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Hell: against universalism

Patsalidou, Ioanna-Maria (2011) Hell: against universalism. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Christian tradition speaks mainly of two possible post-mortem human destinies. It holds that those human beings who, in their earthly lives, acted according to God’s will and accepted God’s love will be reconciled to Him in heaven; whereas those who have acted against God’s will and refused His love will be consigned to the everlasting torments of hell. The notion that hell is everlasting and also a place of unending suffering inevitably gives rise to the following question for theists: how could an omnipotent, all-good and allloving God allow anyone to suffer the torments of hell for eternity? The problem of hell is arguably the most severe form of the problem of evil because the evil found in hell is eternal with no possibility for redemption. Thus, the doctrine of hell gives rise to a specific moral problem caused by the apparent incompatibility between God’s goodness and love and everlasting torment in hell. There have been several attempts to shore up the doctrine of hell in the face of this problem. ‘Particularists’ argue that the doctrine is morally defensible and that some people will experience eternal torment in hell as a result of their rejection of God. Others try to evade the problem by claiming that a doctrine of hell is not in fact taught in the scriptures (at least in its traditional form), and that Christians are therefore able to reject particularism and affirm that all human beings will be saved in the end. Those who make this optimistic eschatological observation are known as 'universalists’. My thesis focuses on ‘universalists’ and, in particular, on three contemporary Christian philosophers who defend universal salvation, namely: John Hick, Thomas Talbott and Marilyn McCord Adams. All three maintain that God’s love for His human creatures is inconsistent with the claim that God does not desire to bring about their salvation. Their accounts share common roots: they are founded on an understanding of God’s nature as omnipotent love, and on an understanding of human freedom, as well as on an account of curative post-mortem punishment for sinners. All three philosophers hold that God will eventually succeed in reconciling all human beings to Himself and so no one will be damned in hell. In this thesis, I argue that Hick, Talbott and Adams fail in their attempts to make a plausible case for universalism. One of the main criticisms I consider is that there is significant tension between their universalist accounts and the value of human freedom. The necessary correlation that they assume between God’s love and the outcome of this love does not recognize the capacity for each person freely to reject the offer of salvation. Another criticism I consider is that their accounts of post-mortem punishment do not guarantee either that salvation and reconciliation with God will be the outcome of a free choice made out of love, or that all sinners will eventually be saved. In bringing these three universalist accounts into question, I examine the notions of freedom of choice and punishment as well as the relation between free choice and rationality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Problem of Evil, Problem of Hell, Universalism, Free Will, Libertarianism, Moral Responsibility, Punishment, Human Nature and Psychology, Rationality, God's Love.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Humanities > Philosophy
Supervisor's Name: Brady, Dr. Michael and Harrison, Dr. Victoria
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Miss Ioanna-Maria/I-M Patsalidou
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2945
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:02
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2945

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