said that God tolerates sin by keeping it around. After all, Pro's case says that God tolerates sin for a little while -- why not just annihilate sinners right away? Why let them suffer in Hell for even a limited time? Surely Pro should think that it is unloving for God to allow someone to suffer in Hell for any amount of time, rather than simply annihilating them. In fact, is God not "tolerating" sin now by allowing evil people to live on Earth rather than killing them now? Pro's case proves too much. But it seems likelier through proper Biblical hermeneutics that Hell is an eternal place for sinners. God can leave sinners in Hell for eternity without tolerating their sin -- God never has to be around it.

God is Justice

i) My response here is not irrelevant. I was responding to Pro's argument in the previous round.

ii) I never even implied that all sins deserve the same punishment. Yes, all sins send us to Hell eventually, but there are different degrees of punishment (as I have shown). If one person has to endure a pin prick for all eternity, and another person has a large boulder dropped on him for all eternity, they are both being punished for eternity but with different degrees of punishment (not the greatest example, I'm sure, but it gets my point across). Besides which, we are not punished for just one sin, but for accumulating a multitude of sins throughout our entire lives.

Free Will

i) I did, apparently, misunderstand Pro's analogy. I have known many rational people who do ridiculous things despite having every reason (and every motive) not to do it (particularly thrill seekers). He could have been clearer. At any rate, when people sin they do not do so irrationally. God has placed His Law on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). When people do wrong, they know it. No one is "without excuse" when it comes time for judgment (Romans 1:20).

So his analogy of the irrational boy fails. It would be more apt debating the "age of accountability" and whether an adult who is mentally challenged should be held accountable for his sins. The average (in fact, I would say most) sinner(s) are not irrational people. They know right from wrong.

ii) Pro continually misses the point of free will. God must allow us to make actions which cause us pain (on Earth because it helps us to grow), and this extends to Hell. For if we were not given the choice to go to Hell, we would never have the choice to do good. We would not have free will at all, because even one sin would make us go to Hell. Therefore God would have to prevent us from sinning at all. You might as well ask why God didn't stop Adam and Eve from consuming the forbidden fruit, when He knew it would result in their spiritual death and eventual phyiscal death.

The Bliss of the Saved

i) As I have shown, God is eternally happy in Heaven. If God can be eternally happy, so can we. Does Pro think thing people in Heaven would be any happier knowing their friends and family were being punished in Hell, even temporarily, and then annihilated?

ii) Geisler's claims don't fail. We can be happy here on Earth, despite knowing that there are others suffering in other countries (even though that suffering will likely lead us to try and help them). But if sinners refuse God's gift of salvation, then God can't be faulted if they end up in Hell for eternity. I have already shown why they have no excuse, and why God can't just eliminate their free will.

It seems clear that not just through reason, but through the Scriptures that Hell is an eternal place. You just can't make a Biblical case against Hell's eternal existence, and it seems clear that justice demands that Hell is eternal.

[1] Geisler, Norman L., The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 312.
[2] http://carm.org...
Debate Round No. 4
54 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Not persuaded in the end by his argument, but it was a good book.

Also:

http://www.amazon.com...
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
It's a good thing you laid out your reasons there, Scotty. lol
Posted by mattrodstrom 4 years ago
mattrodstrom
I would have the argument be about what "good" is (making you offer an argument to support your position)..
that's why I'd be uncomfortable with you assuming things about "goodness" in the resolution.
Posted by mattrodstrom 4 years ago
mattrodstrom
Something is Good if God wills it. God would, of course, always act in accordance with his will.. so he will, of course, be perfectly good.

when God instructed Abraham to sacrifice Isaac he was testing to see if Abraham would be 'good' and act in accordance with god's will... Sure, god didn't really will Isaac's death, and so he sent an angel to stop Abraham... But the test was to see if Abraham would attempt to be good /follow god's will.

Following God's will rather than your own is a common theme throughout christianity.. and when people choose otherwise they are outcasted/punished simply for the sake of Disobeying Satan/adam and eve.

