Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Among the Whoas of Exclusivism

The angelic doctor, Thomas, touches on something important with his

beati in regno coelestia videnbunt poenas domnatorum, ut beatitudo illis magis complaceat, [The blessed in the kingdom of heaven will see the punishments of the damned, in order that their bliss be more delightful to them, STIII Suppl Q94, Art1, tr. Clark and Swensen; i.e it's quite literal]

which I first came across in Nietzsche's Geneology. There is something, well, barbaric about this strain of "hallowed" Christian tradition, a strain quite alive today.

But then what's an exclusivist to say? Does the end of the damned torment the saved--the lost brother, mother, sister, father, spouse, friend? That wouldn't be much of a salvation. Nor would it seem fitting for them to be neutral about it, shrugging their shoulders as it were with a heavenly "Oh well." Sure, CS Lewis (The Great Divorce) might say that the damned should not have the power to torment the saved--but that's a dodge; the question is not one of the damned actively causing sorrow in the saved. Even if the pain and sorrow were, say, merely supererogatory, still it would be a surprise to hear all of the saved always feel neither pain nor joy at the fate of the damned.

Then what? Maybe God "damns the memories" of the lost, so that memories of them are wiped clean from the saved. Is that metaphysically possible though? That is, one could make a strong case that the Augustinean "inner man" would not survive such a mutilation intact, at least in some cases, e.g. where a parent or child or spouse is damned.

And if it were possible, would that be the kind of act God would have recourse to, even if it were permissible? That's a tough question, of course: God is free, free, free. But that is enough perhaps for a seed of doubt about exclusivism, no?

8 Comments:

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Tim said...

Interesting.

So on the one hand, the dead saved are supposed to be sad - but there are no tears in heaven! - while on the other, glad - but that's sick. The *middle* option, feeling nothing, is unsatisfactory.

I'm not sure there's even a *null*-option, where those in heaven cease to be aware (after all, if marriage is not the same, what other relationships from earth are?): that flies in the face of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus where communication between heaven & hell, and ability to identify and have feelings for those one knew in life, is described.

So maybe the bigger question is whether Jesus was simply rehashing the common teachings and understandings of his day like any rabbi would (cf use of "Gehenna"), or whether he was giving special insight from someone who knows more than any mortal.

Indeed I'm tempted to say that Christianity has merely frozen certain Jewish models of the afterlife circa AD30-odd in stasis. And, like much doctrine that's on the border of becoming dogma, the common theology has not progressed - the model itself is simply flawed and/or misapplied.

How much does your posed problem rely on heaven & hell being *places* rather than, say, states or concepts?

Is it not more intellectually honest to start from `we don't know'?

 
At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Michael M said...

What if the angelic doctor is wrong?

God is free, free, free, except God is not free to not be God. That throws a spanner in the works. Would God be God while enjoying the sufferings of the damned or allowing the saved to enjoy the same.

I thought the news of the resurrection was that Jesus has broken the gates of Hell and liberated all who dwell there. "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to all in the tomb." How he could liberate those who in their freedom choose not be be liberated is a mystery. But mysteries are often (usually, always?) better than the dogmas of systematic theology.

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Nicholas said...

Your analysis is seriously flawed. You assume God in human notions of limited justice and wisdom. Those that are damned are damned because they deserve it. The elect will recognize the justice of the action. At that point there is nothing redeemable in them, or they wouldn't be damned. There is no sorrow because there is nothing to feel sorrow(regret) over. It is done.

 
At 11:14 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

God is free, free, free but God also cannot contradict who God says God is in Jesus Christ, no? I think we can trust who God says God is in Jesus. If not, we're the most sorry of people. This is a truly Scholastic debate, and I wonder how do Aquinas or say Scotus square up on God's freedom and God's character and self revealed in Christ. Can they contradict?

Aquinas' passage raises questions about vicious gleeful believers, many whom I've have ran into here on earth who rejoice in the damned even as they reach out to you now with the accept Jesus or be damned options. They're a hell to be around, and they interpret another's every misfortune as God's judgment rather than as the reality of created finite beings who nevertheless are promised life not of our own accord but in Christ. Indeed, when I read Lewis' work on hell, I think of these type of Christians and here and now. I think Lewis got one thing right, hell does not "exist", it's a state.

Theirs is a kind of gospel, but I'm not sure it squares up with the Image of God revealed to us in Jesus. There is something ungenerous about this, and overly speculative about the fate of others (rather than being concerned with how God is working out of His salvation in our own persons-a good Lenten concern, yes?). Without being a universalist, I place my trust in the generosity of the God revealed in Christ, and will maintain the hope of salvation for all and pray for the dead without speculating on matters we can't really know to such a degree that my words might contradict the Gospel, Jesus Christ, Himself.

This also raises longstanding issues about grace and its irresistability or not.

 
At 12:33 PM, Blogger bls said...

But if a person would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven, then that is their own choice, which God cannot and would not void.

And doesn't it imply that such individuals are willing to undergo whatever that entails?

Free will is free, or it's nothing. I'm not mad about Aquinas' statement here, but he is just a human being and we don't have to take his word as Gospel, so to speak....

 
At 7:35 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

Thank you all for your taking time to comment; I wish I had a good answer, a plausible hypothesis, or even a punch line to help exclusivism out here.

Christopher,
I don't think either Aquinas or Scotus help much here. And probably not Augustine. It makes one--who knows?--pause over Origen.

bls,
Going by what you say, I'm inferring--perhaps wrongly--that you think those freely choosing to reign in hell would not suffer, or not sufer all that much more than they do now. But what if, to the contrary, they suffered a great deal more, much more than they would have expected here below? there is warrant in Scriptural language to think the pain of damnation would be truly immense. Then the problem gets going.

michael m,
Let me say: I agree with you. But our position here goes against the grain of very long streams of Christian tradition; we will have always been in the minority here below.

nicholas,
We both end up having recourse to concepts intelligible to humans--neither of us accepts pure equivocation in speech about God. Moreover, I claim Scriptural warrant for my expectation that God is love, intends that none be damned, and assures that his Word will not be sent in vain.

 
At 7:37 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

tim,
Your idea about frozen models looks good.

I wonder what other models might come out of Scripture, even if it meant we had to play loose with writer's intent and carry on with something like a midrash.

Any ideas?

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger bls said...

Well, Scotist, in that case perhaps most of the reigners-in-Hell will change their minds and agree that serving in Heaven is indeed the way to go.

 

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