Right and Wrong is not distinguished through how you Personally react to something (which might be a source of your own will/temptations)... rather Right is that which God would have, and Wrong that which he would not.

so.. if God would have Hell.. hell can't be anything But "Good" since the only requirement for the label is that God wants it.

Would it be good to sacrifice your son to god?
Answer: If god wants it.
Would it be good to for Sinners who are unrepentant in life to be horribly tortured for all eternity?
Answer: If god wants it.
That is the results of that non-intuitive, scripturally derived, religiously influential, notion of "good".

I also think it would be neat to see you try to explain why Other things are what's 'Really Good' and why that 'real good' is what God is supposed to be.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
Can you say a little bit more about what mean by that last part?
Posted by mattrodstrom 4 years ago
mattrodstrom
"I hope to debate is someone who is competent and can argue powerfully for the position that:
the existence of hell and God, within the context of Christianity, are, in all likelihood, compatible."

That resolution would be defensible.. and one which I would very much like to take on.

The one you actually gave:
"my position is that the existence of hell - conceived of as eternal, conscious torment (e.g. the "traditional" doctrine of hell) - is, in all likelihood, incompatible with the existence of a God who is conceived of as perfectly good (e.g. just, merciful, loving, etc), powerful, and wise."

I would be wary of... Though I'd take it if you left it at 'perfectly good, powerful, and wise' and didn't start giving examples of what it is to be "good"..
For, I'd argue that the Christian Scriptures make available, even push for, a rather non-intuitive notion of what "good" is.. One which makes God Necessarily good... as His Will determines what is Good.. Regardless of how You, I, or Abraham feels about it.
Posted by SuburbiaSurvivor 4 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
@Maikuru, sorry for the late reply. I was spending the weekend with friends.

Yes. I believe in a mix between Arminianism and Calvinism. Basically that free will and divine intervention are both involved in salvation, but neither are solely involved in salvation.

@PCP, I think that verse refers to the grace available to cover and forgive sin as well as help one from sinning.
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
One thing I find odd about a feature of some traditionalists' arguments about the "intolerability" of sin - what do you guys do with texts like Romans 5:20 where Paul says where sin abounds grace abounds even more?
Posted by popculturepooka 4 years ago
popculturepooka
SS, sorry, some things got in the way. I shall reply tomorrow.
7 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Vote Placed by phantom 4 years ago
phantom
popculturepookaKeytarHeroTied
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Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Counter scotties RFD lacking v-bomb.
Vote Placed by ScottyDouglas 4 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Good debate. Pro had better spelling but Con made a more convincing arguement.
Vote Placed by SuburbiaSurvivor 4 years ago
SuburbiaSurvivor
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter VB to InVinoVeritas. Real RFD in comments coming soon (after IVV gives a legit RFD).
Vote Placed by Maikuru 4 years ago
Maikuru
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Reasons for voting decision: I was impressed with Pro's arguments overall but he wins on free will and bliss of the saved. Con never adequately explains why finite interference (or guidance) by God toward sinners is worse than infinite punishment otherwise, especially considering his utter intolerance of that which he would be preventing. As for the bliss argument, God's happiness is not the issue and Earth-based comparisons are clearly insufficient given the severity of the punishment being ignored. Arguments to Pro.
Vote Placed by InVinoVeritas 4 years ago
InVinoVeritas
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's listed contradictions go unrefuted
Vote Placed by Ixaax 4 years ago
Ixaax
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro has clear reasons as to why traditional hell does not exist; Con merely tries to prove that a hell does exist. His strongest source was the Bible, a book hat most educated Christians know is not to always be taken literally. This weakened his argument all the more. Pro had minor grammatical errors that were unintentional.
Vote Placed by XimenBao 4 years ago
XimenBao
popculturepookaKeytarHeroTied
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Reasons for voting decision: A significant portion of the scripture debate was irrelevant as the nature of hell was to be assumed for the purposes of debate. Voted Pro on the free-will args, particularly the boy & fire argument. Con didn't rise to the challenge and explain why free ill outweighs eternal suffering. Con gave an argument for free will's value, but Pro had conceded it had value and argued weight. Con's R4 argument, everyone knows the truth about God in their heart so denying God is a bad act, is insulting.